Monthly Archives: December 2019

2019 – My reflections on another year of traveling – and my fave books and TV series – warning – Bumper Edition!

It seems I was only just writing my reflections on my 2018 travels and once again as the year is drawing to an end and I am back in Seville for the 3rd time in as many years, it is a good time to reflect on the past 12 months (and to plan for the next 12!)

I counted that I visited 35 different countries during the year and 15* of those were new countries for me bringing my total to 114 countries visited in my life time so far. *The new ones were: Brazil, Uruguay, French Guiana, Trinidad and Tobago, Israel, Palestine, Bulgaria, Romania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mauritius and the Seychelles.

One of my favourite things about traveling is catching up with old friends where they live, meeting up with old friends in new locations, happening to be in the same place at the same time as someone I know with no prior planning and making new friends – something I have been lucky enough to do especially on cruises. I would like to thank all those friends for making my year even better by being able to spend time with them and to those who also hosted me in their homes (and gave me unfettered use of their washing machines!) on various occasions. A BIG THANK YOU.

Rather than a post with 100 images I have picked a some faves and added the blog links for easy access to the full posts from that country if anyone is interested in finding out more or thinking of visiting.

Quarter 1 – 2019 (USA, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia)

I started off the year with Beth in Las Vegas – as you do! Then back to my beloved Vietnam for some chill time a few days in Singapore and then back to one of my second homes – the wonderful Melbourne.

Quick link to blog on LAS VEGAS –

Ending the old year and almost into the New – Lady Gaga does her thing in Vegas

Eating and the beach – two of my favourite activities in Vietnam.

Quick link to blogs on VIETNAM

Eating in Vietnam

Beach in Vietnam

Quick link to blogs on SINGAPORE –

Singapore – always interesting

Quick link to blogs on AUSTRALIA –

The people I was lucky enough to work with at ANZ – a very special team.

Quarter 2, 2019 – Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls in Argentina; then cruising up the coast of Brazil and into the Amazon; Uruguay; French Guiana; St Lucia; Trinidad and Tobago; Canary Islands Spain; Morocco; Lisbon and Porto in Portugal; Israel; Palestine; Bulgaria; Romania; North Macedonia,

Quick link to blogs on ARGENTINA – Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls –

Recoleta Cemetary, Buenos Aires

Evita’s old pad – La Casa Rosada

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Quick link to blogs on BRAZIL –

Quintessentially Rio

Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

My lovely cruise friends

Along the Amazon

The bastard pink dolphin just after it swiped me in the eye – very ouch!

Manaus, Brazil

They love to perform and dance in Brazil

Quick link to THE CARIBBEAN – Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and St Lucia

Cruise buddies in Barbados

Cruise buddies in Barbados

Quick link to blogs on the CANARY ISLANDS –



Lanzerote Manrique Cactus Garden

Quick link to blogs on MOROCCO –

Tangier, Morocco

Quick link to blogs on PORTUGAL –

The beautiful tiles of Porto

So excited to finally make it to Israel with one of my regular traveling buddies Jo

Quick link to blogs on ISRAEL and PALESTINE –

Food in Israel is yet another religion – and the best one!

Jerusalem, Israel

The Wall of Separation between Palestine and Israel

And so begins a visit to many of the Balkan countries

Quick link to blogs on BULGARIA

Sofia, Bulgaria

Plovidiv Bulgaria

Pretending to pick roses in Kazanlak, Bulgaria

Veliko Tărnovo, Bulgaria

And then Romania whose least likeable part if Bucharest but the further north you go the more amazing it is. A hidden gem

Quick link to blogs on ROMANIA

Painted monasteries in Bucovina, Romania

Northern Romania

A very new country with a very new name. Quirky but lovable with it

Quick link to blogs on NORTH MACEDONIA –

Massive sculptures and statues everywhere in Skopje, North Macedonia

Skopje, North Macedonia

North Macedonia

Another country trying to decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Quick link to blogs on Serbia –


Quarter 3, 2019 – continuing my journey west from the Balkans I visited Slovenia, Hungary, Berlin, Germany and then to Denmark to embark on another cruise covering the East coast of the UK, Sweden, Norway and North Germany. A couple of weeks in Belgium and a quick hop to Rotterdam, Netherlands before starting my two months in London.

Gotta love this country – pretty, nice people and inexpensive!

Quick links to blogs on SLOVENIA –

Ljubliana, Slovenia

I was pleased to be back in Budapest for the first time in many years. Great history old and more recent and re-inventing itself all the time. It is kind of like Berlin in its way.

Quick links to blogs on HUNGARY –

Grand Synagogue in Budapest

The old city on the hill in Budapest

Had only been here fore a long weekend before so two weeks was an amazing opportunity to see as much as possible – which I did of course. Another place where the recently of history still hangs heavy but counter art culture is thriving and it is also a reasonably cheap part of Germany. Loved it.

Quick link to blogs on BERLIN –

Another brick in the Wall

The Jewish children who got away and the kids who didn’t

The best traffic lights ever in the former East Berlin

A couple of days in Copenhagen before and after my cruise

Quick link to bogs on Copenhagen, DENMARK –

The charm of Copenhagen

Another Seabourn cruise begins with a visit to Sweden

Quick link to blogs from cruise to Oslo, Gothenburg, the UK and Scotland, Bremen, Germany and the Kiel Canal


Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
Thi military Tattoo in Edinburgh
At John O’Groats – the top end of the UK
Sampling whiskey – as one must in this part of the world
My home for two blissful weeks
The Shetlands in the sunshine – a rare sight
More of the Shetlands – Lerwick – so beautiful

Cruising the Kiel Canal, Germany

Two weeks in Antwerp, Belgium was a real treat – what a lovely little country this turned out to be. Very underestimated and, mostly, not full of tourists.

Quick link to blogs BELGIUM –

Mechelen, Belgium

Rotterdam – a short hop from Antwerp and going through a bit of a revival.
Bruges, Belgium

Lier, Belgium

Quarter 4, 2019 – UK, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Mauritius, Seychelles, Heidelberg Germany, Tenerife and La Gomera, Canary Islands and Seville Spain

Quick links to September and October UK visit

Perry Green, Henry Moore’s former house and studio – with Sylvie
With Christine – one of many fab meals to celebrate some of my friends’ big birthdays
Who knew Liverpool was genuinely FAB. One of my big finds of the year!
Anthony Gormley at Crosby Beach
First ever visit to Blenheim Palace – with Lorna
The City of London gets more and more interesting as old and new architecture somehow seem to work.

And at the start of November it was time for another big birthday celebration trip – this time for Trudy. Touring Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa and Mauritius (and I went on to the Seychelles) was amazing and we liked it so much we are back in SA in early 2021!

Quick link to blogs on SOUTH AFRICA –

Quick link to blogs on ZIMBABWE AND BOTSWANA

Quick link to blogs on MAURITIUS AND SEYCHELLES –

Victoria Falls – dry at the end of the dry season. Rain was due any day but actually the situation has worsened since then – big problem that Zimbabwe doesn’t need at the moment
Elephants loving their mud bath
On the luxe train Rovos Rail – and Alan is wearing a jacket and tie!
Hermanus South Africa – another place we are returning to in 2021
The wine regions around Franschhoek – and yes we will no doubt be back here too
A sunset like this every night in Mauritius
We experienced a once in a lifetime chance to walk with lions. Was I scared – well…..just keep telling myself they were big pussycats! An unexpected highlight of 2019.

Back in Europe for a cool spell in lovely Heidelburg, Germany

Quick links to Frankfurt and Heidelburg, GERMANY –

Heidelberg and Gluhwein

And then I needed warmth again – so off to Tenerife and La Gomera to stay with Florence and Michael

The extraordinary Auditorio in Tenerife- look familiar?

And for the Yuletide season I ran away to Seville – again!

Plaza España, Seville December 23

Seasons good wishes to all

And where next?

Well I can say I will be departing 2019 and starting 2020 on a plane! Nothing new there then….

BOOKS – my two absolute favourites are starred

Given I travel a lot and because I have always loved books, I get to read and listen to Audible books a lot more than I had time to before. My favourites this year are:

All the Bernie Gunther novels – a Berlin detective series written by a Brit (Philip Kerr) and set in the 30s and 40s – it was one of the reasons I had to spend time in Berlin this year and I even called my travel buddy after him – Bernie the Berliner Bear

The Testaments – Margaret Attwood – I remember reading the original, then much later watching the TV series and unusually bought this the day it was released. Attwood writes about a dystopian world where the women’s role is scarily not as far away from today’s world as it ought to be. Let’s hope it stands as a lesson and the movement for gender equality thrives.

Becoming* – Michelle Obama – I recommend the Audible version as she reads it. Authentic autobiography by one half of a couple who seem to do the right thing whenever they can – too bad that is not recognised in the way it should be.

Everything I never told you – Celeste Ng – an excellent look at a mixed race (Asian/Caucasian) family and the things that are never spoken about. I like it so much I have waited a year to read her next book – will do that in January so that I can eke it out. Hope she write more.

Mythos – written and read by Stephen Fry (so Audible is a must) it is his take on Greek mythology as only he could do it. Accurate but funny and fascinating.

Me – Elton John. Nothing Elton John does can be anything other than fab in my books and I loved this canter through his legendary life as well as reliving things that were going on in the UK at the same time.

Last Tattoist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris – based on a true story of love and hate. This book and its sequel have become quite controversial given it is supposed to be based on a true story but either way – it is a darned good read.

The Dutch House – Ann Patchett – great writer and the story of a House and the lives of the people who live in it at various times.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter *- Kate Morton – very similar theme to the Dutch House but it also transcends time back and forth.

TV SHOWS – my two absolute favourites are starred

Although I enjoy movies my travels mean that unless I am in an English speaking country it is hard to get to see that many movies on the big screen in English. Luckily I think we live in an age where many of the best writers work on TV and cable channel now, so here are my picks for 2019. I also love that Netflix produce a lot of shows in languages other than English – so yes it requires a bit more effort to read the subtitles but that’s worth it and you almost feel fluent in any language you listen to by the end of it!

Money Heist – Spanish Ocean’s 11 type series but far more subversive. I love every bit of it of the first three seasons.

Bonus Familie – Swedish but for a change this is not “noir” at all but a light hearted look at a modern family where the divorced couple and their new spouses share child care from former relationships and have their own kids too. It’s frightfully Swedish and everything tries their best to behave properly – nice and light.

Cuckoo – a Brit comedy that I thought was silly at first but somehow keep enjoying anyway!

Succession *- Wow! And I thought I knew about succession planning!! This is the best series of the year. Keep watching – the tension builds with each episode.

The Crown – maybe the things going on in the 60s and 70s are not as exciting as the first series but we are now in an era where I remember the events occurring outside the royal family so I enjoyed the social history aspect of Season 3.

The Handmaid’s Tale – great script, acting and nail biter. Can only cope with one episode a day but boy it’s good.

Derry Girls* – adore this Northern Irish comedy set during the troubles of the 70s and 80s in Londonderry about a bunch of potty mouthed school girls – always funny and at times poignant – it is another period of history I remember well.

Killing Eve – Phoebe Waller’s writing credentials are excellent and the bizarre cat and mouse game of the two protagonists are mesmerising as are Jodie comer’s character’s clothes.

Patrick Melrose – I hated all the characters but nevertheless thought Cumberbatch was brilliant as was Hugo Weaving.

Fauda – this time an Israeli series about a former Israeli Defense force fighter who comes back into his old job. It is set in Jerusalem and Palestine and has a cliffhanger at the end of each episode. It started in 2015 but I have only just discovered it so have 3 seasons to enjoy.

Spain – a week in Tenerife and La Gomera

Having visited four of the Canary Islands earlier this year on my cruise – and enjoying them much more than I expected – I wasn’t planning to go back to soon; but my old friends Michael and Florence (one of my first former bosses and someone who was a role model as a senior woman in business early in my career) have an apartment in Tenerife where they head for a few months a year to escape the UK Winter – and who can blame them. They kindly invited me over for week.

Arriving in Tenerife by air – rather than via ship – gives a bird’s eye view of Mount Teide which dominates the island and was the place I spent my day on my last visit. There was a tiny smattering of snow on the top but that was all gone within 24 hours!

Mount Teide from the plane

I had to blink twice to make sure I hadn’t stumbled into Sydney Harbour by mistake when we visited the exterior of this extraordinary but nevertheless familiar looking building. It is the Audtorio de Tenerife in Santa Cruz and the local symphony orchestra is housed here. It’s very popular with locals and tourists alike and even Bill Clinton has visited. No Surpise that Santa Cruz is often referred to as “the Sydney of the Atlantic”.

Auditorio de Tenerife

In the village of Candelaria is a well known Basilica – created long ago when a wood carved Madonna and child was washed up on the shore in the 1300s. The local Guanches and then the catholics took ownership of it. No-one could trace where it came from but it was seen as a sign so the Catholics subsequently built a basilica. In the 1800s a tsunami hit the basilica which is right by the sea and the carving was washed away and never seen since. Spooky or what?

Next to the church are 9 magnificent statues of the Guanches (the indigenous race on the islands before the Spanish came in) which represent the kings from that dynasty. They look really good in that setting and each one has different things in their hands to denote their area of expertise.

Statues of Los Guanches

It’s not Spain if you don’t head off to a flamenco show. I’ve seen a few but this was very good because it was non traditional – very cool costumes and choreography. After the first three photos I got told not to take any more. Oh well.

A bit of flamenco

Michael and Florence organised for us to take the ferry from Los Christianos to La Gomera (one of the lesser known of the 7 (now 8 they have a new one now) Canary Islands so I was pleased to visit one I hadn’t seen before.

La Gomera is very pretty and far less developed than many of the other islands – a great place for hiking (and no of course I was not hiking!) but others do apparently. Christopher Columbus also landed here enroute to his discoveries – a man I admire for his tenacity in exploring uncharted parts of the world (and in far less comfort than I do!)

Around and about the island of La Gomera

An overview of La Gomera with its colourful houses and the local church

Street scenes from San Sebastián the capital of La Gomera

We also stayed in a parador – the historical hotels owned by the Spanish Government which are always really well designed and in exceptional spots.

Views and grounds of the parador in La Gomera

The white building perched top left is the parador

We ended our trip with another good meal at the parador – preceded by a drink at the bar!

Florence, Michael and me!

Back in Tenerife we stopped by Los Gigantes – the name of the town and the enormous cliffs at its edge that just fall into the ocean. Majestic.

Los Gigantes – the town and the cliffs

And so after a week of sunshine and warmth – just four hours flight from cold and rainy London it was time to leave again. And here are my last views as I flew off (I do so love flying and seeing the world from above)

Up above the sky so high….

Germany – a week in Frankfurt and Heidelberg

I braved the rather chilly climate of Germany in December. I have really enjoyed seeing more of Germany over the past two years and it’s a great opportunity to practice the language too. I like the variety of the places you can visit, the culture and love of art, the food (I grew up eating a lot of it) and the fact that everything and everywhere you stay is spotlessly clean and everything works!

First a visit to Frankfurt which I have to say is not the most exciting city to visit in Germany. It is very much a trade fair and convention town and lacks much in the way of personality.

However this was all made a lot better by two things – firstly, the Staedel Museum which unexpectedly had a fabulous exhibit of Van Gogh with a focus on how his works were bought up early in Germany (before he became a desirable artist) and also how he influenced subsequent German artist. I loved it.

Van Gogh portraits

One is a famous fake and one is the even more famous real thing – any guesses?

“Floating” (no shadows so distorted perspective) Books first by Van Gogh and then by Scharl

I also liked the Staedel as it has a Vermeer I haven’t seen before – the Geographer who is apparently staring out of the window imagining the places he is mapping out.

Vermeer’s The Geographer

Tischbein’s portrait of Goethe – there are very few of him so this is popular but not as popular as wondering why he has two left feet – it remains a mystery to this day?

The other plus was that I decided to stay about 20 minutes outside of Frankfurt in a place called Kronberg in a grand hotel that was formerly the home of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter (also Victoria) who built it after her German husband Wilhelm died. It was a lovely spot to be located and very different from Frankfurt.

Living in a grand royal house is good!

My second location was the charming town of Heidelberg – about an hour’s drive from Frankfurt. This town is often called the most beautiful in Germany and I can see why. It has everything you want from an old medieval town and is especially cute during this time of the year. As it is primarily a university town (oldest university in Germany) it is also lively with a strong international student body having a good old time as the semester was ending.

Heidelberg has an eclectic style castle (which was really a fortress) in the hills looking down on the town. It was started and added to at various time between the 1200s and the 1600s – thereafter it was captured in a battle and was no longer used and is therefore lacking things like roofs and windows but it is still very cool and beautifully lit at night. The wiggly path below leads up to another well known place – the Philosopher’s Walk. By the time I had staggered up the slope to follow the walk apparently completed by many famous writers (Mark Twain is said to have finished the Huck Finn book here) and philosophers I was thinking more about my pounding heart than things of great meaning. Then I read that these slopes used to terraces for growing grapes for making local wine so now I understand why everyone felt so philosophical! It is a wonderful walk though and gives a lovely perspective of the town.

Heidelberg Castle and the road up to Philosopher’s Walk plus this year’s Heidelberg Gluhwein mug

The castle up close and personal and views down to the river

The castle hosts the Pharmacy Museum – which i thought was great – love those bottles and jars – beautiful enough to cure you of anything without even sampling the contents!

A wooden cable car takes you to the top of the mountain you see behind the castle – it’s a long way up and I was wearing everything I had with me- nippy up there

Oh yes, and that Xmas thing was in full swing too – markets all along the Main Street of the old town with the flood lit castle in the background. Very authentic.