Well, it’s that time of year again! I cannot believe how 2014 has flown by, the year full of highs and lows but a time of my life that’s great to look back on. You can say that I went all continental this year as I stayed in Europe to explore new countries, work on brilliant partnerships, attended memorable blog press trips and deepened my affection for Britain, the best country in the world.
Starting the year, I chose to settle down a little more in my home country thus ending my nomadic lifestyle. I was a little burnt out and I longed for simplicity that would see me plan for the future and have a steady stream of money coming in. Plus a relationship could be easily maintained as well without having to jet off all the time (Sorry, people, I’m no longer a playboy!).
So January saw me move to the south coast of England in the charming city of Brighton in a job with lowcostholidays thinking this would be the start of a long life there. Little did I know this was all to change and when my travel year began…
For the first six months of 2014, my base was Brighton. From here, I was able to explore the wonders of the South East of England and develop a petrifying fear of dive-bombing seagulls. I have fond memories of strolling Brighton Pier and checking out the over the top Brighton Pavilion. I just loved how artsy and bohemian the city was coupled with the vibrant and camp nightlife along the sea front. As summer smiled upon Brighton, I decided it was time to leave lowcostholidays and swing back into freelance jobs that I immediately acquired. This meant that I would be free to work and travel at the same time.
See More: 10 Places in Brighton You Must Absolutely See
But it’s not to say that I didn’t go anywhere while I was in Brighton…
I was only in my job for a week before I had to hightail it up north to Newcastle Upon Tyne for the second round of the Traverse Events Blogging Conference. It was a joy to see the city again as I did my University Masters degree here. Here, I discovered that I was yet again petrified of dive-bombing seagulls but I also discovered I have a weakness for Newcastle Ale Brown.
See More: Traverse 2014: Newcastle Edition
One of the weekends I had off, I was joined by Brendan of The Travel Pop to visit the historic town of Canterbury, deep in the heart of Kent. I discovered that I am an excellent tour guide to patriotic Australians and also I have a morbid fascination for crypts under Cathedrals.
See More: Canterbury: The Betrayal
Another weekend saw me check out the next coastal town from Brighton on the south coast of England. I discovered that despite a very charming seafront and pier, Eastbourne is full of elderly ladies who loved to pinch my bum. And lick their lips.
See More: Eastbourne: In Pictures
South Downs National Park, UK
Eastbourne is also one of the gateways to the very picturesque South Downs National Park. Simply go on foot from the entrance (remember to take a bottle of water with you!) and spent the day climbing the rolling hills until you reach Beachy Head, where it is the closest point of England to Europe. Make sure you don’t fall off and have a delicious ice cream.
The early Easter Weekend saw me take a trip into the Midlands of the UK to Leicestershire. Here, I checked off an item on my bucket list to see the Botsworth Battlefield up close where the Tudoe Dynasty rose here. I discovered that I make the perfect model in a field of wildflowers. Don’t I look way handsome?
See More: King Richard III’s Last Stand
Shortly after I quit my job, I was immediately invited to go on a blogger press trip to Basilicata in Italy. As I didm;t really know anything about this southern Italian region, it was a complete pleasant surprise to me and I absolutely raved about the place to anyone who came into my radar. It was also the first time I went on a trip with other bloggers with @packsandbunks, @pckyourpassport, @flyawayamerican and @suitcasebrenna and I would love to travel with them again. I also dissevered that Italian food makes me fat and that I still have a love for adrenaline activities thanks to the Flight of the Angel zipline.
See More: Is it Worth Visiting Basilicata In Italy?
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Shortly after I returned from Italy, I was back on a plane again to Luxembourg, one of the world’s smallest countries. Nestled between France and Germany, Luxembourg is truly the epicentre of all things European Union. I visited during the height of the World Cup and it was great to see all nationalities come together through the medium of drink. There, I got lost in the Underground Caverns and discovered that Luxembourg loves me.
See More: Luxembourg City In Pictures
The Shard, London, UK
On my return from Luxembourg, I was given the chance to check out the view of London at its highest point in the city – The Shard. I took a gorgeous Canadian, @Annora, with me as my date as we dressed up and sipped Mimosas looking down at the small looking skyscrapers below. We truly felt we were on top of the world. Here I discovered jackets and jeans make the perfect professional travel writer look and that seagulls daren’t fly near here.
See More: The Epic View From The Shard
The North Sea, Europe
I was absolutely pleased that P&O Ferries invited me to take one of their overnight ferries from my hometown of Hull to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge. So for one night only, I was travelling on the high seas of the North Sea and experienced the onboard entertainment that harks back to the cabarets acts of the 1970s. I discovered that seagulls also travel far and wide.
See as I was invited to Belgium by P&O Ferries, I thought I could check out the country, this time as an adult. Using the help of Visit Flanders, I started in Bruges where I promptly didn’t like the overcrowding of the city by herded tourists. So much so, I opted to get away from here after a few hours. The place was beautiful but in no way would I return in the summer.
See More: Bruges: The Tourist Grand Infestation
Did you know that I deemed Ghent to be the place where I would live if I moved to mainland Europe? Visit Gent did a grand job convincing me that was the case. Only 20 mins train ride away from Bruges, this capital of Flanders is serenely perfect in every single way. Beautiful canals, gorgeous squares, delicious delirium beer and fantastic history tours. I love Ghent.
See More: 33 Reasons Why Ghent Is Beautiful
Completely my Belgian stay, I finished up in the capital, Brussels, and couch surfed there. Hanging out with @ladypingping for Brussels Mussels was a highlight and I immediately adored the 3 hour walking tour with Sandeman New Europe tours. Who knew that Brussels could be so interesting. Here I discovered that I shouldn’t believe people what they think about a place. Brussels is actually in fact, amazing! I also ranked Belgian frites as one of my most favourite foods ever!
The Skies over the UK
June was certainly proving to be a busy year when I was invited by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to help celebrate their 95th Birthday. All I had to do was turn up at Humberside Airport and board the Royal Dakota DC-3 plane used by the Dutch Royal Family in the past. It was completely surreal experience as I boarded the 70 year old plane and took to the skies above the UK.
See More: Flying Royal Class with KLM
There was not a moment to lose when I was promptly invited by Flybe on their press trip to Iceland on board on of their summer twilight flights. I knew I had to go as Iceland is simply the most mysterious place you can get to in Europe. I’m so glad I went to visit seeing Reykjavik, snowmobiling on glaciers, bathing in the Blue Lagoon, hiking to waterfalls and actually meeting the President of Iceland in his home!
See More: Should You Visit Iceland In The Summer?
It would be one of my best friends’ wedding this year, only that she asked me to be one of her bridesmaids…yeah I know! But little did I know that I would absolutely enjoy being a hen on her hen do in Leicester! Pizza Making, clay making, eating far much food and drinking too many cocktails would a recipe for success!
See More: A Hen Do In Leicester
London Gatwick, UK
On my way to my next destination, I was kindly invited by Yotel to try out their cabins within the vicinity of London Gatwick Airport. It was brilliant as I was just mere yards away from check in and after all, I had an early check in at 4.30am! After a delightful stay (I shall be using them again), I was able to go on my merry way to Dusseldorf.
See More: Review: Yotel Hotel in London Gatwick
Invited by the German National Tourist Office, I was to find out what the best youth hotspots are in Dusseldorf. This was a tall order as I was about to be 29 in the weeks ahead. Could I classify myself as a youth? However, thanks to the help of resident travel blogger, @jpilkington09, I was able to check out the sights of the Biggest FunFair on the River Rhine and explore the arty and eclectic scene found in this modern looking city. I still can’t believe how I managed to get around in the melting heat in July but frozen yogurt in the city’s Japanese Quarter especially helped.
See More: Dusseldorf’s Top Eight Youth Hotspots
By the end of July, I quickly popped over to Yorkshire’s mortal enemy, Lancashire, on the other side of England. Starting in Preston, I met up with @helenwonderlust and we promptly discovered a love for epic selfies in her quaint garden. In Preston, I got the best haircut of the year and discovered that they cannot organise themselves in a fire alarm. Or that I could’t hear it and wondered why I was the only one in their Primark.
The main reason why i was in Lancaster is to volunteer at a beloved charity that’s close to my heart: DELTA (Deaf Education Through Listening and Talking). It was my 10th Anniversary volunteering with them and it was great to see all my old friends again here in Lancaster. With the kids we were looking after, we went to Blackpool Zoo and Blackpool Circus. Here I discovered that I am still a human punchbag for kids and my friends.
For my birthday, I went to Hull’s Humber Street Sesh, a music festival that promotes and celebrates the excellence and diversity of Hull’s creative community. Set amidst the regeneration efforts of Hull’s old harbour district, funky music tunes and drum beats set the bohemian scene that had locals crowding old garages and warehouses to see their favourite bands and artists. I discovered that Yorkshire Tea is readily served there much to my delight. I shall be attending again in 2015 🙂
This year saw the arrival of many weddings that I attended. Here’s one in Hinckley in Leicestershire where I saw one of my very good friends get married in Sketchley Grange Hotel. Here I discovered I have fantastic dance moves to ‘I’m Sexy and I Know It.’ My friends may disagree.
Another wedding indeed! This time, I went to see one of my university friends get married at Woolley Hall in Yorkshire. It was a great chance to have a reunion as we hadn’t seen each other for three years. I still carried on busted to moves and my repeated attempts to play the Steps MegaMix was successful as the last song! I rocked that dance floor baby!
August heralded my 17 day backpacking trip throughout Croatia! Starting off in Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, it would be a journey to remember as I travelled with my best friend. I found out I should avoid street food here but the city was very nice and relaxed.
See More: Zagreb Zingers
Hitting up the Istrian Coast, we visited Pula and checked out the Roman Ruins. Here I said the greatest joke ever. You need to read my article to find out more. Cheeky advertising there, isn’t it?
See More: Panoramic Pula
Zadar was the place where I truly felt I was in Croatia as we started on the Dalmatian Coast. With sun, beauty and marble dazzling before our eyes including the Sun Salutation and the Adriatic Sea, they were the perfect backdrop to the best hostel I stayed at in Croatia.
See More: A Monster Lurks In Zadar
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes is just beautiful. You have to go visit, like now. Well, have you booked your trip there yet?
See More: Plitvice Lakes
By the time we arrived in Split, we were tanned and looked gorgeous as ever. I loved exploring the city within Split called Diocletian’s Palace and what’s more, I got to meet five gorgeous Finns. Jealous, much?
See More: Diocletian’s Palace: A Walking Tour
Ah Hvar! The first Croatian island I visited. By day, it’s a popular and easy going tourist destination but by night, it’s a raving party scene. My favourite part of Hvar definitely is the Spanish Fortress. Climbing high at sunset is definitely the one thing you should do in Hvar. Just don’t forget to pull a lot of insect repellant!
The second Croatian Island we stayed on was Korcula. Very sleepy, secretive and hidden away in the quiet archipelago in the Adriatic Sea. The walled city is old, crumbling but within, it serves up the best seafood you’ll possibly can find. But don’t stay in the hostel here, it’s without a doubt, one of the worst I’ve ever stayed in…
Going back on the mainland, we decided to take a detour in the country along for a day out. This time into Bosnia-Herzegovina, another Balkan country, and into the city of Mostar. Here I perfected my jump photo pose in front of the world famous Mostar Bridge and also had gorgeous national food of Cevapici. Also, I discovered I do not work well under 40 degree celsius weather.
Popping back into Croatia for the rest of my Croatian Backpacking Trip, I definitely saved the best for last. Dubrovnik is out of this world. So much so, that it doubles up as King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. That’s brought out the geek in me! Exploring hidden corners in this walled city, climbing the mountain overlooking the city and exploring the beautiful beaches are a must do. Did I ever tell you about being caught naked on a nearby island?
After I returned from Croatia, it was time for another wedding! Remember that Hen Do I went to? This is the bride’s wedding. I fulfilled my duties as Bridesmaid in the oldest building in Leicester, The Guildhall. Again, I showcase my ever so
fantastic awful dance moves and whilst I took a breather on the balcony, I promptly got hit by another seagull when I thought they stopped picking on me.
As Summer entered its last month, I was invited by Visit Porvoo to come to Finland on a press trip. Taking an opportunity before the press trip started, I decided to explore Helsinki, the capital of Finland, for a few days. Raving up at a MTV concert, wondering at a rock church and finding a President’s grave with Jason of Hiatus4Life was all the things I got up to.
Porvoo is the real reason why I came to Finland. I wasn’t expecting to be wowed over in this gorgeous corner of the country, only one hour away from Helsinki. I tried my hand at Finnish sauna where you sweat it all out within a hut before jumping in a freezing lake. Sailing on the Pellinki Archipelago, touring the Bosgard Organic Farm, cycling the Old Town were some of the many things I got up to. It was also the place where I broke two ribs thanks to launching a bike off a six foot ledge…accidentally of course.
See More: 47 Reasons Why You Should Visit Porvoo
After Finland, I spent a few days in London being invited to all sorts of glamorous events. There was the German National Tourism Office inviting me to the Goethe Institute for a breakfast press launch and to celebrate 25 years of German Reunification. There was also Trek America inviting me to their lunch Press Launch of their brand new tour, Trek Vs Food, at the All Stars Lanes in Holborn. There, I entered a Food Eating contest full of extremely spicy chicken wings but sadly, I came second. But the consolation prize of a bottle of whisky softened the blow.
Due to family commitments, I had to stay home in Hull for a couple of months. However, I still explored Hull as much as I could.
Sheffield, only one hour and a half away from Hull by train, proved to be a delightful October day out. Meeting a friend, we checked out the sights within the centre and the river harbour. Checking out the Cathedral, Winter Gardens and ‘Phil the Bin’ Initiatives was what we got up to. I also discovered seagulls in Sheffield are a lot meaner…
East Yorkshire, UK
There was another wedding to attend to in late October. I had to really, I was Best Man! It was my cousin who got married at the Lazaat’s Boutique Hotel near Beverley in East Yorkshire. After giving a well-received (phew) speech, I was filmed doing Gangnam Style with a tie tied around my head. Lad.
Chatsworth House, UK
As soon as November hit, I was back into another job, this time as a Digital Marketer for a Marketing Company based in Hull. But have no fear, travels will always be an active part of me and this was proved when, on my first weekend of my job, I drove to Matlock in Derbyshire in my brand new car for a birthday party. The party continued at Chatsworth House where they held an epic Bonfire Night display within the grounds. I discovered that you shouldn’t stand too close to bonfires unless you want your eyebrows singed off.
Weeks later on a free weekend, i heeded off on my annual pilgrimage to York, the heartland of all things Yorkshire. I was very privileged to see the medal giving parade for the UK Medical Group 20 in front of the extra-ordinary York Minister. Later on, I just loved to see the yellow-red-orange colours of Autumn in full bloom in York’s Museum Gardens.
See More: York: An Autumnal Day
Christmas was finally here as I took on a trip to Bath in Somerset. Bath’s Christmas Market was reputed to be absolutely beautiful so it was natural that I should visit my protege, Freddie, who is now at University there. We also held a Xmas Dinner for our DELTA Friends in this city. It’s very expensive here but totally worth it once you see the architecture and natural wonders.
See More: Bath’s Christmas Market
As Christmas was fast approaching, I had my final travel destination of 2014 outside of my hometown in Manchester. I was invited there by @uktravelroom to attend the mini-meet-up of Manchester Travel Massive at Manchester Christmas Market. Who wouldn’t want to spend time with three gorgeous travel bloggers while sipping plentiful gluhwein and scoffing bratwursts? Not me!
See More: Spilled Mulled Wine At Manchester Christmas Market
The rest of December was spent in my hometown of Hull. I partied at the Tickton Grange Hotel for my work’s Christmas Party, dropped by people’s houses for a few board game nights and of course, spent Christmas at home with the family. I got an eyebrow shaper for Xmas…what’s the deal with that?!
See More: A Hull Sunrise Wakes Up A Frosty Morning
So there you have it! 2014 has been literally an awesome year. Could 2015 be as good or yet, even better? That’s what we are going to find out. You know what? I think it will be…
Where did you go in 2014?
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The real highlight of the year has to be your blue blazer, let’s be honest.
You’re right John. You’re completely and utterly right.
It’s a beauty.
What an awesome travel year for you! I suspect Preston was your favourite! Loved having you to stay! Come again soon! xx
It was a revelation to see you as a domestic goddess!