Home Sweet Home – London

I can’t believe it has already been 3 weeks since my arrival in London. I landed at Gatwick Airport early on the morning of October 18 where my brother had arranged a car to pick me up and drive me to his house. It may seem like moving with only 3 suitcases is not a lot but it is after a red eye flight and trying to maneuver through the busy Underground in London. I didn’t want to brother with the hassle.

I wanted to spend the next few days after I arrived to just relax before I started the job hunt on the upcoming Monday. Before I left Calgary, I hadn’t worked in a few months (if you read my previous blogs, you will know that I hated my last job which lead me to make the decision to move), so it was time to get some money rolling back in. Starting a new career is stressful even if you are staying in the same city or country, so I didn’t really know where to start. Luckily, a few days of scrolling on sites like Reed.co.uk , or Indeed.co.uk and posting my CV (resume) led to a couple of interviews. By Friday I had 2 interviews, which ultimately led to 2 job offers! Once again, it seems like the stars are in alignment for me and this big move. As of October 26, I will be starting my new role at  Canadian Affair as a Canadian Specialist Reservation Agent. Time to test my Canadian knowledge!

Now that I have secured a job and the pressure is off my shoulders, I have almost a month to kill some time. The problem is that as exciting as it may seems to have a month off in London, I have no source of income at the moment. When I was not working in Calgary, I was still doing friends hair on the side to have some money coming in. Here  I don’t have that. AND when I do start work, people in the UK only get paid once a month (as opposed to every 2 weeks in Canada), so I won’t get my first pay cheque until the end of December. Looks like it’s time to be frugal! Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of things to do in London without having to spend a lot of money. One of the best ways is the never ending supply of museums. The majority of museums are free (donations are appreciated) and a person can easily spend an entire day or more in just 1 museum. I know some people may think “how boring” but the museums in London are world renowned and hold many of the worlds most precious and one of a kind artifacts. Not to mention the buildings alone are architecturally fantastic to look at.

Most people think that the City of London is the entire area of London (which is huge) but the actual “City” is only 2.9km². The rest of London is Greater London. The City of London is the area just north of the Thames River and is the financial/business district of London. This area is home to St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Museum of London, London Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. This area is very walkable and a great way to spend a day, snapping photos without spending a lot of money.  All over London, but this area in particular you will find an incredible mix of extremely old buildings (1000+ years old) and new, funky looking buildings that somehow all seems to fit well together. My favourite is the Southwark Cathedral with The Shard in the background. This area is also home to the famous Borough Market, where there seems to be an endless supply of reasonable priced food vendors from around the world. Also if you are a cheese lover, you will be in heaven. There are plenty of cheese vendors who are happy to give free samples of delicious and sometimes stinky cheese.

Over the years, I often get asked how I can afford to travel. Travel does not have to be expensive. It is whatever you make it. You can have an amazing experience on a very low budget in ways that I have stated above. I have experienced both expensive travel where I have been pampered and catered to day and night and I have done low budget backpacking. For me personally, as long as I am getting out there are learning about the country and culture through my experiences (whatever they may be), having fun and seeing the sites, then I am happy. For me, having a butler cater to me is not necessary as I prefer to get to the markets myself and experience the sights, sounds and smells. To me, it all adds to the memories.

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Southwark Cathedral and the Shard in the background, London UK
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“Pack For A Week. Live Forever”

I often have people ask how I can pack so light for long trips. The answer I always give is simple.

“Pack for a week. Live forever”.

Now forever might be a bit of a stretch but the concept is there. I pack enough clothes to last a week and wash when I have to. If you are thinking I pack 7 different outfits (one for each day) you are wrong. I pack clothes that are going to be interchangeable. So yes, I do wear clothes multiple times as different outfits before I wash them. Unless I am going somewhere that I know I need a specific outfit, I stick to that rule. Typically for a month long journey, I can keep everything condensed to a carry-on sized suit case, including all my toiletries. The times there was exceptions to this rule was when I traveled to Cape Town for a wedding. Then I had to bring a large suit case because there were several occasions where I knew I needed to dress up in more than a t-shirt and shorts.

Start Early

I typically start to pack well in advance as well, sometimes a month before. If I am traveling somewhere warm and it is winter where I live, I know I won’t need the majority of the clothes in my daily routine that I will pack. I will start with my shorts, summer dresses and flip flops. I find when I start to pack early, I have more time to think of what I really need instead of simply tossing things into a bag last minute – which leads to over packing.

Throughout the upcoming days and weeks, as I think of things I need, I will throw them in my suitcase. I also tend to have a toiletry kit with everything I need in travel size containers. With the cost of checking your bags nowadays, if you can get away with carry-on only, then do it.

The Rule of Half

If you find you are an over-packer, try this rule. Pack everything you think you will need, then take out half of it. Trust me, it will be OK. Don’t take out essential things like a pair of comfortable sneakers, but maybe rethink those high heels ladies. Depending on the trip, I typically pack 3 pairs of footwear. Comfortable sneakers for long days of walking around a city or going for a hike, a pair of flip flops (for warms spots) and if I think I might be going somewhere that I may have to dress up a little more, a pair of black flats. Keep in mind that I will wear the sneakers on the plane as they will take up the most space in the suitcase.

People tend to over use things like shampoo and toothpaste in their every days lives. So simply by being aware and reminding yourself to cut down on the amount you use while on vacation will cut down on the space and weight factor. I find most travel size containers will last you about 2 weeks. Typically the size of a quarter is all you need for shampoo and a small pea for toothpaste.

 

Of all the packing rules I have heard out there (things like rolling your clothes instead of folding), these are the 2 I stick to every time. Because lets be honest, if you have too much stuff then all the rolling in the world is not going to help you.

 

If you have any amazing packing tips, feel free to share in the comments section.

Prince Edward Island

My final stop on my Atlantic Canada journey would be the smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island. Waking up in Moncton, New Brunswick on this very windy day, the plan was to drive across the Confederation Bridge to the island and make my way to the East side to Cavendish before spending the night in Charlottetown. As soon as I stepped outside, I discovered the radio weather reports the night before were not joking about the high wind warnings. I nearly got blown over. When I got into the car and turned on the radio I heard that parts of Moncton had lost power over night due to the wind and trees being blown over. As I drove out of the city I listened further and heard that the Confederation Bridge had been closed all morning and was only now (at noon) being reopened to small cars. Large trucks, camper-vans and motorcycles were still not permitted. Good thing I had a slow start to my morning or I would have been stuck in holding on the side of the road like I saw numerous large vehicles had been when I arrived at the bridge.

Crossing the Confederation Bridge was an experience in itself. The bridge is 12,900m long and to the naked eye seems to have several curves and bends over the open ocean. I had never crossed a bridge before that I could not see the end. Then lets add the wind factor in. Driving only 50km/h, I held a firm grip on the steering wheel as I could feel the whole car shaking as I drove. Now I understood why no large vehicles or motorcycles were allowed to cross. They could easily get blown over the side into the freezing waves that crashed below.

As soon as I made it across the bridge, I noticed there was a spot to pull off and take a few photos near the bridge. Making sure to not step to close to the edge of the cliff and get blown over from the strong winds, I had some fun snapping a few photos of my hair doing a crazy dance while in front of a PEI sign. I could taste the salt as the wind picked out the water and blew it through the air. Even my car was getting covered in a white salty coating.

A short 30 minutes later, I was on the complete opposite side of the PEI at Cavendish. My goal was to make it to the beach to see the brilliant red cliffs but as I drove, I happened to miss the turn off to the beach and saw the Anne of Green Gables house. I grew up reading this book and watching the series on TV but I had completely forgotten that the house was here. I had to stop. Stepping back in time to wood stoves and horse and buggies, the house was exactly as I remembered. White with dark green shutters surrounded by a white picket fence. For having being built in 1831, the house which inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery to write the novel about a little red-headed orphan was spacious and beautifully decorated. Typical for the time to have many rooms separated by doors and walls, there was an open lounge area with fireplace which lead into the dining area with a wood burning stove. The upstairs housed multiple bedrooms and even the maids rooms which had a separate entrance to the house and stairs that led to the kitchen downstairs.

After about an hour of wandering the house and a few of the trials that are on the property, it was time to head to the beach. Not exactly the best day for the beach but with it being the middle of October, I suppose it could have been worse (it could be snowing). The wind had died down a little and there was even little beams of sun trying the break through the clouds by the time I reached the remarkable red cliffs of Cavendish Beach. With it being mid-October and factoring in the high winds, there was practically no one at the beach. The entire time I was there I counted 6 people. Even with the undesirable weather, I could understand why this is a hot spot in the summer. The beach is open with fine orange-red sand which lead into the red cliffs on the far end of the area. A series of walking paths along the bottom of the sand dunes (you are not allowed to walk on the top of the dunes as they are protected) lead you through wooded areas as well as across a little pond filled with reeds and lily pads.

Wandering the area, I had lost track of time until my stomach started to warn me it was time to get moving and head to Charlottetown to check into my bed and breakfast and eat dinner. Charlottetown is the capital of PEI but is relativity small city. Easily walk-able, made easier by the convenient red, green and blue lines on the sidewalks which lead you to historical sites, the pathway along the ocean or to shopping areas around the city. I couldn’t resist following the ocean walk which brought me to the historical walk before I searched where my next seafood dinner would be. Conveniently, these lines also lead me to a restaurant/fish shack along the water where I devoured massive oysters and a whole lobster with a side of local PEI white wine. HEAVEN!

After I ate slowly to savor in the deliciousness, it was time to head back and prepare for my trek back to Halifax and my last official day in Canada. My 10:30PM flight meant another red eye flight over the pond to London…my new home.

Things I noticed while in Atlantic Canada:

  1. People drive below the posted speed limit even though there is significantly much less traffic
  2. Seafood was not any cheaper than in Alberta
  3. The fall colours are remarkable!
  4. Everything is closed on Sundays
  5.  The McLobster at McDonald’s is not a myth. It was an actual sandwich until a couple years ago when they took it off the menu because of the price of lobster was too high (I happened to stop at a McDonald’s for a bathroom break and it just so happened to be the location that invented it!)

 

 

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