Year in Review: 2014

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I’m changing things up from previous years. While I did travel a lot with enough photos to represent each month, this slideshow represents my year quite well. It was my last.. and only.. full summer in the UK. While I’ve lived there for a while, I’ve been away for business each summer. Knowledge that I was leaving, having less work as I wound down, and finding a perfect travel partner were all elements that lined up perfectly to give me my UK summer. Boy, did I see a lot. Enjoy and get a taste of my summer.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sign

To the parents out there: if you can give me tips on how to ask a passing family if I could borrow their child in a way that doesn’t send them running to the authorities, let me know, please. I feel like I missed out on a life-time opportunity here, because I wasn’t a child and didn’t qualify for this special school.

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Hadrian’s Wall, England, UK

My Favourite Things: Coffee

I am an American coffee drinker, through and through. I love my drip coffees strong and black. I can’t stand Starbucks for their burnt flavor. I refuse to order Americanos.

Travel has made my keenly aware what my coffee taste is. I had taken it for granted, until I learned the hard way that everyone drinks their coffee differently.

Chains

– Dunkin Donuts. Hands down the best ever. I grew up on DD and I acquired my taste for coffee through DD. Any New Englander knows that you just walk right into any DD shop and order a “regular” coffee. Which is hot, with cream and sugar. But you don’t need to specify all that because they already perfected the blend. None of the yuppified Starbucks “extra shot, soy milk, caramel sauce, three packs of sweet n low,  blah blah blah.” While I was living in Asia, I stocked up by the crate on DD beans whenever I was back in the States. Sadly, the franchises overseas have not replicated the perfect coffee. What a crying shame to the name.

Caribou. I am shocked, in a pleasant way, to see one in Istanbul, Turkey. First encountered in Colorado, I always associate this chain with fresh coffee beans of the hearty West. It is one of the places that don’t drown out the coffee flavor in their espresso mixes

Beans: Oddly, the most memorable beans I’ve had come from the most unexpected. And least accessible for many of us.

Saffron. We bought a couple bags while we were resting in the shade of one of their cafes on a really hot humid day of sightseeing. I am a fan of going to the local coffee shops instead of the chains, but coffee isn’t even that common in Laos. And it was such a fragrant fresh batch I had.

Yemen. Yemenis drink tea these days. But the history of coffee as a drink we know today originated in Yemen. First records of the drink was in the Sufi monasteries in Yemen. Mocha is the name of a major trading port in Yemen. So doing the math, Yemen traders played a vital part in spreading the popularity. I had a friend who was working in Sana’a for a few months and he picked up a kilo of beans for me. When I asked him how much I owed him, he said it was cheaper than the beer I would buy him. Sadly, Yemen is not a destination of choice these days, but it was such a potent pungent bag of beans that I was sad to finish.

Vietnam. Vietnam is a major bean grower in the world’s production of coffee. However, they are not known for their bean quality, often been used in blends as fillers. Their flavor tends to fall flat, and lack in that bitterness I like to jolt me awake. Then my father bought a bag off the street vendor.. and it smelt like rich dark chocolate. The secret? The beans were roasted in butter. Really, how can you beat butter?

Those Neighbourhood Gems: Every place has one of them.. a locally run, independent cafe, that might roast their own or feature a specific coffee source. As a traveler, I just wanted a good cuppa sometimes.. and I always am ecstatic when I finally do, especially if plain black coffee is hard to find.

– San Francisco. How is it possible to pick one out of a city of independent neighborhood businesses? At the end, it all comes down to where you are and what is convenient.

Kitchen & Pantry, London, UK. No matter how I try to time, pace, schedule.. I am always exhausted and thirsty when I walk around Portobello Market in London. There are many local shops to pick from, but I find myself gravitating towads K&P every single time. It’s hard to beat the selection, and the leather couches remind me of home.

Kuppa, Bangkok, Thailand. Sometimes I just want a hiatus from the chaos of a bustling changing modernizing Asian city around me. Walking into Kuppa is like an escape from the concrete high rises, into a contemporary zen, accented with old fashioned burlap sacks used for beans. Ordering plain coffee rewards you with a generous French Press to drink at your leisure.

– Chez Moi. Finally, well, I did out myself as a coffee snob. So what better place to drink it the way I like it than a home? I don’t even have fancy makers.. I have an assortment of them, but I always go back to my reliable drip machine. I tend to buy my beans whole, purchased from all over the world as I try to make a trip to the supermarket wherever I am, and ground a bag at a time.

South West Coast Path: Porthleven

Last day on my Christmas weekend trip. Thanks to the combination of weekend timing and Boxing Day, I’ve had an unusually long long weekend. I thought I’d be ready to go, but as the time goes by, I find myself more and more enamored by Cornwall.

I squeezed in a last hike. I started late, taking advantage of the fact that St. Michael’s Mount is open for the holiday, a rare winter availability.

I drove to Porthleven to try to finish up my segment. As I started to warm to the idea of completing the entire South West Coast Path as a life goal, I decided to try to tie my segments to the ones listed on the SWCP website. I was to connect the bit from where I left off on Christmas Day when I just couldn’t seem to get closer to the village within my sight- Porthleven.

It wasn’t even far. It was ridiculously close, where I left off that day. But it was far more scenic from the direction I walked today.

Highlights– West End: N50 05.581 W5 20.798
– East End: N50 11.292 W5 26.191
– Entire Distance walked: 5 miles
– Weather: dreary grey, but dry. Muddy, I now understand why people stroll in Wellies.

Porthleven: Charming town that grew from a fishing village and port. Views are much prettier walking east to west, with the rolling cliffs and varying landscapes.
I was every so reluctant to start my drive inland.

Year in Review: 2012

I put one of these slide shows each New Year’s (see 2011, 2010).. but with this week’s Photo Challenge topic, I’ve decided to publish this year’s a few days early.

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As you can see, I had a fantastic year. Hope you all did to, and that 2013 would be a continuation of a wonderful adventure.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Regret

My submission:

Caption Contest: What would you write?

How would you interpret? (my comments to follow in a later post)

Here are a few to get you started:

I regret not taking the lens cap off.
Dark regrets
I regret sleeping through the event.
I regret missing it.