Finally the cat’s out of the bag… we’ve been hanging onto a secret for the last 3 weeks and it’s been tough making sure Anna’s parents didn’t find out. We were faced with a tough decision on what to do from now until Christmas as we had a bunch of ideas but no firm plans. Once we started working through the ideas and making eliminations based on climate, affordability and safety it became apparent that a road trip through USA and Canada was a solid choice. I’m sure you’ll appreciate that I’m more pumped about the idea than Anna is considering she grew up in Canada, but it did provide the opportunity for us to surprise Anna’s parents by turning up unannounced. After researching various flight options, we found a bargain non-stop flight from London to Toronto so we locked it in. It also allowed for us to catch up with Gerrit and Amy in London, and more importantly score 2 nights free accommodation at their place… winning!
From Newcastle to London was easy enough on the 7 hour Megabus. We navigated the Underground with the precision of a Londoner, even though we needed to make some changes heading to St John’s Wood station. When we were walking to Gerrit’s apartment we realised that it was only 200m from the pedestrian crossing made famous by the cover of the Abbey Road album by The Beatles. We knew we’d have to take advantage of that. Gerrit and Amy were in Edinburgh when we arrived and kindly organised a key for us with the doorman at the building. They arrived at 11pm and after a quick catch up we let them head to bed since they needed sleep for work the next day.
Fortunately we didn’t (perks of being unemployed), so we slept in and then spent the day at Regent’s Park going for a run and then walking around the grounds. Later we headed to a pizza place in Soho to meet up with Gerrit and Amy, which allowed us to catch up over dinner. Between their move to London and our travels we had so much to catch up on so we headed to Brew Dog for a few cleansing ales. It’s great to see that married life is treating them well and that they’re making the most of London. We all walked back to their apartment and then headed to bed because we had an early rise in the morning.
Our flight was out of Gatwick Airport so we had to catch a few trains to get there, so we were up at 6am. Gerrit and Amy have been living in London for 4 months and hadn’t yet found an opportunity to have their picture taken at the pedestrian crossing, so they came with us so we could take their picture and vice versa. We thought that taking the picture with our luggage was the best way to represent us at this point in time.
Before boarding the flight Anna checked the news and saw that a transatlantic flight heading to London had to make an emergency landing at Dublin because they hit unforeseen turbulence, requiring 12 people to be hospitalised. Anna isn’t a big fan of flying so I was worried that this would make her feel anxious as we were about to make the transatlantic journey. She handled it with no issue, but when we touched down in Toronto she was quick to celebrate that there shouldn’t be anymore flights for 2016. We’ve definitely had our fair share of jetsetting this year. Our arrival into Toronto was not the end of our journey as we needed to make our way to Waterloo which is about 1 hour away. Well that’s if Anna’s parents were to pick us up, but by public transport it was 3 hours by the time you allow for connections. The surprise was totally worth it though.
Anna knocked on the door and there was no answer. We had almost given up when the door slowly opened. Anna’s mum thought that it might’ve been Jehovah’s witnesses or a door-to-door salesman but thought she should check. She was delighted to see us apparently, but for the first 20 seconds all we saw was shock. We got to surprise Anna’s dad when he came into the dining room for dinner and found us at the table. It was easy to see that he was delighted to see his little girl. That’s the beauty of being a child though, you know that no matter what your parents have going on in their lives they’ll be so happy to see you and having you stay isn’t an inconvenience. Once they’re over the shock that is.
Anna is delighted to see her parents and their dog Brownie who is now 16. They adopted Brownie from Anna’s brother Tom 6 years ago, but you wouldn’t know it because they clearly love her. Brownie is blind, deaf and her sense of smell is fading but she’s sharp as a tack and navigates herself around the house by nudging the walls. She gets very excited when Anna pats her and gives her treats. I think a dog will be one of the first purchases when we stop travelling.
We plan to be here for about 2-3 weeks while we find a car to buy and get organised for the trip so we thought we’d take the opportunity to lose some weight. Dieting is out considering I have no self control with all the Polish and Canadian food on offer, so we bought a 3 week boot camp membership on Groupon. We’re planning to do it 5 days a week which will be tough but at least the commitment isn’t too long. We had our first session yesterday and it was a sad reminder that I’m out of shape. Anna is sore as well, but her cardio fitness is far better than mine.
We have been out to a few dealerships to look at what models they have here. I took a Mustang for a test drive and the power was unreal compared to the little Fiats and Citroens I’ve been driving. I want to check out a few more dealerships to see all the different models they have. We’ll keep looking and hopefully decide on a car that is fun but doesn’t use too much fuel. Anna doesn’t care that much about what we buy, but this is my one chance to buy something that Sensible Ben wouldn’t consider. We’ll only have it for 3 months so no big deal. Just as long as it doesn’t break down and we get our money back on it.
Since we turned up unannounced Anna’s mum wasn’t prepared for us, so we took a trip to the Polish store to stock up. I couldn’t believe how busy the store was and I found it hilarious that there were 7 people working in the deli section and only 2 on the cash registers. I soon realised it’s because Polish people order 100g of 20 different cold cuts so it takes about 10 minutes to serve each customer. But no complaints here… I’m now sampling so many different deli meats and sausages. Now you’re seeing why we need the boot camp!
But we can’t just live on Polish food (just kidding… it’s totally possible) so we also went to Costco for groceries. Don’t ask me how, but a 2.2kg apple pie ended up in the trolley. Admittedly that was the smallest one they had, but it looks so good. We picked up some cheap clothes which was an unexpected bonus. You’ll be pleased to know I now have an alternative to my beloved Maple Leafs hoodie. Some of the product sizes are ridiculous though. Like we thought that we’d buy some hamburger patties but the smallest pack was 12. I’m convinced that Costco was invented by someone with 5 kids. If you can handle the large quantities you really can save some money.
Since we couldn’t handle the large portions of fresh produce we took a trip to the St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market. Local growers bring their produce to market to sell, but they also have local craftsmen selling wooden ornaments and crafts. We went to the markets when we visited in November last year and it was amazing to see how much busier they were this time of year. Admittedly it was snowing and freezing last time. The biggest attraction are the Mennonites (like Amish) who live close by and they ride their horse drawn buggies to markets to sell their produce. They don’t like having their picture taken, but we managed to sneak a couple. The large stores like Home Depot and Sobey’s that are close to their community have stables for the horses and carts that the Mennonites ride to the store.
Anna has really put in a big effort this month with not only looking after all the photos, but she’s also compiled and edited a video summarising August 2016. It’s a big job and I’m so grateful that she’s done it. It shows how much ground we’ve covered in just one month and it conveys so much more than my words ever could. We hope you enjoy it and we’re planning to keep it going as a monthly update. We’ll try and remember to take a clip everyday.
We’ll be hanging out here in Waterloo for the next week while we look for a suitable car.
Fail of the Week
Anna is the runner and I am not. We all know this. Well stupidly I thought I could run a full lap of Regent’s Park and keep up with Anna. Well I did for 3/4 of the way and then I couldn’t go any further. I know… it’s a little sad. I need to work on my fitness.
Meal of the Week
After our expedition to the Polish store we sampled the cold cuts for lunch. You’ll see the spread was huge and that doesn’t even include the sausages and cabanossi!
Our tips for Scotland & England:
- Buy the Historic Scotland pass if you’re going to have a car to get around because you’ll see so much more.
- Scotland has a very short Summer so you should book in advance if you want to secure nice accommodation in good locations.
- If you’re not a fan of Geordie Shore 1 night is probably enough in Newcastle. If you like to party, make sure you’re there on the weekend.
- Isle of Skye is definitely worth seeing so we strongly recommend renting a car for that.
- If you can time your visit to Edinburgh to coincide with the Fringe festival you should. The city is buzzing and there are cheap shows on offer.
- The Tesco 3 pound lunch deals are great value.
- Wetherspoons pubs are the cheapest around for pints and for food.
Average spend for Scotland & England was AU$89.91pp per night for everything including rental car, trains etc.