This has been a great travel year for me: getting to see some new places, checking off a bucket list destination, cruising, and repeating travels to places near and dear to my heart. I have moved up in the social medial world, learned so many new things that my head is still swimming, and added thousands of pictures to my online albums as well as dozens of memories to my memory bank. This year also marked a year that a parent’s illness kept me at bay for a couple of weeks and a new project in Panama brought me there for several months. I am blessed in being able to do what I love and to share my experiences with my readers and fans. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my life and supporting me all the way. And now, my favorite travel moments of 2015!
Favorite Travel Moments 2015 Version
#1 Exploring Nashville, Tennessee with my daughters Peyton and Taylor and Blake, Taylor’s boyfriend, plus attending the CMA Music Festival for our 5th year.
Nashville is one of our favorite cities, one I have been to probably 100 times, but I never tire of all the its fun offerings. Although I like to visit places that have been around for awhile, occasionally I will venture out to see new, trendy spots and hipster venues. My daughters and I also attend the CMA Music Festival each year in June to see all our favorite country performers and we have now included Blake in our special trip. This time, I even took a Nashville Home of Stars Tour and visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and saw where my heartthrob Dierks Bentley lives. Every visit to Nashville includes a trip to Merchants for duck fat tater tots. Nom!
The CMA Music Fest, called Fan Fare back in the day, is a tall drink of water for country music fans. We devote 4 days and nights to seeing live musical performances and attending parties, meet & greets, and other special events. It is awesome to be part of a like-minded crowd of 65,000 at Nissan Stadium listening to your favorite songs by Jason Aldean, Eric Church, and Thomas Rhett. This is a do-no-miss for the Pittman girls.
#2 Stepping out of my comfort zone in Istanbul, Turkey.
Istanbul was one of my top 3 bucket list destinations and I got to successfully check it off this fall. My favorite travel friend, Jo, and I sailed with Norwegian Cruise Lines on the Black Sea cruise with an overnight in Turkey. Dolmabahce Palace with its spectacular waterfront views and opulent furnishings and Hagia Sophia, one of the most amazing museums in the world, were my favorite sights. Hagia Sophia was recently a Christian basilica turned mosque and was located in Constantinople, one of the places you heard about in high school but never really paid attention.
#3 Exploring the Disney Parks in Florida.
My name is Melody Pittman and I am a Disney addict. No lie. After moving to Florida and purchasing my resident season pass, I visit Disney as often as some people visit the grocery store. The Disney parks have so many fun things to do and I adore Epcot’s Food & Wine and Garden & Flower shows. I love dining in the Disney restaurants, having my photo made with the characters, and heaven forbid I miss seeing the Mayor of Main Street on each Magic Kingdom visit. Bonus, a visit to the park(s) also gets me 5-7 miles of walking in each trip. Win-win!
#4 Spending the 4th of July with my family in Seebert, West Virginia.
Seebert is located in a very rural part of West Virginia. It is so beautiful and peaceful there and I happen to have an aunt that lives right on the Greenbrier River, near Watoga State Park. The people of Seebert are so friendly and I look forward to seeing them each year; in fact, it is my favorite place to be in the entire state. For the 4th of July, my family invited hundreds to their property to see their epic fireworks display and as always, enjoy live bluegrass music by the locals. This is one fun time!
#5 Relaxing in Boquete, Panama with Eddie and friends in our new home.
My husband and I chose Boquete, Panama to be our second home. Boquete is full of expats from the US, Canada, and Europe and sees plenty of tourists desiring their outdoor adventures and sheer natural beauty. Rainbows are plentiful and the community welcoming. We are blessed to have completed our home and other long term rentals in 2015. I even got to see the President of Panama at a parade in November! I love spending time in this beautiful country.
#6 Participating in Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Disney World hosts 2 special events each year, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween and Very Merry Christmas Parties, of which I attended both this year. The Christmas party was a fun way for my family to get in the holiday spirit plus a chance to get up close and personal with Disney characters that do not usually make appearances, such as the 7 Dwarfs and Jack Skellington as “Sandy Paws”. The holiday parade and stage shows were catchy and entertaining, plus stands were set up throughout the park that offered hot chocolate and cookies all evening long. This will definitely become an annual Pittman family tradition.
#7 Staying at my first ever bed & breakfast in Warm Springs, Virginia.
On a drive to West Virginia, I picked up some travel brochures at the Virginia Rest Stop and decided my life needed a visit to Warm Springs in it. The Inn at Gristmill Square hosted my daughter and I to a lovely stay with stellar accommodations and their delicious restaurant, which won my best meal of 2015! My bathtub was heavenly (we stayed in the Silo) and my first B&B experience was a wonderful one. We also visited the Jefferson Pools for a relaxing soak in the hot springs.
#8 Going by boat to Man Creek in Bocas del Toro to meet the indigenous people of Panama.
Bocas is on the Caribbean Sea so they have weather very different than ours in Boquete. Along the drive we saw a sloth inching his way across a telephone pole (Score!), crossed the Continental Divide, and made our way to Bocas Del Toro. My husband and I traveled with our Spanish speaking friends who lined up a private guide to drive us across the sea and sandbar to the indigenous village of Man Creek. There, we saw indigenous women and children going about their daily lives.
We brought candy and toys to the children who seemed thrilled to have visitors to their remote area only accessible by boat. It was remarkable to see their living conditions, a way that is unimaginable for us in the USA. I found myself once again falling in love with travel because otherwise, how would I ever get to witness amazing people and places like this? The little boy with this dog in his hand-carved canoe made my trip! Later our guide’s family prepared a home-cooked meal for us and welcomed us into their home to share. Days do not get much better than this.
#9 Having an epic day in Bulgaria.
The itinerary on my Baltic Sea cruise featured 3 places in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Istanbul. Bulgaria was the one I was least looking forward to visiting and as it always seems, turned out to be my favorite. Our tour guide took us to an awesome village in Nessebar with UNESCO World Heritage Sites and unique souvenirs. We sat on a terrace at lunch which overlooked the gorgeous coastline that was stunning. We also visited the Sunny Beach area that is a haven for European vacationers and wow, was I impressed!
#10 Witnessing the “hanging” monasteries of Meteora, near the cruise port of Volos, Greece.
Some places you just have to see firsthand to understand how amazing they are. Meteora was one of those. This unique town is nestled on the top of a huge mountain and is home to several impressive UNESCO recognized monasteries that seem to be suspended in the air, hanging from the clouds. This was my first time visiting monasteries and I found them educational as well as interesting, with Varlaam being my favorite. We also took a side trip and visited the awesome village of Matryniska.
#11 Cruising the Black Sea on the Emerald Princess.
Cruising is and will always be my favorite pastime. This year’s cruise took me aboard the Emerald Princess to a faraway destination: the Black Sea. My friend Jo and I cruised from Athens, Greece to Khios and Volos, Greece, as well as Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey. As with all my Princess cruises, our time onboard was just as much fun as the rest of the trip and I even got to connect with Dave, one of my all-time favorite cruise activities staff member whom I met on a past Caribbean cruise. We had very good food on the boat, my favorite afternoon tea (complete with scones, clotted cream, and jam), and the English pub lunch. Better yet, I got my inside cabin for $699!
#12 Exploring Athens, Greece by foot and food tour.
Having been to Athens before, I had already done all the “biggies”, but felt my travel companion should definitely see the Acropolis so we did that first. My favorite building, Athena Nike, was closed for renovation but we did get to experience the fantastic views of the city from our perch on the hill as well as the world famous Parthenon. We indulged in wonderful Greek food, explored some new places around the city, and took a super fun and tasty food tour. Even though I think Athens is a bit dirty and overrated, there is no denying its importance in our history; and for that, I am glad to have revisited this worthy country.
#13 Getting a ticket for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
As mentioned above, I was lucky enough to attend this spectacular Halloween event. Though it requires a separate admission ticket from the regular park ticket, I felt it was totally worth the splurge. We trick or treated, got to see the Disney villains, watched special seasonal presentations, including a stage show by the Sandersen sisters of “Hocus, Pocus” fame, and ate limited edition Halloween foods. Living in Florida is really working for me!
#14 Family vacation in St. Augustine, Florida.
A few years ago, my family inherited 2 time shares that use the point system. This was the first year we actually tried to figure it out and take a vacation using said points. We decided to stay close to home yet visit an important city that we were new to. We chose St. Augustine where we visited the Alligator Farm, did the hop on/hop off narrated tour, had a fun ghost tour, ate some good food, drank from the Fountain of Youth, crammed a bunch of history in our brains, and my favorite, had a cool food tour. I loved seeing some of the grand architecture in the nation’s oldest city including Flagler College, Lightner Museum, and Grace United Methodist Church.
#15 Attending my first ever Blogger conference in historic Boston.
It had been 22 years since my last trip to Boston. How do I remember? Because I was there on my honeymoon. Though many parts had grown and spruced up (such as the Theater District), most of Boston was just the way I left it. I joined around 300 women for the WITS15 blogger convention, where I learned some new things and made some valuable friendships. It was awesome connecting with bloggers I have been reading and supporting over time. Other adventures included a private walking tour of Somerville (including the Taza Chocolate Factory), a tour of the cheesy Boston Tea Party Experience, a TV/Movie tour with On Location, and eating a classic Italian meal in Boston’s North End.
I am unbelievably blessed to have visited so many amazing places this year. I never took one single second for granted. It has been a dream to travel this beautiful world with my soulmate, daughters, and friends, and I am excited to see where we will journey to in the future! Have you traveled anywhere noteworthy this year? Leave me a comment below!