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2010 has been a fantastic year.

And if I could summarize it with just one word, it would be this: travel.

Las Vegas not once, but twice. Twice to DohaQatar, too. Colorado, Kansas and Chicago. Summer through Spain and Morocco, in Paris, LondonEdinburgh, and Toronto, and across Ireland. Phew!

Along the way, I ate, I drank, I laughed and I loved.

And then, come the fall, I returned to school, to the kitchen, to chase down a dream.

Yes, 2010 was a pretty good year. And while I doubt 2011 will look anything like it, I’m hopeful it will be as exciting — replete with new sights, new sounds, new tastes, new adventures.

Onward.

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There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when I would have seized the opportunity an unexpected long weekend presents to travel. I’d fly out on the Friday night, fly back on the Monday afternoon. Easy.

When I was living in Ottawa, I was able to indulge my jet-setting urges fairly frequently. After all, Ottawa’s proximity (and direct flights) to so many fantastic destinations — Montreal, New York, DC, Chicago — made it relatively painless. Better still, I’d become expert at playing off my two travel rewards programs (Air Canada’s Aeroplan and RBC’s Avion) against each other to my maximum benefit.

But that was then.

Despite having just such a long weekend this weekend, I’ll be staying put. My jet-setting days are over.

Granted, for a brief moment earlier this fall, I was gearing up to make fairly regular trips to Toronto. Air Canada was even offering a student pass that allowed individuals to make six trips to a specific destination. It couldn’t have been more perfect. But things change. Sometimes in an instant. And so, I’m grounded. Indefinitely.

I suppose it’s for the best. As I revealed earlier this month, I’m a student again. I might as well start living like one.

Still, I’m comforted by my fond memories of those many weekend excursions. Each one was an adventure, a marvel, a treat; always to see friends, eat well, laugh lots and soak up the many delights of whatever city I happened to be visiting.

But of all the weekend excursions I made during my extravagant years in Ottawa, I’m proudest of the weekend I spent in London. (England, not Ontario.)

It was the May Long Weekend of 2009. A dear friend of mine was celebrating his birthday around that time and I thought it might be fun to wish him a happy one in person. So, on that fateful Friday morning, I went to work with my weekend duffel and then headed straight to the airport that afternoon. By the next morning, I was eating breakfast in my friend’s kitchen, steps from London’s Pimlico tube station. Amazing.

Anyway, as I said, that was then.

Will I have more amazing weekends in the years ahead? Will I ever again be able to pick up and fly away at a moment’s notice?

Fingers crossed…

After almost a week in the Emerald Isle, I returned to London, my friends’ lovely flat, and a readily-accessible laundry machine.

Like before, tourism wasn’t at the top of my agenda. No, again, I spent my time relaxing, recharging and reading. However, I did manage to squeeze in a few museums — and why not, since London has so many.

Top of my list: Sir John Soane’s Museum. What a gem! If you ever find yourself in London, I highly recommend this eclectic little number. You won’t be disappointed.

Also on tap: Tate Britain. (I figured, since I’d been to Tate Modern during my last stint in London, I ought to round out my tour of Tate with the one that started it all.)

Other than that, as before, I did precious little and was happy for it. Even better: by week’s end, I was ready for the final leg of my two-month adventure: Edinburgh.

So much Guinness! So many cows!

The Emerald Isle—aptly named—is lovely, especially once you make it to the Atlantic coast and can truly appreciate the end-of-the-world-iness of the place.

Following a brief stint in London, I flew to Dublin to meet up with a cousin and her friend who had planned a little Irish getaway. Together, in just over a week, our travels, which began in the Irish capital, took us westward, first to Galway then to Doolin.

Dublin

Nice town; a Lilliputian London, really.

Looking back, I’d say, in the three days we were there, we managed to hit all the highlights (and some lowlights, too!) Of note were the Guinness Storehouse, honouring the man who started it all and celebrating his most glorious brew. We also visited the infamous Kilmainham Gaol, which was at once haunting and fascinating, and Trinity College, Dublin, wherein we glimpsed the Book of Kells, which was, if I’m being honest, an expensive disappointment.

(It’s not that I don’t mind forking over cash to visit such places—I happily handed over oodles of Euros whilst in Paris for the pleasure—but I do think the cost should in some way reflect the… scope of the place.)

Anyway, after three days, and more pints of Guinness than I care to recount, we boarded a train for Galway, on the western coast of the island.

Galway

Unbeknownst to us, our visit to Galway coincided with the city’s eponymous races. Thankfully, we still managed to find ourselves a room in a quaint little place just steps from the town’s main square. Reminiscent of Fawlty Towers (sans Manuel, sadly), our hotel served as a perfect jumping off point from which to explore the city’s lovely, pedestrianized shopping district.

Of course, as we did in Dublin, we also took great delight in imbibing on the country’s most precious resource!

Doolin

What an adorable place!

Picturesque little Doolin, nestled on the coast, south of Galway in County Clare, became our home-away-from-home for the duration of our time in the country. And we couldn’t have asked for a nicer, cosier place to hang our hats than Lane Lodge.

For three days, we ate, drank, hiked, and boated… to the southernmost of the Aran Islands, Inisheer.

Without question, however, the most extraordinary part of our time in Doolin was spent admiring the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher—from both the sea and the land. Incredible.

Sadly, as with all things, my time in Ireland had to come to an end. London was calling, again; Edinburgh, too.

And so, I bid farewell to my cousin and her friend and, pack on back, made my way to Shannon International for a return flight to London.

After five glorious days in Paris, I bid adieu to the city and headed westward across the English Channel towards London (by way of the Channel Tunnel!).

Truth be told, I was saddened to be leaving Paris. I’d loved the city so much, and felt I’d only just begun to discover the place. Still, other destinations were calling and I had to press on.

Once arriving at the beautifully restored and renovated St. Pancras International, I made my way to friends’ house in Westminster, which is where I resided for about a week. Doing so allowed me to catch my breath, rest up and do some much needed laundry before the next leg of my adventure: Ireland.

Whilst in London, I did very little in the way of classically touristy things since I’d been to the city so many times before. I did, however, pay a visit to the Tate Modern, which is always a treat; I also discovered the National Portrait Gallery, which I absolutely loved.

Otherwise, it was a quiet week in London, which, when one is trying to navigate the crowds on the hot, sweaty, cramped Tube, seems like a near impossibility. I managed… thanks to the extraordinary generosity of friends.