Things I’d forgotten about the UK

It’s funny how quickly you adapt to your surroundings. I never realised just how quickly until I returned home from two years living in Canada. There are the obvious differences  between the two countries such as the accent, or driving on the other side of the road and there were more subtle differences such as the overall happiness and politeness of the people.

However, you find yourself becoming more and more accustomed to the differences without even noticing. In fact you after a while you start forgetting your everyday routine from home and adapting to your new life.  For example, I got into the habit of saying ‘for sure!’ at the end of every sentence or not looking in both directions while crossing the road as I knew that the cars would stop for me!

But over the few months I have been back in Shropshire there have been a few things that make me go.. ‘Oh! I’d completely forgotten about that!’ For example:

Switches on Sockets

black socket on white switch besides white socket converter

Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

The amount of times I have put my phone or tablet on charge, walked away for an hour or two and returned to find my tech with even less battery than before is outstanding. All because I keep forgetting to flick the switch on. With North American sockets you simply pop the plug and you are good to go whereas here in the UK you have to turn it on too.

Pennies

cash coins money pattern

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The penny was eliminated in Canada in 2013 and what a good idea it was, the smallest coin is for 5 cents. I went two years without having largely unused coins in my wallet and it was a delight. I’m trying not to amass them now I’m back in the UK but there are already a few jingling away. I would definitely sign a petition to get rid of the 1p and 2p pieces.

Having to pay for carrier bags

The UK introduced the 5p bag charge for plastic bags in 2015. There was about a year of this before I left for Canada where for the most part there is no charge for them. In fact they were quite liberal with giving plastic bags away at the grocery store. In Canadian supermarkets they tend to pack your bags for you (something I never got used to, but did enjoy) and when packing they would often double bag items or only put a few in each bag. I do keep forgetting my bags on the way to the store but am enjoying using less plastic.

People don’t stop for pedestrians

busy downtownThis one has nearly got me run over a few times. I always look both ways before crossing the road but here in the UK I find myself being extra cautious as cars are far less likely to stop and let you cross… even when they legally should. Whereas Canada, for the most part, was extremely pedestrian friendly, stopping even in places they didn’t have to!

There are People everywhere

Birmingham Grand Central

Canada is huge with an area of 9,985 million km²  and a population of 36.71 million  (2017), whereas the UK has an area of 242,495 km² but has 66.02 million people crammed into it. Before moving I never noticed that there were people everywhere and it’s been quite unusual to walk through town now thinking ‘where have all these people come from?’ At first I just thought it was because it was Christmas and everyone was out doing their festive shopping. But it seems to be busy and bustling no matter where I go. 

You can’t buy huge jars of salsa

I just assumed that on my return I could continue to consume salsa in the same volume that I had been in Canada. With fajitas, crisps, tacos, in wraps… it was putting it on everything. In fact I bought a container the same size as a 4 pint milk carton full of the stuff and indulged. If any Brits know where I can bulk buy salsa please let me know!!!

It’s great to be back and rediscovering all the things that have changed and all the things that have remained the same.  I’m hoping that eventually my brain will reconnect that to drive I need to go to the the right hand side of the car. And you never know I many even find a jar of salsa the size of my head!
Have you ever lived away from home and things have changed on your return? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by my blog… if you like it give it a little share, like or comment!

Top Ten Pics of 2018

I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last year exploring some more amazing places. From new year to the start of spring Matt and I enjoyed the winter wonderland of Halifax, Nova Scotia, taking in the lighthouses, lobster pots and crashing waves. Moving on to a road trip to Calgary where we spent the summer months exploring the Rocky Mountains some more. Before embarking on a two week holiday with my parents from Toronto round to Boston, Massachusetts.

As we’ve visited some of theses beautiful places we’ve been able to capture some of them on camera to share with you. Throughout the year my favourite snaps have made it onto the Instagram account. If you are not following already you should! Follow this link! There are many more Canadian favourites to share and I’ll be hoping to share more from upcoming trips.

But for now enjoy the top ten from 2018!

10. Autumn Leaves at Mont Royal Park, Montreal

Autumn was a beautiful time of year to visit one of the biggest urban parks in Canada, Mont Royal. With quite a lot of steps to tackle it was wonderful to stop ever now and then and take in all the wonderful colours the park had to offer in October.

9. Ski Fence, Calgary

I came across this fence in a local neighbourhood while pet sitting in Calgary during the summer. It has to be THE most Canadian fence in the whole country! The sweet little neighbourhood also boasted a very welcome retro ice cream store.

8. Lake Louise Shoreline, Banff

One of the many photos from our early rise to tackle the tea rooms and beehive hikes from Lake Louise. By the time we returned to the lake the sun was shining just perfectly along the shore.

7. Stampede, Calgary

At Calgary’s famous Stampede festival I had the opportunity to go inside this gorgeous home. It was a fascinating insight into a part of Canadian culture that is often brushed over. The Indian Village also boasted some very tasty bannock and Saskatoon berry jam!

6. We Can Do It! Mural, Sydney, Nova Scotia

Sydney was a bit of a dull stop on the cruise ship as our excursion got cancelled and we were unable to sign up to another one that interested us. So we opted to have a stroll around the town. It started off on the boring side but ended with a cluster of street murals which really brightened up a grey day. This one was one of my favourites… and one of yours too!

5. Puddle Hunting at Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Catching reflections is always fun and Peggy’s Cove is full of little crevices that get filled up as the waves and tides change. There was a gorgeous blue sky on the day which just made the lighthouse stand out even more in this shot.

4. Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

The longest hike we did throughout the entire two years in Canada was at Waterton Lakes. Voted one of the most thrilling hikes in the world by National Geographic, the Crypt Lake trail did not disappoint. Check out the stories section on my account to see what its all about.

3. Lake Louise Trails, Banff

Another time where the sun shone at just the right time. As we climbed this trail the sun was rising behind so I’m very glad I turned around to capture this moment.

2. Petit Champlain, Quebec City

Like a scene straight out of Beauty and the Beast Petit Champlain had such charm. In fact it was one of my Mum’s favourite places. But I did expect someone to start singing about provincial life at any point!

1. Stiperstones Nature Reserve, Shropshire

I was so surprised that this was my most liked photo of 2018. It’s not that it’s not a beautiful place it really is very stunning but I did expect a Canadian view to top the list. I hope to explore a lot more of Shropshire and the UK over the next year so I hope you enjoy them as much as this one.

Thank you all for your support over 2018, every like and comment is appreciated!!

If you are not following me on Instagram already you can here. There will be plenty of flashbacks to Canada as well as new adventures in 2019.

What is your favourite?? Do you have any recommendations for adventures in 2019? Please let me know in the comments. Happy New Year Everyone!

I’m Travelling… Not Running Away!!

Any of you who have read my blog before will know that over eighteen months ago I left the UK to come to Canada on a working holiday visa. What you might also have noticed from my posts is that I’ve been having a fantastic time exploring the Great White North.  However, all good things must come to an end and with my visa concluding in November my partner Matt and I have been forced into thinking about what to do next.  In fact, I’ve had many a stranger at work ask me what I am going to do when my visa ends.  What I want to say is this…

When we arrived in Canada we knew we wanted to explore the entire country which has made applying for permanent residency an unlikely option. One of the easiest ways to gain residency on the back of a working holiday visa is to gain one year’s work experience (in a designated job role) while in Canada. However, Matt and I wanted to make the most of our adventure. We could stay in one place and work full time at home, this was our chance to explore and see a much of Canada as possible. So, pretty early on we decided residency was not an option for us, much to my Mum’s relief!

IMG_2547.JPG

Moving around has meant I’ve been able to see all sorts of views

Our next option would be to continue with our travels while we are still eligible for working holiday visas. Australia and New Zealand have similar visas available for British citizens between the ages of 18-30 (Australia) and 35 (New Zealand). The lure of continuing our adventure is super strong, and why wouldn’t it be, we’ve had a fantastic two years. Furthermore, if I could put of being a real adult for another year or two why wouldn’t I???

Well, reality hits. Canada can be one of the most expensive countries to live in. Whilst gas prices are cheaper than the UK many other daily items are not. Even though we have avoided incurring any major accommodation costs by house sitting (check out the pros and cons of house sitting here), we have also been travelling on the philosophy of ‘Well, I’m never going to get the chance to do this again!’ which can soon add up in cost! A little bit of saving before we head of to the other side of the world is needed.

House sitting has given us amazing freedom and been kind to the purse

Saving the pennies is not the only reason we will be returning home in November. Not only do I need to stock up on proper chocolate, jaffa cakes and quality curry but it’s about time I had a good catch up with friends and family. I have yet to hold my niece who was born in December and my nephew has grown into a little man over the past year, it will be great to be more than just a face on the phone to them.

So excited to see friends and family!

Overall, that is little bit too much information to say to a stranger over a cash desk when there is a huge line up. I usually respond with ‘My Mum would kill me if I stayed!’, making it a little light-hearted however true it is! But so many are curious as to why I wouldn’t want to stay. Many more are surprised to hear that I don’t intend to stay beyond the two years.  This got me wondering, why is it so strange to want to go home? A couple of reasons have come to my attention.

More often than not people move to a new country for a better life. Whether due to your home country being an unsafe environment, lacking in opportunity or you’re trying to recover from a bad break-up, the reasons for moving are never ending. But for me I was not travelling to run away from a life I no longer wanted. I am lucky to come from a country which is safe, has free health care and education readily available (if not a little expensive these days!) I’m also in a loving relationship and I am close with my family.  While it may be hard for some people to understand, for me it was just pure adventure that pulled me to Canada.

Read more about the reasons I travel and my wanderlust here.

The other reason is that Canada is a great country. I completely understand why you would want to live in the beautiful Great White North. From coast to coast it is stunning, gorgeous coastal views to enormous mountain ranges and all brimming with wildlife.

However, as the saying goes ‘There is no place like home’. This is something travelling has taught me if nothing else. Even when you go to a destination that speaks the same language there are still so many differences.

In fact, I am super excited to return home and explore the UK as a tourist. People will often ask about my hometown and what life is like in the UK.  I find myself getting super enthusiastic when giving people advice and suggestions for future trips. My top tip has been to not skip Wales! Many Canadians, or at least the ones I have spoken to, tell me that they are going to London, Scotland and Ireland. But in my opinion, they have missed the best one out and I can’t wait to go hiking in the Valleys and Mountains of Wales next summer.

The UK has so much to offer I can’t wait to be a tourist at home!

But mostly, I am travelling to experience different things. I have been extremely fortunate to have travelled as much as I have. And in a rather cliche-d manner it has changed my perspective and outlook on life. You soon realise after living out of a suitcase that possessions are less important. Taking the time to enjoy your surroundings and the people you share it with become paramount as work takes a back seat in the name of adventure.

Have you ever lived in another country? Did you return home or move permanently? Let me know in the comments section I’d love to hear your experiences!

 

Top Tips for Spring Travel in Canada

Spring is one of my favourite seasons. The weather is getting better, fresh flowers are blooming, and everything becomes more colourful as each day passes. In Canada, the seasons are far more pronounced than in the UK, winter is much harsher, and spring therefore arrives just a little bit later than at home. As the snow melts, more trails become open and furry friends that have spent the last few months hibernating are beginning to wake and sniff around for berries.

 

 

It’s a brilliant time to explore the Great White North. The weather is still unpredictable. It’s not unknown to get snow storms in April but the temperatures are warmer so it doesn’t last too long. Another bonus is that it is a quieter time to visit. You are not scrambling to get a glimpse of the sights, you can take your time (and your photos) without a single other person nearby… its bliss.

Last spring Matt and I ventured through the Rocky Mountains stopping in Banff, Japer and Lake Louise on our way to Edmonton. This year we explored Cape Breton and the Maritimes. After travelling during two Canadian springs, here are my top tips for a great trip:

Keep an eye on the weather

This is my number one tip for spring in Canada. Like I said above it is super changeable. On our Nova Scotia road trip, we had 70mph winds, snow and 20-degree sunshine all in one week! If you are planning on hiking make sure you check in advance so you don’t get caught out. Also make sure you pack for this weather too. A waterproof coat is essential, while it won’t need to be super warm you’ll want it to stay dry!

Average temperatures in April

Vancouver: 5 to 13 degrees Celsius                          Toronto: 1 to 11 degrees Celsius

Edmonton: -3 to 9 degrees Celsius                            Montreal: 1 to 11 degrees Celsius

Ottawa: 3 to 15 degrees Celsius                                 Halifax: 1 to 9 degrees Celsius

Check season opening times

Many attractions close for winter and won’t open until mid-May at the earliest. This can be anything from restaurants to boutiques, hotels and hiking trails. We often found it hard to find an independent coffee shop for elevenses, but Tim Hortons (Canadian Starbucks) was always open! Hiking trails will sometimes be closed too. If a trail says it is closed then obey it. It may be that it is an avalanche risk, a bear is in the area or that it is just unsafe… no one wants to test out their travel insurance that badly! Many times, spring clean-up hasn’t started and fallen trees are still around and the trail is impassable.

Signs at Peyto Lake were still buried in snow… proceed with caution!

This is the same for roads, we wanted to drive the Icefields parkway from Banff to Jasper but, when we visited it wasn’t open in that direction due to snowfall. Luckily, we still managed to drive a section of it on our journey to BC.

Take advantage of nature

As the snow starts to melt, waterfalls in particular are amazing during spring. We stopped off at Grand Rapids in New Brunswick and Montmorency Falls in Quebec and both were literally overflowing. In fact, Grand Rapids during the spring can throw down 9/10ths of the water that Niagara Falls does but it’s a fraction of the size… that’s A LOT of water!

Another example would be going to see the blossom trees in Vancouver, whilst not Japan they are still pretty cool.

Enjoy the quiet time

The main attractions will always have people there, but the lines ups will be less, the trails less trodden and restaurants less crowded. We enjoyed a beautiful brunch at the Sou’wester restaurant next to Peggy’s Cove lighthouse, without a single cruise-shipper insight. Once cruise ship season starts that place is packed.

We also got to enjoy the Skyline Trail and saw around nine other people… and a couple of moose! Enjoy these moments, breathe in the fresh air and appreciate your surroundings, you are on holiday after all!

Be animal aware

I had a fantastic time tracking animals in Nova Scotia this spring, it’s fun but its also necessary. Matt thinks I’m a little over the top but when you are in natures backyard you better know who you’re sharing it with. Not only are animals coming out of hibernation, but they are being born too. Angry Mama’s are not something to contend with so make sure you are equipped to deal with these situations.

Moose may look cute and docile, but they are huge and can kick. Check in at your local tourist office before hiking, obey trail signs, learn what to do with different animals and don’t try to take a selfie with them!

Canadian animals you don’t want to mess with include bears, moose, coyotes, wolves and cougars.

Quick tips for spring travel

  • Take bear spray
  • Waterproof everything, especially your boots
  • Regularly check the weather
  • Check seasonal closure before booking
  • Stay clear of rocks near waterfalls, they are much more powerful at this time of year
  • Be ready with your camera for nature spotting
  • Obey trail closures
  • Wear layers
  • Still pack your hat and gloves

Have you ever visited Canada during the spring time, where did you go? Drop me a comment below, if you enjoyed this post give it a little like or share and thanks for stopping by.

A-Z Travels: M is for The Maritimes: The Ultimate Canadian Destination

The Maritimes is the regional name for the provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  The islands and peninsulas of the Maritimes are beautifully rugged, and its landscape is influenced by its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.  Despite its beauty, travellers often choose to visit Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal over places such as Halifax, Charlottetown or St. John’s.

Map of the Maritimes

Even though this section of Canada is comprised of three provinces, they are the smallest ones so in total it amounts to just over 1 per cent of the country’s land surface.  But, while it may be small in size, it sure packs a punch! In fact, Nova Scotia’s capital Halifax was voted fourth on TripAdvisors list of top ten tourists destinations ‘on the rise’.

Here are my top reasons for visiting the Maritimes!

Stunning Coastal Views

No matter where you visit in the Maritimes you are never far away from the coast and what a beautiful coast it is. Small fishing towns line the coastline providing many an Instagram worthy pic of lobster pots and buoys.  Many communities are kept afloat by shellfish and lobster exports.

 

Highlights include the famous lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove (Nova Scotia) one of the most photographed landmarks in Canada which sits on the rocks of a colourful fishing village. In New Brunswick, the Bay of Fundy hosts the highest tides in the world at 16 metres high. I’ll be visiting here in September and can not wait! On PEI the red cliffs provide a beautiful sight on a peaceful coastal drive.

Great Hikes

With fantastic coastal views comes fantastic hikes, what better way to take in the beautiful vista than on your own two feet!? There is something for everyone in the Maritimes from casual boardwalks along the seafront to scrambling across the rocks. Plus, you can spot all sorts of wildlife, including bears, moose, deer and bald eagles. Local highlights include Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Fundy National Park and PEI National Park.

Tip: if visiting in winter, don’t miss out on these wonderful hikes, grab the snowshoes

Yummy Food

After all that hiking you’ll want to refuel so it’s lucky there are loads of brilliant restaurants and cafes throughout the three provinces. Maritimes boast some fantastic local eateries for any budget and appetite. In fact, I had the best pizza of my life in Charlottetown (PEI) at Piatto Pizzeria! I would thoroughly recommend the Piccante e Affumicata, a creamy garlic ‘white’ pizza base topped with mozzarella, crispy prosciutto, finished with a drizzle of honey… it’s to die for! Plus, they have locations across the Maritimes. There is no picture as we ate it too fast!!

In Nova Scotia I would suggest heading to The Back Sheep, Hali Deli, Vandal Doughnuts and The Naked Crepe.

I’ll be visiting New Brunswick more thoroughly in September so check back for more recommendations.

If it’s burgers you’re interested in, check out my guide to Halifax Burgers here.

Top Notch Beer

To wash it all down sample some of the local beers. Craft breweries are booming across the whole of Canada and the Maritimes are no exception. I personally am still trying to find a beer I like so recommendations here are from Matt and his Dad.  In a host of ‘achingly trendy’ (actual quote from Matt’s Dad!) locations you can try some of Matt’s favourites:

Nova Scotia: Had good beers from Good Robot, Propeller, Unfiltered and Big Spruce Breweries but all-time favourite was Priority Pale Ale (North Brewing Company, Halifax)

PEI: Do Good-er APA (Upstreet Craft Brewing, Charlottetown)

New Brunswick: Maritime Pale Ale (Grimross, Fredericton)

If you are not a fan of beer, like me you could also try some of the local cideries or vineyards. Many open their doors for tastings, including Annapolis Cider Company in Wolfville (Nova Scotia) which was my personal favourite.

Cultural Heritage

Whilst Canada is a young country a lot of its history is in the Eastern provinces. For example, Prince Edward Island is the birthplace of Canada, you can explore the historic founding town of Charlottetown through a host of informative boards, statues and plaques dotted around. Or drop by the local legislature building, Province House.

Check out more reasons why you should visit Canadian legislative buildings here.

The cultural heritage of the area is also very varied. First Nations people such as the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet were present in the Maritimes long before any European settlers. Europeans came from France, Scotland, Ireland and Britain. Their influence can be seen throughout the provinces. For example, Nova Scotia means New Scotland. The history of the area can be complicated as many have tried to make it their home, sometimes in harmony and sometimes not. It is well worth taking the time to learn about it.

 

Fun fact: New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in Canada (English and French)

Easy to get to

As I mentioned at the start these are the three smallest provinces in Canada this makes it great for road tripping. Its super easy to hire a car and cruise around all three. Driving from Halifax to PEI is easily do-able in one day for example, although you can take more time. Driving to PEI also means you get to cross the Confederation Bridge, the longest bridge in the world over ice covered waters.

 

So, what’s stopping you visit the Maritimes now, eh?

Thanks for joining me again for A-Z Travels, if you enjoyed it please give it a like and if you loved it give it a share! Next week I will be exploring the Maritimes more with N for Nova Scotia. Happy Travels 😊

How to Prepare for a Long-Term Trip

Yay you’ve decided to take the plunge and do some long term travelling! But what next? Planning a long-term trip takes more than time than your average holiday. When planning our two-year working holiday to Canada I found each week that there was a new thing I’d forgotten to sort out. Everything from where my goldfish were going to live (thanks Matt’s parents!) to contacting the student loans company (boooo!) needed to be considered. In fact, by the time I’d finished all the boring paperwork and logistics I was well and truly ready for the adventure!

So, I thought I’d share a few tips to help the run up to your next holiday go smoothly. At this point you’ve chosen your destination/s, here’s what to do next:

Save, Save, Save

You will always need and will never have enough to do everything so save as much as you possibly can. You don’t want to be heading out in debt so tackle that first. Matt and I would put a certain amount into our savings on payday and would never touch it. There are many ways you can save before you go and whilst it may be difficult the rewards will be beyond worth it!

Check the validity of your passport

No one wants a last-minute dash to the passport office to get a new passport. It not only costs money but also wastes time you could be spending with friends and family. Some countries require your passport to run for a certain amount of time past the validity of your visa so check before you leave.

Get rid of stuff

I found that coming on a longer-term trip has taught me that we all have too much stuff. There are many things that are packed away in boxes back in the UK that I haven’t even thought about over the past 15 months. So, start getting rid of stuff you haven’t used, its pretty cathartic. My sister came around and raided my wardrobe and DVD collection and I have a feeling she’ll be keeping most of it. But after not even thinking about most of it, I think I’ll be ok with less things.

Donate or sell

Now this one ties in with getting rid of stuff and saving money. If you have things that are worth anything it might be worth selling them to put money in the savings pot. Matt sold some of his childhood collectables and whilst he didn’t make millions, he did get rid of some old plastic toys in exchange for something we actually needed. So, head over to ebay, schpock, or facebook buy and sell groups to make some extra pennies. Even better go to a car boot sale.

Secure your home

What to do with your existing home before the big trip is usually the hardest decision. Do you leave it empty and get a friend or relative to check in? Do you rent it out? Do you get house-sitters? Take the time to consider you options and figure out what is best for you. If you have pets a house-sitter is a great option as you can save on pet care. Don’t forget to give yourself plenty of time to complete this step.

Notify your bank

This is a must do and I cannot stress this enough. You do NOT want to be left with no cash supply. So take the time to pop into your local bank and mark your account with the countries you intend to visit. If you are visiting more than one country tell them this. Any unusual activity on your account can cause it to be frozen and calling home from a foreign country to sort it out can cost £££. It’s happened to me so it’s a mistake I won’t be making again!

Contact Student Loans Company

This one you only need to do if you’ve taken out a student loan and still have to pay it off. If you don’t drop them a line they charge your account a default amount, which can be much more than you would usually pay. To avoid this, you can nominate someone to be in charge of your account before you leave. Now unfortunately this does not mean that they pay, it just means that they can be your point of contact, so saves expensive phone calls. After being abroad for 3 months you must fill out an Overseas Assessment Form and return it to SLC.

This information was correct at my time of travelling I am by no means an expert on the subject so please seek the correct advice before leaving.

Cancel any memberships

If you are going somewhere with no internet connection you’re not going to need your Netflix account so, get rid of it. Same goes for the gym membership you never use! Give plenty of notice when cancelling things such as car and home insurance. By doing so all paperwork will be completed and returned to you before you leave. I know it can be boring but it is necessary.

Make time to say goodbye

When you’re leaving for a long time you’ll want to say goodbye to your nearest and dearest and this can take time. Ensure you make room for everyone and schedule your diary accordingly. It can get pretty busy and expensive so also make sure you budget for this too. This is a hard part of travelling, but if you don’t leave you can’t return. I found it particularly difficult to leave without saying ‘see you soon’ after every meeting!

Hopefully these pointers will help you prepare for your journey of a lifetime. What steps did you take before leaving? Or are you off on a new adventure soon?

Should I Feel Guilty for Missing Out on Major Events Whilst Travelling?

Anyone who has travelled at some point has had to miss a major event for family or friends. Whether it be a birth, death, or marriage, life continues when you move away from home. It can be frustrating to miss out on seeing your best friend walk down the aisle or seeing a new niece come into the world, but it is an inevitability. However, I know deep down that the people involved are ok with us not being there and know that when we return we will fully celebrate their new lives with a drink or two!

It’s not just happy occasions either, you feel guilty for not being there in times of need. Not being able pop around the corner and comfort a loved one is a down side to being away from home.

Things change over time, some only slightly and some beyond recognition, I’d thought I’d share my experiences with you:

  • When we left the UK, my beautiful nephew was only 7 months old. He had just mastered the art of rolling over (although he was reluctant to show me this!) and was getting to the fun stage. I was going to miss out on seeing him develop over the next two years and for that I felt quite guilty. I missed his first Christmas and birthday, missed him walking and talking for the first time. But the wonders of technology have come to my rescue. Kids these days are amazing with technology and me and the little man love playing with different filters and talking gibberish to each other over facetime. I can’t wait to get back and introduce him to my fave Disney films whilst we do arts and crafts!
    EJ 1st birthday

    Sneaking into the celebrations

  • There has also been an addition to the family as my sister had another baby in December. Not only did I miss her entire pregnancy, but I also missed the birth of my new niece. This was the most emotional time on our trip. I am very close with my sister and would loved to have helped her more during this time (not that she needed it, she is amazing!). The news of baby’s arrival came through just as I was getting to work so I frantically got to the nearest coffee shop with WIFI to try and get hold of someone, a few teary messages were left on various social media platforms, but everyone was occupied! I had to wait until the next day to get a glimpse of my wonderful new niece. I’ll have to wait even longer to get to hold her as we won’t be returning to the UK until November when she’ll be nearly one year old.pexels-photo-266011.jpeg
  • Relationships change massively in a two-year span. When we left the UK quite a few of our close friends were in relationships, but now they are engaged or married. Unfortunately, we have had to miss not one but two weddings already. The first being just six months into our trip and for one of Matt’s oldest friends. The other more recently and again for a close friend of Matt. He deals with the missing out well (sorry guys he’s not a huge fan of weddings!) and knows that we can celebrate soon with the new Mr and Mrs. I however, love a good wedding and a boogie on the dance floor!pexels-photo-256737.jpeg
  • I am also in fact missing my own graduation. Having completed my Master’s degree last summer I am due to graduate in July. It would have been great to be able to complete the process with a picture of me in my cap and gown but logistically its just not possible. I confirmed my graduation by absentia a few weeks ago and my certificate will be arriving un-ceremonially at my parent’s house soon.
    BA Graduation

    One graduation is enough right?!?!

Luckily, we haven’t had to deal with any family deaths and I don’t know what I’d do if it did happen. The grieving process affects us all in differently ways and coping with such an event thousands of miles from home would be difficult to say the least. All I can say is keep safe and healthy guys!

Missing out on these events does teach you a few things. It makes you let go of the ‘fear of missing out’, sometimes its just not meant to be. Moreover, it makes you appreciate the moments in life you do have. Matt and I will never forget this trip and all the amazing things we’ve done along the way. I look forward to returning home and seeing all the changes. Its going to be a whole new adventure.

Have you ever had to miss a major event due to travelling? How do you cope in these situations?

8 Ways to Get Involved in Community Whilst Travelling

Travelling for a longer period of time can become a little isolating. You no longer see the same places or people each day as you are not in your own community and are often moving from place to place. Not having grown up in Shrewsbury I never thought that this would be an issue for me when I travelled. I hadn’t felt I’d become particularly attached to Shrewsbury as I didn’t have any youthful ties to the town. But, wandering away from the everyday norms of the Shire has highlighted to me how much I enjoyed the place and community there.

As we have been bouncing from place to place it has become difficult to feel a part of the communities you are visiting. However, along the way we’ve come up with a few different ways to enjoy new places and become part of the community no matter how long you are visiting for.

  1. Participate in local events

This is great if you are only visiting for a short amount of time as it can often take just a few hours. If you are away when there is a national holiday participating in holiday traditions are a great way of learning about different cultures. Other times events are unique to a particular location. Along our way we’ve enjoyed Halifax Burger Week,  outdoor movies and street hockey tournaments, to name a few. Each one is celebrated by locals and tourists alike and show you a different part of the community and culture you are visiting.

  1. Join or visit the library

I’m a book lover so in places where we’ve stayed for longer periods I’ve become a member of my local library. Not only do you get to enjoy a vast number of books but they often hold amazing events too. I got to flex my trivia knowledge at the library’s Friends trivia nights. Managing 93.5 out of 100 you’d think I would have won but competition was fierce, and I missed out on the trophy. Another bonus is being able to borrow DVD’s. Matt and I have devoured six seasons of Game of Thrones borrowing from the library. However, now I am person 335 in the line for season seven. Noooo!

  1. Volunteer

Volunteering across Canada has given us some great experiences. Using the website www.workaway.info/ Matt and I have helped out at a BnB, a boarding kennel, vineyard and rhubarb farm. By doing so we have been able not only to live within the community but be shown around by the people who live there.  Our hosts have all been extremely welcoming and willing to show us their beautiful towns and cities.

  1. Visit markets

Not only does this one tackle your hunger but is a great way of enjoying local produce. By visiting markets across Canada I’ve been able to appreciate some great treats, bannock being one of my favourites (read about what bannock is here!). In Nanaimo I picked up some red pepper chutney that was great with cheese from a little old lady who goes to market every week selling, pickles, jams and chutney. Yum!

  1. Join a club

Again, another one if you are staying in one place for a little longer but a fantastic way of making friends in the local area. Matt has joined a football (soccer!) team during both of our long-term house-sitting assignments in both Calgary and Halifax.  By doing so, not only has he kept fit, but we’ve had some great team nights out too!

 

  1. Visit your local community centre

Canada is great at recreation and the community centre is usually at the heart of this. They bring together people both old and new for a range of activities. Currently my local community centre holds a meal every Friday night which is always absolutely booming. They also have teams for basketball, pickleball, hockey, soccer and baseball. I have enjoyed the friendly atmosphere of the gym there.

  1. Use independent stores and restaurants

We can sometimes rely on going into stores and buying brands we feel comfortable with. But supporting local businesses is far more than a boost for the tourism industry. They are often completely unique in products, recipes and atmosphere. My favourites have been Red Dog Art Studio in Cherryville on Vancouver Island which showcased many local artists in a colourful store. Restaurant wise there are many that stand out, Vandal Doughnuts, Hali Deli, Black Sheep and Hilltop Diner have been great eats and treats on our journey.

  1. Chat with the locals

At the end of the day the inhabitants of towns are the soul of the community, they are the ones that create the unique environments which we enjoy visiting. Being a tourist people are always willing to share their personal top tips for the area. By chatting with the locals, you can learn and experience far more than what google can ever tell you and maybe even make a few friends along the way.

Vernon (1)

How do you get involved with the community whilst travelling? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

HFX Burger Week: Who’s Burger Royalty?

If you follow me on any of my social media outlets (and you should, they are pretty fun!) you will know that I fully embraced my first ever HFX Burger Week. A week which celebrated burger-goodness in the name of charity. In its sixth year, Burger Week raises thousands of dollars each year for Feed Nova Scotia, which helps combat hunger across the province of Nova Scotia. I leave Halifax in two weeks to continue my Canadian adventure until my visa runs out in November, so I was super excited (and relieved) to know that I wouldn’t be missing out on this superb event.

And what an event it was! The community spirit displayed by Haligonians during the past week has been inspiring, to the point that I want to create a similar event back in my home town of Shrewsbury, UK.  Everywhere we went was absolutely brimming with eager burger-lovers trying out new and interesting eats. Even when line-ups were over an hour long wait people remained cheerful and optimistic that they were about to taste the best patty ever.

It was a great drive for independent businesses throughout the city. More importantly it raised money and awareness for a very worthy cause. Some restaurants had posters informing customers on how their donation would benefit those in need, others were collecting tinned goods for the local food banks. It was nice to see the real reason for the event had not been forgotten.

I managed to visit 4 burger week locations so thought I would do a little round up of each one.

2 Doors Down (1533 Barrington St, Halifax)

Old School Cheeseburger

This was a classic cheese burger, PEI beef, mustard, ketchup, onion, tomato, lettuce, pickles on a sesame bun. It was an all round good burger, nothing ground-breaking but pure comfort food. One thing I will say is that this was by far the best bun of the week, it didn’t disintegrate in the slightest! Top notch!

2DD Old School Cheeseburger

Patty 🍔🍔🍔🍔  Bun 🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔 Toppings 🍔🍔🍔 Overall 🍔🍔🍔🍔

Bengal Burger

This was a more interesting offering from 2DD. It was a PEI beef patty, masala glaze, ‘kachumber’ slaw, mango raita with a spiced poppadum all on a sesame seed bun. WOW! I was blown away by the taste of this burger. It fused two of my favourite things, Indian flavours and burgers without either being over powering. Again, the bun on this burger was perfect, particularly with so many toppings, it held together perfectly.

2DD Bengal Burger

Patty 🍔🍔🍔🍔 Bun🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔 Toppings🍔🍔🍔🍔.5 Overall 🍔🍔🍔🍔.5

Black Sheep (1569 Dresden Row, Halifax)

This burger was by far the most complex of the week. It involved a beef patty, braised lamb shoulder, fried goat cheese, duck confit, double-smoked bacon jam, over-easy egg, honey mustard, spicy mayo and sprouts, served on a house-made sesame bun. Now I haven’t eaten an egg since I was a toddler, but I thought now would be a good time to try them again. I wasn’t disappointed. You could taste every individual item on this burger, the bacon jam was to die for! The only thing that let this burger down was the bun, towards the end it did crumble a little, but only ever so slightly.

Patty 🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔 Bun 🍔🍔🍔🍔 Toppings 🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔 Overall 🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔

Now these next two weren’t official burger week burgers but both locations did participate in the event. One sold out of their burger and the other I visited a day early by accident! (I need a diary!) But they still deserve a shout out!

Krave Burger (5680 Spring Garden Road, Halifax)

Here I had a classic bacon cheese burger, a beef patty topped with bacon, grilled onion, lettuce, tomato, pickles, smoky shoulder bacon and cheddar cheese on a butte-toasted bun. The only difference between this and the official burger that was available the next day was a sweet-and-sour bacon jam. This was by far my favourite patty of the week. It looked hand formed, which I loved, and tasted of beef. Nice and simple!

krave

Patty 🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔 Bun 🍔🍔🍔🍔 Toppings 🍔🍔🍔🍔 Overall 🍔🍔🍔🍔.5

Cheese Curds (277 Lacewood Drive, Halifax)

I was super excited to try their Gouda Father Burger but as I reached the door I saw this sign! As I’d spent quite a bit of time trailing around after burgers this week I decided to try the nearest burger to it, the Monster Mozzarella Crunch Burger, instead of a fried Gouda mac and cheese bite on the top it had mozzarella instead, so pretty close. The burger consisted of a beef patty , breaded mozzarella wedge, bacon and chipotle mayo. The sauce had a great kick to it but I’m sad to say the mozzarella got a little lost.

Patty 🍔🍔🍔🍔 Bun🍔🍔🍔🍔 Toppings 🍔🍔🍔🍔 Overall 🍔🍔🍔🍔

As you can see from the scores was a great week and a great way of getting out and seeing Halifax as a community. But for me Black Sheep’s Burger has to be crowned burger royalty! From the line ups I’ve seen over the past 7 days I’m sure they have raised a fantastic amount for Feed Nova Scotia.  Thank you to everyone who came out with me for HFX Burger Week and helped me indulge in delicious treats all week. Now time to hit the gym!

Burger Royalty Black Sheep

As previously stated I’m not associated with Burger Week in any way… I just LOVE burgers.

Where did you go during burger week? What was your favourite?

A-Z Travels: J is for Joffre Lakes- the most instagrammable place in Canada

Joffre Lakes was simply one of the most beautiful hikes we’ve done on our entire trip and that it quite an achievement. It is one of the most instagrammable places I’ve been in my entire life. In fact, Instagram is where I found out this place even exists. When you see pictures of Canada online they are often of outstandingly gorgeous turquoise blue lakes and by gosh they actually exist in real life! Combine viewing these beauties with a great hike and you’ve got a fantastic day out.

However, this hike was also where I had my biggest strop. The information board at the start of the trek claims it can take six hours, as we’d arrived at around 2pm I didn’t feel we had enough good daylight left to complete the hike (You can see from the pictures… we had plenty of time!) As an overly cautious hiker in the land of bears and coyotes Matt and I argued over how far to continue for quite a large chunk of the walk. Of course, he was correct we had time and it didn’t take us six hours at all! My anxiousness was not a welcome walking companion at all. However, as there were plenty of other tourists continuing along the trail we continued… I will be eternally grateful for Matt pushing me to carry on and witness the stunning views!

This hike is an extremely popular trail all year round, although June to September are best to see the colours of the water nice and blue. Located just north of Pemberton, B.C. this 10km hike has something for everyone. The first lake is easily accessible via a flat pathway just 500 metres from the carpark. From the first lake you can see the end point of the hike Matier Glacier and gives some great inspiration.

From the Lower Lake you’ll turn back on yourself and join the main trail to the middle and upper lakes. This is where the trail starts to get more challenging and rugged so be prepared with proper footwear. I saw some tourists attempting it in ballet pumps rather than shoes with ankle support. They were an accident waiting to happen as you climb over boulders and rocky paths. As you go up the trail you’ll wander through forests of Hemlock and Spruce trees.

This section climbs sharply uphill until you reach the Middle Lake. It was at this point that I had a mini breakdown. It felt like the hike was never going to end and dusk was settling in. We had not had lunch yet, so hanger was starting to settle in. Luckily, we reached the Middle Lake in time for a late lunch whilst viewing the second lake.

Joffre Lakes (9).JPG

It’s pretty busy during the summer so can seem less peaceful because of the crowds. In fact, one tourist was complaining about all the tourists ‘just taking pictures.’ To be fair there, isn’t much else to do than enjoy the view, have a picnic, take a picture and carry on to the next lake. (check out my article on why you shouldn’t be ashamed to be a tourist here. )

The main part of the hike is now behind you, several other hikers informed us that it was a much shorter distance between lake two and three with much less elevation gain too. As you continue along the trail you’ll come to a beautiful waterfall.

Joffre Lakes (19)

Past this point the terrain becomes rockier and there are more roots on the ground, but it’s a relatively short distance to get to the Upper Lake. once your get past the trees you get to the last lake.

The view here was worth all my moaning, it was absolutely breath-taking. Again, there are lots of other people enjoying the view but there is plenty of space for everyone. Whilst we were there, there was a couple having a wedding photo shoot. What a stunning backdrop!?

Joffre Lakes (26).JPG

Check out the bride having a photo shoot

You can view the Matier Glacier from here as well as Joffre Peak which stands at 2,721m elevation.

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Beautiful Upper Lake with views of Joffre Peak and Matier Glacier

From here you can either turn around and make the return journey or you can continue to the back-country camp site. This site is perfect for small tents, remember you will be having to carry all your equipment to the site so pack light. There are no proper toilets and the park operates a ‘Leave no trace policy.’ Matt and I made our descent and enjoyed the views all over again on the return to base. On the way back down, you can appreciate the talus slopes (slopes formed when debris from weathered rock piles up) even more.

Joffre Lakes (36).JPG

Looking down on the Lower Lake

Overall, this was an enjoyable hike and one with massive rewards. I wish I hadn’t complained as much as I’m 100% sure I was big pain on this one. I’ve learnt my lesson… do your research and learn how long hikes are going to take. For us it took less than 4 hours, this may vary depending on your fitness and ability.

Tips:

Pack snacks, it’s a day hike so be prepared to have a picnic along the way.

Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds.

Make sure to take insect repellent to deter mosquitoes and black flies.

Leave enough time for the return journey.

Wear suitable footwear.

Leave no trace- take a plastic bag to collect your rubbish and take it back with you.

Go to the bathroom before you leave the car park- the next opportunity is at the Middle Lake.

Have you ever done this hike? Would you stay for the camping? What’s the most beautiful hike you’ve ever done?

Thanks for joining me for A-Z Travels. Next week will be K for Kettle Valley Railway, where i worked at conquering my fear of heights. Happy Travels 🙂