Edvinas Bartkus

Travel in 2023

I am aware it's already February in 2024. But it's never too late to recap all the significant trips from last year.

Turin / Val Thorens

Les 3 Vallées

For the very first time we went to France for our ski holidays. It was the fifth winter (except for COVID years) for us to spend a week in the Alps improving our snowboarding skills. Previously, we were exploring Italian resorts. It was time to try the French Alps.

Val Thorens was the town that others have highly recommended: high altitude guarantees the snow; wide and long slopes are ideal for snowboarders. We got it all. There were plenty of headlines about the lack of snow in European pistes. Val Thorens is the highest ski town in Europe and will likely will be the last winter resort to close down because of climate change.

France is more expensive than Italy. Val Thorens is a town in high demand. It is full of Brits and French. It does creates an extra price markup. Thus, Val Thorens feels much more cosmopolitan: salads with quinoa in the slope restaurants, 1980s-style hotel bar with a great twist for Negroni. Our hotel had one-step access to the slopes. Nothing beats the convenience of returning to the hotel directly after a 30-minute run down the mountain. It was the best ski trip so far.

It will be hard to beat Val Thorens for any other resort, but we are still in the phase of exploring. Maybe Switzerland in the year 2024? But we are definitely coming back again to Les 3 Vallées.

The opportunity to visit Val Thorens has opened up because of a direct flight from Vilnius to Turin. It's so convenient to fly direct. As usual, we explored the city for a couple of days after going down the Alps. It's a beautiful city close to the mountains.

We visited Museo Casa Mollino. An visit requires a booking in advance. In return, you are in for a boutique storytelling about Carlo Mollino. It's a very inspiring story surrounded by beautiful surroundings. The most significant art piece that Carlo Mollino has created is Teatro Regio. Sadly, during our visit, no performances were happening. That's enough of a reason to come back to Turin.


Torres del Paine

We continue to explore the guide of the greatest hikes in the world. This year, we have decided to visit Patagonia. We have limited ourselves just to seeing Chile's Patagonia. In our lifetime, we still expect to visit Antarctica. It will be part of the bigger trip to see Argentina's Patagonia and visit Antarctica sometime in the future. So for now, it was all about seeing the best of Chile.

Chile has Torres del Paine National Park. There is a great hike there: W for a few days; O for at least a week. Since we dedicated only two weeks to this trip, we chose to hike the W trek. It took as 4 days to complete it by staying in huts most of the nights and the campsite once.

Before the trip, we spend daily going up and down the stairs in our 8-floor building. This has helped us to prepare physically and it was the right preparation for the 4-day hike. We completed around 20km each day by bringing with us food and sleeping bags.

In comparison with Laugavegur, it was a more mainstream hike with more comfort for the hikers. We stayed in the rooms for 6, we had a shower, and for dinner, you could get freshly cooked Salmon. There were quite a few hikers on the trail so you never felt of being in the wilderness.


For the wedding anniversary, I and my wife chose Vienna for a weekend gateway. Just before the trip, Monocle published Quality of Life survey results awarding Vienna as the most liveable city in 2023. It was a good opportunity to explore it for a few days.

Vienna is a grand city. Rich history with fancy architecture. Huge museums with very expensive art collections. It does match all the quality of life criteria: good connections with other airports, great public transport, very extensive infrastructure to bike and walk in the city, super safe. However, sometimes you can feel too much structure/system in everything that you can't feel the soul of the city. You might feel distant from the city.

Often I think about my home city Vilnius. I wonder what impression the city leaves on those who come here for a weekend. On paper, Vilnius is far from Vienna: there aren't that many flights, public transport is rather old and not so popular, bike network is booming but haven't usage has not caught up. However, for tourists, the city can leave a great first impression – a beautiful old town, with friendly people and cozy spaces. What I find loveable about my town is just outside of the tourist bubble. Weekend tourists rarely step out of that bubble. I believe Vienna has a strong soul and a very rich local culture life. However, when you are just for the weekend it's rather difficult to break out from that touristic bubble and experience how the locals live.

I bet Vienna is better to live in, rather than for a long weekend stay.


Bourse de commerce Pinault Collection

I am pushing for a new tradition - visit Paris at least every other year (London every second year). Paris like London is the city that you come to every year and there is plenty of new places to visit, exhibitions to see and restaurants to explore.

This year, we came for the last weekend of September. That's not the best weekend. There were so many exhibitions not yet ready for an opening. Just one week later, there were so many more things opening up: the Van Gogh exhibition opening in d'Orsay, the Duchamp and Chagall exhibitions opening in Pompidou, Rothko exhibition in the Louis Vuitton Foundation. The takeaway, the French are rather late to come back from the summer and spend most of September preparing for the new season, the best time to come is mid-October.

Next year, there is an Olympics in Paris. A year to skip if you are not supporting your favorite athlete. After the Olympics, Pompidou will close for 5 years and we took an opportunity to visit Pompidou one more time. Let's see what will it be like when it reopens. I am pretty sure there won't be an NFT hall there anymore.

During the visit to Paris, we dedicated quite some time to see Musée d'Orsay. It was a great recap of the art courses that we have completed in the previous year. We saw so many artworks that we could recognize from the lectures. That also signifies our growing interest in art and trying to educate ourselves more about it.


By the end of the year, we had one more trip. To southern Spain. Another attempt to create a tradition. Two years ago we started going to a local rock climbing club. With on-and-off timing, we continue to slowly progress in climbing.

We spent 4 days in the El Chorro region learning and practicing lead climbing. We have spent each day outdoors in the sun until the beautiful sunset in the evening. When lucky with the weather it is easy to be envious of the Spanish winter.

Before rock climbing, we spent a few days in Seville. A beautiful and sunny city full of history. Somehow, it feels like the time slows down here where traditions remain alive. From bullfighting to religious processions.

After the trip, we spent a couple of days in Granada. Yet another beautiful historical city. Many beautiful gardens around beautiful palaces. The mixture of African culture makes the Andalusian region very different from other parts of Spain.

There were quite a few new destinations in the year 2023. Love to see the traditions being alive for us. It was an incredible opportunity to complete one of the world's most beautiful hikes in Patagonia. For the next year, I think we will skip doing a big hike but rather visit a big metropolis. I see Japan being on our radar. The Venice Biennale is happening in 2024, and we want to see it. Also, it will be the year visiting London. Great travel ahead!