The Summer So Far

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The Shard being all majestic and…shard-y.

How is it August already? Yes, it still baffles me how quickly time passes. You’d think I’d be over that by now! But, really, it felt like my birthday month was just a short time ago. That’s when I was in London and hanging with the Shard, eating delicious cherries I bought at Borough Market and enjoying some of the first decent weather of the summer.

It’s been a great couple of months. We’ve gone on some enjoyable geocaching walks and we just got back from a little holiday to North Wales (I’ll hopefully blog about that!).

“Hoooooo are you looking at?”

We also visited the International Centre for Birds of Prey. This place is truly amazing. They have a wide variety of birds, a hospital on site and wonderful flying demonstrations. They also have a family of black labs who just saunter around, completely ignoring the birds (some of which are literally out in the open!). These dogs are more interested in seeing how much free food they can get from the human visitors.

This went into my pie-hole. It was very yummy.

Can you believe this was my first time eating poutine?? I have now had poutine and chicken and waffles for the first time in the UK, not exactly the country of origin! We really enjoyed checking out the Gloucester Food Festival yet again.

And then…well, Pokemon Go came out and the world went nuts. More like the app crashed a lot! This was the start of us going out on very random walks in an effort to “catch ’em all”. Um, more like catching all the Drowzees. There are way too many spawning around here! Still, it’s been fun Pokemoning. It certainly makes going on a very familiar walk more interesting!

A typical British Pokestop.

We checked out a restored 19th century bee shelter at the church in Hartpury. It was a beautiful place–I may have caught a Squirtle near here, hehee. There is also a beautiful old mill here, too. There’s a picture on the linked page that is so much better than any photo I could have managed to snap. People actually live on the property and I may be a little jealous.

Beautiful homes in Ashton Under Hill.

So yes, in terms of outings and taking advantage of the longer days and warmer weather, we’ve done very well. We have managed to pack a fair bit into a lot of weekends. In fact, this may be the first weekend where we don’t have anything planned! It’s been nice having a bit of a break.

In my personal life, I managed to land a permanent contract with the department I support at work. Unfortunately, we were given the news this week (the day after I came back from holidays) that we would be going through a restructure. It’s early days yet and I have no idea what’s going to happen, but it sucks and there are going to be a lot of changes. I can only hope that I will continue to keep my current role as I do enjoy the service area I support and all the people I work with.

On a happier note, it won’t be long until I am back in my hometown and attending my friends’ impending nuptials. That’s going to be a good time! Pete and I have also been discussing a possible mini-cation in February. Cold? Yes. But we’re just looking at a few tentative options.

So here’s to letting the good times continue to roll on and not worrying about the uncertainty of the future (easier said than done!). Here we go.

Upcoming Awesome

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There is a chill in the air today, but it was so gloriously sunny that I just had to spend my last, work-free day out in it. Okay, so I went into a Starbucks, read boring documents (and started a new book) and sipped at my free drink (thank you, Star Points), but I was not prepared for suddenly lower temperatures. I don’t even know what I’m saying…the high was 9 degrees celsius, but dang, when that wind picked up it was cold.

I mentioned this is my last “free day” as I am (finally!) starting a new job with the local government on Monday. I was interviewed well over a month ago so, yes, it’s been a process, but I have my start date at last. Seriously, every time I have started a new job here there have been complications, so I wasn’t too surprised when even more arose with this particular one. But, things are mostly sorted and this unemployment spell will soon be over!

I went to London last weekend to attend the Canadian Remembrance Day service in Green Park. I attended the service last year and completely by accident, too. I had wanted to go to the memorial anyway to leave a poppy only to find it cordoned off from the general public. A quick ask around and I soon learned that there would be a service–so I stayed to take it in.

I’m really glad we were able to go again this year. We brought along Pete’s mum, too, and had a short, but sweet day trip to the capital. I even brought along Canadian money to give to the girl selling poppies (the dang pin on the poppy did a number on my thumb a couple of times, though–stabby stabby!). The weather was quite mild, too, which was a lovely bonus. I’m not sure when next we’ll go to London, but I’m sure it will be within the upcoming months. We always enjoying going there.

And now my brain is tuning into Christmas and all the activities going on in Gloucester and Cheltenham. Next weekend is the Victorian Christmas Market in Gloucester, so I’ve made a note in my calendar about that. We haven’t gone before, but those sorts of things are fun to check out. Um, I mostly go for the food, haha! The market in Cheltenham will be starting up on December 3, but if I’m being honest, I was quite disappointed with it last year. The only great thing about it was learning about the existence of The Great British Cheese Company. We may have gone back several times to buy cheese from them. Our favourite, Smokey Redwood, actually sold out…as in they had none left, not even at the source! Dang it. I hope they’re back this year as they are one company I don’t mind giving my hard earned money to.

That’s about all that’s going on around here. I have no trips or any other things of that nature planned in the near future, but 2016 promises to be a doozy on that front. I hope even a few of the crazy ideas Brit Boy and I have conjured will come to fruition. Until then…here’s to the upcoming awesome.

Over the (Easter) Weekend: Abandoned Villages & Steep Inclines

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The Easter long weekend proved to be quite eventful. We had planned on taking Brit Boy’s mum out on a cache-venture (mostly to re-visit a few sights we went to with friends back in February), so that’s what we did on Good Friday. Our journey was also an opportunity to visit the abandoned village of Imber, a place that is now solely used for military training. They have open days a few weekends during the year and the Easter long weekend is one of those times, so we decided to take advantage.

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It’s only a little intimidating driving around and seeing this kind of signage! The drive into Imber was, indeed, very odd. We were in the middle of an open field with, essentially, a single track road to drive on. Imber is nestled at the base of a slight hill, so when the church started coming into view it was almost a relief. Civilization! But, oh, it so wasn’t.

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A few original buildings remain, but there are mostly ones like this scattered about the village. The history of Imber’s abandonment is quite sad in that the entire population was forced to leave in 1943, just two weeks before Christmas, in order to make way for a place in which the military could train. They were promised that they would be allowed to return once the war was over, but that never happened. Generations of families up and left to who knows where, leaving behind the eerie remnants of their former life. It was fascinating to walk around, especially in the churchyard where a barbed wire fence now stands around the grounds. It was definitely a unique experience!

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We did a fair amount of geocaching that day and the weather managed to hold off despite it looking quite nasty at some points. We did come across more strange signage, but didn’t see any tanks (no training over the Easter long weekend, sadly). I really did want to see a tank go flying by as that would have been equal parts amusing and terrifying!

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Mohawk and Mop Top, two donkeys we befriended during our geocaching outing. I may have given them those names. They were really cute, but definitely sad that we had no food for them. Sorry, donkeys!

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Saturday was dedicated to walking up and around Chosen Hill, a place that is a mere 15 minute walk from our place, but I hadn’t gone up that hill in 7-years. I guess I couldn’t stop thinking about some previous aborted attempts, as I have nothing but good memories from my first climb up that hill. It was early into my first UK visit (and the first time I met the Brit)–I was hardcore jet-lagged, but for some reason agreed to this walk. At the end of it, I got my first real view of Gloucester and the jarring change in landscape was mind-boggling, but beautiful.

On that first climb, however, we never did make it to the church at the top of the hill, but I have photographic evidence that I have now been there. Finally! I think the scenery from this side was even more spectacular. Gotta appreciate a good view!

We also visited Spring Fest at Gloucester Quays which turned out to be a great afternoon out. There were many market stalls and food vendors. I tried chicken and waffles for the first time ever and it was delicious! I have to say, I was fully expecting to have to travel to the southern United States in order to eat that, but hey, if it’s being offered in a country I wouldn’t normally associate serving up such food, I will take it!

All in all, it was a great long weekend. With the weather getting warmer by the day, I’m sure there will be even more fun times to come in weekend-land.

New Traditions

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I love Christmas. Yes, even after working in retail over the holiday season for five years, I still love Christmas (fun amongst chaos!). I love the smell of Christmas trees, the decorating of said tree, looking at lights on all the houses and going to Bright Nights at Stanley Park or checking out the Festival of Lights at VanDusen Gardens. These were the traditions that I would take part in with friends and family, but now that I’m away from them all, I have struggled with getting into the spirit of things.

For one, that good ol’ smell of pine is practically non-existent. I’m not sure what happens when the trees are imported from Norway, but they lose that fine scent along the way and it makes me sad. Yes, if I see one of these trees, I will run over and huff it, only to be disappointed. Also, I’m not sure if it’s just the area I live in, but there are absolutely no lights on houses. Okay, that’s harsh–there are, but not to the extent that I have seen many times in my life. I would love to go out on a drive to look at some Christmas decor, but there’s literally nothing. Decorations and lights in the town centers don’t really count for me (even though it’s pretty, especially the shop windows, wowzers). I love seeing the creativity of home owners around this time of year. I’m once again coming to grips with the fact that it’s just not a “thing” in these parts.

And so, I am finding myself coping with homesickness over this stuff, but, over the past few weeks, I have begun to come up with a solution: Start some new traditions!

I think the easiest thing to take part in are the Christmas markets and there are many. I went to the one in Bath last year, but it was too crazy busy for me. I have been to the little market in Cheltenham a few times, but nothing has really caught my eye (well, the turkey sandwich with stuffing certainly did–wait, that caught my nose and taste buds more than anything!). Plus, there were little to no vegetarian options for Brit Boy. Sure, they had sweet crêpes and waffles, but what if he wanted something savoury (which he did)?? No good, Cheltenham Christmas market, no good.

As much as we like to make fun of Gloucester for being the type of place that has little going for it, the Festive Fayre (which, sadly, only lasted a weekend) had over 80 stalls, live music and people dressed in fun Christmassy costumes. There were plenty of veggie options, as evidenced above with delicious savoury pies from Pieminister (we bought three), and lots of local vendors selling their wares, be it edible or not.

Since I am a glutton, I tend to fawn over the food (and eat it, of course!). I may have gotten a custard filled doughnut from these fine folks, mostly because everything else was stupidly huge. Do you see how big those slices of bread pudding are?! And Danish pastries the size of your face? Ah well, it makes my eyes happy to look upon them and my tummy happy to chow down on their deliciousness.

While Vancouver has its own Christmas market, and has put it on for a number of years now, it’s heavily influenced by German-style markets, so to see the Brits do it their own way is fun and interesting. Between myself, Brit Boy and his folks, we walked away with a selection of Glastonbury cheeses, six pies and a massive bulb of smoked garlic (which is currently making our pantry smell glorious). We could have bought more, but, well, we were running low on cash, haha. These markets are dangerous!

Also, on Christmas day, I am attending a geoaching event hosted by Brit Boy’s mum. Who knows–this could be the start of another tradition!

I still really miss the abundance of Christmas lights, though, but until I am back in Canada to celebrate, I will continue to sniff each and every Norwegian fir tree.

photo credit: M J M via photopin cc