Looking back at 2009 – Japan, Madrid, Galway and Rome

I’ve been pondering my next trip this morning and it got me thinking about 2009 and how it was easily my most travelled year to date.

It started off with heading back from Australia via the States and fitting in a little road trip down Route 101 from Whistler to San

Fransisco, not to mention one of the most hedonistic and liver-melting weekends of my life on the legendary Vegas strip. From skiing at Lake Tahoe to wine tasting in the Napa Valley, that trip had enough variety to make it one of the best I’ve ever done.

Then, following that, it was back home to rejoin the drudgery of working life… I was pretty lucky though and landed my old job again which is interesting enough to keep me going and flexible enough to let me get away again for more adventures. Considering I had been away in Oz and the rest for nearly 5 months I probably couldn’t complain that it took 5 months before I got away again, this time to Japan for the first time. A fortnight on Honshu with a friend of mine, Richard, showed me some amazing things, including the A-Bomb dome in Hiroshima, sumo wrestling in Tokyo and oily-black Onsens near Sendai. The food played its own part too with my stomach fighting with wasabi octopus, slippery ramen and crab-egg sushi before finally drawing the line at raw chicken. Two weeks wasn’t enough though and I returned home having not seen even a fraction of the Japanese country. That’s a return journey for the future.

Next we had a short hop to Ireland with my family, Mum and brother to be exact, to revisit our old stomping grounds at Lahinch. That was a pretty unexpectedly great few days where vats of Guiness were sunk, Irish steaks were celebrated and the nightlife of Galways surprised Bruce and I with it’s pretty over-enthusiastic prices, but equally enthusisatic locals, a few of which showed us exactly where to get the best uber-fatty food at the end of the night before consuming at least ten times as much as the two of us combined.

The penultimate trip of the year came about thanks to work in the form of a conference in Bari, Italy. A little manipulation of flights and a couple of days leave earned me 3 nights in Rome where I had my first experiment in solo travelling in a while. It worked out great though and I ended up spending Halloween evening with a Roman and a Ukranian, eating African with my hands the following the night with a cute aussie girl and finishing the trip in a rustic little bar by the river with about 5 random nationalities, all thanks to Couch Surfing. Throw in Collosseums, Pizzas, Forums (Fora…?) and Gelatos and you get the best city-trip I’ve had in 30 years. And I’ve only been alive 30 years.

The final fling was a wee hop to Madrid with another friend – just two nights and a rush around the parks, galleries and tapas bars it offers up. While being a completely pleasant city Madrid was, maybe following Rome, a bit unremarkable. But, hey, they can do food. The simplest meal I had all weekend was easily the best – a quarter melon, a gi-bloody-normous quarter, slathered in thin slices of the local cured ham. I’ve never tasted a melon like it and the ham was amazing, so much so that I’ve not been able to recreate either since, and I live mourning the fact that I’ll never eat the like again because it’s unlikely I’ll return to Madrid.

So, one year, five trips, tons of food and plenty of banter – not a bad year that. Can 2010 live up to it

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