Wherever you go, there you are: On getting out of England

I booked a load of holiday from work this week, for everything from family visits and gigs to trips abroad. It got me thinking about where I had – and hadn’t – been over the years, so I got the map out and tried to piece my travels together.

In terms of Europe, I think I’m pretty well travelled – the rest of the world, not so. I’m not great in heat, so have never really considered hot countries for the sake of ‘the beach’, while never having earned a big wage and having full time jobs has ruled out the likes of Japan, Australia etc. Not because they’re impossible, but because I’ve not had a strong enough desire to warrant the time/expense.

So here’s where I have been and what I worked out from that list: what the obvious omissions are and where I’d like to head next. Of course all suggestions welcome!

Belgium: One trip to Brussels (2006) on Eurostar, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was really pretty in places, with great beer and chocolate.

Croatia: a super relaxed break in Dubrovnik (2010, pictured). It rained. A lot. But we made friends with a kitten and spent some quality time starring at the sea from nice restaurants. I’d love to go to another place similar along the coast.

Czech Republic: I went to Prague four years in a row (2000-2003) and it ties with Barcelona as my favourite city. It’s been too long since I’ve been there, to be honest – the mix of great street life and history is spot on.

Denmark: Had a long weekend in Copenhagen (2002 – Little Mermaid bad, Tuborg good). It was really nice, if bloody freezing, but I don’t have a desire to return.

England: Most places now, I think! Even Peterborough.

France: Multiple trips to Paris (pictured), several ferries to Boulogne while at school and a trip to the beautiful Cordes. I definitely need to explore France more, as there are so many towns and cities I’d love to visit.

Germany: off to Essen in October 2012 for my first visit. It’s for a Essen Spiel, the biggest board gaming convention in the world, so I doubt I’ll be seeing much scenery. However, if all goes to plan I’ll be travelling there by train, which should hopefully mean I get a bit of scenery.

Greece: Should be arriving on the Greek Islands in June (2012) for visit number one – which will become the furthest east I’ve been.

Hungary: Had a great week in Budapest (2005, pictured) – a city I’d love to head back to soon. Again, it had a great mix of being lively and historic in equal measure.

Ireland: Long weekends in both Dublin (2002) and Belfast (2004), plus a few nights in Warren Point. Must try harder. This is one of the few places, probably along with Scotland, that I’m sure I’d have visited a lot more if I drove. Still no excuse though, to at least visit the likes of Cork.

Italy: School skiing trips to Bardonecchia bring back great memories, flying to Turin before heading west into the Alps by coach. Since then I’ve enjoyed a trip to Venice but nothing more. There’s something about Italy that doesn’t quite have the appeal of Spain for me.

Poland: Had a memorable if hard trip to Krakow and Auschwitz (2006) – something I think everyone should do. You’ll likely come away an emotional wreck, but for all the right reasons. It certainly puts a lot of things in perspective.

Scotland: Shamefully, just one visit to the Edinburgh Fringe that also took in the beautiful Loch Lomond. It really was a great holiday and one I can’t quite believe I haven’t replicated since, despite talking about it most years.

Slovenia: A great holiday in Ljubljana (2004) including a day at the amazing Lake Bled (pictured). As far as picture postcard beauty goes, that place is up there with the best of them.

Spain: Lots of trips to Barcelona (since first going in 2003), my joint favourite city for the same reasons as Prague – it always feels vibrant and alive, while being deeply interesting in terms of culture and history. I’ve also been to Corunna and Santiago de Compostela in the north-west, which was a great trip but not one I feel I need to repeat.

Sweden: Lots of trips to Goteborg (since 2002) thanks to having great friends there, plus a solitary visits to Stockholm (my furthest north), Jonkoping and Varberg (tack Staffan!). I feel a real connection with Sweden and at one point seriously toyed with moving there, but unfortunately my only skill is English and they speak it better than I do.

United States of America: One trip to Charlotte, Charleston (my furthest south and west) and the Blue Ridge Mountains (2009), plus two to New York (2005 & 2011, pictured). New York is great, but a little too London-like to challenge Prague and Barca at the top of my list; but it’s close though. The mountains were breathtaking too – a trip I’d love to do again and for longer.

Wales: Countless family holidays, with Snowdonia an obvious highlight. Most recently a trip to Cardiff to see Cambridge United stuffed in the Playoff Finals. With friends there, I really have no excuse not to get my ass in gear and return.

Top 5 obvious European omissions

OK, it’s not five countries – more five bits of Europe I noted I’ve not been to when I was scanning around on some maps jogging my memory of where I have been.

Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland: Only Vienna has ever got onto my radar, back in the days of proper cheap flights, but it was always gazumped by somewhere a bit more exciting looking. I blame Midge Ure.

Finland, Norway and The Netherlands: I’ve had a great time I’ve ever visited this neck of the ball park and Amsterdam and Oslo have always been on shortlists I’ve made for weekend breaks. These ones will happen.

Portugal: For some reason, nowhere in Portugal has ever really taken my fancy – which is particularly odd, as it’s so close to Spain, which I’m falling in love with. Before I liked Spain so much, it didn’t really register, while now I can only ever picture Cristiano Ronaldo (ick).

Iceland: Have you seen Reykjavik 101? If not, you should (it’s a bit rude, but funny as hell). I will go to Iceland, when I’m rich or when I don’t drink so much.

Eastern Europe: So many countries! Football fans tend to do all of these nowadays thanks to the Euros, but while I’d love to go to Moscow nowhere else has ever really been that highly recommended to me beyond places I’ve already been.

Our Top 5 holiday destinations for 2013

So, where will we be headed next? Zoe and I have had a bit of a think about it this week and narrowed it down to five places: If we can get to two or three of them next year, that’d be great.

Prague: Both Zoe and I really want to go back to Prague (pictured), as we’ve not been together. It’s also relatively cheap and easy, so something we can get together stress free – as well as knowing good places to stay, book accommodation etc.

Amsterdam: We’ve both heard so many good things about Amsterdam independently, but never been. For me, the only times friends have been going is for, ahem, ‘smoking trips’, which has never interested me. Now we’ve got a reason to go.

Stockholm: Would love to return to this beautiful city for a longer stay. My only previous visit was with Swedish friends who knew the place, so it wasn’t that touristy. That said, I got enough flavour to know I had to go back.

Bruges: I think this choice is heavily influenced for us both by the brilliantly potty mouthed film In Bruges, which we both really enjoyed. And we can go on Eurostar too – hurrah! Choo choo!

Switzerland: This is for a really nerdy reason, but that’s OK because it was Zoe’s idea. No, really – it was. Our entire knowledge of the country’s geography is from board game Ticket to Ride: Switzerland, so we want to go and put some places to the names.

I’m looking forward to 2013 already. As I mentioned earlier, any feedback is appreciated – especially on the places I’m going to this year, or places we’re considering for the future. Oh, and all the pics were taken by me.

One thought on “Wherever you go, there you are: On getting out of England

  1. Iceland really isn’t as expensive as most people think, and definitely my favourite place in the world… plus the bar in Reykjavik 101 is real and full of nutters.
    Amsterdam is lovely – like Cambridge with canals, but you want to stay a mile or so south of the station (in the Museumplein/Leidseplein area) to avoid drug tourists.
    This blog has made me want to travel loads again… my credit card is gonna hate you 😉

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