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Tuesday 27 December 2011

I'm off on my hols!

I’m writing this blog while finalising my packing, as I’m off on holiday this evening! After spending six years in a row at the same New Year’s Eve party, I’m finally doing something different; heading to the shores of Bali via Malaysia, for two weeks.
Going on holiday is very special. Some people go on lots of holidays, others hardly go on any; and some folk will never go on a single holiday during their lifetime. I didn’t go on my first holiday until I was at university as there was no ‘going away’ culture in my family, (apart from two trips to Bangladesh to visit relatives when I was 4 and 15.)
I haven’t been to a huge amount of places, but I appreciate everywhere I have. While thinking about my New Year vacation, I looked back at some old holiday snaps taken over the last decade, to get me in the holiday mood. It stirred up some great memories that I want to share.

1. Best day trip: Paris, France

I first went to Paris on my 20th birthday and was deeply unimpressed. It felt like the most unromantic place in the world. It was grey, cold and grab (admittedly it was December). A few years later, after spending £15 in Boots, I was given a ‘Buy One Get One Free’ voucher for Eurostar (this must have been the ONLY time they have ever ran this deal!). I returned to Paris; this time on a blistering summer’s day and it turned out to be the most fun day trip ever! A heatwave penetrated through city and the streets were thriving with shiny, happy people, basking on a fake beach and enjoying the outdoor street showers. I picked up a gorgeous 5 Euro dress at the flea market, and feasted on delicious pastries. All in all, it was a fabulous day…but it ended very sadly. On route back to Kent, our train hit a deer. It lost its life, as did the train. We were stranded for five hours with NO FOOD (as the announcement came that we weren’t going anywhere, they shut the café – something I will never understand). In the early hours of the morning we were eventually escorted off the train and walked a mile along the track until we boarded a new train. I arrived back in Brighton just as my shift was starting at M&S.

2. Best adventures: Mexico

I left my heart in Mexico, so I went back to reclaim it. My first trip followed on from my Geography fieldtrip during my second year at university. I did a project on Los Angeles, (Does the Hollywood Dream really exist?) and Las Vegas, (Is Las Vegas really a 24 hour city)…I know! They don’t exactly sound academic, but that’s Geography for you. If you think out of the box, you can get away with anything!
Afterwards I popped over to visit a friend studying at a Mexican University, I’ll never forget arriving and eating her freshly cooked quesadillas – yum! Later I returned with friends and explored the East coast. We had countless adventures in beautiful weather and ate amazingly. It’s my ambition to retire over there.

3. Best city: Barcelona, Spain

Similarly as I stepped foot in Barcelona on another birthday, I felt so at home that I ended up returning to the city again, less that two weeks later! As well as incredible art, architecture, tapas, entertainment, shops….Barcelona is one of the few places in Europe that catches December sun.

4. Best surprise: Scotland

On the way to Scotland, I bought a rain mac. I’ve never needed one before but I was convinced there would be constant down pours. To my extreme shock, in the space of a week there was none. In fact I ended up being there the one week of the year where it apparently doesn’t rain, despite what the forecasts say. I travelled all across the whole top coast of the country and to the islands of Skye and Stornaway. It was utterly beautiful, peaceful, quiet and full of craft. There were weavers, artists, patchwork designers; all crafting away in quaint houses, where anyone can pop in and take a look. It really was like a dream world.

5. Best company: Norfol
Going on holiday with the boys was the closest I’ll ever get to going on holiday with The Inbetweeners…you wouldn’t want to do it, but you know you’ll laugh so much that you will loose years. This was an August Bank Holiday camping trip involving dodgy driving, rain soaked bbqs, encountering unfriendly locals, discovering charity shop bargains, and five people being squeezed into a one man tent, where ‘gas’ was a major issue…I kid you not! Despite this, I’ll never forget the antics and the taste of the veggie sausages for breakfast – wow!

6. Best memory: Zurich, Switzerland

Going on holiday with my dad was an absolute honour. He dreamed about travelling but didn’t have much opportunity to see the world. About a year before he got unwell, I escorted him on a trip to Zurich to visit my sister. In the beginning the non-traveller in him was a bit moany, but once he settled in, and laid eyes on the breathtaking scenery, he was utterly relaxed. We definitely bonded on that trip, and looking back at all the photos makes me feel very happy.

7. Best food: Cork, Ireland

I’ve had authentic curry in India, classic tagine in Morocco…but the one culinary memory I shall never forget is the brown bread of Ireland. It was the most delicious bread I’ve ever tasted and I asked for extra portions every where I went. Eventually I found out the brand and bought 10 loaves. I froze them all but sadly none of them tasted as good back in London!

8.Best forgotten: Elba, Italy

Camping in Europe in February was never going to be one of my best ideas …not checking out the accommodation proved to be another. We turned up to find the only camping resort in the island closed for refurbishment and were forced to pitch our tent on the beach (The spot was outside a closed bar). It was the coldest, longest night of my life, during which time I got no sleep and had to ‘improvise’ when it came to going to the loo. Definitely best forgotten! 

9. Best relaxation: Hammamet,Tunisia

Many a traveller turns their nose up at ‘package holidays’ but whatever your opinions, the truth is they are easy, convenient and can be very cheap. Curious as to what the ‘package’ is all about, a few years ago I decided it was time to roadtest one for myself and thus ended up in a popular tourist resort in Tunisia. While I’ll admit the evening entertainment shows got a bit grating and the group water aerobics sessions didn’t get me sweating, I can say with my hand firmly on my heart, that I had a great time. It was just what I needed. Long hours at work meant I had no time to read guidebooks or undertake planning. I wanted an easy trip; and that was what I got. The rejuvenating effects were instant.

10. Best luxury: Costa Blanca, Spain

When you’re a journalist there are two types of press trip you can find yourself on. The first is when you’re part of a group of journos, usually hosted by a tourist board or organisation, who take you around in a mini bus, organise your whole itinery for you and feed you local specialities. The other type (‘best type’) is when you go alone or with a guest, and are treated like a VIP at an exclusive establishment. Last year I was pampered for three days at a 5 star resort in Spain. As soon as I arrived I knew I would probably never be in this situation ever again (I can assure you, nothing similar has happened to me since!). I blissed out for the duration, sampling massages, taking frequent dips in heated pools, undertaking relaxing activities like tai chi and dining on the most divine of dishes – every meal, which was complimentary, came to over 100 euros…I could never imagine an existence where I could afford that, but for those three dreamy days, Barcelo Asia Gardens was my personal heaven.

And so to Malaysia and Bali. My friend Janine won a pair of flights to the destination of her choice, she picked Kuala Lumpar in Malaysia and gave me her other ticket. To say I feel blessed in an understatement. We have no plans other than have booked our first night in both locations.
I’m treating it as a complete holiday. No work, no crafting, no writing, no blogging and probably no tweeting either! It’s just going to be me, her, and a whole blank canvas of exploration.
Whatever you have planned for the next few days, I hope you feel as positive about 2012 as I do. I can’t wait to share how I welcomed it in - normal blogging will commence upon my return in mid-January.

1 comment:

  1. I remember the bogof tickets to Paris from Boots. Seemed too good to be true and then never again :)