Happy New Year, everyone. Hope you had a sterling year. We did.
We celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary in January 2019. I’ll never forget the 3-minute assembly-line ‘ceremony’ in front of a judge in Faaborg, Denmark, the Las Vegas of Europe, which we chose because it seemed to be the least bureaucratic place with the least hassle (they even provide two witnesses). We had only met each other six months earlier and there we were, queuing behind a Sikh couple, several Muslims, orthodox Jews, and a young Christian couple from Nigeria. Never regretted it since, and once we had had our church wedding inside the medieval castle of my home town, with horse and carriage and the whole shebang, Ms B stopped giving me trouble for the fact that I had worn my oldest sweater to the Danish ceremony.
My health is finally on the mend too. I started running three times a week again a little while ago. In terms of travel, I was still commuting from London to Frankfurt every week until end of February for my day job (and again for a few weeks here and there during the rest of the year).
In February we did the carnival in Venice and attended one of the famous mask balls. I also learned how to row Venetian style and we discovered a whole range of new corners of this favourite short-term holiday destination of ours, which we usually try to squeeze in at least once every two years.
After all that travelling and commuting, instead of doing the obvious thing and taking it easy and focusing on binge-watching the latest Netflix shows, we went on a two-week holiday to Sydney in March with a three-day stop-over in Tokyo. I had been to Tokyo before and knew that to me it is the most exciting big city in the world, even though I’d hate to live there for more than a few days. For Ms B it was a first-time and I was very pleased to see that she enjoyed it as much as I do. We had some of the best food ever, did a fair bit of sight-seeing, even joined the intergalactic battle at the Robot Restaurant.
Sydney was fabulous, as always. Ms B’s parents, her brother and his wife with our little niece Chloe live there, and we have more friends in Sydney than in any other town, including London. For the first time, we only stayed at my parents-in-law for a few days, then moved into a hotel, to relax and enjoy some privacy. First we stayed at an upmarket place right next to Bondi Beach for two nights, did our usual coastal walks, then we moved into a very affordable two-star in the CBD for the remainder of our stay, to be closer to the action and to the meet-ups with friends. We realised that we are pretty much the only couple without children amongst our friends, several of whom have just had their first child during the previous year since our last visit. It was nice to meet all the new family members, but it also reminded us of how lucky we are without all the responsibility, free to live our lives as we please (well.. I mainly do as Ms B tells me to, but I guess that’s the secret to any happy marriage).
Having commuted intercontinentally for most of the past two-and-a-half years, and having taken plenty of plane trips for leisure during the previous twelve months, including to America, Australia, Asia, Europe, and – thinking of it – nearly to Africa, I mean, Malta is just next to Tunisia’s east coast, right, we decided that it was time to reduce the damage we had done to the planet, cut down a little bit on plane travel, long-haul short-term vacations, and to start carbon-offsetting at least twice the amount we emit.
We also started to focus more on exploring the beautiful British Isles, including visits to the Edinburgh Fringe (for some great shows), Brighton (for some deep sea fishing), and the New Forest (for some kayaking and horseback riding; the latter post is from an earlier visit the previous year).
While our blog had been suffering a bit at times when I was extremely busy in my day job, we’ve done okay. The best news of 2019 is that Ms B finally got properly involved, started to take over social media completely, and started to write blog posts every now and then. We’ve had some successful collaborations, despite the fact that we didn’t push for any, and for the first time we accepted money for a collaboration. In the past we had been offered money on a few occasions, but always felt that it is putting us under too much pressure. Now that we licked blood, we’ll probably actively try to get paid for our work more regularly, rather than just accepting invitations to check out tours, activities, or restaurants.
With regards to adventure and outdoor sports and activities, the year was not as intense as last year, when I jumped out of a plane and took a ride in a powerboat, or previous years when we went on camel and helicopter rides, did some downhill skiing, rock-climbing and explored ancient Roman gold mines. The 2019 highlights were probably the three rides in supercars around the Top Gear racetrack just outside London and my flying lesson near Brighton. We definitely didn’t do as much hiking as we had hoped.
In September our obligatory annual visit to Paris followed and we were lucky to be able to combine it with a meet-up with friends from Australia and continental Europe. We also finally visited the catacombs for the first time.
Most of the last two weeks we spent in Strasbourg. While studying international relations in Freiburg im Breisgau on the German side for two years a long time ago, I had done an internship with an MEP and had spent six weeks in Strasbourg, so knew it reasonably well back then. I had been back many times since, while, for Ms B it was the first time. I remembered Strasbourg as the perfect Xmas market destination and I’m sure I’ve never seen it without snow in winter. This time around, we were not supposed to be that lucky. It rained nearly constantly, often very hard, like monsoon, wrecking several sets of umbrellas and regularly getting us soaked to the bones. It was still a very enjoyable and relaxing holiday, including visits to Colmar and the little villages along the Alsatian wine route as well as a spectacular spa day at the Roman thermal springs in Baden-Baden.
So far, we have the following trips booked for the new year: a caving weekend in Somerset later this month, skiing in Bad Hofgastein in February, hiking in the Provence in April, packrafting in Wales and sailing in Croatia in May, hiking in Northern mainland Norway and polar bear safaris in Spitsbergen in July, Iceland in August, Greenland in September, Sydney in October, and Salzburg, Burghausen, and Vienna in December.
My last project in my day job just finished, so Ms B keeps reminding me to find a new assignment quickly. We’ve also got a brilliant group collaboration coming up with contributions from many other travel bloggers about their favourite holiday destination in their home country.
Yesterday we rang the new year in quietly at home with a bit of mulled wine and some Christmas cookies. 2020, bring it on!