So, like so many others, we’ve had to cancel our upcoming travel plans. In June we were due to explore the Moorish ancient towns of Andalucía, eating tapas, drinking wine and soaking up the sun. However, it turns out the world had other plans. Instead we are in our small city centre apartment, eating Cadbury's, still drinking wine and soaking up the unheard-of Welsh April sun from our balconette.
As humans, we are exceptionally good at adapting to circumstances. It may not feel natural, enjoyable or motivational, but we sidestep into a new reality, one which keeps us all safe in this uncertain and scary time. So while dream trips may be off, join us in daydreaming about the destinations you WILL visit, the sites you WILL see and most importantly, the food you WILL eat, when the apocalypse is over.
We came up with our 5 must-do trips for when the world is back up and running, so here we go:
T: I’ve had a life-long obsession with Japan. From the Pokemon and Studio Ghibli of my childhood through to the discovery of sushi and other Japanese cuisine during my university years. We originally looked at trying to go to the Olympics in Japan this year, but I have to say that I’m extremely relieved that we didn’t, when you look at the current circumstances. So what’s the appeal?
Firstly, we’ve never been anywhere in Asia. I’ve travelled across Europe, and while there are distinct differences between countries, I’ve never experienced the culture shock that my Aunt described from her business trips to Japan. She talked of neon signs, amazing inventions and different foods, customs and of course a non-latinate language. All of this appeals to me in escaping the western culture of home and experiencing something truly different. My favourite foods are now dominated by Japanese cuisine, including ramen, sushi, sashimi, mochi, nori and gyoza. I would love to experience authentic food and even witness how this changes across the different regions and islands. Street food particularly appeals to me, as well as Japan’s wondrous use of eggs.
Japan’s aesthetic is also unique; you only have to watch a Studio Ghibli film to see how much impact the beautiful natural surroundings of the islands have had on Japanese culture. It would be incredible to see the spring cherry blossom, Mount Fuji and explore the different temples across the islands.
Lastly, I’ve always appreciated a good train, so the bullet trains of Japan are stuff of dreams. James May made a great documentary on Japan for Amazon Prime, and I really enjoyed his segment on the composer Minoru Makaiya, and his process of writing jingles unique to each station. There is so much novel and authentic character and culture in Japan, which is why it makes top of the list.
Must watch: James May: Our Man in Japan (Amazon Prime) and Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro (Netflix)
B: I’ve been obsessed with bears since our trip to Banff, so any documentary which may contain one immediately shoots to the top of my favourites. Recently, Netflix released one called ‘Untamed Romania’, which follows the wildlife across the Romanian national parks. Beautifully shot and informatively narrated, I was astounded at the fairytale-like wildlife of Romania and couldn’t honestly believe that this existed within Europe. Brown bears, wild boars, wolves and even a lynx appear in this cycle of seasons within the Romanian wilderness. I’m a fair weather outdoors type, but this documentary makes me want to dust off the walking boots and pack a tent, leave our complicated world behind and witness the beauty of nature with my own eyes.
Must watch/read: Untamed Romania (Netflix) and The Girl who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson.
T: Ever since our trip to Stockholm two years ago, Sweden has been the place that we've consistently dreamt of going back to. I've got really fond memories of the city centre, of our stay on a city farm, cooking pizza in a wood-fire oven and relaxing in the sauna, and finally our break in a small red cabin on Älgö, in the archipelago. Here, we made bratwurst and I played the piano while looking out onto the frozen lake, watching as a man was pulled along the ice by his labrador. I finally understood the 'hygge' thing, the wholesome cosiness with snow outside and gigantic trees swaying in the wind. The culture in Stockholm was prominent and we enjoyed everything from the Fotografiska to the ABBA museum. But, the foooood. We had traditional Swedish meatballs, far from the kind you can buy in IKEA, and our first taste of bao buns at the incredible Barabao. We also experienced wonderful street food in the unique Teatern, futher proof of Sweden's strong and vibrant identity. Göteborg would be a new adventure for us.
Must listen to: First Aid Kit and ABBA (Spotify)
4. Costa Rica
B: I’m a PADI open water diver and often have dreams exploring the sea bed. There's nothing like being down on the bottom of the ocean staring into the deep blue and spending quality time with your fish family. We’ve been hooked on the BBC’s addictive ‘Race Around the World’ series since last year’s trek across Europe, but watching the teams travel through Costa Rica added a whole new travel inspiration to our list.
The wildlife in Costa Rica is diverse, colourful and astoundingly makes up 5% of the earth's species. Tree frogs, turtles, sloths, all things I wanna see up close, are just hanging at home in Costa Rica. You can scuba dive to take a look at the rainbow of sealife, or learn how to surf on the aqua coast. These tropical beaches, bordered by thick rain forests, host to a caribbean-like culture and a delicious food scene all make for the perfect South American adventure.
Must watch: Race Around the World (BBC iPlayer)
B: I visited another Greek island, Crete, a long time ago with my family, but found that in August it becomes dusty and arid, especially on its less aesthetic industrial side. But, the incredible azure of the Aegean Sea captivated my imagination, just as it has so many others. When The Durrells appeared on Netflix, with its dysfunctional family, British sarcasm and comedy of errors on Corfu, I was hooked. I love that its actually filmed on the island, there was no heartbreaking realisation that what I thought was Greece was actually a small island off Croatia (yes, I'm talking to you Mamma Mia), all of the locations are based around Corfu town.
I guess the real winner for me here, is the Greek culture, the quiet, lazy, sunny days, with the coastal breeze, the slightly run-down buildings glowing white against the green, made more vivid by the blue blue sea, fed on olives, tomatoes and feta. It's where I go when I close my eyes to relax, to calm, to enjoy, those sunny beaches, cliffs and houses I've never been.
Must watch / read: The Durrells (Netflix) and My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.