The Christmas pudding has settled and New Year is a very near prospect…but one I’m not quite ready to commit to. Not before I’ve had a thorough review of how 2012 went.
I like to measure the success of my year by my travels and fortunately I set myself some goals in My 2012 Travel Wish List.
I listed 10 places I wanted to visit in 2012 and although it was a rather unrealistic goal, aren’t they the best kind? Here’s where my dreaming self wanted to go in 2012:
1. The Loire Valley, France
2. Lake Bled, Slovenia
3. The White Nights Festival, Russia
7. San Blas Islands, Panama
9. Florianopolis, Brazil
Even if I’d have undertaken a round the world trip, it would have been an unusual itinerary.
So, how did I do? 3 out of 10 ain’t bad…though I did make it to 3 places not on the list.
Here’s where I actually went:
1. The Loire Valley, France
|No, not my house – the chateau in the village I lived, beautiful Montsoreau.|
It was a bit of a cheat putting this place on my travel list as I had already signed a lease on a Troglodyte cave in France to commence in January 2012. Nevertheless, for three freezing cold months and during the first winter the Loire Valley has seen knee high snow in a decade (typical), I was a cave dweller. It was an interesting and fantastic experience where I became intimately familiar with the local cremant (sparkling wine) that can beat many Champagnes on taste, gorged on cheese so ripe I sometimes needed a spoon and became so well known in the local boulangerie that the baker would put aside my favourite baguette and patisseries to avoid disappointment (read: all out screaming sugar-deficient tantrum).
|This was my house for a while – not bad for a cave!|
2. Paris, France
|I will never tire of this city.|
As spring showed its first promise, I decided I needed to swap France for much warmer climes and headed back to England to make plans for the next phase of my travels. Paris was an unintended stop but after loading up the cars of several visiting friends (eternal thanks) I was able to bag an elusive but smugness-inducing €5 Ryanair flight from Paris to Liverpool…but not before a long weekend stop in one of my favourite cities.
|And this is why I will never tire of Paris.|
|Oh Tequila, you make me happy.|
The plan was a jaunt to Mexico and from there I would travel south to Colombia via San Blas islands and thus ticking off two more on My 2012 Travel Wish List. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Taking every excuse offered to stall my journey south (lost credit card, broken camera, too many hangovers, visit from my brother, unable to say goodbye to good friends), I ended up idling for five months in this fine country. However, transforming into the worst travel writer ever, neither seriously traveling or writing, and having found myself viewing an apartment for rent, I knew it was time to move on.
|Celebrating Independence Day in style…or litres of rum.|
|In fairness this was part of a parade, not everyday life on the streets.|
But before leaving Mexico I was set on a quick jaunt to Belize. It wasn’t my best idea. Yes, Caye Caulker was beautiful but it was expensive, the border crossing from Mexico close to traumatic as my bolshy-self once again refused to be extorted resulting in my visa being unceremoniously ‘cancelled’, and, worst decision of all, we preceded our trip to the Cayes with a stop in Belize City. I’d heard many people tell me not to bother with Belize City but I’m unfortunately one of those people who needs to put her own hand over the flame to confirm it’s dangerously hot, and so through Belize City we went (sorry to the people I dragged with me). After getting nearly robbed and then actually robbed (I could hardly Belize it – sorry, couldn’t resist), we fled the city, had a sordid interaction with the non-tourist police to extract a report for the insurance company and in sum, the edge was taken off this so-called slice of paradise. My view: if you do go to Belize, go direct to the Cayes but if you’re just looking for a cheap Caribbean break, stick to Mexico.
If you need to put your own hand in the fire, the best advice I give it not to stay at the North Front Street Guest House. I have never publicly accused an accommodation of theft and the ex-lawyer in me wouldn’t permit me unless I was 200% confident, but thanks to using their own padlocks on our room, that place is one iPod richer than before we arrived.
|Caye Caulker was beautiful despite our experience in Belize City.|
5. San Francisco
|Thank you sky for the lovely sight.|
Relieved to head back to Mexico from Belize, I struggled with motivation to continue my journey south. A quick search on Kayak and I found myself with super cheap tickets to Hawaii (£92 to San Francisco and a further £94 to Hawaii). I deliberated for no more than 24 hours, booked, flew and didn’t regret it for a moment. I threw in 5 days in San Francisco en route to Oahu because the first time I visited I was riddled with jet-lag and general exhaustion and was nothing more than underwhelmed, but I thought the city needed a second chance. I made a point of visiting some of the old spots again but this time things were different. At Pier 39 I steered away from the expensive restaurants and got my fill on $5 fresh fish, which seemed that much more tasty and not just because of the cost. And despite fighting impending illness after too many nights taking full advantage of the free alcohol at my hostel (a place that proudly holds the title of the USA’s Biggest Party Hostel) I hauled myself to the Golden Gate bridge to leave a small flower in memory of the anniversary of my nan’s death. I was rewarded for my effort with the rarely seen contrast of the bright gleaming red metal bridge and vivid blue sky. It certainly made up for the cloud shrouded vision I’d seen on my first trip.
|Flower was a bit lame in hindsight but it was the thought, right?|
|I’m a sucker for a pink sunset – thankfully they’re pretty common on Waikiki beach.|
When I added Hawaii to My 2012 Travel Wish List I didn’t realistically expect to get there and yet it somehow happened anyway. For two and a half months I visited the main four islands: Oahu, Big Island, Kauai and Maui. I hiked into, over and around volcanoes, visited canyons, tasted fresh coffee on a plantation, saw the night sky from one of the best stargazing spots on earth, jumped out of a plane, swam under waterfalls, kayaked rivers, sat on people packed Waikiki beach, took a moment of silence at Pearl Harbor, survived a tsunami evacuation, saw glowing lava, watched in exhaustion at the Iron Man championships, trekked to a rare green sand beach, and met some truly amazing and, in some cases truly unique, people. The list could go on, each experience providing me with some of the best highlights of my travels in 2012. And making for a very hard list to beat in 2013.
As for next year – where will I go? I’m still spinning the globe and working on my list. I’ll keep you posted.