Travelling as a family during the Covid-19 pandemic

This past week (the last week of October) was Sophie’s half-term break; this is usually a great time to travel. This time last year, we went to Paris. This year, due to the pandemic and travel restrictions, we were limited to staying within the UK. Not just the UK, but only had only parts of England and Scotland available to visit; as Wales, Northern Ireland, and even parts of England were under lockdown.

We ended up choosing south-eastern England. Kent, specifically, but also the site of the Battle of Hastings, which is technically in Sussex. I have some photos of the trip to share, but not a tonne. It was a short trip, and very rainy (England at the end of October- what can you do). I’ve decided instead of making this a purely ‘Kent’ blog post, I’ll share some tips on how to safely travel during the pandemic. (I’ll also share some photos along the way – but you can always check out my Instagram stories with the best pictures saved).

We’re all weary of staying home and you may be looking for a safe way to get out and see something beyond your own four walls. Now in England we have no choice but to stay home; but if you’re not under a legally-imposed lockdown, here are my tips that have so-far proved successful.

We chose our destination only about a week before we left. We needed to be flexible and base our decision on the most up-to-date coronavirus data and government guidelines. We had a few locations we’d like to go to in mind, and of all the places we’d like to visit, Kent area consistently was keeping low infection numbers (compared to the rest of the country).

From the BBC updated 31 October 2020
(these numbers are ‘per 100 000 people’, not total cases)



When you want to visit any tourist attraction now, you *must* book ahead. For both free or paid attractions, you need to visit their websites and book a time slot in which you can visit. Some places take these time slots somewhat loosely (and let you in 15 minutes early or late) and some are very strict and insist you get in exactly at your allotted time. Either way, the timed entries help to control the flow of people through the location and means that we don’t feel we’re among any crowds. It really aids social distancing and we haven’t had any issues through our Scotland trip or here in Kent with these processes.

Our stack of pre-booked tickets for various attractions



As soon as we knew we where we were going and when, we booked the must-see attractions. Especially during a school break, you need to make sure to pre-book well in advance. Every single attraction we visited had a sign out front saying ‘Sold out today’. We looked into getting next-day tickets for one or two castles that were nearby and they were all sold-out.

Sophie in the rain at Battle Abbey – an English Heritage site.



So here’s my biggest tip when trying to travel safely during the pandemic: Try to be as self-sufficient as possible. That is what makes us feel safe, at least. Use your own car to get where you’re going, bring your own food, and stay in a self-catering apartment.

We invested in a very nice AirBnB and although they followed all Covid-19 cleaning protocols and social distancing/no host check-in, the first thing I did when we got in, before touching anything, was to wipe down everything with Dettol (Lysol) wipes. Everything that we touch. Eric unloads the car to the front door while Sophie and I go around and wipe every single light switch, door knob, water tap, remote control, table surface, button, etc. Any touch surface gets disinfected, and we make this house into “our bubble”, so that we can feel safe and confident here for the next three days.

Another way of being self-sufficient took a lot of planning, but we brought all of our meals and food with us. Going to restaurants 3x a day is just exposing yourself to risk 3x a day, all over the Kent countryside (even if it is the lowest virus numbers in the country). Instead, I planned out and brought enough food for breakfasts and lunches to pack (sandwiches), and I pre-made and froze casseroles for dinners (along with some easy things like frozen pizzas). I do all the food shopping at home and bring it with us because I don’t want to be searching around a new and unfamiliar grocery store in hopes of getting everything I want. Now isn’t the time to be going store to store to pick everything up; in fact, it’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid!

A big frozen tray of enchiladas ready to head into the oven. An added bonus of frozen meals like these are they act like a giant block of ice in the cooler.
A big packed lunch we ate in the car because it was raining.
This is how we travel. Two of our suitcases/bags are in the backseat too, because we only have 1 kid back there. Our trunk looked like this (but even tighter) our whole 10 days in Scotland – and the cooler stayed cool the whole time too!



I know that a lot of the enjoyment of travelling is eating out, enjoying the local food, not having to cook – and I do greatly miss that. But it’s just something that I have to give up in order to be able to travel at all and still feel safe and secure. We can’t have it all, right now.

We’re also careful about the activities we plan. We decided on booking Battle Abbey because it was all outside, that was easy. We also decided on Dover Castle and Canterbury Cathedral because they’re huge old stone buildings with very high ceilings and lots of room for air flow and social distancing. Combine the great space with the timed entries, and we always had a tonne of room to enjoy ourselves and still explore some history. Our last booking was a private river boat tour in Canterbury. These are usually 10+ people per boat, but with Covid restrictions, they were limiting all tours to one household per boat, but still charging the same amount. We thought this was a great deal for essentially a private boat tour! However, it rained so much in the week that the river was too high for the boats. Our tour was cancelled twice and we eventually decided to take their option of a walking tour. Due to my MS, I’m not at all that good on walking tours. I made it more than 2/3 of that way though, then I insisted they leave me in the town square in front of the cathedral while they finished the last 20 minutes. We still saw a lot and learned a lot about this adorable town, and felt very safe doing it outside with a tour guide who was wearing a face mask the whole time.

Canterbury
The white cliffs of Dover- this morning may have (luckily) been the best few hours of weather we had all week and I think was one of my highlights. Definitely a good social distancing activity.

Above, you see us ticking an English bucket list item off—– eating a sandwich in Sandwich. We’ve been wanting to do this since we moved to England! But now it’s a pandemic!!! We went to this adorable little village and there really were places to get some mouth-watering sandwiches, we’d really love to buy it there and support them and felt like cads that we didn’t. But we had to stick to our guns and avoid all places, and we just ate the turkey sandwich we packed that morning.

We clean our cloth masks daily. I brought my handy salad spinner with us. One full kettle of boiling water and some dish soap or hand soap and they’re clean in 30 mins (I usually let it sit for 20 minutes, then do a few rinse cycles). Then they dry overnight. We each go through a few masks a day when travelling.



Lastly, I’ll come to what I considered the biggest risk factor of the whole trip. It’s unavoidable: rest stops. I worried about them before we left but I knew there wasn’t too much we could do about avoiding it.
When we have to stop, I aim to wear masks, use a whole tonne of hand sanitiser everywhere, avoid people everywhere I can, and be quick. Get in, pee, and get out. We don’t hang about and we don’t order food or wait in line. And when I say use a tonne of sanitiser, I mean it- use it when we walk in the building, use it when we exit the bathroom (even though we also just washed our hands, sanitise too!), use it when we exit the building, and then use it again when we get into the car and take off our masks.
Most (2/3) of the service centres were pretty good but one was just so busy and no one was following the rules, it made us all anxious and stressed. When I left it, I said ‘That right there gives me no faith in people and this is why we’ll need a national lockdown….’ and the very next day the PM announced one.

So now this is all a bit moot. We (in England) are on national lockdown for the next month and there won’t be any travelling whatsoever. But maybe you’ll be trying to go somewhere at Christmastime, or maybe you just aren’t in England! Sure, none of us can do any big, elaborate, fancy international travel right now (don’t. even. get. me. started…) but if you’re in a safe location and you’re really feeling cabin fever, it can’t hurt too much to get out and go a couple hours down the road, explore something ‘nearby’ that you just have never been to, and maybe always meant to go to.
Book a nice holiday cottage/AirBnB, buy some food at your local home grocery store where you feel safe and make sure you’ve got enough with you, fuel up the car, and hit the road for a few days. Even if you hit horrendous weather like we did for 4 straight days, you’ll end up feeling refreshed just having got out of the house and around new scenery.

(Also, I’m going to point out that I know we won’t get Covid just from going to restaurants or to grocery stores in another city, etc. All I’m trying to say is that our travelling inherently means we’re going out and seeing more people and doing way more things than we usually do. Way more. Just by travelling, we are adopting some risk that we wouldn’t have if we just stayed home. So we try to mitigate that risk with the above measures. If this isn’t for you, or you protect your family another way, that’s cool. Don’t come @ me. All I’m trying to do is give a few tips to someone who is feeling a little lost and not sure where to start.)

Keep safe, everyone.
Xx

Dover Castle

Lockdown in the UK

Well it’s been a pause since I’ve last written – we sure haven’t had any travel whatsoever to comment on or share. We, along with the rest of the world, have been staying home, isolating, and trying to keep this pandemic from running wildly out of control. Eric fortunately can work rather well and in the little office ‘cabin’ that we have in our back garden. He goes out there for a few hours every day and doesn’t bother us, and we don’t bother him.

Sophie has been doing school work from home since March without much issue. She does about an hour a day each morning and then is done. They aren’t sending much more than a little maths and English. Then she spends the rest of her day helping me – cooking and cleaning; sitting on her phone or the laptop; and doing a ridiculous amount of gymnastics. In the last few weeks as the weather has got really nice, she’s been going to the park at the end of the street with the twin girls next door. They can all stay socially distanced, but have fun doing gymnast tricks and flips together.

Sophie goes back to school the week of June 8. It’s only her year that is returning to her school (they’re the oldest class in the school) and while we know there is, of course, a risk – we weighed out the risks vs benefits, read the 25-page risk-assessment plan the school wrote, and decided that it would be okay for her to return to see her friends before they finish and leave this school for good. Of course, their big year-6 residential trip (5 days away at a holiday camp in the countryside) was cancelled and the kids are just devastated. She will only be going a total of 10 days before the year is up – – then we’ll see how the secondary school is planning to start things in September.

As part of her life lessons, she learned how to climb a tree (for the very physically awkward kid, this really was a feat!)

Sophie’s BGs have overall been okay. I’ve read about everyone from kids to adult T1Ds having to adjust their insulin doses during lockdown due to different activity level, diet, and stress. Sophie is no different, we’ve certainly had to make changes to her doses; however, I’m not sure we’re making more changes than we usually do (with the amount of growing and hormonal changes she does, her insulin needs are ever-changing). We had her 3-monthly diabetes specialist appointment virtually in May and he was very pleased with the numbers he could see and what we were reporting to him.

I myself have been busy with more domestic jobs than I could have ever imagined I’d fit into this time. We have inherited an extensive flower garden and while I grew up with a green-thumb for a mother, I myself was never interested and never took to it. I also find it very physically difficult with my MS, because it’s so much low-back work (a lot of bending involved!) that I tire of it really quickly. Well, I’ve had nothing but good weather and time to try my hand at it this spring. My mother has been helping me virtually as well as my landlady answering questions via text message (as she’s the one who did all the original planting). I’ve made a lot of mistakes but learned a lot (especially in the rose-department. We have at least 8 small to HUGE, tree-sized rose buses/vines) and hope that I can continue this hobby with less mistakes; thus, optimising the amount of time I can physically put towards it before my body gives out. Anyway, we now have a really beautiful garden oasis to be able to sit in during this endless isolation.

Our back patio
Some of my roses

I’ve also been cooking – a lot. Sophie has been helping me and getting real-life lessons. One great part about being in the UK is we can get all of our groceries delivered – certainly a bit harder since lockdown started, but still manageable. Sophie has been a big help and hands-on: learning how to meal plan (come up with varied and healthy dinners, using up the leftovers and all the ingredients by the proper times, etc), helping form the online order (we’re only allowed to order 80 items so sometimes it’s a matter of buying in bulk, or learning what to go without, or getting things that do double-duty), and then she’s really been helping me a lot in the kitchen making dinners. In fact, most recently, she’s decided she wants to be a vegetarian; so she’s gone to all the work she needs to to find the recipes and learn how to alter them so she can have them without meat but Eric and I still can have it. (We’ll see how long that lasts, but so far it’s been a week and she’s completely happy without meat).
It also helps that grocery prices here haven’t seemed to skyrocket the way I’ve heard they have back in Canada. Groceries here have always been way cheaper than in Canada, but we haven’t noticed any increase in price since all this started. Meat is still stupidly cheap.
We’ve made some wonderful things in the kitchen: cookies of every imaginable variety (which we always share with our 93-year-old neighbour, Peter); bagels; cakes; many tempting roasts- I’ve perfected my roasties (roasted potatoes that the Brits love with their Sunday roasts – crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside); I make croutons about once a week with the butts of commercial bread (because we love croutons and the store-bought ones are no good here, mine are amazing); thick grilled steak with decadent toppings like mushrooms and caramelised onions or a blue cheese sauce; pretzels (recipe from my niece, Bella!); and Sophie and I even learned how to make pierogies that were to-die-for!



Now, we’re thinking ahead and hoping that the lockdown restrictions continue to lift (slowly, and responsibly) and that by early August, we’ll be able to take a roadtrip up to the Scottish Highlands and have a socially distanced vacation. We’ve booked a few AirBnB places that will ensure we won’t have to be close to anyone and can just enjoy the views of lochs, coos, mountains, and valleys. We also made sure that they had a full cancellation policy in effect until the end of July in case anything pops up and restrictions are set in place again. But, I haven’t left my block in more than 3 months and just having something like this to look forward to now is really helpful.


This whole pandemic has been awful. We really try not to focus on the things we’ve missed out on or lost during this time; the fact that this is supposed to be our golden opportunity to be living in Europe…. because too many people have lost so much more than just a trip. Trips can be rescheduled, and will be. We haven’t lost any money, which makes us so fortunate but most important of all, we haven’t lost any loved ones. That makes us the richest of all.

Now, the world is turning to another issue, the issue of racial injustice. Of course this must come with mass gatherings and protests. I know the time is now and this has to be done. I hope this is being done safely and nobody will pay the price for it later. Please be safe, everyone.





Please make sure to follow my instagram @highsandlowsabroad for more recent photos and content about us! I post there much more often than I do here!

Wells and Cheddar Gorge (and Covid-19)

We decided to go on a wee adventure today; before we’re entirely stuck in the house for who-knows-how-long.

No doubt about it, Covid-19 is going to mess up our spring plans; just how much remains to be seen. We had a busy spring planned ahead of us — a weekend trip to London for the Harry Potter show, a trip to Canada for Easter, a weekend trip to Isle of Wight, grandparents visiting, diabetes camp, the Queen’s Garden Party, a trip to Ireland, and Sophie’s school residential trip the first week of June. We know some of these will be cancelled. Maybe even all of them, if the current predictions and timelines are right. That will suck, but what can you do. We are among billions of people being inconvenienced and it’s no one’s fault that this happened. All we can do is follow precautions, hope, and wait.

That being said, we’re currently in a country that has effectively kept business as usual… Just stay home if you’re sick. Kids are still in school and people still going to work. Yet the Canadian Forces has essentially been told to stand down, if you can. Go home, stay there, and stay healthy. So… There’s a lot of confusion still and a lot left to be seen. However we do know that we’re not allowed to travel/leave the country that we’re currently in (for now, for the next 3 weeks).

So with all the uncertainty and knowing there is a lot more coming (anticipating UK closures in the next few days or week) we decided to get out just one last time- choosing a place that is not crowded, open air, practice social distancing, lots of hand hygiene, and no restaurants (I personally believe restaurants to be one of the biggest vectors for airborne/droplet disease in this world and I won’t go near them right now).

So off to Wells we went. Wells is the smallest city in England.

That moniker comes about because any location with a cathedral is a city and Wells has a truly spectacular cathedral; however, the city is quite small. There are villages around that are larger than Wells, but they don’t have a cathedral so don’t get to call themselves a city. It’s all so specific!

The Wells Cathedral is a stunner. Dating back to the twelfth century, with a large choral wing, Bishop’s palace, and more.

You can see the scissor arch in the middle, that was added afterwards to help support the sinking spire.
The Wells Cathedral clock is an astronomical clock from about 1325.
Cathedral cat hanging out at the heaters. Clearly at home here.

After touring the cathedral, we took a walk around the small, historic city. There was a Saturday market going on, too.

At the Bishop’s palace
Vicar’s Close — claimed to be the oldest purely residential street with original buildings in Europe. Dating to the 14th century.
A sweet market in the Wells town square.

After a toodle around Wells, seeing the cathedral, Bishop’s palace, market, and all, we drove off again. Cheddar Gorge isn’t far so we went there next. We had packed a picnic lunch in order to not have to go to a restaurant and practice social distancing. This also turned out to be super helpful because Sophie started going very low on the drive to Cheddar. It was nice that we were able to eat right away vs. waiting in a restaurant while she is feeling miserable.

Cheddar Gorge is England’s largest gorge. It has caves deep within the rock that they’ve been making cheddar cheese and aging it in for centuries. You can buy tickets to do things like climb stairs up the edge of this gorge, absail down, or tour the caves, but we wanted to do none of those.

We walked the main street of the gorge, popped into a few stores, sampled and purchased some cheddar, and then left.

Cave-aged cheddar. Yum!

And that was our day – our morning, really. Just a little nip out to see some historic and beautiful sites and home by 2pm. No interacting with anybody in the public, kept to our personal bubbles, and hopefully didn’t inadvertently bring Covid-19 home. But if we did, we’re ready to quarantine.

I hope everyone is ready and prepared but more so I hope everyone stays healthy and safe. Please stop the thinking that ‘if you’re healthy and young, it will be okay’ because some of us aren’t healthy and might not be okay through this. Every time you say that, it feels like you invalidate the life of the sick and elderly who are most at risk.

Take care, all. Xx

Christmas Markets!

The Christmas market is an outdoor market of stalls selling goods and food, often at nighttime, during the weeks of Advent, and originating in Germany. Their popularity has spread all over Europe and even into North America in recent years (heck, even Ottawa started a wee one this year!)

While we certainly plan to make it to a German Christmas market at some point in our 3 years here, we knew it wouldn’t be this year. However, there are many Christmas markets happening not far from us that we thought we’d check out this season.

First off, we did a big one – Bath Christmas Market. The Bath Christmas Market is one of the biggest in the UK, and consistently awarded one of the best in the country (this year being no exception).



Bath is only about 15 miles from Bristol, but as things are in England, it’s a 45 minute car ride or a 45-60 minute train ride. We opted for the train because it’s cheap (£13 round trip for all 3 of us) and then we wouldn’t need to search for parking.

However, we were warned – – – being the most popular market in the country means it’s busy! We originally thought we’d go in the evening, but were told we’d hardly be able to move then, and there’s too many drunk people around. So we changed our plans and decided to go at opening. Good thing, too, because when we left 3 hours later at 1pm, we could hardly move!
(We heard that brawls broke out on later trains because they were so packed and busy… so we’ll stick with going early!)

Our favourite stall – we had to circle back around and return to.

So, we may have missed the ambience of the evening market and the lights, but as none of us like a crowd, we were very happy with our choice. We spent a whack-load of money at the stalls buying gifts and treats for others and ourselves. We enjoyed sampling cheeses, charcuteries, and spreads at many stalls, and drinking thick hot cocoa and mulled wine as we ambled around.

We got freshly made sugar doughnuts that will haunt my dreams until next year – they melted in your mouth…
Grabbed a pizza from a mobile pizza oven along with a cider for lunch. I love that the UK doesn’t limit you to staying in beergardens if you want to buy a drink.
Our pile of shopping on the train ride home.

Overall we just loved the Bath Market. It was easy to get to, a fun morning out shopping, and a feast for the senses.



The next market we went to was a few days later and a bit more local. Okay, a lot more local. The Henleaze Christmas Festival is a one-night affair a few blocks away from us. We live right on the edge of Henleaze neighbourhood in Bristol, and we really love the Henleaze high street to do our shopping and errands.

Nighttime, people moving, etc… and I think I had a sausage in my other hand. Sorry, this is the best photo I got.


Apparently this was the 12th year this festival has been running, and it’s a market of about 30 stalls and 3 blocks long. It was a Wednesday night, so we had to pick Sophie up from gymnastics class at school (2 blocks away) and scuttle over there where it was already fully underway.

Sophie said she saw every kid in her class except 2. We enjoyed the stalls and the music, there were school choirs and children’s entertainers. We didn’t buy much at all because we had just spent so much in Bath, and there really wasn’t anything new. I was a little disappointed, as I would have waited for this festival and bought more locally had I known. Well, next year.

But we enjoyed sampling the cheeses!

We were able to grab dinner at a BBQ stall, get give-aways at local traders (Sophie got a big box of 6 full-sized Cadbury bars at a law office!), and enjoy the whole festival with local cheer. Every time we move, we love being able to find these great things to be proud of in our new home town/ neighbourhood area.


The third market we went to wasn’t much- it was the smallest yet. We stopped in at the Christmas Festival at Sophie’s school on Saturday afternoon. I don’t have photos to show due to privacy for all the children present. But I was very impressed with the school’s ability to put on a festival with crafts, games, music, food, stalls, raffles, and prizes. Most importantly– and this is something so important I think we need to bring it to all Canadian school festivals and parties — there was mulled wine.
Yes… to get through a couple hours at a junior school function with children running amok everywhere, I was able to purchase a warm cuppa mulled wine.
This. Is. Just. Civilised.
Every school Christmas concert really needs to have a cash bar – they’d make a mint for the school!!!! And before you get your panties in a knot, NO, I’m not suggesting anyone get drunk around children. Hell, even put a one-glass maximum if you want. But that one glass really helps a parent get through the screaming children/the children singing off key/the waiting for the 400 children that aren’t yours to finish their part so you can watch your own kid for 2 minutes/the putting up with overzealous parents.
Sure, maybe I’m a curmudgeon, but I’m okay with that. School events need wine. This was the best school event I’ve ever been to.

I’m sorry, I wouldn’t have mentioned the last market, because I didn’t have photos, and it was so small, but it really needed a shout out, just for the wine.

Our tree this year in our new home. (With a few new ornaments this year from our travels and the Bath Christmas Market, too!) – I just wanted to share with you! xx



Well we can’t wait until next year or heck- maybe even the following year, when we can make it to Germany for a Christmas market. Now that we know how fun they are and have had a small taste, we will definitely be putting this on our short list and be aiming to get there!

St. Mary’s Church, Redcliffe

Once upon a time, before cars were around and it took three days to travel from one side to the other of modern-day Bristol, Redcliffe was its own thriving port town next to the busy city of Bristol. History notes that there was a lot of rivalry between these two cities (for age-old reasons too numerous and odd to recite here). However, in 2019 Redcliffe is just a part of Bristol, sort of a neighbourhood area marginated on the edge of the river. We’ve driven through and around the area countless times.

One building Redcliffe is famous for is St. Mary’s Church. Its spire is the tallest building in Bristol (at 90m). While we’ve driven past and admired it many times, we’ve never gone in. I was at a charity shop a few weeks ago and found this awesome ink sketch dated 1940 and picked it up. It now hangs in our front hall.

So now it was on our ‘to-do’ list of places to get to, things to explore.

We learned a lot. St. Mary’s was the church where merchant sailors would began and end their journeys, praying at the shrine of Our Lady of Redcliffe.

John Cabot came to St. Mary’s upon his return from his renowned sail to America where he discovered Newfoundland. (There’s a big main road here called Newfoundland Rd, too). He presented St Mary Redcliffe with a whale bone from his journey. It still hangs there today, 500+ years later.

The whale bone is to the right, directly above Sophie’s head.

Beside Sophie is a statue of Queen Elizabeth I, who visited St Mary’s Redcliffe and described it as “the fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England”.

In 1997, five-hundred years after Cabot first set sail Eastward, a replica of his ship The Matthew sailed from Bristol on the same journey to commemorate it. The crew of the second Matthew gathered at St Mary’s Redcliffe right before they set sail to pray for a safe journey and receive blessing.

Model of The Matthew over the door of the Church

Here’s some photos of this gorgeous gothic church:

Then we stumbled upon a neat science experiment, right there in the Church, The Chaotic Pendulum.

There were a lot of notes about the building through history since it was built, about various wars and conflicts that threatened the entire structure. Most notable was the Bristol Blitz in WWII. Because Bristol was a hub for both aviation and shipping, it was a prime target for the Nazis and was the 5th most heavily bombed British city in the war. St. Mary’s Redcliffe was right on the flight path of the German Luftwaffe and suffered some minor damage.

During one large raid on Good Friday, April 11, 1941, a huge bomb hit only a block away, and a large chunk of tramline was thrown from the blast over the rooftops of nearby houses and landed in the churchyard. It’s been left there since, as a reminder of how close a call the church had and of how senseless war is.

We enjoyed touring St. Mary’s, exploring a little part of our new hometown, and are happy that we’ve now seen the building behind our lovely hallway picture.

PS- Happy Thanksgiving to all those back home in Canada celebrating this weekend! We miss you! We’re doing a roast chicken and all the trimmings this weekend, and I made Nanaimo bars for dessert and to share with the neighbours. Have a fab turkey day!!!