And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.Abraham Lincoln
In recent years (well, not very recent, for obvious reasons!) I’ve often enjoyed celebrating my October birthday abroad. Sometimes these have been short trips planned just for that purpose; other times we just happened to be travelling at that time. Either way, it’s always a pleasure to mark the day with the variety of experiences that other countries offer.
Here for John’s Lens Artists challenge is a selection of photos and reminiscences from my most memorable birthdays.
In 1999 we were in Stone Town on Zanzibar. We’d spent the first week of our holiday on the mainland in Tanzania, enjoying our first ever safari. The second week was split between Stone Town and a beach hotel on the island’s east coast. On the day of my birthday we went on a boat trip to a ‘deserted’ island where we had a wonderful picnic of barbecued fish. In the evening we had dinner at a restaurant we’d enjoyed a few days before. It was my first experience of celebrating a birthday outside Europe, but not my last!
In 2001 we were in Brazil for my birthday, near the end of a trip that had taken us to Rio de Janeiro, Paraty, Iguacu, the Amazon and San Salvador. Those last few days were spent at a beach resort in Bahia, Praia do Forte. The nearby village had a turtle rescue centre which we visited but otherwise it was a place to relax and enjoy the sun before heading home to face the start of the English winter.
For my fortieth birthday my husband had planned a surprise visit to Paris, my favourite European city. Our photos of that trip, which was my first birthday abroad, remain undigitized, but I do have some from our repeat trip for my fiftieth in 2005.
In 2012 we were in Ecuador, near the start of the trip that would finish with a week cruising the Galápagos Islands. After a few days in Quito we did an overnight tour with a driver/guide to Cotopaxi and Quilotoa. My birthday fell on the first day of that tour and I was excited to be visiting Cotopaxi as I love mountain scenery. Unfortunately I was hit with the worst case of altitude sickness I’ve ever had (I’m usually OK) and couldn’t face walking any higher than the car park as my head was pounding so badly.
We spent the night in a picturesque but chilly hosteria. The tour company had obviously told them it was my birthday and they laid on a special desert, a slice of chocolate cake with a candle in it. Disappointingly however it was actually less tasty than the desert my husband and our guide were served, plus I hadn’t felt able to have a birthday drink because my headache was still pretty bad. A memorable birthday for sure, and I was still thrilled to have seen Cotopaxi!
I think my 2015 birthday has to be the most memorable of all, to date. We were nearing the end of our trip around Rajasthan. I started my birthday in Bundi, one of my favourite places on that trip. We had breakfast on the roof of our lovely little hotel there, overlooked by the fort and palace. We then visited the palace, with its faded grandeur and stunning murals, before driving north to Ranthambore National Park.
That afternoon we had our first game drive there and as someone (our tour company? our hotel?) had told our guide that it was my birthday, he was determined to find me a tiger. For a while though it seemed we would be unlucky, although we enjoyed getting our first views of the park which is, as I have said, very pretty. And there were plenty of other wildlife sighting.
Then our guide got a message that a tiger had been seen in one of the neighbouring zones and was walking towards ours. The jeep was turned around and we headed back to a likely spot, where several other vehicles had also gathered, lining the road and looking towards an area of long grass. And we waited … and waited …
Our guide finally spotted movement at the edge of the grass. Most of us could see nothing at first but then we saw him; a solitary male, some distance away. He lingered for a while, turned and followed the edge of the grass for a distance, then disappeared into it again. Our first drive and we had seen a tiger!
In 2017 it was back to Paris for my birthday, celebrating with breakfast in a café in the Place Saint Sulpice, near our hotel. Then a sunny walk in the Butte-aux-Cailles district, photographing the street art before taking the Eurostar home.
My most recent birthday abroad was in Lucca in Italy. We had mixed weather for our weekend, as you can see in the photos, but had a lovely time. If Paris is my favourite European city, Italy is my favourite country on the continent. I love the ambiance and the architecture, not to mention the gelati and aperitivi!
My birthday was quite sunny, so we walked the walls before descending to wander its streets and climb one of the several towers for beautiful views over the city.
Of course I have also celebrated at home, and sometimes with trips in this country. In 2019 we went to St Ives in Cornwall, as we weren’t long back from our North Korea trip. Covid restricted me to marking 2020 with a lunch at a smart London restaurant (luckily restrictions were relatively loose at that time) and 2021 with a weekend in Dorset. As to this year, all being well I’ll be far from home again – watch this space!