A look back on 2014

Well folks, can you believe it. We’re almost at the end of 2014… where has the time gone?

For me, it has been quite literally a roller coaster of a year and unfortunately not all of it was in a good way.

The year started off well with a two-week cruise around the Caribbean which I was very lucky to have won thanks to a competition in a national newspaper. In the middle of a very cold and wet January I escaped to the tropical waters of the infamous cruise destination for the very first time, and quite simply had an absolute blast. I am certainly looking at returning to the region at some point; a few hours in some of the ports I visited simply wasn’t enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cruise was the perfect escape from those horrible Winter Blues, and I was ecstatic that I also got to fly on one of Thomson’s 787 Dreamliners; an aircraft that I was eager to experience. As soon as I got back home, I was busy on the internet looking at cruises for next year. It would be rude not to, right?

About a month or so later, the weather here on the south coast of England was still pretty dull, and it was only a few days away from my 19th Birthday (March 8); so what did I do? I decided at the very last minute to hop on a plane to LA and spend a long weekend celebrating with my friends at the Happiest Place on Earth… Disneyland!

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Once again I flew with Air New Zealand from London to LA, and was delighted to receive a glass of bubbly on board to celebrate.  On the return flight I was in Premium Economy, and had a great experience. I conducted a thorough review of the cabin, and even took a selfie in the washroom!

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You may think I was crazy, but I only spent four nights in the USA before it was time to go home again. But I had a fantastic time and didn’t regret it one bit. My savings on the other hand may have something different to say…

A few months later and we were at the middle of May, and you could say that once again I had itchy feet, and knew that a load of my friends would be attempting to spend 24 hours straight at Disneyland, part of the Rock Your Disney Side 24-hour party. So what did I do? I booked my flight and hotel on the Monday, and jetted off on the Wednesday. Crazy? Nope.

Obviously this meant I spend the Tuesday rushing around the town ensuring that I had enough clothes, amenities and snacks for my adventure. But that wasn’t all. It turned out that the Air New Zealand reLAX Tour was rolling into town; it would have been rude to not have popped by, wouldn’t it?

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It was great meeting some of the Air New Zealand team whom work at their offices in Hammersmith, along with some of the crew – all of which you could say were delighted that I’d be flying with them the next day. I came home with a handful of goodies and then spend the next few hours frantically throwing clothes into my suitcase making sure I hadn’t left anything in my wardrobe. I go by the rule that you should always pack two outfits for each day. One of the daytime, and another for the evening.

The next day it was off to Heathrow and then once again aboard NZ1 to Los Angeles. At such short notice, I flew in Business Premier and had a fantastic experience, more of which you can read about here.

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The 24-hour party at Disneyland was a lot of fun. I didn’t manage to spend a whole 24-hours in the park, but you’ve got to give me some credit… I was still trying to adjust to the eight hour time difference! It was great catching up with my friends once again, and we had a lot of laughs.

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During my trip, I somehow managed to squeeze in time to take a movie stars home tour around Beverly Hills, and visit the world famous Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. I even got visit Central Perk… the cafe from FRIENDS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was another short trip to La La Land, but once again it was worth it.

The next few months seemed to fly by, and I was busy doing bits of freelance work here and there. In between all the mayhem, I managed to pass my driving test (hurrah!) and soon enough was zooming around in my very own car.

At the end of August I received an e-mail from one of the production team at The Ellen DeGeneres show, saying that my request for tickets to a taping on October 29 had been successful. I was simply over the moon that I would actually get to go and be in the audience of one of the most well-known chat shows in America. Let’s face it, everyone knows Ellen as the voice of Dory in Finding Nemo!

Then, things started to take a drastic turn and go downhill quite fast.

On September 12, I was diagnosed with a fast-growing type of Cancer – something of which came as a complete and utter shock. After initially being told I had an infection. Within a matter of hours my world was turned upside down. Several days later I had an operation where the tumour was successfully removed, and I would be going to see an oncologist who would tell me what would happen next. The initial visit was ok, but the following week I was told that there was a higher risk of the Cancer returning, so I was advised to take a “just in case’ preventive cycle of Chemotherapy; something which to be quite frank frightened the hell out of me.

Telling my friends and family was very hard, so I took the brave decision to announce it publicly via social media, including here on the blog. Since I am now trying to forget about this as much as possible; I have now removed this post. You think you are immortal and that it is impossible for a happy and healthy person to suddenly become ill. Life can be great, but it can also be very harsh. It’s just one of the mysteries that we will never be able to unravel.

Before my first cycle of Chemotherapy; I was allowed to go away for a week or so. Bearing in mind I still had the tickets for Ellen; I decided to head back to Disneyland to see my best friends and be in the audience for the show before everything was about to get a whole lot harder.

My week-long trip to Southern California was the longest I had done, but I had so much fun and hardly had time to think. My friends were simply amazing, and made sure I had a fantastic time full of memories to keep me going. It was the first time that I had seen the original Disney theme-park decked out for Halloween, and it was fantastic. It is true that the American’s really do go all out for the spookiest time of year and you could say put us Brits to shame. I even managed to conquer my fears and ride Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy!

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A few days later, a couple my friends and I headed on down the world famous Queen Mary in Long Beach. Being a seasoned cruiser, I had always wanted to visit the ex-Cunarder which is now a floating hotel. We spent the afternoon taking a guided-tour of the vessel, before doing a bit of independent exploration. It was fascinating learning about the history of the QM; although the tour guide did seem to pick on me a lot as I was the only Brit in the tour group.

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Now the Queen Mary is haunted, or so the rumours say. Before my visit I was sceptical, but after my visit I can say that I now believe this to be true. It is quite hard to explain, but let’s just say one of my friends and I ended up holding on to each other as we walked through the boiler room. It was very warm down there and pitch black apart from the odd safety light. But now and then you could  really feel a chill in the air and let’s just leave it there. It probably didn’t help that the Dark Harbor Halloween event was about to begin outside… that is something you would be able to get me to attend, not at all.

The evening was rounded off with a delicious meal at Chelsea’s Chowder House; one of the many restaurants on board.
I had the Fish and Chips and it was very tasty. Followed by a little bit of a chocolate dessert, I mean who could resist!

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Finally the day arrived where I would be in the audience for The Ellen Show, and what a day it was. I had so much fun dancing to the music, and the stars on my particular day included Nicole Kidman and “Apparently Kid” Noah Ritter, which was awesome. We all know that Ellen likes to surprise her audience, and during the show she gave away gift cards to a couple of audience members, which was followed by a ticket for each person to Ellen’s 12 Days of Giveaways! I was simply over the moon, and I think all of us in the audience left without our voices. In the car on the way back to Disneyland, my friend and I were singing along to Christmas songs… this was in October! Unfortunately I was unable to attend the 12 Days of Giveaway as I would not be well enough to fly, which was a huge shame.

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In total, I had a brilliant holiday, one where many memories were made and I wish it didn’t have to end. But sadly it was time to go home. But I was looking forward to flying once again with Air New Zealand.

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Having Chemotherapy was extremely tough, in-fact I would say it was worse than having the Cancer as it was painless and didn’t affect me at all. The operation only lasted a few hours, but I was having the Chemotherapy for six to eight hours a day for five-days straight. The side effects more than anything frightened me, and it wasn’t a very nice few weeks at all. The good news however is that I did not have to undergo a second cycle, as which was previously thought. Because I reacted so badly to the first cycle; it is very unlikely for anything bad to be left, and thus in the words of my Oncologist; I do not require any further treatment and I am cured. Of course I would be monitored for the next few years or so, but this was SUCH a relief to me. I could finally put it all past me, focus on building up my strength and look forward to the future.

My friends and family have been SO supportive of me during the time, and I honestly did not expect to come home from California with a huge bag full of gifts, let alone receive some more in the mail it home. These have been such lovely surprises, ones that easily brought a tear to my eye and for which I am forever grateful. I love you all dearly, and you know who you are. It has been extremely hard, more than I had ever imagined, but I am so glad it is over.

So there we are. That brings me right up to now. It’s been a very trying year, but I am humble to have been given such wonderful friends, a new lease of life, and things to look forward to. I worked out that I’ve flown 41,040 miles this year, which is quite a lot. More than one and a half times around the circumference of the earth! Not sure my wallet is quite happy though…

2015 is sure to be an exciting year, and I cannot wait to share my adventures with you. Speaking of which; there will be a few. 😉

Happy Christmas Everyone, and here’s to a bigger, brighter and happier 2015!

Posted in Travel.

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