THE YEAR THAT WAS 2011 – our travel highlights

Getting there sometimes required some effort. That's why they call them highlights. This hump is Mt Hvitserkur, Iceland.

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.


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.

The GR5 stage between Briancon and Barcelonnette wasn't really hardcore, even for old blokes, and beautiful all the way.


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.’

At the end of the world, above Lodmundarfjordur


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.

Excellent road surface, few cars and spectacular Lake Hawea on the right.


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.

One man, one bike and a few camels.


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.

Bagni di Lucca. Our apartment is just to the right of the bridge.


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.

Sydney food guru Terry Durack rated this Berkshire Pork Belly on Prunes and Cauliflower Cream #2 in his list of Best 20 dishes of 2011.


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.

Into the Lost World - great once you get used to it.


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.

Dutch Slant - from a Chinese perspective

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!)


Filed under Travel

5 responses to “THE YEAR THAT WAS 2011 – our travel highlights

  1. Thank you for mentioning our place in lovely Bagni di Lucca. We like it. We are also looking forward to Amsterdam next year. Hopefully we can meet you while we are there as well. I am very jealous about Iceland.

    • It is lovely in BdL, Debra, and I’ve just been reading about Davy’s time there – very interesting. Yep, still good for Amsterdam, and Iceland will be there for a while too, volcanic activity permitting.

  2. What an amazing adventure filled year you have had. I’ve enjoyed sharing it through your blog. Have a great Christmas and I look forward to reading more of your adventures in 2012

  3. Richard those Iceland pictures are still permanantly embedded on my brain from the first time you posted them. The Lodmundarfjordor picture especially.
    Looking forward to seeing what you get up to for next year.
    Have a good break.

  4. Arh what fabulous travels across the globe and stories to tell! I’m looking forward to a squeeky clean New Year to embellish with travel stories myself and reading all about your continuing shananigans.
    Thanks for all your support in cyber world Richard and I hope your Christmas is filled with good cheer and poor internet access so you can relax with the family. Best wishes, Therese x

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