The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. – Saint Augustine.
2012 was arguably the busiest year of my life, as I celebrated my daughter’s first birthday, returned to modelling for Jacqui E after a 13 year hiatus, and for the first time published two new novels in the same year as well as being published in several new countries and translations. Naturally this year involved a lot of travel, and we took every opportunity to travel together as a family and discover new cities, historical sites and walks. Some of our travels brought us to bustling cities in Australia, Canada and in Europe, but a lot of our most memorable adventures this year were well and truly off the beaten path.
Here are my top ten travel highlights from 2012, in no particular order:
1 – Barcelona, Spain:
We spent 5 weeks living in Barcelona this year as I researched and wrote the opening chapters of Assassin, my sixth and final Mak Vanderwall crime novel. Barcelona has long been one of my favourite cities, and living there for a short time did nothing to diminish my enthusiasm. Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, above, is one of the most spectacular structures in the world, and only one of Barcelona’s many architectural highlights. Construction began in 1882 and is ongoing, as you can see from the cranes. Each time I visit, the giant cathedral has evolved and expanded.
We were fortunate to be in Barcelona for World Book Day this year, and for bibliophiles and romantics alike, there’s arguably no better place to be on April 23. World Book day is also La Diada de Sant Jordi, or Saint George’s day – the patron saint of Catalonia, El dia de la Rosa, The Day of the Rose, and El dia del Llibre, The Day of the Book. On this day each year, tradition has it that men should give their novias a rose (red roses were said to spring from the shed blood of the dragon slain by Saint George) and women should give their novios a book. The streets were alive with book stalls and vendors selling roses and reportedly, over seven million roses were sold on this day and nearly half a million books, making it the biggest day in publishing for all of Spain.
4 – Belchite, Spain:
Belchite, in the province of Zaragoza, Spain, was the site of the brutal Battle of Belchite between August 24 and September 7, 1937. Thousands lost their lives and the beautiful village and its two cathedrals were all but destroyed. A new town of Belchite was built nearby, with the original town (pictured above and at the top of this post) left as a memorial to the Spanish Civil War. I have a long-standing fascination with ghost towns and abandoned buildings, and in my estimation Belchite is the most spectacular and moving ghost town in the world. The crumbling remains of the village have been used as locations for a number of films, including Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Guillermo Del Toro’s film Pan’s Labyrinth. A remarkably sad and beautiful place.
3 – Tasmania, Australia:
After 10 days of exploring Tasmania this year we were reluctant to leave. Our trip found us in Hobart at the famous MONA gallery, exploring the beauty of Launceston, trekking mountains across the state and exploring caves, and we were fortunate to encounter a lot of wildlife, including kangaroos, wallabies, dolphins, a humpback whale feeding her calf, and a rare fairy tern in Freycinet National Park (sadly one of only about 100 pairs left in the world). We enjoyed the spectacular Bay of Fires, and the ruins of historic and haunting Port Arthur, among other highlights. We look forward to returning soon – and for longer.
4 – Long Beach, Canada:
Long Beach, British Columbia, on Canada’s wild west coast, has a special place in my heart. I was born and raised in nearby Victoria, BC, and as a child I spent many summers camping and running barefoot up and down the magnificent sands of Long Beach, at Pacific Rim National Park (pictured). This is a spectacular and unspoilt part of the world, brimming with wildlife.
5 – Joadja, NSW, Australia:
The ghost town of Joadja was once a thriving oil shale mining town and has been abandoned since 1911. The property has recently been resold, with the new owners setting up a boutique whisky distillery as well as continuing conservation work on the ruins of the retorts, refinery and houses. Joadja is a forgotten gem for lovers of Australian history. The nearby cemetery is hauntingly beautiful.
6 through to 10 – The Australian Day Walks:
This year we enjoyed a number of memorable day walks, from The Grand Canyon in the spectacular Blue Mountains in NSW, to walks at Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain and Freycinet National Park. We also walked the ghost town of Whroo, Victoria, and the Munyunga Waraga Dhugan trail and Cape St George Lighthouse ruins in NSW. I have blogged each in detail, here, and they round off my top ten travel adventures this year.
Whether backpacking with our daughter or enjoying a road trip in some foreign land, we look forward to another year of adventures in 2013. Happy travels, all, and remember: Voyage, travel, and change of place impart vigor – Seneca.
* Photography by Berndt Sellheim and Tara Moss. All copyrights reserved.