Let’s hear it for a “working” holiday in London

Hammersmith Bridge over Thames

Afternoon on the Thames, overlooking Hammersmith Bridge

For one brief, shining moment (last October), my freelance life actually worked out somewhat in the way I planned.

When I began as a freelance communications specialist four years ago, I had visions of taking my work with me, supporting myself while travelling to interesting locations (both foreign and domestic). I’ve managed to have a taste of this in the past, but last October (yes, I’m just writing about it now – don’t judge me), I spent an entire month in London, UK with friends, while keeping up with my work. It was just as wonderful as I had always imagined.

Hammersmith tube station

Hammersmith Tube station

I’ve been to London before, but usually only for a few days on my way somewhere else. It’s a city where, at any one time, I know at least one or two people living there. (This is what happens when you’re from one former British colony – Canada – and lived almost 5 years in another – New Zealand. Almost everyone you know eventually shows up in London.)

So, what did I do with my month, you ask? Well, and perhaps surprisingly, I actually did quite a lot of paid work for my clients back home. (Though admittedly, I certainly didn’t work all day, every day.) I went on day trips. I wandered around museums and galleries. I took a mini-break to Bristol, and popped over to Hamburg to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in a decade.

Pints in Southwark Tavern

Pints in Southwark Tavern

And it all started with a couple of pints of local beer in the Southwark Tavern with my lovely hosts, watching the All Blacks crush the US team in the Rugby World Cup (I did live in New Zealand, after all). Suffice it to say, I felt like I was living the life I have dreamed of. Just for a month. It was a very good moment for me.

More details and pictures of my explorations to come!

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Gotta love September in Toronto

As a rule, I don’t tend to leave my city during the month of September.  There are just so many things to enjoy. First, there’s the weather. It’s still warm and sunny, but the oppressive heat and humidity of the summer is on its way out. The evenings are cooler and start to hint that I might need to carry a sweater. Sunsets and sunrises are even more lovely than usual – just check out the golden-pink skies at Pape & Danforth:

Pape & Danforth sunrise

 

Second, there is TIFF, our annual film festival. I volunteer each year, and despite the fact that it’s exhausting, and I have to wear a bright orange, ill-fitting volunteer t-shirt, it’s a fun and rewarding thing to do. I hear buzz about all the movies; I meet people from all over the world; and I get to watch movies.

TIFF sign 2015

 

Also in September, I help out at a charity golf tournament. Since I’m not a golfer, I rarely get the chance to hang out on a lovely course, soaking up the outdoors. Yesterday’s tournament – at Blue Springs Golf Club – was sunny and perfect. Just look at that course:

Blue Springs Golf Club

 

September is a cornucopia of delights – and the best part of fall has yet to arrive: crisp mornings, bright blue skies, fresh picked apples and all those gorgeous leaves turning colour. Can’t wait!

Moose, saskatoons and blue skies in Alberta

I took a trip to the province of my birth this summer. I only lived in Alberta until I was 2, but we made pilgrimages back to my parents’ hometowns throughout my childhood. This trip was no different – filled with reconnecting with family members, pouring over old photo albums, taking in some landmarks, and lots of driving (all those wide open spaces!).

And while I did spend time in Calgary and Edmonton, almost all my photos are from the small towns and farms. It’s all lovely and nature-filled. You’ve been warned…

Moose calves

First stop: Athabasca. It was supposed to be the provincial capital, but various historical mishaps moved that honour to Edmonton. Now, it’s a bustling little town with beautiful views of the river. The first morning I was there, I got to see two moose calves wandering through the yard!

Next stop: Rimbey and Bentley. Before my brother and I dropped in at our cousin’s place at Bentley, we explored nearby Rimbey (our mom’s hometown) to see if it was all we remembered. My grandparents’ farm has a nice new house on it, and since the new owners don’t plant canola on the same field the grandparents did, we drove right past the turn off. Their trailer park is still there, but my Grandma’s garden has a house on it. No more raspberry bushes. Weirdly, the Drop-In centre is closed. What the seniors do now? Where do they play their bridge?

Onward to: Coronation. My dad grew up there, and his sister and her husband live there still, so there’s lots of history. My great-grandparents homesteaded a section nearby, coming from Scotland with their small daughter to a sod shack on the bare plains. It still boggles the mind. I got to tour around town, visit the old cemetery and work my way through family albums. And as always, I got to see Coronation’s big blue skies and beautiful clouds.

And just a little bit east: Veteran. Another small town, where my dad’s other sister lives with her husband. They’re still on their old farm, which boasts a huge vegetable garden, percheron horses, and a graveyard of wonderful old Western wagons and farm machinery.

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We went on a day’s excursion to Provost and the surrounding area, including Cadogan, where the Norwegian side of my family settled. My great-great grandparents (Simon & Karen)  donated a piece of their section for a cemetery, which we visited:

Cemetery at Cadogan, AB

 

We visited Bodo, where there is an interesting archeological site filled with old buffalo bones. And then on to Rosenheim church, a gorgeous old building in the middle of nowhere – that used to support a large German settlement:

Before Calgary, we met in Rosebud for lunch. It’s a tiny little place about an hour from the city with an active theatre community. Very cute. We spent a day travelling down to Vulcan (at which I – sadly – didn’t stop at the Star Trek museum), and my cousin and I had a lovely stop at the Saskatoon Farm. So many flowers, gift shops and (not surprisingly) saskatoon-based food items! I’ll need to go back again when the berries are actually in season.

All in all, another great visit. Got to visit with family, reminisce about old times, see how fast all the cousins are growing up, and even check out a few new places. See you again, Alberta!

A brief sojourn to the suburbs

I’m a wee bit envious of my sister and her family who are off galavanting through Europe at the moment. However, to be honest, the capital cities of Europe (and everywhere else, to be fair) are usually at their most insufferable during the height of summer – too hot, too crowded, or too expensive.

Toronto, too, is experiencing much of the same. It is currently 37 degrees with the humidex and the city is awash with Pan Am games enthusiasts.

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So, despite my envy of my sister’s trip, it’s better that I’m closer to home in the dead of July. Avoiding traffic and keeping cool.

And bonus: I am house- and cat-sitting in the suburbs,  complete with a car, a lovely back deck, and a full slate of cable TV. Lovin’ it!

I guess I don’t have to go far to have a wee summer break!

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