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.

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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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.

Sunny Sunday

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Grumpy Cat Street Art

I didn’t feel quite like Grumpy Cat, but I was amused to find her likeness on a walk in Gloucester city center today.

August marks the start of another Geocaching challenge: The 7 Souvenirs of August. Basically, you’re challenged to find 6 different cache types for the month of August. Once you complete a challenge, a little souvenir badge shows up in your Geocaching profile (kind of like achievements/trophies with video games). When you get all 6 cache types, a bonus 7th badge will appear. I’m into it. It’s fun, nerdy and is a great excuse to go outside and enjoy that summer weather.

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Our walk took us along some interesting sights in Gloucester, many of which I’d never seen before. We saw two ruined priories and one particular cache had us looking at plaques to figure out clues as to where the final hide was. Normally, I’d just walk by a plaque without paying much attention. These ones were definitely out of one’s view, so it was cool to have attention drawn to them.

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Apple tree! Don’t worry, I wasn’t NEWTON’D. This was in the courtyard of Blackfriars Priory, which was an interesting spot to briefly visit. There were nice little gardens and buildings amongst the crumbling priory ruins.

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All in all, it was a nice afternoon to be out and about. We snagged two geocaching souvenirs on our walk and took in some brilliant sunshine. After the crazy downpour that happened yesterday, it was great to enjoy the decent weather!

Over the Weekend: Thunderstorms & Food Festivals

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Gloucester Docks

The above picture is a stark contrast from the weather yesterday morning and afternoon. It was absolutely coming down in the buckets. We got pretty wet when we went to the recycling depot. After coming home and drying off a bit, I heard thunder rumbling in the distance.

Today, it was warm and sunny. I was so unprepared for this that I wore black jeans and forgot my sunglasses. D’oh! I heavily rely on my BBC weather app, so I was expecting it to be overcast for most of the day. “Nope!” said the Sun. “I’m going to be out in all my full brilliance and splendor!”

That was nice. But, I was sweaty. Totally my fault.

We did head out in the sunshine to check out the Gloucester Quays Food Festival. There were many stalls selling everything from oils, cheeses, meats, kitchen wares and something called “fuffle” (a chocolate bar truffle). We settled on spicy stir fried Thai noodles for lunch and then treated ourselves to some damn good ice cream served out of a pink VW camper van! Brit Boy also ended up buying a 3-pack of Severn Cider which is some darn delicious stuff. I’m not a big drinker, but I like this cider!

It was a good weekend and it’s still going strong. I’m still pretty sick, though, and have been for over a week now. No good. Summer colds are the worst.

My brother ended up flying back home safely last Saturday. It was nice having him around for three weeks. I hope more family and friends will be able to visit in 2015! It’s been fun getting to know the area I live in now and showing people around.

For now, Munich looms in the distance. Okay, “looms” isn’t the right word, but that trip is quickly approaching! I’m pretty excited. This may be the last trip I take this year, unless something spontaneous happens.

I’m totally down with that, too :]

Over the (Long) Weekend: Brunch, Caching & Stately Homes

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Saturday started off with brunch at The Curious Cafe, a place I’ve walked by many times and thought, ‘I want to go in there.’ I got the vegetarian English breakfast (substituting the tomato for an extra hash brown…that I couldn’t even eat anyway). It was satisfying and made my tummy happy and less hangry.

Sunday was spent geocaching where we ended up in a field looking for reindeer (it was a Christmas themed caching series). It was, I believe, my first cache-venture in Worcestershire. The weather looked gloomy at the start of the day, but gradually got better. Thank goodness, as I didn’t bring a waterproof coat! You’d think all my time in rainy BC would have taught me a thing or two (NOPE).

We ended up befriending a few horses, due to Brit Boy’s mum feeding them mints. We had to walk across that field to grab a cache and they followed us the whole way. The middle one (the younger of the three) ended up sneaking behind me somehow and bumping my shoulder! I was only a little startled.

Our cache-scursion brought us to the estate of Hanbury Hall, a beautiful place with massive amounts of land now owned by the National Trust. We completed yet another Christmas themed cache series that ended up being a ton of fun.

I love seeing stuff like this as it’s truly strange to my Canadian (heck, North American) eyes. These sights are often romanticized due to large doses of period drama viewings. We didn’t end up going inside, but intend to return!

My brother will be visiting the UK in less than a month! We have booked a trip to Dublin for three nights during the time he’ll be here. I’m looking forward to it! We plan on visiting the Guinness Storehouse, Kilmainham Gaol and the nearby town of Bray to snag the oldest cache in Europe (neeerrrrds!). Fun times ahead!