My Travel Wish List

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I have been fortunate enough to have visited many places on my travel wish list. Switzerland? Done. New York City? Been there, want to go back. Bruges? You bet! Scotland and Germany? Yes, and multiple times, too.

You’ll notice that most of those places have been on the European continent. While I still have places in Europe I want to visit, I am branching out and, er, lengthening the size of my list. It’s a list that I never stop adding to, but I am determined to visit all of the places on it one day (I say that a lot…“one day”). Below, I have compiled just eight of those places I want to see and experience…one day.

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A Little Holiday in North Wales

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The view while riding on the Snowdon Mountain Railway.

North Wales was hosting a summer time Geocaching Mega Event, so of course we had to go along and check it out. I was excited as this was a region I had wanted to visit for quite some time. Pete said the landscape would remind me of BC, and while he was right about that (the mountains, the forested areas), it was very distinctly Welsh. I loved it.

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Easter Weekend 2016

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Red cliffs and the English Channel.

I had a few days of annual leave to use up before the end of the financial year, so I decided to extend the Easter weekend a little. The huz and I weren’t planning on doing much, possibly just taking day trips and going geocaching, but then by chance I happened upon The Shepherds Hut Retreat. I thought, ‘Well, don’t that look cute?’ We checked the dates and saw that one hut was free for the Easter weekend, so we booked ‘er!

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How to Infiltrate an Oxford College Without Really Trying

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A week ago, my mother-in-law asked if I would like to come along with her to Oxford for a geocaching and bus/train adventure. She warned me that it would be an early start (we had to catch the bus at 6:40am), but I have been itching to go back to Oxford for quite some time. I haven’t been there since my first ever visit in February 2014! So, it didn’t take much to convince me.

We ended up buying tickets called Cotswold Discoverers which could be used on certain bus lines and on the train at specific times of the day. It cost us £10 each to travel from Gloucester to Oxford and we could use that same ticket to take the train home. What?! Just for kicks, I checked how much a return train ticket would set me back had I gone my “usual route”—it was £46. Ack! These tickets were amazingly good value and I may have to take advantage more often.

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Our wanderings soon led us to the grounds of the beautiful Magdalen College (who am I kidding, all the college campuses in the city are gorgeous). We happened upon a few chaps who were installing a new gate! Look, a crane holding a gate, that’s something!

We needed to get into the grounds and cross a nearby bridge, so the workmen very kindly let us walk by once the gate was safely on the ground. The entire area in which they were working was actually blocked off, but I guess we didn’t look too much like trouble makers and they let us pass.

They probably shouldn’t have done that because this is when all our troubles started.

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Upon making our way to the bridge, we happened upon this door—and it was locked. See that bridge there? That’s the one I was aiming for! To make matters worse, there were people walking around on the other side. Gahhh, that’s where we want to be! We decided to make our way back to the workmen and sheepishly walk past them yet again. They let us pass, but not before remarking that they really “shouldn’t be doing that”. Ack!

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We ended up meandering around and going nowhere fast, but the grounds were massive, so it didn’t really feel like we were trapped. Well, trapped we were and it was incredibly frustrating! Every gate we came across was locked and every bridge that appeared on our map was inaccessible. We started to wonder if we should turn around and try our luck with those poor workmen again, but were too embarrassed to walk by them a third time. Soo, eventually we just kept on walking until a kindly young gardener took pity on us and unlocked the gate we were trapped behind.

“How did you even get in there??” Yeah, um, best not to ask that, bud, haha.

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This entire time, we were looking for a geocache and it wasn’t until this point when we were informed that our coordinates weren’t correct. Even though it got annoying at times, it was a beautiful place to walk around. There really are worse places you can find yourself locked in!

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Yes, the college has a specific area cordoned off for deer. They had quite a few deer in there. I remember seeing this last year and thinking how ridiculous it all was! Cool? Yes. Over the top fancy-ness? Uh huh!

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After this series of fails, we decided to keep riding the fail train because we struggled to find the exit now that we were on the right side of the fence. We ran into two students who very kindly told us which direction to head. This took three tries, but we got there eventually (we even used the very nice bathrooms in the auditorium, shhh!).

I’m glad security didn’t rush out at any point to tackle us despite the fact that we were walking in areas that were very clearly marked “Staff and Students Only”. We just couldn’t get out of the darn place, but NOW I know where the visitor’s entrance is, so that won’t happen again.

So yes, the infiltration was purely accidental, but thank you Magdalen students and staff for not treating us like total idiots and giving us a hand!

Alone Time in Dresden & Prague

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Back in 2008, I went on a Contiki tour to Europe. We visited nine countries in 19 days and I had such a good time. I went by myself and I was the only Canadian in our group of 40+ travelers (most were from Australia, the others were from New Zealand and the US). Up until that point, I never would have imagined going overseas by myself, let alone navigate a foreign city on my own!

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Dresden, Germany was the first place where I ended up splitting from my usual group of tour-mates. I did, at first, join them to check out the Dresden Frauenkirche and the Fürstenzug, but by the time we got to Zwinger Palace, I was itching to explore elsewhere, so I basically ditched everyone to do just that!

This was very much an experiment in wandering around alone. Up until that point, I had little trust in my sense of direction. I didn’t end up going too far, but I ended up finding some interesting nooks and crannies that I probably would have missed had I stuck with my mostly souvenir hunting tour-mates.

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When we got to Prague, well, just look at it. Yes, even in miserable weather it is a beautiful city. I admit to not doing much here except walking around (I may have visited an H&M for some reason, haha!), but I stumbled upon a few interesting sights that made me smile.

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Prague is known for its puppet theater, which, again, I didn’t end up checking out, but I was delighted upon finding some Harry Potter puppets! I’m not one for souvenir purchasing (plus, I didn’t have enough room in my suitcase to carry this delicate piece of awesome), but I have to say that I was a little bit tempted by red-lipped Harry and his puppety self.

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I fell in love with street markets while in Europe (why oh why do we not have such things in Canada? Or at least in the part where I come from), but the green doors provided that pop of colour that brightened an otherwise grey and hazy day.

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While in Prague, I challenged myself to use my map more and navigate to specific areas. This may seem like a no-brainer to anyone visiting a new place, but again, my confidence in my map reading skills was quite poor (this would only improve once I got into geocaching!). I ended up very briefly in the Jewish district, but I was proud of myself for even finding it purely by map reading.

On the journey back to the hotel, however, I had a horrifying moment of not knowing where I was. I was all by myself on public transit, but this would end up being the easy part as I had memorized the route on our way into the city. Upon exiting the station, my brain failed me and I could not recognize a single thing!

I tried to calm myself and then chose to walk in a particular direction for whatever reason (yes, I know the first thing you should do when you’re lost is STAY PUT—or maybe that’s advice I was given when I was 6-years old…). As I approached an unassuming grey building, I rounded the corner and…oh, there’s my hotel! WHEW. As my confidence in lone exploration had heightened by a fair margin that day, it would have been awful to have it shattered oh-so quickly.

From this point on, I ended up hanging out with another tour-mate who had similar interests and wished to see the same things I did. Thus, my time as a lone explorer had ended. Well, almost. I do a fair amount of exploration on my own even now and I’m happy that I’m no longer afraid to hang out with myself. Me, myself and I have had some good times and I hope we can continue to (not!) get lost in the future.

Back to BC 2015

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After nearly two years—the longest I’ve ever been away from my hometown—I was back in BC and, oh man, it was so good.

This time, I had a new husband in tow. His parents even came over for their first ever trip to Canada. We had a week to get over the jetlag (jeepers, I’m usually okay when I travel in that direction!) and then we had our belated Canadian wedding reception at Campbell Valley Regional Park. We rented out the large picnic area and ate a ton of food, played badminton, tossed an Aerobie around (we may have bought one when we got back to Gloucester!) and hung out with friends and family, most of whom the huz had never met! It was such a blast and we had the best time.

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This is the first time the McSibs have all been together in nearly 48 months. Nutty! I’ve seen both of them on separate occasions, so it was really special to all be together again. I hope they manage to make as many trips across the pond as I surely will!

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Oh, this crazy bunch of ladies. They took me out for a belated bachelorette-like dinner (minus all the embarrassment that usually goes along with that sort of thing—a thousand thank yous!) and we also had some one-on-one time. It was so great. I miss this gang a lot a lot a lot.

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I found myself drinking a lot of root beer on this trip because it doesn’t exist in the UK (well, you can buy it, but it’s usually imported and costs way too much). The British contingent agreed that it smelled like “the dentist” or “antiseptic.” I think it smells like root beer.

While Boylan’s was quite nice, I’m still all about Dad’s Root Beer. And, of course, A&W root beer in an chilled glass. Can’t be beat!

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We were gone for a little over two weeks and we manage to cram so much into this trip. One of my favourite days was taking Pete’s folks along the Sea to Sky highway so they could see some mountains and fjords. They may never make this trip again, which saddens me, but I’m glad they got to see where I grew up. The Sea to Sky gondola had to be the highlight. I remember being skeptical when I heard about its construction, but I have to say that I am sold. It was beautiful up there with a great trail system that led to many gorgeous lookout points (see top photo).

I definitely feel lucky to have lived in such a beautiful place with awesome people, but even I’m starting to admit that Gloucester has begun to feel more like home. I managed to luck out and have two amazing places that I can call home! Not too shabby.

So, I think I’ve managed to re-hydrate after all the crying I did when I had to go back to the UK, but Brit Boy and I are already making plans for Canada 2016. I really hope they come into fruition because we have a crazy, epic trip in our minds!

Until then…so long (for now), BC.

Canadian Invasion 2015!

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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.