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It’s always at this time of the year that I relish looking back at our adventures. It’s a lovely exercise in remembering the good times, focusing on all the positive experiences we’ve had and banishing the not so good – which I am pleased to say have been few and far between.

Nevertheless, it’s been a super busy year for the My Travel Monkey family, particularly at the start until the end of summer, before I became heavily pregnant, and then bogged down at work, as well as busily preparing for our new arrival and Christmas.

We had several trips abroad, but more than that, so many mini-adventures here in the UK, too, far too many to list here in one sitting, but there was a point where we actually had family asking if we were ever at home on the weekends, due to our busy schedule!

It’s only now that I am on maternity leave, do I feel I can once again commit more time to writing – and we’re very excited about what are travelling future holds for 2017. There are some talks in motion on some amazing trips, and I’m determined that our exploits will continue with our new son. In fact the whole of next year will be a huge new chapter, and one we are all looking forward to.

My Travel Monkey's 2016 Travel Highlights

Back in February, we embarked on a wholly new type of holiday – one in sub-zero temperatures and a foot of snow. My husband and I are sun-seekers but one of our travelling dreams was to see the Northern Lights. So we went off piste and booked a road trip around Iceland. It was an adventure of a lifetime. In just one week, we not only discovered the delights of Reykjavík, but saw the most breathtaking landscapes from Geysers, to dramatic waterfalls and black volcanic beaches; got to swim in geothermal pools including the Blue Lagoon and Gamla Laugin; caught sight a pod of dolphins and a minke whale; and were lucky enough to see what we had originally yearned for – the Northern Lights and not once, but twice over two consecutive days. It was a huge tick off our bucket list – and something we will never ever forget.

My Travel Monkey's 2016 Travel Highlights

It was another first for us in May, when we were invited to go to France to explore this wonderful region in our own car. We had never taken the Euro Tunnel or driven on French roads but were pleasantly surprised to discover just how easy it was to hop over the Channel and meander the back roads of Burgundy. And, even though we had the most appalling weather France has seen in over a decade – torrential rain and flooding – we didn’t let it ruin our time there. Auxerre was our first stop, before heading to the vineyards of Chablis, as well as visiting several fairytale castles and small, picturesque villages. It was our visit to the medieval castle of Guédelon that really resonated with us. It was truly amazing to experience living history. Meanwhile, we had a spiritual and humbling time in Vézelay and its magnificent Abbey, and got to see the relics of St Mary Magdalene. Alongside the amazing food and wine, we promised ourselves this would not be the last time we’d explore France.

My Travel Monkey's 2016 Travel Highlights

Sunshine was definitely in order for our next sojourn. And luckily we had it in spades when we stayed in the gorgeously family-friendly Villa Pia in Tuscany. This was a time for all of us to kick back and relax – and we really did. And for the first time in years, my husband and I actually felt like we had a holiday due to the fact Monkey was able to have the freedom to run around with his newfound pals while we just sat and ate far too much delicious Italian food. We also got to explore the stunning region of Perugia, from the hillside town of Anghiari to the pretty sunflower laden Monterchi. Another highlight was spending a day in the medieval city of Siena. Such a beautiful town, its architecture is spell-binding, from the Cathedral to the buildings lining its cobbled streets. Plus, the gelato was just out of this world!

My Travel Monkey's 2016 Travel Highlights

While we had some fantastic family trips to by the seaside including an overnight stay in Climping in West Sussex and a weekend in the Isle of Wight, it was our four days in Whitstable in Kent that really gave us some restorative respite from the rat race of everyday life. Like all last-minute plans, it turned out to be a great break for us – walking along the seaside town’s pebble beaches, enjoying great food from the abundance of restaurants to marvelling the historical buildings in the Cathedral town of Canterbury. To our surprise, Whitstable is a fairly short distance from home – so we’ve now found a favourite go-to should we ever wish to be near the sea.

My Travel Monkey's 2016 Travel Highlights

Our last proper trip before the weather turned and the nights drew in was our first-ever glamping experience with Lantern & Larks in Somerset. I’m not a big camping fan, so I was interested to see how glamping would work for us. I was impressed. Not only was our ‘tent’ huge and decked out with comfortable soft furnishings and beds, but the best thing of all? It had a hot shower and flushing toilet. So it was only a case of dealing with no electricity, which we found to be quite romantic! Alongside the wood burner, we were all as snug as bugs in a rug. The open field we were situated in also made it feel like we were in middle of nowhere – and Somerset itself has so many attractions to explore including Wookey Hole and Cheddar Gorge.

My Travel Monkey's 2016 Travel Highlights

Last but not least, was my second visit to The Warner Studio Bros Tour to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of the Harry Potter films. I am a huge fan of the boy wizard, and so is Monkey. It was just fantastic to be able to share our mutual appreciation of JK Rowling’s character together – something which I hope will only get stronger as he gets older. We had such a wonderful day checking out all the fantastic sets and wizardry – and Monkey even got to ride a real broomstick!

I would really like to take this opportunity to thank all MTM readers for their support over the last year. I do appreciate every single comment, like or read. It really means a lot.

I am also so excited about 2017 – not only will there be huge changes to our lives when we will become a family of four, but I am also embarking on some big changes on the blog, too… So watch this space!

Happy new year to you all! I wish you all the very best for the future!