2015 In Review: The Travel Edition

December 31st. You’re meant to reflect on the year and stuff today, right?

If I had a to pick a recurring theme for 2015, it’d be travel. I suppose that’s not particularly original. I’m a New Zealander living in London, it’s what we do. Either way, be it 10 days off work or a quick weekender, it’s been a year for stamping the passport.

Along with it being the end of the year it seems apt I write this today. I’m currently in Morocco and in a few hours will be heading off to spend the night camping in the Sahara. Standard.

So, what do you learn from travel? A ton. But to save from writing a novel, I thought I’d boil each country I’ve been to down to two things you seem to come away from every trip with: a favourite memory and something you’ll not forget for next time.

NorwayOslo

Best bit: Spending a day on the Oslo Winter Park. It’s a 30 minute tram ride out of the city centre, reasonably cheap to hire gear and not crowded at all.

Lesson learned: Almost everything in the central city shuts down over the Christmas break. And if you don’t have your ID with you the one Irish pub that does stay open won’t let you in meaning you may spend New Year’s Eve watching Seinfeld and falling asleep before 11pm.

IrelandDublin, Dingle, Kerry, Kilkenny, Killarney

Best bit: The Guinness Connoisseur’s Tour. Even for a non beer drinker, it’s worth it over the much cheaper do-it-yourself version.

Lesson learned: Drunk Celtic football supporters are a force to be reckoned with.

FranceParis, Cannes

Best bit: It’s a tie between hiring bikes at the Palace of Versailles and the pistachio macaroons from Angelina’s. Both are worth making a special trip. Both make for great instagrams.

Lesson learned: Medium is rare, medium rare is blue.

United StatesNew York

Best bit: Enjoying a real New York size pizza at Roma Rosa in Soho along with a big glass of red after working an event and being awake for 22 hours.

Lesson learned: November is too late in the year to run around Central Park in only shorts and a singlet.

The NetherlandsAmsterdam

Best bit: Realising that the whole ‘everyone has bikes’ is a real thing and that it’s the most effective and fun way to get around.

Lesson learned: Heels and cobbles are an audacious call.

MoroccoFes

(It has been less than 24 hours so I feel this is premature, but hey)

Best bit: So far this chicken pie thing I had was pretty good plus the Riad courtyard I’m writing this from is like a palace.

Lesson learned: It’s too soon to say, but if you asked me tomorrow I’d think it would have something to do with truly understanding how cold the desert gets at night in a tent.

BelgiumBruges

Best bit: Feeling completely within your right to stop at every chocolate shop for just one more truffle. I mean, sure, they’re all exactly the same but it’s important to check for consistency.

Lesson learned: If there is a huge plastic French fries mascot standing outside the cafe smoking a chip, the waffles inside aren’t going to be great.

ScotlandGlasgow

Best bit: Exploring the countryside and seeing where my clan (yes, I’m actually Scottish) comes from. The view over Loch Lomond is also beautiful.

Lesson learned: 3 degrees is mild, you pansy.

SwitzerlandBasel

Best bit: Strolling the Christmas Markets in December with a temperature that warrants as many mulled wines as you please.

Lesson learned: £18 for a sandwich is run of the mill Swiss for ya.

Up until now all those places were in no particular order, mainly cause ranking them all would mean one coming last and that doesn’t really agree with them all being rad. So to save from being bias but still nodding to a favourite few, here’s the top 3.

3. WalesCardiff, St David’s

Best bit: The availability of Welsh cakes at nearly every food spot.

Lesson learned: That the “that’ll do” approach to putting tent pegs into the ground will not withstand a coastal storm.

2. Italy – Pisa, Lucca, Florence, Sienna, Roma, Amalfi, Milan

Best bit: Can I say ‘Tuscany’ as a catch all here? If I had to pick it’ll (obviously) come down to a meal. The lunch degustation at Locanda dell’ Amorosa will be top of my recommendations for anyone going. But learning how to make pasta from scratch in Florence is up there too.

Lesson learned: ‘acciughe’ translates to anchovies.

  1. DenmarkCopenhagen x 3

Best bit: Too many good bits. I mean, I went back twice. If I had to pick a favourite memory (because again it always comes down to food). Mayers Bageri, had the best pastries hands down – and a lot were sampled, I promise. Plus the day trip out to Louisiana is so worth it. Easily one of the best modern art museums I’ve been to.

Lesson learned: Everyone is nauseatingly attractive. You can’t fight it. Embrace it.

So that’s 12 countries, 19 trips and far more ‘best bits’ than I’ve done justice to here. Nice one, 2015. That was a classy show.

2016, you’re up.