The Best of My 2014 Travels on Instagram

As some of you know, although I’m a relative newbie to Instagram, it’s quickly become my favorite social media platform. I’m so over Facebook and its super limited organic reach. I still rock with Twitter because it still brings some good traffic to my site. I started off being super excited about Pinterest, but I just don’t use it enough and it’s not a platform that fosters any real engagement. Although some people think G+ is irrelevant, I love the community-building and conversations it incites. But alas, it’s my Instagram account that I’m feeling the most optimistic about.

Why optimistic? Perhaps because it’s just so freakin’ easy. Just post one of your best pictures, caption it well, hashtag it properly, and post! Although some pictures are hit-or-miss, the organic reach reminds me of Facebook in the early days, and I hope Instagram stays that way. My Instagram following is slowly but steadily increasing, and being able to quickly and conveniently browse through some of my best travel pictures gives me a pick-me-up throughout my days. Plus, I’ve found some really great and inspirational accounts to follow myself.

So in honor of my new favorite social media platform and the looming New Year, I decided to share some of the best moments/places/eats etc. from my travels this year as seen on Instagram. Enjoy!


Best Architecture: Budapest

I’ve made it clear that Budapest wasn’t my favorite destination this year, but no one in their right mind can deny the beauty of the city – even if it’s a dark, eerie kind of beauty. While I LOVED the architecture in Berlin, the Neo-Gothic architecture in Budapest is “classically” beautiful. From St. Stephen’s Basilica to the Hungarian Parliament Building, the design in Budapest will have your jaw dropping.

A peekaboo view of St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest – Hungary’s 3rd largest church.

A photo posted by Dana Carmel (@timetravelplans) on


Best Art: Borrego Springs

Knowing that I visited some European art meccas this year (e.g., Paris and Rome), you may be wondering why the art in Borrego Springs wins out? Well, that’s because the art in Borrego Springs is just so damn unusual. Imagine a desolate city in the middle of the desert that appears to be stuck in the 1970s, only to find all of these interesting sculptures sporadically placed throughout the desert floor. Apart from the desert itself, these sculptures are Borrego Springs’ claim to fame, and they really are extraordinary and engaging in that they inspire you to leave the comfort of your air-conditioned car to venture into the sweltering heat to get a closer look and a unique photo opp. Sure beats staring at portraits of random Europeans in a stuffy museum! I’m just sayin’.


Best New Spot Visited in L.A.: Union Station

I was born in L.A. and have lived here for at least 24 years, and never once did I step inside of Union Station until this year. Tragic, I know. I blame it on the fact that I’m an Angeleno, and I feel naked without my car. But the fact is that plenty of Angelenos rely on the Metro to get around each day, and many more escape from L.A. on Amtrak which is stationed at Union Station. So I guess I really have no excuses for not visiting earlier. But hey – better late than never. Who knew that L.A. has such a beautiful transportation hub that’s so full of history, art, and interesting architecture?! Just goes to show that backyard exploration in a city like L.A. is a lifelong journey.

Love the architecture and the old, defunct ticket counter at Union Station in downtown L.A.!

A photo posted by Dana Carmel (@timetravelplans) on


Best Day Trip: Carpinteria

Sometimes I feel like L.A. has such limited day trip and/or weekend getaway options. Not wanting to take yet another day trip to Santa Barbara or Palm Springs, I decided to research Google Maps for some smaller town getaway options, and I was intrigued when I discovered Carpinteria. I must’ve passed Carpinteria a thousand times on the US-101, but I never paid it any attention until this past late spring/early summer. With the Carpinteria State Beach, lots of cute boutiques, a local brewery, great restaurants, and a seal preserve, there’s no shortage of things to do during a getaway in Carpinteria. Oh, and you can even attend a Sunday polo match for only $10!


Best Weekend Getaway: Santa Ynez Valley

While our summer getaway to the Santa Ynez Valley (SYV) certainly wasn’t my first go-round there, it was my first time visiting the area as an adult which means that Jave and I were able to take advantage of some of the area’s many wine tasting options. But the SYV offers so much more than just wine! California’s Central Coast is absolutely some of the state’s most beautiful farmland, so there are plenty of experiences to be had – from berry picking and olive oil tasting to picnicking on a lavender farm and trying many of the area’s farm-to-table restaurants.

All roads lead to wine in Santa Ynez Valley…

A photo posted by Dana Carmel (@timetravelplans) on


Best Travel Moment: Stout Memorial Grove

I’ve mentioned before that visiting the coastal redwoods in the Redwood National and State Parks this year was a dream come true for me! I love trees, and I always fantasized about standing next to and walking amongst these towering giants – some of which have been alive for hundreds and thousands of years. Spotting majestic elk in the forest was just icing on the cake. But honestly, the most memorable part of visiting the redwoods was driving to Stout Memorial Grove. As we drove, there were no cars in front of or behind us, the air outside was damp and a bit chilly, the light was the perfect mix of bright and dark, and trees welcomed us as far as our eyes could see. The experience exemplified total peace.


Best Outdoor Experience: Anacapa Island

This year I went camping for the first time since I was a kid, and where, of all places, did I choose for our first camping trip? Anacapa Island – one of five islands that make up Channel Islands National Park. Before going, I knew that the island is full of birds, but I guess I didn’t realize just how many birds live on the island until we got there. Seriously, I felt like I was on a National Geographic show. Honestly, I’m just thankful that we didn’t get dive bombed! Camping on Anacapa was one of those experiences that you wish would speed up as you’re going through it, but in retrospect you think, “That was SO cool!” This was the start of an annual summertime camping tradition, so there will be a lot more camping trips to come. However, I’m not sure if our future camping destinations will be as unique as Anacapa Island.


Best Accommodation: Domaine de Rhodes

My parents and Jave and I still rave about our stay at this gem of a B&B in Avignon. A former hunting lodge, this B&B in Provence has been in the owner’s family for years and has since been revamped into a quaint retreat on Île de la Barthelasse, just a short ten minute drive to the heart of Avignon. The property is massive, the surroundings are utterly peaceful, the rooms ooze with charm, the breakfast is ridiculously good, and the service is impeccable. We stayed at some very nice properties during our travels throughout the year, but Domaine de Rhodes was the absolute best!


Domaine de Rhodes, our charming B&B in the countryside of Avignon, just a short 10 minute drive from the city center.


A photo posted by Dana Carmel (@timetravelplans) on


Best Restaurant: Madklubben Bistro-de-Luxe

As I mentioned before, I wasn’t expecting to have mind-blowing food experiences while in Copenhagen since it’s not a destination that’s touted for its food scene. But Jave and I were pleasantly surprised by just how good the food was in Copenhagen, especially our first meal in the city at Madklubben Bistro-de-Luxe. The interior design of the restaurant epitomizes Danish coziness and the food was everything that a good meal should be – delicious, comforting, and affordable with one to four course meals ranging from $17-$42. And although we were disappointed to find that the restaurant had some consistency issues when we ate there on a separate occasion, overall, our dining experience there was the best this year.


Best Street Food

There’s more to street food in Berlin than currywurst and döner kebabs. At Street Food Thursday in Kreuzberg, a variety of street food vendors converge under one roof for an all-out eating extravaganza. The vendors and food options reflect the city’s ethnic diversity which is one of the reasons why I so enjoyed our time in Berlin and why I’m looking forward to future visits to this edgy city.  


Best Historic Destination

I didn’t form any concrete opinions about Rome during our short visit there. My feelings about the city border nowhere close to love or hate. Instead, Rome poses one big question mark for me. Granted, we didn’t spend nearly enough time there and only scratched the city’s surface. But one thing is for certain – while walking through the Colosseum and exploring the ruins of Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, I felt the full impact of the city’s historical significance. Rome was once at the center of a great empire. Is it still a great city? I suppose I’ll find out during future trips.


Best Underrated Destination

Many articles and reviews I read about Marseille when planning our visit completely trash-talked the city. In fact, many locals that we spoke to in France couldn’t figure out why we were prioritizing a visit to Marseille. But our time there proved that sometimes you just have to ignore the naysayers and that there are some places you just have to experience for yourself. From the Calanques of Marseille to LePanier – don’t believe the negative press – Marseille is awesome!


Best U.S. Destination: New Orleans

Third time’s a charm. It took my recent third visit to NOLA to realize just how wonderful this city on the Mississippi really is. The food, the architecture, the culture, the neighboring bayou, the energy, and even the people – New Orleans is an eclectic city that offers something for every taste.


#NOLA is looking ready for #Christmas…


A photo posted by Dana Carmel (@timetravelplans) on


Best City: Copenhagen

I’ve raved, and raved, and raved about Copenhagen before. Need I say more? Hands down, Copenhagen has made its way on my ever changing list of the top three cities I’ve visited in the world to date.

Admiring the #Copenhagen #Opera House. Such #unique #architecture. Such a cool city!

A photo posted by Dana Carmel (@timetravelplans) on


Best Country: France

This year’s trip to France was my second time in the country. My first visit to France was a part of a six-country-in-ten-days itinerary. For any of you thinking about seeing Europe in a packaged tour like that, I STRONGLY discourage it! This time around in Europe, we spent the majority of our time in France, and it was great to explore Paris, Provence, and the French Riviera at a relatively slow pace. Apart from its delicious regional cuisines, the sheer beauty of its landscape, and its welcoming people, what stood out most about France is its joie de vivre culture. The French understand what it means to live and to live well. They understand that a good meal should be savored and prolonged by great conversation and a good bottle of wine. They realize that midday napping in the park, even in bustling Paris, is good for the soul. And they appreciate and encourage quiet escapes to the countryside. A country that understands that there is an art to living well is my kind of country!


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