2013 was the year I never saw coming. I didn’t know the company that would change my life existed until just 2 months before I joined them. Not only has Topdeck taken me on a whirlwind year of new places and new experiences but it has also caused me to think differently about what is possible, about how I want to live my life and about my priorities. All of that is pretty heavy hitting stuff so for now let me keep it light! It’s a new year and I want to do a round-up of some of my favourite places of 2013 and what destinations I have my eyes set on for 2014.
This year I went back to a lot of old favourites, Florence and Amsterdam still remain two of my most loved cities. Each visit reveals something new to me and both places have a flavour that is distinctly theirs. Fresh, clean designs in Amsterdam and the beauty of old techniques in leather, paper and gold still carried out in Florence will keep me coming back again and again, whether or not Topdeck takes me!
|Florence by night|
Barcelona – During many years going back and forth from Europe for some reason I never made Spain a priority. This meant that when I first set foot there on our training trip at the start of the year it was full of fresh and exciting idiosyncrasies that made me wonder why I hadn’t done this before. When holidays came up for me later in the year this ibeiran melting pot of new and old called me back for nights of wild dancing and days of rich food and hidden churches. It also provided a starting point to seeing the rest of the country, Tossa de Mar and Madrid were other highlights of this holiday.
|Barcelona gears up for the night|
Berlin – Germany was another country I had never really delved into before Topdeck. I thought I knew my WW2 history but as we drove up in our coach to Treptow Park on the borders of Berlin I suddenly realised I had no idea of the aftershocks of the war. That park will forever be to me a place of learning, walking around with Laura answering all the questions that were suddenly occurring to me surrounded by enormous carvings carrying the words of Stalin and giant Soviet soldiers carrying German babies. It was surreal. When we got into Berlin later that day I was much more prepared and I came out of that city with an incredible respect for it. Each time I have gone back I have endeavoured to go out and discover a new museum or sight, not something that happens in every city but there is so much still to see!
Venice – I had previously visited Venice twice and not been overly taken by its ancient islands but when I was posted there by Topdeck for two and a half months over the summer I don’t remember being disappointed. I was eager for it to reveal its true flavour to me. And it did. Venice is a slow city; it needs time to attach itself to you. Like water lapping at a piece of glass it gradually smoothed my emotions towards it and grew on me like a barnacle on a boat. Now I’m home I have ‘Bramare Venezia’ a yearning for Venice. A yearning to see it on the horizon, growing larger as you cross the long bridge over, after just the first few foot bridges all sounds of the outside world are quieted and you are left surrounded by lapping waves, footsteps over steps and the chatter of tourists and locals. It calms the mind.
This coming year I have a few trips in my sights that I would love to take. The 34 day camper visits Dubrovnik and Budapest, two places I haven’t been since training trip when they caught my fancy. Dubrovnik was one of the first places I got to relax and eat ice-cream in the sun (and then stay up until 1am waiting for a burnt dinner, but that’s another story) so it already has good vibes for me and the same with Budapest. It was a stupidly hot day and I had to climb to the top of the castle district but the view was worth it and Pete a local Hungarian took me to eat Retes (a pastry) after we watched the aerial show from our high up vantage point. There was great food and intriguing museums, fingers are crossed for both these destinations this year!
The other trip I want to take is the Red star special. A hard trip to take (because you are going to all new destinations, travelling blind as we say) it might just be worth it for the places you go. Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Estonia are the places I would get to go as cook. The trip goes on into Russia but I would leave the group in Tallinn, Estonia. The thought of all these new and exciting places gives me shivers, I want to walk on glaciers, see the midnight sun, eat in mediaeval halls and visit Santa’s house!
I do also have places I will need to do outside of Topdeck. Morocco has been calling me from the many pictures that friends have taken there throughout the year. I was so close to going to Portugal last year so it feels like a necessity this year. Iceland has been a dream for a long time, watching the Aurora borealis has taken on mythical qualities in my mind which I hope it can live up to. I still have a crazy desire to know every square mile of Italy but specifically this year I think Sicily should be on my list, books are sparking my imagination on this right now. A brief visit to Krakow on training trip got me interested in a country that I have never considered before. Maybe this will be the year to discover Poland? Then there are the places I know very little about but would love to venture to with no expectations. Romania and Bulgaria top this list.
So many places, so much time. Get me to Europe!