From Paris to Kenya, Manchester to Rome and road-tripping around Ireland, 2019 has been my best year of travel yet! I even managed to tick 5 things off my bucket list, and 4 of those were just on one trip alone! So here are my 2019 travel highlights..
Towards the end of 2018, Jass started a new job which involves working on projects all around the UK and sometimes abroad. He got really lucky with his first project as it was in Dublin. He’d fly out at stupid o’clock on Monday mornings, ready to start work at 9am in Dublin and come home late on Thursday evenings.
January – Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny & Cork
We decided that I’d fly out with him in January with just a one-way ticket and spend at least a month there. I’d been to Dublin before, but I always wanted to see more of Ireland and this was the best way to do it.
We spent the whole of January in Ireland. During the week; Monday to Thursday, we were in Dublin. While Jass was at work, I’d work from hotel rooms and coffee shops and also wander around the city and do touristy things on my own.
He’s meant to work from home on Friday’s, so we’d check out of the hotel every Thursday and hire a car to go on long weekend road trips.
One weekend we went to Galway, (read my city guide, here) and it was like I’d pictured it, but better! It’s such a quaint, unique little city. Another weekend, we went to Kilkenny; another adorable little town en route to Cork. We spent a night there to break up the journey as Cork is a bit further away from Dublin, and then two nights in Cork.
While January certainly isn’t the right month to visit Ireland, weather wise, we simply fell in love with the country.
Read more: 51 Unusual & Unique Things To Do In Dublin
February – Paris & Dublin
Eurostar had a huge sale on black friday the previous year, so I’d booked us cheap train tickets to visit Paris for a long weekend.
In fact, we only went to Paris for one night, but had almost 48 hours there because of the train times. I’ve never liked Paris, but my last visit was 13 years ago and so I wanted to go back and see if I get the hype because everybody else seems to love it so much! You can read my thoughts on that, here.
I had lots going on at home in February with blogging events, family parties and tickets to Boyzone’s final concert, but I still managed to squeeze in another trip to Dublin towards the end of the month!
March – Dublin, Belfast, The Giant’s Causeway, Brussels & Bruges
We spent just over two weeks in Dublin again, and this time we hired a car and drove to Belfast one weekend.
Belfast isn’t a city that I hear about a lot and I don’t know anybody who’s been there but I was fascinated by it’s history. It’s such a great place to visit for a long weekend, with tons of fun, cultural things to do and some incredible restaurants too!
We also drove up to the Giant’s Causeway on the coastal route which was such an incredible drive. It’s hard to believe that we have such a stunning coastline in the UK, with it’s beautiful windy roads and picturesque villages on the way.
We spent our final weekend in Dublin in the city for the first time. It was great to be able to finally explore Dublin together and take Jass to my favourite cafes, brunch spots and shops that were usually closed by the time he finished work during the week. It was bittersweet though as I truly fell in love with Dublin and knew that we wouldn’t be coming back any time soon once we left!
Brussels & Bruges
We didn’t have time to dwell though, because after a week at home, we were off to Brussels for a long weekend on the Eurostar. The other cheap tickets I’d bagged in their black Friday sale!
I must admit that I don’t love most European city breaks, and Brussels was disappointing. Again, we’d been before over 10 years ago, but I couldn’t resist the sale and wanted to revisit. To me, it almost felt like an extension of Paris; a cold, wet, miserable country with mediocre (vegetarian) cuisine and beautiful architecture.
We squeezed in a day trip to Bruges during our stay which was glorious. It was cold, but the sun was shining that day and Bruges is such a romantic little village that makes you feel as though you’re in a fairytale. It’s a great place to wander around with a camera in hand as everything is postcard perfect. We were sad we didn’t have enough time to visit Ghent too as that’s meant to be just as beautiful.
April – Windsor
April was a really quiet month. Jass’s project in Dublin had ended and he took his mum to India for a family wedding for two weeks. We didn’t travel anywhere, but as the weather started to warm up, we went on a day trip to The Oakley Court for a picnic!
Jass had booked a night here for my birthday a couple of years ago (read about that, here) and we always said we’d come back for the day. The country house has gorgeous gardens on the banks of the Thames, and so we packed a picnic and had a lovely relaxing day there, basking in the first of the summer sun.
May – Marlow
It was another quiet month, but we went on a spa break at the Crowne Plaza in Marlow.
My aunt had gifted me a voucher for a one night hotel stay including dinner for my birthday the year before, and it took me ages to find a hotel! This was the best of a bad bunch, and believe me, it was bad! The hotel was dated and location awful. However, the food was good and spa facilities were decent so it wasn’t too bad overall!
June – Derby
We never usually travel abroad during the summer months because it costs a lot more during the school holidays and the weather is usually pretty decent at home. However, Jass surprised me with a weekend getaway to Breadsall Priory; the world’s oldest Marriott.
It was a lovely little getaway, purely because they have a pool and beautiful grounds to wander around and explore.
July – Dublin
This was a really exciting month as I got to go back to Dublin for a couple of nights! Not only that, it was my first girls trip away with my cousins.
We found flights for under £30 return which was amazing considering the time of year and didn’t pay for extra luggage as we were only there for 2 nights. On top of that, my uncle very kindly used his reward points that he’d been saving up to book us two rooms at the Intercontinental for free! What a legend! You can read all about that, here.
We had a brilliant time; relaxing in the pool, having drinks at rooftop bars and eating our way through the city. Best of all, I got to take them to all my favourite spots around the city.
August – Rome
We celebrated our wedding anniversary in Rome this year. Jass told me to pack a bag with swimwear and I had no idea where we were going!
We arrived at one of the most stunning hotel’s I have ever stayed at; Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Resort. We spent two glorious nights of pure relaxation here, before moving to another hotel closer to the city for sightseeing.
September – Manchester & Oxford
Jass had started working on a new project in Manchester in the summer. Just like the Dublin project, he’d been spending 4 days a week there. I went up with him a couple of times in September with him and visited my sister who lives there.
We also went on a day trip to Oxford. We were bored one weekend, and I remembered reading about Europe’s biggest Oxfam warehouse that had opened up in Oxford. They sell all sorts from furniture to designer bags and everything in between and I was curious! Of course there were no designer labels in sight by the time we arrived – I’m guessing people had nabbed these bargains within a few hours of the store opening. However we had a lovely day walking around the city and enjoying the last of the summer sunshine.
October – Manchester
Another quiet month, where I spent a couple of weeks in Manchester.
There’s just something about hotel rooms and coffee shops.. I’m so productive working in these environments and get a lot done.
November – Kenya
The trip where I managed to tick four things off my bucketlist – Kenya!
- Visit a new continent; Africa ✅
- Feed giraffes in their natural environment ✅
- Go abroad with my grandparents as an adult ✅
- Experience glamping ✅
This was our big trip of the year and we met my grandparents out there. They’d flown out a week before us to attend a family wedding and we arrived shortly after it was over. I used to go abroad with my grandparents all the time when I was a child, so this was a really special trip. I’m grateful I got to experience it with them as an adult too. My family are from East Africa and we still have family living there, so it was fascinating to see where they used to live and the business my grandfather started in the 60’s.
Visiting giraffe centre in Nairobi was one of my favourite things I have ever, ever done. I simply adored the giraffes; not only did I get to feed them all, I kissed one too 😉
We went on safari to the Maasai Mara, and stayed in a lodge beside the Mara river; Ashnil Mara Camp. Essentially, we slept in a tent surrounded by hippos in the river nearby, bush buck and tons of creepy crawlies. While I’d always been very sceptical about glamping, this was such an amazing experience. The frequent lack of electricity, wifi and hot water, creepy crawlies and terrifying sounds of the wild animals all night long were all worth it. In fact, was the best bed I slept in on our entire trip!
December – Oslo
We got back from Kenya on 1 December and I launched straight into Vlogmas! In hindsight probably wasn’t a wise decision. However, my cousin, Jass and I flew to Oslo for the day!
We’ve all been before, separately, and had eaten at an Indian restaurant there that we loved. We’ve spent years joking that if we find cheap flights, we’d go back to Oslo for the day, just to eat there – and we did just that!
The restaurant has changed names to ‘Mantra by Mister India’ now, but the chefs and management are the same. It was honestly the best Indian meal we’ve ever had!
While we were there, we also went to the Christmas markets which was such a great experience. I’ve always wanted to go abroad to wander around the European markets, and the cold, snowy weather made it seem that much more Christmassy! It was a really long day as we purposely chose the earliest and latest flights so that we had a full day in Oslo. But it also meant that we were awake for almost 24 hours with virtually no downtime as we didn’t have a hotel room to relax in.
Would I do it again? Yes! We realised that it was the cold weather that kept us awake. It was nice to have a couple of pit stops in warm, cosy coffee shops, but we didn’t feel as tired as we might have been in a hot country. The heat always makes me more tired, and being hot and sweaty isn’t ideal if you have nowhere to shower and get refreshed. So yes to day trips to cold countries!
My final trip of the year, the week before Christmas was back to Manchester for Jass’s last week working there. We wandered around the Christmas markets there and had some great meals there.
Plans for 2020?
This has been an epic year for travel and I really don’t know what 2020 will bring. We’re hoping to finally become homeowners this year, so I’m guessing there’ll be a lot less travel. Although I kinda hope not as there’s just so much more of the world I want to see!
Currently, I have zero trips booked. I’m always pretty spontaneous and like to take advantage of last minute deals.. so watch this space!