- Living Abroad
- Nova Scotia
One of the things I love about England is there is so much history, different architecture and pretty scenery that one could spend a lifetime exploring and still not see it all. This weekend I was whisked away for a mini-break road trip to Kent, an area I’ve not seen much of. It’s an area that has been inhabited for a long time due its location between the channel crossing at Dover and London. Many a King and Queen has been through here and there are many castles and palaces to explore including wineries and the seaside to visit, a little of everything. Kent is also where you will find The Church of England’s equivalent to the Vatican – Canterbury and where the enormous Canterbury Cathedral is. This time around we kept inland and explored the countryside.
The first stop we made was at a vineyard Biddenden where they make both cider and wine. As it is now off-season, and a bit chilly when we arrived, we took the short walk (15 minutes) around the vineyard We explored the shop tasting a few wines and ciders, including a lovely sparkling one and a warm spiced one that reminded me of apple cider we have in the winter in Canada (which unlike this cider is non-alcoholic). We bought a few things including the spiced cider which will make a nice alternative to mulled wine over the cold months.
Next stop was a town called Tinterden where we explored some of the antique shops on the look out for a wooden chest. I love finding a unique piece of jewellery and they are great places to find them, Tinterden in particular had a lot to choose from. There were also many lovely coffee shops to warm up in on a cool autumn day. This town really reminded me of some of the towns in the Hamptons, NY.
The area’s architecture is unlike that of the other parts of England I have been to (the west country, London, the peak district etc.). I was surprised to see clapboard siding used on some of the houses with the white picket fences at times I felt like I had been transported to New England or back home to Nova Scotia. I guess that explains where New England got its colonial feel.
We spent the night in Tunbridge Wells (more on where in the next post) which was bigger than expected and hillier than we Londoners are used to! The Georgian part of town was full of good quality shops, restaurants and cafes. Some were one-off shops, some were recognizable names like Whistles, Prezzo, Jack Wills and such. One thing the town seemed short on was pubs, a bit of a change from the rest of England or perhaps we just were in the wrong part of town.
The Pantiles area known in Georgian times as the Walks was the place to be seen. It has two levels which in the past had a strict protocol – gentry on the ‘Upper Walks’, the colonnade, and everyone else on the ‘Lower Walks’. Today it is a pretty pedestrian area with cafes, restaurants and a pub which make used of the outside area when the weather permits. As well as one-off shops selling kitchen wares, antiques, art and clothes.
Before heading back to London the next day we spent time meandering along the country lanes stopping where we saw something interesting or picturesque. It should be mentioned that we used an iPhone and the new Apple map to guide us. This went surprisingly well considering the stories out there about this new map. We did discover that indeed there are some oddities. At one point decided for us to get to one town we should park in the middle of nowhere and walk, we think across the field, however the town was nowhere in sight! I tend not to trust Sat Nav’s in general and like to back them up with a paper one! This also helps when the battery dies.
Some interesting facts about Kent:
- Pocahontas is buried in (the aptly named)Gravesend in Kent. She died of TB on board a ship off the Kentish coast, about to set sail back to America. Sadly, the whereabouts of here grave is no longer known.
- Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones were both born in Dartford, Kent, England in 1943.
- Britain’s oldest brewery is Shepherd Neame brewery at Faversham, Kent. It has brewed there for over 850 years. “Spitfire” and “Bishops Finger” are two of the many ales it produces.
- In 1532 Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn spent their honeymoon at Shurland Hall, Eastchurch.
- Anne Boleyn’s childhood home is found in Kent, Hever Castle.
Oh and did I mention there are windmills?
How to Get There:
Kent is just South East of London. The interior of Kent and it’s country lanes are best explored by car. However Tunbridge Wells, Canterbury (both about an hour on the train) and many of the coastal towns are easily reached from London by train and make a great day trip.
One thing I looked forward to on my second trip to Rome was visiting Largo di Torre Argentina, a square filled with Roman ruins where there is a cat sanctuary. These aren’t just any Roman ruins, this square is believed to be the spot where Julian Caesar was assassinated the 15 March 0044BC. This large area is the best play area a cat could ask for, with lots of nooks and crannies, ruins to climb around and adoring tourist watching on all day long.
During my first visit to Rome I stumbled across the ruins hot and tired from the morning tourist activities. A movement below caught my eye and I realized it was a cat, then saw another and another. It was a fantastic site to see I was very happy to see these kitties in such a great place and ruins being used for something so useful.
The Roman cats took up residence in the ruins shortly after the first excavations in 1929, they had helpers and cat lovers stopping by and feeding them, but it was not until 1994 that organized help came along for the kitties. The story of those helping the cats is worth a read, you can find it here: http://www.romancats.com/index_eng.php
This visit I was able to visit the area where the carers of the cats work. It is an area built under the side-walk at the edge of ruins (just down a flight of stairs). This area allows for quarantine of the new arrivals and a place for those too injured for release. The Torre Argentina cat sanctuary is one that after nursing the cats back to health, vaccinating and fixing them they are then released or adopted. Those released (for being too feral to adopt) some go off and do their own thing and some stick around making the ruins their home. There are aprox 250 kitties living in this area, but you will be lucky to see 20.
Cats are one of my favourite subjects to photograph, so cats with Roman ruins as a backdrop is a fantastic opportunity for me so I went a bit snap happy! Here are a few of the shots I took.
I’ve made it back from Italy after spending 10 days in the Umbria region and Rome. A good measure how much I like somewhere is how many photos I take. I now have 800 photos to go through and edit down to the best! Umbria is such a photogenic part of the world I look forward to seeing more one day.
I’ve eaten the foods of the region, including lots of chocolate while spending the morning in the chocolate factory famous for Baci chocolates (Perugina) learning how chocolate is made and trying my hand at it.
At the Travel Bloggers conference I met so many fantastic fellow travel bloggers, and will share their blogs with you over the coming posts. It was great to spend time with so many like-minded people who share the love of travelling, sharing and writing about it.
It was my second visit to Rome, but you’ll have to wait for the post about that to find out if it went better the second time around. I would like to thank The Beehive for arranging accommodation for me at The Clover Guesthouse.
Me and My Comfort Zone
Everyone has their own comfort zone and tolerance for going beyond that comfort zone. For some it is sky diving, for others it is travelling to a foreign country, and for some it is trying new food like peanut butter (seriously I know someone that this is outside their comfort zone). It’s outside this comfort zone you feel, excitement, challenged, and this is where you also learn and change. Go too far outside your comfort zone, your mind and body will revert to survival mode.
One of the reasons I love to travel is because I get to see and try new things, and thus learn about the world and expand my horizons. On my last trip to Canada (very much in my comfort zone) I was in British Columbia and finally did something I’ve wanted to do for ages, I went zip-lining. Ziplining has always look like such fun a bit like flying. The location I chose to try it for the first time, the top of Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, is stunning, vistas of Vancouver and the surrounding area and as far south as Washington state.
I didn’t expect to actually zip between mountains, but that’s what it felt like we were doing on the last 2 lines, far above the valley and tree tops! I don’t mind heights, but I really don’t like ledges. The last 2 zip lines really pushed me outside my comfort zone big time. The guides were excellent and the lines were ordered in a way to gear you up to the next bigger and scarier line, until the last 2. The very last one required standing on the edge of the platform which was on top of a 3 story staircase, on the side of the mountain, on a box. The adrenalin was pumping but I was determined I wasn’t going to miss out, and I wasn’t sure there was any other way back without a major hike, and it was getting dark, and there are bears in those hills!
Here is a video of that last, highest, and longest of the zip-lines. You will hear a huge sigh of relieve when I make it to the other side. You will also see my boyfriend fly by me, I wasn’t the fastest zip-liner in the world, but I was glad I had done it, it was fun and a great rush to push myself, and it sure makes you feel alive.
Isle of Wight Festival, Here I come!
Here in England they are fanatical about festivals. There is a festival for everything and anything over the course of the English summer. As far as music festivals go everyone has heard of Glastonbury which music wise seems to have a little something for everyone. Other festivals are more focused, Reading festival for hardcore rock, and Creamfields for dance.
I know people who love festival season and go to 2, 3, even 4 a summer, camping onsite for days. Me, I like long hot showers, and good clean bathrooms, neither of which seem to be on offer at festivals. I never thought I would be able to hack the whole camping, porta-loos, lines, the unpredictable English summer, and so I’ve never attempted to go to a festival.
Then last week I won tickets from work for the Isle of Wight festival in 2 weeks. Not just any tickets but VIP tickets with a special area stage side, with a bar, separate VIP porta-loos (did I mention they are VIP tickets?). So this is my chance to give this whole festival thing a try. Weather, well in England is always questionable but IOW has done quite well weather wise over the past 2 years, so fingers crossed.
The travel to and from the festival has been booked. As it is the Isle of Wight (as in an island) it’s a bit of a mission to get there but the ferry port is only 1.5 hours train ride from London and the ferry ride 30 minutes so not too far. Now I’m gathering those festival essentials, wet wipes, wellies, tent, extra warm sleeping bag, Imodium etc. I’m looking forward to seeing some great bands, and getting into the festival spirit with the 70 000 other people going (some of whom I even know – bands and festival goers that is)!
Being that this is my first festival any tips and suggestions are welcome! Please feel free to leave them in the comments below.
In the previous post Packing Up Your Life I talked about packing up on a large scale. Hopefully this post will help you when you’re packing and coming across individual items you wonder whether you should or can bring or not. With electronics, will it work or will it blow up? Can you get your favourite products, treats etc.in Canada/England?
Electronics (including computers & laptops)
Start with checking the back of the power supply if it says input 100 to 240V it can handle both countries (Canada is on 110V and the UK is on 220V) and all you will need is an adaptor (not a converter) so that the plug will fit into the wall socket. The good news is most camera battery chargers and laptops these days can handle this.
If you have something electronic you want to bring to England (I brought my wireless earphones) then you can get this handy little converter from Maplin once you arrive in England for those things up to 100watts (it seems to go on sale regularly for about £15). There are more heavy duty ones as well should you need it.
In Canada you can buy similar items from The Source, or ebay is also a good place to check (search for voltage converter).
Personal Grooming (looking good)
Some hair dryers have a switch for travelling that allow you to switch between 110 and 220 volts. For most other things the above applies. Those appliances with the 110/220volt switch don’t always work the same, my hair-dryer went from 3 speeds in Canada to one speed (high) in England, but it did the trick for the interim until I could buy a new one.
For me, as a Canadian I always stock up on deodorant when home, deodorant in England just doesn’t seem to work as well. (As a side note I found this blog post by an American Expat about the use of spray deodorant amusing: Pffffffttttttt.) They don’t have Cover Girl make-up in England, so I make sure to have my favourite blush stocked up, though if I made the effort I probably could find one I liked as much in England, there’s no shortage of beauty products here.
For those moving to Canada it depends where you are moving, but most likely you will have to set aside some funds to buy a decent winter coat once you get to Canada and winter arrives, with the exception of the coastal areas of Southern British Columbia where they have similar weather to most of England.
For those moving to England it is all about layering, some days you can experience 2 or 3 seasons in a day, going from damp and cold, to the sun coming out and it turning warm and sunny. As well houses can be drafty, single panel glass windows are not uncommon.
Dairy can’t be brought into Canada from another country, I sadly found this out when my clotted cream was taken from me by customs on the way into Canada when I was returning from a visit to England (such a waste).
There are some shops (online and storefront) that specialized in selling things to expats, those things that you miss and can’t get at your usual shops. So if you find yourself in a bind with a mad craving for say Fruit Loops (Canadian)or Monster Munch (English) and don’t mind paying for it there are options out there. Then there is the obvious, friends and family, be sure to ask your visitors to bring a few things with them.
For the Canadians in England, make sure to check out the Caribbean section in the large Tesco’s where you will find Kraft Dinner and Kool Aid at “normal” prices. As well keep your eyes open for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (my personal favourite) and Pieces, they can be found in local shops (aka corner stores). If you come across Budgens they sometimes have the odd random American selection of things not found elsewhere.
For the most part if you make an effort to find it, or have a local see or try out the item from home, there will most likely be an alternative or equivalent for you. Before you know it you will have new favourites and can’t live without items in your new country.
That leaves, pets and phones (and for the Canadian’s Tim Horton’s), well those are whole other blog posts, and they are soon to be written so stay tuned!
Here are some links to lists of banned and restricted goods:
Information on importing your personal possession when moving to Canada, or England here are the links for that:
You are moving country! You have your visa in hand, very exciting! Now what are you going to do with all your STUFF?! It can all seem a bit overwhelming, but broken down it’s not so bad, just some decisions to be made, then time to get into action.
For every scenario there will be a slightly different approch. The best place to start is de-cluttering. Take a weekend (or 3), and call in help of a friend or 2 for help to keep you on track. Go through each room and box and bag the things you don’t use or need. Decide if you have time to sell it (ebay, a yard or boot sale) or if you are going to give it away. Some charities will arrange for a pick up of items, or check if you have a local Freecycle. You could also post a message on Facebook with the items you are giving away and a deadline to pick them up by.
2. Shipping Quotes
Next, if this is a long term move and you are thinking of shipping your furniture and belongings, call around and get at least 3 quotes. Make sure you are comparing apples with apples, does the quote include door to door, what does the insurance cover, as well as how long you will have access to the container etc. If you are unsure, this will help you decide if shipping is right for you and how much you can afford to bring.
If you are moving abroad short term this is the time to research what the different airlines charge for excess baggage. This will help you decide which airline to buy your ticket with and how much you can afford to bring.
If your move is short term and you will need to find storage for your stuff, it won’t likely be worth the cost to ship it over and back (unless you are lucky enough to be doing a company move and they are footing the bill). I wasn’t sure if I was moving to England long term or not, so I wanted to keep some of my household stuff just in case.
I invited my good friends over and had them put dibs on my bigger stuff. As well, at this time I was lucky that a friend of a friend had just bought a house and finding themselves broke after the purchase were happy to take some of my furniture, the family cottage was in need of a new bed and TV, and my Dad’s love of storage sheads also came in very handy. That along with a few other friends who said they would be happy to keep stuff for me and I was set.
This means that there will be some wear and tear on my stuff, but I don’t have to pay for storage. I made notes of what went where so I could keep track, and find things should I need anything in the future. Now as my the years go by and my move becomes more permanent I purge a few more things each visit home and bring back some things back with me.
If you are brave and want a clean break then do a good purge, get rid of your stuff except the stuff you can fit in to your bags. It’s very freeing, I did it on my first attempt to live abroad in 1999 (other than my photo albums and beloved books). You could try the 100 things challenge, reduce the “stuff” in your life down to 100 things. A girl I know did this to prepare for her 6 month camper van adventure, you can read about her experience here: Selina’s, Made In the Moment site.
5. Practice Packing
Once you get most things packed in boxes, you will need to finalise what exactly you are bringing. Time to get practice packing! By now you will need to have decided how many bags you are bringing, and have those bags at hand. Next, gather your stuff and see if it fits! My dad is a genius at getting things tightly packed, and perfectly fitted in to make the most of the space, I don’t know what I would have done without him (I own a lot of clothes). It took me a couple trial runs and on the last night I was still coming to terms with this sweater and that book that wouldn’t fit.
Be sure you know exactly what you can carry on the plane (each airline will detail this in their baggage section on their website). Make the most of this for things you can’t do without (medications), or easily replace (important documents), laptop and such.
I would love to hear any of your packing tips, feel free to leave them below in the comments.