Greece

Good morning, afternoon, evening….middle of the night 😉  I’ve been putting this post off for awhile, simply because we saw so much, that I really don’t know how to get it all into one post, but here we go….

To be honest, Greece was one of the places that I was a little worried about going to.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have always wanted to go to Greece, and pictures that I have seen from Greece always look amazing; the worry was simply about how we were going to communicate once we got there, or even understand prices/grocery labels, etc.  It’s one thing to be able to read a different language that uses the same alphabet and numbers we do (i.e.: even if you don’t speak French, German or Italian, you can kind of sound out the words or type them into Google to see what they mean, and the numbers are the same as ours, so you can figure out prices no problem), but the thought of having to figure out those Greek symbols, had me a little worried about how we were going to get along in Greece.  Well, I am here to tell you that there was absolutely no reason to worry about communicating…..almost everywhere we went had an English menu, most people spoke English, and most signs had Greek as well as English on them.  The traveller in me cringes that we went without knowing how to say anything in Greek; I really wanted to at least be able to say hi and thank you in each country we went to, but I think at this point, we were just tired from “translating” Italian words and items, and I don’t think my brain was ready to absorb any new languages or words.  So I am sorry Greece, that we did not learn any of your words, but I am also thankful that most of your countrypeople were gracious and more than willing to converse in English.  It’s so very humbling when you are in another country, and the person native to that country apologizes that their English isn’t that great.  Seriously, we have heard that from quite a few people throughout our travels, and every time I immediately tell them that we are the ones who should be apologizing for not speaking THEIR language while in their country 😉  Anyways, all that to say that Greece is an amazing country, and if you ever have the opportunity, do not even hesitate to go!!!!

We took an overnight ferry from Italy to Greece, then bus and train from Patras to Athens (stayed in Piraeus), where we met up with Josh and Kash who had flown over.  Again, this sounds weird, but Greece just felt “comfortable,” to be in.  It had a great vibe, and we just enjoyed walking around and exploring the area.   We ate gyros, souvlaki, pitas, and tzatziki every chance we got.  We took the metro up to Athens for the day, where we ended up on Mars Hill without even knowing it, toured the Acropolis, and walked around looking at all the ruins throughout the city.  Amazing!  Then we took a ferry down to Santorini, and stayed on Kamari Beach for four days.  This was a fantastic way to end our month with Josh and Kash.  We went swimming in the sea (while the locals walked by in their jackets and sweatshirts), rented quads for a day, and just enjoyed the sun, water and hospitality of the island.  After saying “see ya in a few months” to Josh and Kash, we headed back up to Athens for a night, then got on a train to Thessaloniki.  We spent two nights there, and I can’t even tell you how far we walked, but the boys were real troopers as we walked up to a spring where Paul (from the Bible) stopped to rest and drink from when he was in Thessaloniki, and also up to a monastery built on the site where Paul would have preached from back in the day.  Very cool to see these historical/biblical places in real life 🙂  And the train ride from Athens to Thessaloniki had the most amazing scenery along the way.  Anyways, that’s a super quick overview of our time in Greece.  The history, culture, and hospitality of these people is amazing!  If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend just going….don’t even hesitate or worry about it 😉

 

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Italy

Italy, Italy, Italy.  Wow, what a country!;  and we didn’t even see half of it.  We took an amazing bus ride from Munich to get down to Lake Como.  We went through Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Lichtenstein, all through the mountains (6 hour trip).  Nate, Kash and myself were still feeling sick, so it was nice to relax and enjoy the ride.  We had two nights, and a full day (Canadian Thanksgiving) in Lake Como. We were wanting to do something fun for the boys for thanksgiving, but unfortunately, Nathan and I were still a little wiped out, and the thought of cooking and eating a lot of food just wasn’t something that sounded appealing….so the boys had free pasta, tortellini, meat, and dessert from a food fair that we just happened to walk into 🙂  Woohoo!  We wandered and explored the lake, and of course, the boys had pizza for supper.  Then we trained it down to Levanto, which is on the north side of a group of towns referred to as “Cinque Terre,” the five villages/towns.  I would highly recommend staying in Levanto if you are exploring Cinque Terre.  It was cheaper, had a beach, lots of shops and restaurants, and not as crowded as the “five towns.”  We took two days to explore; day one we took the train to Riomaggiore and walked around.  Then train back to Manarola, where we did a 3 hour hike across to Corniglia.  We took the free hike at the top of the “mountain,” and walked across vineyards, olive trees, with the sea at our left, and the hills to our right.  Definitely a very scenic hike, and we are very glad it was October, and not August….it was hot enough that I can’t imagine attempting it in the summer!!  Day 2 we trained to Vernazza, and hiked down to Monterosso, another hike with lots of stairs, narrow paths, and amazing views.  In Monterosso we spent a couple hours swimming at the beach, and then had some amazing gelato.  We also took a day and rented bikes from Levanto, riding along the coast and stopping at some of the beaches along the way.  Gorgeous part of the country, and we enjoyed having some down time as well as getting out in nature and seeing the natural beauty here.  Anyways, after four nights, we packed it up and headed down to Florence, with a quick pit stop in Pisa to see the leaning tower.  Florence was BUSY!!! So many people, so much art, so much history.  We did a Rick Steve’s audio tour (free download on the phone), and learned about the Renaissance, and the artists that lived here (Michelangelo, Raphael…), and how cool to walk along the same streets that these artists did so many years ago.  Lots of churches, religious icons, and sculptures, you really can’t take it all in…  After Florence we headed to Rome for a couple nights.  Walked around Vatican City, stopped at the Spanish steps and Trevi fountain, and then did a full day starting at the Colosseum, which was soooo amazing to see in person.  That was cool.  Walked through downtown and then over to Vatican City, where we walked through the museum and then ended in the Sistine Chapel.  I think we reached our limit that day with the boys, walking, and sights….we were all exhausted by the end of it.  Especially walking about 6 hours (not really) through the Vatican museum to get to the Sistine Chapel.  I honestly wasn’t sure if we would make it back to the apartment…hahah.  But it was fun to be in the Chapel and hear Jo take in a breath of excitement and say “there it is mom,” (the creation of Adam painting….God’s finger touching Adam’s).  Oh yes, and the metro system is crazy there….metro lines under metro lines….I think we went underground about 4 stories to catch the one metro up to our apartment.  Definitely felt like a sardine for a bit 😉  Anyways, from Rome we headed to a little town close to Amalfi called Vico Equense.  Guys, I wish you could have all been there for our bus ride from the tram station to the apartment we rented.  It was amazing.  First of all, we took another crowded tram from Naples down to Vico.  Our apartment was about 300 metres up the cliff of the town.  So we waited for the local bus since we had all our gear.  The bus driver confirmed it was the right bus, and then started driving.  It was curve after curve with scooters passing us, cars coming directly at us, and lots of honking and braking.  The best part though, was that there were a bunch of locals who obviously knew we were tourists…and they were laughing at the faces I was making at Nathan, and the looks we were giving each other when we passed a vehicle with an inch between us and them.  So they asked where we were from, and where we going.  And then they said they’d tell us when to get off.  It was hilarious watching the old guy talking to Nathan tell everyone else on the bus where we were going, and them all nodding, and one of them saying they knew the owner.  (They all could also clearly hear Nathan telling the guy because it was a mini bus, but they listened to the old guy anyway).  As we got close to the stop, they all started talking, and it was like a game of telephone as one person said “I think the next one is theirs,” and they nodded, and then told us, but then the bus driver said he would drop us off closer, so then they relayed that back to us.  When we got to our street, they all started yelling at us (excitedly), that this was our stop, but we couldn’t get off because everyone was just standing there looking at us.  The bus driver finally yelled at them all to move, and we got off with lots of “thanks, enjoy your stay, etc.”  Such a fun experience 🙂  Small towns are the best!  We also found a pizza joint a five minute walk away that had the best pizza!  So guess what we ate for most of the week?  Haha.  Spent a couple of days at the beach, and headed up to Pompeii for a day to explore.  Totally amazing….this town was covered in ash and volcanic rock when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79.  It stayed undiscovered until about 300 years ago. The ash from the volcano acted as a natural protection, and it is one of the best preserved ancient ruins in the world.  Jars, mosaics, bakeries, wall murals….all preserved in amazing detail.  I feel like this post is already too long, so I won’t tell you all the details, but it really is a must see if you are in the area.  They had hot water piped into their spas, water pipes throughout the city, fast food joints, gymnasiums, and more.  Crazy!  The boys learned a lot here as well.

Anyways, sorry for another long post….I should have split it into two posts, but that felt like too much work for today 😉  Thoughts on Italy:  gorgeous, great food, amazing history everywhere.  It was also loud, crowded, and busy.  But there is a reason everyone that visits loves it.  If you can, you should go.  I don’t think you realize while you are there just how much you are actually seeing.  It is amazing to see the mix of old and new, and how the past is integrated (while still being recognized as historically important) into modern aspects of life as well.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read the blog.  We love you all, and miss you, and this helps us feel connected in a small way…knowing you all are back home (and around the world too), checking in 🙂  Have a great week, and happy November!!!

 

3 and 4 months in….

We had a couple of travel days, and I was able to sit and think about where we are at (mentally, physically, etc), and how we’re feeling after almost 4 months of travel.  (Sorry if any of this is repeated from before; I’m too tired to go back through what I’ve already written in previous posts).  In terms of travel, September was good… I think mentally we were still doing good as well, although it did take some time to remember my parents weren’t with us anymore.  (We would wake up in the morning, and start to say “let’s go check in with Grandma and Papa about plans for today,” and then remember they were on their way home 😉 )  We put some serious kilometres on our rental cars as we drove up and around and back down the UK (which we fell in LOVE with), and then over in France, Holland, and Germany.  We also hung out with some pretty sweet people….I really can’t tell you how nice it is to see a familiar face in unfamiliar territory.  We really do have the bestest friends in the world, and never imagined we would meet up with so many peeps from home and have so much fun with new friends over here as well.  It all just adds to the experience.  As I mentioned previously, we met up with our good buddies Josh and Kash for the month of October.  Soooooo nice to have a WHOLE month with these guys, and to explore new places and make some more memories around the world.  Mid-October I was starting to feel the homesickness a little; nothing crazy, but I think it may be because hockey is starting (recreational for the boys), and fall is one of our favourite months with hiking, fairs, Hallowe’en (HUGE in our neighbourhood), and Thanksgiving.  Anyways, not crazy homesickness, but definitely missing the things going on at home.  Having our BFFs along has definitely helped 😉  And all the notes/email/texts/ phone calls, from all you wonderful peeps at home.  It’s been a good month so far.  The boys are still doing good: We are still having lots of dialogue with them, and they are both doing well, and happy to keep trekking….a little tired of seeing tourist sights, so we are trying to find the balance between too much, and too little.  Down days, and parks are still a big deal for them, so we are doing our best to do a little of both.

Anyways, to sum up travel so far, it feels like a dichotomy of sorts.  It’s not “this is better than this;” It’s seeing how “this is different than this.”  We are really making an effort not to be the judgemental type, and recognize that we are the foreigners here; one of the main reasons for doing this year off was to help the boys see how there are SO many other ways of living and doing things…..it’s seeing how different cultures do things, and that our way of doing something is not the only way.  It’s learning new ways to live, but it’s also sometimes missing how you do it at home.  It’s not saying “I do it this way,” it’s asking “how do you do this?”  It’s being overwhelmed by grocery stores you aren’t used to, but then having your kid pull your hand and lead you down an aisle to show you some cool food he found, and finding some of your own new favourite foods along the way.  It’s being tired of packing up and moving all the time, but then getting on that bus/ferry/train and relaxing and smiling as you take in some of the most fantastic scenery you have only seen in pictures or on TV before this trip, and dream about the next place you are heading to.  It’s being so tired of planning and figuring out the next bus/hotel/airbnb, but also being so excited to plan where you are going next, and reading about all the things to experience there (seriously, it’s a love/hate relationship with the planning…lol.  I LOVE researching, but there are days I just wish we could show up and have it all planned out for us 😉  )  It’s having an idea about a place you are going, but then getting there and finding it’s completely different than what you were expecting (as I told Kasia, just don’t have any expectations…) haha.  We are enjoying it.  And we are learning so much about this big old world.

I hope this all makes sense…. We are loving this trip, and know we are so lucky to be on it.  Seriously.  We are almost a third of the way through, which in itself is crazy to me.   So on that note, Happy Hallowe’en everyone.  Hope you are enjoying the fall, wherever in the world you happen to be 🙂

 

Poland and Prague

Sorry it’s been awhile again.  We’ve been in and out of places with medium to not so good internet, so I find myself behind in the blogging yet again 😉  We started off the month meeting up with some of our best friends…Josh and Kash…in Gdansk, Poland.  We dropped one car off in France, then rented a van from Germany, drove to Poland, and had the van for the week in Polski and Prague before dropping it off back in Munich.  It was awesome to be “reunited” with Josh and Kash.  They are like famjam, and we were stoked to meet up with them.  Kash is from Poland, so she took the tour leader position for this leg of the trip.  We trekked around the Gdansk area, hung out with her cousin, and enjoyed some delicious, cheap food.  Sooooo good.  And so awesome having our own translator in a country that we don’t speak the language.  From Gdansk we headed down to Krakow, which has a gorgeous city square.  Enjoyed wandering around, soaking up the atmosphere, watching the buskers and musicians around the town, and hanging out with J & K.  From Krakow we drove over to Prague with a quick stop to visit Kash’s grandparents (made me a little homesick for our grandparents, especially when they sent us off with homemade muffins and chocolate) and basically did the same thing in Prague that we did in Krakow….just wandered, saw some sights and enjoyed being in old gorgeous towns with good friends.  The bummer part (literally) is that Nate, Kash and I came down with some sort of flu bug while we were in Prague.  The bathroom got quite the workout between the three of us.  Luckily, Josh was still healthy and able to pick up the slack while we were down and out.  Anyways, I am writing this while Kasia is singing in my ear, Josh is humming in the background, and Isaac is asking for the computer while Jo is running around in the background.  So I will close off with final thoughts on Poland and Prague…..gorgeous area of the world.  It was awesome driving around in the fall with the leaves changing.  Had a few rainy days, but that only made it feel like legit fall.  Can’t even believe we are with good friends in another part of the world.  Makes it that much better.  On that note, I must say goodbye before the neighbours come and tell us all to tone it down 🙂

 

Paris, Round 2

So we discovered that we enjoy Paris in the fall much better than Paris in the summer 🙂  It felt completely different than when we were there in August.  No crowds, no crazy lineups.  It felt more like the Paris we were expecting the first time.  We came back for a week again, but this time we were over on the east side.  We found a bakery that we got fresh baguettes and the BEST chocolate croissants from every day.  We walked around some parks, and enjoyed the fall colours just starting to pop out.  We had some school days, where we just stayed in the apartment and did school work and played in the yard.  We are huge Disney fans, and since we were so close, we also decided to cash in some reward points, and head over to Disney for a couple days.  We had a lot of fun in both parks, and were able to go on all the rides we had hoped to, since it was off season there as well.  It was a little bit like home, but still had that “je ne sais quoi” to it.  So all that to say, we are very glad we went back, and got to enjoy Paris in the fall.

The other highlight of our week was meeting up with some good friends from home.  Our friends the Gerrards were in London for vacay, and flew over to Paris for a couple days, so we met up with them for a GREAT day of exploring downtown Paris.  We walked, ate, laughed, played, and just enjoyed hanging out with Aaron, Shay, Jaxton,  Ryah, and Brit.  The boys (and Nate and I) were over the moon to see them, and had a countdown going for the last couple weeks.  (I think I mentioned Isaac and Jo were disappointed back in August when they realized they still had to wait another month to see these guys).  Anyways, I really can’t say how good it was to see this family and spend the day with friends from home.  They even brought notes from friends at home, which were a lot of fun to read once we got back to the apartment.  We were all a little sad to say goodbye to them at the metro.  Thank you guys SO MUCH for meeting us and taking the time to spend some of your vacation with us.  It really means a lot, and we had a blast!  (But seriously, where do we go after hanging out in Paris?  hahah).

Holland

So I think I mentioned that we were debating skipping Holland, or just going over for a day mini cruise from England….but boy are we glad that we stuck with the plan and didn’t miss this gem!!!

After ferrying overnight across to France, picking up another rental car, and a five hour drive (we took the “toll free” route, so it was a bit longer than it could have been), we arrived in Ouddorp.  We rented a nice little place inside a kind of vacation community, and it was awesome!  Soooo quiet, close to gorgeous beaches, had a couple of parks for the boys to play in, and very friendly people.  We settled in for the week.  Took a couple of days just chillaxing….went over to the beach for a few hours one day, then another beach area another day.  The boys were happy playing in the surf and sand, but it was a little too chilly for me and Nate to go in 😉  Caught up on journalling, and the boys did some math and school work.  Drove up to Amsterdam for a day, which was cool to see.  The canals and buildings were amazing, and we had some of the best “frites” (fries) ever.  Spent the day just wandering around and seeing some of the cities highlights.  Then headed up to Zaanse Schans, the area that is most famous for it’s windmills.  I think we would have spent a lot more time here if we had have stopped here first, but since it was the end of the day, most of the shops and buildings were closed.  You could still walk around, but it looked like there were some cool shops that would have been fun to check out (the kakao factory 😉 ).  Definitely a must do if you are in the area.  We found that Dutch (or the area we were in anyways), was similar to German.  Our host spoke very little English, and we don’t speak any Dutch, but we managed to have about half hour conversation the day we left.  We could understand a lot of what people were saying (or get the general idea anyways), and I think knowing German helped quite a bit.  Anyways, we had a great week in Ouddorp, and it is another place that has stolen a little piece of our hearts 🙂  Have a great week everyone!   Thanks for checking in.

United Kingdom Revisited Part 2 & 3

The Sights

As you can see, we packed quite a lot into three weeks 😉  We started September with 4 nights just outside Bath.  We drove from Southampton up to the Bath area.  We weren’t planning on stopping at Stonehenge, but after looking at the map, and realizing we were driving right past it, we decided to stop.  Josiah especially got quite a lot out of the visit, and was telling me things that I didn’t even know… he had read it or asked a guide.  Anyways, we then spent a day checking out Bath, which was really quite interesting (we downloaded a free walking tour from the internet, and took our time walking around and learning about this historic town).  We checked out some more Neolithic stones in Avebury, where we were also lucky enough to catch a local cricket game on our way out.  We sat in the sidelines and learned all the rules and how the game works thanks to some friendly locals who were kind enough to explain and answer Jo’s many questions 😉  Then we took some days to just chill; gray and rainy weather helped us not feel so guilty for staying inside and reading/watching movies/catching up on journals, although we did go for a nice walk and the boys played some mini golf in the rain.  From Bath we headed up to Stratford Upon Avon, birthplace and home of William Shakespeare.  We took the long way up, heading over to Cardiff, Wales to surprise Isaac with a visit to the Dr Who Experience.  He LOVES the show, and we lucked out by getting tickets just days before the place closed.  In Stratford, we stayed about a 20 minute walk outside of town.  So we walked into town a couple times, took a drive down to the Cotswolds, and enjoyed the beautiful English country 🙂  Oh yes, we also checked out Kenilworth Castle, which was quite interesting.  I won’t bore you all with the history, but it is quite something to stand on the ruins of an old castle and just imagine what life was like “way back when.”  We saw quite a few castles this month, and each one has been interesting and unique.  Heading back up to Scotland, we again took an unplanned stop when I realized we were driving right by Liverpool.  We decided to stop and check out the Beatles Experience (Isaac is also a big Beatles fan), and some of the Beatles sights in the area.  That is one place I wish we had planned to stop at and spend a bit longer.  Anyways, from there we headed over to Scotland’s east coast; Dundee area.  Again, we just chilled and explored the local area….we took a day and checked out St. Andrews, used the local indoor pool, played at parks, and played some board games in the cottage.  From Dundee, we headed down for three nights in Berwick Upon Tweed, where we enjoyed Eyemouth Harbour, and Alnwick Castle.  Then it was back down to Poole area, where we explored a bit of the Jurassic Coast, and again, just enjoyed the company of friends, and being in England.  We seriously debated staying in the UK for another week, (skipping Holland), because we love England and Scotland, and it really did start to feel like a second home.  (we’ve even started using words like “queue,” “carpark,” and “mind….”  without even realizing we were “speaking British.”

Part 3: the Logistics

For those of you interested in how we did it all….

We rented a car in Poole and drove for the three weeks.  (Actually Nathan drove, I navigated).  I’m not sure how he did it, but Nathan had no real problems diving on the “other” side of the road for three weeks.  I, on the other hand, couldn’t get my head around sitting on the left side of the car as a passenger, and kept getting into the driver’s side (over here)….oops!  We had nothing booked ahead of time in terms of hotels or Airbnb’s for this month, so we spent a lot of time on the Internet, looking up places within budget and that had good reviews.  We have found that Wifi is a big must, and laundry is a very nice bonus….if we find a place that has a washing machine, we will pick that over one that doesn’t, even if it costs a little bit more, as it saves us having to go to a laundromat.  Websites we use for booking are: Hotels.com, priceline (note prices are in US dollars though), VRBO, and Airbnb.  We have used all of these with no problems.  I also will not rent a place (on Airbnb), that does not have 4-5 star reviews.  Hotels are different…we still read all the reviews, but you can kind of week out the complainers from the facts 🙂  We tried hostels a couple of times, as the UK seems to be more family oriented in this area, and offers family rooms.  (Europe ones seem to charge per person, so it is still cheaper to get a hotel or house vs hostel over there).  We liked the socializing part of hosteling…meeting travellers and chatting about adventures.  It was also nice to have a “bigger” living room (although they were shared with quite a few other people 😉 ) What do we prefer?  Hard to say:  hotels are nice because you don’t have to do anything…garbage, bed, etc.  And we stayed at some that included breakfast, so that is also nice.  But you don’t have a fridge, or anywhere to store perishable food, so it’s hard to get food on the go.  (Cold rainy weather was nice for that; we used the car and our hotel windows as a “fridge” a couple of times.  Airbnb’s are nice because you can spread out a lot more.  You also have the kitchen, laundry, and sometimes a yard.  But you are also living in someone else’s house, so you tend to be a bit more careful about using things, and worried about breaking something.  (We only might have broken one lamp so far, so that’s not too bad).  So really, for us, it’s mostly about good reviews, cleanliness, and good location.  In terms of driving, we have been using google maps, and the waze app.  Both are quite good.  We have had no problems with finding places so far.  If one doesn’t have it, the other one usually does.  They both give you traffic reports, and Waze also gives you the speed limit for where you are.  Nate also used the google maps app for walking around the cities and using transit.  Amazing!  Also, in terms of phones, we both have unlocked cell phones.  I got a plan from Tesco (British grocery store) when we first got here in July, and we topped it up for August and September.  So far it has worked in every country we’ve been in.  Haven’t used the phone/text much, but for data, it has definitely been worth it!  Nate got a card at Asda (UK Walmart), and it worked well while we were in England, but didn’t get the recpetion/data that my phone did after leaving England.  Both were about 20 pounds a month.  One more random thing:  we have an online account with our home library.  This has been awesome for downloading ebooks, as well as audio books to listen to on the drive.  We listened to two books while driving so far, and Isaac has read quite a few on his tablet.  I have downloaded a couple for me, but honestly, have been too tired to read so far 🙂  So those are some of the things that have helped us along the way so far.  If you have any questions or I’ve left something out, feel free to message or comment.  Sorry this has been a longer post, and if you made it all the way through, well done!  haha.  Hope you all are doing well, and as always, thanks for checking in 🙂

 

The UK Revisited: Part One

Hello everyone! There is no easy way to make this a short post, so I have divided it into three parts 🙂  Think of it as a novella.

Part One: The People

Our second trip to the UK was bookended by visiting some pretty great people.  We left France on Aug. 28, taking a ferry from Cherbourg, France to Poole, England.  Nathan and I dropped off the punks and the grandparents, and then dropped off the rental car and walked back to the ferry terminal.  After going through security, and getting our passports stamped, we found out we were in line for the wrong ferry.  Totally my mistake…oops!  I was so focussed on getting onto the boat, that I forgot which port we were going to.  So we walked back out to the waiting area, and waited another two hours until our actual ferry time 🙂  After a four hour ride, we arrived in England to see some very dear faces who had driven to the terminal to pick us up and drive us to our hotel.  Honestly, you have no idea how nice it is to see a familiar/friendly face after tromping around foreign countries for a couple months.  They also drove us to pick up our rental car the next morning….again, sooo nice to have local friends driving us around, and doing the planning for a couple days.  Anyways, long story, but the background to us having friends in Poole is that some 70 years ago, my grandma became pen pals with a girl named Joyce in London.  Grandma’s work sent some letters and presents over to London (which was in the middle of WWII bombings, etc), and Grandma and Joyce became friends first through the letters, and then in real life when they met in England, Canada, and then continued to visit each other over the years.  Joyce and Roy, and their daughters (Tracey and Tina), son in law (Ian), grandson (Matthew and his fiance (Rachel) all took the time to hang out with us for two days while we were in Poole, and we really cannot thank them enough 🙂  We had a great time seeing this gorgeous part of the country, and it was really nice to just spend time with this awesome family.  We got to see Corfe Castle, Swanage, had an excellent lunch in a very cool restaurant, did some paddle boarding, went to the Tank museum, and Jo even got in some fishing.  All topped off with lots of laughter and good food.  After dropping my mom and dad off in Southampton for their return voyage to NYC, Nate, myself and the boys continued on in the UK for another three weeks.  We ended our stay by stopping back in Poole for another visit…so nice, we visited twice 😉  Again, it felt like spending a weekend with family, and we are very grateful for this friendship that began over 70 years ago, and Joyce, Roy, Tracey, Tina, and Ian’s hospitality.  Thank you all for an awesome visit, for spoiling us rotten, and for making us feel like we were home away from home 🙂

 

So in between visiting this wonderful family, we headed up to Scotland and met up with another wonderful family from home.  Our neighbours/friends Jayne and Sarah are regulars to Scotland, and way back when we started planning this trip, we said “wouldn’t it be fun to meet up in Scotland.”  Well, “wouldn’t it be fun” became a reality when we met Jayne, Sarah, and Jayne’s brother and his famjam in Eyemouth, Scotland.  I think we all kind of pinched ourselves a few times that first night…so awesome to be in Scotland with friends we see almost every day at home!  The boys were super excited to have friends their age to play with, and we were (again), excited to have friends to chat with, hang out with, and “locals” who knew all the cool things in the area to see.  We had the best fish and chips, “multi-award winning” ice cream (that’s for you Jim and Nathan), and took some Quidditch lessons along the way.  Seriously, after being on our own for a week or two, it was sooo good to see familiar faces, and even though it was the first time meeting Jim, Susan, Emily and Sofie, they quickly felt like old friends who we’ve known for longer than a couple days.  We are spoiled, and honestly have the best friends.  Thank you Jayne, Jim, Susan, Sarah, Emily and Sofie for taking time out of your vacation to hang out with us, feeding us, and for showing us around your second home.  It was a quiet car ride home after we said goodbye the second day.  Can’t wait to do it again sometime 😉

And finally; last but not least, we said goodbye to our travelling buddies from the first two months of the trip: Papa Squashie and Grandma Kate.  They were with us from the very beginning, from NYC to UK, to the “Continent,” and back to the UK, where we dropped them off for their return cruise on the Queen Mary.  I really can’t say much except thanks.  Thanks for travelling with us, for keeping the boys, for having patience (sometimes 😉 )haha while we figured out the travelling logistics.  It definitely helped ease us into the year of travel by having family along for the first two months.  So much fun discovering new places with you guys.  We definitely miss the fitbit, and I’m POSITIVE we’ve done over a million steps by now (my dad was our step counter, distance marker, and 360 picture taker; he was hoping to get to a million steps in the two months, but I believe his stats said 980 000 or something like that).  Anyways, we miss you, and it definitely took a few days to remember you weren’t down the hall, or that we didn’t have to go knock on your door and let you know the plans for the day.  It was a blast, and we hope we didn’t wear you out too much from all the walking and backpacking around 😉

 

Two Months

Let’s just pretend that I am up to date, and this is the two month update, written about two weeks ago, instead of the 2.6 month update 😉 hahaha.  Enjoy 🙂

Favourite place visited so far:

  • Jo:  England (with friends in Poole)
  • Isaac: England
  • Nathan: Wagrain, Austria
  • Riann:  Can’t pick…they have all been great!

Things we miss:

  • Jo:  The boat (Queen Mary)
  • Isaac:  Friends and family
  • Nathan:  friends
  • Riann: friends, family, and maybe relaxing on my back deck a little bit 😉

Best food:

  • Jo: Crepes
  • Isaac: Crepes
  • Nathan: Martin’s cooking (in Germany)
  • Riann:  Fresh bread, baguettes, and chocolate…

Best thing about travel:

  • Jo: Meeting up with friends and family
  • Isaac: Meeting up with family, old friends, new friends, and the new places we are going to.
  • Nathan:  exploring and seeing historical sights and learning about new places.
  • Riann:  meeting up with friends along the way, and seeing all these cool new places.

Worst thing about travel:

  • Jo: Away from friends from school
  • Isaac:  Don’t get to stay in one place for too long
  • Nathan:  The constant planning/researching
  • Riann:  Booking and researching where to stay (airbnb, hotels, etc.); and yes, still listening to Nathan’s bathroom noises in the morning.  Hahahah.  Sorry if that’s TMI.

Funniest memory:

  • Jo:  Dad carrying mom on his back because she was afraid to walk past swans
  • Isaac: Playing games and laughing with family
  • Nathan:  Josiah on the high ropes course (he had a little bit of a meltdown up there).
  • Riann:  almost getting on the wrong ferry and going to Portsmouth England, instead of Poole.  Ooopps 🙂

# of Countries: 9

# of boats: 7

# of trains: 26 (one high speed train that went over 330km/hr)

# of buses: 1

# of cars: 3

# of friends that have met us along the way:  15 (including a brand new friend we met during travels).

Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the end of summer/beginning of fall.  We are currently sitting in a ferry terminal waiting to catch the boat back across to France.  We dropped my parents off back on the Queen Mary at the beginning of September, and have stayed in the UK till now. We have had the best visits with friends and family during the past month.  Soooo good to see our “people” along the way.  Anyways, thanks for checking in.  Hope to catch up with pics and write-ups soon!!!

 

 

Some thoughts on travelling so far….

A lot of people have asked what it’s like to travel for so long, with so little (one big backpack each), in different countries, with different languages, and so on.  Right now, I feel that we have barely brushed the surface of places to see and things to do, but I know we are lucky enough to have done and seen a lot more than most people get to in a lifetime.  I can’t believe it’s already been two months since we left home.  (It honestly feels like we just left a couple weeks ago).  I’ve been thinking about that, and here are some of my thoughts at two months in…

From when we first started, to a month ago, and to now, one of the main differences is that I already feel a lot more comfortable and at home “on the road,” than I did even a month ago.  By that I mean that things that were different or that we would take a picture of because they were novel to us don’t really phase us anymore.  I’m having to remember to bring the camera along and make sure we take some pictures each day 🙂  The same thing can be said for when we are driving along and see something “different,” like a castle, or some ruins.  We still LOVE seeing them, but they don’t have that “take a picture, take a picture” effect that they did when we first started.  Now, we just look, take it in, maybe pinch ourselves once in awhile because sometimes we still can’t believe we are actually here, and keep driving.

Along the same lines, going into a grocery store doesn’t take as long as it used to either, because we are not walking up and down the aisles and stopping at each new thing we see that we don’t have at home.  I think that was/is one of the hardest things to get used to….buying enough groceries for the day, and not overdoing it.  At home, we go grocery shopping about once a week; buying groceries for the week, and even then, we have cabinets and a big freezer to store things that we don’t eat right away.  Being on the go means that we only buy as much food as we will eat for that day or the next.  It took a while to get used to this, and there are still days where we have too much leftovers at the end of the day, but I think we are getting the hang of it 😉

We are also pros at packing up our stuff and getting out of a place in about half an hour, as opposed to the two hours it took when we started.  Everything has a place, and we all have exactly what we need now.  (My mom and dad took a big bag of stuff home fore us when they left 10 days ago).  I think we could still get rid of a few items, but it’s nice to have some “comfort” items (blanket from home, sweater, two laptops).  It is not as overwhelming to pack as it was when we started.

All that is not to say that we haven’t had some “hiccups” along the way, but they’ve been manageable.  Like the time Isaac and I got locked in a stairwell in Dublin.  Turns out you don’t need a key to get into the stairwell, but you need a key to get out  of it onto any of the floors, including the first one where the lobby and outside is 😉  Or the time we went through customs and security to get on the ferry back to England, only to realize that we were going through for the wrong ferry and had to leave the waiting area and start over two hours later (my apologies to everyone waiting in line behind us while we sorted it out).  We’ve bought conditioner when we thought it was shampoo, yeast topping when we thought it was margarine, taken wrong turns down “two lane roads” that are really only big enough for one car, gotten out a passport to hand to the cashier when she asked for a “postcode” (that was a funny one!!), and other little, minor mistakes.  But those are the things that you remember and laugh about after, and even during 😉  We are keeping our sense of humour, that’s for sure 😉  There have been days when we miss friends, but then you get a message, an email, a text, and it makes you smile that your friends are still thinking of you and miss you too!

Anyways, stay tuned for everyone else’s thoughts on “two months in.”