Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Final Chapter

Well this is it, my last post before I land back in Canada! Where to start, what to say! I have had almost a year of being authentic, playing and having fun. So I would say that my year away has been a success. I have tried very hard to make sure that I stayed true to my mantra. I probably could say that I lived my own version of the movie Eat, Pray, Love!

The journey was not always easy, and there were many times that I really wanted to throw in the towel and head home. But, I am now so thankful that I stuck it out! How does one commemorate such an experience? I decided along time ago that I would come home with a tattoo that somehow represents my journey. Sooooooo, I now have a tattoo in between my shoulder blades (I know mom, you are probably not impressed). I love it! The picture is two classic looking gerbera daisy flowers, why because the flower stands for innocence, purity and classic beauty. (Minus the innocence, I think the other two are Representative of me), I then got some words around the flowers that are written in the language of some of the countries I have travelled while here. The top two words say courage (Gaelic) and perseverance (Spanish). The bottom three words are authentic (Italian), beautiful (English), and Independent (French). All of the words are symbolic to me as I think they describe how I now feel about myself after this experience. I am proud of myself, I wouldn't say I am at total peace, but I feel better than I have ever before. There are certain things that I have come to terms with, and things that I have decided to continue to strive for. I now know I can face and be successful when adversity comes my way.
In total I have stepped foot in 8 different countries, and have been in 6 major cities in the UK. It is hard to say what has been my favourite, as I have seen so much. The big highlights for me are numerous, a few would be climbing both the Leaning tower of Pisa and the Eiffel tower, going to the Guinness factory in Ireland, touring through the Vatican, a wine trip through Tuscany, swimming in the Mediterranean sea. I appreciate each experience I have had. I am blessed that I have had family and friends visit me and help share in my experiences.
I can say that I have been to the horse races, a proper football match, and huge travelling amusement park (which I braved two of the scariest rides there). I have participated in a car boot sale (an experience all of its own). I participated in real Royal Wedding activities. I have tasted many new foods such as blood pudding and haggis. I am a big fan of the cadbury chocolate here (much better than the cadbury in Canada, trust me I have done the taste test). Even though, I didn't have a tv, I managed to watch and really enjoy some British humour on the Internet. Many people said I would hate the weather in England. I actually really enjoyed it. It is rainy, but I would take that over all of the snow and freezing temperatures. It doesn't get much better than seeing signs of spring in February. The greenery here is lush! It is fabulous to go for a walk and see the daffodils blooming everywhere you look, rose bushes and these trees that blossom the most amazing flowers.
I can't forget my teaching experience. Although, it wasn't what I had expected it to be. I still really enjoyed my time in the school. I learned a lot and I know I am a better teacher having had the challenges that I had. I also enjoyed the opportunity to sub teach around Oxford. I have a good taste of the English school system (and am now more appreciative of the school system at home).

It seems that I have not done the final blog justice. I can't really figure out why. Is it because I am not convinced that my time in England is not completely over? Potentially! I am looking forward to coming home and to seeing all of you, but I am already planning my return to England. (at some point).

I won't be continuing blogging when I am home as I can't be as open and heartfelt. It would be hard for me to spill my guts on the computer and then go to work the next day and see people. It is easy to poor out my emotions from a distance. One last night, a kiss and a cuddle with my special someone, a proper English breakfast in the morning and then on the plane and home tomorrow by 3 pm (Alberta time). Thank you for being a part of my journey by reading and commenting on my experience! See you Soon!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

One More Cheeky Holiday!

Antalya, Turkey; all inclusive, one week relaxation before I head home. Seems easy, but it didn't go this smooth at first.
Up at 12:30 am to make it for a 7:25 flight. It feels weird to shower and get ready in the middle of the night. We headed to Gatwick airport which is over an hour drive from my home. Fortunately we only got lost while looking for the long stay car park for about 1/2 hour. We find our check in desk, and I am pretty sure the man behind the desk was 'special'. He first looked at my passport and noticed there was a sticker that said something about security. (This is something some places put on it to say that I have been checked and am okay.) So he starts looking around, then tries to ring someone. I asked what the problem is, and he just said he had to ask someone about the sticker. I think this is pretty funny, just because I hadn't taken it off he was going to have to get security. So the bloke, looks around then he gets up, sits back down. I ask again what the problem is, he then says because I am Canadian he didn't know if I needed a visa to get into Turkey. I explained that I had already looked into that and that yes, I would have to pay when I got there for a temporary visa. He still wasn't buying it. He then got up and went behind a closed door for maybe 30 seconds. He came back and all of a sudden was fine with the situation!???? Then we weighed our hand luggage and the one was too heavy and so we had to transfer some to the other hand luggage. Fine did that, but he saw that I put my hair dryer into one of the bags. He started looking at it, and then looking around as if to see if it was okay for me to bring it on board. He looked at a few of the other workers, but never said anything so I finally looked over and said to another lad "Can I bring a hair dryer in my carry on?" He just looked and shook his head, like really, did you just ask me such a daft question? which then made me look at the special guy and give him the really, are you going to waste anymore of my time. So finally after about 30 minutes with my special friend he gave us our boarding pass. I will remind you this is at 330 am! As soon as we turned the corner from the desk, we shifted all of the items back to the original suitcase and I took the sticker off of my passport. Seeings as we were on holidays (I know you are all saying, Tiana you have been on holiday for the last 4 months) (I am not going to argue with you either), anyway we had to have a beer. Sitting in the restaurant after security drinking a beer at 5 in the morning. Can't remember the last time I did that. Our flight was uneventful, which is always a good thing. We landed in Antalya and found the Thomas Cook rep, as we were waiting a mother was crying whilst talking to the rep. I overheard her mention that she was not happy that they were being moved, and it wasn't her fault that the hotel overbooked, the rep was apologetic but didn't have much else to say. So wouldn't you know what the rep had to tell us.... Yup, your hotel has been over-booked and they were moving us to a new resort. What!!!!! No, I didn't cry, I was screwing though. I started asking her questions about the new resort. The poor rep couldn't tell us any information about the hotel, she knew nothing about the resort. I asked questions to compare to what we were going to have to where we were going. No answer! On the coach we were both in a huff, not knowing where we were going only that it was a 50 minute drive instead of the original 20 minute. We arrived and were immediately impressed with the service, from the check-in, to the bell boys to the look of the lobby. Putting us more at ease we headed to our room. There I was impressed too, much nicer than the ones that I have stayed in Mexico. I wasn't convinced yet, but I was happier. We walked around the resort, a little disappointed that there was only one pool versus what we were going to have. But it still had 4 waterslides, and a pool bar. It was on the beach, the grounds were well kept and beautiful. We met the next day with another rep from Thomas Cook, I am assuming that they knew we would have concerns about the change. She assured us, having worked at both resorts that this one was better (easy to say), but they did give us £100 in cash right away. This was pretty good, since we only paid a few hundred quid for the holiday anyway. I am not going to go into details about each day, as it was an all-inclusive and many of you know what you do at an all-inclusive and this was no different. But, I will tell you various random things. The area of Turkey we ended up in was called Side (sounds like seedeh). Our hotel was beside two others in the same chain, ours was called the Alba Queen, which is suiting for a princess like me. A short distance walk were some shops that gave us a good taste of what the Turkish markets would be like. I did not know that Turkey is the knock off capital! I was in heaven, and the quality of the stuff was amazing. The beach for our hotel had golden sand and was clean, the Mediterranean was beautiful and warm. The traditional way to receive a cocktail at this resort, was with a fancy straw, an orange and a lit sparkler. The food in the buffet was surprisingly good. I had been warned not to expect much. But, it turned out to again be better than most of the Mexican resorts I have been to. The service was hit and miss, but if you smiled right and were female you had better odds. You could hear the call to prayer most times through the day, which I thought was neat. Not having been in a place like this before. I was the only Canadian at the resort! (it cost me €45 to get into the country, where as it costs £10 for a UK citizen). Just like Mexico, there are random cats that like to come out around the eating areas. I saw this cat though that had this fresh head wound, and I was a little revolted! A person gets sick of deciding what to drink after the second day, but always finds it in them to drink anyways.
The highlights for me:
I really enjoy laying in hammocks cuddling when the sun is setting, but it is just as good walking along the beach as the sunsets too.
Taking cheeky walks at night along various pathways to sneak into the trees.
Taking a boat cruise along the sea, stopping and jumping off in the middle of nowhere.
Bartering like I have never seen it, to come out with some great knock offs. (I will let you guess when I am home what is real or not).
Zipping down waterslides and crashing into the water, to come up laughing like I did when I was a kid.
Taking a local bus, hoping to get to the right destination.
Eating at a local restaurant on the sea, while the sun is shining and the waves are crashing.
Sharing the experience with someone special who makes me feel like I am the most beautiful girl in the world.
There are so many other things to tell you all, I am home in a few days and will be able to share more details. I am right now in Newcastle spending time with my someone special and his family. It has been an emotional last couple of days and I am assuming it will get worse. I plan on writing at least one more blog before my flight home on Friday. I am just trying to reflect about my time abroad and try to summarize it. Not an easy task! Make sure you check back in the next couple of days for a heart to heart, well okay just me spilling out my heart again!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Paris est Magique!

Another wonderful holiday with wonderful people. My godmothers arrived in London on the 21st of May. Many plans and itinerary's in hand, I knew I wouldn't have to do much planning for this holiday. The first week of their visit had me sticking around home incase I had to teach and them touring around England. But the second week was Paris!
What a fantastic, beautiful, magical, brilliant, lush place! To be able to see so many monumental sights in a day is surreal. We started our journey by train. It is a nicer more relaxing way to travel then flying. A short two and half hour journey gave us time to see some french country side and admire the beauty. Alright, I did sleep some of the way, but only when we were in the chunnel so there was nothing to see anyway. We found the exit to the train station to where the taxi stand was. What a line up, it took us an hour to get a taxi. It was a good thing that the sun was out and we had the entertainment of some drunks perched on the side of the road to keep us occupied. While in line we were approached by some younger girls with paper, all they did was motion to sign this paper, but said nothing. It was a scam, they were apparently deaf and wanting donations for some program. Funny thing is later seeing them walking with another member of their 'deaf club' talking away obviously fully able to hear. Finally getting into our taxi we were off to the hotel. My neck started hurting so much as I was trying to see everything. We crossed the Seine river towards the Eiffel tower and I'll tell you the first time I saw the Eiffel tower I was completely in awe! Like, really am I really seeing this in person! Our hotel happened to be just a hop, skip and a jump away from the tower so I could gaze at it many times. The hotel was called Tulipe, and it was this little yellow cute building down this narrow road. All the buildings on the street were grey except for our hotel. Our room was small but extremely quaint, and it had a bathtub! We settled in and then went for a walk towards the Seine River. I had to continue to tell myself that I was in Paris! I got to reflecting as I was walking, on all of the amazing places and things I have seen this year. (But that is another blog in itself, you know a touchy feely one). I do realize how fortunate I have been this year!
After walking and sightseeing for awhile it was time for a drink! Finding a cute little bar on another cute little street I ordered a mojito. Can I say expensive, 11 euros! No matter where we looked everything seemed to be that expensive. As I am on a limited budget, I knew that I wouldn't be doing too much expensive drinking. Especially since you could go to the grocery store and buy a bottle of wine for 5 euros. So this is what we did, bought wine, fresh baguettes, cheese and a few other odds and sods. We gladly enjoyed our first night in Paris in our hotel sipping wine and discussing our adventures to come. I also indulged in a bubble bath, my first one in months!
Our second day had us taking a tour through the Louvre! We sat outside at our hotel and had breakfast and coffee in the sunshine. So relaxing and beautiful. We had left plenty of time to take a taxi to where the tour was suppose or where we thought it was suppose to start. Only to discover that we were in the wrong place, so we were directed to another location, which we found with only some difficulties. But, it turned out to be the wrong place. So the tour was to start in 15 minutes and we are not at the check in point. Betty has limited mobility and can only walk for so long. So I left them at the Louvre and I started running to another location I was directed to. I arrived at the stand which was a few streets away from the Louvre and signed in (I must add this was the original place the taxi took us, but because it wasn't at the Louvre we figured he was wrong). I explained that there were two other members of my party waiting inside the Louvre, this originally didn't go over well as they were suppose to be at this location. I explained the situation and was told that I would have to recognize my family when we got closer (like I wouldn't), so they could join us. I waited with the group to start our tour. While waiting I recognized one of the ladies in the group. I approached her and wouldn't you know she is from Medicine Hat and works at my dental office. What a small world! Finally the tour began and I was reunited with Betty and Marie. They were starting to worry about me, thinking about bad things that could have happened to poor me in Paris. It is a good thing I am use to doing things on my own know. The tour was fantastic, I had to pinch myself as I was looking at the Mona Lisa. I saw the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory and the Slave sculptures by Michelangelo and Cupid's kiss. (Pictures will be on facebook). It was only noon and I had already seen more memorable things then I could have imagined. From the tour we walked to the Hop on Hop off bus stop. Along the way I saw some kids being chased by undercover cops, they were all lined up to be searched. Obviously they were suspected for pick pocketing as we were continuously warned about this. (That is two places now I have seen take downs, Barcelona and Paris). We boarded the bus took a seat at the top in the sunshine. The plan was to take it all the way around to see the sights, leaving the next day for when we would get off at specific places. I was overwhelmed at what I saw just on the bus. The Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Effiel Tower, Champs Elysees, and the Paris Opera House (where the Phantom is), just to name a few. When we finally got off the bus, we walked again along the Seine river discussing all that we had seen, we each chose one thing that we had to do the next day. Exhausted from the day we had a light supper, including red wine and chocolate! We then relaxed for the night. I am pretty sure I was asleep by 10.
Up again early so that I could climb the Eiffel tower! We got to the tower at 9 and there were already massive lines. It is a good thing that most people want to take the lifts all the way up, because the line to take the stairs was a lot shorter. It was a beautiful morning, the sun was out and I was climbing the stairs of the Eiffel tower! Really! It didn't take long to get to the 2nd floor where many people stop, but not me I was going to the top. Unfortunately, the only way to the top is by lift, so I was in line for what seemed forever. But was it ever worth it! The view from the top was breathtaking. Being able to look out and in the distance see the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre was fantastic. Although it was stupid busy up there, I was able to be still and reflect on the beauty of where I was. Once back at the ground floor I stood in the centre of the tower and admired the view looking up, realizing that I had just been to the top of one of the most recognizable places in the world. Our next stop was Marie's choice we went the Notre Dame. The line up was short and the admission was free. This is another beautiful cathedral, with mesmerizing stained glass. There was a mass going on at the time and it felt weird in a way to be in there listening to it in French, I am not sure why it felt weird, maybe because it has been so long since I have been to church. Although I describe the feeling as weird it was a peaceful weird. The cathedral is massive, on the inside you can't see how massive it is. We stayed and had a sandwich outside, I had a glass of pop that cost me 5.50 euros! Ouch! We then headed to Betty's choice, L'orangerie. This is the gallery where Monet's Water Lilly paintings are. Not that I have any sort of artistic eye, or knowledge of this it still was an honour to see something so famous in person. I had no idea that the paintings were as big as they are. It is easy to sit and get lost in the painting, daydreaming, being alone in one's own thoughts. Even though we had already had such a memorable day we weren't done. We headed to the Seine Rivere where we were taking a champagne tasting river cruise. How picturesque cruising down the river, champagne in hand watching the sights. Paris really is the city of love. Along the river there were people embracing, cuddling, dancing, drinking totally engulfed with their company. A peaceful, and romantic sight. It was neat to see some of the sights from a different angle including the Eiffel tower. I think I have about 30 if not more pictures just of the tower. I seemed to be taken into it each time I saw it, entranced in its beauty. The cruise was an hour long, where we tasted 3 different kinds of champagne, a perfect way to start the evening. When we disembarked we stopped at a bar along the river and shared our pictures over a mojito. We then travelled back under the Eiffel tower towards a small French restaurant. We enjoyed a bottle of wine and I ate some fantastic salmon. I was eagerly awaiting the lights of the Eiffel tower to come one. When they finally did, it was magical! I was moved by how beautiful it was. I can't really describe how I felt as I watched it sparkle. I know I just felt emotional. I couldn't really take my eyes off of it. If you have been there before I am sure you know what I am talking about. As we walked back to the hotel, I watched the tower the whole way there, even when we got lost and took another half hour to get back, I wasn't bothered because the scenery was worth it.
The next day was our day trip out of Paris. The weather was not very friendly; cloudy, windy and cool. On the tour bus we headed to a small village called Giverny. This was the home of Monet and his gardens that inspired his Water Lily paintings. We walked through his gardens getting a glimpse of the sights Monet saw so many years ago. It was very picturesque, I could see the Willow tree that is in his painting and the blooming water lilies in the pond. A neat experience since, I had only been the day before admiring the original paintings. Part of our tour was to have lunch at a traditional french restaurant. The bus pulled off the main road onto what seemed like a beaten up path. Since we were in what seemed to be tht middle of no where I wasn't expecting too much from the restaurant. Out of nowhere the path opened up to this stunning house, with a fantastic waterfall. It was like out of a movie set. The meal was great, the wine was tasty and the company was wonderful. Our next stop was the Palace of Versailles. A very rich historic sight, beautiful for the time it was built. Listening to the history while going through the rooms was interesting, but I was turned off as it was so busy. You weren't given enough time to appreciate all that was there. You were rushed from room to room, being pushed and shoved. So the overall experience at the palace was rather disappointing. I would have like to do more sightseeing in Versailles itself, but the tour didn't have that scheduled. Oh well, means I need to go back again. After the tour ended the three of us shared our pictures and discussed our day over a glass of wine. We then went to a Thai restaurant for supper. The food was fantastic and the presentation was fabulous. The best meal we had had while in Paris. We ended our Paris adventure on a high note, feeling totally satisfied with what we had seen. Only wishing that we could take the scenery with us and hoping that our memories wouldn't fail us when remembering what we saw.
Up and to the train station, heading back to London for a night at the theatre. Very excited to be going to see Dirty Dancing as it happens to be one of my all time favourite movies. How could you go wrong with the happy music and the seductive dancing! The energy in the theatre was great, (even though the age of many of the attendees was way to young to have been around when the movie originally came out), was buzzing. The clapping, hooting and hollering during the infamous parts made the experience much more exciting. I would say that it was not as good as Billy Elliott, but it was still worth going to see.
And that is the end of another chapter of my year. Thank you to Betty and Marie for making my time in Paris even better as I was able to share it with you! I appreciate that you came all this way to see me and I am grateful for everything you have done for me.
Next a last minute vacation to Antalya, Turkey. An all-inclusive vacation to relax and reflect on what an amazing year I have had.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Well it is booked! My return home is booked for the 24th of June. I am saying this with hesitation as I am not convinced I am ready to come home. Why am I not convinced, you ask? If you would have asked me if I wanted to come home up until February, I would have said of course, I can't wait. But now my response is a little different. I know, I know you are all saying I told you so! You were right! So now you are asking then why don't I stay? My answer is because I have too many responsibilities at home to look after. At least that is what I have convinced myself into believing. I know, had my job worked out better and I was still working full time, I probably would stay another year, but it hasn't and I can't afford to stay based on part time sub work.
I love it here, I love the town I live in and love my life here. It is strange how a person can become so independent when they don't have the crutch of familiarity around them. It has been a freeing experience and I am afraid when I go home I will forget what I have gained. Don't get me wrong I love my friends, and family and am appreciative of all the things I get to enjoy with them. But .... I have never been happier. As most of you are aware, I sometimes struggle with being happy and can at times be really down. But I have not once had that weighted down feeling here. I have not once wanted to sink my head in the sand and disappear. Well maybe at first when I was really homesick, but not in a long time.
So what is it that makes the difference here? I couldn't tell you, it is just different. It could be that I got to start fresh where no one knew me or my past. It could be that I can be outside more often because the weather is more tolerable. It could be because I have learned to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me when I am outside. It could be that I don't feel guilty if I do or don't do something (except for exercising). It could be that I met a boy that makes me smile and makes me feel like I am amazing and beautiful just the way I am. It could be just that I am happy!
So now you are saying, well stay then. And my response to that is, I can't. I am too afraid to stay because what if it turns out to be the same as it is back home? What if I start to feel the same way as when I am home? I want to look back at this experience and remember it as being life changing, being one of the happiest times of my life. Something that I have to hold onto.
I will know in time if I made the right choice to come back. I am looking forward to starting over in some ways back home. Buying a house of my own, and starting fresh. I am looking forward to spending time with people who I have missed tremendously. I have been given the life experience of feeling what it is like to lose someone and how incredibly hard it is to deal with. But, I have been given the gift to be able to go back and be with those people and let them know how much they are appreciated and loved. To know the importance of not taking people for granted and to appreciate each moment I spend with them. A life lesson that I will hold onto forever.
I am pretty sure I can't get any more honest about my feelings. I am also pretty sure that I am wearing my heart on my sleeve for all of you to read. And I am pretty sure that I am not sure about much. That, I guess is the point of life, search and you will continue to search. Life is about as clear as mud!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


So excited to go to Spain. Our first stop was Alicante, Spain. We arrived in Alicante around 3. We booked everything online, so you can only go on what the websites provide you. Which as you will read from our entire Spain experience is definitely not all what it was made out to be. We took a taxi to our hotel, which was in the middle of no where. (but claimed to be within walking distance to the centre of town). At least our room was excellent, like a small apartment. Two rooms, two bathrooms, kitchen with all of the appliances and a deck. Which happened to look out onto a private British school, that I am pretty sure never had classes as there were always kids outside running around! We learned which bus to take into town. It didn't take long to realize that not many people spoke or understood English. (I guess this is just a tourists assumption). So we just pointed on a map to the driver where we wanted to go, and he charged us whatever I think he wanted. We wondered around, trying to find the beach. It wasn't too bad being lost as it was beautiful. We walked along the Mediterranean sea and people watched. We came upon the beach, where we saw no shortage of topless sunbathers. I finally put my feet into the Mediterranean for the first time in my life. Wow, was it cold! We found a place to sit outside and enjoy the late afternoon sun. From here, we thought we would walk into more of the centre of town to find a grocery store. There is nothing like shopping in a store that all you can do is rely on the pictures on the packages. I am not sure how many times we asked one another, what do you think this is. I know this though, wine in Spain is cheap as chips. You could get a bottle of red wine for less than a euro! We also bought a 40 of vodka for 10 euros! This is like 8 pounds, which is like 11 dollars! After stumbling through the store, buying what we thought would be eatable things we got back onto the bus. Well we missed our stop and ended up going on a little detour. The bus stopped and turned off at one point. Umm, Mr Bus driver we need to get back to our hotel! Try getting that across to someone that doesn't understand you. I showed him our hotel card which he thankfully smiled, but he did manage to get us to pay again because it was like we were taking a new trip. We made it back, made some sandwiches watched some Spanish Tv and then went to bed. I should mention what was thought to be salt and pepper turned out to be sage and garlic salt!
Day 2, hello sun! Mom and I were all over our bathing suits, grabbing our books and heading down to the pool. Oh sorry, the pool isn't open for another week! What! Back to the room, got ready and headed into town again. This time we sat in the sun and had a mojito right along the beach. Mom and grandma went to tour the castle and I found a spot on the beach and had a nap! How is this not lush, I could handle this life! After mom and grandma had finished there touring we went to have a drink at a pub. For some reason they are not able to make cocktails until after 6. You can only consume beer or wine before hand. Which I didn't understand considering we had just has a mojito by the beach. But, whatever, you can't really ask why when the person doesn't know what is being asked. No one was in the mood to do much shopping we were interested in finding an Italian place for dinner, but found the grocery store before a restaurant. So it was decided that we would just make spaghetti and meat sauce back at the hotel. Mom and grandma went across the street to a hotel to sit and relax and I went back into the unknown at the grocery store. I had more older men say hi to me then I have ever had in any other venue! Flattering, but if you are closer to the age of retirement or are retired I think you may be a little old for me! We made our way back to the hotel, getting off at the right stop this time, so it took 15 minutes instead of 45 minutes. We made probably the best spaghetti and sauce then we have ever made before. The garlic toast was good too, thanks to the garlic salt I bought yesterday! There is nothing like stuffing yourself at 9 at night and then going to bed at 1030. You are guaranteed to have an excellent sleep!
Day 3, beach! We headed directly to lay in the sun! Lovely! All three of us just laid there for the afternoon soaking up as much as we could. This was probably the most relaxing day of the entire trip. Since it is normal to be topless on the beach in Spain I figured I should try to live like a local! (ya right, but I did change into my bra and knickers on the beach!) (please note, I wasn't the only one in my family to do this!) We did some shopping after the beach, a favourite past time of my mom's. If you have been to Spain you know how they don't measure when they make drinks. Which we quickly discovered when we stopped at this dive. Thankfully we weren't in the mood to make a night of it, or it could have been messy. Another meal back at the hotel. We sure saved money not eating dinners out, no one seemed to be bothered by it either. We knew it wouldn't be the same in Barcelona.
Day 4, early morning to make it to the train station. We had booked tickets to take the train to Barcelona so we could see some of the country side. The train was to be 5 hours and I think we were on it for 6 and a half. That was fine, I caught up on the sleep that I wasn't lacking since we had been sleeping and taking it easy in Alicante. We made it into Barcelona around 2. We had booked into a bed and breakfast again through the Internet. Well, we took a taxi to a not very nice area of the city. Not close to the centre like it claimed to be. It was in an apartment building, and in some guys flat! (It did not say this on the website, it also didn't say that the rooms were smaller than a bathroom). We got into the 'room' where there was a double bottom bunk and a single upper. We didn't have room for our suitcases and we couldn't move with the three of us. I could feel the tension and worry of both mom and grandma. I of course was feeling bad because I booked it. But I did not anticipate this. The pictures on the website were so deceiving. (Later we found out that the owner is a professional photographer!). All we wanted to do was drop our things and get out of there. The least amount of time we could spend there the better. We were given confusing directions by the landlord. We went out and of course got lost. We made it to a place that looked respectful to have a snack. The owner was fantastic, he gave us better directions and some cautionary information. We went back onto the streets, we were looking for an information booth. Supposedly marked with an eye, and supposedly all over the place. I guess I do have poor vision but really, this was ridiculous! A few hours later we came to the centre where we found information. We booked our tickets for the hop on and hop off tour that we would take tomorrow. We shared a pitcher of Sangria as we read the information about the tour and decide which stops we would want to get off. After we went into what use to be an arena where there were bull fights and now is a mall. We walked and wondered like zombies, coming upon a Mexican restaurant. We sat, enjoyed a Margarita discussed the state of our living situation. After taking a taxi back to the 'room' we stood at the door for about 15 minutes trying to turn the key to get in, I had to phone the landlord and in some way ask what was going on. I got a response in Spanish that left me just as stumped. But, it did eventually open. We made it to bed and laid in one spot trying not to disturb one another. Funny looking back, but really annoying when you are there. This was not the sort of place that grandma was use to staying.
Day 5, grandma the first up as it takes her the longest to get ready, came back from the shower and said she saw ants crawling all over the floor in the bathroom. I was like add it to the list of things wrong with this place. I didn't see any ants when I was in there, but it wasn't like I was going to say anything to grandma. We sat and ate dry toast as our breakfast at the bed and breakfast. As quickly as possible we got out of there. We did have an enjoyable day on the hop on and hop off bus tour. We stopped at several attractions including taking a cable car up to a castle, where we were able to see all of Barcelona from up the in the air. We stopped at the Gothic area of Barcelona, where a home designed by Gotti was located. We stopped and toured the Sagarda Familia, the church that was designed by Gotti and has been in the works since the early 19th century. All of the sights were interesting, some more beautiful then others. I think the most exciting event of the day though was being right centre stage for a undercover bust. We had just walked by these men selling knock off Prada and Gucci purses. I had made a comment that I could use a new purse. We stopped to get some money and the next thing we knew. There were men dressed in street clothes running with these scooped up bags and the sellers of these bags right behind. It wasn't until the cops showed there badge that we knew what was going on. Intense, but a good reality check that we needed to be aware of where we were. We stopped at a place for dinner and drinks. This again was a terrible meal, I had a veal hamburger that was so rare that I couldn't even put it in my mouth. I of course couldn't be bothered to complain. I was happy with my chips and red wine. I think that the 3 of us were just a little tired and sick of being with one another that we were all rather quiet. We took a taxi back to the 'room' as we crossed the street we saw our landlord in this dodgy restaurant. He came out and invited us in for a drink. In most cases we probably would have said no, but for some reason we seemed to be adventurous. I am not going to go into details of our experience at this place as I am trying to forget it.
Day 6, have you ever slept with ants? Well I now have. OMG! I have never seen so many ants in a bed before. It is making me gag just typing this. We were up and out of there as soon as possible. Even though our flight wasn't till 5 we showed up at the airport around 1. When we first got to the airport we emptied our suitcases and shook everything out. Yuck! Even when we were back in London we still found one or two ants on our luggage!
I guess you can probably tell which place in Spain I preferred. So many people said that I would love Barcelona, but I did not love it and I don't ever plan on going back! Don't get me wrong I saw some fantastic things, but never again. It is once again hard to describe things I've seen in words that would do it justice so I will post pictures on facebook.

3 Generations on Vacation!

Where to start, the two weeks with my mom and grandma were jam packed with adventures. I am going to split our adventures into two post. One about England and the second about Spain. This way you won't have to read a massive long post, which you most likely would get bored with.

It was a hot day Friday the 8th of April. I wasn't too sure when mom and grandma would arrive. So I made plans to sit in the garden with a friend and drink champagne while catching some sun. Just as I was about to hit the garden, mom and grandma were on my doorstep at one in the afternoon (earlier than expected). Excited and tired from the long journey, I got there suitcases up the two flights of stairs then whisked them into the garden for a beer (and so that I could still have my champagne). Having enjoyed the sun for well over 3 hours and a bottle and then some vodka tonics, I was pleasantly happy. Mom and grandma had a small nap so they too were well refreshed. We enjoyed dinner at an Italian restaurant in Thame. Which then lead us to a local favourite of mine the James Figg, with the weather being mild we were able to be outside. Mom and grandma were both well excited to be here and they were in no way making this an early night. Grandma being grandma is always into having a dance or two, so there is only one place in Thame to Dance and that is the Black Horse. Not really the best place for grandmas but it is better than nothing. I do have a few more friends here then in the beginning so when we got to the horse we weren't really left alone. One of my younger male friends took grandma for a dance and well that just led to more dancing and wouldn't you know it, it was after 1 when we got home and after 3 when we went to bed. The first night is always the run away, right? I mean that is how it has been with my other visitors.
Day 2, we all slept in to late morning. Could be considered early afternoon! Thinking we had better do something productive we went for a walk around the town, looked in a few shops and then picked up some groceries. I was hankering for a home cooked meal by grandma. We went back to mine so that we could finalise our plans for Spain (well book it as we hadn't done any booking yet). I think I spent 4 hours on the computer, we were off to Spain on Monday. We had pork chops with mushroom soup gravy, potatoes and green beans. Yummy! Thanks grandma! After a friend showed up and we had a few drinks and laughs we headed out. We stopped at one of the pubs where there was Karaoke, it was packed. Not really the crowd that I wanted to be around, we decided to leave after one drink and head over to the Black Horse where they were having a 70s and 80s night. Well that was that, music that just makes a person happy. Again some friends took mom and grandma out to dance, everyone was happy. Great time, good pictures and some pretty funny moments! (What happens in England with your grandma stays in England!) Not as late this night, but late enough.
Day 3, another early afternoon wake up. This time, no one was wanting to move to fast. I was exhausted, I can't imagine that mom and grandma felt that great with being jet lagged and tired. I had to laugh everyone was a little stiff from all of the dancing. It was decided to go for a proper roast dinner. We all had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding which was fabulous at one of the locals! After which we decided to go for a true walk, I took them around the outskirts of town so they could get a better picture of the town I live in. Early night tonight as we were having to get up early to make it to Gatwick to make our morning flight to Spain.
I will go into Spain in the next post.
We arrived back into Gatwick on Saturday. It was late enough that all we wanted to do was get to our hotel. We checked in, had a bite to eat and then straight to bed.
Sunday we headed into London, not knowing where our hotel was, made for a lot of walking and back tracking. I felt for grandma as taking the tube in London can be overwhelming. As things move fast, and you are expected to keep up. But, it was all part of the experience. We checked our bags at the hotel once we found it. Mom and grandma went off to go tour the Tower of London. (I had already done this with dad). I kept myself busy, sitting in the sun in a park and watching the London Marathon. I also enjoyed a Newcastle Brown Ale while sitting along the River Thames! I met up with mom and grandma at the London Eye. A neat experience, but for 18 pounds not one that I would do again. We found ourselves at an Irish pub for dinner, not the greatest. Both mom and grandma were pooped after their long day so it was eat have a drink and crash. We took a tube to get closer to our hotel, but ended up taking a taxi directly to the hotel as it was just too much walking to get there after the long day. I pretended like the walk wouldn't have bothered me, but forget it I was knackered and happy to take a taxi. I should mention the hotel gave us the key to our room so we went up there to open the door and see someone elses belongings, and a messy bed. (thank goodness no one was in there, how embarrassing that could have been). The hotel didn't know what had happened, apparently if your last name is similar to someone elses they just may give away your room, really! It was a complete mix up, we did get a free breakfast the next day.
Monday saw an early rise as we wanted to make it to see the changing of the guards. Breakfast, more walking, two tubes and then more walking! We made it with little time to spare. This was the first time I had seen Buckingham Palace. Not as breathtaking as I had envisioned. The streets were lined with people. Because we weren't right against the palace gates we couldn't see everything. We did see the guards, the band and the horses coming in and going out. I took a picture of where Kate and William will come out and give their first public kiss as a married couple. Speaking of which, it is crazy here with this wedding. Everywhere you go, there is Kate and William's face. Stores all have specials on for the Royal Wedding, pubs are hosting wedding parties, there are street parties scheduled all over. The funniest thing I think I have seen so far is at a butchers, there are two cows, one wearing a bow tie and has William's face and one wearing a veil with Kate's face. (not sure, but I don't think I would like my face on the body of a cow!)
From the palace we made our way to WestMinster Abbey. The line up was at least an hour and half long, with a 16 pound admission. But, well worth it. You can tell they are very busy trying to get it ready for the big day. Cleaning and restoring, cameras being installed. Even on the street there have been bleachers added and stands for tv cameras. It was decided that we had done a significant amount of walking, waiting, standing and sightseeing so we were going to make it back to my town. We had to go back to the hotel pick up our luggage, make it to the train station, take a train and then a taxi to get back to Thame. A quiet night. rented a movie and early to bed.
Tuesday saw us up early to make it to Oxford so we could take a tour through the Cotswolds. Our first stop on the tour was at Blenheim Palace. Now this was a palace, the grounds were absolutely lush. So beautiful, the palace itself was breathtaking. This is the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill. It is still lived in by the Duke of Marlborough. Some how related there is a single male member of the family who is 34. I was looking, trust me! We had lunch in the village called Woodstock. We then left to go through some of the Cotswolds, villages including Minster Lovell, Burford, Filkins, and Bibury. I am in love with this area of England! The beauty is breathtaking. Picture perfect can't describe what I saw. Like Ireland, but because it is later in spring, more lush. How am I going to survive a winter and late spring back in Medicine Hat after seeing this! I am positive that this day has been one of my favourite! We got back into Thame in the early evening. After freshening up we went for Chinese. I was missing some of my friends so we went for a few after dinner drinks. Mom and grandma left me earlier and went home to sit up into the wee hours of the morning setting the world straight.
Wednesday, finally a day off of touring! We slept in and had a very slow start to the day. Mom and grandma went shopping and I tried to get a few things done around the flat. Grandma came back to have a lay down so I went with mom to continue her shopping and to get some groceries for dinner. It was the last night for mom and grandma in my town. We made another one of my favourite family suppers. Sweet and sour meatballs! We stayed in for the night, which was perfect as we knew that Thursday was another big day.
Thursday, mom and grandma packed up their stuff. I packed an additional bag for mom to bring home for me as it is time for me to downsize here. We went to London via train. By this time, mom and grandma had had enough of dragging suitcases on the tube so we just took a taxi to out hotel. I have never been in a place that the streets are so packed with people. It was overwhelming. It almost takes the fun out of things when you are having to be so conscious of all that is coming around you. We did a little shopping but were turned off as the crowds just made it unbearable. Tonight was our theatre night. After making ourselves look gorgeous we headed to the Victoria Palace Theatre where we saw Billy Elliot. This was absolutely wonderful. I recommend it to anyone! I was blown away by the dancing of all of the children. I liked the movie but this was ten times better! Mom and grandma really enjoyed it too. If I have the opportunity to see this show again, I will for sure!
Friday, this is goodbye. It was an early morning as mom and grandma were taking a bus to the airport to catch their plane. It was another sad goodbye, but in reality I am going to be home sooner than later so it was more like I will see you soon.
I really appreciated having had both mom and grandma share in my experience this year. It is not something that I think many people can say they have had. Three generations sharing in laughs and tears as we experience many things together. I am so proud of my grandma she is one amazing women. I think I was more tired than her throughout our trip! There are no words to describe how thankful I am of my mother. She is an amazing woman and I am so grateful for all that she has done for me! I know my experience would not have been the same had both of them not made the trek across the pond to be with me!
It does help that we had great weather the entire time. I am not sure that England is as cold and as rainy as people claim it to be, I think they just say that so that not everyone wants to live here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Insight and Home

I believe my mantra for the year was to play and be authentic. I do believe that I am sticking with this as closely as I can. But, on the plane trip home today, I watched a movie that I have been avoiding for some reason. Eat, Pray, Love. I know I read it in bookclub (well almost all of it) and at that time, I found it too spiritual and I was unable to connect with it.
As you all know my life changes and suddenly I connect with it. I decided to give the movie a chance and I am sure I almost turned it off 10 times within the first 45 minutes. It was too close to home in many ways, and I felt like I wasn't ready to deal with those feelings and thoughts. I know my journey is about me dealing with those thoughts and feelings, but living in denile has been working too. As I contiued to watch, I told myself that I would turn it off before the end, as I don't want to know good or bad what happens. My end to my movie hasn't happened yet and I don't want to get any false hopes or potentially see any more sadness come my way. I am not saying I am the lady in the movie by any stretch of the matter, but I did relate to some of the experiences that she faced, minus the spiritual meditation stuff. If you have seen the movie then you will understand when I say "I am a women in search for a word". A word that describes me, my journey, my process. I don't have it yet, but am working on it!

Having had the opportunity to go home for a week, really solidified for me the need to be here in England still. I was feeling not ready to be home. It could have a lot to do with the realization that holy sh** I have a lot to take care of when I get back. It dawned on me that this year of running away from so much drama has begun to change me in small ways. It just doesn't seem like I have reached the full circle quite yet to be ready to come home. (Who knows, this may never happen).

For some of you, I unfortunately didn't get to see you during my whirlwind visit. Please know that I did not intentionally skip anyone. I had no thoughts of going home before the year was up, it wasn't until my brother decided that it was cheaper to fly me home than for him to fly here. My brother gave me the opportunity to come home and surprise my family and friends. There are no words to express the gratitude I have for him giving me this gift!

I am not sure if you have ever pulled off total surprises before, but I hadn't really until this past week. After arriving in Calgary on Wednesday afternoon, I was able to meet up with my friend who I travelled to Italy with. We spent the evening out at my brother and cousin's place. I got my first taste of the new Kinect for Xbox. Wow, that is crackin! I enjoyed making a fool out of myself and watching others do the same. We didn't go to bed till around 330. A good 30 hours of awakeness for me. After 5 long hours of sleep we headed out to my dad's place. I thought surely on an 8 hour drive I would get some sleep, but no, not even a head nod (which for me is very unusal).

We pulled into my dad's place, I walked in towards his office. I heard him in the kitchen, I took out my camera and walked in saying hello! It was great, jaw drop total surprise! Then to surprise Corona, he was the one I was most worried about. But, of course he knew who I was. Jumping, yelping and trying to give me kisses; all the while trying to show me this ham bone he had just been given. (I am pretty sure one of my strict rules was for Corona not to get people food). I guess ham bones win out over getting too excited to see your mom after 7 months. Corona gave me the snub for a little while, but into the evening he began to warm up to me and then like old times not leave my sight. We had a great night visiting, some of my friends came out for a drink. They continually bugged me about having an accent. Which I totally do not! Another late night! The next couple of days at dads was great. Between the food which I missed; chicken wings, fries, liberty burgers and the drinks that I missed; paralyzers, grape sour puss and Canadian Rye, I got my fill of both. I defintaly took advantage of my time there. It was sad to have to leave on the Sunday, as Corona began to whine. I assured him though that I would see him in only a few months.

Next surprise was mom. I was timid walking up to the door. Rod answered and said mom still didn't know. So he called her up the stairs and there I was at the top. She looked like she was seeing things. When I got to the bottom of the stairs she was in tears as she hugged me. I love surprises!

While being back in Medicine Hat, I was able to go to the school where I took a leave from. I surprised many people there and got some great picutures. I was moved when I went to my old class and saw the students. They look great and they seemed geniunely happy to see me. Having the chance to go out for a couple of drinks with some great friends allowed me to soak in some of the love that I had been missing while being here. I am very fortunate to have such a great circle of friends. They play a huge roll in my decision to come back to the Hat by the end of June.

I was honoured when I was asked to be a godmother. For some this isn't all that big of a deal, but for me it is huge. I have a fantastic relationship with my own godmother. Many memories from banana pancakes, going to Calaway Park, watching 2 movies at the theatre on New Year's eve to now enjoying a glass of wine on the deck visiting. My godmother has always been an inspiration to me and I only hope I can be the same to this little one. On another level, it may be the mother role that I have been unable to play. Instead of me continuing to search to fill this hole in my life, maybe this is the "mom" that I was meant to be. It is hard for me to express my appreciation to my friend for asking me to do this, but I know I will do everything I can to make sure that each day she knows how much I appreciate her and her precious daughter!

So back to Thame, time is ticking away. Only a few months, with so many things to do and places to see I have a sick sense that it is going to whiz by.

Thank you to all that made my home visit so meaningful! And I again apoligize to those that I didn't get to see.

Love you all!