Travelling is all about discovery – and I just love to find new things. The good news is that they’re usually positive experiences: a little restaurant on the beach in Lebanon that you’ll remember forever, or the wonderful $10 massage in Thailand. Of course, there is always that humdinger of a bad day on the road.
I’ve looked over this year’s memos, articles, tweets and my photo library. Here is a list of what I really enjoyed and what horrified me:
Best City: Kraków. It’s like stepping into a fairytale soaked in vodka. Poland is generally beautiful but Kraków is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. It’s fun, friendly and so hard to leave that I extended my stay twice. Even in the middle of a Polish winter.
Best Airport: Changi Airport, Singapore. Although they don’t have the selection of shops and restaurants in the terminal that you’ll find in London’s Heathrow, there are no crowds, few delays, clean toilets and decent airline lounges. And plants! And free wifi! And places for kids to play!
Best Book: Junky by William S. Burroughs. It’s a nice thin book that’s perfect for carry-on luggage. It makes me feel better about myself when reading about people who are far worse off than I am. I’m a dreadful person.
Best Street Eats: Salt beef bagel at London’s Beigel Bake on Brick Lane. Two clever foodie friends of mine took me to this seemingly unremarkable shop for one of their famous late-night specialties: a thick slice of salted beef on a fresh bagel with pickle and mustard. The best snack I’ve had in a long time for a couple of coins. Not bad at all.
Best Hot Chocolate: Hotel Moskva, Belgrade. Thick, dark and warms you from head to toe, Serbians are masters of the hot chocolate.
Best Duty Free Items: Anything from British Airways High Life Shop! It’s the best selection of any in-flight shopping and leaves the other airlines for dead. They sell things that you can actually use like bags and “spy pens” (ie. pen with a USB which can record and take photos) and who doesn’t need that? My favourite in-flight purchases this year was a Morgan And Oates Cashmere scarf, a set of Jo Malone fragrances and a Furla travel bag – all very useful.
Best Hotel: The Club Hotel, Singapore. This newly-reopened boutique hotel housed in a heritage building on Club Street/Ann Siang Road in Singapore has 20 spacious, pristine rooms and 4 bars and restaurants – it’s a great ratio. Luxurious furnishings and spa products make it as comfortable as any of its larger competitors. I was delighted to find it and will be a return visitor.
Best Hotel Gym: Botanica Fitness & Spa at the Radisson Blu in Sisli, Istanbul. This is a spacious gym with a view and new machines – I don’t like the turnstile to get in (which sometimes doesn’t work) but once your in it’s a pleasurable experience, unlike most hotel gyms.
Not For Me, Thanks:
- Being held against my will in a taxi in Budapest. Revolting driver abducted me as he wanted €100 for a €4 taxi ride – in a snowstorm, which meant the hotel staff couldn’t see me banging on the windows. He wouldn’t let me out. After 10 minutes of my screaming he finally threw me/my luggage out of the taxi for €10. It wasn’t pleasant. The subsequent experiences with sex pest taxi drivers in Budapest meant that I just walked everywhere – about 20 kilometres a day in the snow. At least I wore off all the goulash I ate
- Stepping on, around and almost sitting on used syringes – again in Budapest. I don’t know if I was just unlucky or if it’s particularly hazardous for travellers. I was quite terrified.
- The bombs, bomb threats and ISIS creeping into Turkey – they had to pick such a beautiful country to destroy. I just hope this country, along with it’s neighbours, is free from terrorism one day.
- Japanese people telling me how clever/special/amusing I am because I can use a pair of chopsticks. It doesn’t sound that bad but I hit the roof. This patronising attitude towards foreign-looking people is exhausting for me, especially as I lived in Japan for many years. Don’t stand for it, travellers!
- Finally that hair, an eyelash to be exact, in my mashed potato at a Polish milk bar. It’s probably nothing to cry about but I am a neurotic nutcase who sterilises my remote control and won’t share my bathroom. I screamed and fled said milk bar in horror
None of these glitches has put me off my passion for exploration, it’s all part of life’s intricate tapestry and a story to tell the grandkids.
Merry Christmas, travellers!