2016 has been a year of adventures, from visiting India for the fifth time to stepping foot on Canadian and Portuguese soil for the first time. I have revisited favourite places in the UK and found some new ones too.
Here are my top five travel moments of 2016:
5. Sleeping in an Orangery
While looking for somewhere suitable for a long weekend in Shropshire that could be used as a base to go county hopping, I stumbled across the fabulous Orangery at Henley Hall on Airbnb. I am a big fan of Airbnb as it is a very easy way of finding dog-friendly accommodation.
Set in wonderful grounds that my dog could run around in, and with cows for neighbours, the Orangery was the perfect getaway. It was compact and perfectly presented, with everything you needed for a comfortable stay in a quirky setting.
4. Seeing another side of Swansea
I studied in Swansea when I did my undergraduate degree. During that time I thought I had got to know the city very well. When I stayed there in September for a special visit with my mother, I literally saw a different side of it. Staying in dog-friendly accommodation in Mayals I had a panoramic view looking down on the Bay. This was something I had never seen before, and the view from the sunrise wake-up call courtesy of my dog was absolutely stunning.
3. Meeting my friend’s son for the first time
Through my job I have connected with colleagues based in Mumbai, three women in particular who I now call friends. When I visited in May 2015, my friend Mudita was pregnant with her son, Rihaan. When I visited again this year in July-August, I finally had the chance to meet him.
Mudita had sent me lots of photographs of Rihaan since he was born in July 2015 and it was wonderful to be able to meet him in person. He is a gorgeous, happy little boy and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening I spent with Rihaan, Mudita and their family.
Pictured is my very tasty traditional dinner cooked by Mudita’s mother-in-law. Mudita had warned her that I don’t eat spicy food so was a little concerned to see she had slipped in some chillies. “They’re only small,” mother-in-law said. “They’re the strongest kind!” replied Mudita.
2. Dinner at ‘The End of the World’
I joined the West Coast Adventure Co. in October for a special eight-hour hike that culminated in a moonlit picnic on top of the Cape St Vincent cliffs.
The picnic was the most authentic Portuguese cuisine I had while I was there and it was delicious. We used slices of bread as our plates and loaded them up with homemade hummus, Portuguese-Moroccan style cooked carrots, soaked tomatoes and a variety of local cheeses.
I have eaten in wonderful restaurants and cafes but eating by moonlight and seeing a shooting star and a very close Mars was a special experience and one that I will treasure for a long time.
1. Close encounters in Canada
When I visited Canada for the first (and definitely not the last) time in May, I was fortunate to see a huge range of wildlife from an eagle’s nest in Vancouver complete with two eaglets to Bighorn Sheep in Jasper National Park.
They were all wonderful experiences but the cream of the crop was undoubtedly my third and final bear spot of the holiday, a young Grizzly that came very close to our car in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Alberta, as explained here.