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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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!).

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“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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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An Update

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Homesickness and the Holiday Season

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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.

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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.

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!

30 Months

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The past couple of months have been fun, stressful, educational, confidence building and scary. Getting married was the easy part! It’s what followed that proved to be tough.

It is most definitely a cliché, but sometimes when you so desperately want to move forward in your life, you have to overcome a whole lot of POOP—that’s how the old adage goes, right? Close enough.

Well, for me, the “poop” was the crippling fear that my Visa application would be rejected and I would be forced to leave the country—and my new husband—and spend a whole lot of time and funds to re-apply.

I’m almost tempted to write a blog post about how to apply for a new Visa when you’re a foreigner living INSIDE the UK because there was very little information I could find. Hmm!

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Well, I wasn’t kicked out of the country, despite my application decision taking much longer than I originally anticipated (nearly two months), so now I finally feel like I’m back to my mostly chilled out and relatively anxiety-free self!

Did I mention what I got out of the deal was a small plastic card the size of a driver’s license with a most unflattering photo of yours truly on it? Hot dang! This little card bestows upon me permission to continue remaining and working in the UK for another 30 months. Huzzah!

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Yes, that means there will be even more pictures of Gloucester Cathedral. You can’t escape pictures of this cathedral! Never ever.

I certainly feel lucky that I can continue to live in this beautiful place. I know most Brits I’ve spoken with aren’t too quick to speak highly of where they live, but I have gotta say—you have it pretty good and I’m happy that I get to stay here for another couple of years. Even if that means I constantly have to hear “That’s not a regional accent!” Honestly, I can put up with that. I can put up with a lot more than that.

I know this because I already have.

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So, what’s next?

Well, for starters, I turn 32 in exactly one week. To celebrate, the huz is taking me to IKEA. Now, I know you may think that is a bit silly, but I haven’t been to IKEA in nearly two years. I have fun at IKEA. Waaaay too much fun. I miss the cheap breakfast. I miss causing mischief in the showrooms. I miss feeling bad about walking around without a purchase, so I end up buying napkins. I may have looked at the 2015 catalogue to prepare myself (honestly, though, I am on the lookout for a new shelf!).

Oh yes. It’s gonna be good.

Oh yeah, and I’m going to be visiting my family and friends back in BC soon. And by “soon”, I mean T-minus 19 days. YES!

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So, here’s to another 30 months! I can’t wait to see what else is in store…hopefully a lot less paperwork and a whole lot of awesome. Yes, I would like that. I would like that very much.