I like looking back on the travelling year. So let’s get to it: travels of 2009 – and plans for the year ahead.
Travels of 2009…
First trip abroad in 2009 wasn’t until late February. For Christmas, my wonderful family gave me tickets to the first ever Travellers Tales Festival. I decided to hang about an extra day, and saw the fabulous Saatchi Gallery. Must admit I’d never heard of it, just happened to walk by. What a treat! An exhibit was on, showcasing all sorts of wonderful art by Middle Eastern artists. I especially remember a model of a Beirut block of flats. Not that it was the best piece there, really – I just seem to have Lebanon on my mind these days.
I also finally took a Jack the Ripper walking tour. And although Jack featured heavily, it was more of a 700 years of murder and mayhem in London-tour. It was great. I wrote some articles for BnA, suitably for Halloween: about the bridges, about fun things to do on a Friday night of yore and one on said Jack. Despite the chill, I’m glad I did this excursion in February. We were only 6. Wouldn’t have been the same with a crowd.
In April, the girls and I went to the United Arab Emirates. We stayed at the same Dubai hotel for the entire trip, Cat loved that. We managed to fit in a visit to all seven emirates: Ras Al-Khaimah, Umm Al-Quwain, Ajman, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Fujairah, as well as a short trip to Oman’s Musandam Peninsula.
In May/June, Cat and I travelled to Alghero in Sardinia and enjoyed it heaps. We even managed to visit Bonifacio on the wild, exciting island of Corsica. Both Sardinia and Corsica warrant closer looks.
Later in June, I went to Stockholm and Copenhagen for work. Even later in June, Ali and I hired a small van and drove to Trondheim to get all her things from her student digs. She now has a BSc in Psychology (proud mum) and has an exchange term at the University of Copenhagen.
We all went to Copenhagen in August to set her up in a student flat there, making a roundabout journey through Jutland and Funen, to see all the sights and cities of Denmark I’ve been meaning to see for ages. We stopped in the ever pretty seaside village Skagen with the magical light, at the windblown sand dunes of Råbjerg Mile, we saw the cities of Aalborg, Århus and Vejle, the UNESCO-listed Viking Age Jellinge Stones. We visited the Lion Park in Givskud, Hans Christian Andersen’s sweet little hometown Odense, Roskilde with its Viking Ship Museum and UNESCO-listed cathedral and finally, on the way home, yet another UNESCO-site: Kronborg Slot by the port city of Helsingør (better known as Hamlet’s Elsinore).
Towards the end of August, we went to Paris, Saint-Malo in Bretagne and the Channel Islands, using planes, trains and ferries. We stayed in St Helier on Jersey for a few days, then continued to little Guernsey and took a side trip to even smaller, but most adorable Herm. We all really enjoyed the Channel Islands but the trip was too hectic for kiddie travel, esp. with a kid that likes staying in one place. I would do it differently next time; fly directly to the islands probably. Funny, I did the plane/train/ferry-thing when I first visited the Channel Islands about 20 years ago. Don’t remember it being a hassle then.
September was busy. Work took me to Vienna and Bratislava for a conference and I managed to fit in a quick trip to Breclav in the Czech Republic on the way. Been meaning to see Breclav ever since I went through on the way to Mikulov one cold winter day, 7 years ago. I also managed to fit in an extra day and night in Vienna, staying at my favourite B&B, Pension Nossek.
At the end of September, Cat and I went to the airport together. She flew off to Copenhagen to visit big sis, while I flew to London, then onwards to Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, to see things we didn’t manage to fit in during our Middle Eastern jaunt in April. Enjoyed all three countries. Particular highlights were visiting the Al-Matrook family on Bahrain’s Muharraq Island and seeing the UNESCO-listed Qal’at al-Bahrain and Bahrain National Museum. (Lots of UNESCO-spots visited this year.)
In Kuwait, the disturbing Kuwait House of National Memorial Museum was memorable. So was a conversation I had with a European diplomat I met on the viewing platform in Kuwait Towers. It was about Kuwaiti politics and social affairs, particularly about the stateless Bedoon, a sad story you can read more about here. Walking the entire length of the corniche in Kuwait City on a balmy autumn evening was very pleasant.
Qatar was only a brief stop. But it’s amazing what you can do in five hours. I feel I’ve been in Doha and seen Doha, but the rest of Qatar is still missing. Perhaps next time. (Shouldn’t be too hard to fit in, Qatar is an easy stop-over going anywhere east).
Work again in December, back to Copenhagen. Despite freezing rain, Christmas Markets in Tivoli made for a nice end to the travelling year 2009.
No plans set in stone yet. Apart from work-related stuff, including Geneva in a few weeks, Helsinki in February and the West Country (the Norwegian one) in June. In Geneva, I’ll try to fit in another visit to only-one-item-on-the-menu Cafe de Paris, one of my favourite restaurants. Even though I’m not all that crazy about steak (which is all they serve), I adore that place. I might go to New York for TBEX in June (even got the conference ticket). Haven’t been to the USA in years.
I still like odd countries. What could be some interesting ones in 2010, I wonder? I keep looking at Air Baltic’s route map and long to visit Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. Maybe even Iran. Kaliningrad, too. Easy enough, fly to Gdansk and hop on a bus.
I’m considering the Faroe Islands with the kids over the summer. And more of Britain: Scotland, Yorkshire, the Lake District, Cornwall or Southern Wales. Again, just down the street, very accessible and practically free flights.
Lebanon may be on the agenda. And Libya. I’m also looking at Alaska and St Pierre&Miquelon, and Newfoundland. But I’m way into 2011 by now.
Well, we shall see.