What I did on my holidays in 2018

When I was a kid, the first day back at primary school after Christmas, Easter and the summer break was always spent writing up what we’d done during the holidays. I must’ve churned out 30+ What I Did On My Holidays in exercise books over the years.

The name of this blog is based on those school assignments, so it seems appropriate to round off the year with a 2018 version. So here it is; What I Did On My Holidays In 2018.

January

I started 2018 off with a work trip to the Lake District. The first night was in a beautiful hotel overlooking Lake Windermere, while the second was in a climbing hut near Coniston – not quite my favourite accommodation of all time, but the views the next morning were pretty special.

The early morning view from our hut in the fells above Coniston
The early morning view from our hut in the fells above Coniston

February

My first overseas trip of the year was to Seville. Seville was the top place to go in 2018 according to Lonely Planet and I’d been busily pinning pictures of the Real Alcazar from articles about Game of Thrones locations for years so it was bound to feature at some point this year. A friend from work went a couple of weeks before me and came back raving about it, so I was really excited to finally go.

The stunning gardens - just like heaven
The stunning gardens of the Real Alcazar – just like heaven

Seville didn’t disappoint; I loved the Metropol Parasol (AKA the mushrooms), the rooftop tour of Seville’s beautiful cathedral, the romantic Real Alcazar gardens and the stunning Plaza de España.

The rooftops of Seville from the Metropol Parasol walkways
The rooftops of Seville from the Metropol Parasol walkways
Plaza de España just before sunset
Plaza de España just before sunset

Read more: Six unmissable sights in Seville

March

In March my partner and I went on a scientific and magical journey. We set off south on the A1, calling in at the National Space Centre in Leicester. It’s definitely aimed at getting children interested in space science, but the Rocket Tower which holds two huge, historic rockets was fascinating, as was learning the story of the space race.

The UK's National Space Centre in Leicester
The UK’s National Space Centre in Leicester

We stayed overnight in Watford, just north of London, and the next day visited the Making of Harry Potter exhibition at the Warner Bros Studios. It’s a fun and interesting day out for Harry Potter fans of all ages – my favourite part was the recreation of Kings Cross station and the train to Hogwarts, and the amazingly detailed scale models of Hogwarts itself.

The Hogwarts Express at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour
The Hogwarts Express at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour
A beautiful paper model of Hogwarts at the Making of Harry Potter exhibition
A beautiful paper model of Hogwarts at the Making of Harry Potter exhibition

Read more: Visiting a bookshop in Porto that inspired J.K. Rowling 

May

In April, I realised that with my 40th birthday fast-approaching, I’d already visited 37 countries. We’d already planned to visit Norway for my actual birthday (which would make it 38), but how cool would it be to make Norway my 40th? We quickly planned another couple of trips.

Looking out across the bay of Kotor
Looking out across the bay of Kotor

My 38th country ended up being Montenegro. Staying in Kotor, over a very relaxing couple of days we climbed Kotor’s famous steps for a view over the fjord-like bay below, visited the lovely village of Perast, took a bus to Budva, on the coast, and went one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, Sveti Stefan. I’d be very happy to go back to Montenegro.

Sveti Stefan island from the public beach. The pebble really is that pink!
Sveti Stefan island from the public beach. The pebble really is that pink!

Read more: Three days in Montenegro

A couple of weeks later we set off for country number 39, Romania. We had already been planning to visit Bucharest as part of our project to visit all the EU capitals, so we took advantage of the timing and some cheap Blue Air flights.

Carturesti Carusel, the (rightly) insta-famous bookshop in Bucharest's Old Town
Carturesti Carusel, the (rightly) insta-famous bookshop in Bucharest’s Old Town

Bucharest was a complete surprise. I’d been expecting a rather grey, uniform city, but actually found a vibrant, fascinating city with a lot of regeneration going on. The insta-famous bookshop Cărturești Carusel was a highlight, but I also loved exploring the old town.

One of the monasteries we came across by chance. In this one the monks were singing inside the tiny church
One of the monasteries we came across by chance in Bucharest. In this one the monks were singing inside the tiny church

I’ve wanted to do a road trip through Romania for a while; there wasn’t enough time on this trip but I’m hoping to get to other parts of Romania soon.

Read more: 11 Reasons to visit Bucharest

June

June marked my 40th birthday and a special trip to celebrate. We took a Logan Air flight from Manchester via Inverness to Bergen, Norway (country number 40!). We spent a full day in Bergen – it’s a really beautiful city and there’s plenty to do. As well as visiting the famous Bryggen area, we took the funicular railway up to the top of one of the mountains and met a Norwegian forest cat in the forest on the way down.

A Norwegian Forest Cat, in a Norwegian forest
A Norwegian Forest Cat, in a Norwegian forest

The next day, for my actual birthday, we got up early to do Norway in a Nutshell. Norway really is as expensive as everyone says so our whole Norway itinerary was done at double speed to avoid spending too much money on food and accommodation. Norway in a Nutshell aims to give you a taste of Norway’s most beautiful landscapes in an itinerary which takes anything from one day to three or more, depending on how fast you want to travel.

The quaint village of Dyrdal with its pretty white church is one of the must beautiful parts of the Nærøyfjord
The quaint village of Dyrdal with its pretty white church is one of the must beautiful parts of the Nærøyfjord

Because we were on a tight budget as always, we chose to do one of the most ambitious versions of the trip, travelling from Bergen via the mountain town of Voss, the fjord ports of Gudvangen and Flåm, the remote railway hamlet of Myrdal and finally the capital Oslo, 15 hours after we set off from Bergen. It was a long, tiring day, but so beautiful and a really memorable way to spend my big birthday.

Read more: Norway in a Nutshell – tips and advice

July

In July we bought a house. It’s really great to have somewhere to call our own after a year of upheaval – we had our rented flat sold from underneath us in late 2017 and since then had been living in a house that neither of us really liked. It’s definitely stopped us travelling so much for a little while but it’s hopefully a sacrifice worth making. We’re also really lucky that we get to live close to beautiful areas where you can feel like you’re on holiday even when you’ve only travelled a few miles.

The viaduct in Saddleworth
The viaduct in Saddleworth

August

Our last foreign trip of the year was to Helsinki, Finland – another capital we visited more out of duty for our EU Tour project than because we really wanted to go, but like Bucharest it was another big surprise.

One of Helsinki's Cathedrals
One of Helsinki’s Cathedrals

We’d picked August because of a Finnair flight sale (surprisingly, there are no low cost flights to Finland from the UK) and in the hope of some nice weather, but without any real expectations of actually enjoying Helsinki. What we got was a beautiful city, gorgeous sunny weather and loads of interesting places to visit.

December

September, October and November were spent stripping out our old kitchen, saving up for a new one and fixing our leaky roof, but as Christmas approached we did manage to have a bit of local fun. We went to Manchester for a festive day out, taking a walking tour (I love that tourist-in-your-own-city feeling) and visiting the Manchester Christmas Markets.

A huge Santa presides over the Manchester Christmas Market in Albert Square
A huge Santa presides over the Manchester Christmas Market in Albert Square

We also drove way, way out to the Lincolnshire coast to see hundreds of baby seals at Donna Nook seal sanctuary.

A baby seal and its mother at Donna Nook seal sanctuary, on the Lincolnshire coast
A baby seal and its mother at Donna Nook seal sanctuary, on the Lincolnshire coast

Read more: One day in Manchester – Christmas edition

What’s planned for 2019?

Most of our plans for 2019 depend on what on earth happens with Brexit, which is still looking worryingly uncertain. We were about halfway through our EU Tour project when the UK voted to leave, and once the decision had been made we said we’d aim to be in Brussels on Brexit day – whenever that is.

There are a few places I’d really like to get to in 2019. I’ve been wanting to visit Hamburg for a while (mostly for Minature Wonderland), and during the early summer it’d be nice to go back to Slovenia, maybe on a trip from Vienna to Venice via Ljubljiana, Postojna Cave and Piran. Further afield, Hong Kong and Japan are still on my bucket list but with so much left to do on the house I think that’ll be for 2020+.

The big skies and green landscape of the Durham Dales, my last trip of 2018; back home for Christmas
The big skies and green landscape of the Durham Dales, my last trip of 2018; back home for Christmas

In the UK there are still loads of places I haven’t been. I really want to share more of my native North East England, and who knows, maybe we’ll see more of Scotland and finally get to Northern Ireland.

Where did you go in 2018 and where are you planning to go in 2019?

 

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