Looking back on 2012 for Julie Dawn Fox, in Portugal and other places
It’s been a busy year for me and my blog but it’s only now that I’ve stopped to reflect on the highlights of 2012 that I realise how much has happened.
Mike and I saw in the New Year with a firework display over the River Tagus in Lisbon and marvelled at the creativity involved in the Christmas decorations.
I also got to travel to Guimarães for the opening ceremony of the European Capital of Culture, 2012 and watched an amazing display of lights and mechanics.
My blog got off to a great start to 2012 when Alyson Sheldrake from the Thought Palette gave me my first blogging award. Fulfilling the requirements of her ABC (Awesome Blog Content) award sparked a new series of posts for me, My Personal A to Z of Portugal.
Suddenly, bloggers from around the world wanted to join My A to Z Blogging Challenge so I set up a new hub site so that everyone could share posts and join in. You’re more than welcome to take part, too!
In the spirit of romance, I published Eternal Love, Portuguese Style on Valentine’s Day and was amazed at how popular it was – it was the first time one of my posts had ‘gone viral’.
The annual travel and tourism fair in Lisbon, BTL was nerve-wracking but rewarding. I was very proud to wear my first ever press pass and forced myself out of my comfort zone in order to network. Not only did I get lots of useful information and make contacts, I also won a prize!
Later in the month, I went on a tour of the Licor Beirão factory; my absolute favourite Portuguese liqueur. And I finally made it to the Chocolate festival in Óbidos, having missed it the year before.
On the home front, we started the lengthy, stressful process of renovating the kitchen, which was frustrating enough to prompt ‘Q is for Quotes’.
Sadly, Mike’s mum died at the beginning of the month so we were in the UK for a large part of April. Spending time there inevitably led to comparisons between Portugal and the UK.
It felt wrong to be going on holiday at the end of April but my friend had already booked her flights so I drove down to the Algarve to meet her and we spent a few days exploring the south of Portugal. We stayed in a lovely converted manor house, ate fantastic food and I also got the chance to meet up with fellow A to Z of Portugal bloggers, Alyson Sheldrake and Tracey Hand.
The kitchen was finished just in time for my mum’s visit and we spent a couple of days exploring Porto with her. We hadn’t been to Porto since the previous May when we stayed at the Castle Hotel but this time we fell properly in love with the city, a feeling that grows stronger with every visit.
June and July
I set off for Vietnam to work a two-month summer school in Ho Chi Minh City. I’d intended to keep up with my Portugal blog while I was there but hadn’t anticipated how exhausted I would be, or how little free time I’d actually have after spending several weekends exploring Vietnam. Apart from participating in the Weekly Photo Challenge, the only substantial post I managed was about the medieval fair in Óbidos.
I got back to Portugal at the end of August and much as I’d enjoyed travelling in Vietnam, I was deliriously happy to be home again. I also discovered a new river beach in Avô to add to my growing collection of favourites.
I let myself in for more scary networking at my first blogging conference, Travel Bloggers Unite in Porto.
My fellow bloggers were a friendly, helpful bunch so talking to strangers got easier with practice. I met some truly inspiring people there and came away with my head buzzing with ideas and tips.
Mike and I were back in Porto at the end of September to do a television interview with RTP, a Portuguese television station, about expat experiences. It hasn’t been broadcast yet but I’ll let you know when it is.
We discovered that shopping for a second-hand car in Portugal isn’t as easy as it should be and I started a series of ‘How to order…’ blog posts designed to help people who aren’t yet familiar with the systems of eateries and drinkeries in Portugal.
I also created a new website dedicated to my freelance writing services.
Proving that perseverance pays off, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of flying in a hot air balloon in the Alentejo. I also returned to Alcaide for the mushroom festival that had impressed me so much in 2011. It was bigger and better than before and I intend to make it an annual trip from now on.
I set up a separate photography blog in order to share images that aren’t necessarily related to Portugal. It got off to a great start with one of my photos winning an honourable mention in the Wild Weekly Photo Challenge. I’ve also treated myself to a DSLR camera which I’m still getting to grips with.
The highlight of the month so far has been winning the Expat Blog Award for Portugal thanks to the wonderful support and comments from my readers.
I’ve also had one of my CNN iReporter stories approved and another one went viral!
Bringing the year full circle, we’ve got a weekend in Lisbon coming up before we head back to the UK to spend time with family and friends over Christmas.
All in all, 2012 has been quite a year!
It’s not over yet but I’m already very excited about 2013. I’m busy working on my wish list and plans so it promises to be a very exciting time. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.