Moving a Blog is Almost as Painful as Moving Overseas

In January I decided to begin a long contemplated travel blog.  After a few months of blogging and receiving a great deal of interest from the world at large I decided we would take the blog a bit further and actually start promoting it via SEO, shared links, guest blogging, etc.  This change would require a move from one host to another.  So far this process is a lot more frustrating than I ever expected…Let me apologize now to my followers because I have no idea how this may impact the stream of information you will receive.

I began my blog with WordPress.com because it was recommended to me by friends that have been highly successful at monetizing online media and blogs.  WordPress is fairly user-friendly so I would say that was a good call.  However, the basic sites do not provide you the ability to properly tag and structure your site for good Search Engine Optimization (SEO)…a.k.a, helping Google find your site.

So now I am transferring my hosting from WordPress to HostGator.  There are a lot of companies that do hosting along these lines, but HostGator is well known for easily reconfiguring and transferring your WordPress site, for no charge. 

I began the transfer process this morning and it is not as simple as advertised.  HostGator has a robust Online Chat service so I have spent the last 90 minutes “chatting”, sans any teas and biscuits mind you, with a tech guy.  The first problem was that my password would not work. This was a problem that was solved after about 20 minutes of back and forth emails. The next issue was setting up the transfer form.  Technical support was helpful but it’s not a particularly simple or efficient process.

Now we are on hold for the next 24-72 hours while HostGator determines if the transfer is going to work.  They have already let me know that many of the images may disappear so I am questioning the original decision of starting with WordPress hosting.

I know I am not the only one that has experienced this process and there will be thousands that will follow my own inefficient path to a “proper blog” so I will be sure to document the process along the way.

If you have a tip, please add it.  If you have a question, feel free to ask…

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Tips for Planning a Summer Trip to Paris, France…Timing Is Everything

Years of travel has taught us that proper planning will save money, stress and heart ache but planning a trip to Paris in the Summer is not such an easy task…read this to avoid some pitfalls.

Obviously most people travel during the Summer months so we knew that we wanted to get tickets nailed down as soon as we could.  In June we have friends that are coming to visit from Texas.  They are landing in London and flying out of Amsterdam and the time between was open for me to fill it with fun travel plans.

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London to Paris to Amsterdam Itinerary

Some people don’t realize that you can get from London to Paris in just over two hours, if you are on the right train. It’s over six hours from London to Amsterdam so it seemed logical to split the trip up and spend a few days in Paris.

Now this is where the hard part comes in.  We wanted to travel on fast trains and have nice, roomy table top seating, while still traveling cheap.  You can have this via Standard Class tickets, without having to pay for First Class seats, but they do have very limited availability.

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We did not want to travel at the crack of dawn, because it is vacation time, after all.  So we decided we wanted the 12:30 train from London that would let us arrive just a few minutes after check in time at our hotel.  I started trying to book tickets immediately and was reminded that many companies do not release their tickets until 3-4 months prior to travel.  So I marked my calendar and had Eurostar schedule am email reminder to let me know when the tickets would be open for purchase.

http://www.seat61.com/Europe-train-tickets.htm#.UU6_sI5fxBo

The email reminder from Eurostar didn’t work, luckily the calendar did.  I logged on at midnight of the first day the tickets were released and started buying tickets.  At just a few minutes in there were only a handful of seats left and only one table top set of four remaining.  We had decided to travel on a Thursday mid day because our fares were half of what they would have been if we had traveled on Friday.

Then I had to wait another 30 days to book the train from Paris to Amsterdam and we decided to go on the fast train, which will take just over 3 hours, run by http://www.thalys.com

The tickets were released 92 days in advance so I logged on at midnight of the first day they were available and I managed to book the last table top seats for the time we wanted to depart.  All of the “good seats” were sold out in just 6 minutes. We had decided to leave early evening so we could still see the countryside as we pass through Belgium. This is why the timing of the train was important. Our plan was to stop at the fresh street market in Paris, pick up food and wine and we would “foodie” our way to Amsterdam.

The next deadline was the following evening.  At midnight on March 22 I logged onto the http://www.tour-eiffel.fr/ website to buy tickets to the top of the tower for June 21.  This is far less expensive than buying them through most of the travel companies and it avoids having to wait in long ticket lines and worry that the tickets will be sold out.  The important tip here is that you need to log in at midnight, Paris time.  So just 2 minutes had passed and I was trying to select the arrival time of 8:30 PM so we could watch the sunset at 9:52, but our time slot was already sold out!  We now have tickets for 7:30, which is fine, but I was really surprised at how quickly the tickets sold out.

Top Ten Bucket List Items – Completed

1. Graduate from Texas A&M University (Class of 1990)

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/ncaaf-dr-saturday/johnny-manziel-llc-sues-over-copyright-infringing-t-170102789–ncaaf.html

My education provided me with a profession that afforded me the ability to travel, when I had time, and to meet the love of my life.

 

2. Find & Marry my Soulmate (August 1992)

Every bucket list item is more fun when shared with a friend or loved one.  I have been fortunate to share all of these with my honey, Justin.

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3. Visit Italy…Sistine Chapel & Pompeii (Italy, 1995)

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/inside-the-worlds-most-spectacular-polling-station-the-sistine-chapel-prepares-for-election-of-new-pope-8510623.html

Studied the Sistine Chapel so much in school and there is just no way you can ever understand it without being there…breath taking.

 

4. Run My Own Company (1999 – 2012)

http://dawhois.com/site/7porticos.com.html

I realize now that I worked so much when I ran my own company that I rarely had time to travel.  It’s a point of reflection for me as I plan my future.

 

5. Swim with Dolphins (Mexico, 2002)

http://www.dolphinaris.com/Default2.aspx

Always loved dolphins but I love them even more now.  They are just so brilliant.

 

6. Visit an Ice Hotel (Chena Springs, Alaska 2010)

This is a form of architecture that I never really understood.  I loved the visit but I don’t love the cold so one visit was enough.

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7. See A Grizzly Bear in Person (Alaska 2011)

Spent 90 minutes watching the mama grizzly teach her 3 cubs how to fish.  It was amazing and better than I ever hoped for.  Our son, Hunter, was only 10 at the time and I think his choice of t-shirts for the day was hysterical, only to be matched by his face of fear.

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8. Camp in the Arctic Circle (Alaska 2011)

I always wanted to do some extreme camping and this trip ended up being all about planning and being durable.  It was fun and a check in the block but I wouldn’t do it again.

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9. Go Dog Sledding (Alaska 2012)

This is an unexpected jewel in my bucket list because it was so much fun, even at 30 below zero temps.  Would do this again in a heart beat.

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10. Live in Another Country (England 2012)

I never actually thought it would be England but here we are.  We are loving our time here and are making the most of it.  I’ve already started my next Bucket List and I don’t intend on it taking 20 years to work through this one.

 

11. Learn to Row (Cambridge UK 2013)

Yes, I know this is #11 out of the top ten but I just couldn’t narrow it down anymore because all of these have affected my life in some way.

I always thought I would learn to row in the US but I am so happy I am learning in the birthplace of the sport.  It’s harder than I thought it would be but I am so glad that I found it.

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Unique Valentine’s Day Gift…Forget Gangnam Style…Do it Jurassic Style

Don’t get me wrong, I love flowers as much as the next girl but what I really love is unique and memorable gifts.  Valentine’s Day is a bit of a “cheeky” holiday but it is good for couples to venture out together.  This year we are going Jurassic Style.

On the Southern Coast of England, in Dorset, is a World Heritage Site called the Jurassic Coastline.  The fossil capital of the area is Lyme Regis because it has the infrastructure and townscape to support thousands of people that come to claim their little piece of the Jurassic period.

Typically I do not source from Wikipedia but that is where I found the most simple description of why there are 190 million year old fossils located at this World Heritage Site.

Jurassic period

As the Jurassic period began, Pangaea began to break up, sea levels rose and Britain and Ireland drifted on the Eurasian Plate to between 30° and 40° north. With much of the British Isles under water again,sedimentary rocks were deposited and can now be found underlying much of England from the Cleveland Hills of Yorkshire to the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. These include sandstonesgreensandsooliticlimestone of the Cotswold Hillscorallian limestone of the Vale of White Horse and the Isle of Portland.

The burial of algae and bacteria below the mud of the sea floor during this time resulted in the formation of North Sea oil and natural gas, much of it trapped in overlying sandstone by salt deposits formed as the sea levels fell to form the swamps and salty lakes and lagoons that were home to dinosaurs.

We were told that the most common fossil finds would be the remnants of these three prehistoric species: Ichthyosaurus, which were porpoise-like, ammonites, which were mollusks that look similar to Nautilus, and Belemnites, which are squid like creatures that you can better see defined here: http://www.ukfossils.co.uk/guides/belemnites.html

Dinosaur from Jurassic Coast - Icathysaurus

Dinosaur from Jurassic Coast – Icathysaurus

Ammonite in Action - 190 Million Years Ago

Ammonite in Action – 190 Million Years Ago

Our small group found each of these fossils and our own family brought back two nice specimens…one looks like a piece of jewelry!.

Here are some very important things to know about fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast of England:

1. In America we are very protective of resources, so much so that you are not permitted to even remove a pinecone from national forests.  However, here you are allowed to find and remove the fossils.  If you find anything of significance then you register the fossil and let others study it for six months, after which it is yours.

2. There are fossil guides that can be hired for 7GBP for a shared guide, or 60GBP for a private guide, and they will take you to the best fossil locations.  What’s more is that they will keep you from venturing into the areas of quick sand or a landslip and they will time your journey to work around the tide schedules.

http://www.tidetimes.org.uk/lyme-regis-tide-times

3. The hike to the best spots can be a bit treacherous so you need good weather-proof boots and weather proof gear for the trip.  You will hike approximately 2 miles one way and you will have to carry out whatever fossils you want to keep so bring a backpack and dress for cold, windy and wet conditions.

4. When weather is a bit crazy you may just get lucky at the Jurassic Coast.  Drastic tides and waves provide fresh pickings for fossil hunters so this is one time to embrace the damper English weather.  When the weather is rainy there will also be less competition for that days fossils.

Dorset is home to the World Heritage Site, the Jurassic Coastline, and is by far the most popular area in the UK to collect fossils. Lyme Regis, is the fossil capital, with plenty of fossil shops, museums, guided tours and even the lampposts are sculptured into ammonites! Ammonites are, the most common find in Dorset. However, some of the popular sites of Charmouth, Lyme Regis and Seatown can have so much competition, that you may end up coming home with very little, especially during the busy summer months when the beaches are full of fossil hunters. Dorset does however have so many locations to choose from, including sites with Cretaceous chalk, and several locations on the Isle of Portland, that it is an area, you just cannot miss.

Our trip to Lyme Regis turned out to be quite bountiful, click here to find out more about planning a successful fossil hunting trip…

Climb Big Ben – For Free

Last weekend we visited Big Ben in London and is was so beautiful that it made me think of it as a mountain…it made me want to climb it, and so I will.

I have just submitted the required paperwork to climb Big Ben this Spring and a Member of Parliament is helping me process the paperwork for sometime in May.  Image

This is just one of the very cool things you can do in London for free, if you plan very far in advance.

Before we climb Big Ben we will be able to tour Parliament and visit during proceedings.  If we are lucky enough maybe our timing will work out so we can see David Cameron try to convince the MP’s of his plan for a referendum vote regarding the EU.  If not then we will just have to hope for his live performance of Gangnam Style.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/video/2012/oct/09/boris-johnson-david-cameron-gangnam-style-video

So with the wheels in motion, this leaves me with just one question…what does one wear that is both proper for the visit to Parliament and to climb Big Ben?

London Fashion Week is starting in two weeks but I’m pretty sure even they won’t have anything “proper” for this odd, once in a lifetime occasion…sounds like I need to get in touch with my stylist friend, Nikki.

 

I Won’t Be Seeing Lance Armstrong Here in 2014…Tour de France

It’s odd when you are living in another country and the headlines of the International, National and Local news all seem to be about your life before you were an expat. Last week the news was all about Lance Armstrong coming clean about his dirty doping.  The only significant other story was that our area of Cambridge had just secured the start of Stage 3 for the 2014 Tour de France.

How does this pertain to me, you might ask?

Well to start with, I went to high school with Lance Armstrong.

Prior to moving to England we lived just across Lake Travis from Lance, in Austin, Texas.

Lance Armstrong Running

Lance Armstrong Running

And now we live at the location of the newly announced Stage Start for the Tour de France.

For many years, me and most of my fellow Plano East Senior High Panthers looked beyond the fact that Lance trashed our town, our school and us, his fellow classmates.  He claimed that he was not treated fairly or kindly and that the town of Plano was “soul-deadening”.

Growing up in Plano during the 80’s had it’s rough moments.  But contrary to popular belief and his insinuations, not everyone in Plano was wealthy and that was particularly true at Plano East.  Sports, especially football, was a big deal then, like now.  But Lance excelled at swimming for the City of Plano Swimmers (COPS) and at cross country running, before he ever started cycling.  He was well known for his exceptional cardio-vascular endurance, but not so well known for his personality.  To be honest he was kind of rude and he wanted the school to look beyond the No Pass, No Play Legislation that all other students had to abide by, House Bill 72.

Lance Armstrong wanted special treatment from the school district, he didn’t get it and he held a grudge.

So knowing that he didn’t like high school and felt unpopular, etc. it is a shame that he didn’t see that as an opportunity to use his amazing success to reach the millions of other high school kids that are currently living that same experience.  He could have talked about how to overcome it and how to mature and use those experiences to motivate yourself towards success, rather than holding a grudge.  After all, success is the ultimate revenge.

Instead Lance Armstrong chose to whine about how he was treated growing up and then he cheated to make sure no one could ever beat him. So the opportunity to set a great example for millions of teenagers has come and gone.  The lesson he left behind was to win at all costs and lie, lie, lie.  This is to say nothing of what his own children have learned from this revelation.

Again, he wanted special treatment.  He wanted those “in the know” to look the other way and to forget.  What he didn’t count on was his closest friends and teammates turning him in.  Maybe they held a grudge for all the yellow jerseys he kept from them over the years?

Now that he has revealed the “truth” to Oprah, I hope that The Livestrong Foundation http://www.livestrong.org/ can continue to do their great work.

Livestrong Foundation Wrist Band

Livestrong Foundation Wrist Band

This foundation truly is the legacy of Lance Armstrong, especially now that he has been stripped of titles, sponsorships and even cash.

So next year I will stand in Cambridge and watch the Tour de France continue without Plano East Senior High’s most infamous former student, Lance Armstrong.

London For Free…So Long as You Don’t Want to Eat or Drink

ImageWe had some fellow expats in from Germany this weekend and we decided to spend the day in London.  We hadn’t gone with the intention of necessary doing London on the cheap but we ended up spending very little money and we had a great time. So I thought I would share our itinerary and give you a few tips for doing the same trip with kids.

It had been snowing for four days here and we had a day off from work since it was Martin Luther King Day in America.  So we decided to go on Monday.  After 9:00am train travel is considered off-peak.  This means it is quite a bit cheaper.  We were traveling into London from Newmarket and our train ended up being delayed by 20 minutes.  Here you can buy tickets after you have boarded the train.  The train conductor will just come around during the journey and take care of the transaction.  For whatever reason he never came by so our tickets were Free.

Once in Cambridge we decided to take the train into London Kings Cross station.  Both Kings Cross and Liverpool Station will get you in the proximity of the attractions in London. This train was also delayed by about 25 minutes, just enough time to gobble down a Cornish Pasty.

Cornish Pasty at Cambridge Rail Station

Cornish Pasty at Cambridge Rail Station

This part of our trip ended up being free as well.

Once in London Kings Cross we needed to purchase a day pass for The Tube.  It’s important to stand in line and buy tickets from the agent, rather than buying from the automated machines.  The machine tickets will cost about 50% more than ones bought from an agent.  There is a reason why but it is a long explanation that makes little sense to Americans so I will skip the explanation. But you can find more than you will ever need to know about this topic at http://www.railforums.co.uk

A tube day pass will cost you between 5 and 10 GBP.  With this pass you can travel on as many underground tube journeys as you want until midnight of that same day.  I also have a Friend and Family Rail Card that I can use if we are traveling with a child 15 and under. Even though we had a child with us the Group 4 fare was less expensive.  Be sure to ask the agent to find you the best fare considering how many of you are traveling and remember that children and seniors get special rates.

The fare for four adults and one child was 25GBP, or about $40 USD.  Had we not gone through the counter agent the tickets would have cost 38GBP, or around $60 USD.  If we had purchased individual tickets we would have spent well over $200 USD.

St James Park 2_thumbSo once we had our passes we headed to our first stop, Green Park station.  Green Park is  adjacent to Buckingham Palace where the very popular Changing of the Guards Ceremony takes place.  It is really important for you to check this schedule before you plan your trip, so that you aren’t disappointed.

http://www.changing-the-guard.com/london-programme.html

There will be significant crowds if the Guard Ceremony is taking place that day.  So you need to get there early and prepare to stand for several hours.  During the tourist season it is obviously most crowded.

Guard Change Times

Buckingham Palace guard change timing:

  • 11:15 Guards,with bands, start arriving
  • 11:30 Official start time
  • 12:00 Guard change ceremony ends

We knew the guards ceremony would not take place while we were there but the great thing about going on an off day is that you can really see the palace up close, without hundreds of people standing in front of you.  It’s also far easier to get a picture of the palace, gates, guard shacks, etc.  If you look closely you can see that it looks like this guard is sleeping while standing up.

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So after we spent some time at the palace we decided to walk through St. James Park.  Until our visit I had never heard of Green Park or St. James Park but they are both beautiful.  St. James Park is also the location of the Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Walk.

The waterfowl in the park is extraordinarily used to people, so much so that they seem to enjoy the human interaction and posing for pictures.  Here’s a picture of one such “proper swan”.Image

http://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks

There were Canadian Geese, Mallard Ducks, and other British species of ducks such as the Pochard aShelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Pintail, Shoveler, Common Pochard and Goldeneye, but do also look out for more exotic water birds from the Royal Park collection, such as Black Swans, Red-crested Pochard and others.  Our favorites were the three Pelicans, two Great White Pelicans and one South American White Pelicans that seem to share the Swans affinity for having their photographs taken.  We were too early for this event but if you time it right you can see the Pelicans being fed from 2:30 – 3:00 each day.Image

By downloading this guide

http://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/st-jamess-park/flora-and-fauna/birds

you can create a scavenger hunt for yourself or for children that are traveling with you.  We all wished we had something like this with us when we were walking the park.

Waterfowl seems to be the main occupant of this park but there are also very friendly squirrels.  We complied with the signs asking that they not be fed but it didn’t matter.  If you showed interest in them they would come get in your lap.Image

It should also be noted that rabies and similar diseases do not exist in the UK, so that should not be a concern when these furry guys decide to stop in for a visit.

After spending an hour or so in St. James Park we made our way to Big Ben, which is more beautiful than I expected.  And just as we all learned from Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation, Big Ben is next to the British Parliament building. ImageBy this time our Cornish Pasty’s had worn off and we were all very hungry.  So we decided to catch the tube at Westminster Station, which is very close to Big Ben, and head to a highly recommended restaurant in SOHO, called Bistro 1.

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Like most other big cities, there are good restaurants in London but most are very expensive.  There were several places where fish and chips would have cost $35 or more.    It’s fried fish and french fries served with some English peas that have been mashed up…not exactly a bargain.

One of the great things about being an expat is that the locals will give you the inside scoop and the recommendation for Bistro 1 was excellent.  The five of us each had a 3 course meal and we shared two bottles of good red wine and the total bill was less than $100!  The restaurant is quite small.  It might only seat 50 people and it is a little bit off the beaten path, while also being right in the heart of SOHO.  I’m getting hungry just thinking about this place…Anyway, they have mostly Mediterranean cuisine but they also serve up a great fish and chips so everyone was happy, kids included.

Bistro 1 on Beak Street in SOHO

Bistro 1 on Beak Street in SOHO

As we headed out to take in more of SOHO we decided to venture up Lexington Street and we found a great Vintage Magazine shop, http://www.vinmag.com.  The collection of American and European magazines and posters, etc was impressive.

Lexington Street sort of merges into the infamous Old Windmill Street, and yes, there was a very large windmill there at one time.  However, that is not why it is  known around the world.  This long standing establishment stayed open throughout the Blitz on London, during WWII, which made all the soldiers quite happy because it is a strip club and has been since 1931.  Our bar keep at The Lyric pub, just across the street, let us know that admittance was free into The Windmill International Club if you showed your hotel key at the front door.  While this was a great Free tip, a strip club was far from being on our itinerary so I can only pass on this second hand information.  The Windmill is apparently well known for it’s Groom Room, where you can pay $30 and get your shoes shined while the girls dance in lingerie…I’m still not sure if “shoes shined” is a metaphor for something else but based on the price I would say it’s probably just about your shoes.

The Windmill International

The Windmill International

After having a drink in front of the much needed warmth of The Lyric Pub fireplace, we headed down to Shaftesbury Street and took a left towards Chinatown and Covent Gardens.  This part of the West End is much like Broadway in New York city.  There is a Best Western on Shaftesbury that has been a topic of much conversation among my fellow expats.  Some say it is good and some say it is bad…I will make a point to check this out on a future trip.

All along both sides of the street were first tier production and nice restaurants.  As expected, there are plenty of souvenir shops but the largest and cleanest was Cool Britannia.  Everything has the Union Jack on it, including the full sized Mini Cooper and these little rubber duckys. And you can find Big Ben and snow globes of all shapes and sizes.

Cool Britannia Shop SOHO District London

Cool Britannia Shop SOHO District London

Big Bens and Snow Globes of London
Big Bens and Snow Globes of London

Now that our friends had purchased the requisite souvenirs, we headed east towards Chinatown.

http://www.chinatownlondon.org

I really think International Town would be a better name because there were establishments from France, Japan, Belgium, etc.

Chinatown in London

Chinatown in London

The souvenir shops in this area were much smaller and less expensive.  If you didn’t want a pair of Union Jack knickers, you could always spend your $20 on some acupuncture or a foot massage at one of the massage kiosks.  It is rumored that real Chinatown is on some specific alleyways in the area.  Maybe I will check those out with my Chinese friends soon.

If you wanted to splurge you could visit Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlor for a special drink at the not so low, low price of $20.

OPIUM COCKTAIL NO.1

£14.50

APPLETON VX RUM + WRAY & NEPHEW RUM + ABSINTHE + MANDARIN JUICE + LIME JUICE + KAFFIR LIME SYRUP + CITRUS BITTERS + GINSENG CAPSULE SHAKEN + SERVED BUBBLING

Opium will be on our hit list for Chinese New Year in London, starting February 10, 2013, but we skipped it on this trip.

http://www.chinatownlondon.org

We were headed towards Covent Gardens to see what types of street performers come out in the snow but we decided to stop in for a pint at De Hems.  It is just behind Crispins at Shaftesbury and Dean St.  It is a very comfortable, traditional pub and it’s fairly large so it can handle the crowds once theatre is let out.  The general rule is that kids under 16 are allowed in pubs until 8:00 or 9:00 pm so there was no problem with taking teenagers in with us.

After a pint we headed towards The Palace Theatre, where Singing with the Rain is playing and then onto Seven Dials for another pint at a pub called The Crown.  The Crown is smaller and feels more like a local pub and not so touristy.

Singing in the Rain - Palace Theatre in London

Singing in the Rain – Palace Theatre in London

By this point we were pinted out and it was time to head back to Newmarket.  We went to Covent Station, having never actually made it to Covent Gardens, and we tubed it back to London King’s Cross.  Someone grabbed a bottle of wine and we boarded the 50 minute train to Cambridge.  We snacked on what was left of a pasty from earlier in the day, shared the bottle of wine and arrived back out our house by 11:00pm.

Had it not been for a sit down dinner and more than our fair share of pints and wine, we would have had a near Free trip to London, and no hangover the next morning.

Even with the drinks added in, we figured we spent $10 on trains, $30 on food and another $30 on drinks.  All things considered, $70 for an entire day in London isn’t too bad.  We had a great time and if we had really wanted to save money we could have easily packed a backpack full of sandwiches, grabbed a pint along the way and it would have been London for under $20 a day.

We still have sooooo much to see in London!

Tough Lessons Learned by this TexPat

Typically our posts will be upbeat but our blog is about the Travels & Experiences of Ex Pats so I will share with you one of the tough lessons that you learn when you move overseas…some friends and family will ignore you and some will put the screws to you and others will show what great friends they truly are. It can be painful to see and feel but I have discovered it’s an experience shared by most expats.

My grandmother has always told me that if you listen closely most people will tell you who they are and how they are going to treat you.  The problem is that most of us, myself included, think that we know better, so we chose not to hear what they are telling us.

When we told people that we were going to be moving overseas we basically received one of three different reactions:

“That is so exciting!  We will miss you but we will definitely come see you!”

“Why would you do something like that?”

“Have you really thought this through?  Why don’t you want to be here in America?  Are you ever coming back?”

The first reaction is exactly what it sounds like.  This person wants to keep in touch with you and they will Skype with you, respond to your emails and calls…the things you would expect from someone who want to have a relationship with you.  They will also help you when you need something shipped from your attic, or other strange requests that you will make along the way.

The second reaction is the polite version of anger.  They may be angry about a number of things.  They may be angry that you are doing something they have always wanted to do, or just that you are leaving them.  I have learned that there can be a weird assortment of anger that is directed towards you in unexpected ways.

The last response is typically from people that have not traveled much themselves and they are worried that the move may actually hurt you, or that they may never see you again.  I expected this from my older family members, but not from friends that are in their 30’s.

Each of these people in your life feel completely entitled to express their feelings because they are close to you.  The net result is that about 60% of the people in your life are now unhappy with you, because they are either angry or worried about you.

The worse part is that some of the angry group will really act out. They won’t return calls or emails.  They wont even acknowledge your existence.  Others will misuse or sell things that you have asked them to care for in your absence.  This is the group that will hurt you the most.

The last group can really be a source of stress because they are genuinely worried and there is little you can do to convince them otherwise.

Combine these reactions with the fact that you have moved to an entirely different country, where you know no one and you will truly feel the affects of your decision to enter into expat life.

Expat life can make or break a marriage because you really have to rely on each other and help each other through a very unique experience.  I’m so fortunate to have a great relationship with my husband.  I can’t imagine what it must be like for single expats…

Living overseas can be very exciting but it can also be very challenging.  Most of us work hard to focus on the good stuff and rarely talk about the bad because that is part of the mentality it takes to successfully live so far away from almost everyone and everything that you know and love.

So to all the expats out there, you are not alone.

To all the future expats, be prepared for some unexpected responses.

To the friends and family of both, please remember that we are doing our best to live in a different country, while missing you.

After being hurt by two people that I thought were some of our closest friends I’m off to lick my wounds and clean my house…because contrary to popular belief, not all expats have maids.Image

Yes, this is a real and very common dessert – it is not a joke…LOL!

texpatbrat

We had just 3 weeks notice that we would be moving from Texas to England and I had no idea what to expect, because I had never even visited the UK.  We have traveled all over the world and lived in many different places throughout the US but we have never lived in a different country.  Sharing the same language makes it far easier.  What we didn’t expect was how many language and cultural differences there would be.

Here’s just a few ways we differ from our new British friends:

1. They do not refrigerate eggs – ever
2. Most people only bathe in a tub – rarely shower
3. Many families share bath water on a regular basis
4. They think the idea of a hot tub is disgusting however
5. A dessert favorite is called “spotted dick”spotted_dick-640x480

6. “pudding” is dessert and custard is custard, but can also…

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Taxi’s in the UK – Different Rules Can Leave You Stranded

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Above is a picture of the only Entry/Exit at the Cambridge Railway Station.  The silver van out front is a standard taxi but you will not be able to get this taxi to take you anywhere...and this can be a very big problem, whether you are in London, Cambridge, or most any other large city.

The problem is that this taxi has just dropped someone off and he now has two options.  He can get in the taxi line or he can go get a fare elsewhere.  Most will opt to go pick up a booked fare so sometimes there are no taxi’s waiting at the train station.  But due to an odd taxi law, he can can simply pick you up.  This is what happened on the day pictured above.  The taxis line up to the left, where you can see the hood of the one taxi who was there to pick up a fare.

So how do you get a taxi in the UK? You book one.

This is where it gets a bit funny.  Insiders know that you can walk over to the silver van, ask him to ring his company and book you as his next fare.  Then you can walk across the street and he will drive over and pick you up.  The vast majority of people do not know this though.  An expat/professor that we met, while waiting for a taxi at this same exact spot, explained this little loop hole in the rules to us.

To a certain extent taxis are not supposed to pick you up unless you have pre-booked them but we successfully hail cabs out in town all the time.  There are CCTV (closed circuit tv) cameras everywhere so the taxis are smart about where they will pick you up.  If the light is on then they are open to the idea but don’t be surprised if they drive right past you either.

The taxi’s rarely accept anything other than cash but they usually have plenty of change.

Some people complain about the price of a taxi but taxis and buses both have special passes that allow them to go down streets that other vehicles can not so you can get across town in about 10 minutes instead of 45 minutes.  The drivers aren’t crazy like in most places and they have always been very nice to us, as Americans.

There are some other weird ideas about taxi’s here, as well.  In 2011 Cambridge wanted all taxis to be silver, no other color would be allowed. Never mind the fact that many of us count the black cab experience as part of our visit to England.

Famous Black Cabs

Famous Black Cabs

After a great deal of consternation, other colors were allowed to continue but most cabbies will tell you that they think the silver issue is not over.

We do have some favorite taxi agencies because they have always shown up on time and they have large, 8 person cabs and handicap accessible cabs, if you need one.

Let us know if you need a taxi referral…