Winter & the Festive Season

Standard
winter16_01

The cathedral in the morning winter sun really is something else.

It’s that time of year again when there’s a Christmas tree in every front window, lights on all the houses and the temperatures a balmy 12 degrees Celsius…wait, what?!

After a cold start to December (I’m talking temperatures dipping below zero, which is quite cold in these parts), we are now experiencing another mild lead up to Christmas. In fact, that crazy temp I just mentioned is the forecast for Christmas Day. What the what? I could get away with wearing a light jacket! In fact, I HAVE gone out for a walk in a light jacket recently. Just ridiculous.

winter16_02

I needed a heavier jacket on this walk, though.

Pete and I have enjoyed doing the usual festive things during December. We have been hosting some geocaching events at pubs (continuing a series of these events from last winter), getting our shopping done early (I am DONE…well, I might get a few extra things…heh heh) and generally just chilling out after busy days at work.

I usually get terribly homesick this time of year, but I have been doing better this time around. True, there are things I definitely miss (Stanley Park, gah!), but we are creating our own little traditions in this neck of the woods. Pete finally “gets” why I love driving around in search of insanely decked out houses. We will be attending a Christmas Day geocaching event for the third year running (hosted by my mother-in-law). Oh, and we finally got a new Christmas tree and some nerdy ornaments. Behold!

winter16_03

I think Deadpool needs a Santa beard. Maybe next year.

We also definitely bought a Lego set (the Winter Toy Shop, pictured next to the tree) and we’re hoping to get a few more of these sets in the future. Oh boy, that could get out of control and fast!

Oh 2016, you were definitely rough at times (that’s an understatement!), but overall this year was pretty good to me on a personal level. As always, though, I look forward to ushering in another year in the hope that it will be even better. Optimism ahoy!

Happy Holidays / Merry Christmas / Happy Hanukkah / Joyous Kwanzaa

…and a happy new year, you filthy animals.

Advertisements

The Summer So Far

Standard
summer16-01

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!).

summer16-02

“Whoooooo 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.

summer16-03

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.

summer16-05

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!

summer16-04

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.

summer16-06

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.

An Update

Standard

updatemar16-01

No, the update does not involve the fact that I appear to have shrunk to the size of most gardening tools. Nor does it involve the current state of my fruffy hat (which, in case you WERE wondering, is gently folded and kept safe in a box full of winter accessories).

Lately, life has been, well, a lot like life can be–busy, stressful at times, but fun. This month started off quite decently: I had taken a few days off from work and those days were mostly spent geocaching and attending a few caching related events.

One event–hosted by Pete’s mum–was meant to take place on a Saturday morning at the cathedral cafe, but there was one tiny problem…they weren’t open! There had been a change in opening times due to low staff numbers (darn flu season!).

Pete’s quick thinking mother relocated the event to one of my new favourite eateries in Gloucester, the Cathedral Deli. It’s run by two very friendly ladies and the looks on their faces when 20+ geocachers walked in was priceless! They happily waited on everyone and ran around making sure everyone had their food and drinks. It was great. Alas, I wasn’t able to try a toasted teacake, but I did scarf down one heckuva delicious cheese scone.

updatemar16-03
We managed to cram a lot into that weekend, even managing to visit the Cotswold Wildlife Park for the umpteenth time. I just love going there. The lemur enclosure alone is worth the trip, but this time the red pandas were moving! They normally sleep in the trees and the most movement I had seen up until that point was a slight raising of the head. Well, this time we arrived as they were being fed and they were scurrying around and being silly. I was maybe a little overjoyed.

updatemar16-04
The bottom one hella photobombed this pic, hehee.

It’s still quite cold outside. Yeah, I know it’s not as cold as it is in some places back in Canada, but we have entered the awkward “I don’t know what to wear anymore” stage. I’ll have multiple layers on because that wind be chilly–but then the sun comes out and when you stand/walk in direct sunlight those layers will quickly bring about a case of “the sweats”. Come on, Spring, hurry up and get here–the daffodils have been out since January!

And with that plea, I shall sign off here. I am taking in a few interesting things in Gloucester today as it’s resident’s weekend, so there are guided tours and some old buildings open for visits that are closed to the public for most of the year. Looking forward to it.

But first, I shall leave you with the picture of a shark in a roof. Oxford is a silly place.

updatemar16-02

Homesickness and the Holiday Season

Standard

dec02_2015-02

Last year, I wrote this blog post in the hopes that it would help me get over those seasonal blues that seem creep up on me around this time of year. It has been tough being away from friends and family during Christmas, but I’m hoping this year is different.

What has helped so far this year is the location of my new job. I am right smack in the middle of Gloucester city center and I get to walk by that glorious cathedral every day. I know I go on and on about this cathedral, but of all the ones I have been in it still holds a special place in the “love of old feats of architecture” part of my heart. The morning sun was particularly stunning on that day and I took a detour on my walk into work so I could snap some pictures.

dec02_2015-01

The city center is all decked out for Christmas, too (pictured above is College Green, my favourite alleyway in the city). I love coming out of work to see all the lights turned on as I make my way to the bus stop down the high street. There are a few Christmas trees set up, but knowing some citizens in Gloucester, those sparkly baubles will be smashed to smithereens soon enough!

It has been remarkably mild, too, which is a stark contrast to the weather situation back in BC. I must say, I do NOT miss freezing cold weather. It’s a little hard getting into the “winter vibe” of the season when it’s warm enough to wear a light jacket, but it was very cold a few weeks back–cold enough that I had to put on my toque–and I was like, “Yeah…not into this.” Insta-chapped!

Another silly thing I find myself pining for (HA! Puns!) is the smell of evergreen trees. Christmas trees are often imported to this country from Norway and I just miss that scent. I think it goes back to my childhood and having a tree all set up and decorated. I used to love just sitting near it and watching the lights blink and catching the scent every now and again. So, I decided to do something drastic and buy a Thymes Frasier Fir candle. When I worked at Chapters, I used to get so excited when these came in and I would make a point of wandering over to the section and taking a whiff. I definitely paid more than I would for a candle, but I am pleased to say it was worth it! It’s burning while I type this and it smells divine.

As for new traditions, I am always on the lookout for new things to do in and around Gloucester. I may need to do more research on things like light displays and what not–including events going on at the aforementioned cathedral. For now, though, I will enjoy all the various ways the Brits enjoy Christmas and, as always, attempt to get in on their fun all while sprinkling in some bits and pieces that I know and love, too.

Upcoming Awesome

Standard

08112015-london

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

Standard

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

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.

e-weekend_2015-03

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.

e-weekend_2015-04

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!

e-weekend_2015-02

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!

e-weekend_2015-06

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!

e-weekend_2015-05

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.

Canadian Invasion 2015!

Standard

Not even Canada Gate could hold back an invasion of Canadians in England! And that’s just fine because it was a perfectly welcome invasion and it was great seeing everyone and showing them around this country I now call home.

After the wedding, Brit Boy and I had my mom, dad, sister, nephew and two friends to chaperone around London. I was excited about this trip as it was the longest I’d ever stayed in the city. Each time I go, I see something different, but I always leave wishing I’d seen more! This was a chance to remedy that.

The first day was spent seeing the “big sights”–Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben/Elizabeth Tower and Trafalgar Square. It was almost too much for the McFamily, but since we had an extra day to explore we ended up re-visiting areas so they could enjoy them more with less boggling of the minds.

Since we were planning on covering a lot of ground, we opted for Visitor Oyster cards. They were pre-loaded with £15.00 and we only had to top them up two or three times on the last full day (even then, we just added small amounts). I would highly recommend these as day passes are so pricey now. We ended up getting two full days usage out of these bad boys and were able to travel at anytime (not just off-peak) and on the Tube and DLR (they are also valid on the bus and Overground services).

Our first full day was mostly spent in Greenwich. We took the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) to the furthest point I’d ever been, passing through Canary Wharf and far from the busy areas I’m so accustomed to seeing. Since it’s the off-season, the Royal Observatory was largely tourist-free, so we enjoyed this mostly quiet view.

I wasn’t too keen on paying money to straddle an invisible line, so we took our Prime Meridian photo op just outside the gates (we were alerted to this option thanks to a geocache). Despite it being oh-so cold (oh, was it ever cold, and continued to be the entire time we were in London!), we spent a fair bit of time here. There are great walking paths, a nearby Maritime museum if that’s your sort of thing (it wasn’t ours, we used it for the washrooms and to steal a bit of warmth!) and, if you’re hungry, the wonderful Greenwich Market had plenty of food options to get your om nom nom on!

I think one of the coolest things we did in this area was walk through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Walking under the Thames? Well, it wasn’t on my list of things to do in my life, but now I can say I did it and it was very cool! We may have spent most of the time making “ghost noises”, which likely irritated the locals who were also using the tunnel. Whoops!

After saying farewell to the McFamily, we took the remaining Canadians to Camden Town, another place I have wanted to visit for quite some time. I’m not a big “shopper”, so the seemingly endless amount of market stalls was a little overwhelming at times. The almost maze-like area took us through Camden Lock and the Stables Market (my favourite area). We also checked out Honest Burgers while we were in the vicinity and, wow, am I ever glad we did! My chicken burger was delicious–way up there with the best I’ve ever had.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take many pictures here as the light was fading and, well, camera phones can only do so much in the dark! It was a fun way to round up our day and soon we dragged our tired selves to Paddington station…only to be delayed as there was a problem with the signals and nothing was moving. D’oh! We got back to Gloucester eventually. Here’s proof!

Yep, we went back to the cathedral two weeks after our wedding. What a swell time that was!

And now I am back to being one of the few Canadians who live in Gloucester. I am becoming more and more convinced that I am the only Canadian in Gloucester, but I highly doubt that. We are just a rarity in these parts. It was great to re-visit places like Bath, Chepstow and Stonehenge with people who have never been there–and who happened to talk like me! All in all, it was a great time and I look forward to being invaded again in the future.