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THE YEAR; 2019

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

I began my year in sunny Cape Town, South Africa, searching for odd and hidden sites to see. I failed in my efforts to find the abandoned Macassar water park but managed to take illegal pictures of the stranded pirate ships of Cape Town Studios. I also located the only non-profit college of magic in the world, the Cape Town School of Magic, in Claremont.

I went on safari with Phyl and Joe. Sadly, Joe was disappointed not to golf on the 19th hole at the Legend Golf and Safari resort, but he did have a close encounter with an elephant named Daniel.

In Hong Kong, I visited temples, gardens and missing cities. I found wishing trees, viewed about a million Buddhas; 10,000 in a singular place and one very large Buddha high on a hill. I dealt with a crazy Australian called Shelby and developed a love for bao buns and a dislike for humidity.

My trip to Macau opened my eyes to my inefficient travel planning and lack of general geography knowledge. Self-awareness is good. Macau is an administrative region of China, with its own customs and border control. The little over-night jaunt I planned was way too much effort for one night. The casinos of Macau are carbon copies of their sister hotels in Las Vegas, only larger. And other than gamble, there isn't much else to do. But I did enjoy the Bee Gees cover band playing at the hotel lounge, and crossing the Zhuhai suspension bridge that links Macau to Hong Kong.

In Malaysian Borneo, I missed out on the lovely beaches in Kota Kinabalu. Instead, I plunging straight down the Kinabatangan River for a stay at the Sukau Rainforest Lodge. This lodge has been honored by both National Geographic and a visit by David Attenborough. The Sakura offered great water safaris; cruising on the river and becoming very familiar with proboscis monkeys. Sadly, I did not witness a pygmy elephant or an orang u tan in the wild.

I did visit the Orang u tan rehabilitation center in Sumatra. Watching them play was pure magic and orang u tan will always be my favourite primate.

In Copenhagen, I followed Atlas Obscura's itinerary and found life-sized, swastika-wearing cement elephants at the former Carlsberg Brewery. Keeping with that theme, I located tiny and ancient Nazi graffiti on the bricks of a former potato storage unit. These Nazis were homesick.

Following the hoards to locate The Little Mermaid, by Edvard Eriksen was easy. It is shocking to see how far onto a statue a tourist will climb for a perfect selfie. Five minutes walk away, the Genetically Modified Little Mermaid, by Bjorn Noorgard sits alone in a harbour, free of tourists and at peace.

Having never been to Marbella and fearing FOMO, I grabbed the kids and headed for a few days in the sun. We didn't do much at all but enjoyed the beach, sun and a massage along the way. Marbs, check.

My personal triumph of the year was conquering Croag Patrick, Ireland's most holy mountain, on Reek Sunday. Well, we went on Saturday to avoid the crowds, but it still counts. This pilgrimage a magical hike up a very slippery mountain that some choose to do barefoot. If one makes the pilgrimage during July, sins for that year are absolved. That fact made me want to run straight up that rocky mound! It is said that St. Patrick himself spent time meditating on this very mountain, though I am not sure if he wore shoes.

Back to the States to visit with family in September. My sisters and I explored the many wonders of Western Pennsylvania for our annual 'Sisters Week'. The highlight was the solemn and beautiful Flight 93 Memorial Park. We had lovely treatments at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa, and hearing my sisters giggle all the way down the Youghiogheny River in a raft in the rain was the best.

In Syracuse, New York I found the genetically modified tree that bears different varieties of fruit. Also on the university campus is the Hall of Languages. This building inspired the Addams family home.

In Boston, I went to a proper university tailgate party. Tailgates have moved, since I was in school, from the trunk of your car in a parking lot to a house. I guess a football tailgate, in reality, is a house party before a football game.

I went for a luxury spa treatment at the Wynn Encore, Boston Harbour. This hotel is the most over the top hotel (and I've been to Macau) in the worst location in the world. It does have a stunning spa, though. I also went in search of the perfect seaside town both in New England and then in old England, after returning home to the UK.

In November I spent my birthday as I will from now on and forever spend my birthdays- drinking champagne in a hot tub. This year it was the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, hopefully, next year I will fulfill my lifelong dream of hot-tubbing with monkeys in Japan.

I also spent time roaming around the UK, visiting a few counties I have not come across in the 25 years I have lived there. My attempts for Wild Camping never quite materialized, but I have hope for my future.