It’s just passed 7 AM in the morning. And with one more day’s holiday for the…umm…holidays, I am up early. Up early
enough that I’ve already cleaned out the kettle to make myself an uberly fresh cup of tea. I can only hope it helps to clear the muck out of my head from a bit of a dizzy and not-as-pleasant-as-it-could-have-been new years from which I spent most of yesterday in recovery. So let’s crack on with looking back at some of the Best of Moments from 2011 for Colleen.
Best Trip – Kenya. It’s impossible really to say that the first trip to another continent is not the best place you’ve been in a year. Especially if it gets you out of a couple weeks worth of classes on the excuse of doing “on the ground research.” I was so over the moon excited to take my first trip to Africa, although I had some hesitancy about going by myself. Those worries slipped away as I got off the plane, made my way through customs and got out into the brisk, dusty, dirty, Nairboi air. It was better than I thought it’d be and it only got better from there. The trip was made special by the place I stayed in Nairobi and the people I met along the way. There were quite a few late nights up talking till very late in the garden and I imagine keeping up half of the guests as most of them were staying in canvas tents in the garden. The locals I met, especially Paulino who spent a few days showing me Nairobi and taking me to various offices, couldn’t have been nicer and more generous. My side trip to Mombasa started with an overnight trip on the Lunatic Express, which was made really special with a full moon blazing overhead the whole way. I honestly can’t wait to go back to Kenya and to other places in Africa and have more time to explore and maybe plant some trees.
Port Charlotte, Islay
Honorable Mention Best Trip – Scotland. I think people sometimes get obsessed with visiting far off lands (me included) and forget about the beauty and excellence of places right in their own back yard. I’ve tried to go out and see as much of this island as financially possible since moving here. Scotland feels like a whole different planet compared to South East England and only a 5-hour train ride away. My favorite bit of discovery on the trip was Islay. I want to go back and spend a week of doing nothing but reading, walking and drinking whisky (not all at the same time) on either Islay or one of the other Scottish Isles. It was oh so lovely to share the experience with Eric, who hadn’t been to Scotland before. And before I go there next, I will learn to fully appreciate whisky, which I am working hard to accomplish.
Best Pub – The Earl Ferrers, SW16. It kind of had to be my local, didn’t it? Since moving down to London in June, I’ve spent most of my extra income in there. It took me all of about 10 seconds to start talking to someone when I first walked in and now she (Jessica) is one of my closest friends in London. The Ferrers is a hidden little gem in Streatham, filled on most nights with locals. It’s difficult for me to go in and not end up knowing someone else sitting at the bar. On top of that the bar staff is excellent and I am happy to go in and chat with them all night as well. The beer, when it is not sold out, is usually local and decent. I would like more hoppy beer though! Looking forward to wasting a lot more time in there in 2012.
Honorable Mention Best pub – Southampton Arms, NW5. I had one pint in here in 2011 with Eric on a pub crawl.
We went to the Southampton Arms had been named CAMRA pub of the year for London. It was the first place we went and I would have been perfectly happy to cancel the pub crawl and spend the whole day there. It was a classic boozer made even more classic as they only had a record player, no tv, and scotch eggs for sale. Not that I want to eat scotch eggs, but I see them as a sign of a good pub. Their beer and cider selection was the best I’ve seen at any pub ever. All wonderfully hoppy and from mostly small local microbreweries. Disappointingly I haven’t made it back yet. I foresee a trip up there soon though as my co-workers are big fans of it as well. Next time you’re in London, pay them a visit.
Best New Food Item – Baobab seeds.These were what I snacked on a lot in Kenya, along with mangoes and cashews. I’m still trying to find a source where I can get the bags of baobab seeds here in the UK. No such luck yet. I know most of you wouldn’t like them. The ones I had were a crumbly dry, sweet outside layer. Then the seeds are very very hard, but I ate them anyways. In
the process I think I doubled the size of my jaw muscles in a matter of a couple weeks in Kenya. I miss them.
Honorable mention – Halva. I must admit the first time I had this was in California a couple years ago. But I haven’t had it since until this year, when I have found it in various shops in London. It’s a seasame seed based kind of dessert, I think originating in the Middle East/Meditteranean. It’s a weird consistencey. Kind of mushy and dry. Again, it doesn’t sound very appetizing but I find it delicious. And I found some Halva with chocolate. I must admit I really like eating seeds. Lots and lots of seeds.
Best cycle ride – Boris bikes with Jimmy and Elizabeth. I was totally exhausted. My dissertation was due that morning. And Jimmy and Elizabeth were leaving the next day to Scotland and so it was my only opportunity to see them. Cue manic travel experience back to London from Preston and a wild afternoon and evening of drinking and cycling. Some of it in the rain. I had such a great time with them and I am so glad they made some time to visit me on their honeymoon. I wish I could hang out with them more often!
Honorable mention – coming home from work via Waterloo bridge.There’s no better place to view the city than on Waterloo Bridge. Every evening I cycle home, I get to look out over the city and
Jimmy and Elizabeth: real American heroes
it reaffirms my decision to move here. St Paul’s on a partially foggy evening, with it’s flood lights burning brightly, is a fantastic thing to get to see.
Best meal – Ethiopian in Nairobi. Never had Ethiopian before, but I had it twice in Nairobi with different groups of people. The restaurant was located at the Chinese Economic Centre on the 2nd floor. Right below the night club. Of course. It was just a great experience and the owner played some traditional Ethiopian music while we ate and drank.
Honorable mention – Ethiopian in London. One weekend there were two chaps on the same course I was on last year down in London. I somehow got ropped into meeting up with them for the weekend. It ended up being one of the most fun weekends I have had with strangers. I showed them around the city a bit and along the way we surprisingly went to a couple really good pubs. After a few drinks on empty stomachs we were in desperate need of some quality grub, and grub that a vegan could enjoy. We hit up an Ethiopian restaurant I had spotted a month earlier in Kings Cross. It was so delicious. And well priced at £11 a head. We were absolutely stuffed afterwards and I was incredibly gassy! Win for all.
I’m sure I’ve left out some other very impressive moments of the year. The first 5 months of 2011 seem like an awful big blur of writing essays and trying to find a job. And the summer makes me think of stress of money and writing my dissertation. So a big huge blur for 2/3 of the year. I guess that’s good. I marked off a few huge life goals in the process.
Not sure what 2012 will hold for me. Quite honestly I’m a bit worried about everything and lacking in much enthusiasm. I’m life goal-less at the moment for the first time in my life. And it’s not a very good feeling. I’ll need to sort something out soon. I’m open to suggestions. So long 2011. And here we go 2012………..