24th December 2017
Christmas December 2017 – Where did that Year Go?
I was a bit later than usual writing my Christmas update this year. The snow arrived early in the Dolomites and the thought of skiing fresh snow in December was irresistible. I went to my favourite resort, Madonna di Campiglio where I stayed at my favourite hotel, Hotel Lorenzetti. It was wonderful – the resort was not very busy and I was often the only one on the slopes. Although it snowed while I was there the last three days the sun shone and the sky was blue.
While I was skiing the occasional flurry of snow reminded me of my favourite trip during the past year, South Korea at cherry blossom time. At the end of this short season (ten days) the wind whips the blossom off the trees and it swirls around like a snowstorm. Our trip started in the capital, Seoul, where the blossom was just beginning to appear. This sprawling bustling town is a fascinating fusion of advanced technology and age-old traditions. The old city walls nestle cosily between high-rise shops where people can shop all night. As we made our way south the cherry trees were in full bloom and we drove down avenues with cherry blossom to the side of us and over our heads. At night the trees were lit up creating foliage and flowers of different colours. It was magical.
This past year I also achieved a long held ambition to visit the Azores, a cluster of volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The natural wildness of these islands was compelling especially when we put to sea to search for whales and dolphins and found both. We visited three of the islands, all very different in character. The black and white traditional Portuguese architecture on the island of São Miguel contrasted nicely with the green fields. The blue hydrangeas that grow so well on the islands they are used as hedges and the crater lakes are spectacular.
This year I went walking in Croatia and Fuerteventura both for the first time. But it was not my first trip to Croatia as I had already spent several weeks in this beautiful country. On our walking holiday we stayed in the lovely town of Makarska and most of our walks were on Mount Biokovo that overshadows that time. The walks were challenging and varied and all of them involved ascents and descents of the mountain. The views were amazing as we could see the whole coastline below us.
My other trips to Croatia this past year were a mixture of sightseeing and sun worshipping. I did not indulge in the latter but thoroughly enjoyed exploring the towns including Dubrovnik, Split, Trogir and Šibenik. All the towns we stayed in featured easy paths shaded by pine trees so it was a pleasure to go wandering. They also have a very interesting history having been a target for the Ottomans and the Venetians who fought to gain control of the Croatian coastline. The Venetians triumphed and have left their mark on the architecture of the country.
Sometimes I was not sure if I was in Croatia or Italy. The latter is still my favourite country. This year I went walking there in the summer and skiing in the winter. Madonna di Campiglio remains my favourite destination for walking as well constructed paths thread their way through the stunning Italian Dolomites and there is a restaurant at the end of every trail.
Fuerteventura is the oldest of the Canary Islands but the least developed and we trekked across barren valleys, climbed volcanic hills and scrambled down a cliff face to a deserted sandy beach. Although the island has a reputation for strong winds we did not experience them but we were there in November which is the high season as it is not so windy then. We had sunshine every day and the temperature was perfect for walking.
I have also been exploring my own country, England, spending some time in Thanet in Kent and also Suffolk. I discovered both counties have a lot to offer and I walked for miles learning about the history of Ramsgate during the Second World War and visiting a tide mill and the haunts of Benjamin Britten in Suffolk. While visiting this county I stayed in both Woodbridge and Aldeburgh.
For Christmas and the New Year, I will be frolicking (I mean working) in the snow in Finland on an adventure holiday. We will be experiencing all modes of transport from snowshoes to snowmobiles. I am not sure about the dinner around a camp fire but if we catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights then it will be worth it. But for now I have to make do with a model of a reindeer spotted during a recent visit to Mottisfont Abbey to see this year’s Christmas decorations.
In 2017 I also received a One Hundred Best Blogs badge. But I will not be resting on my laurels as the New Year will see some changes to my website which will be developed as a travel journal with destination features, reviews and news. Watch this space.
I am looking forward to continuing my travels next year especially now I have discovered that travel is good for my health.
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a healthy and happy 2018.