So what were my 2015 travel highs... and lows?
Favourite new destinationI have boomerang tendencies when it comes to travel, bouncing back to destinations I've loved. So in 2015 I tried to branch out, ticking off a few 'new' towns and cities – including Girona, Baiona, San Sebastián and Cáceres – plus a previously unvisited country, Croatia. When it comes to picking a favourite, I was torn between the pretty cities of Girona and San Sebastián. Both beautiful, compact, with buzzing food scenes and lively bars, San Sebastián ultimately swung it thanks to the sandy sweep of La Concha beach. Given its lack of stand-out museums and tourist attractions, San Sebastian is all about the food and drink: the bars in the old town and seafront Gros come alive at night, when pintxos washed down with txacoli steal the show. With nothing more pressing to do than eat, promenade and party, San Sebastián is a fun, fuss-free weekend break destination.
|Stunning San Sebastian: My favourite destination of 2016|
Most visited destination
This will come as no surprise to regular readers, but I clocked up 5 visits to Barcelona this year. With its cosmopolitan charm, great restaurants and firm grasp on tradition, I'm a sucker for the Catalan capital. I particularly enjoyed learning more about Catalan cuisine with Devour Barcelona, and finally witnessing castellers assemble a human tower during September's Festes de la Mercè. Watching a correfoc (fire run) from the sidelines is one experience I'd be happy not to repeat, though: the flying sparks and booming firecrackers just centimetres away were a bit too much for me.
|Castellers in Barcelona (and anonymous selfie snapper)|
In terms of Instagram-worthy images and a stunning setting, it would hands-down have to be the Parador in Baiona. But when comfort, service and food are thrown into the mix, there's no contest: Hotel Sa Punta in Platja de Pals takes the title. From a room upgrade to friendly but professional service, a gorgeous freshwater pool with spa jets, big balconies and a tranquil location, the scene was set for serious relaxation. My expectations of hotel restaurants are generally low: often overpriced and uninspiring, I tend to avoid them. But the Sa Punta restaurant is no standard hotel dining room: it pre-dates the hotel itself and attracts diners from around Catalunya. And you can see why. With three-course menus drawing on the best of local produce and combining delicious flavours with perfect presentation, it's a real treat. Service is attentive yet discreet, and the wine choices were spot on. I'd return in a heartbeat.
Biggest surprise hit
The first time I visited Palma de Mallorca as a teen, I was so ill I ended up in hospital the following day. With clouded memories, I was unsure what to expect from my second trip years later - but I was blown away. Chic and international with a very Spanish feel, Palma is packed with impressive architecture, interesting sights and top-notch bars and restaurants. I felt so at home there, I didn't want to leave. Watch this space for a return visit in 2016.
|Palma de Mallorca: Picture perfect|