Where in the World – 2014 Travel Plans
“But that’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to know what people are talking about. I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”
Bill Bryson – Neither Here not There: Travels in Europe
This article has been sitting in draft format for a while, a personal challenge to articulate my dreams. I want to go everywhere, I’m more than often unexpectedly delighted by places I’d never thought of visiting. Of course I have a wish list though and I’ve already got a few sketchy plans for trips this year. I know I need to spend more time planning. While I’m aiming to make at least one long haul trip this year, I suspect most of my overseas travel in 2014 will be short haul to Europe. And I have no problem at all with that. There are so many places to visit on my doorstep that I haven’t seen except on a brief business trip, if at all.
Maybe it’s the weather in London at the moment, but in 2014 I’d like to make at least one trip to the Caribbean. Antigua is top of my list – a beautiful island with a fascinating history and heritage that would give me plenty to explore and discover besides having a chance to relax on the beach.
Malaysia is always on my bucket list. I spent a few years there as a child and I’d love to go back to Ipoh. But I’ve discovered more places I’d like to visit in Malaysia – not least the historical city of Malacca and Sandakan in Sabah the gateway to some of the finest wildlife in this part of the world. My second pick in Asia is Japan. I’ve always had a fascination with Japanese culture and music. Even to the extent of spending months building and creating a Japanese garden with my then boyfriend, when I was in my early twenties. And, after a brief introduction to the food of Kyushu at Atsuko’s Kitchen, I’ve come to realise that there’s a lot more to explore than street food and sushi (if that wasn’t enough).
I’ve got a romantic notion that I should travel to South America and then travel AROUND South America. I think I probably need at least 2 months travelling to everywhere I’d like to visit and, as I do work, I suspect that one may just not happen in 2014. But, I’m not ruling it out!
While we are in the Americas, I’d actually rather like to see a little more of North America too. I’ve been to New York, but no further out of the City than across the Hudson to the New Jersey side of the river. Ideally I’d spend another couple of months travelling around, through New York State up to Canada, then back across to Maine and down the coast through New Hampshire and perhaps as far south as Florida. And, then, across to the West Coast – to California.
A little closer to home, I’d like to visit some more of the Greek Islands – particularly Santorini to learn more about the amazing food and drink I sampled in 2013 as part of the year of Gastronomy. I don’t imagine the food will have declined by 2014 though. Actually I’d be happy to visit a lot of places in Greece – from Athens to Thessaloniki. And 2014 may be the year to go, with a lower rate of VAT making it an attractive destination.
Perhaps an obsession with islands – I want to return to Sicily. My last visit was focussed on the South East but in just a week all I got was a flavour of the wonderful architecture and fabulous sea-food. While despite bumping into Matthew Fort at a Food Show I remain unconvinced that I should replicate his journey across Sicily on a scooter, I DO think I need to travel around a little more independently than on my last visit.
Turkey is on my gastronomical wish-list too, after the fabulous meal at Ishtar. I’ve already been to Istanbul as a child and I’d love to revisit the Blue Mosque. And I’d like to explore. I’m fascinated by the Ottoman Empire, a piece in the jigsaw that I haven’t quite managed to fit in properly into my own historical perspective yet.
I’d like to return to Madeira too, explore a bit more of the island and perhaps visit Porto Santo. But then, I’d also love to visit Porto in Northern Portugal, firstly to explore the historic City centre and secondly to learn more about how Port is made. And, while we are on the subject of wine, perhaps spend some time exploring the vineyards of the Duoro Valley. I have yet to visit Coimbra and since my last trip to Lisbon was on a significant birthday over 20 years ago and involved trying my first tequila slammers, I’d rather like to return and see the city without a hangover!
I was lucky enough to spend some time in Croatia last year visiting Slavonica , the Plitvice Lakes and Pag, Split and Trogir on the Dalmatian Coast. This year, I’d love to visit Dubrovnik, somewhere that amazed me when I was in my teens. And perhaps travel back up to Split via some of the Islands I didn’t get a chance to see last time – Hvar and Korkula for instance.
Even closer to home, France, Belgium and the Netherlands are always places where I find something to see and do. Much of my payroll working life was spent travelling on business trips to all three countries. Sadly, on business trips while you sometimes get to eat well and may stay in excellent hotels, you seldom see much of the places that you are visiting. So, now I’m aiming to find enough time to fill in the gaps, go back to the places I had a tantalising glimpse of and really explore.
And then, there’s travelling with my God Daughter. She’s studying languages (Spanish, Italian and French), the perfect excuse to take her to places that I love where I hope I can share some magic. On my list, just for her – Salamanca, Toledo, Avila and Cuenca in Spain, the Chianti region of Tuscany and Verona. Because like all teenagers, fashion is important to her, I have to include Paris and Milan. Did I mention that she also loves Art. And Opera. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to see the world through her eyes and introduce her to places I already know and love.
It’s time to stop dreaming and see how much I can make happen. If I manage to visit just a few of the places on my list this year I’ll be happy. If I’m surprised by some wonderful alternatives (and my experience is that unplanned travel is a little like unwrapping a present – always exciting and delightful) I won’t be in the least bit disappointed.