Travel has always been something I had taken for granted. Whether a long-haul flight to the other side of the world, a scenic train journey through Europe, or a simple weekend away in a boutique hotel, the knowledge that I could pack a bag and head off at the drop of a hat was pleasantly reassuring.

Since the COVID outbreak, however, the ability to move around and travel freely from one place to another has been virtually impossible. Even now, almost two years after the first case was identified in Wuhan, China, things are far from normal.

At the time of writing, England still has over fifty countries on its red list, meaning they should not be visited except in the most extreme of circumstances. The red list includes Brazil, Philippines, Thailand and Tunisia, places which, ordinarily, would appeal to the average holidaymaker.

Despite my love of travelling, my desire to stay safe meant I was happy to be cocooned at home with my husband and my dog for company. Admittedly, the lockdown lasted longer than any of us anticipated but health took priority over the desire to explore. In fact, only now, when things have started to resemble normality, do I realise how much I missed being able to traverse, to visit new cities and immerse myself in new cultures. After all, travel is not just enjoyable, it’s educational.

Whilst we are now able to fly to some countries – subject to certain restrictions or requirements – my own pre-pandemic confidence has yet to return. Still, that doesn’t stop me thinking of the places on my wish list.

Last week, I was dreaming of a trip to Greece and found myself watching videos of the so-called ‘cradle of Western civilization’. The whitewashed buildings, brilliant blue sky and mountainous backdrop looked absolutely stunning. I could almost taste the soft Feta cheese, the sun ripened tomatoes and the plump black olives. There’s something about the Mediterranean, the food always seems fresher, juicier and tastier than anywhere else.

Of course, there’s more to Greece than the fabulous food. For a start, there are 227 different islands. Imagine all those beaches: soft white sand, crystal-clear water. I hate to mention food again but just think of the barbequed shrimp, fresh from the sea and bursting with flavour.

Greece is also known for its historical landmarks. Depending where you visit, you can see the Acropolis of Athens, the Parthenon, and the Meteora rock formation with its Eastern Orthodox monasteries. In fact, Greece has no less than 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites – perfect for Instagram junkies!

Dreaming of Greece got me thinking of other places I’m desperate to explore. Pre-COVID, Rome was the 11th most visited city in the world. I’d like nothing more than to roam the streets, gaze at the Colosseum and dip my fingers in the Trevi Fountain. I’d go shopping at Piazza di Spagna, eat pasta in Piazza del Popolo, pizza in St Peter’s Square. Then I’d indulge in a deliciously authentic Tiramisu!

Valencia is also high on my must-go-to list. I’ve visited the Spanish city twice before and am fortunate to have friends who live there. Those friends are now the proud parents of a baby son so I’m desperate to pay them a visit and meet their little boy. It helps that my friend is a chef and he makes the best paella in the world! Perhaps I’m a little biased, but trust me, it’s amazing!

From a sight-seeing point of view, Valencia has something for everyone. Futuristic structures vie for attention with ancient architecture and there’s also a great choice of beautiful beaches (this may come as a surprise, for the city is not known for its seaside attractions). Also, with a sub-tropical Mediterranean climate, it’s perfect to visit any time of the year.

I must confess, I do already have one short trip booked. When the opportunity arose to see Ed Sheeran live in concert, I didn’t hesitate to buy tickets. He’s performing in Copenhagen, the Danish city where another good friend of mine lives. I’ve been to Copenhagen once before but it was a very long time ago and my memories are sketchy to say the least. So, in August next year, I can reacquaint with The Little Mermaid, hang out at Hans Christian Andersen’s former abode and enjoy lunch next to the 17th century canal. It’s so good to have something to look forward to and, fingers crossed, I can enjoy the experience without the need for a facemask. To use one of Ed Sheeran’s song titles, that would be ‘perfect’.

Needless to say, the place I have missed the most is Kuwait. I miss waking up every day knowing the sun is going to shine. I miss the spotlessly clean shopping malls, the endless choice of cuisine, and the long empty beaches. But most of all, I miss the people. I made some very good friends in Kuwait and I long for the time when travel is once again deemed safe and we can all reunite. Until then, I’ll continue to dream…

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