From Bahrain to the Big Apple: TPG UK’s travel highlights of 2021

Dec 29, 2021

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It’s been a big year for TPG U.K. We’ve seen the return of widespread travel, the introduction and then removal of the dreaded traffic light system, and we’ve kept you up to date with the constantly changing testing requirements.

Despite the current variant, we are finally optimistic about the future of travel.

We’ve also added some new team members, as our industry rebounds.

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Here are our person travel highlights of 2021.

BEN SMITHSON, Senior Writer

Being on the first British Airways flight to the United States after the 20-month ban on British tourists. The Big Apple was a huge part of my life before the pandemic as I regularly visited TPG HQ there, so I was looking forward to being able to finally return after such a long period.

While the gate celebrations at Heathrow were muted, the mood onboard was celebratory, with BA CEO Sean Doyle providing an emotional speech about the importance of the U.S. market to the airline and some fun stars and stripes branding throughout the cabin. When we landed at JFK Terminal 7 the sea of ground staff all waving flags and warmly welcoming us back was a really emotional moment.

I’ve been close to tears for negative reasons during this pandemic but this was the first happy tear I shed.

Related: An emotional return to New York: What it was like on the first British Airways flight to the US on reopening day

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

IZZY COOPER, Video Producer

2021 wasn’t the most adventurous year for me but I did enjoy a week in the French Alps! I love it there, it’s a real safe haven for me. The food is delicious, the landscape is dramatic, and the weather is always changing. I enjoyed paddle boarding on Lake Annecy, hiking around the Aravis valley, and taking a quick dip in the cold glacier waters of Mont Blanc.

Related: Second Cities: The best destinations to add onto a trip to Paris

Photo by Izzy Cooper / The Points Guy

JORDAN WALLER, Managing Editor

As it was for many others, 2021, was somewhat muted for me as far as travel goes but a real highlight was getting to visit Arizona alongside the TPG team. We started off in Phoenix where we stayed at Bill Marriot’s favourite hotel — I can absolutely see why! — before heading off to Sedona for a weekend of hiking and hijinks.

Between making friends with ‘Sedona Tom’, being terrified by a ghostly raccoon and hiking up Cathedral Rock to be greeted by a circling eagle it was an awe-inspiring weekend in ways I couldn’t even begin to explain. I hadn’t considered myself a ‘desert guy’ before but had I stayed there any longer I’d almost certainly be referring to myself as Ol’Red Rock Waller and talking avidly about the healing powers of Arizona’s mythical vortexes. If you can get there yourself, embrace it all. And say “Hi” to the otherworldly Sedona Tom from me.

The TPG UK team after conquering Cathedral Rock, Sedona

LIAM SPENCER, Senior Marketing Manager

Travel is joyous for so many reasons, and it’s often the combination of great people and beautiful places that makes it such a special thing. That’s why a five day trip to Barcelona with my oldest school friends was my travel highlight of 2021.

The pandemic meant that most of us hadn’t taken a holiday abroad since March 2020, so stepping off the plane into the belting Spanish sun just felt that bit more thrilling some 19 months later. We stayed in a charming AirBnB in the centre of town and spent the week eating all tapas we could find, drinking copious amounts of Spanish beer and reminiscing on old memories. The literal peak of the trip came at Bunkers: a vantage point atop the city that provide breathtaking 360 views of Barcelona and beyond. As I cracked open a cold one with my mates, amongst the backdrop of a stunning Catalan sunset, all felt right in the world once again.

Related: 9 common mistakes tourists make in Barcelona

Photo by Liam Spencer / The Points Guy

MAREN GIMNES, Social Media Manager

Looking back at 2021, it’s one trip that really stands out. I went to Costa Rica for a month in July, and the Pura Vida lifestyle was exactly what I needed at that point. After a challenging time in lockdown, this tropical paradise truly felt like a breath of fresh air. Puerto Viejo was the my first stop on the trip, and I fell in love with it immediately. Situated on the Caribbean side, this area offers some incredible national parks and the best beaches in all of Costa Rica. The town itself is tiny, with a cool surf and hippie vibe, loads of quirky cafes, colourful sunset bars, and amazing restaurants.

During my time in Costa Rica, it was one other place that really stood out to me – the beautiful town of La Fortuna. Built at the base of Arenal volcano and surrounded by wild jungle, waterfalls, and natural hot springs, this is an amazing place if you’re looking for adventures.

Related: 9 of the most beautiful sustainable destinations around the world

La Fortuna, Costa Rica. Photo by Westend61 / Gettys

NICKY KELVIN, Head of TPG UK

There’s a certain magic to visiting a brand new country and I managed to get to one this year that had been on my list for a number of years: Bahrain. What made this a particular highlight this year though was the purpose of my trip. I was invited, along with a very select group of dignitaries, to be onboard the first flights between Bahrain and Israel. Pre-pandemic, I would visit Israel 2 or 3 times a year and I was on the last flight out as the borders closed in March 2020.

Whilst I wasn’t allowed out of the airport, just being part of such a historical and momentous event in aviation and political history, being onboard the aircraft during the water cannon salute and setting my feet once again on Israeli soil was unforgettable.

Related: On board the historic inaugural Gulf Air flights between Bahrain and Israel

Featured image by Marc Ramos / The Points Guy

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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