It’s funny how people float in and out of our lives and while some stick others don’t.
After leaving America and moving to a small town in Norway twenty-four years ago, I met a family from England. I couldn’t speak Norwegian and there weren’t many expats or foreigners living in this area at the time. I felt lost, misplaced and longed for my family and friends back home. I was offered a job at a local school and that’s where I met this family. I’m not sure how I would have gotten through those first couple of years in Norway without them. Connected by the English language (their’s proper, mine not) we bonded and became fast friends and then suddenly they were gone.
I was heartbroken and didn’t know how I’d manage without them…
We kept in touch with an occasional phone call, Christmas cards and a handful of visits over the last twenty-four years. Our daughters have also challenged the years and miles, by remaining close. This past weekend, me, my daughter and granddaughter journeyed from Norway to England to visit them. It’s been at least ten years since we’ve seen each other last, but it felt as if we’d never been separated at all. We caught up on the present, reminisced over the past and made a promise to visit again soon.
As our granddaughters met and played for the very first time, I couldn’t help but marvel over the power of friendship.
Congratulations, you’ve just won a free trip to the Netherlands!
They say God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland. With over a quarter of its surface below sea level the Dutch leave nothing to chance. Instead they create their own nature and this makes the Netherlands a beautiful and fascinating place.
I had the privilege of living there for three years in a town called Wassenaar, which is located directly between Amsterdam and the Hague. I could sit here all night and gush about how great it was to live there, or you can see for yourself…
There’s no need to clean out the fridge, pack a suitcase or find a sitter for the dog, because you’ll only be gone for ten minutes… So sit back, press play and enjoy your trip.
Going Local in Gran Canaria is the type of book that would become dog-eared in a traveler’s backpack or read feverishly by an expat moving to the island. It truly is a book that has something for everyone establishing residence or simply visiting. Matthew Hirtes manages to cover everything from starting a business and getting a mortgage to which restaurant to visit on a Saturday night, and how to get there.
The book is peppered with enjoyable stories that others have shared with the author of their personal experiences on the island. It really adds a sense of the island becoming a home, not just a vacation destination. Useful phone numbers, addresses, and websites are included, and are all details that visitors and expats to Gran Canaria so desperately need.
Cover to cover, Going Local is chock-full of everything you need to get started. Hirtes is very effective at taking his vast knowledge of the island and putting it on paper for everyone to enjoy. The first thought I had after reading it was hopping on the next flight, book in hand, to experience everything this wonderful island has to offer.
Available on Amazon
With all the traveling I’ve been doing this summer, my blog is starting to resemble a travel blog. To mix things up, I thought I’d try writing a book review. I just finished reading a good book, so here goes…
If you’ve ever lived or simply dream of living in a foreign country, then Kathleen Gamble’s book Expat Alien: My Global Adventure, is for you. I was first introduced to Kathy and her well told stories of travel and adventure through her blog, also known as the Expat Alien. Kathy and I are two American girls who were both born in the fifties, but while I grew up on the steady shores of our homeland, she grew up wandering the world.
Her parents and two brothers started their great expat adventure in 1952, when they first moved to Burma, where Kathy was later born. Throughout most of the years the family lived abroad her father worked with the Ford Foundation, in Third World Agriculture.
The story moves along at a fast and exciting pace as we follow the family to Mexico, Nigeria and Columbia. They travel across Europe and Kathy attends boarding school in Switzerland. If it’s excitement your looking for, there’s also a plane crash, a military coup and an earthquake.
Having barely spent anytime at all in America before starting college there, Kathy has just as much trouble relating to her peers as they do to her. Feeling different and isolated she spirals into a case of severe reverse culture shock.
Later she marries a Russian American and when he takes a job in Moscow, she follows. Here we get an inside look at what its like to live, work and raise a family in Moscow. Nine years later they are forced out under unfortunate circumstances and return to the States to start again. After losing everything, Kathy is forced into making tough decisions for both herself and her son.
Kathy’s story gives superb insight as to what its like growing up globally and as exciting as that is, there were times I felt sad for her. I found this book to be an honest and riveting account of her journey.
Expat Alien is available in paperback on Amazon.com and in Kindle format.
I just got back from Dublin at two o’clock this morning and have so much to do…
I won’t bore you with the details, instead I’ll post a few pictures for you to look at, while I catch up and recover from my trip.
A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures -Irish proverb
May the sound of happy laughter fill your heart with gladness, that stays forever after -Irish Blessing
Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter, lullabies, dreams and love ever after. A thousand welcomes when anyone comes… Thats the Irish for you! -Irish Blessing
Its fun meeting new people while traveling and hearing their stories. Everyone likes to tell where they come from and are usually excited about where they’re going. All around the world people are flying in and out of airports, crossing the globe and trading places.
I was recently on a flight from Norway to Amsterdam and sat next to a young woman from Geneva. After hearing I was American, she told me told me an incredible story about her first and only trip to the US. She was on her way back from a wedding in Canada and decided to take a twenty-four hour stop over in New York.
She checked out of her midtown hotel early the next morning and set out to explore the Big Apple. She planned on heading down to Battery Park, to see the Statue of Liberty and The World Trade Center first. But due to a mix up, she got on the wrong bus and found herself heading uptown instead. After taking a stroll through Central Park and checking out Time Square, she began making her way back towards downtown Manhattan.
She was suddenly stopped by roadblocks, turmoil and sirens screaming throughout the city. It was September 11, 2001 and she soon found herself stranded in a chaotic city, with no money and no where to stay. She turned to the Swiss Embassy for help and it was five days before she was able to finally leave New York. Sigh.
A few days later, I met a Scottish woman on my flight from Glasgow back to Amsterdam. We got talking and after telling her I live in Norway, she told me she had once rode her bike to Norway.
“From Glasgow?!” I asked.
No – she was an art student living in Denmark at the time. Her and her Danish boyfriend took a ferry to Sweden and then cycled all the way to Oslo. She felt so empowered by the trip that upon her return, she packed her bags, left her boyfriend and moved back to Glasgow to become a rich and famous artist. Ten years down the road and she’s still single and struggling. Her Danish boyfriend however, is married, has two children, lives in a beautiful house and owns a very lucrative art gallery. After telling me her story, she shook her head and said, “You know what the worst of it is Maggie? I felt so guilty after leaving him, that I paid half his bloody rent for a whole year.” Ouch.
Afterwards, while franticly flipping through the pages of my passport, an officer at the passport control counter in Amsterdam asks, “Why are you going to Norway?”
“Because I live there,” I answer.
He then asks if I have a Resident Card, I tell him no. I only have a stamp in my passport, which he points out has expired. (Oops) With a crowed of inpatient travelers grumbling behind me, he calls for another officer to come and take me away!
I’m taken to the Immigration Office, asked to have a seat, and then bombarded with questions… How long have you been living in Norway? Why do you live there? Why have you not renewed your Norwegian Resident Permit? I see you also have an outdated, Dutch Resident Permit in your passport, why? Do you have a Norwegian personal number (Social Security number)? I answer the questions, give him my personal number and he calls the Norwegian Immigration Office, in Oslo.
By now I’m wishing I’d simply told them I was going to Norway on vacation. I was also wondering if he had the power to ship me back to New Jersey. Then as if nothing happened, the officer hangs up the phone and says, “Okay, you’re free to go, have a nice trip.” Phew.
Is it like this when you travel?
A quiet summer at home, well that was the intention…
The only plans my husband and I had this summer were to paint the house and work in the garden. After finishing up a lot earlier than expected and in desperate need of sun, we decided to spend a week in Italy.
Some friends have talked us into taking a long-weekend in Dublin, at the end of August. I’ve been invited to join a group of women-writers, meeting in Scotland the weekend before that, and now a trip to America has unexpectedly dropped into our lives.
My husband was asked by his company to give up a week of his vacation and go to Houston on business. Of course he agreed to do it, as long as they were willing to buy a ticket for me too. I then decided to trade in my ticket to Houston for a ticket to New Jersey, which is where I come from.
Tomorrow morning I’m heading home to the Garden State, for a whole week with family and friends. (Plus shopping, no tax on clothes in NJ). When I get back, my new baby granddaughter will be coming to stay with me, while my daughter and her family go to Lego Land in Denmark. There’s nothing like cuddling with a new born.
Leave me a comment if you’re interested in winning a free copy of my book, Fly Away Home. At the end of August, I’ll pull one name out of a hat, contact the winner, and send the book anywhere in the world.
Sense and Sensibility is my favorite Jane Austen novel however, I’ve decided to read Persuasion, because Anne Elliot is my favorite Austen heroine. I’m also very fond of Elizabeth Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice. Which one will you read?
I’ll be gone for the next two weeks, but am leaving you with these awesome pictures, people have posted on Facebook. I hope you’re all having a great summer…
Cinque Terre part 3
With our quest for adventure now running rampant, we decided to take a day-trip and explore beyond the five villages of Cinque Terre. It was a toss up between heading north to Portofino, or south to Portovenere. For no special reason, we ended up choosing Portovenere.
We took the train to La Spezia and trying to be frugal, we bought bus tickets for the second half of the journey. We had a hard time finding the bus stop and everyone we asked simply waved their hand in the same direction. After finding the stop (or at least we thought so), we waited well over an hour, and no bus. We returned to the station and were told the bus comes every twenty minutes. At this point we gave up and took a taxi, so much for being frugal.
We arrived to what was well worth the price of the thirty-minute taxi ride. A long strip of colorful buildings stood under a cobalt sky and along the shoreline of an aqua-blue marina. Small open boats filled with fishing nets, bobbed along side prestigious sailboats and super-sized yachts.
The ancient town was like a hidden treasure, just waiting to be explored and that is exactly what we did. We first wandered out to the gothic church of ‘St. Pietro’ (Saint Peter), which was consecrated on its rocky point in 1198 and built over a preexisting fifth century church. The church stands on a promontory with breathtaking views of the Mediterranean all around it. Like all Italian churches, the atmosphere inside was cool, dark and serene. At the bottom of the peninsula is a small grotto, called ‘Byron Grotto‘ after the poet, who loved to take refuge here during his stays.
Afterwards we made our way up to the high ground on roads that were built hundreds of years ago, leading to ‘Castello Doria’ (Doria Castle). The castle dominates the landscape and teetering on the edge, it overlooks a steep jagged coastline, the magical Poets Gulf and the village of Portovenere.
We spent hours exploring the castle grounds, its walls, wide slit trenches and watchtowers. Taking pictures and stopping every five minutes to admire the scenery. Next we roamed the tight streets of the village, enjoyed a delicious meal beside the marina, and then took a boat back to Cinque Terre. What a beautiful day…
Cinque Terre – part 2
We chose to stay in Monterosso because it had the nicest and largest beach but with the four other villages beckoning, there was little time for sitting idle on this trip…
The five villages are strung along nine kilometers of cliffside footpaths and overlook the crystal blue water of the Ligurian Sea. The trails wind through olive groves and dry-stone-walled vineyards and are scattered with tourists, from all over the world.
We picked up the first trail in Monterosso and headed towards Vernazza. This is supposedly the most challenging hike of them all. It was 3Km of dusty uphill trails and steep steps that never seemed to end. Even though we started out early in the day, the temperature was a muggy, 27 degrees Celsius and it took us almost two hours to reach our destination. As I caught my first glimpse of Vernazza in the distance, it was love at first sight.
Vernazza turned out to be my favorite of all the villages. Maybe it was the three musicians who greeted us at the end of the trail playing ‘Amore’. Perhaps it was the sign that read ‘Bar’ pointing us directly into the village, or possibly the bell tower, chiming in the distance. We dawdled through crooked streets lined with colorful old houses and made our way down to the grotto. Here we lost all track of time, as we sat beside the sea watching boat loads of tourists coming and going. We drank local wine and ate crispy thin ‘real’ Italian pizza.
Afterwards, we took the train back to Monterosso and spent our ‘only’ afternoon on the beach before getting ready for dinner.
The next day we took the train back to Vernazza and continued on the path, towards the third village of Corniglia. We got a late start and the temperature was already hovering around 30. This hike was 4Km and took almost two hours. Corniglia is at the top of a steep hill, on flat land and no matter which way you come from you’ll have to head upward at some point. We headed up on the way in, and arrived drenched in sweat.
I’m almost always in charge of the camera and its not because I take better pictures, I’m a control freak (there, I said it). On this particular day my husband was in dire need of a ‘stone cold Pils’ – beer (private joke) and wouldn’t wait up, while I stopped every five minutes to take pictures. There was no need to fear, as I simply followed the sweat drops leading directly towards him. (What can I say, we’re from Norway and not used to the heat).
Corniglia is the only village not immediately on water and although it was oozing with charm, we were tired and roasting. We found a shady, outside cafe and rehydrated the afternoon away. Afterwards we walked down 400 steps to the train station, thankful we weren’t going in the opposite direction!
We couldn’t walk between Corniglia and the forth village of Manarola because the trail was closed. Torrential rains which caused flooding and mudslides in October 2011, created massive damage to the area and they’re still making repairs. Instead, we took the train all the way to the fifth village of Riomaggiore the next day, and then hiked back to Manarola.
Riomaggiore is an old village situated in a small valley planted with vineyards. Shutter clad buildings are jam-packed between steep narrow alleys and stony flights of steps. We explored the village, bought a few souvenirs and had a nice lunch before setting off to Manarola on the ‘Via dell’Amore’ an Italian lover’s lane.
This was definitely not a hike, but more of a stroll. The path was flat and paved, with benches to sit and kiss on. The view was magnificent and all along the path people seal their love by hanging padlocks and love letters …
This is ours:
It only took 25 minutes for us to walk the 1Km to Manarola. The village is situated in a deep narrow valley and stands on a rocky promontory, that rises directly from the sea. Bright colored buildings are packed both side by side, and on top of one another. Being both hot and tired, I agreed to take the boat back to Monterosso (I’m not a big fan of boats). We missed the one that left at five and had to wait an hour for the next one and were not alone. As we stood in line on a rocky bank along the sea, people starting diving into the water to cool off. Some had bathing suits under there clothes, while others just dove in with their clothes on. Of course my husband had to join in on the fun, clothing and all. It was definitely a Kodak moment but wouldn’t you know, my camera died!
The boat ride back to Monterosso was fabulous and cool, and seeing the villages from the water was a whole other expierence.
We’re not done yet…
Something that makes a physical connection between two other things.
This is Egerøy Bridge; it was built in 1951 and it connects the small island of Egerøy to the southwest coast of Norway. Before the bridge was built the only way over to the mainland was by boat. My father was born on the island and then immigrated to America in 1955.
I crossed the bridge for the first time in 1969. I was eleven and can still remember how excited I was to be going to Norway to visit my grandmother.
Crossing the bridge on my second trip in 1971, I was less than enthusiastic. I wanted to go to Florida that year, but my parents had other plans.
In 1973, I crossed the bridge looking for adventure. After meeting a boy thats exactly what I found. Driving over on my way back home I made a vow to return the following summer, and I did…
When I crossed the bridge in 1974, I was unknowingly put on the path to my destiny. A destiny that would take years for me to find, but first I had to go home and make all my mistakes.
It would take ten long years for me to find my way across the bridge again and yet, it still wasn’t our time.
Two years later in 1986, destiny called me back.
In 1988, he made his first crossing to my side of the bridge, in America.
Then in 1989, after twenty years of crossings, the bridge became a threshold to a new life and I made his side of the bridge, in Norway, my permanent home.