Saturday, 5 January 2013

Travel Highlights of 2012 #travelblogger #travel

Slightly late, but here is my travel roundup from 2012 which I meant to publish on NYE but I didn't finish it in time so rather handily it's now formed Day 5 of my blog-a-thon!

Well it was no 2011 where I successfully managed to live in 4 separate countries (South Korea, Britain, Italy and Hungary), visit 4 for the very first time (China, Malaysia, Italy and Hungary) and had lots of awesome adventures to new places in between. But still, 2012 was a great one for getting to know Europe a bit more.

Here are the highlights:

1. Moved to Bilbao
Getxo, Neguri, Bilbao, Bilbao port, Plane trees, pollarding sycamores

On January 6th, I picked up my bags and set off a new adventure. This time, to Bilbao in the Basque Country, Spain. I arrived after a sleepless night and it was raining. (a sign of things to come) I settled into a small flat which was inside someone's house and had that oh so familiar fish out of water feeling. The first month was pretty hard but then everything fell into place and I made some wonderful friends and had some amazing adventures. It ended up being so good that I signed up for another year and returned to Bilbao for more Basque adventures in September. Please see this post for more details about why living in the Basque Country has been so good. 

2. HelpX in Andalusia 

Andalusia, caravan, caravan camaflage, helpx, adventrue

On the last weekend of March, there was a mini heatwave in Bilbao. It was roasting and everyone was on the beach. Everyone except for me as I had reports to write and exams to mark. When term finally finished, the heavens opened and stayed open for most of April and so to escape the weather I took an overnight bus to Almuñecar - literally going from one coast to the other - in order to volunteer for a week with a family in a sub tropical valley. It ended up being one of the most inspirational weeks I've ever had. From the family and their stories, to the back breaking work, to staying in a caravan by myself in the wilderness, to getting lost in a fruit plantation, I learnt so much and it really was an education. But mostly I learnt a lot about myself and what I want from life. 

3. France for the first time...and the second

French bread shop, Toulouse, French Pastry

Until this year, I'd never been to France. This is shameful to admit considering the proximity to the UK (although it's not as bad as the fact that I am yet to visit Scotland...true story). One day I was browsing the couchsurfing forum when I noticed the following post - 'who wants to go to Toulouse for the weekend?' errm me! The person posting was a guy called Diego, who was driving up to take part in a BeWelcome event (similar to CS) and he wanted to fill his car up with people to help save on petrol - obviously my best friends, Ali and Zuzia, had to come to. We ended up staying with Zuzia's friend's flat and having the best weekend ever. Toulouse is such a cool city and I'd love to go back. I've just been on my second trip to France - to the French Basque Country and given that I have a French flatmate, I'm sure I'll be going up again for another French adventure soon! Can't wait! 

4. Magical Frias

Frias, Burgos, bridge and church, cliff

My now ex-boyfriend told me on our first date that he wanted to take me to a place in Burgos (a region not far from the Basque Country) and luckily for me, he kept that promise and took me to one of the most magical places I've been in Spain. The scenery on the way was beautiful - flat with interesting shaped hills and mountains sticking up haphazardly. Frias is a tiny medieval village with a castle perched on top of a hill - or more accurately it looks like it's sat on a large rock. Some of the houses are literally clinging to the rock to stay up there. Nearby there are beautiful churches, a stunning bridge, waterfalls and pools and the cute campsite we stayed in. We went there for the San Juan fiestas, partied all night on top of the hill and then walked down to the campsite at sunrise. Truly unforgettable. 

5. The Emerald Isle

Dingle, Fungi, Dolphin, dingle dolphin, Ireland, Ireland scenery,

There's a special place in my heart for Ireland. My grandmother was from Dublin and my grandfather's parents were originally from Ireland too. I've visited Dublin on a number of occasions but until this year I'd never ventured outside of the city. I was mainly there to be reunited with some wonderful friends I'd made in Korea. My Mum says that everywhere I go in the world, I seem to befriend Irish people although I think that's more of a reflection on how lots of Irish people like to travel. After a night out in Temple Bar (it had to be done) Helen took me down to Glendalough National Park which was absolutely stunning and then the next day I journeyed down to Dingle, an absolutely adorable port town in Kerry. I took a boat trip and saw a Dolphin and my friend Louise took me on the beautiful Slea Head Drive. I vowed to return once again to the Emerald Isle and see more!