Okay, so technically it was more like 16 months. We moved to London in December of 2013 because we wanted to explore more of the world. From a personal, social, cultural standpoint, we loved living there. Unfortunately, professionally, it was not the best situation for us. So after 16 months, we left and moved to New Zealand. But that’s a story for another day. This is about London.
I had a work meeting in Lerici, Italy, and given the many interesting places nearby, I decided to fly out early and spend a day in Florence. Landed in Pisa late on Friday night (around 10pm) and caught the train to Florence. Got into the hotel around 12:30am. Spent all of Saturday exploring the city and caught the Sunday morning train back to Pisa to meet up with colleagues. Despite the short time, I loved Florence for the beautiful art and architecture.
Since we’d already been to Spain (Barcelona) and France (Marseille), we decided to go to Italy for a summer trip. Since we’d been to southern and central Italy (Amalfi, Lerici/Cinque Terre) before, we decided to go north this time, to the lake district. I’d been to Lake Como many years ago for a weekend, and had found it quite beautiful. This time we settled on Lake Garda between Milan and Verona.
The south of France was our next destination for a bit of sun and heat. Unfortunately, we arrived at the tail end of a wet and cold spell. But we made the best of it, and ended up with some very nice days to explore the city and the surroundings.
After a fantastic visit to Istanbul about 6 months ago, I wanted to return with my family, to get them to enjoy my favourite city as well. The chance came over the Easter holiday in April, when we took a week-long trip to the Bosphorus. While September was not a bad time for my last visit, April offered a different view — it was cooler and cloudier, but other benefits more than made up for it.
Barcelona had been on my list of top 5 cities to visit (along with Istanbul, Hong Kong, Sydney, and Rio) since high school. Reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind after college only deepened my interest in the city. It was therefore somewhat natural that we made Barcelona our first destination after moving to London and made a quick 3-day trip to the north of Spain in late February.
It was entirely my fault. Soon after I transferred to London in January 2013, I had to go on a business trip to Krakow, Poland. Perhaps it was the fact that it was not very cold in London at the time (at least compared to what I was used to in the Colorado mountains), but I failed to look at the weather forecast for Krakow and did not take my heavy winter clothing. Plus I failed to remember that humid cold (as in much of Europe) feels much colder than dry cold (as in Colorado). What resulted were some freezing days and nights in an otherwise charming old European city.
It all started with the Argonauts. I read The Jason Voyage by Tim Severin about 20 years ago in high school and was fascinated by the description of the Bosphorus and the grand city that straddled the famous passage — Istanbul! Ever since then Istanbul has been on my list of places to visit. I finally got the chance to turn that wish into reality during a work trip to Europe in September 2012. Took a few days ahead of a meeting in Amsterdam and flew down to Turkey.
After a week of work in London, I extended my stay over the weekend and visited Dubrovnik since I’d always heard a lot of good things about it. Arrived on Saturday afternoon. The bus ride from the airport, above the cliffs dropping down to the deep blue sea gave a tantalizing glimpse of what lay ahead. A walled fortress city set against an azure sky under a bright blue sky. Dubrovnik Old Town really does look like something out of a fairy tale, beginning with the imposing stone walls that encircle it.
I really lucked out in working on a project with colleagues based in La Spezia, Italy, next to Cinque Terre. My last trip there had been in the winter, when things were quite dead. So I was excited when the chance came to go back in the summer. I arrived in Lerici on a Saturday, leaving Sunday free for exploring. Given the gorgeous weather, my colleague and I decided to take the boat from Lerici to Portovenere across the Gulf of Poets.