My 12 trips of 2017

Indulging your wanderlust when you work full time is an ongoing challenge. But a couple of years ago I heard about the Take 12 Trips challenge, a blogger’s idea to inspire herself and other travel fans who work full time to take a trip every month.

It can be near or far, a long trip or a day trip, seeing new places or rediscovering somewhere you’ve been meaning to go back to. The point is to make the time to get out, explore the world and enjoy yourself. Here’s my 12 trips of 2017. Hope it inspires you to make 2018 a year of discovery.

1. January – Osterley Park

I left sunny warm Seville on New Year’s Day to come back to England’s most miserable month. It’s cold, the days are short and everyone’s feeling a bit flat after the festive season. But sometimes the sun comes out and if you’re wrapped up warm there’s plenty of trips you can take without travelling too far. So on a beautiful sunny January day I went to explore Osterley Park, a lovely Georgian country estate in West London.

2. February – Sri Lanka

February is a great time to escape the cold for a long haul holiday and Sri Lanka exceeded all expectations. It’s a small country but with so much variety. We enjoyed every part of the trip and if the photos below leave you wanting more visit the Sri Lanka section of my blog for posts on each place we visited.

Seema Malaka, a meditation centre in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo

Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle is full of fascinating sights like this huge Buddha in Polonnaruwa

Kandy is a great city full of colour and culture

The view from the terrace of our lovely homestay in beautiful Ella

A couple of the fabulous elephants we saw in Udawalawe National Park

Galle Fort is cosmopolitan and packed with colonial beauties like this

Finished our trip soaking up the sun on Bentota’s beautiful sandy beach

3. March – Wakehurst

In March I was mostly reliving my fabulous trip to Sr Lanka, but later in the month I took a trip to Wakehurst in West Sussex, the country outpost of Kew’s Royal Botanical Gardens. It’s a wonderful place to walk around with woodland, lakes, formal gardens and the world’s largest seed conservation project. It’s leased from the National Trust, so you can get in for free and just pay for parking if you’re an NT member.

4. April – County Meath

April saw another trip to my second home, Ireland, but not to Dublin as usual. My cousin Rachel was getting married (spot the deliberate literary reference…) and her chosen wedding venue was in Kilmessan, County Meath. So we took the opportunity to stay nearby in Ashbourne and take mini trips to visit places like Malahide and Howth. Finished the trip with a great dinner at The Snailbox, worth visiting to see the multitude of baseball caps on the ceiling!

5. May – London Town

In May I upped my trips game, exploring the best city in the world that just happens to be on my doorstep, London.  It started with a trip to Kew Gardens, inspired by seeing Wakehurst a couple of months earlier. Mid-month saw a jaunt up to Camden to do the fab Amy Winehouse Street Art Tour. Then I had family visitors for the late bank holiday so we tried out the Emirates Air Line, had fun in the Sky Studios at the O2, got the bus to Greenwich, the boat to Westminster and finished with drinks and dinner on the Southbank. The weather wasn’t kind but that’s British bank holidays for you and who cares, we still had a brilliant day!

6. June – Hay Festival

What can I say about Hay? June definitely got off to a brilliant start when I went on a trip to the Hay Festival for the first time in a very long time. When I was last there it was a few events in and around Hay-on-Way town centre. Now there’s a huge programme of events in a tented village outside the town, which sits on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. So stimulating talks, beautiful scenery and a town filled with bookshops (and other lovely shops too). What’s not to love about that? Bit behind on blogging, but a post about it will be coming soon.

7. July – Verona & Lake Garda

The last day of June saw me flying to Verona for my first July trip – a long weekend in one of Italy’s prettiest cities. It’s obviously famous as the setting of Romeo and Juliet, but has a lot more to offer. Pink buildings, red rooftops, Renaissance architecture, stunning piazzas and a fabulous Roman amphitheatre to name just a few highlights. It’s also very handy for getting to Lake Garda so we took a day trip to busy but lovely Sirmione, a small village nestled on a peninsular jutting into the lake. Later in the month saw a mini trip to Honiton in Devon for a fantastic wedding at the beautiful Tracey Estate.

Verona8. August – North and South 

So August was a south, north, south trip sandwich. It started with a visit to Shakespeare’s Globe, somewhere I hadn’t been for many years and it was great to rediscover it and see a wonderful, fun production of Twelfth Night. Then mid-month it was a trip to Bolton to visit family, including a night out in Manchester. Not a new city for me, I was born there, but boy is it different now. Incredible to see the obvious investment that has gone into the city. Then a week later it was back into London to visit an exhibition at Buckingham Palace with my free 1 year pass – just before it ran out! And I finished the month with a bank holiday weekend trip to Pulborough. Some friends live in an old vicarage and its front and back gardens are wonderful places to spend a sunny Sunday.

9. September – New York

September started with a lovely boat trip to Richmond, then mid-month was a trip to one of my very favourite cities in the world, New York New York. It really is a helluva town. We went for our annual Girls on Tour weekend to celebrate a friend’s special birthday and it was mine while we were there too. There literally wasn’t any part of it we didn’t enjoy. The framed photo collage below was put together by my friend Siobhan as a Christmas present for us all. That should give you a good idea of what we got up to and you can find out more in my blog post about the trip.

10. October – Longleat Forest & Jane Austen’s House Museum

This trip started at the end of September but as it ended in October I’m going to count it as that month’s trip. Centre Parcs isn’t somewhere I’d really thought of going before, but my niece wanted to celebrate her 21st birthday there and it was a really great weekend. We swam in a heated outdoor pool (not bad for that time of year), had a BBQ in the rain (more typical for that time of year), spent a fabulously relaxing afternoon in the Spa, went 10 pin bowling and walked for miles around Longleat Forest – the cycling didn’t go so well but that’s another story! Later in the month I indulged my love of the classics with a trip to Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire. Loved it and can’t believe it took me so long to visit when it’s really not very far away.

11. November – Dublin & Box Hill

November is when the days really start to get shorter and the weather colder, so motivation for trips is harder to maintain. Luckily I had a cousin’s 30th party to go to in Dublin! Brilliant to see the family as always and to spend a day seeing a few sights and shops in the city centre. Then despite the cold I decided to break in the new hiking boots I’ve bought for my holiday to Chile with a trip to Box Hill to do the Juniper Top walk. Lunch in the cafe first and afternoon tea afterwards at nearby Denbies vineyard made for a very nice day trip.

12. December – Brighton

And then it’s December and who needs trips when there are so many festive parties and events to enjoy? I certainly made the most of those and then made my annual trip to Gloucester to spend Christmas with the family. New Year is always a time I like to go away with friends, but with that big (and expensive) trip to Chile on the horizon we decided to keep it low cost and stay closer to home with a New Year trip to Brighton. The weather was mostly wet and windy, but we still had a brilliant time, including enjoying a delicious vintage afternoon tea and a visit to the Royal Pavilion. A post about that trip will be coming very soon.

And that’s it, another Take 12 Trips challenge completed with a few more trips than that added in. Obviously I already have a couple of adventures booked for this year (did I mention I’m going to Chile?). But I need to get my thinking and planning caps on to make sure I do a trip a month in 2018. Why don’t you try the challenge too? I guarantee you’ll end the year with lots of great memories to look back on.

For more inspiration read My 12 trips of 2016 post or just have a browse around the blog and see where 2018 takes you.

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