As I’ve mentioned in previous posts the idea of the 12 trips challenge is to do at least one trip a month. It doesn’t matter if it’s near or far, for one day or two weeks. The idea is to get out and experience what the world has to offer. And after two years of cancelled trips because of the pandemic, I definitely did that in 2022. Here’s what I got up to…
1. January – London, London and more London!
They say you don’t always appreciate what’s on your doorstep, and there are times when I take London for granted. But after 2021 started in lockdown I was ready to make the most of this January’s freedom and hit the town – multiple times! First was a postponed visit to Soho Theatre to see the fabulous Le Gateau Chocolat and Johnny Woo in Now That’s What We Call Musicals. Then a trip to Battersea to see the iconic power station close up and play some crazy golf! A week later I even stayed overnight in Central London for a weekend with some of my extended family to see my cousin Joe in Hex at the National Theatre. Then, I finished up the month with a fab lunch at the eclectic Brunswick House in Vauxhall, followed by cocktails at Darby’s, a cool bar in the shadow of the new US Embassy.
2. February – waterside wanderings
February kicked off with a first-time visit to Gunwharf Quays, a shopping outlet at Portsmouth’s Historic Waterfront. It’s a really nice spot to shop. Then another first was a River Thames walk all the way from home in Thames Ditton to Richmond. It’s about 7 miles, but a stop off for lunch and a glass of wine at the Anglers in Teddington helped us to power through! Then it was a visit to Riverside Studios in Hammersmith to see Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey’s Cora) in a play about Ava Gardener and her various husbands. Then I finished the month with a trip to see the family in Gloucester, including a walk along the local canal. So definitely a month of waterside wanderings!
3. March – New York and the Hudson Valley
March high kicked off in style with a trip to see Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley in Cabaret, before finally getting to New York for a theatre trip that had been booked in 2019. Plaza Suite with Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick was well worth the long wait and it was fab to see NYC again. We checked out some of the newer sights like Little Island and the Summit, which has fab views of the Empire State Building. And we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time and took in the fantastic Manhattan views from the other side.
We also travelled out of New York to the Hudson Valley and had a great few days staying in a classic clapperboard house in Rhinebeck, a small town with some excellent places to eat and drink. The town also has some lovely shopping streets and we hired a car for a day to explore some of the Hudson Valley’s beautiful mansions. Blog posts will (hopefully) be coming soon, I’m a bit behind!
4. April – Amy, Harry and the seaside!
Early April saw a first-time trip to the Design Museum in its new home in Kensington. The Amy Winehouse retrospective we saw was excellent. Then Easter weekend kicked off with another long-awaited trip to the Harry Potter Studio Tour near Watford. After many Covid-related cancellations, it was great to finally experience it. Then it was back down to stay in Gloucester for a couple of nights and do a day trip to Weston-super-Mare. I hadn’t been there in years and it was really nice to walk along the beach, have lunch and then drink wine sitting outside my sister’s camper van.
5. May – Uzbekistan at last!
In May another trip postponed twice from 2020 finally happened – I got to Uzbekistan! The inspiration to visit had come from watching Race Across the World on TV and it lived up to, if not exceeded, all expectations. My friend and I fully expected it not to happen, so when we landed in the capital Tashkent it was hard to believe we were actually there. Our tour of the Silk Road cities was absolutely fascinating, both architecturally and culturally. And the six days of R&R we had in Turkey on the way home were excellent too. You can read two posts about the trip that I’ve already published and a couple more are still to come.
Hard to return to the reality of normal life after that, though luckily I ended the month with an overnight trip to Southampton to see the Killers, another event that was two years later than planned but well worth the wait.
6. June – Hay Festival
The start of June saw the return of another regular trip that hadn’t been possible to do for the previous two years, the Hay Festival. The organisers did a pretty good job of the online festival during the Covid years, but it was really nice to get back to it in real life. As usual, we saw a real mix of people including Hilary Clinton, Nicola Sturgeon, Michael Rosen, Bernadine Evaristo and Adrian Dunbar. And it was nice to spend time in lovely Hay-on-Wye again. Unsurprisingly after all of the travelling of the previous few months, the rest of June was spent on local trips to my closest town, Kingston upon Thames and sitting outside Ye Olde Swan, my favourite local riverside pub.
7. July – London living
July got off to a fabulous start with a trip to Hyde Park to see Adele. It was a brilliant show with great support acts including Kacey Musgraves and Gabrielle. The next day it was back into London for a weekend with the extended family to see my cousin Joe in his latest role in Legally Blonde at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. I love that theatre and go every summer, so it was a real treat to see him there and spend time with the family on the Southbank the next day.
The following weekend was another regular London event but closer to home, the Hampton Court Flower Show. Then at the end of the month, it was a trip to the Royal Academy for the Summer Exhibition, finally back in the summer after two years of disruption. There was the usual eclectic mix of art from very famous artists and complete unknowns. Afterwards, I took a trip down memory lane to the Kensington area for a champagne afternoon tea, cocktails at a speakeasy and drinks at the Hereford, an old haunt from when I used to work in that part of London. It was nice to be back!
8. August – back to Brighton
This month kicked off with our annual theatre trip for Jo’s birthday and we saw & Juliet. What an absolutely fabulous musical! So much fun and followed by fizz, food and cocktails of course. Then it was a trip up to Wembley to see Coldplay. Wow, those guys really know how to put on a show. Pretty spectacular. The end of the month saw a mini trip to an old favourite, Brighton. We actually stayed in Hove which is further along the seafront, so hotels are a bit cheaper. There are lots of great places to eat and drink in Hove, like Rockwater where we had a great breakfast. And you can either stroll along the promenade passed the colourful Hove beach huts to the centre of Brighton, or jump on a bus.
9. September – lovely Lyon
September kicked off with a trip to the local church to see my neighbours get married and then down to beautiful Ramster Hall near Godalming for the reception. Dinner was in a 17th-century converted barn that looked stunning. A week later our annual girls’ weekend didn’t go to plan once again as our Krakow flights were cancelled, but lovely Lyon in the south of France was a fantastic alternative. It was recommended to me as a foodie place and lived up to that reputation. But it’s also a very pretty city with plenty to do and see. You can read more about that trip in my Lyon blog post.
After we got back I had an appointment in London so went over to Buckingham Palace to pay my respects to the Queen. I really loved seeing all the flowers and tributes laid out in Green Park and the Mall being made ready for the funeral. Then at the end of the month was a first-time trip to the Cheese Barge in Paddington Basin. Definitely won’t be the last as the food was delicious!
10. October – family fun
I had family visitors in early October and entertained them with a trip to the London Underground-themed cocktail bar Cahoots before dinner in Soho. The next day we stayed local with a boat trip and walking tour along the River Thames from Hampton Court to Teddington Lock. Later in the month, it was a return trip to the Old Vic to see US stars Helen Hunt and Susan Kelechi Watson in Eureka Day School, one of the funniest plays I’ve seen in a long time. Helen was probably the bigger star, but being a huge This is Us fan I was mostly there to see Sue, aka Beth Pearson! The month ended with a trip down to Gloucester for a family birthday where I managed to get a long-overdue photo with my siblings.
11. November – all sorts of everything!
November kicked off with a trip to the Rose Theatre in Kingston to see the Importance of Being Earnest, a brilliant version of the classic tale of dysfunctional families! Then it was off to Wimbledon to see author Jessie Burton talk about the House of Fortune, her sequel to the Miniaturist, followed the next night by a fun quiz hosted by TV’s QI Elves. Sadly I have no photos of either event, was clearly too busy enjoying myself! Later in the month was a return trip to Cahoots for cocktails and then dinner at Brasserie Zedel, near Piccadilly Circus, for my friend Jo’s birthday. Zedel’s 1930s art deco dining room is a great venue for a celebration.
12. December – festive fun and a fab New Year
December kicked off brilliantly with another trip to see the musical & Juliet, but this time with my cousin Joe in the cast. He was amazing and of course we hung around the stage door to take our superstar for drinks afterwards. A few days later I was in London again to have a festive afternoon tea at the Ivy Tower Bridge. There were lots of market stalls along the river, so even though it was bitterly cold it was very Christmassy. As was Christmas at Kew when I went there a week later. The lights and laser shows are pretty spectacular. Then despite the train strikes I managed two more trips into London, the first was to see the ultimate festive play, A Christmas Carol at the Bridge Theatre, a brilliant production. And then it was a pre-Christmas Sunday lunch with my girls at Brasserie Blanc Southbank, which does a surprisingly good Sunday roast despite being a French restaurant!
Christmas was in Gloucester and we decided to have lunch out for a change – and accidentally found ourselves part of a historic event. It turned out that the Air Balloon pub was closing just a few days later to be flattened for a road scheme. A real shame as it dated back to the 1700s and I’ve had many drinks and meals there over the years. We really enjoyed our Christmas lunch and reminiscing about lots of other good times there too. Then for New Year, it was off to Anglesey, somewhere I’d previously only ever crossed through on route to get a ferry to Ireland. Despite some wet and windy weather we had a fab time and could see what a lovely place it is with beautiful beaches and pretty towns. It was a great place to end the year with family and one I’m sure I’ll be visiting again in the future.
So that’s the end of my year of trips and I definitely ventured a lot further afield than over the past two years. But it really doesn’t matter how far you go as there’s always plenty to see and enjoy close to home. So why not take the 12 trips challenge this year and see where you get to? You don’t need to write a blog post about it, but I guarantee you’ll have lots of fun looking back at the photos come December!