Sunday, March 27, 2011

Our Journey Concludes - The Final Post

On April 29, 2009, Brian and I boarded a plane destined for the UK.  We moved to Bury St. Edmunds, a town similar in population to Winter Garden, where we live in Florida.  However, the similarities between the two stopped there.  Moving to the UK was definitely a culture shock because neither of us had ever lived outside of Florida.  We had to learn British words like "rubbish" and "Hiya" plus we had to adapt to a whole new lifestyle and learn how to live in a place with four seasons.  We embraced all of the change though and really tried to live like the locals in the two years we lived overseas.

We loved everything about living in the UK, and it will forever be remembered as one of our favorite adventures.  We were able to experience and live in a whole new culture, plus we traveled throughout Europe more easily than we ever could have from Florida (thank you RyanAir and EasyJet for the cheap plane tickets)!  We went to countries we never thought we would see, such as Croatia and Bulgaria.  We traveled with friends as they experienced Europe for the first time.  Brian the engineer actually calculated statistics from our trips over the last two years.  During that time, we did the following:
  • Visited 23 European countries
  • Stayed in 63 European cities
  • Spent 158 nights in 78 hotel/B-and-B accomodations throughout Europe
  • Flew 62 flight segments covering 73,034 flight miles (and yet, I am still scared of flying!)
  • Flew in/out of 33 European airports
  • Went through Immigration aka "UK Border Force" at London Stansted Airport 18 times
Overall, the past two years have been a dream that was a gift to us.  We cherished every minute of the adventure and came out of it with an even deeper appreciation for traveling and being a part of other cultures.  We're not sure what life has in store for us in the future, but for now, it has brought us back to Winter Garden, where we are excited to be spending time with our friends and family again.  It's nice to be back to Florida sunshine, Gator football, and favorite food places like Chipotle and Seito Sushi. 

We hope you have enjoyed reading our blog and following our adventures traveling and living overseas.  This is the end of this adventure, but the beginning of many others, I'm sure.  Cheers from the now re-patriotized Gator Americans who have crossed the pond back to Florida!

Our happy family in the UK

Monday, March 21, 2011

What We'll Miss the Most and Least About Living in the UK

As our journey came to an end, we started thinking about the things we'll miss the most about living in the UK and the things we'll miss the least.  Here are those lists.  =)

Things We'll Miss the Most
  • Traveling Throughout Europe - We were so blessed to live near London Stanstead Airport and be able to buy cheap airline tickets on RyanAir or EasyJet to take amazing vacations throughout Europe.  It's sad to think that Italy and Germany will no longer be only a couple of hours away!
  • Walking Into Town - In Bury St. Edmunds, Brian and I lived in a house only a 5-minute walk from the town center.  We loved being able to walk into town during the day to go to the market or run errands and be able to walk in together at night for dinner.  In Orlando, everything is a drive away, so we will have to get our walking in some other way!
  • Changing Seasons - As two Florida babies, we had never lived anywhere with four seasons before living in the UK.  Although we won't miss the months-long winters, we will miss seeing flowers bloom in the Spring and leaves fall on the ground in the Fall.
  • Nutritional Information  - It was so easy grocery shopping in the UK because all food products have this great stoplight on them that gives a red, yellow, or green light on five nutritional factors so you know right away if the product is healthy for you or not.  We hate having to read the nutritonal details on things now to  try to figure out what is good or bad.
  • Apache Helicopters - Brian worked on a UK military base on the Apache helicopter and was able to see them flying every day.  I saw them frequently too when I had lunch with him or when one landed in the town center for Prince Charles' visit last year.  You just don't see those flying over Central Florida!
  • Indian Food - It's not called England's national dish for nothing; we've eaten some delicious Indian food while in the UK and we will definitely miss our favorite little restaurant Orissa in Bury St. Edmunds.
  • British Ales and Cyder - British Ales are very different than American beers.  They are traditionally served at or just below room temperature, and they have a much richer flavor.  We were lucky because Greene King Brewery, a huge brewer that actually exports to the U.S., was located in Bury St. Edmunds.  Although I'm not an ale fan, I did get into English cyders that taste more like a sparkling apple drink.  We're going to miss heading down to our favorite pub for a pint!
  • Charity Shops - Charity shops are a huge deal in England.  Basically, they are high-end thrift stores that have prominent real estate on all the towns' High Streets.  It was so much fun to pop into them regularly to see what deals we could find.  My favorite sections were always the books because I could buy tons of books at very low cost. 
Things We'll Miss the Least
  • Being Away from Friends and Family - Brian and I are very close to our friends and family, and it has been hard being a 9-hour flight away from them.  We were lucky that so many of them were able to come out and visit, but we're looking forward to being able to get together for dinners and Gator games more often now!
  • Our Teeny Tiny Washer/Steamer - Everyone knows I called this appliance my nemesis, and during the last six weeks, Brian had to completely take over doing our laundry because I officially rebelled against using this horrible machine.  It'll be great to have fluffy, dry clothes again! 
  • Rainy Days - We handled the winter and snow pretty well, but neither of us ever got used to going so long without sunshine.  It became a running joke that we were becoming allergic to the sun because we didn't see it often enough!  We're both the palest we have ever been, and although we don't support big-time tanning, we are looking forward to getting a bit of sun on us again.
  • No Storage Space - In our home in the UK, we didn't have closests or any real storage space.  Our cabinets were tiny, and our fridge and freezer were smaller than the ones we had in our dorms in college.  It'll be nice to be able to buy in bulk again so we don't have to go grocery shopping as often!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Photo Blog Series: Where in the World are Brian and Jacqueline?

As we started traveling to more and more countries, we made it a goal to get a good postcard shot in each country so we had a nice collection at the end.  Here is the result, with photos for 23 countries we have visited over the last 2 years.  Hope you like them!  =)

In front of the Tower Bridge (England)
A beautiful doorway in Tuscany (Italy)
Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle, aka "Cinderella's Castle" (Germany)
Exploring the countryside (Wales)
Skiing for the first time!  (Bulgaria)
Overlooking the city from Prague Castle (Czech Republic)
Overlooking the coastline in Nice (France)
A beautiful day in Copenhagen (Denmark)
The Vatican at night (Vatican City)
The vineyard owned by Brian's family - P.S.: Their wine was amazing! (Croatia)
Hiking along the Algarve Coast (Portugal)
Exploring the Irish countryside (Ireland)
A VERY cold day in Bruges (Belgium)
In front of the Monte Carlo casino (Monaco)
Overlooking Salzburg from Hohensalzburg Fortress (Austria)
I got sick, so this was one of only 2 countries we didn't actually get a picture together in. 
Luckily, Brian is good with Photoshop!  =)  (Luxembourg)
One of the many canals in Amsterdam (Netherlands)
In beautiful Lucerne, a typical Swiss city (Switzerland)
Very cold, but still a beautiful day in Oslo (Norway)
In front of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (Spain)
Some more help from Photoshop!  On the train to Croatia (Slovenia)
Exploring Edinburgh Castle (Scotland)
Dinner at the airport (Slovakia)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Photo Blog Series: Statue Poses

Today's blog is designed to make you laugh.  =)  We started doing these statue poses when we saw all of the beautiful statues throughout Norway.  I'm not sure why, but it became a fun tradition for the rest of our travels.  Hope you enjoy the photos!

"Ice skating" in a beautiful park (Oslo, Norway)
These bears are all around Berlin!  (Berlin, Germany)
Deep in thought...  (Mittenwald, Germany)
Trying on clothes with Henry VIII and his wives  =)  (Cotswolds, England)
Being a lady at Warwick Castle- in my Skechers of course!  (Warwick, England)
Relaxing with a fake mug of beer  (Bad Kreuznach, Germany)
At a local optician - in honor of my dad, who is an optometrist (Faro, Portugal)
Hanging out with Olympic Mascot at the Olympic Museum (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
Skiing with Santa at a Christmas market (London, England)
Prim and proper in Scotland (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Another beautiful statue in a park (Oslo, Norway)
I was going to sit on Brian's shoulders for this one, but we thought that
might not be a good idea...  (Prague, Czech Republic)
Meeting Henry VIII again at Portland Castle (Portland, England)
Becoming a human wind turbine (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Not technically a statue, but it works...  =)  (Pisa, Italy)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Photo Blog Series: Visitors

Over the last 2 years, Brian and I have been so blessed to have family and friends come over to visit (some even came a few times!).  It was amazing to build memories in Europe with everyone, and it was extra special to be a part of some of their first trips ever to Europe.  This blog is dedicated to our visitors - thank you all for coming over and traveling with us!

Visiting Stonehenge with Jamie, Emily, Kristine, David, and Jon (England)
Overlooking the Houses of Parliament with Chris, Trisha, and John (London, England)
Wine tasting with Brian's sister Crystal (Tuscany, Italy)
With my dad, brother, and sister-in-law on Mount Titlis (Switzerland)
With my cousin Katherine overlooking the Tower Bridge (London, England)
With Kelleigh in the Rhine region of Germany (Rudesheim, Germany)

Visiting the Monte Carlo with Kim (Monaco)
With Emily and Jon touring the Romantic Road and visiting German Christmas Markets (Germany)
Catching up with my Uncle Ed at the Tower of London (London, England)
Overlooking the Charles Bridge with Cassandra (Prague, Czech Republic)

With Curt and Elly on a beautiful day in England (Lavenham, England)
A bit of work and play with Brian's colleagues Darrell, Heather, and Jeremy (Yeovil, England)
With my dad overlooking the Matterhorn (Switzerland)
Another great visit with Chris  (Cardiff, Wales)
Visiting Katherine of Aragon's grave at Peterborough Cathedral with Sneha (Peterborough, England)