2011 was both a wonderful and weird year. It was strange in that after a well-planned 2010, knowing exactly where we’d be travelling every two weeks for the year of our 12-month round-the-world grand tour, 2011 was full of surprises, punctuated by plans that continually changed and last minute trips, and we really slowed down, spending months at a time in places.
We began the year in a chilly Berlin, having taken the train from an even colder Krakow, then spent the month of January in a crisp Edinburgh, where we finished our grand tour. We kicked off February with a wine conference and trips to the Minho and Douro wine regions in sunny Portugal, celebrating the end of the project with plenty of vino and porto. (Yes, after a full winter in Europe, I was a little obsessed by the weather.)
After a short stay in Dubai we were off to sultry Bangkok to finish a guidebook and work on magazine stories, and subsequently spent the good chunk of the year based there, doing various trips to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia on assignment. Those trips to Saigon, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and along the Mekong to Luang Prabang, were the highlights of our year.
We returned to Australia to my uncle’s home in Bendigo to face a wintery spring (what’s with the cold weather, everywhere?), recuperate from our travels, and see family and friends we hadn’t seen for over 18 months. My aunt breaking her leg coincided with my uncle’s move to Orange for work, so Terence and I stayed on longer than planned to play housekeepers, animal-carers and cook (Terence), for two and a half months, before hitting the road again in Australia.
We spent a month eating our way through the best restaurants of Melbourne and Sydney for magazine stories, then, over the course of another month, flew to Brisbane to do the 6-day Southern Spirit train journey to Adelaide, spent some time in Adelaide, did a quick wine-focused trip to the Barossa Valley, and then enjoyed some very pleasant time on each of Kangaroo Island, Lord Howe Island, and Hamilton Island, for magazine stories and Grantourismo. We’ll be posting those stories in coming weeks.
Somewhat ironically, at a time when print is supposedly dead, and after a year focused mainly on the blog and social media, we spent most of 2011 writing for magazines and newspapers, for everything from Wanderlust and Get Lost, Lifestyle+Travel and Voyeur, to The Independent and The Telegraph, with some occasional online writing for travel sites, such as VTravelled, Miss Citty Kitty and Directline Holidays. It’s been busy too: we wrote scores of stories and Terence had hundreds of photos published, including two magazine covers. It’s been so hectic that we’re desperate for a holiday, even after having time off over Christmas here in Bendigo.
What’s next? Lots more writing, the imminent launch of some of our own projects, and some very vague travel plans. In a sort of weird and wonderful way, we have no idea what 2012 will bring. And we kind of like it that way. What about you? Whatever you do… have a Happy New Year!
Some of our favourite stories from 2011 on Grantourismo, in no particular order:
At Home Anywhere and Having a Sense of Belonging Everywhere
This reflective post on feeling at home in the world seemed to hit a nerve with our readers.
A Winter’s Tale: Our First Full Winter in Europe
A post by Terence about crisp days, shedding layers, and slurping goulash in Europe’s winter wonderlands.
Vodka and Pickles
Reflections on my grandfather’s ‘firewater’ prompted by sips of vodka with crunchy pickled gherkins in Krakow.
Making Merit En Masse: Giving Alms to 12,600 Monks in Bangkok
“Shades of saffron, mustard and tangerine stretched as far as our eyes could see — the robes of some 12,600 Buddhist monks from southern Thailand…”
Exploring the Isaan: the Khmer Temple of Prasat Phanom Rung
On the first day of our road trip through Thailand’s Isaan region, we woke just a few hours after going to sleep to get in the car and drive in the darkness and drizzling rain to see a rare spectacle at these enchanting Khmer temples.
Footpath Feasting: Sukhumvit 38 aka Soi 38 Thonglor Bangkok
A ‘how to’ guide to our beloved eat street in one of our favourite cities in the world.
Kicking Back in Bangkok: Talad Rot Foi, Weekend Train Market
Another guide; this one to one of the most fun places to spend a weekend evening in Bangkok, the hipster train market.
Siem Reap, the Cambodian City That Slowly Reveals Itself
A reflective post about how first impressions are generally the worst ones.
Last Minute Christmas Tips from Australia’s Finest Chefs
Since we’ve been back in Australia, we’ve been lucky to spend time with some of Australia’s greatest chefs for magazine and web stories (see this VTravelled piece), from people we’ve admired for more than 20 years, such as Neil Perry, whose restaurant Rockpool was the first restaurant that really captured our foodie imaginations, to the men currently considered to be two of Australia’s greatest chefs, Peter Gilmore and Dan Hunter. We asked them for some cooking and shopping tips and they kindly obliged.