I’ll be taking a short break from writing, blogging and nearly everything else (except collecting material for new posts) until the New Year. So it’s time for a look back at highlights of the year that’s oh so nearly passed.
BEST HIKE – FRENCH ALPS
It was a tough call between the trek in Iceland’s eastern fjords and the section of the GR5 between Briançon and Barcelonnette. The French Alps really only win because I could squeeze Iceland into another category.
MOST SPECTACULAR SIGHTS – ICELAND
The walk on the Eastern Fjords, to be specific. There was a moment we reached the top of a col and looked out on wave after wave (should that be ‘range after range’?) of mountains receding into the distance and I had to think, ‘Nothing in the world can beat this.’
BEST BIKE RIDE – NEW ZEALAND’S WEST COAST
There was some competition in this category too as I considered the ride Mevrouw T and I undertook along the Pieperpad in the Netherlands. We passed through beautiful villages and farmland on that trip and it was culturally more interesting than Kiwiland. For pure cycling pleasure, New Zealand’s South Island wins for its scenery, challenging hills and great road surface.
WEIRDEST PLACE – AYTRAU, KAZAKHSTAN
Well of course it was. I wouldn’t recommend Atyrau as the place to spend a month’s holiday, but for a few days it was fascinating. The company was excellent too, and they lent me a state-of-the-art mountain bike to ride out onto the steppes with the unofficial Atyrau Cycling Club.
BEST ACCOMMODATION – BAGNI DI LUCCA
How could we not love any apartment in Italy? This one in a Tuscan village which appealed to Percy Bysshe Shelley and Sir Humphrey Davy and still attracts Anglophile tourists. It was great to feel we lived here for a week. Thanks, Debra, for arranging the apartment swap.
BEST MEAL – QUAY RESTAURANT, SYDNEY
It was difficult to choose from the extensive menu of great meals of 2011. Our dinner at Gabriella’s in Italy’s Garfagnana was exceptional, and though I say so myself, my team did well under David Thompson’s tutelage at the Sydney Seafood School a couple of weeks ago. But it’s hard to go past Australia’s number one restaurant, Peter Gilmore’s Quay.
There was a surprise wedding there too, and Mevrouw T and I found ourselves parents of the bride, which added more than a little spice to the meal.
BIGGEST ADRENALIN RUSH – WAITOMO CAVES, NEW ZEALAND
For the scariest moment of my year I had to decide between pulling out the fiddle to scratch a tune in public with classy Irish musicians in the pub in Dingle, or abseiling for the first time. The drop into The Lost World at New Zealand’s Waitomo Caves is 100 metres. The first metre is the worst.
BEST ARTS EVENT – DEN HAAG ONDER DE HEMEL
There were great contenders for this award in Sculpture by the Sea and Outpost in Sydney, and I got a huge buzz from watching my play The Book of Everything get a rock concert-like reception from a school audience. However, the exhibition of Chinese sculpture in the Hague was exceptional, fresh and unlike anything I’d seen before.
Thanks to everyone who’s been visiting this site. We bloggers wouldn’t keep doing it without the encouragement of seeing the hits mounting up.
Happy holiday season and all the best for what’s left of 2011. See you again in 2012 (unless I get unexpected internet access in the meantime!)