Where in the world did we travel to in 2018?
If there's one or two fundamental pillars in the Speakers Corner culture, it's our combined love of travel and food, which ensures conversation is never dull around the office.
I guess we're lucky to live in an age where we can hop on a plane and travel across the world, sampling cultures, making friends, sharing memories and recording our journey online. I remember my first solo jaunts into Europe 10 years ago, armed with a fold out map, A5 travel guide, multiple rail tickets, translation / dictationary and camera. It seems remarkable all of that now comes in one pocket device.
So, as one team member jets off as another lands at Heathrow, we started to place a dot in all the countries we've visited this year, as well as of course all the speakers we've sent to various parts of the world. Without further ado, let's take a quick re-cap.
Of course, why not start close to home?
We've crossed the Severn Bridge, and bypassed Hadrian's Wall. Matt and Dan visited Edinburgh for this year's Fringe festival, and Sophie sampled deep fried haggis for the first time. "Ridiculously (and surprisingly) tasty" she said!
A hop, skip and a jump away is France, full of our staple diets. Yes, cheese, meat, wine, more cheese and pain au chocolat were consumed in bucket quantities back in the summer.
The Iberian peninsula saw Madrid, Lisbon and Barcelona were graced with the Speakers Corner team, with rave reviews about Belejenas con miel (deep-fried aubergine covered in honey) coming back a firm favourite. Rome, with it's fantastic sights, and Sicily, ticked off Italy on our map.
And I visited Gran Canaria back in October, 27 degrees celsius of beautiful sunshine and a tropical downpour eeking out the summer for just one more week.
Further afield, Ela went to the Croatian capital Zagreb and Poland for a friend's wedding, and how could we not mention the grilled octopus, greek yogurt and pine honey tantalising taste buds on the Greek islands.
Our desperate attempts to book flights to Russia during the World Cup were to no avail, but Rebecca more than made up for that with her July jaunt to St Petersburg and Moscow.
There was a time I guess when a 6 or 7 hour flight would be considered long haul, but for our seasoned travellers who spent up to 18 hours on a plane, these flights resemble a mere taxi ride away.
The Middle East is always a firm favourite; the souks, the shops, the hustle and bustle of the west living side by side with the hypnotising melody from the muezzin high above the city. It's a fascinating part of the world.
But if we head South rather than East, we head into Africa. Part medium haul, part long haul, let's start by heading to Gambia, with its abundant wildlife and sandy beaches off the coast of the Atlantic. The cheese is also rather tasty!
As a kid, and I guess as an adult, I've always been fascinated by aeroplanes. I used to love watching the planes fly above my house, and now I use the Flightradar app to see just where they are heading off to.
But when you see one of those big jumbo jets up front and personal, it's amazing how big they are. From a tiny dot in the sky to this ginormous feat of engineering on the tarmac, those beastly engines propel us to all corners of the globe.
Continuing our African theme, it was very much a home from home with eggs and bacon sandwiches for breakfast in Zimbabwe. What wasn't so normal was sitting by a watering hole with crocodiles, hippos, zebras and wildebeest just across the water. Or perhaps if that wasn't surreal enough, having lunch on a river boat with Elephants a mere hoot away definitely ranks high in the memory bank!
Finally, our African adventure ended in South Africa, or Cape Town to be precise, with one of the team eating sushi in 36 degree heat with a view of table mountain. Personally I'd have loved to have been at the now infamous South Africa vs Australia test match, but such is life.
Let's head to the far east, with not one but two colleagues, Debbie and Payal, enjoying the fresh fish, spicy soups and exotic fruits Thailand has to offer.
A little further, China and Hong Kong were both ticked off, with a Peking Duck roasted especially for our intrepid travellers.
And to round off this annual review, let's take our last stop in the US of A!
From the sunshine state of Florida, to the snowy rooftops of Colorado, Holly has seen two unique sides to our cousins across the pond.
Tim took a trip to the Windy City of Chicago, delving deep into the famous Chicago pizza pie. And of course New York was graced with our presence, not least David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village, which I'm reliably informed serves delicious pork buns with hoisin, scallions, and cucumber, and bing bread with butter and roasted carrot.
And that's probably enough of us showboating for one year, but look out world in 2019, as we could be dropping into a coffee shop near you.
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