The ACTUAL Grand Finale
Germany | Scotland | England | Singapore | Australia |
Upon leaving Africa, an unexpected last minute detour saw me in Munich for a mini gang reunion with Dani, Robert and Toronto fly-in Cesar. Munich is a great city and we made the most of it with classic Bavarian activities such as bike rides, beer garden visits and hiking to hill-perched monasteries. I also did the cultural thing with art gallery visits in Munich and castle visits outside of Munich. Linderhoff Castle featured sumptuous baroque interiors while Neuschwanstein is the fairytale castle every princess dreams of and the inspiration for the castle on the Disney movies. The fact that it was white asparagus and wild garlic season also led to some tasty meals. Gang – so happy to have had this unexpected mini reunion.
Back in the UK it wasn’t long before I headed off on an “All Scotland in one weekend” trip to Glasgow and the Isle of Arran with Anna, Vancouver friends Lisa and Rob and Bernice. Known as mini Scotland for having both highland and lowland scenery in one small isle, we pretty much did it all – driving around the island, castle ruins, whiskey distillery touring, brewery drinking, beach sunsets, cheese and more cheese (the blue is outstanding) and summiting the tallest mountain – Goat Fell – in a heavy atmospheric mist. Throw in some t-shirt sunbathing after the mountain and you have a truly great long weekend. Even if we did have some rather traumatic wildlife encounters! Big thanks to Lisa for organizing and looking forward to catching up with you all again somewhere…
A few more days and it was back to Africa; with my most constant African companion Amee. This time to Tunisia, a small country in North Africa where the Arab spring began a few years ago. An afternoon in the capital, Tunis and the medina (souk/market) reminded me of the best of the middle east – the natural interactions with incredibly hospitable people. From the lovely Nozha at our B&B to the market bread vendor who gave us double the food for half the price to the handsome soccer player who customized our street snack and then gave it to us for free to the happy musicians who invited us to join them for dancing; all created wonderful memories.
After Tunis we headed to the charming seaside village of Sidi Bou Said where blue and white houses sparkle amongst tangled lanes perched high above the Mediterranean. Reminiscent of Greece in appearance, its middle eastern heritage shines in the evening with old men gossiping and young men laughing in the atmospheric sheesha smoking tiled cafes. We made a spirited pursuit of all Tunisian vegetarian dishes…. Salad Mechoia, ojja, kafite, chachuka, lablabi, brik, chapati – all a delicious mixture of peppers, onions, eggs, chickpeas, eggplant, tomatoes and bread. Tunisian wine, well chosen, was also surprisingly palatable. It was a lovely long weekend getaway in the sun, only a few hours from London (well only a few hours when you don’t get too caught up shopping for sunglasses and wallets in the Paris airport and miss your connecting flight!). Thanks for sharing yet another adventure Amee!
Back in England, it was time to see more of the country than just London. Firstly Anna, Amee, Rakhi and I (mini Spice girl reunion a la India) spent a loungy weekend at the wonderful The Chapel in Somerset complete with fell walks, local beer and cheese festivals and bananagram competitions. Then Anna and I headed off on a road trip to Devon and Cornwall. I had always heard that this was one of the most beautiful parts of England but I still wasn’t prepared for how spectacular and “beachy” it all was.
Being active was our main focus and we spent many days hiking parts of the incredible “Coastal Trail” along rugged headland cliffs with soaring sea vistas punctuated by stunning and remote beach coves. Glorious sunshine was the order of the week (yes – in England!) and with the turquoise sea it truly felt like we were in the southern Mediterranean. When we weren’t hiking we were cycling coast to coast (28 miles and proud of it), partaking in great local cheese and wine on beach picnics, fighting off the wild animals (some beastly geese, a menacing turkey, a potentially rampaging bull and some obstinate cows and miniature ponies), visiting cliff-side amphitheatres, lounging in boutique hotels and doing the odd bit of shopping (both clothing and real estate) in super cute villages. Thanks for organizing a truly great holiday Anna. We’ll be back to the do the full Coastal Path when we’re old!
Next stop was Singapore to visit friends and generally soak up some more sun. It all kicked off with a bang with a great roti and rugby afternoon with Ahna and all her boys and a very fun mini Intrawest reunion dinner with Jeff, Ange and Venitta. After that I rarely ventured far from the Stephanie, Chris and girls resort by the sea…leaving only to go for a hike or a run or the odd bit of shopping….or to satisfy my roti prata cravings. Steph – as always so wonderful to spend time with you and your family. Until next year!
After a brief Brisbane airport rendez-vous with the globe-trotting Peter I continued my lazy ways onto Magnetic Island in far North Queensland where I met my family for a week. Excitement began early as the kids took their first plane ride. And continued when our huge apartment had views straight onto the beach. There was a lot of lazing around, beach going, early morning runs, hiking, kayaking, tubing and stand-up paddle boarding. My nephew (12) and nieces (10 and 8) loved it and I got to spend a lot of time doing fun things with each of them individually. The social highlight was the weekly cane toad races at the local pub where I managed to win first prize and $160 with my cane toad “Virgin”. A proud moment indeed! And I topped the week off with one of Australia’s best dives – the Yongala wreck. You know it’s going to be a great dive when you see sharks, turtles, rays and snakes in just the first few minutes. And the size of the marine life was mind-blowing.
Back in London there was lots of catching up with my regular crew. Over the past couple of months, my London times have included more interactive theatre (The Grimm Tales), indie movies, an Indian evening complete with a The Lunchbox screening and guest star Laurel from Chicago, trips to The Cotswalds and National Trust properties, Marijana’s spanakopita, a great “double-hander” play (Klook’s Last Stand) as well as dinners and lunches with Marijana, Amee, Anna, Al, Bettina and Tess. Thanks to Marijana and Amee for having “my room” available. My time was topped off by a lovely “farewell dinner” with Marijana, Amee, Anna, Sheila, Deb, Rakhi and Bernice (Emma – sorry you couldn’t be there).
It is said that all good things must come to an end and, sadly, my walkabout is now at an end. I am writing to you from Kenya where I am beginning my new life living in Nairobi. Tomorrow June 30th, exactly two years after I left Canada and my last job at Google, I will begin working for a company called Bridge International Academies. The last two years have been absolutely extraordinary – so many experiences, so many wonderful people, so much time to travel with and visit so many friends across the globe. I’ve cherished every moment. But I am also excited about what the future holds – a new country, a new job, a new industry, a new context.
Thanks for following my walkabout stories.….until I walkabout again…
Click on any image to open a slideshow of the pictures…
Thanks to Amee, Anna and Kellie for photo contributions…