Month: March 2015

Expat Goes North for Castle Scouting

Britain is known for its stupendous castles, the world over. From Windsor to Warwick Castle, such fortresses are still home to modern day royals, their kinsfolks and the likes. Thankfully, however, they make certain areas available to the rest of us at different times of the year.

Reflecting back to the late 90s when I first came to live in England, I made castle hopping, including a few palaces, a pastime of sorts. Not only was it great fun but also it was a rich historical expedition, if you will.

In those days, even if we did dine at Amberley Castle in Sussex quite often, I still couldn’t help wonder what it would be like to live in a castle, at least for a day or two. Fast forward to this past weekend and Paul and I flew to Northumberland to find out just that. Planning well in advance for a festive event in 2016, we made Langley Castle our home for the weekend. Well, sort of anyhow.

It so happens that we stayed in a more modern castle view room on the grounds of Langley with a view to reconnoitre the facility for our upcoming event. Not a problem at all because many castles have become seasoned hoteliers.

Langley is one of several of Britain’s castles that has done so, and like it, many castles have rooms available within the castle and extension rooms on the grounds, too.

So off to the grounds we went, admiring two extraordinary peacocks with coats fit for a king, and three or more attractive peahens. From this vantage point, we got a pretty good impression of the castle, even dinning there and admiring its 14th century décor, but when the manager gave us a guided tour, we were more than impressed, as we viewed the well appointment rooms in the castle, including those where events are held.

Has the scouting ended? Who is to say? Also, we did check out nearby Otterburn Castle. In meantime, we made a stop at Hadrian’s Wall, where we would surely do more than stop if we do celebrate in this area. And before returning to the airport in Newcastle on Sunday, we visited Alnwick Castle and Gardens.Splendid but it does not offer boarding. In fact, it wasn’t offering anything when we were there but the tourist season kicks off soon, if it already hasn’t.

And I am jolly glad it has with this inclement weather lingering around. Castle hopping might just be the thing to do.















A Good Story: Whose Is It Anyhow?

I love a good story–reading and hearing one and writing one, too. Hence, my vocation. Yet finding the right topic isn’t always the easiest of tasks and not because there isn’t enough to write about. I’d say it is quite the opposite.

Nowadays my own life is filled with enthralling stories, but the question I find myself facing more often than not is: Do I have the right to tell this story?

Most times I listen to my gut, my moral compass for a final call but admittedly, the answer is not always simple, not only from a professional point of view but also from a personal one, too.

Personal stories are entangled, the best and the worst of them. Thus, the dilemma: Whose Story Is it Anyhow? 

This month’s Huff Post blog looks at the question of story ownership from a broad view, if you will. Still, I would love to know your take on it. Do comment here or directly on the Huff Post.


Expat Takes Off On Flying Holiday

Make no mistake about it I love airplanes. Without them, I would be grounded, likely in the US, instead of the UK. Let’s say I owe my expatriate experience in many ways to the airline industry. I never took to the waters, if you will.

And certainly I owe my visits to the US to see family and friends to planes, not to mention holidays abroad. And I am not the only one indebted to the industry; the tourism industry must be, too.

In 2013, the UK had more than 31 million visitors with London leading the way with 16.8 million of them, an increase of 1.3 million from 2012, when the Olympics were held here.

The rise was the highest recorded number of overseas visitors since records began in 1961.

Presumably, many of these visitors arrived via airplane, though the Eurostar, ships and coaches provide other travel options. But if you are in a hurry, flying is the fastest route. And I almost always am.

Admittedly, however, I find the preparation for flying rather tedious. I do understand it and wouldn’t have it any other way for safety. Still I long for the nonchalant preparation of throwing things in a bag or two willy-nilly and taking off.

Last weekend, Paul and I did just that, joining our English family at a Center Parcs village, sort of a vacation park, which offers short breaks year-around. How very interesting we found it.

Though marketed for families with children, Center Parcs offers something for everyone from outdoor activities such as walking and cycling to indoor sports including swimming and playing tennis and squash. Also, the facility has a spa, plenty of restaurants and a few shops. The accommodation is not bad either. 

Honestly, it’s not a holiday destination that we would take without family but with them, it measured up. I’ll take their Aqua Sana Spa over the chilly rain any day. And most importantly, there was no commotion about packing and travelling. So, I did throw in two bags after all, one for each day.

The next stop, however, calls for flying, with only one-bag to carry on. Argh! Considering that the trip is tomorrow, I’d better get sorting. Otherwise, I’ll be grounded. And I do like flying.







Expat Exercises for Re-entry to Life in London

Years ago when I worked for Habitat for Humanity International, re-entry was a phrase often used of the International Partners, staff returning from a work trip abroad. It stands to reason that after being away from a country, one needs to re-adapt to the culture, etc.

An expat of nearly twenty years, I can attest to that. Casually, I often use the word re-entry when returning to the US, even sometimes stopping over for a night or two in a city of choice, before joining friends and/or family for a good down home visit.

Only on this last visit, however, somewhat made in haste, even if it did last over two weeks, I didn’t have time to think about adjusting to time zones, water, food, language and so on. I hit the ground running, literally and didn’t stop rushing around until after I returned to the UK.

It was then that I began to think of re-entry, if you will. Suddenly, my body was no longer tolerant of the few hours of sleep I got each night, the paces that I put it through daily or the inappropriate food I lived on, including honeybuns and coffee cake, most days.

This past Monday, the cinnamon brioche, the English honeybun I teased to a friend, did not cut the cake. Suddenly, I am gluten intolerant again. Furthermore, I acutely understand the value of daily exercise again – something I didn’t bother with at all in the US.

Yet this morning while exercising, even if it was challenging, I felt a freedom that I hadn’t felt it more than two weeks. That is when it occurred to me that exercise was somehow freeing. And I quietly said to my personal trainer, Judit Ressinka, that if only I could get her to the US to do at least one session with each of my sisters, I felt certain that they too could experience the freedom that I was experiencing.

Judit felt that I was on to something. Though exercise is often associated with alleviating physical stress, it also has the power to alleviate mental turmoil, too. When going through a particularly stressful time, I pointed out, we are trapped in a small world, which drives us, and keeps us on a bumpy road.

Exercise, Judit agreed, makes for a smoother ride, if you will. It has a way of getting the blood and oxygen flowing, properly and harmoniously.

Of course, one session won’t cut the cake, any more than my cinnamon brioche did, but a consistent programme will make a big difference in how the body endures.

Even I am truant from time to time like the two weeks in the US, no doubt the rigorous programme of training once per week with Judit and running three times, sees me through arduous times.

Now back to re-entry. What’s for supper?