We’re almost at the end of 2017, and it’s time to look back and reflect on what I have done and where I have been. This year I’ve been lucky enough to visit some new places, and to revisit some old favourites. These included what have become my three favourite cities in the world – London, Rome and San Francisco.

My travel year began at the end of January, with a stop in San Francisco on the way to New Zealand. I love San Francisco for many reasons, including its steep streets, wonderful domestic architecture and many quirks. And the cocktails… This time I explored some of the tiled stairways and the street art of the Mission area. The picture is of the Wave Organ, an elaborate concrete structure that creates a sort of weird music as the waves crash through the pipes.

Wave Organ, San Francisco

The Wave Organ in San Francisco creates “music” from the waves

We were in New Zealand for most of February, taking in trips to Fiordland and New Plymouth. (You can read about our visits to Arrowtown and to the Bridal Veil Falls.) But we spent much of the time with my daughter and her family on the beautiful Waiheke Island, near Auckland. Here we walked, visited several vineyards and enjoyed the Waitangi Day celebrations.

Waitangi Day celebrations

Waitangi Day celebrations on Waiheke Island, New Zealand

A complete change of scene in March when I went to the TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) Conference in Jerusalem. This was a fascinating visit to a city steeped in history, both old and new. Although I spent most of my time in Jerusalem itself I also went to the ancient fortress of Masada, close to the Dead Sea, and to the nearby kibbutz of Ein Gedi, with its spa and beautiful gardens.

Ein Gedi kibbutz, Israel

A sculpture in the gardens of the Ein Gedi kibbutz

April and May were quiet but there were some short trips around England. In Lancashire we did some walking and discovered the story of the Pendle Witches (victims of one of the horrific witch hunts of the 17th century).

Sculpture on the Pendle Witch Trail

One of many sculptures on the Pendle Witch Trail

And I took some time out during a trip to London to walk through Kensington Gardens. As you can see, I managed to get there early enough to avoid the crowds!

Kensington Gardens, London

A peaceful early morning walk in Kensington Gardens

Although it isn’t very far away, I’d hardly ever spent any time in Wales. I put this right in June, with three weeks touring around the country. We stayed in lots of different AirBNBs, walked some of the coastal path and discovered walled cities, Norman castles and ancient monuments. Then there was the eccentric village of Portmeirion, the Blaenau Ffestiniog steam railway, and excellent food wherever we went…

Blaenau Ffestiniog Railway

On the Blaenau Ffestiniog Railway

Poland was a new country for us and we made the most of a brief visit to Kraków in July. We managed trips to the Wieliczka Salt Mine and the medieval city of Tarnów, as well as exploring Kraków itself and drinking Polish vodka!

Main Square, Krakow

The main square and market hall of Kraków

Another first, very close to home, was our August trip to the Isle of Man. This fascinating island in the Irish Sea (less than 600 sq km in area) is dependent upon the UK for many administrative matters, but is not part of either the UK or the EU. We explored the Manx crosses and other early Christian monuments, and several ancient burial sites. The Isle of Man is also famous for motorcycle racing, waterfalls and kippers…

Snaefell, Isle of Man

A motorcyclist at the top of Snaefell, Isle of Man

September was a trip to Spain, taking in Madrid, Segovia and Ávila. Although the walled cities of Segovia and Ávila were new to us it was a return visit to Madrid. We enjoyed discovering one or two new things (I hope to write about them soon), eating tapas, and exploring the old town.

Old city of Madrid

Characteristic tiled walls on a restaurant in the old city of Madrid

I was at a second TBEX conference in October, this time in Killarney in Ireland. I’d never been to this part of Ireland before, and I found so much more than I had expected. Not just the music and the friendly people. But the countryside, the brightly coloured buildings and the astounding light. And I’ve never had such fresh seafood.


Killarney is colourful, even on a wet day!

In November I was in London for World Travel Market, an annual event that showcases the latest in travel and destinations around the world. For me, this is always one of the best bits of the year, with colourful stalls, food to sample, and different places to discover. It is a sort of virtual world tour! But I always take the opportunity to wander around London as well. This year I walked some of the Thames Path, on the south bank of the river, and looked at the sights of London from a different angle.

Thames Path, Bermondsey

Looking across the River Thames from Bermondsey

I can never go a whole year without visiting Italy and December saw us taking a short trip to Rome. I was in Rome this time last year as well – it looks like becoming an annual tradition. Rome is one of those cities, like London, that I’ll never tire of going back to. Every time I go I realise how much more there is to see. This time we had a “beat the crowds” tour of the Vatican and a BiteMojo self guided food tour. We took some day trips too – this picture is of a Christmassy looking back street in Orvieto, a hilltown in Umbria.

Orvieto, Italy

Christmas in Orvieto

So now I’m busy planning my travels for next year. I know that there will be conferences in Rotterdam and in the Finger Lakes region of New York. But who knows what else the year will bring?

It just remains for me to wish all my readers a very Happy New Year, and happy travels in 2018. I always love to know what you are doing, so do tell me about your travel plans and wishes in the comments below.

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