Grant Adventure Random moments

While travelling there will always be randomness. Just simple moments that you capture because you were there and voila that randomness becomes a conscious moment.

So here are a few that each have a story as part of this Grant Adventure

img_2667This is the ultimate in a butt Floss bathing Suit – I suppose when nude beaches are not permitted and you want the ‘maximum’ amount of sunshine in Cascais, Portugal, one resorts to this bathing suit style!


How to ‘Co-Host’ a dinner party with a Random Stranger, who then becomes a friend –  Thomas Obrador

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Thomas, was our Host that we signed up with on Eat With. Here’s his link: https://www.eatwith.com/profile/6467/

For anyone who’s done it – you already know what I am talking about.  For those you have not – it’s a wonderful way to meet people and eat in a local’s home.  (confession – although I was a paid guest at Thomas’ dinner party, my skills at conversation allowed him to cook in the kitchen and wonder what he was missing at the table – aka my co-hosting skills) . Here are moments of our dinner with a group of people we had just met at 8 pm one night in Paris!

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The huge moment when you realise that your little girl is growing up to be a beautiful young woman

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When someone else’s moment becomes your moment – we shared a 90th Birthday in Somerton, England.

We were thrust into heading back to England an extra long weekend and thus we planned a dinner out.  We were staying in a wonderful Inn and met a very eccentric man, Andy. Turns out he was in Somerton to celebrate his Mother’s 90th birthday.  Low and behold the restaurant people at The White Hart put us at the only small table for two, in the same dining area as his Mother, Barbara Olley.  We sang “Happy Birthday” and watched her blow out her candles.  Barbara and her son Andy became our moment, during their moment.

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Happy Birthday Barbara Olley!

Happy Birthday Barbara Olley!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

” Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.” – Regina Brett


 

 

 

Lisbon – October 5th – who knew what this was about?  We left to wander about Lisbon to do what we do best “when doing nothing becomes doing something”.  Around a corner we go and voila – a marching band:

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Turns out it was Dia da Republica – the day when Portugal celebrates the founding of their Republic in 1910.


Cabo da Roca wasn’t on ‘the list’ of places to go but go we did anyway, in style, Dave on the back of an old motorbike and me in the sidecar.

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Cabo da Roca (Western most point Europe)

Cabo da Roca (Western most point Europe)

 


 El Rinćon de Jaén, in Madrid has yummy yummy food with a wonderful staff serving people.  After graciously taking a picture of Dave and myself with Federico, Daniel & Anna Cavestany – it was their turn to ham it up for me.  I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful this place is to eat and the bonus – people working together who like each other!

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http://www.elrincondejaen.es


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This was THE only Thing (One) I liked about a road random stop at Burger King in Poland!

Live, Learn, Evolve and You Should Laugh (“Saying Yes Part 2”) – Madrid

<disclaimer this isn’t for anyone who is easily offended, is too religious, doesn’t like sarcasm and most importantly, lives their life on the politically correct spectrum>

 

As part 2 continues, Dave and I headed off with Federico to his home of Madrid. Yes, he now lives in Australian but his blood flows Spanish.   Our adventure began with the “yes we’ll go with you to Madrid and stay at your Mom’s place” after sharing Lisbon.

Madrid, a city that loves itself and its people; I mean, who else creates a football club and calls it “Real Madrid” – as in not imitation or artificial, but genuine!  When you walk through this Capital of Spain, you have to agree.  It’s real.  There are beautiful buildings, people and food!

Having our very own local Madrid with us, Federico, we trekked off to explore his hometown.  Off to the Royal Palace….

Turns out the Spanish King does not reside in the Royal Palace in Madrid.  Darn!?!  Federico, being a true Madrileños, posed as Charles II – a wonderful Spanish King.  I think he’s now worthy to be on the invitation list to have dinner with the current King’s family!

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We really were wow’d  by the Royal Armoury in this palace.  It houses a fascinating collection truly worthy of Royalty.  Count on Dave to ensure we understood how German Armour differs from the Italian made as he commented that much like today and ‘cars’ – the German’s built function and the Italian’s build fashion (Mercedes versus Ferrari).

Here’s the example of German made:

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And of course the elegantly designed Italian:

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After our enjoyable day out it was time for food!  (Yes we try food from everywhere to answer a few relatives questions on that subject).   Eating in Spanish el fresco areas I must comment, For the Love of God (we were in Catholic Madrid) what’s the deal with cigars?  Although I cannot share the benefits of an ‘after dinner cigar’, these Spanish men did have the art of conversation and a digestive drink with their cigar.

(Note Federico – just because they give you free cigars at a wedding doesn’t mean you should smoke them!)

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Now onto the Spanish culture of collecting & The Imperio español – The Spanish Empire.

This country has a very impressive history of conquering and creating colonies in these new worlds included the countries as we now know them today: Boliva, Cuba, Netherlands, the Americas, Philippines, Peru, Mexico and Morocco to name but a few.

The Spanish Requirement of 1513 was a declaration by the Spanish monarchy.  It was written to declare Spain’s divinely right to take possession of the territories of the New World to “subjugate, exploit and when necessary to fight the native inhabitants. Those who resisted conquest were considered to harbour evil intention and thus the Spaniards considered those who resisted as defying God’s plan and use Catholic theology to justify their conquest.

OK,,, a bit of too much history perhaps for a blog BUT it will be explained in the next wee bit of dialogue on the Toledo Cathedral which took over 200 years to build and required several Spanish King’s wealth (aka conquering wealth) to do so. Toledo is beautiful.  Historically you are gobsmacked at the beauty of this walled city and it’s history.  THEN you do what every tourist does here – you go to the Cathedral.  Every single corner you go around, every nook and cranny, every ceiling, wall and floor has you astonished at the shear WEALTH it took to build this place.  Then you realise it’s in the “name of God” under the Spanish Requirement.  AND then you form your opinion (or not) based upon how you feel…

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WOW’d right?  Awestuck?  We were also and at some point equally balanced by the opposing feelings of shocked and dismayed at the level of wealth and power in one place all once again devoted to Christianity….

Then we moved on towards the last room – Pictures of all the Cardinals throughout the centuries that have been the head of Toledo Cathedral.  And here’s where some offensive (but by my point of view the laughter part) of our day here…..

Dave’s comment: “Nice pointy hats”

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“This guy didn’t get the pointy hat – he got the one out of the Christmas cracker”

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And here’s the most non-politically correct comment of the day, with special commentary going to Federico:

“This one looks like a paedophile”   img_1092

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We certainly laughed a lot and made the trip with Federico to a wonderful city he grew up in.  We filled our tummies and minds with this city!   Madrid is wonderful!

When you say “YES” – Part One – Lisbon

We are in Lisbon for only a mere 4 full days because of wonderful invitation to stay with our friend Federico as he was here for work. Living with our motto “yes people” when he invited, we of course said “YES please” and so here we are.

We dragged Federico along (by dragging, I mean he tied up his shoes and was the first out the door) for our first day of ‘doing nothing and something’.  Here’s our first day in Lisbon in pictures via the English word: selfies!

The BEST thing about Lisbon is hands down the Portuguese people!  We honestly face little language barrier and when we did, it was best handled in a very Portuguese way, as we discovered in Azeitão:  We walked into the winery, José Maria Da Fonseca Vinhos and asked the woman where to eat.  She told us her favourite place, so off we went.  In the front of a small coffee shop, we explained we wanted lunch, then got directed through a small side door, out into a court yard filled with picnic tables, down into a small open door inside and told to sit down at a communal table with 10 men enjoying wine and lunch (probably in that order).   When we didn’t know what they were offering, the man gently grabs my elbow, ushers me back outside to the grill and said ‘what you want, show’.  Now that’s how lunch is served to non-locals and the language barrier solved!  By the way, it was THE best salmon – yes my fellow Vancouverites – cooked so well, it was like heaven.

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Since the bus / trams / train system has not been our best experience… we said “let’s rent a scooter” and off we went for 35 Euro.  It certainly helps that we have been enjoying 26-30 degree sunny weather every day and Dave rides a GS1200 Motorbike although not the same bike, it was a fun experience:

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What we have also experienced, beyond the people and the weather, in no particular order is:

  • Survival of the Mom and Pop Restaurants. Even in expensive downtown real estate, streets are lined with family-owned shops and restaurants open for generations and we have enjoyed a couple of meals in these!
  • PONTE 25 DE APRIL – the Portuguese beat the Chinese on knock-offs because they have done a great job on this bridge!  Cars on the top – trains on the bottom!
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  • In fairness they did a pretty good job of knocking off “Brazil’ also with Cristo-Rei

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  • Although it wasn’t on the list, we added it when we were in the neighbourhood – Cabo da Roca – the western most point on the Continent of Europe.  Bonus, we enjoyed the sunset and the feeling once again, of why water matters to us and our need to be near it

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  • OCTOBER!!!?? and this:

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  • BIKE PATH TO BELEM @ 7 kilometres along the water, past restaurants, men fishing, people walking and museums.  Of course there’s also the ‘e-bike’ that Federico rode so he had bragging rights all day ahead of the two Grant straggling behind!

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What we didn’t do:

  • FADO MUSIC – all the reviews have good music, shitty food and I didn’t have time for shitty food despite wanting good music
  • VINHO VERDE – there is NO excuse for this, save for the fact there was Dao, Douro, Tejo and Península de Setúbal
  • SINTRA TRAIN RIDE – because public transportation in this city SUCKS and we refused to line up for close to an hour to buy the ticket
  • PASTEIS DE NATA PASTRIES: These pastries are a Portuguese institution, they are custard filled pastries, with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top (I think we drank our calories here anyway so OK to have missed this)
  • SANTA JUSTA ELEVATOR – give us credit… on our doing nothing and something day, we 3 walked past this huge line of people lined up in a LONG line in front of a square small elevator building and thought “WTF are they lined up for”… turns out it was this!

Lisbon… you merely gave us a sampling… see you again in March 2017! With love from 2-Grants & 1-Cavestany

There IS but one Paris!

15 FULL DAYS HERE

What an adventure to be in Paris in September….

There really IS but 1 Paris.  People spend a life time (I have read) yearning to come to this amazing city.   One part of me understands it and the other thinks “really?”.   It’s a city that has finally grown on me.   I did not have an instant feeling of love like so many others.  Instead, it had to work its way into my person.

People in Paris smoke a lot – I mean A LOT!   Sitting enjoying the gardens of Versailles tried my patience sharing a bench with two very beautiful young women.   They ate lunch, we sat in the sun enjoying the garden, then they light up.  In the span of 20 minutes they each had smoked 3 cigarettes and were lighting a 4th when I couldn’t control myself and looked at them and said “really?? If I wanted to smoke, I would have lit one up myself!”   In the way that ONLY Parisian woman can be – they each looked over at me, clicked their tongues and smoked away.  Dave and I did take a moment out with no smokers to enjoy the sunshine on a bench at Versailles with no smokers:

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Transportation is a charm!  Bus # 68 runs right past all the major sites like the Opera, The Louvre, Museum D’Orsay, and Notre Dame.  Plus you only pay 1.85 for the pleasure of riding with locals who see these amazing monuments all the time.  (NOTE the Big Bus Company lets you hop on and off sure but your day ticket is just shy of 30 Euros.  You can ride multitude of buses here for that for an entire week.)  All that is required is a sense of adventure and to sit back and enjoy the ride.

It’s a huge city!  Which of course means that people die there. Which means a huge cemetery.  I mean we love cemeteries. Which is perhaps odd for some people and no, it’s not because I also like to read crime novels.  Rather they are often big open green spaces and have open art displays.  Have you ever seen such luxurious family crypts such as this:

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Epernay!  Well yum yum!  That means a train direct from Gare de l’Est to this wonderful town.  That means CHAMPAGNE! Oh the delicate little bubbles floating their way to the top of a delicate fluted glass.  The smell of fresh fruit in one glass.  How wonderful it is to drink and even better when you are riding an electric bike through the hills!  One wee push of a button and in kicks the electric assist and you are off flying up the hill or down a bike path running along a canal.   Most people know I’m not a ‘biker’ chick in any sense of the idea.  However, an e-bike – that I could get into.  Dave and I took a tour with http://www.bikeabouttours.com/_2015/biketour_champagne.htm    We were met at the train station by a knowledgeable about Champagne man, Paul.  He was from Vancouver Canada and his English was impecable of course and 25 years of living in Paris ensured his French was on point also!  I highly recommend this trip to anyone – it’s a splurge at 150 Euro per person but an entire day in the French countryside with Champagne as the drink of the day….

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Shoes!  Yes everyone knows I love them – boots also!  However, in the city of Paris, you need a really good pair on your feet because you walk and walk and walk.  We learned the art of doing nothing and something all at the same time.  You can walk to see the Arc de Triomphe, past the Louvre, through the Luxembourg gardens and the Eiffel Tower.  What we loved most was the lesser known and more intimate Le Promenade plantée. The Promenade Plantée is built on the former tracks of the Vincennes railway line. Paris’ 4.7 kilometres (2.9 mi) parkway was the only elevated park in the world for quite a few years but other cities like New York, Chicago and now Vancouver are following suit.  I think it’s a wonderful way to transform an old rail line in a city:

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Paris… they say the city of lights… but for us… we tried to live and see the city from the ground in ways of not always being a ‘tourist’.  AND we got our Long Stay Tourist Visa completed which means – hello EUROPE!


					

You Wake Up And Realise There’s Only Room Left For

EXPERIENCES

That pretty much sums it up for us.

Dave and I are in Paris.  It’s our 2 1/2 week stay here and although we are here to complete our French Visa,,, we are here each with only one bag each and a back pack.  That means there REALLY is no room for anything beyond experiences.

Is there a ‘difference’ in this travelling than all others before it?

I mean there are similarities in that we walk up, have coffee, breakfast, shower and go out to visit somewhere.  We shop for food or eat out depending upon where that somewhere is.  We then visit somewhere else or go out to eat dinner or make dinner . That sounds like most of our other trips before this.

What is different is that we make more of an effort to ‘go out’ or to ‘visit somewhere’ or to ‘shop for food’ or to ‘eat out’.   The going out is in a neighbourhood that we are unfamiliar with in a city we are unfamiliar with.   The somewhere needs to be discovered either from research on line or word of mouth from someone we met.  The city is chosen by us as a new place to discover.  We have no children with us and are empty nesting this experience.   We are not going home to our own bed for quite sometime.   I have to really think about what I buy.  The new boots I got simply replaced those worn out and hurting my feet. There are no souvenirs from this city or any others to be put into the suitcase and lugged home.  Home is 9 months away from now.

As for Paris Experience – I am glad that we landed in here.   Honestly, I admit I have not been ‘enamoured’ in the way so many people are when they think of Paris.  It was a necessary place for us because we had to get a Long Stay tourist Visa.   We had a place to do it in Vancouver with the French Consulate and we have a very generous friend, who’s place we could stay at in Paris. I am happy all roads led here.

I have learned that I can speak French.  I am being pushed outside of my comfortable self to do so with locals and the reception has been wonderful.  I am here to dispel the conception that the French are rude – au contraire!  We order things and talk with locals as we are squished right up next to them at tiny tables in restaurants or standing in markets eating such amazing food.  

It has given me perspective on the immigrants and asylum seekers in Europe.  Watching men stand in line to find a place to fit in.  Not a clue what their reason is for wanting to be in France be it for economic or social reasons.  I could feel the difference in processing mine and Dave’s paperwork at the Immigration office versus when the next asylum seeker was called to the desk or a room for interview.  I was glad I was Canadian.

I know that I love to cook as much as or perhaps more than eating out.  Standing at this market – I had a sense of irritation that I was unable to buy food to bring back to cook.  (The upside is that we are here staying for free, the downside is the kitchen only has a toaster, kettle, coffee maker and microwave and unlike a few relatives I have who know how to cook in a microwave, I’m not one of them??!)

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<we ate paella and chicken for dinner at apartment as it was already cooked for us>

This journey is about moving forward.  We are easing into a transition of empty nesters with both our children living in their own places.

We are being educated in economy, politics, history, geography and sociality!

AND travelling is giving us cool stories to share with you – our friends, family and reader!

 

 

 

Visa “APPROVED”… but really, What does that mean??

Lara is officially in the UK.  She does not start school until the 20th of September and has been transported to our friend’s house in London for an extended stay in UK (more on that later).  When she chose to go to school in England we (not Lara, not Dave and not certainly Ms. Family trip planner) could have imagined the challenges that she would face when choosing a foreign country for said school.

Lucky for her, Dave’s father was born in England.  With his official birth certificate she was able to apply for a UK Ancestry Visa which will allow her to stay in England for up to 5 years.  There is no restriction on this, such that the Tier 4 Student Visa would have.  She applied from Vancouver.  Had her passport shipped to New York.  A Visa was put in that states such and voila done and dusted!

NO WAY CANADIAN – BACK UP A BIT – LARA NEEDS A BRP CARD!

WHAT?

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Now look here,,, don’t ever get too excited at any point when you get a VISA approved and put into your passport.  That’s just the immigration office outside of that country fucking with you!  What they fail to tell you is this “Congratulations, you have just jumped through the first hoop.  Now if you are a good little doggie, we’ll hold out a ring that’s a wee bit higher and give you a treat (perhaps) if you jump through that next hoop!”

AND that leads us to the BRP card.  Simple right?  It’s a Biometric Residency Card that will ensure that Lara travels and stays in England freely during the entire “APPROVED” 5 year Visa.  This was given the green light in Vancouver & New York as finger prints were done, RCMP clearance check done and all that needed to happen was rely on the UK government, “Home Office” as they like to call themselves, print the card, use the Royal mail (ahem – another government service) and to send it to the pre-approved post office location.

<insert here, Lara standing in line at least 5 times and calling the post office daily for over 2 weeks to locate BRP card>

Nada, Nada, Not

Now we come back to Lara’s extended stay in UK and not travelling with us to experience Paris for a week.  When, as a family, we landed back in England to buy sheets, towels, bedding and leave at the school a week prior to her starting; immigration had a lovely recommendation that went something like this:  “Welcome back Lara.  I see your Visa has a stamp that says it’s good until the 18th of September.  Do you have a BRP card?”  When the answer was “no”.  Their next response was, “Well, I guess you’ll be staying in England and not travelling out until you get the card then?”  And I add again:

WHAT?

 

stunned

 

Which brings me back to the fact that Lara is now having an extended stay in London with our kind and gracious friends – Noyan and Fernur whilst Dave and I have stuck to for VISA reasons, travelling to Paris.

YEP you read that right… VISAS!

Day One of Janine & Dave’s Visa process for “Long Stay Tourist Visa for Schengen Zone”.  We took a chapter out of “UK Visa 101”.  We got up early, got our butts to the OFII office in the 11th arrondissement, passed the people standing waiting in the very long “asylum seekers” line, to personally hand over documents for the Step Two process Visa issued by France.

So far… we have a date for our medical exam (that’s a requirement we were aware of) and to re-produce all the documents that we already handed the French Consulate in Vancouver!  Oh the redundancy of that… but that I shall leave for another blog (or not).

 

 

 

 

When Was the Last Time You Did Something For the First Time?

Thing Two – Lara Grant – This will change your life

Here’s the amazing university you shall call home for the next 3 years – Keele University

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I guess if the degree in Physiotherapy doesn’t work you, you could always go for a Major in Magic.

 (I do know that by default Magic will simply happen anyway!)

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You will learn Art of course – starting with the Art of Negotiation (4 young women sharing this toilet/bathroom space – need I say more?)

img_0164 img_0165AND I ask you – who exactly will replace the empty Toilet paper roll?

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You will appreciate MATH when you read “2 for 1” and find this fits your budget perfectly and when it proves that you cannot afford a CAT!

You will learn that some people are put on this earth to test your Anger Management skills.

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You will sometimes find yourself in a tight squeeze – which is exactly what will be needed to fit your CLOTHES into this closet space!

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You will remember your Mother saying that your kitchen will ONLY ever be this clean once and that’s the day you move in!

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AND ALWAYS REMEMBER

** You are braver than you believe **

** Stronger than you seem **

** Smarter than you think **

And Loved More Than You Know

5 months old AND 1 week for me

Robert’s 5 months old and this is a blog post to him…..

You laugh because you are simply a happy baby.

You smile these huge smiles when you see your beautiful Mother walk into the room.

You smell sweet from the bath.

You make your talking babbling noises and everyone talks back to you.

You make all five of your Grants stop and just watch you simply “because”.

You have fluffy hair that blows in the summer breeze.

You smile in your sleep.

Your toothless grin is infectious.

You wriggle your toes often.

You are drooling as you are almost ready to pop your first tooth.

You love your sou-soou (soother).

You dislike riding in the car unless it’s moving.

AND….

Your Granny Babs has fallen in love with you!

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A Wee Card with A Wee Flag

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And that’s all it takes to be welcomed to the most amazing properties here in England.

We are members of the National Trust for Canada.  We signed up for this membership in Canada based upon a recommendation 3 years ago by a lovely volunteer working at one of the National Trust properties here in Somerset.  Annual Canadian price for 5 Grants $70. (Annual price here in England for same is £120 which converts to approximately $200 Cdn). This is the BEST bargain if you are visiting England for even one week as you are allowed FREE entrance with this membership to ALL National Trust properties in England – here’s a listing:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_National_Trust_properties_in_England

The Canadian National Trust has a limited number of properties and perhaps this is the reason for the price difference.  Either way – it’s a great deal.  We 3-Grants have enjoyed historic castles, abbey’s, museums and stately homes all around this country.

Here’s the one thing you are NOT told about having this membership:

 There’s a wee Canadian Flag on the card!

Why is that awesome?

Each and every National Trust property has a “Volunteer Greeter” at the door.  As we pull out our wee membership card the first thing that occurs is that we are escorted over to a private area near the ‘entrance’ of the grand property we are wanting to enter. Usually a 2nd Volunteer comes over and our cards are examined a bit more closely.  See, here in England they are given National Trust membership cards that resemble an ‘exclusive’ credit card with a barcode that is inserted into a machine and/or scanned.  Not us, our membership is on simple card stock, run through a laser printer somewhere in an office in Ottawa, with only our name on it.

What happens next is always wonderful as we hear “Canada that’s a long way from here!?” and typically the volunteer breaks into a HUGE grin and then relates some sort of personal story about Canada.  We have heard about a daughter that lived in Abbotsford for a while;  a husband’s best mate who was the head master at Shawnigan Lake school; how amazing Expo ’67 in Montreal was.   After the story, we are then escorted personally by said volunteer, or two, in to the property.   We are often handed to the next volunteer sitting in the first room, who’s job is to provide a wealth of information on the room we stepped into.  We are greeted and asked if it’s our first time and the volunteer launches into shared stories about the room, the property or once again, their experience with Canada.

Canada is a great place to be from.  England is an amazing place to visit.

<To the National Trust of Canada – don’t change a thing – the card is beautiful in its simplicity!>