So another year has flown by and here we are in the next decade. Seems a good time to reflect on my travels in 2019 and as mentioned in previous posts the idea of the annual 12 trips challenge is to do at least one trip a 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 some of the trips I did in 2019. Hope it inspires you to to take lots of great trips in 2020.

1. January – Wisley’s Winter Walk

January is a cold dark month so I decided to brighten it with a trip to RHS Wisley to do their winter walk. It’s really surprising how much there is to see at this time of year and the colours are lovely. Other highlights were a lucky dip trip to the TKTS ticket booth in Leicester Square. You never know what will be on offer and this time we got super cheap tickets to Pinter Six, a double bill of two short plays at the Harold Pinter Theatre which I hadn’t been to before. Fab casts and a great way to get an early dose of culture in 2019. To close out the month it was another trip to Dublin for some family visits and a party, of course.

2. February – the Bridge Theatre

Continued the culture trips with a first time visit to London’s newest theatre the Bridge to see the spectacular Laura Linney in My Name is Lucy Barton. What a fabulous venue and a great location right next to Tower Bridge. Then ended the month with a visit to Pittville Park in Cheltenham. It was my niece’s birthday so after Sunday lunch at a pub we wanted a walk and where better on a beautiful sunny day than Pittville. It had been a long time since I’d been there and I’d forgotten just how lovely it is.

3. March – Bhutan

By March the days are getting longer so I celebrated with a visit to Albury Park which was open as part of the National Garden Scheme. Such a beautiful place. Then it was time for a big tick off the bucket list – Bhutan! What an amazing place. Stunning Himalaya views, lovely people and a philosophy for living that puts health, education and happiness at the forefront. We visited four different places and while the photos below offer a snapshot there’s much more in the Bhutan section of my blog.

ThimphuBhutan’s capital Thimphu was where we first saw the country’s distinctive style of architecture.

Dochu LaNext we headed to Punakha via the Dochu La Pass where there are stunning Himalya views.

Haa ValleyThe Haa Valley is off the main tourist trail but worth the diversion. This was breakfast time for novice monks at a temple near the heritage hotel we stayed in.

ParoParo fortress is stunning at night and was our last stop before heading to the city’s airport the next day.

4. April – Thailand

We flew to Bhutan via Bangkok so we could have a few days of beach time before heading home. On the way out we stayed overnight at the Novotel at Bangkok airport which I’d really recommend if you need to spend a night near there. It’s lovely with nice bars and restaurants and you can walk into the terminal without even going outside. On the way back we went to Hua Hin which is only three hours drive from Bangkok airport and while the town wasn’t the prettiest I’ve seen, the hotel we stayed in was stunning. The Centara Grand is the former Railway Hotel, built in the early 1920s when a train line first linked Hua Hin to the capital city. It still has a colonial feel but offers every comfort imaginable.

5. May –  Watts Gallery Brighton

The start of May saw my second trip of the year to Watts Gallery in Compton. Both were free open days for Surrey residents but this time we booked a tour of the house where George and Mary Watts lived and worked. Fascinating people to learn more about and we also had time for the cafe specialty Welsh Rarebit and a visit to the stunning Watts Chapel. Then later in the month it was time to see the sea in Brighton. A really fab day with my sister and her family including lunch on the beach and a first time visit to the i360 – great views of the city and sea.

Watt's GalleryWatt's ChapelBrightonBrighton6. June – Hay Festival and the Barbican Conservatory

The Hay Festival is now an annual trip providing stacks of food for the brain and soul. Highlights this year included excellent interviews with Monty Don, Kate Humble, Caroline Criado-Perez, David Nicholls, Emily Maitlis and Matt Haig. Then later in the month was a first time trip to the Barbican Conservatory. A proper oasis in the heart of the city.

Hay FestivalNewsnight’s Emily Maitlis talking about her book Airhead, a behind the scenes look at how some the world’s biggest news stories are reported.

Hay FestivalMatt Haig talking about Notes on a Nervous Planet, which asks ‘How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad?’

Barbican ConservatoryBarbican Conservatory7. July – Emilia Romagna

Very lucky to get tickets in the ballot for the first day of the Wimbledon championship and I do love a trip to the All England Lawn Tennis Club. Then later in the month I really enjoyed exploring a new region of Italy – Emilia Romagna. This part of northern Italy is where a whole range of Italian foods originated from including tortellini, balsamic vinegar, Parmesan cheese and Parma ham. I was based in Bologna and visited places like Modena to do a fab food tour and Ravenna to see the stunning Byzantine mosaics. There’s lots more to read about those destinations in the Italy section of my blog.

BolognaFood tourBalsamic vinegarMosaic8. August – Summer in the city

There’s always lots of fun things to do in London in the summer so I made a few trips up to town. The Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy was an eclectic mix of art from famous and unknown artists, while Evita at Regents Park Open Air Theatre didn’t disappoint. Coal Drops Yard at Kings Cross was the new venue for the Wine Car Boot where we tasted some great wines from different countries and were treated to a free alfresco concert by a local orchestra.

9. September – Nymans and Budapest

September is always a busy month and started with a first time trip to Nymans, a wonderful National Trust property in West Sussex. Then it was Hyde Park for Proms in the Park headlined by the legend that is Barry Manilow. My birthday included another trip to the TKTS ticket booth to snap up great seats for the fabulous Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Then I ended the month with a huge highlight – our annual girls weekend which this year was a trip to beautiful Budapest. Such a great city, easily the equal to many of the better know European destinations. You can find out more, including details of the gorgeous place we stayed in my Budapest blog post.

BudapestBudapestBudapest10. October – the literary trips

October seems to have become another literary month that this year started with two visits to Wimbledon for bookfest events. Patricia Cornwell isn’t an author I read but she made for a very interesting interviewee and ‘This is Going to Hurt’ author Adam Kay was very entertaining. Then it was a trip to the Southbank Centre to see another legend – Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin. So good, I literally loved every minute.

11. November – the girl power trips

This month started with a trip to see Abba Girls, a really good tribute act that does also include the boys but as you can tell from the name, it’s all about the girls! Then it was Six at the Rose Theatre, a musical that offers a very different perspective on the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII. Then it was back to the Southbank to see Nadiya Hussain. It was actually on 1 December but she fits better in this section as she’s definitely a great role model for girl power.

12. December – The festive trips

I decided a while ago to embrace the festive season for as long as possible as despite the commercialisation it does provide some welcome sparkle in dull dark month. This year I visited the lights in Oxford Street, Carnaby Street and Regents Street for the first time in ages. Oxford Street was a bit of a letdown but the others didn’t disappoint. I also didn’t go away for New Year for the first time in ages so spend New Year’s Eve at the Archduke, the back of which has the most brilliant view of the fireworks over the London Eye. What a way to finish the year and welcome the new decade!

And that’s a wrap on my 12 trips (plus a few more) of 2019. It’s always great to reflect back on the year and now I feel even more excited for the trips I already have planned for 2020 and inspired to do lots of others. Hope you feel the same!