What better way is there to start the year than looking back through the one just finished? At first, I wasn’t sure as to whether I was going to bother – I didn’t take any holidays this year and I didn’t feel like I would have that much to write about. That, and I abandoned the blog for most of the year. And yet, once I started looking back through my pictures, I realised I actually have managed to cover quite a lot despite not taking time off from work. So here is a snapshot of what I have been up to this year!
The biggest change this year is definitely my move from Ireland to England back in February, becoming the fourth country I have lived and worked in. And I must say it has well exceeded my expectations. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that England would have so much to offer! For better or worse, I feel like London tends to take the spotlight, leaving the rest of the country in the shadows. I’ve had the opportunity to do some exploring over the last 11 months, and I still feel like I’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg.
- Roadtripping through the Cotswolds
Discovering the Cotswolds is definitely one of my favourite travel memories of the year, and my best from England. We spent three days driving through Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire and being blown away by the beauty of the English countryside. We would randomly pick names of villages out of the map to stop by and not once were we disappointed. Definitely would love to do another roadtrip like this in 2017!
- Weekend getaway: Norwich and the Broads National Park
Norwich is one of those places that are ideal for a weekend away – you’ve got shopping, you’ve got history, you’ve got countryside, and all within a very friendly and easily walkable city. We also got the chance to explore the lakes and rivers of the Broads by renting a canoe from Wroxham, which is a very short train ride away from Norwich.
- Cambridge and Ely
We are relatively close to Cambridge and I have been lucky enough to have visited this beautiful town many times throughout all seasons this year. So much beauty and history! I have also taken many punting tours, so much so I could probably give the tour myself, but I am yet to punt for myself. Maybe a challenge for 2017? During my last visit to Cambridge I decided to pop into the nearby village of Ely, which turned out to be a brilliant idea. Walking out of the train station and spotting the cathedral sitting on top of the hill is definitely a sight to behold.
- Walking from Ramsgate to Margate through Broadstairs
Another good English memory from this year is exploring the coast of the southern English county of Kent. We started off in Ramsgate, which is about 1 hour away from London by train, and walked first to Broadstairs and then continued on to Ramsgate enjoying the characteristic white cliffs and English beaches. Definitely would like to do more of this in this new year too!
- Daytrip to St Albans
We recently also got the chance to explore the town of St Albans, which makes for an easy daytrip from London, only 20 minutes away by train. Much like it was the case with Ely, I was completely taken aback by the impressive cathedral as well as the history of the town. Because if there is one thing I have learnt in my time in this country, is that the English respect their history and are doing a grand job at conserving it.
My last English getaway brought me all the way to the northern city of Liverpool on a work trip. I arrived in Liverpool without any plans and without knowing a single must-see. Luckily it turned out Liverpool is a very easy city to navigate and with so much to offer! Apparently it has undergone a significant change for the better over the last couple of years. Also their christmas offerings were so good that I’m actually considering going back for a Christmas weekend this year.
You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford – Samuel Johnson
I must agree with good old Samuel here because there is just nothing London can’t offer. We have been trying out a bit of everything, from parks to museums to musicals to markets and yet there is so much left we haven’t seen. I’ve particularly enjoyed stepping away from the city centre and discovering all of the different hidden and peaceful walks spread around London – especially walking the canals. Even during some of the busiest Saturdays of the year you can find yourself walking by yourself for miles and completely forgetting you are still in the biggest european capital. Definitely look forward to continue discovering everything wonderful there is about London and writing more about it!
Poland: Warsaw and the three cities
It hasn’t all been about England this year though. Despite not having any time off I have managed to visit a couple of new countries, the first of which is Poland. And this wasn’t only my first visit to Poland but also my first visit to eastern europe altogether. We spent some time in Warsaw as well as Gdansk and its two neighbouring towns of Sopot and Gdynia, all thanks to a dear Polish friend of mine that kindly acted as our host and showed us some of the best Poland has to offer. The biggest surprise was learning that first, Poland has a beautiful coast with a stunning crossover of beaches with forests I had never seen before. Second thing I wasn’t expecting was Poland to have such amazing gastronomy. And that is something else coming from my extremely fuzzy eater self! In fact, you won’t find me talking about food very often in this blog, but polish food is worth an exception because it is absolutely and without a doubt delicious. I must say Poland definitely exceeded my expectations and I would not hesitate about going back.
Good old Cologne
Much like last year, and in what is starting to become an annual ritual together with Disneyland Paris, we paid Cologne a visit. It is such a lovable city it is hard to resist. I feel like despite some unfortunate weather, we had some more time to wander around and do some more exploring around the old town and along the river. All I can do is repeat what I’ve said before – there is nothing particular special about Cologne. No big list of must-see’s and yet everything is worth seeing. The gardens, the bridges, the terraces… endless charm wherever you look!
Kayaking in Norway
Another new country I got to visit this year was Norway in what was definitely my best trip of the year. I was set on visiting Norway this year, and even though a one-week roadtrip/hiking adventure is what I had in mind, I ended up not having the time but I refused to let the year finish without paying Norway a visit. So we decided to book a guided kayaking weekend along Nærøyfjord. We left for Bergen on a Friday evening and spent all Saturday and Sunday kayaking among the beautiful fjords, which included camping out on Saturday. Despite the pissing rain we had all day Saturday it was absolutely amazing and I’m now definitely set in enjoying another kayaking weekend this year too. And also, rather than satisfying my thirst for Norway it only made it worse and I am absolutely dying to go back and see a lot more of this mind-blowingly beautiful country. Stay tune for the blogpost!
Halloween at Disneyland Paris
Of course I had to fit a trip to Disneyland Paris in there somewhere. This year I organized a trip with some colleagues around Halloween time, which couldn’t be anything other than loads of fun. It was also my first time enjoying the Halloween celebrations in the park, which were great – especially the Halloween parade as well as the decorations spread across the park. I must however admit that Christmas remains my favorite season to visit the park. Also, glad to say that it’s looking like this year I might be paying the park more than one visit, and I am certainly not going to be missing Disneyland Paris 25th birthday starting in March.
Home to Cork, Ireland
Thankfully not a single year has gone in recent times that I haven’t paid Cork a visit, and this year wasn’t going to be any different. What was different is that while I usually stick to just visiting my Irish family, I had some time for a wander around. I got to check out the Christmas decorations around Cork city, attended a beautiful Christmas concert in Mallow and enjoyed a peaceful walk around Donneraille Park for the first time in years. Happy to report that Cork remains the best county of them all.
Re-discovering Tenerife and el Hierro
And finally for the icing on the cake, and to end the year on a big high, I went back home to the Canaries and spent a week between el Hierro and Tenerife, the smallest and biggest islands respectively. And now that I have finally gotten the opportunity to visit el Hierro, it means I have visited each and every one of the seven islands and I am feeling as proud as ever of my homeland. Specially after discovering just how amazing little el Hierro is. I am willing to say that the island, which is actually a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, is the one that packs the most different types of landscapes in such a small space. From beautiful natural pools to extreme volcanic landscapes to extensive green fields and much more. And the best of all is that it still remains completely untouched by tourism (was even hesitant as to even write about it!). Tenerife on the other hand, is a complete different story but also a great one. It had been over 10 years since I had been back, so I was happy to revisit my forgotten memories while making new ones.
I was actually re-reading the post I wrote last year, which I ended by mentioning England, Norway, Poland and Germany, so all in all, I think 2016 turned out to not be a bad one.
What’s in store for 2017? It’s looking like there will definitely be a lot more travel, especially around England and also some trips to the USA. Hiking trip in there somewhere. I’d really like to hit the Balkans and maybe some of Canada’s National Parks. I’ll take whatever 2017 throws my way!
Wishing you all a happy new year and a 2017 full of new experiences and loads of travel!