2013 was very adventurous year for me and my family. Little did I know when we moved from California to China in 2012 that the following year I’d already be packing our bags again and heading back to the old continent and England. I am not sure how, but we manage to travel to all sorts of cool places and do a gazillion local castle and garden visits – mostly with last minute planning. An action-packed year when we add to the mix a house decoration project, and a forested garden in serious need of TLC.
I love the Skimbaco lifestyle of living life to the fullest. For me every day is precious, a little adventure waiting to happen. Maybe it’s meeting a friend, painting a wall and a walk in the beautiful Knole Park, or a monster-truck trip at night to an Icelandic glacier while hunting those magical Northern Lights. A moment alone, with friend or my family.
Every day is special and unique and these are my top ten Skimbaco Moments from 2013:
1. Moving from China back to the South East England, United Kingdom
We didn’t quite manage to stay a year in China. The pollution got unbearable and we just missed home (England). And we moved back when the Chinese new year started, a week before our Miss A. had her 8th birthday (we moved to China a day before our twins 3rd birthday, and to US the week my husband had his birthday, so there’s a pattern there). So after four years we are back in Kent again.
We basically lived in hotels a total of three months during the transition, and our son still keeps asking when we get into a car if we are going to a hotel or airport. The kids’ favourite games are called car hotel and animal hotel at the moment, complete with registration cards and room-service menus…go figure!
2. Family adventures in Sri Lanka
Our family adventure of lifetime. I’ll be sharing this adventure in the near future. Clean, beautiful and friendly country. Still authentic, no sign of mass tourism and the prices are very affordable. Amazing amount of culture and nature from elephants to temples, tea plantations to pristine beaches. Not to mention the oh-so-delicious (albeit slightly spicy) local food. A must-visit destination!
3. Going solo with children around Philippines
We loved Philippines. The people are so friendly and this country is made of such beautiful islands. It’s rather poor country in monetary terms, but full of happiness and colour at the same time. I lugged the kids to Cebu, the heavenly island of Palawan and back to Cebu to a different resort. I just loved the Shangri-La Mactan resort we stayed in, and could have spend there another week easily…
We saw the unique underground river in Puerto Princesa in Palawan, chocolate hills and nearly extinct tarsiers in Bohol and enjoyed the warm tropical weather in the pools and the sea. The beginning of the journey was clouded by a snow storm in Beijing, which made us miss the connecting flight in Hong Kong, but that gave us an extra day to enjoy HK and we weren’t that bothered of having to endure 36-hour before reaching our destination. Would I recommend travelling solo with three kids, sure, but it’s not going to be always easy!
4. Visiting the land of ice and fire (Iceland) in winter
My kids and husband were all ready to move to Iceland. We really loved that little remote island. The days were short, it was snowing a lot, there were no trees which gave the place an eerie feeling – plus here and there you’d see hot steam rising from the snow. How bizarre – and cool at the same time!
We enjoyed thermal baths, the rugged nature, Icelandic delicatessen and saw the Northern lights too. All that in 3 and 1/2 days with kids. We would love to go back in summer time for more hiking and exploring.
5. Road tripping in Scotland
Scotland was as cool as we expected it to me. We didn’t see Nessie, but stayed in a lovely Kinnettles Castle, hiked in Ben Nevis range, explored castle ruins, enjoyed a cream tea in the famous Dalmunzie Castle, and loved the moors in Highlands. I shall not forgot to mention a night at Hog’s Head Inn and broom flying lessons in Harry Potter movie backdrop- the Alnwick Castle. I am not sure how I had been brainwashed to think that United Kingdom is pretty small, but that is quite not the case – we ended up clocking some 1500 miles (2400 km) on this trip!
6. Getting to know Asturias area of Northern Spain and expanding my Spanish horizons
A family holiday that my husband missed in the end – and we met his mother in Asturias, Northern Spain instead and the kids got to learn some of their family history. This is such an amazing area, clean, beautiful , good food and even ciders – so different from Madrid, Barcelona and the beaches. I drove up to Covadonga area, listened to the silence in Playa del Silencio, admired the oldest cave paintings in Europe (dating back 40 000 years) in Ribedesella and explored the old city of Oviedo.
7. Breathing fresh air and feeling the soil
If you have seen the stories of pollution in China you’ll understand what I mean. To wake up to a foggy day in England just means change in temperature, whereas in China it would likely be a high pollution day meaning you couldn’t go outside. You could smell the bitter pollution, your eyes would sting and cry, nose hurt and the coughing was constant for us asthmatics despite the best air purifiers and increased medication. The world was grey on a sunny day and extended some 50 meters beyond the window.
I appreciate the ability to step out of my door and be in the beautiful Knole Park or some other nice nearby destination in few minutes. Sometimes alone, other times with a friend or my whole family. Little adventures, beautiful scenery and exercise, often finished off with a lovely cream tea. Muddy trails just call my new fleece-lined Hunter wellies to splash like a kid and have fun! This goes together with having an own garden to dig, weed and grow things in. Pure happiness for me.
8. Rendezvous in France
This was no romantic rendezvouz in Paris, but something different and pretty cool. I met Katja for the first time in 20 odd years, which is a long time. We come from the same tiny village in Finland before we started to travel the world and eventually lived on opposites ends of the world.
After staying in the lovely historic Hotel Westminster in Paris, re-visiting the iconic sights, Latin Quarters for good food and some night-life we continued onto a lovely river barge tour in Burgundy. It was a journey of wine tasting and sampling chef’s local specialties on board the L’Impressioniste Barge. Add there some cycling on country lanes, drinks in an old abbey, a castle visit and vineyard tours – and you’ll get a very memorable travel experience.
9. Chasing Romans in Wales
For our eldest this was a year of Romans in history – and Wales had a lot to offer to that perspective. Such as an old Roman gold mines surrounded by gorgeous lush hills, ruins and some magnificent newer mansions and gardens. We had a very nice weather in Wales (apparently not that common) and stayed in a lovely spa resort. My Land Rover hadn’t quite recovered from the Scottish Highlands yet and was in service, so we got to test the new Range Rover Sport model, and boy did I like driving that car!
10. Beach-ing it in Southern Spain
Our annual pilgrimage to the beach where my husband spend his summers every year when he was little. Secluded, beautiful, rather empty and very a Spanish beach – very unlike the better known tourist trap areas. Despite our sometimes manic and nomadic lifestyle we try to foster some traditions too. Beach with the grans is one of them, another is celebrating pretty much every festival in each country we have lived in…and that list keeps growing…
I wish you all happy new year to you all and let’s all live our lives to the fullest every day! I would love to hear what your best Skimbaco moments were in 2013!