As we see out the old year and bring in the new, there’s something of a tradition in blogging circles to review the places you visited, share photos from the year just gone and generally reminisce about those days of sunshine and happy memories – doesn’t everything seem more rosy in retrospect?
Looking back over my travelling year, I’m amazed at how many places in the UK and Europe I managed to fit in, considering that I have a full-time job and family (although only one of my little birds left in the nest). Perhaps that’s why my preferred travel style is the short break, to pack in the maximum fun from a limited amount of holiday. My most regular travel companion is my husband Guy who by his own admission is as expert in ‘loafing’ as I am at scribbling, photographing, video-ing, although he regularly gets roped in as assistant cameraman and videographer. Whenever I get the chance, I also love travelling with friends and family, especially when the (nearly-grown-up) kids do us the honour of coming along.
So here is a taste of my travelling year in 2014 in anticipation of many more happy travels in 2015.
January: Still recovering from Paris in December
January was something of a catch-up month, so I’m cheating a little bit here by including the pre-Christmas trip to Paris from December 2013. We found that Paris at Christmas is surprisingly un-Christmassy as the French are pretty low key about their celebrations and decorations. On this trip we stayed clear of the regular tourist traps (although we couldn’t quite escape Notre Dame) and enjoyed exploring the more local haunts, with a gourmet walking tour of Marche D’Aligre, a local dining experience with a Frenche Creole flavour and a walk along the pretty Canal Saint Martin in Bastille.
February: A winter break in Copenhagen for the Wondercool festival
In February we were back in Copenhagen, a favourite of mine, to see what the city has to offer in winter and check out the Copenhagen Cooking festival. The gastronomic highlight was a gastro-cruise around the harbour during which we stopped at no less than six of the top restaurants in Copenhagen, each of which had prepared a different dish of mussels. I hadn’t quite realised that the focus would be entirely on one ingredient so was quite thankful that both Guy and I love seafood! We stayed at the fabulous and colourful Anderson boutique hotel and managed to combine more gourmet food tasting at the Torverhallerne food market with culture at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek and Rosenborg Slot.
Read More: In Photos: Our weekend break in Copenhagen
March: Heather is featured in Woman and Home Magazine
Although this is not actually a place I travelled but I have to mention how thrilled I was at being featured in Woman and Home magazine, with two other bloggers in a feature about “Blogging for fame and fortune”. I had such a fun day at the photography shoot, being made up and dressed up in impossibly high heels with tons of make-up, and a suitcase that would never have made it past the Ryanair police. All great fantasy and left me floating on air when friends kept telling me they had seen me in the magazine.
March: A weekend in Marrakech in search of Josephine Baker
March took me off to Marrakech to get my fix of spring sunshine and we stayed in the magical Riad Star which was once the home of French cabaret artist and superstar of the 1920s, Josephine Baker. The Riad has been beautifully renovated in a Jazz Age theme, with a relaxing roof terrace, inner courtyard where we enjoyed breakfast and even had its own dressing up box. We spent the weekend trying to not get too lost in the Souk, perfecting our haggling skills, and visiting a fair number of beautifully decorated mosques, palaces and gardens. Of course there was the obligatory snake charmer photo opportunity in Jemaa el Fnaa.
April: A spring break in North Devon
April is when spring is truly upon us with the daffodils and primroses blooming in North Devon. We spent a weekend with friends in the lush, green wilds of the Devon countryside at Penhaven Country Cottages, booked through Premier Cottages. There was plenty of pub grub, coastal walks and a visit to Clovelly, the picturesque cliffside village that is now a major tourist attraction and could easily play a starring role in any costume drama about smugglers and pirates.
May: Walking the Pembrokeshire coastal path and the puffins on Skomer island
In May we went walking in Wales along the Pembrokeshire coastal path with Macs Adventure on a taster version of their Best of Pembrokeshire itinerary. We had chosen the perfect time of year to visit Skomer island, a short boat ride off the coast, since it was the beginning of the Puffin breeding season and we were able to get really close to the cute looking Puffins as they arrived back at their burrows. Our walk along the Pembrokeshire coastal path continued from Broadhaven, past the lovely harbour at Solva, ending at St David’s where we had a look around the famous cathedral, art galleries and craftshops in the “Smallest City in Great Britain”, which is really an overgrown village.
May: A Mediterranean Cruise with MSC Cruises
Later in May we were off again on a Mediterranean cruise with MSC Cruises. We embarked at Barcelona and had a fun week as the ship cruised around the Med visiting Marseille, Genoa, Naples, Messina and Tunis, before returning to Barcelona. The ship was very glamorous with a lively atmosphere and plenty of families on board, and at each port we visited I wished we could have stayed just a little longer!
June: Discovering Dylan Thomas in Swansea and Laugharne
One of my favourite UK trips this year was to South Wales to discover more about the poet, Dylan Thomas in his centenary year. Swansea, where Dylan grew up, is not the prettiest of cities but provided a fascinating gateway to his childhood and early years. We followed his life through the dramatised walk we took around the streets from the Dylan Thomas Centre and our visit to the Dylan Thomas Birthplace at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive. Our Dylan Thomas discovery continued at Laugharne in Carmarthenshire, where we stayed at Dylan’s favourite drinking haunt of Brown’s Hotel and visited The Boat House where he lived and worked, overlooking the beautiful Taf estuary. With views like these who wouldn’t be inspired?
June: Walking the beaches of the Gower in South Wales
In June, I was back in Wales with another cottage stay at the fabulous luxury cottage, Promenade View in Mumbles through Home from Home Cottages. The cottage was perfectly situated on the promenade of this traditional holiday resort which is also the gateway to the fabulous beaches of the Gower Peninsula. We took full advantage, with a long walk from our front door along the coastal path, past the fabulous beaches of Bracelet Bay, Langland, Caswell, along the clifftop to Pennard, where we caught the bus back to Mumbles. The next day we had a morning in the sand-dunes and flat beach of Llangenith, a favourite beach for surfers which left us feeling refreshed and miles from our busy life in Bristol.
July: Back to Copenhagen for a family holiday
Two visits to the same place in one year must mean that I really like a place and we took the family back to Copenhagen in late July for a family break, staying in a large apartment near the harbour side. The weather was hot and sunny and we cycled everywhere, swam in the harbour, ate great street-food and took ferries across the harbour. Like Copenhageners of all ages, we enjoyed a day at Tivoli, although after the adrenalin rush of the roller-coaster with my kids I was happy to sit and admire the rose garden from a shady spot on the lawn.
August: Zakynthos Greece for a beach holiday with my daughter
Since my sister lives on the Greek island of Zakynthos, I try to visit her each year and in August I was there with my 19 year old daughter and English niece. Since my Greek niece was also there with four of her friends, I got to hang out with the beach-babes in the most trendy beach bars, check out all the unspoiled beaches and generally live the life of a 19 year old on holiday. When not sipping on my chilled frappe coffee or swimming in the clear water to cool off, I was able to observe Greek beach style and etiquette which I wrote about in the article below.
September: A foodie adventure in South Tyrol, Italy
September took me to South Tyrol in Italy, an area that is close to the Austrian and Swiss borders with stunning mountain scenery in the Dolomites. I spent a few days there, combining outdoor activities with gastronomic pleasures, cycling around Lake Kaltern on the South Tyrol wine road, visiting some of the local designers and the climbing a Via Ferrata. These ‘iron routes’ are rock climbing routes of varying difficulty where you are secured to a cable that snakes up the rock-face, enabling relative novices like me to reach the top (although best with a guide) in a scary but exhilarating experience.
September: Hiking the Dry Stone route in Mallorca
Later in September I was off for another walking holiday with my friend Julia, to Mallorca. Having completed the Tour de Mont Blanc together in previous years, we fancied something that combined views of the sea with mountainous walking and decided to walk a section of the Dry Stone Route, a long-distance path that skirts the west coast of Mallorca into the Tramuntana mountain range. We passed through several of the coastal resorts of Mallorca but my favourite time was walking the higher rocky sections of the Traamuntana from Soller to Lluc monastery.
October: Athens for TBEX Blogger’s Conference
In October I was in Athens, a city I haven’t really explored, despite visiting the Greek islands every year to see my sister. The city has been through a tough time with the recent ecenomic crisis but we found a new spirit of optimism and purpose as the worst seems to be over. The city was hosting the TBEX blogger’s conference and as part of this I spent a day in Athens on a gastronomic walking tour as well as a visit to the Parthenon. I was pleasantly surprised the warmth and spirit of Athens and it’s one place I’d love to get back to see more of in 2015.
November: A weekend at the Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon
In November I was back down to Devon for a weekend on the edge of Dartmoor at the Moorland Garden Hotel. This is a part of the world that I have visited quite a few times and we visited the market town of Tavistock, on the edge of the moor and visited The Garden House and National Trust property of Buckland Abbey nearby. There were all too many opportunities to try those yummy Devon cream teas.
December: A pre-Christmas weekend in Dublin
To bring the year to a close I spent a weekend in Dublin with my husband and 17 year old son in early December. The purpose of our trip was the Trinity College open day, since my son is looking at university choices for next year, but we managed to pack in an awful lot else, with shopping on Grafton Street, the Little Museum of Dublin and plenty of great meals, not to mention the odd pint of Guinness.
So the year comes to a close but I know there will be plenty more travel adventures in 2015. In January I will be back down to Devon to stay in another lovely cottage that’s close to the Jurassic coast, as well as a visit to India at the end of the month to visit the charity project that I support in Andhra Pradesh. I hope that you’ll join me through the blog on these and other trips and follow my photos on social media too.
Wishing you many happy travel adventures of your own in 2015.
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey