Take 12 Trips

Back in January I stumbled across a blog post on TheTravelHack challenging people to take 12 trips throughout the year – #Take12Trips. At this point I already had some weekend breaks booked to get me off the mark – a stag do, a marathon and a wedding. The other 9 would have to materialise in 2016 as we went along.

My 12 long list eventually looked like this being fortunate enough to get my 12 trips in early … and I missed January anyway. Always grateful that I have the ability to visit so many places, and aware of the environment impact of flying I’m pleased to say the 12 trips conveniently broke down as:

  • 4 by train
  • 4 by car
  • 4 by plane

Trip 1 – Paris – February

First up a work conference in Eurodisney Paris. It was low season but there were still a surprisingly large number of families around. The alarm has to be set at 4am to get there on the Eurostar. Ouch!

Meeting Minnie Mouse in Eurodisney

Meeting Minnie Mouse in Eurodisney

Trip 2 – València – February

A stag do in València for our pal Osman. Not the most obvious stag do choice but much better for it as we weren’t surrounded by lots of other stag dos! It was lovely to experience t-shirt weather so early on in the year, explore the food markets and follow Valencia’s snaking green park all the way to the beach.

Valencia's 'City of Arts and Sciences'

Valencia’s ‘City of Arts and Sciences’

Trip 3 – New York – March

An invite to present to a sales team in New York – another fortunate “work” bonus leaving plenty of time to explore out of work hours during the 7 days I was there! I also became the very first person to stay in my hotel room at the newly opened ‘INNside New York NoMad‘ up on 27th Street. My favourite location is always Central Park and I ran 8 miles around it with Christy Turlington as we both trained for our repective marathons – London and Brighton.

Running arund the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park

Running around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park

Trip 4 – Isle of Wight – March

Sad news followed with my Uncle John’s funeral in the Isle of Wight. They say you only meet your family at weddings and funerals and this was one of those such occasions. It was lovely to catch up with my 3 cousins and Auntie though and we were all blessed with nice weather.

Leaving on the ferry from the Isle of Wight back to the mainland

Leaving on the ferry from the Isle of Wight back to the mainland

Trip 5 – Cardiff – April

I kept my 100% record and attended the 4th and latest instalment of the Traverse travel blogging conference in Cardiff. Another great effort by Michael, Paul and the team. A highlight was being taken around Cardiff Bay in a rib at speeds up to 50 mph!

Our view we had at the 'Traverse' travel bloggers' conference in Cardiff

Our view at the ‘Traverse’ travel bloggers’ conference in Cardiff

Trip 6 – Brighton – April

Another of the initial “booked in” trip where I ran the Brighton Marathon together with 5-6 friends from the Hitchin Running Club. I feel I’ve now  “done” Brighton having cycled to it 3x in the “London to Brighton” bike ride, run around it in the marathon as well as visited the town many “normal” weekend breaks too.

Brighton and its wonderful Brighton Pier

Brighton and its wonderful Brighton Pier

Trip 7 – Cyprus – May

A  random trip to Cyprus with my mate Chopper for some proper, early Summer sun. With only 4 months of the year gone so far I was already over halfway on trip number seven. We stayed in Aiya Napa but drove west to Limasssol and north up to Girne, crossing the border into the Turkish occupied region. It was strange seeing the capital city Nicosia with blockades, barriers and border guides running through its middle!

Inside one of the sea caves near Ayia Napa, Cyprus

Inside one of the sea caves near Ayia Napa, Cyprus

Trip 8 – Belfast – May

Belfast in early May featured a trip for me and Rob of Hornblower Travels to see our Irish friend Emma, back in her homeland … but sadly with one friend down due to pregnancy (preferring not to fly after 28 weeks). The Games of Thrones tour was a highlight, culminating in the Giant’s Causeway and Rob wrote a little post about it.

The spectacular frontage of the Titanic museum in Belfast

The spectacular frontage of the Titanic museum in Belfast

Trip 9 – Cotswolds – August

The Cotswolds is very twee and makes the perfect location for a Summer wedding. On this occasion the marriage of my girlfriend’s brother Matty to his now wife Megan. We stayed in Lower Slaughter! Sounds omninous but it was absolutely delightful, like something straight out of ‘Midsomer Murders’.

Back from a run around the beautiful little village of Lower Slaughter

Back from a run around the beautiful little village of Lower Slaughter

Trip 10 – France – September

Lyon > Grenoble > Alps to cycle up the formidable and world famous Alpe D’Huez! The climb is 8.5 miles long, has an average gradient of 8.1%, consists of 21 hairpin bends and involves 1.2km of climbing! I recommend it to anyone! Just stick it in the lowest gear and off you go … for an hour and a half.

On the podium after completing Alpe D'Huez

On the podium after completing “Alpe D’Huez”

Trip 11 – Bournemouth – October

Another running event but this time “just” a half marathon along the beautiful south coast. Half marathons make so much more sense than “full” marathons. Not everybody can do a “half” as you still have to  put in the training … but at least it’s not a crazy marathon, allowing you to still walk around the next day! The four of us ran for charity Every Mother Counts

Completing the Bournemouth half marathon for charity 'Every Mother Counts'

Completing the Bournemouth half marathon for charity ‘Every Mother Counts’

Trip 12 – Norfolk – October

Hornblower Travels celebrated his 40th birthday so 12 of us descended on a small village near Cromer in Norfolk. An AirBnB in an old barn no less. A fun way to spend the weekend, and not too raucous. Well a few of us are in our 40s now🙂 The more of the UK I see, the more I realise there is still to see in my home country!

Cromer Pier in Norfolk

About to stroll along the pier in Cromer

So that’s my #Take12Trips! Anybody else been able to do the same? I wonder what lies in store in 2017🙂

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Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in New York

When you think of crowd-lined parades full of huge balloon cartoon characters floating down the street, one event that springs to mind is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York. It starts level with Central Park up at 75th Street, continues down 6th Avenue, before finishing outside the Macy’s departure store on 34th Street.

The start of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in 2014

The start of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in 2014

There are numerous hints and tips to get the best spectator spots, none of which I adhered to, so I ended up  standing with everybody else at the top of 6th Avenue level with 56th Street. Many rows of people in front of me looked like they’d camped out for hours in advance, commandeering barrier space and spreading out their folding chairs, close enough that nobody could sneak through any gaps but sufficiently far apart so that they took up as much space for their family as possible.

thanksgiving-parade-turkey

The Thanksgiving Parade Turkey

I walked backwards and forwards over a few blocks in an attempt to get closer to the front, but realising the futility of this attempt I eventually stood on a raised bit of kerb, trying to make sure that I had a darker office block in the background (rather than a gap) to make sure my photos of the floats didn’t come out too silhouetted. I probably didn’t get that right either lol.

Spiderman flying down 6th Ave

Spiderman flying down 6th Ave

I’d grown up expecting to see Spiderman and Snoopy and the parade didn’t disappoint. Also appearing were Thomas the Tank Engine, Paddington Bear, the Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, Skylanders Eruptor, Holiday Pikachu, the Pillsbury Doughboy and Papa Smurf but Spiderman was probably my favourite. The floating characters were interspersed with marching bands, cheerleaders, acrobats, Harlem Globetrotters, even the rock band KISS appeared on a float! All in all it was an enjoyably fun affair and another famous global event to tick off the list🙂

My limited number of tips, if any, would include:

  1. getting there early to get a good spot – preferably near a bakery/coffee shop.
  2. not standing on a chilly street corner where the cold wind is going to whistle around your ear lobes for a few hours.
  3. trying to get some dark building in the background (as that might allow the floating balloons to stand out better in your photos).

Here’s Time Out’s guide to the 2016 proceedings

thanksgiving-parade-thomas-the-tank-engine

Thomas the Tank Engine steaming down 6th Ave