These past couple of months have been the hardest yet, thanks (if that's the word) to the double dose of wet winter and interminable lockdown. Here at Original Travel, we're determined to stay as positive as possible, so we asked the team to each describe their 'Happy Place' - one blissful moment from their travels that they conjure up in their mind's eye for a little hit of happiness in the gloom.
We'd love to hear about your happy places too, so please share them on our Instagram feed using the hashtag #TravelHappyPlace. And while a collective reminisce about travels past is succour for the soul, we're also still - cautiously - confident that we'll be travelling again by this summer, so call us if you want help creating a whole heap of future happy places too.
Tom Barber, Founder
'Cycling the tree-lined trail along the perfectly preserved medieval city walls of Lucca in Tuscany with my children and parents. Half way around we stopped for a delicious gelato overlooking the tightly-packed terracotta roofs of the city below, counting the many tall medieval towers, one of which - Torre Guinigi - has several holm oak trees growing out of the top. We finished the circuit with a well-earned lunch at a tucked-away gem of a restaurant called Trattoria da Guilio, where the children gorged themselves on delicious tortelli al ragu. The perfect 3G (three generational) experience.'
Ella Mawson, Marketing
'A day spent wandering around Lisbon. The tiny plant-filled Cafe Janis is a welcoming little nook and a great spot for a divine Mediterranean breakfast. A stone's throw from here is the uber-cool Time Out Market - the perfect place for a sweet and flaky pastel de nata (custard tart). From here, it's a steep trek uphill - or a thrilling ride on one of the city's iconic yellow trams - to the beautiful Alfama District (the old town) with its narrow winding streets and panoramic views across the terracotta rooftops of the city and the giant Tagus River beyond.'
Carys Bedford, Marketing
'I'm a sucker for a coastline so I loved hiking between the Cinque Terre - a string of centuries-old seaside villages clinging to the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. We walked along the cliffside trail from the tranquil middle town of Corniglia to the harbour village of Vernazza to pick up a cone of fresh fried fish straight off the fishing boats that morning, before a celebratory end of hike swim in the salty and fresh Mediterranean waters off Monterosso and a homemade Stracciatella ice cream.'
Maddie Dunn, Service Team
'The first ski run of the day in Tignes after an overnight snowfall. Heading up on the Grande Motte cable car's open air roof terrace and then feeling that slice of your edges cutting into the fresh corrugated lines of pisted snow. Stop halfway down and take in the view of crisp white covered mountains. Pause over, it's time to tackle the Rimaye run, where you can get some serious speed up. Then back up on the Vanoise chairlift to Panoramic Restaurant, for a chocolat chaud and croissant-fuelled time out. Breakfast heaven with a view.'
Kate Little, Europe specialist
'Mushing my own team of eager huskies through the snowy forests of Swedish Lapland. These adorable dogs are born to run, and the sensation of zooming along a trail through the trees is very, very special, with the only sounds you can hear the hiss of the sledge sliding through the snow and the panting of the huskies. It's both peaceful and exhilarating at the same time.'
Charlotte Houldsworth, Europe specialist
'Exploring the Dolomites, Italy's staggeringly beautiful limestone alps. Take the cable car up to Alpe di Siusi, the largest alpine pasture in Europe, with its miles of walking and mountain biking trails, roaming cattle and scattered hilltop rifugios (refuges) serving delicious Ladin cuisine. Admire the striking jagged peaks from afar, or climb through them along the series of via ferrata, steel cables and ladders dug into the rock by Italian and Austrian troops during WWI. It's difficult to find a better blend of nature, culture and history.'
Arran O'Kayne, Europe specialist
'Lying in the dappled light under the trees in the gardens of Versailles. On a lovely warm spring day, my husband and I cycled along the shady pathways around the walls of the Petit Trianon. After an hour or two exploring, we stopped for a picnic of bread and cheese washed down with a bottle of chilled rosé and snoozed in the shade with a wonderful view of the Palace.'
Oliver Rodwell, Americas specialist
'Lying down and peering over the edge of the Kaieteur Falls, the world's tallest single-drop waterfall, in the middle of the Guyanese rainforest, watching the water thundering down into the valley below. There were only five other people in the entire area at the time and thanks to our local contacts we were the only ones allowed to stand - quite literally - at the edge of the falls.'
Anne Bouferguene, CEO
'Waking up very early one morning at my beachfront hotel in Maui, Hawaii, and driving to the summit of the 10,000ft tall Haleakala volcano. I ran 11 miles on sliding sandy trails through this extraordinary and constantly changing landscape of colourful cinder desert, lava flows and shrubland full of endemic plants and bird species; then drove back for brunch with my children and a swim with turtles, before a rest under swaying palms lulled by birdsong.'
Rebecca Lowe, PR Team
'Me, a rented bike and the Yucatan Peninsula. On day one, I headed a few blocks inland to downtown Tulum for a cold beer, colourful markets and even more colourful food. Day two saw me and a picnic heading further inland again to swim in the delicious freshwater cenotes (collapsed cave systems). Day three started with Tulum's extraordinary Mayan ruins, before a crawl of the chi-chi'est beachside bars. Fresh fruit brunches and green juices gave way to crisp white wine and straight-off-the-boat seafood, which in turn segued seamlessly to cocktails on a swing, with my toes in the sand. The trip cost a small fortune, but was worth every penny (and lb).'
Olivia Lee, Marketing
'Without question Wyoming. There is a ranch there hidden in a valley by the North Platte River that is a slice of paradise. I miss the vast openness of its trackless wilderness spanning as far as the eye can see under an impossibly big sky. It is a western dreamscape of sage brush-topped ridges peppered with silver-green Aspen groves that cling to steep valleys sides either side of a slowly meandering river. From the pink-tinged watercolour sunrises to the bright star-pricked night sky, it is a natural haven beckoning you to trade modern living's distractions for nature's warm embrace.'
Susie Thorne, Marketing
'After a day exploring New York on foot (Highlight? The Met, which was just as amazing as I'd hoped), we donned our glad rags and made our way to the Upper West Side and to Dizzy's Club, a famous jazz bar overlooking Central Park. Sharing our table with two of the most glamorous women we've ever met, we sipped whiskey sours and watched the sun go down through the huge glass windows behind the band (including famous jazz drummer Ulysses Owens Jr) as they played a superb improv set. The band were incredibly charismatic and very interactive with the audience - it felt like we were at a secret gig with friends.'
Andy Smith, Marketing
'Trekking through the Monteverde cloud forest in Costa Rica. We walked for hours along trails and across hanging bridges through a thick tangle of trees with our excellent guide pointing out the many local bird species darting in and out of the mist that clings to this region (hence the name cloud forest). It might sound odd to enjoy walking in mist, but it means that everything ahead is a complete surprise, which adds to the sense of anticipation. We then back to our lovely eco-lodge for a well-earned and delicious fig ice cream.'
AFRICA & THE MIDDLE EAST
Matt Shock, Africa specialist
'My happy place is sitting in the vast wilderness of Mashatu Game Reserve in southern Botswana, surrounded by nature and the serenity it brings. Being able to watch, walk among, and photograph the incredible elephant population there is one of the greatest privileges I have had the pleasure of experiencing.'
Isabel de Galleani, Africa specialist
'Sitting on the roof terrace of one of our favourite riads (elegant townhouse hotels) within the ancient medina (old town) of Marrakech enjoying a morning coffee and breakfast while the hustle and bustle of the souq rises to a crescendo below you. As my eye travelled over the putty-coloured buildings dotted with vibrant splashes of colour I could see the faintly outlined Atlas Mountains in the distance. The heat mounted, the air was dry and the endless sky became a piercing blue. I closed my eyes to the warmth of the sun and the beautiful Muslim call to prayer sounded out across the city.'
Nadine Torrilla, Service Team
'Wandering the wonders of Petra in Jordan. Having a guide who can take you off the tourist trail to experience the sights from a different perspective is a must - so long as you're happy for some rocky terrain and scrambling! The walk through the high-sided and narrow gorge called the Siq builds your anticipation as you inch closer towards that famous first glimpse of the Treasury through the split in the rock. In my opinion there's no visual impact quite like it.'
Lucy Bailey, Middle East specialist
'I always feel there is something joyous about being out on the water, and so a happy place of mine has to chartering a boat to explore the coast of Oman near the capital Muscat. The colour of the sea is incredible, particularly around the nearby Damaniyat Islands, where the water is bright turquoise, the rocky outcrops are a vibrant red, and the beaches a brilliant white. Oman is also the first place I ever saw dolphins - watching them leap through the waves was absolutely wonderful, and pretty much guaranteed here.'
Emily Dundas, Marketing
'Reaching the top of Pidurangala Rock in Sri Lanka just as the sun was starting to creep over the horizon. We sat and watched as the sky slowly turned from orange through to blue and iconic Sigiriya Rock, surrounded by endless miles of greenery, became ever more distinct. All this while listening to the early morning birdsong; I was quietly willing the sun to rise slower so the moment could last even longer.'
Holly Barber, Asia specialist
'Around 30 minutes before dawn I drove my scooter through the (always) warm Cambodian darkness to Pre Rup temple in the Angkor Archaeological Park. Everyone else was waiting for the sunrise at Angkor Wat, so I was totally alone. I parked up, showed the local security guard my Angkor Pass, and climbed the steep and uneven temple steps in the half-light, full of expectation for the upcoming sunrise. At the top I set up my tripod on the spot I'd previously identified for this morning's shoot and waited with anticipation as the sunrise colours slowly spread across the sky. My early morning start was worth it - the photo's a cracker!'
Frances Mavor, Asia specialist
'Waking up early beside tranquil Inle Lake in Myanmar and going out first thing in a small wooden boat. The lake was still shrouded in mist and the calm waters were empty except for fishermen and locals gathering pondweed for their farms. It was so peaceful and a feast for the eyes with the sunlight bouncing off the mountains and reflecting on the lake. I headed straight to a local floating market to sit with a sweet tea watching the bustling stalls; such a contrast from the serene journey. My excellent local guide pointed out the things that I might otherwise have missed, such as how to tell the difference between the local hill tribes from the subtle differences in their clothing.'
Lynda Egan, Flights Team
'My husband and I have been travelling to Sri Lanka for over 30 years and the people are the same today as they were back then, just so welcoming. If I had to narrow it down to one moment in all those times in the country, it would be sitting on a beach in southern Sri Lanka, eating devilled prawns and drinking a cold beer, and watching the world go by with our toes in the sand.'