29 December 2017

A Year in Leaps: 2017

2017 has been my busiest ever year for travel. I spent 84 days outside the UK on 12 foreign trips, some for business but most for pleasure. 30 of these days were spent on a sabbatical in Australia and New Zealand. I visited five new countries and ten countries in total: the Czech Republic (Prague); France (Paris and Cannes); Germany (Cologne); Italy (Padua); Norway (Oslo); Spain (Barcelona); the United States (New York, Boston, Cape Ann and Maine); Singapore; Australia; and New Zealand.

Regular readers will know that as part of my year-in-review series, I like to highlight some of my favourite travel memories of the year by selecting five photos of me leaping in new or unusual places, so without further ado, here is this year's shortlist:

1. The 'business casual' leap. Barcelona, Spain.
As I hadn't been to Barcelona since 2001, I was excited to return for a business trip, although another work trip to the US the same week meant I only spent 24 hours in the city. The conference was at least being held at the W Hotel on the Barceloneta waterfront (alas, I was lodged elsewhere), which meant that in the brief breaks between sessions, I could dash outside to soak up some sunshine, even if I was more formally attired than usual. I didn't have time for a proper exploration of the city's speciality coffee scene, but I did squeeze in a quick visit to Nomad Coffee on the way to the airport.

2. The 'Czech-ing out Prague' leap. Prague, Czech Republic.
Prague had been on the travel to-do lists of both my mum and me for quite some time, so we decided to organise a long weekend in the Czech capital in April as a late celebration of our birthdays. The weather wasn't especially clement but it was quite pleasant on our first day, so we decided to walk up to leafy Letna Park, which has a fantastic view of the city. The chilly, rainy weather did mean I was able to check out many of Prague's excellent coffee shops.

3. The 'Red Sox fan' leap. Gloucester, MA.
Trips to Boston for me are a bit like buses, it seems. I hadn't been for a decade and then went twice in one year, once in frigid February for a conference and then again in the summer for a family vacation on the North Shore. These trips also allowed me to produce a speciality coffee guide for Boston and Cambridge, MA. In the summer, we rented a house a short drive from gorgeous Good Harbor Beach and the weather was so gorgeous that we spent four or five days there, relaxing on the soft sand, boogie boarding in the rough surf and, at low tide, wading out to Salt Island. Having now seen three Red Sox games at Fenway Park, I now consider them to be 'my' baseball team and even bought a cap.

4. The 'iconic bridge' leap. Sydney, Australia.
As my train pulled into Sydney's Circular Quay Station, the heavens opened, forcing me to dash to my hostel in The Rocks. Luckily, by the time I'd checked in and dropped off my luggage, the makings of a spectacular sunset were underway. I hurried down to the harbour to take some pictures of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I tried to take some selfie leaps but the lack of places to rest my camera and the volume of pedestrian traffic made this difficult. Luckily, a fellow tourist took pity on me and took this photo for me. In a short stay in Sydney, I also managed to visit 16 speciality coffee spots.

5. The 'leap so I don't have to swim in the sea' leap. Cannes, France.
I spent Christmas with my family in Cannes this year, for the first time since 2014. Although the weather was very sunny, it wasn't especially warm and so the family tradition of a swim in the sea was not enforced (my mum, who is toughest of us all, still did it). As the light on Bijou Plage was so lovely, I recruited my talented brother to photograph my leap into the sunshine. I could be jumping into the sea, after all...

Bonus: The highest 'leap'. Queenstown, New Zealand.
OK, so technically my tandem skydive from 15,000 feet in Queenstown, New Zealand, was more of a tumble and plummet than a leap but it was one of my favourite memories of my trip to Australia and New Zealand, and the most exhilarating activity I've ever done, so I felt it merited inclusion. You can read more about my experience with NZone Skydive here and if you promise not to poke fun at the funny faces I pull, you can watch the video here. If you have the opportunity to skydive in Queenstown (or pretty much anywhere in New Zealand), I'd strongly recommend taking it, even if you find the prospect daunting or scary. It took me days to come down from my adrenaline high (and that period included my flights back to the UK).

Although I don't think I'll be lucky enough to take as many overseas trips next year, I already have several short- and long-haul trips in the works, and am hoping to tick off another major bucket-list item in the autumn. If you are looking for ideas to inspire your own travel planning for 2018, you may like to check out my travel guides page, or for more coffee-centric suggestions, I hope you will find my coffee guides page useful.

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