Category: Travel

Thoughts from the airport

I’m currently in Dallas Fort Worth airport waiting for my flight to Salt Lake City. The sun is setting through the windows and I’ve found a quiet corner to while the time away. Airports are kind of funny places in someways, at once so transient and yet always there watching people come and go, seeing the emotions, the ups, downs and everything in between. That and the fact that quite often you get stuck in them for more hours than you might care to be and have the time to think, dream and switch off from day to day life.

I’ve been in DC since Wednesday, working and catching up with friends. It’s funny, everyone asks me if I’ve missed it and the truth is, not that much. The people yes, very much so, but living in DC I don’t really miss. It was odd going back though, at once so familiar and yet no longer mine.

I was nervous before coming over, I wasn’t quite sure why but there was definitely an unsettled feeling which came over me a few days before flying. It was fun though and nice to be back. It really is a lovely city and right now at it’s most beautiful. I’m looking forward to returning again with J, hopefully in the summer, a trip longer than 2 nights when we can really enjoy being back.

And now on to Salt Lake City, the home of the Mormons, the Rocky Mountains and apparently a lovely city. I’m looking forward to exploring somewhere new. Those itchy feet of mine have been on familiar soil for too long it would seem.

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Guinea

I went to Guinea for work recently, it was the first time I had been to West Africa and the first time I have been to a country which is as poor.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, I’ve been fortunate to have travelled a fair bit, but nothing quite like this. To start with there are the medical concerns, the yellow fever vaccination, the anti-malaria medication, the warnings about food hygiene, water safety and everything else you have to think of. Guinea is one of the countries where the mosquitoes carry cerebral malaria, the kind that kills you within a couple of days of contracting it, the kind you really really don’t want to get. Then there’s the cholera epidemic they are just coming out of the other side of. When you start to read about all the things which you can contract and which can cause you trouble it is easy to worry (or for me it is at least). Thankfully work and my client were excellent in preparing me and ensuring we had the necessary.

We arrived in the afternoon, it was hot and humid, a stark change from the cold and grey I had left behind in London. The airport was easy to navigate and we swept through quickly. The hotel we were staying at was a short drive away and we got our first chance to begin to get a feel for a Conakry. Unsurprisingly it is a low-rise city, with houses along the road and as we drove along we saw children playing football on make-shifts pitches, family gatherings and the ebb and flow of people’s daily lives taking place. Conakry has no sewerage system, so you also see piles of rubbish on the side of the road and the odd burning pile of rubbish where someone has decided that there is a more than enough and it needs to be got rid of. I also saw goats, cats and dogs wandering along and vendors walking along with their dead chickens or fish ready to sell.

Most of the week was taken up with work so we didn’t get out and about very much, in fact we spent all day working and then had dinner and a beer before crashing out under the mosquito net. However on the final day there my colleague wanted to buy a couple of things for his kids so we were taken to a local market to try and buy a football t-shirt and a dress. As soon as the vendors saw us we were surrounded, everyone wanting to sell us their goods, everyone knowing as soon as they saw us that we had money and could afford not to drive such a hard bargain. As we drove away we had kids knocking on the window asking for money, for a drink. It made me acutely aware of all that I had and how very lucky and privileged a life I lead.

I came away from the week away thinking about what could be done, about how when a country is somewhere down at the bottom of the GDP per capita table there is so much scope for change and how hard it really is to do that. It was a reality check seeing the poverty and the life that goes on and meeting people who were warm, friendly and full of optimism. I’m pretty sure I won’t be going back anytime soon unless work takes me there again but I am glad that I got the opportunity to visit a corner of the world I might never have been able to get to and to be able to reflect on what it is I have and how lucky and blessed I am.

San Francisco (Holiday!)

We went West for Christmas. It was good, for us both. Although the weather was not all that California weather is meant to be (read pissing rain for many of the days we were there) the enforced inside time and relaxation was a blessing.

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Due to the terrible weather we spent the first day in the California Academy of Sciences. They had an amazing coral reef aquarium with the most beautiful array of fish. I could have watched it for hours.

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Of course there is the bridge, which is as spectacular in real life as it is in your imagination. And it really was that grey for many of the days… Although there’s something about dull, low grey and mizzle which makes me feel so cosy.

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Our friends took us in search of sunshine and find it we did. We even found some Elk. Who knew there were Elks in Northern California, certainly not I. Speaking of Elk we also saw Elephant Seals and hummingbirds (so very amazing).

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And then the last day spent in a blaze of sunshine, seeing the city on foot and enjoying the colours and contrasts that this city provide, old vs new, green space vs urban sprawl, poor vs rich.

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I’m sure we’ll be back.

2012 in review

2012 was a year of travel, a lot of it. It was another busy year, I remember feeling incredibly positive at the beginning of the year, I think because 2011 had been such a tough year in many ways. By mid-autumn admittedly that positivity had dropped, it felt like we were mired in just getting stuff done and dealing with crap.

In short I did the following travel:
2 trips to South Africa
1 to Australia
1 trip to France and the UK
4 trips to the UK
1 trip to Canada
1 to San Francisco
A few nights in New York

All of the above coupled with an incredibly busy work year and no proper holiday meant that by the end of the year I was exhausted, physically and mentally. If nothing else 2012 has taught me how much I really need to look after myself and what a work-life balance is not.

2013 starts with a huge change, we move back to London and have to work out living in somewhere we know so well but which will be different from before. I am hopeful again for next year. I am planning holidays in my head already, we have a friend to visit in Istanbul, we have Italy to explore and we have time to spend together on a beach doing sweet f.a.

I am also looking forward to reconnecting with old friends, keeping new ones and taking the next steps in J and I’s life together. We want to buy a house at some point, we’d like somewhere of our own, who knows maybe that’s what 2013 will hold for us.

Return journey

The time has come for us to return to London. We move back in January. Two months. In total we will have lived in the US for 27 months, during which we have experienced some of our toughest times and some absolutely wonderful times, we’ve met many amazing people who I hope will be lasting friends. It was absolutely the right decision to move here and experience this and now it feels like the right time to do the return journey.

There’s a lot to think about of course. Moving country is not easy, as we have learnt, even if you’ve lived there before. We’re going through another period of pretty big change and trying to work it all out again. We’re going back to something which is so familiar and yet viewed through a new perspective and I imagine possibly also so changed from what we left. I’m excited though, the new opportunities this brings, the friendships we can re-kindle, the city I love I get to live in again. London here we come…

August in photos

Work took me to Australia in August, which was wonderful as it meant I got to see my sister and family. I also got to see koalas, wombats, kangaroos and all sorts of cute Australian wildlife.

I’ve always loved wombats, we had a book as children called “The Muddle Headed Wombat” which was one of my favourites growing up.

I started out in Brisbane, for a small city it has excellent shopping and is very picturesque with its river setting.

We managed to sneak away to the beach one day, J enjoyed throwing himself straight into the sea. I enjoyed watching my niece and nephew have fun in the sand and sea.

We also managed to get out into the bush, the sound of being woken by laughing kookaburras is really quite special. They’re also a beautiful bird and watching them, the parakeets and the cockatoos all flying around was fabulous.

I then headed over to Perth for the next part of my work trip. I was actually staying and working in Fremantle so didn’t get to see much of Perth but I did manage a trip along the Swan River to enjoy seeing the city and all the surrounds. Not a city I would rush to return to but I’m glad I went there.

One of the things I love about Australia is seeing all the plants that were in the books I grew up with. My mama is Australian and as Granny was in Australia she used to send us across Australian children’s books. “Snugglepot and Cuddlepie” was one of my favourite ever books and I still look at Banksia plants and see the evil Banksia men.

A very quick turn around after Australia and we were off again, this time heading home, to return to my home and see one of my best friends get married. It was a beautiful wedding and they were blessed with glorious weather. N did an amazing job organising it all with all the details carefully thought out and wonderfully bought to fruition.


I still feel very lucky that we were able to fly back for her wedding and were able to share that day with N and her husband. Plus of course it was lovely seeing both sets of parents and actually relaxing a little!

 

Celebrating overseas

It’s my birthday tomorrow, another year passed already! This time last year J and I headed up to NYC for the weekend, for dinner at the Gramercy Tavern, a walk along the highline and general soaking up of NYC, it was really rather lovely.

This year we’re in Australia! Celebrating with my sister and her family. My brother-in-law shares the same birthday so it will be a double celebration tomorrow. I feel incredibly lucky to have spent my last two birthdays celebrating in different places to those I grew up in.

J and I were commenting only yesterday how lucky we are to travel so much, and we seem to have been given an extra dose of luckiness this year. A chance to see my sister, brother-in-law, nephew and niece now, opportunities to return to celebrate with bestest of friends in May and July and visiting a new country, South Africa, in June.

So tomorrow we shall be celebrating making it to the other side of the world, being with family and the passing of another year. I do wonder what the next year will hold but I feel hopeful for it. Hopeful that with J, my family and my friends at my side it’ll be a good year. Onwards dear friends, onwards.

Re-learning

Last week I was in South Africa with work.

Before I moved to America I used to travel a fair bit with work and got fairly comfortable with the whole shindig, able to pack relatively well, move through the airport efficiently and be at one with my own company, as well as getting the job done overseas. Then we moved and I didn’t do it for about 2 years, until last week when I was off again.

Of course I was excited, having not been to South Africa before, but there was also a good level of trepidation, could I still do it? Had I forgotten it all? I’ve spoken before about my tendency to worry, probably on the higher side compared to others, but I was still slightly surprised by how much doing something, about which I used to be so confident, was causing me to really doubt myself and my abilities.

I felt like last week I was re-learning, about my work, what I need to do, and more importantly about my self. Recognising my need for control over certain things, my enjoyment at meeting new people and the value I derive from doing a job well. Hopefully I can remember some of this for the next trip.

Northumberland

We went to Northumberland over the memorial day weekend. A good friend of ours from university was getting married and we had the perfect excuse to travel back and enjoy some days in the UK.

I’d never been to Northumberland, sure I’ve visited places up north but not there. The train journey itself was fabulous, watching the sun set over the English countryside as we sped along. A good friend had been super organised and managed to get us £25 first class tickets which made the journey all the more fun.

Then we arrived, to the old country house hotel, where the beds were four poster and the bathrooms carpeted. Seeing old friends and meeting new.

One of the best bits was waking to this view…

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The wedding itself was beautiful, the bride wore a vintage 1920’s dress, the location was a stunning English Heritage priory and the reception was held in a marquee overlooking the estuary and the coast. Then back to London on Sunday to enjoy time wandering that fabulous city for a few days together.

I think one day we’ll be back to this far flung corner of England. If nothing else just to see that view again.

Virginia vineyard

Last weekend we went out exploring with a friend. We’ve been to a Virginia vineyard before, last summer, and thought it was about time for another trip. This time we headed further, out West to the beginnings of the rolling Shenandoah hills. It is just beautiful and peaceful out there. Lots of green, wide open spaces, no sirens, no car horns, relaxing.

We chose to go to DuCard vineyards on the basis that they had a singer performing that afternoon. The singer was Curtis Prince, he had a lovely voice and was playing the kind of songs you want to listen to on a warm spring afternoon with a glass of wine in your hand.

The vineyard is small but the setting is just lovely and the wines were good, plus as an added bonus a lot better than the ones we had tried last year. We especially enjoyed the rose and the Popham Run Red, both of which we bought a bottle of to enjoy at home.

If you ever are in that neck of the woods I would thoroughly recommend a visit, even without live music, a glass of rose on their patio with the sun gently warming you is well worth the effort.