Thursday, December 28, 2023

Eight countries in one year

One plan for after my retirement in 2020 was to travel the world and experience new places and peoples before I kick the bucket. Covid quickly put a stop to my plans, but 2023 was finally the year that Roma and I got to believe in our dreams. This year we visited eight different countries - some for the first time: UK, France, Spain, Dubai, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and South Africa.

My Google Timeline.

First up in January was a trip to London with our daughters Claire, Kate, and Vicki. It's not often that the five of us manage to get together at the same time, so this was quality family time. London is a fantastic city to visit, though I did find it very crowded and a bit on the expensive side.


A big trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand (with a stop off in Dubai) followed in February and March. This was the furthest from Ireland that I had ever been, and by far the most different experience I ever had. We visited Hanoi, Hoi An, Saigon, and Bangkok, and also enjoyed trips by boat through swamps and the Mekong Delta. Vietnam is a fabulous country to visit with lots to see and do.

Two Paddy's in a Vietnamese field.

After we left Vietnam we spent a few days in Siem Reap in Cambodia. A much different pace to life here and we certainly had a very relaxed time. Angkor Wat is an unmissable sight to see and we certainly had our fill of temples and ruined buildings.

Going for a ride in Siem Reap.

After Cambodia our plan was to fly home via Bangkok. But since neither of us had ever been to Thailand, we decided to stay for a couple of nights. Bangkok was a very different city to Saigon, and especially to Hanoi. While distinctly Buddhist in nature, it had a European/American feel to it with tall buildings and streets full of cars.


In June we took the motorbike to Spain and France. We had the unique experience of watching our daughter Kate's marriage to Brenno on my phone in the middle of the Bay of Biscay on the ferry from Rosslare to Bilbao. We planned on a four stop holiday starting in the Rioja region at the city of Logrono. This was our fourth holiday on a motorcycle together, but the first with rain. Previously we had travelled to Germany/Austria, Route 66 in the USA, and Netherlands/Luxembourg/France, and not had a drop of rain fall on us. While we had good rain gear, it still was not too pleasant riding in the rain.

Logrono, Spain.

After plenty of nice wine in Logrono, we headed over the Pyrenees to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France. I have crossed these mountains on a bike before, though on this trip it was not as spectacular as  through Andorra a few years ago. Unfortunately Roma had to leave for a few days to attend a family funeral back in Ireland, so I finished up here on my own.

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France.

I moved on to Bayonne on the French coast and stayed for two nights on a river boat near the city centre. I got to ride down to Biarritz and also to see the Sare Grotto and Caves. Bayonne is a lovely city with a lot of water about. While I enjoyed myself, I did miss Roma.

Pont St-Esprit, Bayonne.

Our fourth and final stop was in San Sebastian back in Spain. Roma rejoined me here and we set about to explore this beautiful city. A highlight for us was a food tour around the Old City. We loved the tapas bars in Spain as it was a great way to try different foods. When we left San Sebastian to get to the ferry back to Ireland, we had some time in Bilbao and saw the incredible Guggenheim Museum.

Food tour in San Sebastian.

I though that was it for the year. I had spent most of the summer in Wexford and knew that Roma was planning her ninth trip to volunteer with Mellon Educate in South Africa. She thought it would be her last time, so we decided that I would join her (after all the building work was done!) So I headed off to Cape Town crossing the Equator for the first time ever on the way. We packed in lots during our week's stay with the highlights being Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope, Franschhoek, a Township Experience, and Robben Island. 

So that's it for this year - we are so lucky to be able to visit eight countries in one year. We are already looking to see where too next while we are still able for long trips. We are considering Japan for our big trip of the year, and I'd also like to get in another bike ride in Europe - probably Italy. We had a trip booked to Iceland a few years ago, but had to cancel - I'd like to check out some volcanos and perhaps ride around the island!

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