Photo Journal: London at Christmas

Over the Christmas/holiday season, my family and I had the absolute pleasure of spending a few wonderful days in London. It was last minute and quite ‘uhhh what are we going to do?’ but turned out to be a real highlight of the end of the year.

If you are starting to think about what a holiday season would be like in London, take a look at some of these photos. I only had my iPhone (as this was unplanned) but I think I managed to capture the real holiday spirit. I love London, as you know, but I love it even more when it is glittery and decorated for the holidays. If you are looking for a destination for next Christmas, I highly recommend London. It is busy and crowded but there is something magical in the air during the holidays that even my husband, a Brit that pretends to be unimpressed with London, can admit to 😉

We didn’t make it to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland this year but we have gone in years past and enjoyed ourselves, despite the cost and crowds!

Enjoy!

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Tower Bridge and the Christmas Market along the south bank
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My favourite piece of graffiti in London!
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Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (made me think of my nephew back in Canada!)
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hehehe
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Loved all the lights leading up to the London Eye
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Sunny sky and Parliament (Big Ben is actually the bell inside the clocktower but I think it is safe to say we all refer to this image as Big Ben now)
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Had to snap this quickly before the changing of the guards-he was about to move and the crowd tripled in size in seconds!!
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The London Coliseum featuring Giselle by the English National Ballet
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A photo for my daughter
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Morning walk to Covent Garden
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What else can you say?
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Perfect end to a few days in London!

 

During our trip we stayed at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge and we all absolutely loved it! We woke up with the most beautiful view of Parliament and enjoyed everything else in-between. We’ll be back!

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View from our window – good morning, London

Photo credit: Jennifer Hart

Marché de Noël and Santa’s Village

****I was meant to post this sooner to be more relevant for Christmas but I chose not to out of respect for Berlin.

I begin this post with a moment of reflection on the recent tragic events that occurred at Breitscheidplatz Christmas Market in Berlin. My heart breaks for those affected by this tragedy. The pain is senseless and the act was cowardly. My deepest condolences to everyone this tragedy touched.
In local news, there is a new Christmas Market in the La Côte region. Located at the new iLIFE building in Etoy (Vaud), vendors selling everything from raclette to vin chaud are set up ready to help you get in the festive spirit! The market is free but the adjoining Santa Claus Village is charged at 10CHF per child or 13CHF if you want to combine ice skating with a visit to the village. The village is open until early January 2017.

The Santa Village is located inside and is equipped with an elevator for mobility and stroller access as well as toilets. Always a plus in colder weather or with small children in tow!

In the Santa village, included in the admission fee,  you will find multiple bouncy castles, baby foot/fusbal tables, a craft centre, face painting and Santa Claus himself.  You can take a photo with Santa and have a free print immediately to take home. There is a little café for a snack or the adults to sit and relax while the kids play.

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The whole set up isn’t out of this world but it did entertain my 6 and 9 year old for quite a while.

Please excuse my photos as I know they aren’t amazing. I am strongly against taking face-forward photos of children other than my own so I did my best to capture the environment in a sneaky way!

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Ho Ho Ho!

Photo credit: Jennifer Hart

Where Are You From? Thunder Bay

One of the most repetitive questions you will be asked as an expat or foreigner living abroad is ‘where are you from?’  I often wonder what it is like for people, such as my husband, who comes from a very recognisable place (you may have heard of it, London UK?). The ease they must have explaining it. London. It comes out, people process the information, understand and move on to a story about London – either they have been there or they wish to go there.

My answer?  Thunder Bay. Not at all the same to my husband’s response. Not even to CANADIANS who should know better but often don’t.

In the past few years I have found myself saying, ‘do you know where Toronto is? Ok well drive 16 hours northwest and that’s where I’m from.’  This is often met with blank stares and questions like, ‘is that even in the same country?’ HA! Same country? Try the same province, even! I often field polar bear and igloo questions and have even been asked if I have ever seen a beach before I left my northern life.

So imagine my delight when last week a video of my hometown started splashing across Facebook.  The video, put together by cinematographer Damien Gilbert, demonstrates the vast beauty and complexities that Thunder Bay offers. People are often confused by me as I am a huge fan of both city life and Jimmy Choos as well as hiking and being in nature. Perhaps spending 2 minutes watching what my hometown looks like, you’ll understand me a bit more. Enjoy!

Thank you, Damien for putting Thunder Bay on display for the world to see. Maybe NOW people will stop asking if I mean North Bay 😉

Photo: Jennifer Hart

 

 

Summertime and the Living is Easy…

I’m on vacation in Florida right now, soaking up the sun and swimming in the ocean as much as possible. This also means I am taking a break from writing, researching and publishing as much as I was before. In the meantime, enjoy these photos and for those of us living in the northern hemisphere, have a fabulous and safe summer!! Relax the body, the brain and the soul as much as possible!! 🙂

 

 

Photo credit: Jennifer Hart

Friday Featurette: Jet-lagged Emotions

A couple Fridays a month I will be featuring another blogger or up-and-coming writer on my site. Stories range from expat life to travel/adventure. If you are interested in possibly being featured, please read the info here and get in touch!  You may notice differences in terminology, vocabulary and spellings here but I think keeping it authentic to the author’s voice and background makes for a richer reading. 

Jet-Lagged Emotions
By: Katherine Wilson

People say the world is getting smaller, and I agree. When I moved to Italy from the USA twenty years ago, the transatlantic flights seemed endless: there was one movie that you didn’t choose, the old headphones barely worked making it hard to hear, and you had to crane your neck to see the communal screen. Talking to my family in the USA meant buying a phone card once a week and closing myself in a tiny, hot, smoke-filled booth.

‘What a whiner’, my mother chided me, ‘when I came to Bologna in 1967 we travelled on a boat, and I didn’t dream of talking to my family.’

Today, I can talk for free, any time of day or night. I can see my sister’s face in New York as she works out on the elliptical; can show her the piece of parmiggiano reggiano I’m about to buy at the market. The flight is direct, with great, individual movies that I can choose. The world is getting smaller, or at least becoming more efficient at feeling that way.

Smaller, except for one little thing. If only we could eliminate the six hour time difference between us. I understand this is unlikely, given that the Earth revolves around the sun and that might not change for my convenience. But in terms of communication, it creates a gulf. I am a mother of two and the morning is when I find myself having some time to talk – when it would be a pleasure to chat with my sister. By the time New York wakes up, I’m revving up for an afternoon of school pickups, shuttling kids and attacking Italian homework.

“Let’s talk at 11 my time?” my sister suggests via text. Unfortunately, her 11 am (my 5pm), is when I’m deep in Italian subjunctives and dinner preparation. It is also a point in the day when I tend to be tired. I no longer have it in me to tell her about whatever I had in mind this morning, when the day spread out before me and I was optimistic about the future: work, family, plans, etc.

“OK. 11’s good,” I text her back. I call her because she’s my sister and I want to hear her voice, even if it means perilous multitasking and leaving my kids to their own devices. I hear in her voice that it’s 11 am. She’s freshly caffeinated and wants to tell me about a date she had and ask about what are we planning for this summer.

“Um… yeah… I’m not sure yet… sorry just a second Anthony can you stop doing that, please?”. Sadly, this is about all my sister gets from me.

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Look familiar? Long-distance communication often happens when we can fit it in instead of when it is most convenient!

I realize, it’s not because I’m an ocean away, it’s because I’m six hours ahead. Her day has just started to hit its stride while mine peaks into the stressful hours of parenting, cooking and checking homework. She is Morning Anna and I am Afternoon Katherine. As a result, we are very much out of sync.

A friend of mine who had been an expat for years when I arrived in Italy gave me wise advice when she told me that when you fly transatlantic, it takes your soul a few days to catch up with your body. She told me, Katherine, with this experience, you shouldn’t expect too much of yourself those first few days, because it’s just your body. Your soul hasn’t quite arrived yet.

I think of that when I’m Afternoon Katherine talking to Morning Anna. Our souls are not in the same dimension. I give her my voice and my ear, detached from my emotions. That’s all I’ve got in the early evening.

I tell her before I hang up that I can’t wait to see her this summer, when we will be in the same place at the same time.

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Katherine Wilson is an American actress and writer living in Italy. Her memoir, Only in Naples: Lessons in Food and Famiglia From My Italian Mother-in-Law is an ode to her adopted city and family, as well as a hilarious look at expat life. It was out from Random House this spring and is being published in seven countries.
Click here to purchase in the USA and her to purchase in the UK/Europe.
Click here to follow Katherine on Facebook
Click here to follow Katherine on Instagram

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A World of Stories

There are so many reasons I am proud to be part of this anthology. The biggest reason of all has been making more expat friends around the world. We are the sisterhood of women carving out lives that don’t have a conventional flow. We make it work where we can and laugh and cry together when we can’t. From a fellow co-author…

Margo Catts

A few months after I arrived in Saudi Arabia, I found myself at dinner with a group of teachers. You know, school teachers. Ladies that taught English at Saudi girls’ schools. Old maid school teachers.

Roz (Monsters, Inc.)You got that picture squarely in mind?

Good. Now flush it. Whatever scars you still carry from that time you walked into the teachers’ lounge as a child (teachers? relaxing? aghhh!), it’s time to forget about them. These ladies were cool.

I am now firmly convinced that a memo went around when I was in high school, inviting interested students to come learn how to live an exotic, independent, globe-trotting life, and I missed it. I was never aware that there was more than one path available to humans. High school. College. Job. Maybe marriage. House. Family. The things responsible people do.

These ladies, though, got the memo and went to the meeting. These…

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Repatriation: Anxiety, Stress and the Problems with Going “Home”

Dear Readers, Friends and Fans of Domestic Bliss Abroad,

I wanted to take a moment to talk to you about an upcoming project I will be launching in September 2016 on repatriation. I will be looking for participants (you can remain anonymous) to give first-hand experiences, anecdotes and insight to this often glossed-over part of our lives.  There will be a questionnaire to fill in and additional stories are voluntary yet very welcome!  Just as our lives are varied around the globe, I’d like to hear back from as many people in as many different places as possible.

Repatriation seems easy on the outside as moving ‘home’ should be seamless, right? But as many expats know depression, reverse culture shock, saying goodbye to new expat families, exclusion, grief and marital troubles often accompany this process. Coupled with friends and family back home frequently not understanding what you are going through, repatriation can alienate returning expats in a way they did not imagine. I want to explore that topic WITH YOU and put into words things that need to be said but often aren’t.

If you are interested, please send an email with the subject line Repatriation to jennifer@domesticblissabroad.com including a brief overview of your expat life.

I will be in touch soon to update you as the project develops.

PLEASE pass this along to anyone you think needs their story told.

Thank you.

Jennifer HART
Domestic Bliss Abroad