Old Year! upon the Stage of Time
You stand to bow your last adieu;
A moment, and the prompter’s chime
Will ring the curtain down on you.
Your mien is sad, your step is slow;
You falter as a Sage in pain;
Yet turn, Old Year, before you go,
And face your audience again.
Excerpt from The Passing of the Year by Robert W Service
Isn’t it funny how we tend to mark the passing of the old year with food and music and dancing and alcohol and friends, as if to provide our minds with as many distractions as possible from the fact that we are another year older and that another 12 months have slipped from our grasp? When you put it that way, it’s a pretty depressing prospect – and no wonder we all need our new year’s day hangovers to divert our attention from this inescapable fact! But once the party streamers have been swept away, the new page on the calendar turned over, the empty champagne bottles recycled and the Paracetamol has taken care of the hangover, it’s a great time to sit down and reflect on the year gone by; to congratulate ourselves on milestones and goals reached; to indulge in happy memories; and to try and learn from painful experiences. When I think back on 2011, the one word than springs to mind is travel, so here is my retrospective on 2011 as seen through an aeroplane window So sit back, fasten your seatbelt and ensure that your tray tables are down before we take a last flight over the year that was.
JANUARY: We packed our salopettes and headed off to the French Alps for our annual ski chalet holiday. After two years in the Portes du Soleil, we felt it was time for a change and havling loved our visit to Chamonix in the summer of 2008, we decided to return there. Chalet Prarion provided outstanding luxury accommodation for 12, directly on a blue piste and with a hot tub that overlooked the Chamonix valley – a truly spectacular chalet and highly recommended! We will be back…
FEBRUARY: Time for our annual trip home to South Africa. In two weeks we managed to fit in loads, including speaking at the Food Blogger Indaba in Cape Town, renewing our marriage vows on the beach at Cape St Francis, drinking great South African wines and enjoying some spectacular dinners, including one at the unforgettable Tintswalo Atlantic Lodge in Hout Bay.
Photo – © Yuppiechef
MARCH: Shortly after we returned from our February trip, my 88-year old father fell at home, broke his hip, and did not recover from surgery. He passed away a few days short of my birhday and so I found myself back in South Africa two weeks after I had left, for far sadder reasons. The only bright spot in the sad visit was that I got to spend more time with my awesome nephews, and that I was reminded how amazing my friends are.
APRIL: Prince William conveniently decided to marry his Kate the weekend after Easter, giving us a public holiday bonanza – so Nick and I took the opportunity to head for Portugal: First a few days in a lovely cottage near the beach in Afife, and then a weekend in Porto itself – a fascinting place full of history and (of course!) excellent port!
MAY: The month of flowers – so it is quite fitting that I went on a short press trip to Dublin to attend Bloom – a wonderful food and flower show. And at the end of the month, the first Plate to Page workshop took place in Weimar, where I presented the writing component of the weekend together with my talented friend Jamie (and Meeta and Ilva presented the photography component). Twelve participants arrived as strangers but left energised, inspired, and as friends for life.
Photo © Jenn Oliver
JUNE: The month when all my South African friends seemed to descend on Europe at once! Not only did we have 2 sets of houseguests but also met up with my brother and his family in Paris (well, Eurodisney to be exact!). And the next weekend I was in Rome with my two of my friends from back home for a girly weekend of fun, sun, food, shopping, culture… and general silliness!
AUGUST: brought my second press trip, this time to the rather fabulous Atlantis The Palm resort in Dubai. I was fortunate enough to spend three days there in the rather awesome company of Niamh, Neil, Chris and Maitha during which time we ate like kings, lived in hotel rooms larger than my entire house, stared at the giant aquarium on a daily basis, and laughed a lot. Despite the heat, I managed a trip to the spice and gold souks too – my favourite part of old Dubai. I also managed to squeeze in a daytrip to Paris with my good friends Lisa and Marius on the Eurostar.
Also in August, I travelled to Lincolnshire here in the UK to be the official wedding photographer at a friend’s wedding for the first time – nerve wracking but incredibly rewarding! More photos from the day can be viewed here.
SEPTEMBER: We finally for to take our Summer vacation and headed off to Corfu with some friends to spend a week in a villa overlooking the sea. It was our first visit to Greece and we fell totally head over heels in love with the place, from the clear blue water, to the friendly people, to the outstanding food. The last weekend of the month we also made our annual trip to Munich for the Oktoberfest.
OCTOBER: I had never been to Sweden before, and I could not have wished for a better introduction that the seafood journey organised in October by the West Sweden Tourist Board. Together with four other five other bloggers, I was lucky enough to enjoy a mussel safari in Lysekil, a seafood feast at Café Ferdinand in Lysekil, a walk around car-free South Koster Island and lunch at Koster Gardens, a lobster safari and lobster lobster dinner at Sydkoster Hotel Ekenäs, and an unforgettable oyster experience with Everts Sjöbod in Grebbestad. At the end of October I travelled to Italy for the second Plate to Page workshop, this time in Tuscany, to be reunited with Meeta, Ilva and Jamie and to meet 12 new and unforgettable attendees.
DECEMBER: As the days grew shorter and Christmas drew closer, I planned my final two trips of the year. First up was a return to Sweden, once again organised very kindly by the West Sweden Tourist Board. This time, Su-Lin and I spent the entire weekend in gorgeous Gothenburg, discovering its food, fika culture, Christmas markets – and hitherto undisclosed status as a shopping Mecca! And on Christmas eve, we departed for our final trip: a week’s skiing in Obertauern, Austria with my dear friend Johanna and her family. If you have never skiied in Austrua, all I can say is go – you will love it! And if you are after a reasonably priced, family-run small hotel virtually on the slopes with great food, do try the Hotel Solaria!
It was quite a year!! It has been a pleasure and a privilege meeting and spending time with so many of you, in so many different places – everybody that I met this year has enriched my life in so many ways. And for 2012? Well, I am not much one for new year’s resolutions, but I hope to travel as much in 2011 as in 2012; and I hope that Plate to Page continues to grow, inspire and nourish people in their creativity. And for my readers, I wish the same as for myself: the ability to appreciate happiness in the moment (not in retrospect); to let it go (in every possible sense of the word); to make time for yourself; and never to forget who your true friends are.
Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes – Henry David Thoreau
Wishing you all the very best for a scintillating 2012!