Is it just me or has this year whizzed by in a flash?
As a child, I’m sure the space of time between the summer holidays was a never-ending year of school, but now as an adult that same space of time seems to last a nanosecond. I feel like I’m getting older way too fast! I have to say though, it may have been a quick year, but I made sure I packed it full. I was determined this year to make the most of all the opportunities I came across and I think I did pretty well.
This year, just like the 4 before, I was torn between travelling everywhere on my list and going home. In the end I decided to do both. Living away from my family gets harder every year and it was tough in January thinking that I wouldn’t get home until Christmas, so I decided to just work damn hard and save like a crazy person and go in the spring/summer too. Thankfully flights within Europe are ridiculously cheap, so I was able to travel to new places during my trips home (phew!). Stopovers also worked in my favour as non-direct flights are often cheaper and also allow me to see other places on my journeys to and from England.
2017 gave me the chance to visit 15 different destinations (not including Lima, Cambridge or London), including 2 new countries, 1 new state, 5 new cities and 4 new towns, plus 2 ‘new’ ancient cities…
I kicked off 2017 in New Orleans listening to amazing jazz brass bands at the world famous Howlin’ Wolf until the early hours of January the 1st. We drove from Louisiana back to Orlando via Crystal River to see the manatees in their winter home at the Three Sisters Springs, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now.
In May/June I made a surprise trip home and my boyfriend got to experience being in the UK in a season other than winter! There was a heatwave in Europe while we were there, which was perfect when we visited Amsterdam, but made for some ‘sticky’ challenges in the Loire Valley and Paris. When we went to Disneyland Paris, it must have been about 37 degrees. They closed outdoor rides, I literally melted, it was insane. Back in Peru we took a quick break in Lunahuana to have a final holiday with one of our dogs before she passed away, which was fun but heartbreakingly sad at the same time. For my birthday we went to the glacier lakes in the Huascaran National Park in Ancash, another long awaited destination, which completely lived up to my personal hype! Drinks on the side of a mountain at Sierra Andina’s outdoor pop up bar was a great part of my birthday, and we finished the trip with a visit to Chavín de Huántar, home to some incredible pre-Inca ruins.
Another bout of crazy saving and I headed back home to England via Toronto and Niagara Falls. I absolutely love Canada, and Tim Hortons… but then who doesn’t love their doughnuts from heaven?
Then I was back in the UK and on an immediate road trip with the fam to Bath for the Christmas market. The following two weeks were filled with trips here and there, with the big one being a trip with my Dad to Munich, for beer and Christmas markets, and the snowy Bavarian Alps. My last foreign travel of the year was to Sorrento with my Mum, which takes the prize for ‘The Christmas Destination You Never Knew You Needed’, as it was filled with fairy lights, decorations, and Christmas cheer. Whilst in Sorrento I fulfilled the dream of my 10 year old self by visiting Pompeii. It rained all day but I had the best time, as we had the ancient city almost completely to ourselves. Ah, the luxury and benefits of not caring if your boots are filled with water….
I’m so grateful to my past self for not giving in and buying stuff I didn’t really need, so I could afford my flights. Honestly, 5 pots of peanut butter in Lima is about the same price as a flight to Italy, no joke! Sacrifices must be made for travel.
Here’s to some new destinations in 2018…..
My love of eating delicious food makes up a big part of who I am and how I spend a lot of my time. So, it seems only right to dedicate a section of this review to all the great food I discovered this year and managed to fit into my forever hungry stomach.
I’m always on the look out for new bakeries and Ana Avellana is my absolute favourite in Lima, Shelford Deli’s ‘Doughnut Friday’ is a revelation, and a chocolate almond croissant and a honey cake from GAIL’s is the perfect way to start your day. This year Cafe de Lima gave me great pizza, Bao gave me the best steamed buns, and Granger & Co gave me summer on a plate. I started and ended the year with BBQ; at The Joint in New Orleans in January and the most amazing pulled pork pancakes for brunch at Smokeworks in December.
Travel always gives me great food, including a picnic -made up of local French produce- eaten in the shadow of Chateau de Chambord, incredible gelato from Gelato Primavera in Sorrento, the best stuffed courgette flower I’ve ever eaten at L’Antica Trattoria in Sorrento, and wine from the troglodytic cellars of Maison Brédif just outside Tours. Plus, who knew Amsterdam was such a foodie destination? I literally ate fantastic food there every single day of my trip, again living my best life. Calverley’s Brewery in Cambridge was a great little discovery in the summer, and Doughnut Time, all the way from the land down under, gave me joy in the winter. This year, like every year, was a year of English cheese, gin and beer, homemade roast potatoes, and maki rolls from Hanzo. Life’s little pleasures.
1. I’ve been working hard on improving my photography this year and I’ve come up with some pretty great shots on occasion (even if I do say so myself!) I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, but I’m aware I have a long way to go yet to be consistently good and it’s something that will be in my goals for 2018 too.
2. I’ve completed my aim of visiting a couple of new countries this year with both The Netherlands and Germany being first times for me.
3. Better purchasing is something I’ve been working on for a while now, but I feel that this year I was really in the right mindset. Living in Peru has actually made it much harder for me to make random purchases, due to unavailability of certain brands, high prices, terrible postal service, lack of online shopping, and/or my personal lack of transportation. This has worked wonders for my spending, as I’ve only been heading to the big shopping centre every 3 months or so, allowing me to really think hard about what I need/want to buy. Most of my purchases are actually made when I head home, which at most is twice a year, meaning I also plan those carefully due to baggage allowances!
4. Pompeii. This was a goal I had wanted to achieve for around the last 20 years. It’s not a hard one to achieve considering how close England and Italy are, but life and other opportunities had always got in the way. I was so happy when I finally booked my flight in September and was even happier once I stepped inside the ticket barrier. Rain and the occasional torrential downpour was not going to stop me.
5. This year I really improved my organisation and planning. As a Virgo, organisation is something that comes easily (if you’re a Virgo you’ll understand!) and I always love a good list, but this year I went old school and back to pen and paper planning. My work diary was physical instead of digital (I think this may have started in 2016), and I was inspired to use some of the bullet journal techniques in my notebooks, which has really helped me to see how I’m getting along month to month. Funnily enough, it’s also helped me to sleep better, as I no longer have a million thoughts and ideas floating around in my head at night, as they are all jotted down on paper.
6. Relaunching my blog. Obviously living in Peru, it made sense for me to write about it, but I was feeling so boxed in by what I could write under the ‘Peru’ umbrella, that I became really unmotivated. I knew that there was so much more I wanted to talk about and so changing the blog made perfect sense. It was the best decision I could have made and now I have endless lists of things I want to share!
Everyone’s been publishing their ‘Best Nine’ on social media, but when I did mine a few of my favourite shots from my feed didn’t make the cut, so I decided that I would just pick my own! These are ‘My Best Twelve’.
1.Pompeii – It had been my dream to visit here since I was 10, when I studied it at school, and I finally got to visit!
2. A Family Christmas – Living abroad makes any time with my family wonderful, and luckily this year I was able to visit twice, but to have everyone together at Christmas (sadly minus my boyfriend) was almost perfect.
3. Lakes – Finally getting to see the glacier lakes in Huascaran and drinking locally brewed beer on the edge of the mountain on my birthday.
4. Hogwarts in the Snow – the winter overlay at the Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter Studio Tour was so magical, but to be honest anything Harry Potter related is a highlight for me!
5. Niagara – Walking behind Niagara Falls as it thundered down in front of me.
6. Snow – it snowed 3 times in Cambridge, which made me so ridiculously happy, and I got to walk through a genuine winter wonderland in the Bavarian Alps.
7. Opera – Seeing Juan Diego Flores sing opera at the Royal Albert Hall. Breathtaking.
8. Manatees – Witnessing manatees swim and feed at The Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, Florida was unreal.
9. Jazz – Getting to see the Preservation Hall Jazz Band live at Preservation Hall in New Orleans is something I’d wanted to do for around 5 years and it finally happened!
It’s been really nice for me to write this post and take in everything that’s happened this year and look back through with fresh eyes. I like to think of it as some kind of a diary for future me to look at and remember all the memories that were made! This year has been amazing and I’ve made some real achievements in both my work and my personal life. Having the chance to visit my family twice this year really made a huge difference to my mood and my mental health, and in consequence of that, everything else just seemed better and brighter. I can’t wait to see what 2018 has to offer!