Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Hello 2013!

Happy New Year all! I hope you all had a wonderful festive period with your loved ones. We've just returned from our adventures in Malaysian Borneo and Hong Kong. I meant to write a reflection piece before we left on the 19th December but as usual, work was insanely busy, getting my new project off the ground. I was still firing off emails enroute to Malaysia, but upon landing in Kota Kinabalu I took my Director's orders to switch off my Blackberry for next three weeks and that was so nice!

In retrospect, 2012 was a great year from a personal and professional perspective:

Keenan and I started 2012 with a 2 week trip to the tear-drop island of Sri Lanka as our annual winter sun vacation. We loved Sri Lanka and can highly recommend to other travelers. Not only is it a beautiful country with gorgeous vistas of rolling tea plantations, sun-drenched beaches, and fascinating Buddhist temples, it is also cheap as chip. 

Upon returning from Sri Lanka, we began looking for a new flat as our landlord wanted to sell the flat by summer 2012. The whole flat-hunting experience was a  horrible and depressing experience as it meant that we had to most likely downgrade to a one-bedroom flat, or sacrifice on the quality of the flat. Friends and family know how much we love our Clapham Old Town flat. Luckily, he changed his mind and we promptly re-signed a 1.5 year lease through May 2013.

In February, tagging onto one of Keenan's business trips, we took the EuroStar to Paris (the 1st of three trips to Paris in 2012) where I randomly ran into my friend from graduate school walking on Rue Rivoli. She was in Geneva for work, and went to Paris for the weekend! It was a lovely surprise; we caught up over a falalel and stroll around Le Marais. My contract job took me on multiple work trips to Manchester, U.K. Despite visiting Manchester on at least 5 occasions, I never ventured beyond the town square or Salford Quays. I can't tell you anything else other than that I enjoyed staying at the Midland Hotel and there's a Taco Bell in Manchester. We also had the pleasure of petsitting for my friend's adorable dog for 2.5 weeks in February, and again in March. Haile the dog now has her own doggie bed in our flat. 

In March, another of Keenan's work trip took us to Lille & Champagne region for a little wine-excursion in Reims and Epernay, France. Fairly self-explanatory what we did: sipping champagne and visiting champagne houses. As a souvenir, we came home with no less than 8 bottles of Champagne, some which we have given as engagement and new parents gifts. 

A trip to Romania over Easter 2012 marked my 50th country I have visited in my lifetime. We started in Bucharest and made our way through Transylvania town of Brasov in search of Dracula. Early May Bank holiday took us to the Pembrokshire Coast in Wales for three days of R&R. Originally booked as part of our 'training' for a big trekking trip to Nepal in October (didn't happen though), we took a few coastal hikes around Tenby. Living in London for the past four years, we've come to appreciate weekend breaks around the U.K. As for Nepal, we'll try to work in it in our travels in the near future.

My younger sister came to visit in late May on her 3 week European vacation. Thankfully, Annie brought the glorious California sun with her and us Londoners enjoyed a week (yes, one week!) of sunshine and 25C/85F weather. For the Jubilee weekend, we jetted off to Seville, Cordoba, Granada and Malaga, Spain for a week of jamon, Moorish architecture, and cold cerveza under the blazing hot Andalucian sun. Highly recommend southern Spain -- great food, buzzing atmosphere, and stunning palaces. Back in London, the kid sister went museum-hopping and enjoyed an evening at the Rock of Ages musical, which we all thought was excellent and a lot of fun. As an early graduation present, Keenan and I treated Annie to a trip to Paris -- sightseeing, eating, more eating, sipping wine, and enjoying the City of Lights. J'dore Paris! Congratulations kiddo on your achievements. We are so proud of you. 

June 2012 was a big month for me: I became a first-time biological auntie; and I started a new job which I am still so grateful for the opportunity. There has been long hours but overall, I'm really enjoying work and my colleagues. My cutie little niece was born in Hong Kong on Father's day, 17th June, and as the first grandchild on both side of her family, she is so spoiled! At that point, we immediately planned a trip to Hong Kong over Christmas to meet the little munchkin. Speaking of family, in June, I also had the opportunity to catch up with Keenan's dad.  His father missed his flight to India and had an unexpected layover at London Heathrow. Unfortunately, Keenan had left to Venice for a business trip but as I hadn't started my new job yet, I schlepped it out to T5 to have dinner with his father. I'm not sure how Keenan managed to make his ungodly 7am flight to Venice as the day before we were at the Hackney Weekend music festival rocking out to Rihanna, Taio Cruz, Jessie J and Florence + the Machine until midnight. 

In July, we attended a friend's wedding in the Estonian countryside. Keenan also had the opportunity to visit Riga and meet up with the groom and his entourage for the groom's 3rd stag do, as well as make a trip to the Hills of Crosses in Lithuania. Of course summer 2012 was huge for London as my adopted city hosted the summer Olympics and Paralymics. The atmosphere was amazing! Several friends stayed with us throughout the Olympics which was a lot of fun. One of my best summers yet, plus we attended several medal events. 

For the August bank holiday, we took a weekend trip to Bergen, a quaint little town in Norway. We were beyond sticker shock in Norway as everything was expensive, at least twice as expensive as London. We couldn't believe it. Despite this, Norway is a beautiful and pristine country. Work trips took us to Amsterdam and Luxembourg in September. 

We spent 6 days in Taormina, Sicily and Malta to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary in October where we soaked up the late autumn sun before the long winter hibernation. Amazingly in November, we didn't travel outside of London. We celebrated Thanksgiving with another Californian couple friend who kindly hosted a lovely Thanksgiving dinner at their vintage-inspired flat in Holland Park. Earlier in the week, I invited my high school friend who was in town for business over for dinner at our flat. 

Another work trip took us to Paris for a short and sweet Parisian getaway where we ate our weight at various Christmas markets. For our annual winter sun-trip in December, we decided on Malaysia for two weeks, specifically Borneo, where we celebrated Keenan's birthday on top of Mt. Kinabalu, Christmas in the jungle, and New Year's Eve on Mabul Island.
More on Borneo later.

 Well, that's 2012 in review. Happy New Year all! Wishing you and yours all the best for 2013!

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