They say how you ring in the new year sets the tone for the year ahead. If that’s true, I’m in for one jazzy twelve months.
When the clock struck midnight on January 1st 2017, I was deep below the city of London, at a 1940s themed party in an old bomb shelter. Totally out of breath and elated after hours of swing dancing and cocktail drinking.
I’m usually not a huge fan of NYE celebrations. My favourite bars are more crowded (and typically with slightly more annoying people) and there’s so much pressure to have ‘the best night ever’ that it rarely lives up to the hype. However, as my second New Years celebration at an organised event, I firmly believe it’s the best way to go for a fun night – perhaps with the exception of a kickass casual house party.
January involved travelling greater distances than ever before – to the UK and back, then Toronto and back – for weddings within two weeks of each other. Add to that hosting Aussie friends for a week in between the festivities and you can see why my work/life balance flew right out the damn window.
Of course it was an insanely expensive month, but what my wallet lost in depth, I gained sweet memories and good times with friends and family.
But it was a healthy reminder that I can’t continue to burn the candle at both ends, financially and health-wise. My bank account is in some serious pain right now, and a cold I caught at the London wedding has stuck around all month, climaxing to a lovely chest infection by the time I reached Montreal.
I think I have to learn that I can’t say ‘yes’ to every dinner invitation or weekend getaway opportunity. I just heard my parents fall of their chairs with laughter at that one.
Anyhow, here’s what I got up to in January.
Wedding bells abroad
Two international weddings this month. And yes, I wore the same dress to both. That’s what happens when I spend most of my budget on the flights.
I felt so privileged to be a part of both celebrations: spending more time with our UK contingent and feeling super proud as my old school mates looked dapper in their tuxes: one getting married, one officiating the ceremony, and two offering hilarious, touching speeches. We’ve come a long way since those Penrith schoolyard days!
Side note: I partially blame my ongoing sickness on the DJ playing not one, but two Meatloaf songs at the Canadian wedding. No human, not even Meatloaf himself, can belt out two rock operas without losing one’s voice. My croaky few days afterwards supports this fact.
10 Days in England
The year kicked off with a few days in London, staying with my fabulous cousin in her Hackney flat (thanks Kate!). We spent our days wandering the city, stopping in at a pub whenever our legs grew weary or our throats thirsty. We must have crossed the entire city in those two days. A highlight was seeing Dead Funny in the West End, and some delicious late night curry in Brick Lane.
Next Tom and I headed north to Cambridge for more family visits (and more old British pub visits), before hopping on a train to York, the only ‘new’ UK destination we visited on this trip. Then it was back to London for a West Ham game, and the main event – a wedding in Royal Tunbridge Wells.
Phew. Are you exhausted? I am.
Hostess with the mostess
It probably surprises none of my readers that this month I hosted some more incoming Aussies (we Australians do like to travel don’t we!). One of our oldest friends from home and his awesome travel buddy stopped in en route to Toronto. I prepared a jam packed itinerary for their four days in Washington: an ice hockey game, exploring Deception Pass State Park, watching some epic sunsets, drinking plenty of local beer and a day trip to San Juan Island for a whirlwind sightseeing and seafood adventure. And walks on a frozen lake!
The biggest bonus of travelling east for Wedding Two was I got to catch up with two awesome university friends who now live and work in Toronto. I crashed in their sweet studio apartment, and spent the days exploring solo while they worked, and my nights catching up over delicious food and beer.
There’s nothing sweeter than reuniting with friends years later and everything feels the same, except now we’re adults with real jobs and responsibilities, not drinking wine to calm nerves before a presentation or sipping homemade limoncello in advertising class to ‘boost our creativity’.
Montreal is considered the cultural capital of Canada, and now I totally get why! I was fascinated with how everyone seems to flit so easily between speaking English and French.
I spent my first day exploring Vieux-Montreal – the heart of the old town where the streets are narrow, the buildings shackled and the history strong, supported by visits to the Notre Dame and Archaeology Museum.
Day two was in the bohemian Plateau neighbourhood. I wandered without a real plan, stopping to check out the brick row houses and vibrant street art that was found on nearly every corner. Whenever the snowfall got too heavy, I’d duck inside for some montreal style bagels, a coffee, craft beer or the famous smoked meat sandwich.
There was also an emergency trip to the shoe store as my el-cheapo boots were not cutting it in the heavy snow and deep slushy paths. Why didn’t I bring my snow boots?! Ah well, now owning two pairs will totally come in handy… when I move back to Australia!?
I spent the three days soaking up everything French in the old city: eating croissants, crepes and macarons daily and trying my best to speak my basic French as much as possible. I was enamoured with the tiny cobblestone streets bursting with colour, the fast moving icy river and the snow-dusted Chateau that rules over the city.
One night I went out for a fancy French dinner, complete with French onion soup, duck confit and a giant glass of Syrah. Sure, I was the only lonely heart in a restaurant of Date Nights, but the waiters gave me a giant bread basket that I had to share with nobody, so I feel like I came away as the true winner of the evening.
A non-carb related highlight was a morning trip to Montmorency Falls. I was one of the first to arrive and got the park to myself for hours before others showed up!
New blog posts this month
Coming up in February
I actually have very few set plans for February, and I totally love the freedom! I’ll be enjoying some much needed time in Anacortes to catch up on work, life and get things back in balance. Hopefully there’ll be a few hikes or ski days, and some museum visits for Seattle Museum Month!
Expat Escapades is a monthly series here at Live Recklessly. I’ll recap my latest adventures in the USA, new Seattle favourites in food/drink/culture/activities, and uncover more of Anacortes and the Pacific Northwest region.
If you have any suggestions of where I should visit, let me know in the comments below!