Annnnnd another year disappears into the rear view mirror!
I didn’t do as much travel in 2018 as I have in some years as I spent more time at home focusing on my online Travel Store. It’s a funny thing about running your own business – or businesses – you can end up with so many plates spinning that at some point you have to make a decision to narrow your focus and hone your energy.
I undertook an online mentoring course this year with Sam Ovens of Consulting.com (he’s astonishing with his business insights by the way). I’m not very far through it (you do it at your own pace), but one thing that resonated with me was when he drew a quick diagram to illustrate that instead of doing nine things with one inch of focus, to be successful you need to do one thing with nine inches of focus. Well I couldn’t pare back to just one thing, but I did deliberately pare down to three things to give them three metaphorical inches of focus each and have seen some good results. So there’s a little business/life lesson right there!
This year my three prongs of focus have been this blog, my Travel Store and my hosted tours. My training courses, video content for destinations and website design for travel brokers have taken a back seat for now, but they’re still there bubbling away. I’m never short of ideas, it’s filtering them is always my challenge!
So here’s a little summary of where I went in 2018 and the highlights of those destinations in photos (all taken on my iPhone 6) to inspire your travels – which is always my aim 🙂
In February I popped over to Sydney for a travel conference (IMM – International Media Marketplace) and it was great to catch up with good PR and destination marketing friends as well as meet new people running all sorts of tourism operations. While I was there I took a lovely day trip cruise up to Parramatta from Circular Quay and wandered around on a little food tour. The highlight was learning that the Aboriginal word parramatta means where the eels lie – hence the rugby league team Parramatta Eels!
In March I had a monstrous birthday so my husband and I dashed over to Fiji and stayed at our favourite resort, Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort around on the Coral Coast, for a week. It’s become our favourite place for a complete break. We had our own little bure where a happy hour glass of bubbles or bottle of beer was delivered each evening along with a couple of little bites. They have two pools and I had a new book. What more could a girl want?! Oh and four restaurants as well as neighbourhood restaurants down the road that we only discovered at the end of our week.
The highlight was spending my actual birthday at Malamala Beach Club, a tiny island just out from Denarau and run by South Sea Cruises. We’d booked a cabana for ourselves and enjoyed alternating between dips in the gin clear sea, drinking cocktails out of a coconut shell and eating the BEST kokoda (raw fish salad) I had in Fiji. It was so good I got their recipe. You can see the recipe for kokoda in this post >>
In September I took a small group of nine fabulous people for a three-week tour of Italy. There were so many highlights so I’ll show you some of my best photos.
Rome – we stayed near Trastevere which meant we could walk to dinner, but organised rides to take us to the highlights of Rome which were the Colosseum and a little known 1st century Roman house found buried under a 4th century church which is only short walk from the Colosseum and which hardly anyone knows about. Read my post about Unexpected things do in Rome here >>
On the way to Orvieto we stopped at the gorgeous hilltop town of Civita di Bagnoregio. It was a bit of a trek to get up to it, but well worth it when we got there – and this was where I reckon I had the best meal in my whole three weeks in Italy!
Assisi was another highlight and we stopped here on our way to Siena with a guide who talked us through the significance of this hilltop town, home of Saint Francis the patron saint of animals and ecology. He was born into a wealthy cloth making family but much to his father’s horror, he shunned the family business to become a friar, deacon and preacher. He founded the men’s Order of Friars Minor and the women’s Order of Saint Clare. He is buried here in what was once a humble grave but now has one of the most elaborate cathedrals on top of him.
Siena was our stop for three nights and this restaurant was where we had dinner for two of those nights. Our hotel was in a former convent just to the right – literally 20 steps away!
Florence was another three night stop and we were staying just a few steps from the famous Duomo (which I climbed to the roof of!) I do love this city. We walked over the Ponte Vecchio Bridge and I took so many photos, but these two were selected.
Cinque Terre is just so picturesque. It means five villages and we stayed in Monterosso and visited the others. You could easily have a week here as you can just take the train or the ferry to potter along and visit each village. Only the truly fit (and mad) attempted to walk them! Read my post about where we stayed and how we got around here >>
Venice is a city you need to stop and stare at for a while. It’s a maze of alleys and canals and if you see something you like in one of the shops you should get it immediately because the chances of you finding it again are slim! Read my post about how to spend three days in Venice here >>
Milan surprised me. I could imagine living here. Well perhaps a few years ago. It had a London feel to it (where I did live for five years) but we only stayed for a night in one of the more trendy, bohemian neighbourhoods with some great restaurants and one of the few canals that run through the city.
I spent a whistle stop six days visiting Shanghai and Xi’an in November. The highlight for me in Shanghai was the xiaolongbao, a style of dumpling that is so delicious and delicate. It has a meat filling and then soup so that you have to bite it carefully to slurp the broth up lest the boiling liquid squirt up your left nostril (I know this from experience).
Shanghai’s Bund, the waterfront boulevard along the Huangpu River, is the spot to visit for a stroll, people watching and the rooftop bars in the evening when all the lights are on. The impressively shaped skyscrapers on one side weren’t even started 25 years ago – it was farmland then! The shopping in Shanghai is also really great and I got multifocal glasses made for $85 in half an hour.
Then I flew up to Xi’an for three days to visit the astonishing Terracotta Warriors. It’s breathtaking to believe they were made over 2,000 years ago and only discovered in the 1970s buried underground. You can read my post about visiting Xi’an here >>
In fact I loved my visit to China so much I’ve put an epic tour together to take a small group there next year starting in Beijing to see the Great Wall, then Xi’an, and Chengdu to see the pandas, then a three-night cruise on the Yangtze River and finishing with an amazing shopping tour (and dumpling eating) in Shanghai. You read about my China tour here >>
So that was my 2018 in photographic review! I’d love to hear about the places you went in 2018 or what’s on your list for 2019.
If you want some tips for how to take great photos on your iPhone, read my post here >>