It doesn't matter where you travel around the world, or how long you are gone for, there's nothing like coming home - especially when your home country has just been voted the classiest county in Britain! It's easy to forget when you're dealing with the humdrum details of everyday life how amazing and beautiful the place you live actually is, but going away and gaining some perspective can really help you to see the place with fresh eyes. I've always loved Norfolk - I've never been a city girl, give me empty, wild beaches and endless fields filled with wild flowers any day of the week. I'm no Wordsworth, I'm not going to get all poetic describing the beauty of the countryside, but I am going to tell you just why I love my home. Growing up in Norfolk might seem boring to some who have had a busy, exciting, city upbringing, but for me there was no better way to grow up than with all this space. My parents were all about turning the television off and getting outside - weekends were spent running wild at the beach or exploring the woodlands in my wellies. It was normal to spend a day feeding lambs at Park Farm and quite frankly, we grew up knowing where our food came from.It's normal for us Norfolk folk to spend Christmas with the Royals and to have chats with them as you handed over bunches of flowers. As The Telegraph says, "it hardly needs Sandringham to give Norfolk the cachet of a superior address", but it is pretty cool to know that Wills and Kate are living just down the road from you. (Although, I will get more excited when Harry moves in.) Whether you love or hate the Royals, it's hard not to value them when you see them through the eyes of other newer countries - they just don't have an institution like it and it makes you realise how wonderful it is to have these traditions. You might find it all a bit quaint and sickly sweet, but there's something really lovely about living in a place where village fetes and May Day events are key events in the calendar, when it's not "fashionable" to have afternoon tea, it's just tradition. We have church fundraisers every week and we love a flower festival, you might think it sounds boring but actually what comes with this is an amazing sense of community I just haven't found elsewhere.I'm so lucky to know so many amazing people across Norfolk through growing up here and working for the newspaper - every single one contributes so much to making this the top county. We don't always get the best rep - yes, the accent isn't that great and it's pretty flat here - but we also have a landscape like no other. Travelling around the world just made me see the beauty in our wild cliffs, our endless moors and marshes, and the lush green forests that are just teeming with life. It's the perfect place to get lost, and that's what Norfolk has over bigger cities, In London you can get lost because you don't know anyone but here you can truly lose yourself. In Norfolk, you could go whole days without seeing another person and there is a real charm about being able to disappear in nature. Head to the Broads for a lazy day on the river as swans cruise past, look no further than the Burnhams for seriously lust-worthy cottages and check out the cute little coastal villages to feel like you've stepped into a 1950's postcard. Trust me, my own beach hut is proudly painted in blue and pink candy stripes.It's always easy to slag off your home town and I know the people of Norfolk can't help themselves sometimes, but it's also important to see things clearly. Travelling really helps give you some perspective, when backpacking across Australia I couldn't help but laugh at the wonder and excitement my Aussie mates showed when I told them about my home. When I describe how I lived just round the corner from a castle that has stood there almost 100 years (with real turrets!), when I describe the untamed, wild coastline and the countless festivals that go on right under our noses. It's so different to the brand new city of Melbourne, to the dry dusty landscape of the Northern Territory, and the manicured beaches of Sydney and the East Coast. Yes Australia is beautiful and exciting, but we have history and something completely different to offer, something we should be proud of. So good work Norfolk for representing so well and putting the other counties in their places! If that wasn't a good reason to come home, I don't know what is! If you haven't already been - it's time you came and saw what you're missing!
Which part of Norfolk is your favourite? Share your favourite memories of Norfolk. Which county is your favourite, and why?
As I'm sure you can imagine, last week flew by in a blur of family time, catching up with friends and saying my goodbyes, packing and a constant battle between eating my fill of British food to last me the next year and working it off at the gym to get my body even remotely bikini ready. As you read this, I'll be somewhere in Bangkok - hopefully wandering around a market eating delicious food and taking in the sights. I'll be spending the first couple of days in a hotel, getting my bearings and making a firmer plan for the upcoming weeks and meeting up with friends. I'm sure it will only just be starting to register that this is how my life will be for the next year - no more getting up at the crack of dawn to go to work in cold, raining England - but finally what I have been working for and planning for over 12 months is finally a reality! I can't quite believe it myself. I have to be honest, I've had the worst possible run of news stories since booking my flights - it seems there's pretty much been a murder on a Thai beach, a shark attack in Australia, or a plane going missing every bloody week! Great for reassuring my mother I'm going to survive my trip, and great for reassuring me that I'm going to survive my flight. It's okay though, I've never been much of a worrier so I'm putting all these news stories to the back of my mind and just doing everything I can to avoid being mugged, raped, murdered or involved in some horrible incident. In the meantime though, I have been doing my utmost to make sure I have some very special memories of home, my family and my friends. I'm sure there will come a time when homesickness strikes and I am very glad of them! As you guys will have already read by now - I've got some pretty good ones in the bag after a perfect Christmas with the family, my Mexican-themed New Year's, my Nineties-themed Leaving Party, and a couple of lovely dates with the boyfriend.This post is just a quick one to show you what else I got up to in the week between Christmas and flying out. My week started with a bracing, windy walk on the beach with my parents at Sunny Hunny - we have a beach hut there and it was a chance for me to say goodbye to the hut as I won't be seeing it for over a year. It was a beautiful day, very frosty and the coldest morning yet of 2014, but perfectly fresh at the same time. I love walking at the beach on cold, sunny days - the air is so clean and it really does blow away all the cobwebs. It was great to get some serious fresh air and some colour in my cheeks - plus with that and a few workouts, it was great to get past feeling so stuffed with all the delicious Christmas food. We covered about six miles and it was good to spend some time back by the sea - my inner mermaid was satisfied. As you can see scattered around this post there are a few pics I captured while by the sea - it's such a pretty place. I also had a lovely day at the spa with my mum where we were treated to a lovely facial and full body massage, plus lots of lovely steam rooms, Prosecco and cake. A pretty perfect mummy and daughter day - it was really lovely to have a day just the two of us before I go. This was followed by New Year celebrations, catch-up's with the boyfriend's family and other friends and then my long-awaited Leaving Party! The week finished with a lovely family meal with my parents and grandad - then some sad goodbyes with my best friends and the boyfriend. Then before I knew it, my parents were driving me down to Heathrow and I was on a plane, and whoaa now I'm in Bangkok. Life is pretty crazy sometimes, but crazy good. After a really rubbish start to the year, I couldn't have ended it on a better note.
What have you guys been up to? Are you sad to say goodbye to 2014, or are you already head-first into making 2015 the best yet?