Well, it’s been another good year. We’ve visited South Africa and New Zealand, travelled in Europe and the UK, and learnt a lot about Roman Britain. And, best of all, we acquired a new family member on the very last day of the year.
In January I fulfilled a long standing ambition to visit South Africa, spending time in Cape Town and on the Garden Route. It was a fascinating country and I loved the countryside, the wildlife and the historic towns. I hope that I will manage a return visit before too long.
February was spent at home and visiting relatives in different parts of England. The winter weather was rather a contrast to the South African sunshine!
Then we were back to New Zealand in March – this time to the North Island. We tried AirBNB for the first time and were amazed at the quality of the properties we stayed in. The picture is of the view from a house we went to near Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula – not like your average view from a hotel room! We found the North Island incredibly varied, with hot springs, sacred Maori sites and waterfalls everywhere.
And on our way home we stopped over in Vancouver. This was my first visit to Canada and, despite the rain (they don’t call it the Wet Coast for nothing) I loved the place. Yet another country I have to visit again.
In April we went to Devon, taking in Herefordshire’s black and white villages on the way. And we made a brief detour into Wales to visit Tintern Abbey, one of Britain’s most beautiful Cistercian monasteries.
Then it was time for this year’s TBEX (Travel Bloggers’ Exchange) conference in Lloret de Mar. I last visited the Costa Brava many, many years ago and never expected to return, believing it to be little more than a place for stag and hen parties. I couldn’t have been more wrong and I discovered a wealth of history, countryside, old buildings and more…
June saw the beginning of an unusually hot English summer. We took the opportunity for lots of local walks, including this one along Yorkshire’s Minster Way (a long distance path that links the Minsters – former monastic churches – of York and Beverley).
The heatwave carried on into July, when we walked the Hadrian’s Wall Path, an 84 mile walk through Northumberland and Cumbria following the route of the ancient Roman wall. This was one of the highlights of my year as I discovered lots of Roman history, enjoyed the countryside and explored a part of England that I hadn’t known very well before.
For me no year would be complete without a visit to Italy. This year we made a return trip to the Verona Opera Festival, enjoying performances of Don Giovanni and Tosca. Of course, there was much more to this trip than just the opera. As with any Italian city, Verona is a delight to walk around, and we also enjoyed day trips to Mantua and Brescia.
September provided an opportunity for me to indulge one of my obsessions – searching for ancient English turf mazes. I managed to visit three of them this month (meaning that I only have one more to find). As an added bonus, I also stumbled upon this modern maze, in the sculpture garden of Burghley House.
October was a busy month for travel. We started off with a return trip to Hadrian’s Wall, visiting some of the Roman sites we missed out on our walk, including the very interesting Birdoswald. And this was when I discovered that Cumbria is full of prehistoric stone circles to rival the much more famous Stonehenge.
Towards the end of the month we took a short break to the other side of the country, staying in the beautifully situated Inn at Whitewell in Lancashire.
And in November I travelled to London to attend the annual World Travel Market, an excellent opportunity to talk to people in the travel industry and to meet up with some fellow bloggers. And, of course, the chance to take in some London museums and restaurants. While we were there we walked a little bit of the Thames Path (a long distance path that follows the river from London to its source in Gloucestershire. The picture is of the Thames at Isleworth, a surprisingly peaceful spot just a few miles from the centre of London.
But the most exciting event of the year was on New Year’s Eve, with the birth of my granddaughter Evelyn. She was born in Auckland, just about as far away from us as it is possible to get but thanks to modern technology I am looking forward to “meeting” her on Skype very soon. And you won’t be surprised to know that our first trip planned for 2016 is to New Zealand in February.
It just remains for me to wish a very happy New Year to all of my readers. If you have any travel plans lined up for the coming year I’d love to hear about them.