Although I haven’t found the time to update this blog much over the year, I felt determined to compile my annual ‘highlights of the year’ post. I was just telling my friend Anna that it’s probably because I felt I could make up for my lack of posting by doing one big summary! The post starts off slightly grey but make sure to carry on further for more colour..
STARTING 2015 IN SPAIN & FRANCE
After having spent Christmas 2014 in Porto, I continued on to Granada, Spain. My friends, Fytra, Reena, and Flo met me there from London. Ricardo, whose family are from Granada, played host and tour guide to us. We went snowboarding at Sierra Nevada, visited the Alhambra, watched flamenco, went to a choir show, and had a seafood paella cooked and eaten outdoors at a rustic old country house courtesy of Ricardo’s parents.
We counted down the to 2015 whilst stuffing ourselves with 12 grapes – 1 per second during the last 12 seconds of 2014 – as per the Spanish tradition. This was HARD! AND you’re meant to make one wish with every grape you consumed. I could barely fit them in my mouth once I reached #4, what more think about what I wanted in life. By the time the clock struck midnight I had grape juice dripping down to my neck.
On January 2, I jetted off to Paris to spend a few days with another close friend of mine, Melissa. We had the best time goofing around at Mama Shelter Paris, where we stayed, and spent most of our time wandering around the city and lounging at some pretty cool spots. She introduced me to Bella, who was at acting school in Paris. The three of us laughed SO MUCH! The year was certainly getting off to a good start.
A LITTLE ACCIDENT & A BIT OF ROMANCE…
On impulse, only a couple of weeks after returning from Paris, I decided to go to Chamonix for some awesome snowboarding. Or what I thought would be awesome. In the end, I broke three of my ribs..
I don’t regret going, however!
Bottom left: atop Arrabida Bridge in Porto / Bottom right: in Aveiro, Portugal
Feeling rather poorly from the pain meds I was prescribed for my cracked ribs, I caught a flight to Porto – as you know, a city close to my heart. I got to spend more time with a friend of mine, Ricardo, whom I’d met the year before while on an extended summer holiday there, and kind of fell in love with him in the process. Well not kinda, I did fall in love with him – I even missed my flight back to London on purpose! But that’s a story for another post 🙂
Eventually, I had to return to London, where I caught up with work.. and finally went to see the annual pillow fight that takes place at Trafalgar Square!
Ricardo also paid me a short and sweet visit, during which time I fell for him even more, but I didn’t have too much time to miss him before starting my next big trip.
ROUND THE WORLD IN 3 WEEKS
I had a lot of flights to catch. First – to Singapore and Malaysia to visit family, then onto Los Angeles, to New York City, and then back to London. Not forgetting stopovers in Tokyo and Iceland.
Malaysia was a food haven as usual. It was great to see my family again after so long. It’s always great to see them. This was also the last time I got to see my sister together with my family, as she left for the states in August to start at university.
The pic of the trees on the right was taken from my front garden. My mom loves plants and so our house is filled with all sorts of greenery.
Left is a pic of our national dish, ‘nasi lemak’, which my mom prepared. She cooks this pretty much every time I’m home.
After a food-filled week, it was time to visit LA for the first time and I was excited.
I spent the first couple of days at an Airbnb in Los Feliz, wandering around by myself. I did a hiking tour of Griffith Park which I loved. My beautiful friend Pamela took me to Universal Studios and to what she told me was the original chicken & waffles restaurant – this was amazing.
I got to live my childhood dream of walking along Venice Beach on the boardwalk, watching people at the skate park, and I even got a little surf session in. I also discovered Hawaiian poke salad – SO GOOD. You must look this up if you don’t know it!
Best of all, I got to hang out with some of my favourite people from the travel world – Calan (who came from Dubai), Lola (who came from Boston), MaryAnneBeen, and Arnette. Memorable moment – ogling at slinky gogo dancers at The Abbey.
NYC HERE I COME!
Some people were surprised to hear this, but it was my first time to NYC and naturally.. I was so. so. excited. I was especially looking forward to meeting Anna for the first time. She’d managed to hook me up with an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen – an amazing location.
Anna was an absolute joy to be with. She made such a big effort showing me around. We did loads – the Staten Island ferry, Times Square on superhero day (we dressed up), dollar pizza (had to be tried), the Highline, partying at a rooftop bar, the lobster boat tour, a Sofarsounds gig in Brooklyn, boozy Sunday brunch, and a sunny picnic at Washington Square Park. I can safely say that Anna is the best person I’ve met in 2015 – what an inspiration and such good energy.
I also met Cha Nel, a fellow travel blogger. We spent a day at Smorgasburg Market in Brooklyn trying out a few things including the very hyped ramen burger (it was ooookay). The races were going on so we went to a bar to have mint juleps (apparently it is the thing to do), followed by ice cream, and a chilly walk across Brooklyn Bridge. What a beautiful day it was – thanks Cha Nel!
By this time, it was already May and I started to miss Ricardo, so he came over and we spent a blissful ten days together. My favourite moment was a dreamy afternoon laid on the grass amongst hundreds of daisies at Regents Park, bathed in the springtime glow created by sunshine filtered through wisps of cloud in the sky. Well, there were many favourite moments.
The weather was starting to warm and London was a lot of fun with my friends after he left, which helped a lot!
SUMMER IN PORTO
Not long after, I found myself back in Porto. It was Ricardo’s birthday. We went to Primavera Sound Festival on the day, and we had a picnic with friends.
There were a few visits to the beach too, of course. Being in Porto is always easy – life slows down and there’s more time to enjoy the little things. Also, I don’t get FOMO like in London (haha) since there’s just a lot less happening!
Before I knew it, it was time to pack for yet another big trip across the Atlantic..
VEGAS FOR ELECTRIC DAISY CARNIVAL!
Joyce flew in from Malaysia and we were off to Vegas – both our first times. The flight there felt like we were on a bus; it was full of noisy, drunk people. What you see in the movies is true! At one point people got so drunk that they had to stop serving alcohol for a while.
We were meeting a few friends there for Electric Daisy Carnival, a huge, crazy, electronic dance festival held in the Nevada desert. I’m not a big fan of rave music, but I wanted to see all those lights after watching a promo video of the festival last year. And it was amazing. We partied hard. I ended up in hospital for dehydration – thank you Dani Blanchette for rescuing me.
Top: Horseshoe Bend / Bottom: The Grand Canyon
We climbed up Angel’s Landing (one of the most fun hikes I’ve ever done – so hot though) and hiked The Narrows. We watched the stars and listened to wild coyotes in our isolated Airbnb at the Grand Canyon National Park. We drove into a what seemed like an eternally purple sunset as we headed back towards Las Vegas.
Best moment: Arriving at the Grand Canyon at dusk.
Worst moment: Not knowing where we parked our car after a sweltering descent from Angel’s Landing, at 45 degrees Celcius. I’d never felt such heat before.
Notable moment: Missing our flight back to London because we spent too much time at a sex shop. To our credit, it was an ‘award-winning sex shop’.
SUMMER IN PORTO PART 2
Lots of people decided to visit Porto in 2015 because of me (ahem), and Joyce was one of them. Of course, knowing that she would be in the pretty city meant that *I* wanted to be there at the same time. And so we continued our big summer adventure relaxing with good seafood and wine and a customary trip to the beach.
THE ANNUAL VISIT TO ITALY
I’ve been going to Italy at least once a year since 2008, and 2015 was to be no different. Fortunately, I was invited by the guys at Visit Tuscany to spend one week in Tuscany, attending a few summer events and festivals. I made great new friends and the experience was so enriching.
We bathed in hot springs, watched actors and dancers perform on a hill lit by the moon as part of a street theatre festival in Certaldo, visited decades-old family-run businesses in little Lucca, frolicked in sunflower fields, and of course indulged in a lot of pici (traditional Tuscan pasta).
THE BIG DECISION!
By this time, it was the end of July and I was tired of all the travelling back and forth. I wanted to be able to spend more time with Ricardo, but how? I’d never been in a long-distance situation before. Yet I knew that most of the time we were apart it was because I travelled so often, rather than the fact that we lived in two different cities.
I decided that I would leave my flat in central London and with the money I’d save, I’d be able to commute between London and Porto more often. This was more difficult than it sounded at first! I had to declutter – A LOT. It took me forever. But was thankful for my job, which allowed me to work from wherever I was. All my stuff eventually went into a storage facility near Maida Vale, and so it was done. Since that point, I’ve been spending more time in Porto, returning to London about once a month to check in at work and with friends.
BEING IN PORTO ‘LONG TERM’
I was a bit nervous in the beginning – what if I didn’t like it? what if I’m not as into Ricardo as I thought I was? I wasn’t one to uproot for love but somehow this felt completely right..
Thankfully, it’s been going a million times better than I expected and I hope it continues this way *fingers crossed*.
August and September were super:
I got to attend my first big medieval festival in Portugal with my close friend Dani. It’s amazing! So much effort goes into it. If you’re in Portugal over the late summer, definitely check it out.
There were many beach days with beautiful sunsets and dips into the cold water.
And more balloons!
There was a road trip to Lisbon and Sintra.
And beautiful yellow walls, which I love (this is obvious if you follow me on Instagram).
I did of course miss my bustling London life. The shopping! The food! My friends! It was tough sometimes, being in a much smaller city. I was happy for each time I made a trip back to London.
The pic above was taken at the infamous balloons installation at Covent Garden. Oh it was so pretty!
ITALY YET AGAIN..
Soon I was packing my bags again. I was to meet Kym there, who designs adventures all over the world for small groups of special people. I helped design the Italy trip and I was to learn the trade from her. Such an enriching experience and I met some very inspiring women. And of course, it was Italy. It was my 9th time to the country, yet there was still so much more to see and learn.
I couldn’t believe that I was in Cinque Terre for a third time! What a charmed life I was leading.
We went horse-riding through the Tuscan countryside, attended a cooking class in a rustic farmhouse far away somewhere, strolled along the cobblestoned streets of Siena, and bathed in natural hot springs we had to hike down a hot river to (see bottom right pic above!). There was also a no-music dance parties on a deserted train platform, live music at my friend’s bar in Manarola, and beautiful sunsets.
My favourite moment was us five girls singing ‘Part of Your World’ from ‘The Little Mermaid’, whilst enjoying the warm waters of a hot spring balcony that was formed on the hardened silica wall. Such joy!
ICELAND FOR A THIRD TIME
I had one month to rest, spending three weeks in Porto and one in London, before it was time to go again. This time, I was to meet Kym in Iceland for our second adventure together, where in one week we circled the whole of Iceland in a campervan with 8 wonderful people and collected some pretty rad photos:
The bottom pic of the Northern Lights features Kym and I shaping our arms into a circle. In the few seconds after we joined hands, the lights formed a ring much like ours. Kym has a much more profound explanation for this, including the universe and the soul and whatnot, but I like to think of it as simply a magical coincidence. Thank you Mike Malz for the great capture (edited by me) !
I learnt a painful lesson after this trip, and that is to value myself and be more confident in my own abilities and skills. I also hope that I can and will avoid being taken advantage of in the future. For now, I focus on all that I have gained from the adventure.
By this time, I had seen the northern lights a total of seven times!
Soon, I had to swap those waterproof hiking boots for flip flops..
MALAYSIA, THAILAND, & SINGAPORE
I had never travelled with Ricardo before, and this had to be fixed. So, a three-week trip to South-East Asia was planned and he was to meet my parents. The latter went extremely well, except for the moment he told my mom how he felt about marriage (“I don’t believe in marriage”) while my brother and I nearly spat our drinks out.
We had a little romantic getaway to Koh Lipe, and island paradise in Thailand. It didn’t disappoint:
Even recollecting the memories from this trip feels as though we were caught in a dream. The sunrises and sunsets were surreal, the food was all deliciously spicy (papaya salad come to me!), and the waters always comfortingly warm. We had a great time snorkelling. I tried to hold his hand in the water when snorkelling but I was pushed away; apparently I caused too much drag.
We went island-hopping and played with monkeys.. in Monkey Island. They loved watermelons!
The following pics from top to bottom:
– The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur.
– Chicken rice balls for lunch in Malacca. Often people travel to Malacca just to eat this!
– The Singapore skyline as seen from the impressive Marina Bay Sands Skydeck.
And in a flash, three weeks went by just like that! Ricardo loved his first time in Asia. He loved all the food – no matter how weird – and my mom enjoyed watching him eat.
I got to catch up with a couple of close friends including Joyce, who fed us super tasty ‘wan tan mee’ (a type of local noodle dish) on the streets at 2am after too much drinking.
We road-tripped with my parents from KL down to Singapore, with a one-night stop in Malacca. My parents were excited to show him the Portuguese Settlement, which turned out to be just a few streets but which retained Portuguese names (albeit with slightly different spellings).
The only bad thing that happened was… our live-in house maid at home decided to leg it – she stole a lot of cash (including from me), my dad’s iPad, and various other things. Worst of all, she stole my New Balance sneakers that I’d only bought recently. I WAS SO MAD…
OK MOVING ON..
ENDING THE YEAR IN PORTO
I decided that after leaving my family (which is alway a slightly tearful affair – it’s difficult when you only get to see your family once or twice a year), I would rather be here in Porto than in London. At least I’d have lots of cuddles from Ricardo!
And thus I spent December at a very relaxed pace. We spent many nights in, and lesser nights out. I even managed to cook a few meals (I normally almost never cook). Ricardo enjoys cooking more, and he’s pretty good at it. There was a weekend away up north in Barcelos (the town in which the famous legend of the Portuguese cock originated). I caught up with (just a bit of) work. We watched a few weird movies at home including A Serbian Film (so sick that it was almost laughable) and a Japanese one about a sex-crazed couple which eventually ended in the woman cutting off her dead partner’s penis because she was obsessed with it. Anyway!
Top: At Ponte De Lima, north of Porto
Bottom: Christmas lunch at Ricardo’s parents’ – lamb roast with rice soaked in a delicious wine sauce.
I spent Christmas in Porto for the second time. The eve was spent at my friend Dani’s house, just like last year, as I’d promised her and her parents after the previous year’s festivities. We were up opening presents from midnight until 3am. There were SO MANY!
And this time, instead of jetting off somewhere else, I stayed to celebrate the coming of 2016. We did the typical thing – join in the crowds at the main square to watch the fireworks and then make the best of the cheesy live music that followed until verrrry late. But hey it was novel to me! All in all it was lots of fun, with all my favourite Portuguese people :p
ONTO MORE TRAVELS..
I’m starting 2016 with a trip in ten days’ time, to a new continent for me – South America! And I’ll be making a stop in NYC to see Anna to discuss our upcoming adventure to South Africa that we’re both designing. So I’m very excited 🙂
If you’ve written any posts about your 2015 please share them with me as I would love to know what you did and also what you’re looking forward to this year!
I have no New Year’s resolutions. Just a huge to-do list.
In the meantime, HAPPY NEW YEAR! It is of course January 2.. as if I’d be on time and post this on the 1st. Haha!
PS – Catch me on Instagram or follow me on Snapchat (SMLCRZY) 🙂