Travel Diaries: California Road Trip – Part One

While I’m getting ready for my big move to London (yippee!), I thought I would start a new series of posts called Travel Diaries – highlighting some of my past travel adventures and where stories of my new travel adventures will live too!

Last August my bestie (and best travelling buddy) and I jumped on a plane to Sacramento, California to embark on our highly anticipated California road trip!

We had been planning this trip since we visited San Francisco in 2009 – we had hoped to go back in 2010, but school, finance and crappie boyfriends got in the way.

Since we only had a short period of time (neither of us had paid vacations, so we were spending money on travel and losing pay at the same time), we decided to drive down the PCH a.k.a Highway 1, see as many sights as we could, and stay in a different town each night. Although Napa isn’t on the PCH, we couldn’t go to California and not go to Napa!

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Collecting our luggage in Sacramento

Itinerary

Napa
Santa Cruz
Carmel by the sea, Big Sur, Pismo Beach & Solvang
Santa Barbara
Malibu, LA
Santa Monica & Venice Beach

Day 1: Napa Valley
After picking up the rental car in Sacramento we drove to the first destination, Napa Valley.

The area is a beautiful with acres of emerald green rows running up and down rolling hills.

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We stayed at a nice little motel, Wine Valley Lodge, a few blocks from the town. What we soon found out though, is that the few blocks from the town were not as walkable as we had hoped.

Our plan was to go on a vineyard tour as soon as we got to Napa, but by the time we got to the motel it was nearly 4:30pm. Luckily, the person at the front desk knew of a vineyard that was open until 6:00pm for wine tasting. Perfect! We jumped in the car and headed to Napa Cellars.

Despite the short visit we had a great time! Our host was lovely and very chatty with hilarious stories about living in Napa. And the wine was delicious! We even bought a couple bottles for the rest of our trip. Bonus: the winery had its own vineyard so we did a self guided tour through its rows of vines stocked full of plump purple grapes just waiting to be sampled.

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(Note: Do not eat the grapes off the vine. I forgot how much pesticide is sprayed over the vineyards. Oops.)

After the vineyard we toured a sleepy picturesque town outside of Napa proper, Yountville, bought some souvenirs, and then headed back to the motel to get ready for dinner.
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We decided to go to Restorante Allegria, not because we read about it in a Lonely Planet guide or on a Trip Advisor forum, but because we over heard a couple at the vineyard talking about how great the Italian restaurant was that they had reservations for. And it was a good thing we did – the food was delicious (the seafood pasta is a must try), the atmosphere was lovely (we sat outside under heat lamps and sparkling lights), and the wine glasses were large!

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After dinner we decided to check out the night life in town. Surely there would be something happening on a Tuesday night in August, right? Wrong. The town was dead. That’s when we learned how far away our motel actually was as we wandered back. I don’t mind an evening stroll, but not in heels and not in the cold. I was very surprised how much the temperature had dropped – it was very warm during the day, but absolutely freezing at night!

Highlights:
– Wine tasting and frolicing through vineyards
– Dinner at Restaurante Allegria

Not so great:
– There was no nightlife, at least not while we were there. I figured they were all passed out from the copious amounts of vino.
– It is freezing at night! Be sure to bring a warm sweater for the evenings.

Day 2: Santa Cruz

The lack of nightlife in Napa meant we were up bright and early the next day. We took advantage of the extra time in our schedule to do a bit of shopping in Napa, try a local coffee shop, and stock up on road trip snacks from Trader Joes. I also scored a pair of white Converse AllStars – I had been on a mission to get them all summer!

From Napa we headed south to Santa Cruz. We drove past San Francisco and her glowing Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco is a must visit too, but that’s a story for another day).

We could tell we were getting close to Santa Cruz when palm trees started popping up along the road. And our excitment started bubbling up too!

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Santa Cruz has that old school beach town vibe, with pastel buildings, neon signs, flamingos and surfboard decor.

We stayed in a motel that was once again just a little further to walk to than we thought when we booked it. But the price was right.

After checking in we put our bathing on suits and headed to the beach! It was a gorgeous warm and sunny day. Perfect for the beach and soaking up the vitamin D (that’s if it could make it through SPF 50 slathered on – I turn a not-so-lovely shade of red if I don’t).

The beach was huge and suken down between the cliffs. We parked the car, gathered our beach bags stocked with snacks and magazines, and proceeded to head down to the beach. At least that’s what we tried to do – the wind had another idea!

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The gusts of wind were so strong we couldn’t even open the doors. After a good struggle (and a lot of laughing) we managed to get out of the car and into what felt like a sand blaster! Not the nicest way to be exfoliated.

Determined to go to the damn beach, we charged down the sandy hill, quickly navigated to what we thought was the least windy area, struggled with our towels and layed down to avoid the stinging sand pelting us. “Ha!” We exclaimed (underneath our hats stratgically covering our faces).

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After an hour or so of being covered with sand, we gathered our stuff, ran to the shore to dip our feet in the Pacific Ocean – a goal we had for each day we were on the coast. It was FREEZING! We took a few pictures, then beelined back to the car and return to the motel to de-sand (it really does manage to get everywhere).

That evening we headed to the boardwalk. Even now I feel giddy just thinking about it! I’m a great fan of amusememt parks of all sizes and this one has one of the oldest rollercoasters dating back to 1929 (I’m also a history buff) which we road three times! We also took a ride on the skyride in a brightly coloured pod suspended above the boardwalk, running from one end to the other. It gave us a spectacular view of the sunset over the ocean.

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After a couple hours and many fits of laughter on the boardwalk, we headed up the pier for dinner. We both decided to try the seafood tacos. She got the battered shrimp and I got the cajan cod. Holy moly they were absolutely DELICIOUS! Highly recommended! They were so good we decided that we were going to eat fish tacos (or some type of seafood taco) in every city/town we went to after that. It is a California specialty, isn’t it?

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After our late dinner we wandered back through the downtown restaurant strip. Unlike Napa, there were lots of lively bars, lounges, and cafes still open. We stayed out for a bit but we’re exhausted after a long day and knew the next was going to be even longer – we were hitting the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping in Carmel By The Sea, Big Sur, Pismo Beach, and ending the day in Solvang.

Highlights
– The boardwalk and its amusement park
– The seafood restaurant on the pier – get the cajan fish tacos!

Not so great
– The beach unless you need a good exfoliation, but definitely not for swimming.
– It was also freezing at night!

Next stop, Carmel By The Sea!
To be continued…

If you’re happy and you know it shout hurray…

“HURRAY!” My ancestry visa has been APPROVED!!!

It’s now official, I’m moving to London. I’m really moving to LONDON!!!

This definitely warrants some full out happy dancing/jumping for joy/hooting and hollering/laughing uncontrollably with joy and relief!

Except, I am the only one who is happy about this news.

According to the visa powers that be, I would know their decision 15 days from when they received my application (November 25th). By November 29th I still hadn’t heard from them. Obviously I began to get anxious and think the worst. They’re not going to approve me! I didn’t provide them with enough information. My travel history is too exotic (I’ve lived in Haiti, Côte d’Ivoire, and Nepal). They don’t think I will be able to support myself or get a job. My friends and family stopped asking if I had heard back yet for fear of making me more anxious.

On December 1st, while my mom and I were helping my sister get settled into her new apartment, I received my very anxiously awaited email that I had indeed been APPROVED! The happy joyous bubbles immediatedly began building up, ready to pop and overflow like a champaign bottle. But I had to squish them down, deep into my gut, only allowing a small smile to cross my face. For as soon as I opened the email, and made a tiny squee of excited noise, I saw the expressions of sadness and dread flicker across their faces. They tried to cover with forced smiles and hugs, but nothing could hide the slight welling of tears in their eyes.

When I first told my family and friends that I wanted to move to London, their reactions were mixed. They were surprised, saddened, confused, understanding, and seemingly happy for me. You can tell when someone is truly happy and excited for you though. Their words and actions may be right, but they can’t hide the way they really feel – the tone in their voice, their body language, but most importantly, their eyes give them away. I knew they wouldn’t be as excited for this move as I am and it is nice to know how much I mean to others and that they dread my absence. I would feel the same way if the tables were turned. And I know I will feel this way when I leave them for London.

But it would be nice to have at least one person be as excited as I am, so I can let the happy joyous bubbles burst out of me with “WOOHOOs” and a whole lot of happy dancing! I’ll just have to find a moment when I am alone, with no one in hearing distance, to celebrate.

How do you celebrate your accomplishments, achievements, successes, etc. when you know others aren’t as thrilled, supportive or happy about them?

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Next Steps:
– Book my flight to London!
– Organize and narrow down what I’m going to bring to with me
– Give my employer my two weeks notice!
– Spend as much time with loved ones as I possibly can
– Find a field to run silly in while screaming with joy (next best thing to sharing my joy with others)
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Quietly Ecstatic,
Lisa

In the meantime, the Liebster Award!

Last Thursday I submitted my UK Visa application! I brought a binder full of documents to support my claim that I have British ancestry and that I would be a good addition to Britain. The question is, will the powers that be think so too?

I have been obsessively checking my email every hour since. I know it could take up to 3 weeks to hear back from them. I’m just too freakin’ excited and nervous to even wait a week! Eeeeeeeap!

I’ll let you know as soon as I hear. *fingers-crossed*

In the meantime, I was nominated by the lovely Samantha from Wandering Grad for the Liebster Award.

Liebster Award

“Liebster is a word with German origins meaning dearest, sweetest, kindest, and beloved. The Liebster Award exists only on the internet, and is an award given to bloggers by bloggers. The award is given to bloggers with less than 200 followers. The purpose of the Liebster Award is to recognize and discover upcoming talent in the blogosphere through a Pay it Forward initiative.”

Isn’t that nice! I love a good Pay It Forward.

There are some rules involved with this award:

  • You must link back to the person who nominated you (but cannot nominate them)
  • You must answer the 10 questions given to the nominee before you.
  • You must select 10 blogs with under 200 followers to answer your 10 questions.

Let’s do this! Here are the questions from Samantha:

1. Favorite quote?

I have so many favourite quotes it seems impossible to choose one. I feel these two are the most relevant to me right now:

“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected for the rest of my life” – Michael Palin

“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll wait for the rest of our lives.” – Lemony Snicket

2. What film or book genre do you think your life is? What do you want it to be?

It would have to be a non-fiction biography/documentary, wouldn’t it? I wish it was a fairy tale adventure though, with magic and talking animals, now that would be fun!

3. What’s at the top of your bucketlist?

Moving to London!

4. If you were made ruler of a country, would you accept the position? Why or why not?

Definitely not. There are many others more qualified who would do a much better job.

5. If you had to choose a singular location to live for the rest of your life, where would you choose?

I would live in my hometown near my family and friends, but that wouldn’t stop me from travelling to all the places I couldn’t live!

6. What current celebrity or popular figure would you be incredibly torn up over if they were to die right now?

Well this is a depressing question. I don’t think I would be torn up about anyone dying that I don’t personally know.

7. What is your favorite mode of transportation? (bus, train, plane, boat, bike, rollerblades, etc…)

Walking! But only if the weather is favourable. Otherwise, I love a good road trip!

8. Do you think your favorite beverage (tea, coffee, wine, whatever) says a lot about you as a person?

Hahaha…nope! The only time your favourite beverage would say anything about you as a person is if your favourite beverage is something crazy like mouthwash, laundry detergent, gasoline, etc. Yikes!

9. Who is your role model (real or fictional)?

I don’t have a role model. There are many characteristics I admire in others, but there isn’t a singular person that I would call my role model.

10. What song would you sing for a reality television show audition, and why?

Definitely “Shake it off” so I can show off my awesome dance moves, because I am a horrible singer!

And now my questions for ky nominees:

  1. Coffee or tea?
  2. Next place you are (or hope to) travel to?
  3. What is your favourite photo from your travels?
  4. What’s the next song on your playlist?
  5. Your spirit animal is a…?
  6. If you could take anyone on a road trip who would you bring? Where would you go?
  7. What movie/tv show would you like to be a character in?
  8. The funniest thing you’ve seen on the internet this month?
  9. You can only bring 10 items with you on a surprise vacation to your dream destination – what do you bring? And where are you going?!
  10. Riddle time: What travels around the world but stays in one spot?

The nominees are:

  1. http://thesundayblah.com/about/
  2. http://debbielifelondon.wordpress.com/
  3. http://thecopenhagentales.com/
  4. http://acleggabroad.wordpress.com/
  5. http://londontransplant.wordpress.com/
  6. http://theintentionalexpat.wordpress.com/
  7. http://hiberniachronicles.com/
  8. http://flyakite.me/
  9. http://runlondonrun.wordpress.com/about/
  10. http://littlecityblog.wordpress.com/

 

My Living in London Bucket List

Confession: I haven’t told my work that I am moving to London. Since I haven’t even applied for my ancestry visa yet, I feel that’s fair. But it is very, VERY hard to concentrate on my work when all I can think about is my new life in London!

Keep Calm I'm Moving to London

 

I want to experience as much as I can there and not waste a day. I am going to resist my natural urge to hang out in my jammies and watch my latest Netflix obsession. How can I when there is so much in London and the UK to do!

And so, inspired by “100 days of happiness”, bucket lists, and photo-a-day type projects, I am going to create a Living in London bucket list, so I can be sure I make the most out of this adventure.

My goal is to do something new from the list each day (bonus for doing more than one!)

What’s on my list?

I’ve started with touristy type items, since I haven’t been to the UK before, there are an awful lot of to add. I’m not restricting the list to just London activities – there are many day, weekend, and maybe even longer trips I hope to take. London is a great home base for traveling to Europe. I’ve also been adding things I’ve read on websites, blogs, and twitter that other travelers, expats, and locals are doing and places they’ve been going to.

I would like to come up with at least a year’s worth of things to do. Some are momentous and require some planning, while others are little things that can be done on a whim. I’m sure my list will grow when I get to London, but at least I have a place to start.

Without further ado, my must-do-a-day list (in no particular order):

  1. Big Ben
  2. London Bridge
  3. Piccadilly Square
  4. Notting Hill
  5. Pose in front of a red telephone box
  6. Westminster Abbey
  7. St Pauls Cathedral
  8. London Underground
  9. Try a chip buddy butty (thanks FM ;)
  10. London Eye
  11. Platform 9 ¾
  12. London Open Top Bus tour
  13. Take a river cruise on the Thames
  14. Go to Beigal Bake on Brick Lane
  15. Harrods
  16. Primark
  17. Oxford Street
  18. Camden Markets
  19. Covent Garden
  20. Borough Market
  21. Twinning’s Tea Shop
  22. Have traditional afternoon tea
  23. Go to Lady Dinah’s Cat Cafe
  24. National Gallery
  25. British Museum
  26. Tate Modern
  27. Tate Britain Galleries
  28. The Guildhall
  29. Natural History Museum
  30. Visit the tombstone of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard
  31. Shakespeare’s Globe.
  32. Watch the Changing of the Guard Ceremony
  33. Visit the 5 Historic Royal Palaces
  34. Worlds oldest hat shop, Lock and Co
  35. Kew Gardens
  36. Abbey Road
  37. Trafalgar Square
  38. Walk over Tower Bridge
  39. Painted Hall in Greenwich
  40. Feed the ducks, swans and squirrels in St James Park
  41. Portobello Road
  42. Soho Noses
  43. Visit family in Scotland
  44. Visit at least two countries in Europe
  45. Eat Yorkshire pudding in Yorkshire
  46. SantaCon
  47. Christmas pudding race in Covent Garden
  48. Good Sunday at Widows Son in Bow
  49. Circle line pub crawl on the 6th Feb (or the nearest Sat!)
  50. Row a boat in Regents Canal
  51. Prince Charles Cinema’s themed nights
  52. Food market in Greenwich
  53. Victoria and Albert Museum
  54. Ghost bus tour
  55. Cocktails in the OXO tower
  56. Highgate Cemetery
  57. Sherlock Holmes pub and Restaurant
  58. 221b Baker Street
  59. Have a pint at the Cheshire Cheese on Fleet St.
  60. Saturday brunch at the Brockley Markets

Hmmm…. looks like I’m going to have to do more research if I’m going to do a least one thing a day for a year!

And here’s where I need your help. What sights, places, events, or restaurants would you recommend I add to my London bucket list?

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Cheers!
Lisa

A little history repeating

Gathering the documents I need for my visa application has been like an episode of “Who are you?”

Yesterday, my father pulled out a wooden box I have never seen before. Inside were papers and documents from my Nana and Papa’s past. My Papa’s birth certificate from 1923 Scotland. Nana and Papa’s wedding certificate. My father’s Trinidadian birth certificate. Even my Nana’s UK passport stamped with her exotic travels and her immigration visa to Trinidad in 1952.

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It dawned on me that it’s really not surprising that I have always yearned to travel and live in foreign lands – both sets of grandparents made the big move from their birth countries (Scotland & Denmark) to Canada. Their adventuous spirits are reflected in me.

I have almost all the documents I need now to apply for my visa! I just hope that it’s enough to be approved….

……….

Wishing and hoping,
Lisa

The waiting game

Remember the days when you wished that time would hurry up so you could be an adult and do adult things and wear adult clothes and have an adult life like they have in the movies?

Time moved so slowly back then.

Not now though, time now moves quickly – too quickly.

As soon as you become an adult time speeds up. I have been complaining about how fast this year has been going by, but actually, it’s been the past decade that has been going by at warp speed.

Until today. Today I notice how slowly the past month has been moving. I am just as busy with work as I have been over the past year, but all of a sudden time has begun to drag.

“Is it really only September still?” I moaned to myself this morning.

Why is time suddenly moving at the speed of snail?

It’s because I have something to look forward to now. Just like a did as a teen waiting for the day I would be an adult, I am now waiting for the day I will move to London.

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Sure, I have plenty of things to do before I leave. I’m applying for my Visa in November. I have to pack up all my belongings that I will be storing at my parents’ house. I have to determine what I am going to bring with me to London. I have to buy my plane ticket and arrange my accomodation (with a friend) for the first bit that I’m in London. I have to get my resume together and get letters of recommendation for everything. I have to spend as much time as I can with family, friends, and my furbaby (extra time with him, of course). And the list goes on and on.

But still, four months is an awfully long time to wait for something new and exciting to happen.

……….
Waiting not so patiently,
Lisa

Expat Tips: What’s that you say?

Yes, I speak english. Yes, I’ll be moving to the english speaking motherland. But just because we essentially speak the same language doesn’t mean we’re going to understand each other. Like every culture there is a local slang/lingo and even the same word may have two different meanings.

For example, here in Canada, if I said, “I like your pants” I would be referring to the piece of clothing you wear that covers each of your legs (like jeans). But if I said the same thing in England they will think I am referring to their underwear. Now that would be embarassing!

Here are a couple of other examples:

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Are there any others that aren’t listed here that you know of?

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Cheers!
Lisa