As I am in constant “country count” competition with a few friends around the world, I am happy to report that in 2011 I added six countries to the count, and was able to revisit a few to get to know them better. Below is a recap of the year.
Malta. Malta was a new country on my list and was quite a nice and relaxing time. As I was travelling with two Australian scientists who now live in Brussels, it was full of intellectual fun and political discourse as well. While I was there the Arab spring hit Libya in a big way, and the two Libyan pilots defected to Malta.
Cyprus. Also a new addition to my list, Cyprus was full of sun and fun, and amazing archaeological sites in Northern Cyprus. While I was there, thousands from the north gathered to protest austerity measures that, as they stated, were being “forced” upon them by Turkey.
Bulgaria. Also a new addition to my list, my ability to read Cyrillic came in handy in Bulgaria, and what an interesting place it is. I got to know Sofia pretty well, and met some great new local friends, who showed me around. My one regret is that I did not have time to get to Plovdiv, a 6000 year-old settlement with amazing archaeological sites. Yet another reason to go back.
United Kingdom. I spent some time in London, meeting up for dinner with friends. I don’t really consider going to London travel anymore, I just consider it visiting close friends in a fantastic city that is just a mere few hours on a plane from New York.
Croatia. This new country on my list will become part of the EU in 2013. I travelled to Croatia with a Londoner/Punjab princess I met while travelling in Venezuela in 2006. What a blast this was – the cities were beautiful, the infrastructure very well put together, and the lattes were flowing in Zagreb. I was lucky to be there on the first night of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, which showcases the country’s classical music, theatre, opera and dance.
Turkey. I had been to Turkey before, but never to many of the amazing sites the country has to offer such as Ephesus, Pammukale and Cappadocia. I highly recommend a trip to see these sites. Having friends in Istanbul with an apartment on the Bosporus didn’t hurt either. One of the highlights was an Ottoman lunch in the Asian part of Istanbul. And the balloon ride over Cappadocia was incredible.
Canada. This year I rediscovered Montreal, and went a few times. A little more than an hour’s flight from New York’s LaGuardia airport, this amazing city still retains the tension between the ultra-cultural and ultra-sleazy that many cities have lost in the 21st century, making for a fantastic texture and a very fun time. If you haven’t been – go now!
Peru. Having been to over sixty countries, most people would ask me if I had been to Machu Picchu. Until November the answer was no – and let me say that this iconic site did not disappoint. I traveled there with my best bud who defected to LA this year. One of the best moments was when we ate in Cuzco at Cicciolina – named for the Italian porn star who was elected to the Italian Parliament in 1987 and who was famous for delivering political speeches with one breast exposed.
Trinidad and Tobago. This new country on my list was my first Caribbean island nation. I have friends who built a house in Port of Spain, so when they said they were going to be there in December, I went online and bought my ticket. There is nothing like Bake and Shark!
Further, and happily, in New York I was able to meet or host friends I have met while travelling from Australia, Chile, Turkey, Israel, the U.K. and Italy.
My 2012 travel plans are in progress, but already confirmed are Belgium, Uganda, Barbados and Luxembourg. Stay tuned for more, as my goal is to beat my 2011 new country count.
Happy New Year everyone!