Bookings of Australian wine tours have swelled in the past decade. In part on the strength of inexpensive and flavorful below-$10 wines with eye-catching labels, the Aussie wine industry surged in the mid/late 2000s, and Australian wine took the world by storm.
Australia’s most popular grape is the Shiraz, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Semillon. Wine connoisseurs will attest that select Australian vineyards, of which there are upwards of 2,000, produce some of the finer wines in the world.
This past December, I made a plan to visit the glorious five villages of the Italian Liguria region, the Cinque Terre. To wander the isolated, cliff-topping villages and hike the rugged trails over-looking the Mediterranean had always been on my wish list since seeing a friend’s photos of the region while she was spending time in the neighbouring “big city,” La Spezia. The hiking trails of the Cinque Terre were constructed by local “sea people” as a means to get to nearby villages quicker for supplies. Walking the same paths as locals did to me was the authentic traveling experience I was looking for, and I wanted to take in every bit of it.
Doing some pre-departure research, I was well aware that strong rains often accompany the winter season in the Cinque Terre. This was the case in 2011, where severe landslides took a toll on the 11th century construction, devastating one village especially, Vernazza. Potential risk of landslides often causes such famous hiking routes like Via del Amore to close. During my time on the Liguria Coast, this was indeed the case not with one, but with all of the hiking trails in the Cinque Terre!
Still determined to find a way around the closed trails, I attempted what locals call the “higher route” from Manarole to the highest situated village of the five, Corniglia. According to the city information kiosk, this route was also dangerous. Twenty minutes into my hike, pouring rain had coated the sleek steps. What looked like piled broken branches blocked my pathway and my barely-there grip footwear had me second-guessing my decision. Flashbacks started, bringing me back to the evening earlier; two plaques are stationed on a rock wall in Manarole to commemorate the life of a Canadian who accidently drowned, and an American who, as it says, was swept away by her husband, the Via del Amore. Gut overtook my adventurous side. After standing soaking wet from head to toe so short into my 1.5 hour hike, I decided to call it a day and take the local trains. I would try an alternate path tomorrow.
Sometimes all you need to cure your winter blues is a white-sand beach and sunshine. There’s no better way to get started on your New Year’s resolution to travel more and break out of your comfort zone than to hit the road (or air) for an escape from the dark wintry months from January to March.
Your getaway doesn’t have to break the bank. You can often actually save by planning your vacation during the winter months.
Whether you’re an outdoors aficionado or just want to get away to some sunshine, Costa Rica has something to offer. A relatively brief flight will land you in a tropical oasis. The winter months offer the best weather. You’re less likely to get rained out, and visibility is especially good for those who plan to spend time snorkeling or diving. Costa Rica’s laid-back local culture and myriad all-inclusive resorts makes this Central American country a no-brainer when you’re looking for a relaxing, easy-to-plan trip that everyone in the family will love.