As I start to write tonight’s blog, I’m thinking of all the people at the stunning Minack Theatre about to watching the 8pm showing of Me and My Girl. Lucky people! For those of you who haven’t heard of this beautiful theatre, it’s in Cornwall and it perches on the edge of the cliff making sunsets an amazing backdrop. If it wasn’t for temporarily being on crutches (day 30…..grrrrr!), I’d be there right now. But sometimes, things happen, don’t they? And it doesn’t mean that we’ll never get to have some experiences. Just something that we’ll do another time and can look forward to.
So, whilst I’m unable to drive, I’m going to do the next best thing……think about travelling! In a few days (after hopefully sharing some good news on Thursday), I’ll blog about some places I really want to go to. Places that I’ve read about or seen on TV and thought “I HAVE to go there!!!”. This links into one of my bucket list items which is to go to 10 new countries by the time I turn 50 but, for tonight, I thought I’d tell you about my 10 favourite places I’ve been to outside of the UK.
No. 1. Hong Kong.
When hubby and I talk about our future travels, this is THE place that I want to take him to. I went when I was about 19 years old. The most startling things about Hong Kong for me were the humidity, lights and diversity. Back around 1990, the airport (since relocated) was situated right in the midst of the skyscrapers and as you came to land, you could almost see people sitting at the desks! Poor pilots! Walking through the arrivals hall, I was suddenly hit with this weird sensation. A feeling of walking into something invisible. Walking into the humidity! It’s hard to explain but if you’ve been to the far east, you may know what I’m talking about. Hong Kong is fast paced and neon signs that illuminate the night air. It was either a Hilton or Sheraton hotel we stayed in Kowloon and we went all over the place. We caught a train up to the border with China, we went up the funicular railway to the Peak and visited Aberdeen, a tiny fishing port where the poverty was in stark contrast to the shiny skyscrapers. We walked past many places that could measure you for a silk suit and have it ready within hours! We saw crowds of people in the evenings who turned out to be servants of rich families that would come together to share their meals with each other. So, for excitement and somewhere incredibly different to living in the UK, this is where I’d love to return to. (I may actually get the chance to go to Japan to work. Bit of a long shot but I’ve tried to lay some groundwork for it to happen!).
2. Europa Park, Rust, Germany
Now, the rest of my favourite places aren’t necessarily in order of favouritism but Europa Park still rates very highly. I love Germany! I absolutely love the buildings, the culture, the food, etc. and we’ve had a few holidays there so it might be weird that I’m talking about a theme park where you don’t get to see the alpine houses. Whilst I quite like EuroDisney, Disneyland, DisneyWorld, etc., we loved taking our children to Europa Park twice when they were younger. There are rides for all ages including rollercoasters and water rides. But what I love best is how Europa Park is split into areas depicting different countries. So, if you’re in the Greek section, the buildings are cuboid and white, and there are stalls selling Greek food. The queues for rides are far shorter than the Disney parks and I just found it to be less commercialised. On our second trip, we stayed at one of its themed hotel based on a Portuguese monastery which was amazing and a restaurant linked to the Spanish hotel that made us feel like we were in middle Madrid! If you have children of any age, really do think about going here. Even as a couple in our 40s, I think we’d even go back here without the kids.
3. Brugge. Belgium
Wow! Wow! Wow! I was lucky to go to Brugge whilst on a mini cruise earlier this year and many people had told me that Brugge was beautiful. But nothing can prepare you for walking around the cobblestone streets and seeing unique architecture. Brugge is packed full of chocolate shops, lace shops and soooo many cafes that my friend and I thought we should check out. The city centre is almost car-free and so there are people being transported around by horse-drawn carriages which adds to the charm. Brugge is somewhere that you could even go to for the day if you’re prepared for a very early start and finish but whatever you do, wear sensible shoes! Every cobblestone could be felt through the soles of my rather cheap pumps! Oh, and cruising? I’ve fallen in love with this much easier way of having holidays. My next cruise is planned in my head!
4. Los Angeles, San Francisco and Hollywood
Growing up, we were lucky to go to California several times and we had one holiday that meant also driving to San Francisco. I guess I love the shiny sparkling skyscrapers, the weather and Hollywood was amazing! Now, when I went (this is going to show my age!!), there was the set from Murder She Wrote and also Columbo’s car. In LA, my brother and I got to sit on the motorbikes of the LAPD and in San Fransisco, I volunteered to have my finger ‘severed’ in a street magic act. That could have gone very wrong!! Whilst I’ve been to New York and liked it, it’s LA that I’d go back to and start a journey along Route 66. One day, Sarah. One day!
5. Brittany, France
I have to say that I can be quite dissing of the French (sorry). I guess that France evokes memories of my year 6 school trip where we stayed in a cramped B&B where I was scolded for not making my bed properly! But in October, I spent the week in a stunning riverside house on my own and it provided a great base to roam the area, whether I was going up to the BEAUTIFUL Mont. St Michel (you have to go there!), St Malo aquarium or even an 8 hour round trip to the Palace of Versailles. But the house was in Dinan which is a beautiful, medieval, almost fairytale-like town. And it was so quite despite being a sunny day. I’d gone away with high hopes of expanding my vocabulary and culinary ability. Instead, I came back with no more words learnt and 7 lbs lighter!
I loved Gibraltar! One of the things I remember most is sitting right next to the Barbary apes! Literally, you have these apes looking at you in the eye! Gibraltar is a great base to hop over to Spain but you can also go on a day trip to Morocco (which is on my list of things to do if I go back). Gibraltar reminds you of home though with familiar police uniforms, red telephone boxes, etc but you can easily step out of all things British and get a glimpse of other cultures.
7. Larnaca, Cyprus
Cyprus was another place we went to several times growing up, always staying the Palm Beach Hotel in Larnaca which was beautiful. Being right on the beach, I loved paragliding (which is when you’re wearing a parachute attached to a speed boat), water-skiing, etc. The hotel held very traditional Cypriot evenings for its guests with lots of Greek dancing. My brother and I were at the age where we were often allowed to roam the area on our own but we used to love going down to the restaurant to order milkshakes…. putting it on our parents’ account without thinking of the consequences! But we also loved going out of Larnaca, up to the mountains, up to Nicosia which is the capital city.
8. Oslo, Norway
This was my first experience of mountains…..and all I recall is being bribed with ice cream by my dad to go on an extremely long walk with him! But despite my trip being so many years ago, what I do recall is the fresh air. The sense of being in the middle of nowhere. And I guess that might be why I’ve also loved trips to Switzerland, Austria and southern Germany. I’m very much a lake and moutain kinda girl although I’ve been starting to enjoy city breaks more now too.
9. Duinrell, Holland
We had a BLAST here! Well, for about 36 hours until a sickness bug descended upon us and we slowly made our way back home. This is another theme park where if you camp there, you get free entry every day and get to enjoy all the rides. A bit like Europa Park, we found it not to be very commercialised and it was far more reasonable than other parks. There’s also a brilliant water park. I think we went with EuroCamp and the campsite was extremely clean and well-resourced, and somewhere we’d go back to. Well, we did try to go back a year later only to find the night before that we’d misplaced one of the passports and couldn’t travel or claim on travel insurance. Oops!
10. And finally, Paris, France.
Yes, another entry for France. Although I went as a child to see family (as I’ve French ancestry), I’ve been twice with my husband. The first time, I was 6 months pregnant on what was probably one of the hottest days ever! And hubby MADE ME WALK miles! Actually, I think ice cream might have been used to bribe me……again! I don’t even particularly like ice cream!! But we returned with our children for hubby’s 40th birthday and I loved this city. The Eiffel Tower is breathtaking at night-time but the highlight of our second trip was seeing Moulin Rouge, probably stemming from my love of the movie.
So, there you go. My favourite 10 holiday places. And whilst the show down in Cornwall is now well into its second half, I feel like I’ve been on a journey tonight. Thanks for joining me