2020 – seemed like a good idea!
2020 started off well enough. I narrowly missed out on a fantastic press trip to the Masai Mara with Biosphere Expeditions but was able to enjoy a sunny week in Gran Canaria at the end of January. Staying on the lovely Playa De Las Canteras beach, we enjoyed this beautiful Canary island and the lovely beach we were right next to. Activities include drinking copious amounts of white Rioja while eating paella and Manchego cheese to excess. We visited the house of Christopher Columbus and heard rumours of a deadly virus that had emerged in Wuhan, China.
Little did we know that things would never be the same again. Come March 2020 we were all in lock down. Everyone was told to stay at home. Working from home or furloughed, the warm spring weather lent an air of the surreal to our confinement. Everyone was in the garden or walking in the park every single day.
My first guest speaking slot at the TBEX conference in Sicily in March was cancelled. I was very disappointed I confess. Ironically I was due to talk about over tourism! I’d even taken some tango lessons as this was going to feature at the introductory cocktail party and I wanted to be prepared!
2020 summer arrives
Traveling was off the menu, although our borders were never closed. The extra time, this great pause, was welcome for many. But the uncertainty wore thin and people were getting restless. Come the summer I was able to review a new bed and breakfast establishment in Northumberland called the Post Office House
September I am off to spectacular Seville. The Ryan Air plane is pretty empty and mask wearing is now compulsory. The long hot bus journey from Malaga to Seville in a mask was probably the worst bit. I loved the city though, which was pretty empty of tourists. Absolutely everyone was wearing masks, even outside in the hot sunshine. Covid security was tight. I got to see the Alhambra Palace (High Garden in Game of Thrones) the fabulous Plaza D’Espagna, and the Metropol Parasol, an incredible huge wooden canopy. We have fun eating out in the city which invented both Tapas and Flamenco.
October – horses and boats and planes
October is much more fun. I go back to the Rancho Las Casacadas in the Sierra Mountains of Mexico. The KLM flight is a third full. I drink lots of wine, stretch out on my three seats and pass out for the 11 hour journey. The Rancho is a high end five star luxury guest ranch. I first visited seven years ago and it made a lasting impression on me. It has a pool, a jacuzzi, and even a steam pod in the gorgeous grounds. The decor in the rooms and the main house, is to die for.
I love the beautiful agricultural landscape here which is covered in wild flowers at this time of year. The weather is perfect. Local people are so friendly and the horses which live in a herd together, are adorable. There’s always an iced Maragarita on the go and the food is delicious too. Up in the mountains there is no Covid, but city shopping trips are largely avoided for now. This is an idyllic place and I vow to return again as soon a I can.
Messing about on the river
It’s mid October now and I’m on a canal boat in Shropshire courtesy of the Canal River Trust. We are really lucky with the weather and the four Autumn days we spent careering down the canals at 3mph are perfect. The red and gold leaves drift down onto the boat as the heron follows us along the water. The Llangollen canal runs through beautiful rural countryside and although we have absolutely no idea what we are doing we loved it! It was all jolly good fun.
The boat is cosy and warm, and with some basic instruction, we navigate our way slowly past corn fields, glittering meres and rather posh houses. We moor up at Ellesmere and dine in Whitchurch. We hop off the boat to buy fresh eggs from a local farm and learn how to turn round mid canal to avoid having to do any locks.
Picking olives in sunny Cyprus
My final trip of 2020 is Olive and almond picking in Cyprus. Courtesy of Grampus Heritage. We stay in the mountain village of Pano Lefkara and help to pick olives from a local grove which we take to the mill to be pressed into the most delicious olive oil. These are Frankish olives, the very finest type.
We also pick almonds from some local trees by jiggling the tree with big long sticks. Visiting the local silversmith I buy a gorgeous heavy silver ring. We also frequent many of the village restaurants. We feast and drink lots of local wine. I dally with the dangerous local spirit Zivania which results in some strange behaviour on the night of Halloween. The weather is fine and the company convivial.
I return to the UK which now in lockdown number two. November and December things get worse again. The vaccines are ready now but the virus has mutated. It’s the end of a most traumatic year but I have had had some amazing experiences, despite this. I will still be drinking champagne and toasting in the New Year. 2021 bring it on!