Getting Festive

20161203_christmas_wrapping_0013Today things really started to feel Christmassy for me. I have had a day indoors wrapping presents, writing cards and drinking tea. It’s been bliss. I’m wearing my (non-brand) Ugg boots and my thickest woollen jersey and have been watching the winter sun’s slow decent through the sky out the window.

Oh… and did I mention the Christmas carols? I have had them on repeat all day. My new favourite is The Greatest Gift by James Corden and (I’ve only just found this out) NZ’s own, Bret McKenzie. It’s the song from the Sainsbury’s Christmas ad. So cute!

Christmas to me really is all about the people you spend it with and for the first time in four years, it will be with my family this time. Our Christmas trip has been one and a half years in the making and I’m so excited that it’s finally time. We fly out to Wellington in just over a week and a half now. Eeeek!20161203_christmas_wrapping_0023_1^^^ Ben bought me an advent calendar this year so I can count down the days…20161203_christmas_wrapping_001720161203_christmas_wrapping_0018It’s going to be nice to be there for the present opening in the morning and just be on the same time zone in general for the holidays. I always find it funny over New Year’s when I suddenly get bombarded with all these (usually drunken) messages midday on New Year’s Eve. I’m sometimes still at work and not even in party mode yet.

It looks like I may have gone slightly overboard with the present buying this year, but I can blame it on the excitement.. Plus, I have had a year and a half to collect these up.

Can’t wait to see you NZ xxx

 

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Eweleaze Farm: Camping in England

20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0370For my 29th birthday Ben and I went camping and it was the best!

We camped at a beautiful site just outside of Weymouth, Eweleaze Farm. Eweleaze Farm is on the South East coast and I had heard that it was the best campsite in England. Having tried but failed to get there in 2015, (we were washed out, surprise, surprise) excitement levels were high for this trip.

I had only one goal for this trip, lots of outdoor activities and relaxing. Lucky for us, the weather didn’t let us down and we spent three full days swimming, hiking and exploring.

Day 1: Settling in

The first thing you should know, is that the campsite is tops. The best I’ve been to, and I’ve been to a few. The showers felt like you were in a tropical rainforest, with just enough creature comforts and privacy while still being out in the elements. Every morning the onsite bakery tantalised you with fresh croissants, rolls and other delicious smelling delicacies.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0572Oh, and did I mention the view? Endless rolling hills and cornfields overlooking your own private beach.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0212^^^ Our first home. Thankfully it withstood the elements, the coastal wind has flattened a fair few tents at this site.

Day 2: Corfe Castle

Lonely Planet described Corfe Castle and the surrounds as romantic and dramatic and they weren’t wrong. Set above a quaint little village with a steam train rolling through, the picturesque ruins really catch your eye. For the best vantage point climb up the nearby hillside, I think it’s a part of the National Trust area and you will get fantastic views looking over the castle ruins.

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Day 3: Lulworth Cove & Durdle Door

Today we earned our dinner. I dragged Ben on a 7 mile (11km) hike up and down the steep chalky cliffs of the Jurassic Coast Line. We started at Lulworth Cove, taking a few pics of the secluded bay and tourist boat port before embarking on our first hurdle along the coastal path that eventually reaches Durdle Door.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0231We were met by some disinterested cows and our first glimpse of the gleaming white cliff faces this section of coastline is known for.

You first come across Man of War beach, which I suspect is the better beach because the cove protects you from winds buffeting the coastline, then as you crest the next hill the famous Durdle Door comes into view.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0264It seemed like the perfect place to stop off for some lunch.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0355^^^ A bit of a paddle was in order, too.

We pressed on after lunch though, four more miles to cover with some steep ridges in our path meant we didn’t want to mosey about. Our circular route took us to White Nothe, meaning White Nose and what I assume is the point of the cliffs that juts out from the land the most. Other than that though, White Nothe as a destination wasn’t very exciting. This walk is all about the journey and the scenes we were treated to along the track did not disappoint.

Oh, and some kestrel friends watched over us as we wandered.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0504As we dragged our weary legs back over the cliffs we had energetically scaled a few hours before, we decided a swim was in order. The sea was warm from the days heat and sparkling in the slowly setting sunshine. We stripped our sweaty outer layers and plunged in for a refreshing dip.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0543A birthday dinner of fish’n’chips at Lulworth Cove completed the day perfectly.

Day 4: Packing up and Bournemouth Beach

We woke to glorious sunshine on our final day camping and it was only supposed to get hotter. We meandered over to the little beach below the campsite for a wake up swim before stopping in for fresh juice and baked goods for breakfast at the campsite shops.

We said goodbye to the resident livestock, lambs, pigs, alpacas and the most popular of all, puppies. Packed up our tent and drove off, carefully avoiding children chasing kites vowing that we would be back next year for sure.20160820_eweleaze_farm_camping_0583We stopped off at the ever popular and supremely crowded Bournemouth beach for a swim and ice cream on the way home. It was jarring after the tranquilness and quiet of the campsite though and we didn’t stay long.

Weekend in Torquay + Brixham

20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0057Here is a quick photo round up of a recent weekend I spent in Torquay and the surrounds. The trip was almost wholly unplanned and as most spontaneous ideas are, completely and surprisingly brilliant. I really has no idea what to expect of this little seaside town in Devon, but as most around me can attest, I have been raving about it ever since.

We started off checking out Brixham, a small fishing town across the bay from Torquay.

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We wandered the small village then sat on the waterfront with fresh mussels for lunch and watched the kids catching crabs off the wharfs. I wish I had taken a good photo of them because I was so intrigued by this quintessentially seaside hobby. A fruitful hobby too as they were filling up their buckets pretty quickly. You could buy bait, a line and a crab bucket at all the local tourist shops – I very nearly gave it a go myself.

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In the afternoon we sat on the stony beach and watched those braver than us plunge into the less than tropical waters while the sunshine flickered in and out of the clouds.

20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0054For a moment it looked like the weather was going to well and truly crash in on us, but luckily it passed with just a few sprinkles of rain.

IMG_6937On the hunt for the best fish ‘n’ chips in the area for dinner we also stumbled across the best view of the weekend, Babbacombe Bay. Good spot for a picnic huh?  I can highly recommend Hanbury’s Fish ‘n’ chips, they do live up to the hype.

Finally we arrived back at Torquay harbour to finish off our bottle of Cava. The sun really put on a show of setting too. I was kicking myself for not bringing along my big camera. These iPhone pics do not do it justice at all.

Red sky at night, shepard’s delight….

Waking up to sunshine the next morning, our first mission was to get some more pictures of Babbacombe Bay and venture down to what looked like a sandy beach from above.20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0061

20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0069But alas, once we got closer we found it was pebbles.20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0074You go down to Babbacombe beach by a very steep cable car.20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0083Ice creams are a must at the seaside.20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0089Nice spot to watch the world go by…. and serenade it.

After resting on the beach for a while we got up and started on the hunt for our last meal. After a quick pit stop at Cockington first. I happened upon Cockington in a guide map that described it as ‘a village frozen in time’. It sure was! With lovely grassy woodlands and thatched roofs as far as the eye could see, it certainly looked untouched by time.

I fell in love with this little pink one. 20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0102When can I move in? Even the roses match!

We had envisioned stopping at Paignton for lunch, another seaside town along the coast from Torquay but after discovering a fun fare had come to town and there was no parking we decided to head back to Torquay and find some more seafood on the beachfront. We had delicious crab at On the Rocks if you’re interested.20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0104

Then it was back in the car to make the trip back to London, with a little pit stop at Cheddar Gorge on the way.

20160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_011220160729_Torquay_Weekend_Trip_0116Unfortunately we arrived too late to pick up any cheese! Better planning is needed next time.

I’m off on a camping trip to Weymouth next weekend, so I don’t have to wait much longer for my next dose of the English Seaside. Have you got any tips on what to do and where to eat around Weymouth and the Jurassic Coast?

Home: It is the people. It is the people.

He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people
Maori proverb

You know when you learn a new word or phrase, and then all of a sudden it turns up everywhere?

Hutt River, Lower Hutt, New ZealandI recently came across this beautiful Maori proverb and since then, of course I have seen it everywhere since. It has already featured in this month’s #travellinkup. Pop over to Two Feet One World for another Kiwi’s take on home.

I have made a home in three countries so far and many different houses with different people and for me, what makes a place home is the connections I make and the little pieces I pick up along the way.

When I was preparing to leave New Zealand for the first time to live in Japan, I remember reading advice on how to combat homesickness. It said pack little things to remind you of home and make your new space feel familiar. Things like photos, special trinkets and even a pillow case. I took my second hand copy of Bridget Jones’s Diary and lots of pictures to put up on my wall. I got homesick a lot in my first year away in Japan and those things did help. Bridget never fails to make me laugh, all I have to do is read: 9st 1, alcohol units 2, cigarettes 0, calories 998 (excellent, v.g., perfect saint-style person) or the like I can’t help but crack a smile.

Fushimi Inari Temple- Kyoto JapanBut what helped more in that first year in a foreign country, was crossing the hall for dinners of miso fish and tofu with my fellow kiwi teacher, learning koto (a traditional Japanese harp instrument) and chatting over cake with a local housewife and spending weekends touring the prefecture I lived in with fellow foreign teachers. We would all congregate in a town for the night, cause general mayhem and party too hard, then crash for the night at the local teacher’s apartment. I knew I had to live in Japan first, I had to make my home where I was, by finding my people there.

I’ve made a lot of awesome memories throughout my travels, but what will always stick with me are those things that you never think to photograph. The normal daily life connections you make that make you feel at home. I remember the weekend nights watching The Voice and eating pimped out desserts in our Tottenham flat. My flatmate and I would buy ice cream and then add extra awesomeness to it like biscuits and cake. So good!

In my first flat in Wadestown, Wellington we would come together for Turbo Jam workouts in our only just large enough for four people lounge. In Lower Hutt it was Easter eggs + Greys Anatomy viewing with my sisters when I went home for Sunday dinner. Hangover curing breakfasts of fried herby potatoes, eggs and whatever else was available all over Yamagata prefecture, Japan. Most recently in Tufnell Park we’re walking down the road every Monday night to watch Game of Thrones and have freshly popped popcorn. Oh and having drunken sing-alongs to 90’s classics with our new flatmates. Long may they continue…

Home travel quoteThe little traditions are always changing, but the connections last.

My Facebook feed gives me political commentary from Northern Ireland, pregnancy updates from Canada and random life musings from Japan. I have a friend who blogs about crafting in Borneo and gorgeous architecture pictures pop up from a friend in Sydney. I get a once a year behind the scenes look at the Sydney Pride Parade which is always fabulous – I’m coming to watch in the flesh one year!  I wake up to picks of the ever growing animal menagerie in Upper Hutt and the award winning huskie and her lovely parents in Auckland pop up every once in a while. I catch up on #RICH living in Scotland and a Perth to Sydney cycle by someone who had barely ridden a bike before. A new baby in Toronto and girls nights in Melbourne. Sunsets from snowy mountains in Canazei, Italy and tourist-ing in Wellington.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0001I love these brief insights into everyone’s lives. Thank you to Facebook, Skype and good old snail mail for keeping the connections alive.

I often wish I could have all the awesome people in my life here with me in the UK but as the quote says, this is the price I pay for making connections as I have travelled. I’m glad we had the chance to make each other feel at home, wherever we were/are.

 

 

 

 

Memories + Pics from my Egypt Travels

I kept a diary while on my Ancient Encounters tour. I knew that with two weeks of solid travelling little details would get lost in my memory. Of course the big things, like riding a camel to see the Pyramids of Giza up close (!!), will be there forever, diary or no diary. But I wanted to share the little details, the amusing side notes that made the country and its people one of the most astounding and moving places I have encountered.

Kom Ombo Temple

We travelled to Egypt in November 2015, so this post has spent a long time kicking around in my drafts page, mainly because we had so many photos to sort through (as always!). I have a few more posts to follow this about the tour itself and some travel reading. Spoiler – I read Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile while on the Nile.

Here are the little moments:

Upon arrival in Cairo, us three Kiwis quickly found Wi-Fi access and checked the Rugby World Cup final score. The All Blacks won! Most important business sorted we started our holiday on a high. Note: We had the game on record at home to watch when we returned – great game, even knowing the outcome I was on the edge of my seat.

Kom Ombo TempleOur tour guide Aboudi, who has a tour guide pedigree – his grandfather wrote one of the earliest Egypt travel guides in English and his family has been running a foreign book store in Luxor since 1909.

The Great PyamidsThe great pyramids of Giza early on our first morning in Cairo. It was so surreal to have basically just come from work on Friday to be waking up in front of one of the wonders of the world. Cairo was just waking up too and the early morning haze shrouding the pyramids gave them an airy, secretive quality that looks beautiful in the pictures.

Of course we just had to give them a pinch.

The Great PyamidsMy first camel ride! We went from the lookout right down to the planes in front of the pyramids. I can’t say I was super relaxed perched on top of the gangly beast, but as we got closer to the pyramids I got used to it.

Seeing King Tutankhamun’s tomb at the Cairo museum was a highlight for me. We spent so long studying Tutankhamun in primary school that it was almost nostalgic for me to wander past all the many tombs and artifacts the young prince had been buried with.

Our group was joined by an armoured guard in Cairo who rode with us and presumably kept watch on our surroundings. He wore a nice suit, sunglasses and his visible glock generally added some swag to our motley crew tour group. That is until his phone rang and his ring tone, Celine Dion’s classic My Heart Will Go On, instantly crushed that bad boy image he was cultivating. At the back of the bus we were in hysterics every time it rang.

Philae TempleMagic Hour at the temple of love, Philae temple in Aswan.

Wandering through the markets in Aswan, famous for spices and teas. I bought some saffron which I have barely use since. Ben was called “lucky man” by all the market sellers as he wandered around with three ladies in tow, me, Brooke and Bethany, another girl from our tour group.

Night Market in AswanI also found a horribly perfect Christmas decoration for our collection at the Aswan markets. Sooo kitsch, I can’t wait to use it.

Feluccca Trip on The Nile in AswanSailing down the Nile on a traditional felucca boat. Unfortunately the support boat with a rowdy and smelly generator ruined the ambience way too often. Our “traditional” cruise was not without some creature comforts. You had to laugh.

Feluccca Trip on The Nile in AswanWe had a lovely dinner on board; vegetable stew, lentil soup and chicken wings. Traditional Nubian entertainment followed after dinner with us all having a sing song and dance around a bonfire on the Nile banks. All watched over by a nearby donkey.

Feluccca Trip on The Nile in AswanSleeping under the stars (nearly) on the felucca boat.

Kom Ombo Temple

Having the temples mostly to ourselves. The unrest in and around Egypt has kept most tourists away. It’s awful for those whose livelyhood relies on tourism. It was very jarring to read a 2013 edition of Lonely planet Egypt telling you tricks on how to avoid crowds when the biggest crowd you had seen in the temples were classes of local school children. It was a treat for the tourists who had come though as we had the run of the place.

Being harassed by some seriously desperate vendors outside Kom-Ombo temple. One man actually put a scarf on me to try to get me to buy, but I felt too vulnerable to get out my wallet in the area with that sort of treatment.

On Egypt Roads –

  • Traffic in Egypt is like nothing I have even seen before. I was fascinated.
  • Private vans acting as buses. Many with no doors and way over crowded.
  • Mechanics stalls and shops everywhere
  • Donkeys with grass over their bodies and the drivers sitting on top of the grass.
  • Water stations made up of ‘zeer’ clay pots and communal cups. These were the communities drinking water supply and were filled by hand.
  • Fruit shops
  • Rubbish piles and building debris and stacks of new bricks. Construction and demolition were happening everywhere.
  • Military check points

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  • Three layers of parked cars on normal sized streets.
  • No adherence to lane systems
  • Horns! Horns! Horns! This is the backdrop to any travel through Egypt. Drivers use the horn like an indicator.
  • Lovely pastel coloured houses; the ‘Nubian Colours’ of turquoise, blue, yellow and purple.
  • Waving school children, teenagers pulling the fingers, adults gawking.
  • Watching Egyptian life go by. Life is lived on the streets here, there were so many people outside meeting friends, shopping at street-side markets eating, farming, commuting and just passing the time.

The Great Pyamids“Take your time but hurry up!” – Aboudi’s catch phrase, one that we heard often while he hustled us on to the next site.

Meeting our tour guide’s brother at the foreign book store in Luxor town and picking up some sweet postcards and a copy of Death on the Nile which I read for the rest of the tour.

Staying in a very fancy 5* hotel in Luxor with views of the Nile and a luxurious swimming pool and pancakes made to order for breakfast. I really could have moved in.

Driving through the desert to Hurghada, vast expanses of sand dunes stretching out forever.

Surprising our Hurghada tour guide with our local catch phrase ‘fil mesh mesh’ Arabic for ‘in your dreams’.

Eating all the seafood in Starfish restaurant and having the biggest meal imaginable at Gad an Egyptian chain restaurant. All the meat…! We took doggy bags home to the hotel, and then left them there as our stomachs got upset during the night. Fail!

Grand Seas Resort HostmarkLaughable evening entertainment at the Russian resort hotel we were staying at.

Hurgharda diving_BrookeDiving in the red sea and seeing a black and white sea snake.

IMG_5506Empty and half-finished property developments, Hurghada is what I imagine Las Vegas is like, glossy and shiny on the surface but not quite right underneath.

After our slightly unsettling stay in Hurghada we flew on to Jordan to start the next part of our tour. You can see the pics of our trip here.

Egypt is a country of so many wonders and I’m really glad we took the chance to visit when we did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiking The White Cliffs of Dover

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0001I have a stock standard screensaver on my laptop, it’s called United Kingdom and it cycles through images of the UK in all its glory; Stonehenge, Tower Bridge, the Giant’s Causeway etc.

They’re all pretty inspiring images, but the one that always makes me pause and go ‘Wow!’ is the image of the White Cliffs of Dover. Sparkly white and rising majestically out of the churning sea, I knew I had to see them for myself while in England.

They didn’t disappoint! A wander along this coastline really is a top experience in England.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0043Here is a little guide with an olfactory twist for this month’s travel link up challenge. I’m using smell as my cue to take you with me.

The White Cliffs path is maintained by The National Trust and you will pay a small fee to use the carpark at the start of the walk.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0083Unfortunately your first smell with be industrial. Diesel fumes waft from the busy port of Dover. But don’t worry you will soon leave that behind.

Although don’t forget to look back as you hurry on. The views of Dover Castle from here are pretty special.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0250_StylizedSigns of wildlife reach your nose as you walk through the headlands and we soon found the culprits. British native Exmoor ponies! So cute! They’re shy though, we didn’t see many on our journey.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0015Fresh coastal winds blowing the city funk away. It was so nice to be in the bracing fresh air.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0039I’d love to say we caught the scent of cheese and baguettes as we meandered so close to the lands of France, but although we could see it, the coastal wind wasn’t bringing us any olfactory treasures today.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0082Ben didn’t mind, he was head over heels to be out in the fresh air.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0072We passed perfumed gardens on our way around to St Margarets Bay. Spring buds are just coming through and they smelled so sweet.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0096We rounded a corner into the bay and were hit with the salty sea breeze. A storm was brewing and the sea churned at the cliffs. This is the launching beach for many a Channel swim, but it did not look inviting today.

We found a sheltered spot to crack open the Thermos for a piping hot brew. 20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0229_B&WThe earthy smell of English Breakfast will make you feel at home wherever you are. We snuck some Easter Chocolate into our back backs too which totally hit the spot on our little tea break.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0231I climbed the banks of the bay to explore the war time caves along the shore. It was a hands and knees scramble down though and the chalky smell lingered on my hands for the walk home.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0243The winds were so strong by then we were walking like drunkards fighting to stay upright. It’s ok though, we had each other for support.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0246Before we knew it, we were back at the National Trust restaurant for sweet smelling scones and decadent hot chocolate. Oops, gone before we even snapped a pic…

Have you hiked the White Cliffs? How was the weather? I hope you were treated to the famous British weather as we were 😉

What other walks should I attempt while living in England?

I hope you liked the pics in this post, Ben kindly edited them for me. For more of our travels follow Ben and I on Instagram @andieinspired @benjamin_e_parry

 

 

 

 

2016 Travel Plans

My plans for travel in 2016 are much more structured than they ever have been. It’s the start of the year and we actually have a travel plan! This is a first and I’m really excited about what different opportunities this might give us in our trips. We have tended to travel if not quite last minute, then second to last minute, booking trips based on what friends are doing, events we have managed to get tickets to and generally going with the flow in terms of travel. When we have the time and money available we take advantage and when we don’t, we stay put.

It’s been a good system so far, although somewhat hectic and usually over our very uninformed budget, we have managed to pull off some epic trips. In 2015 alone I saw Malaysia while Ben was living there, Paris, Croatia, Denmark, Jordan and Egypt. Closer to home I spent Easter in Bristol, a few rugby weekends in Newcastle and Cardiff and we got out to Wales twice to visit Ben’s grandfather and extended family, too. All in all, a pretty good year!

We’re changing our travel style this year for a few reasons though. One, (and it’s a biggy) is that I need to renew my visa this year. It’s up in August and to save money we have decided that I will send my passport away this time rather than booking a same day appointment which nearly doubles the already expensive cost. It means that my passport won’t be with me for up to two month this summer so it’s a London summer for me.

02-03 2014 New Zealand Holiday 264

The second reason that we have to be organised is that we’re planning to go to New Zealand for Christmas in 2016. I couldn’t be more excited! It will have been 2 and a half years since I’ve been home by the time we get there. But as it is the other side of the world and at Christmas time, it’s going to be pricey and so we need to Save! Save! Save! for the tickets ASAP. We also want to make the most of going that far, which means conserving leave for this period.

Hutt River, Lower Hutt, New Zealand

Both reasons mean that we need to be organised and budget and be much more realistic about our travel chances this year. But of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any!

We’re headed to Italy for our fourth time in May. We will be meeting Ben’s brother and girlfriend to road trip along the Amalfi Coast for a week. We’re thinking tents, sun, swimming and oh so many gelato cones!

Positano, Amalfi Coast Italy

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Originally planned for summer 2015, we will try again this year to stay at what is reputedly the best campsite in England, Eweleaze Farm in Weymouth. We tempetd fate and booked for the August bank holiday last year and were unsurprisingly rained out. So bonus – this one is already paid for! I can’t wait for these stunning views >>

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I still have a couple of trips I want to tick off on the 27 List, namely seeing the White Cliffs of Dover and climbing Mt. Snowdon which will help me see a bit more of England.

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Lastly, a friend and I are aiming to spend some time up at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival. I have wanted to do this since I learned about it and can’t wait to see who will be performing.

So that will be my 2016 and I can’t wait to get it started! I think the restrictions on my 2016 travel and the fact that I’m being more organised is increasing the anticipation and excitement for my adventures.

What are your travel plans for the coming year? Are you going with the flow or have you already given your boss a list of leave requests? Whatever they are I hope daydreaming about them is giving you as much joy as I’m getting.

Here’s to 2016!