As some of you may know, Sophie (and us, her parents, by default) does the Terry Fox Run every year. (If you’re not from Canada and don’t know who Terry Fox is or why we run for him every year, click here for his amazing story).
Thanks to generous family members sponsoring her, Sophie has raised thousandsfor cancer research since 2013 when she first started her annual run. This year would be her 7th year running. The Terry Fox Run is held all over the world, but we looked it up and there is no run in England this year. We couldn’t let a year go by without running for Terry, and Sophie didn’t want to miss it! So we decided to take it upon ourselves to do it solo – but also make it spectacular! Sophie put out the call for donations and raised $475 CDN this year….
….And then we went to Stonehenge…..
Stonehenge is about an hour’s drive from us in Bristol. We made plans to do this on September 15, the day that Terry Fox Runs are held all across Canada. We would have done this rain or shine, but were blessed with gorgeous weather the day-of.
We bought an annual family pass to English Heritage (https://www.english-heritage.org.uk) because with this pass, we get admission to hundreds of sites across England, and (due to a small discount for Eric being in the Forces) it pays for itself within 2 visits to larger sites such as Stonehenge and Tintagel Castle. With this pass and advanced-booking, we got to skip the general admission line and get in much faster, as well as get free audio tours, and free parking.
So back to the Terry Fox Run. Eric did it with Sophie, as he does every year. Due to my MS, I can’t walk that far (1 km uninterrupted is usually my max). So I took the shuttle bus to the stones while they walked and I met them there. But Eric took photos of the walk and I got photos of them nearing the finish line!
After their ‘official’ walk to the stones, we then got to go see Stonehenge, which is a bit of a walk in itself! (Well, I was tired from it!)
Right when we were halfway around the stones, we hear Sophie’s Dexcom alarm. She was going low (despite us carb-loading her before the walk with a £3 granola bar from the snack shop in the visitor’s centre!). Luckily, we’ve always got oodles of bars and low treatments on hand (she has some in her bag and I have extras in mine, Eric carries some on his key-chain). She had a granola bar and a few dextrose candies, suspended her insulin for 30 minutes, and she eventually got back up to a better level. Sophie is in the habit of apologising for having to make us all stop and tend to her as she gets things out of her bag, fiddles with her devices, etc. We always reassure her and have patience. It’s not her fault, diabetes isn’t her fault. We are never mad that she’s gone low or needs medical attention! Even if it is an inopportune moment or time, we’re all okay with taking the time to step out of the way at Stonehenge, sit down on the grass, and tend to her.
After our time at Stonehenge we went to lunch and then decided to go to Salisbury to see the grand cathedral, since it was so close and such a beautiful day.
Salisbury is a medieval city built around this stunning, huge cathedral. The cathedral houses an original copy of the 1215 Magna Carta (one of only 4). We viewed it – it looked old and indecipherable (my ancient Latin is pretty rusty). But I guess I can say I’ve seen it now.
What impressed me more, is that the church also has the world’s oldest working mechanical clock, in use since 1386. There we were, watching it tick away, as it had over 4.4 billion times.
The town of Salisbury was adorable too, with bunting everywhere and medieval highlights throughout. We could have stayed for hours or even days, but it was getting late and we needed to start getting back toward Bristol for supper, as it was a school night and we were all getting quite tired from our busy day.
I’m hoping that next year maybe there will be enough interest from other Canadians posted here in the UK for me to organise a Terry Fox Run myself for everyone. They do it at the detachment in Germany and Brussels, but this year I didn’t have it in me to do so soon after moving. But Terry Fox wasn’t in it for the fanfare and the big fame – he just wanted people to do what they could – and I think we helped Sophie honour his memory this year and do the name Terry Fox proud.
Thanks to all who donated to her campaign this year and if you missed it but still want to donate to this amazing charity, you can do so here: http://www.terryfox.ca/sophiepoulin .
We had to go to Ruislip (just north of London) where the Canadian military detachment is for Eric’s in-clearance (yes, they said he had to bring the whole family!) so we decided to make a trip of it and go to London for the day!
Unfortunately, it turned out to be a record-breaking hot day (33.5°C) and we were just melting!
What to do with only 1 day in London? Well Sophie’s never been, Eric has lived here for a few months, and I’ve visited for days here and there. We know we’re going to be back a lot in the next 3 years and have a lot of opportunity to see everything we want and it didn’t need to be done all at once. So we decided to give Sophie a tour so she could get her bearings and see and decide just what it was that she wanted to be doing in those future visits, help her build her bucket list.
We took one of the Hop-on, hop-off bus tours. I always find these a good value in a big, new, city where I’m looking to hit all the tourist hot spots in a day or two (you can usually buy 1- or 2-day passes for these tours). We look for a tour that has a lot of buses (that run frequently), that have more buses with live commentary rather than just recordings (it’s always more fun to hear anecdotes from someone who’s been living there their whole life), and tours that have more than one line (the one we chose had 4 lines that criss-crossed the city plus a river boat we could use that we just never had the chance to). We also picked our company based on who went close to our hotel. Then we pre-paid for our tickets online. This saved us money, but also a lot of time when we wanted to join the tour.
We spent the first little bit touring around. We had a great guide who was informative, funny, and personable. I’m not one of those people to take many photos from a moving bus, but here:
We took the bus to the Tower of London and hopped off. We also pre-purchased tickets to the Tower so that we could save a few pounds but also avoid the lines.
It was starting to get hot by now. The sun was baking. We had dropped our suitcases off at the hotel and they put our main insulin supply in the fridge for us, but Sophie’s small diabetic backpack had a spare vial of insulin in it as well. We don’t have a Frio case at all or any sort of cooler, as we haven’t got around to getting one yet. If you’re soon about to use the insulin, it can stay at room temperature up to 30 days. But insulin can never be frozen and never go over 30°C or it will be denatured. Well, in the direct sunlight, it was well over 30°…. We tried a while to always hold the bag in the shade, looking a little ridiculous as we moved about, but in the end we had to admit that there’s no way we can test if that insulin is still good, apart from a few bolus injections and Sophie won’t allow that. We can’t risk filling a 3-day pump with bad insulin and then having to discard the whole pump once we realise it’s not working.
So anyway, we got to the Tower and it was hot. And then we saw the poor Yeoman Warder…
He said in the beginning that he didn’t want to hear us complain about the heat, and he was right. When the weather is bad (rain, etc) they shorten the tours from 1hr to 1/2-hr and he did for us too. They just couldn’t have everyone standing around in the heat that long, guests included.
But it was a lovely tour and we learned a lot about the Tower of London. Sophie and Eric went in and up the Tower itself. We saw the jewels, we walked the ramparts, and we had lunch! As we were leaving, another family came to say hi, just because they’d seen Sophie’s Dexcom and were a fellow T1 family. They had a little boy on the Dexcom and Omnipod and they said they just had to say hi to another T1 family on holiday! I think it’s so nice when someone does that and I do it myself, but Sophie’s still shy about it. Yet, she is upset if we don’t, though. (Tweens, amiright?)
After our time at the Tower, we hopped back on to a bus and decided to head towards King’s Cross station. This was a surprise for Sophie. Her 11th birthday is in a week and a half and well, we really didn’t know what to get her. So since she is a massive Harry Potter fan, we said we’d take her to platform 9-3/4. I, personally, am not a fan, so it was all Greek to me, but seeing her so excited made me very happy too. She got her photo taken and then we took her to the store there and we said, pick out what you want, we’ll get it for your birthday! Her face was priceless.
Sophie bought that Ravenclaw scarf (100% Scottish lambswool made by the same company who made the original scarves worn in the movies) and a Ravenclaw hairbow. She’s a happy girl.
By then we were getting tired so we hopped on the bus yet again and just let it tour us back to our hotel. We got to see more of London and then crash in our air-conditioned room. (And I mean crash).
We went back out again in a bit for an Italian dinner then back to our room. Sophie was due for a pump change – here is where I’m so glad for our ‘bring 3x what we need’ rule. We tried to start up the pump and it didn’t activate properly!!! So we opened a second pump and tried it and held our breath and thankfully all was well. We would have had just enough insulin and one more pod to do it a third time, but barely (with the vial of insulin we now have to throw out due to heat!).
Anyway, pump change in a hotel again but we’re old hat at it now and it eventually went well. We have already ordered a Frio wallet to be delivered later this week for all our future travels to protect our precious insulin!!!
That’s it! That’s our day in London. We had to call it a night and hit the hay so we could be up early to leave for Ruislip at 7am. We were in offices all day long there but felt thoroughly welcomed by everyone at the Canadian detachment and know they genuinely want to help us acclimate and settle in to our home here in England.
London is a beautiful city and we can’t wait to come back on many day and weekend trips over the next few years!
Well the past two months’ of blog posts have been what I’ve promised- practice. I needed to learn this platform, figure out how to blog, how to post, and how to ‘run’ a ‘website’ (both terms I use very loosely).
In the past two months, I’ve even struggled with what to write- our life in Canada is pretty mundane and boring, even while preparing to move across this globe, even while living in hotels for the past month.
But now we’re ready to go. We fly to England the day after tomorrow and our adventure truly begins!! Now I hope to start having blog posts worth reading! And I thank the 30-40 of you who have actually been reading up ’til now and giving me enough reason to go on.
We’ve had a few hard goodbyes in the past week or two. Especially for Sophie. But luckily she’s now at the age where she can keep in touch with her friends digitally. If we didn’t get to you for a so-long hug, I’m sorry and don’t take it personally. I truly find it easier to just not have them. We’ll all chat online and I love that I can keep up-to-date on my friends and even their kids on social media. We also live in the military— we’ll all see each other again eventually!!!
I’ll share a handful of pictures of our ‘resort life’ now as we’ve been living in a cool hotel for the past 16 days. Sophie has had a blast swimming every day (which makes her blood glucose fall like crazy— good, if it’s been running high, we just take a quick trip to the pool! If not, she needs to drink some regular Coca-Cola before swimming in order to have high enough blood glucose to swim and sometimes every 20 minutes, too).
Also, check out my Highs and Lows Abroad Instagram below for more frequent photos.
So that’s it. That’s our life in Canada for now. Yes, we’re still here for a couple more days but I’ll be busy packing and saying so-long in person to a last few folks. So this is my last Canadian blog post.
Wish us luck with the long flights and immigration process.
I’ll update when we get to England, probably in the middle of the night when I’m jet-lagged and zombie-like exhausted!
So we’ve had some great chances to play tourist in our hometown this past week and we love the opportunity! This time has been so fun and has also made me reflect on all my favourite things to do in Victoria… We’ve lived here for 3 years now and been tourists the entire time. Whether you’re just visiting, new in town, or lived here for years, here’s a list of a few things you should really try to check out!!
1. Victoria’s Inner Harbour This is quintessential Victoria- it’s what you see on postcards, it’s what you can do for free, without a car, and with just a few blocks of walking. In my 3 years here, I have never gotten bored walking around the inner harbour or even driving past it! You see BC Legislature, the Fairmount Empress, the waterfront, some ferry terminals, and people of all walks of life…. it’s just always buzzing and a great place to stroll and enjoy the city. Sophie’s favourite reason to go to the inner harbour (especially this time of year) is the ice cream and gelato shops along the stretch of Government street right at the inner harbour- this stretch is pedestrian-only and very tourist-y. Eric took Sophie down a few days ago and they went with our classic guess of 30g of carbs per scoop/cup of ice cream and he added an extra 20g for a waffle cone – – It worked great until the fat rise 3 hours later, but we knew to watch for it. She says the maple-cookie gelato was worth it.
2. BC Legislature and Fairmont Empress While we’re in the Inner Harbour, let’s look at these amazing buildings!!! I admit I’ve never been inside the legislature building, but they do hold tours. I just always enjoy walking past, having a sit on the lawn, taking a photo with the statue of Queen Victoria in front- I can’t resist! On the opposite corner from legislature is the Fairmont Empress hotel. The Empress is one of a series of grand hotels built across Canada for the railroad in about 1910. If you have the budget, I’m sure the Empress would be an amazing place to stay while in Victoria. We’ve never stayed the night there, but Sophie and I once splurged on high tea there for Easter when Eric was deployed for 6 months in 2017 – it was an experience we’ll never forget. Also, later in 2017, Eric’s ship had their Christmas party at the Empress and we were very impressed with the event they put on!
3. Whale Watching Okay, this one isn’t for everyone. A: You might not like going out on choppy water in a small boat and B: It is NOT cheap. However, if you want to see whales or sea life, Victoria is the place to do it. Orcas, humpback whales, porpoises, seals, and sea lions are the most common sea mammals you’d see. The boats also stop and show you anything of interest – bald eagles, interesting jellyfish, salmon, etc. Boat tours are usually 4+ hours long and can go quite far from Victoria – they head to wherever reports of whales have been. The tour we took in 2017 was on a catamaran because we wanted to be on a larger, more comfortable boat. The staff was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful and they got just as excited to see the whales as we did. On our tour we saw 2 humpback whales together and they did the most amazing thing – a double breach!! This means they both jumped vertically out of the water beside each other at the same time. Our captain was practically giddy, as he said he’d been doing this for 15 years and had never seen that. (Of course, no one got a photo…) If you can find the extra money for this once-in-a-lifetime experience, it is really worth it. If you live in the area, make sure the company you use has a whale guarantee (if you don’t see any whales, you get to come back again).
4. Butchart Gardens Butchart Gardens isn’t downtown but about 40 minutes outside Victoria. You either will need to drive or there are many bus tours heading there every day from downtown – check with your hotel or cruise line. Butchart is simply gorgeous. I remember being dragged to a million ornamental gardens with my mom when I was a kid and I hated it. So when I took Sophie here I didn’t expect her to really like it, but every time she went, she’s loved it! Every where you look, it’s just beautiful and something for kids and adults to discover. There is a Victorian carousel in the middle of the park that you can ride for $2/ride that kids love (which we’ve always made sure to stop at). We’ve visited during every season and they never disappoint. Christmastime is actually done at night and it’s all lit up with a 12 days of Christmas theme and outdoor ice skating (a real treat in warm Victoria!). Early May was my favourite time with all the tulips out, it was just breathtaking. They also have a lovely restaurant on site that also offers high tea (for cheaper than the Empress). There is also a cafe and a cafeteria for cheaper options for a quick bite. Note- Military members (but not their family) get free admission. Make sure you show ID and ask for it. -Also, if you think you’ll go more than once in the year, get an annual pass, because a pass is cheaper than 2 visits.
5. Royal BC Museum The Royal BC Museum is another gem that is right at the inner harbour – smack dab between BC legislature and the Empress. The Royal BC Museum is huge. It has days’ worth of exhibits and floors to explore. I’ve been there half a dozen times and still haven’t explored it all. There are huge areas dedicated to natural history, areas dedicated to BC-cultural history (a ton of history on the local First Nations but then also about how Europeans settled here), and areas with special exhibits (we’ve seen the Terry Fox exhibit here, the Egyptian exhibit, and the Maya exhibit). If you’re looking for something to occupy the kids (or yourself!) for the better part of the day, especially if it’s crappy weather outside – head on over to the Royal BC Museum. Bonus- they have BC’s largest IMAX screen and show some amazing movies. They also show Hollywood movies in the evenings!
6. Esquimalt Lagoon Ok, this one is on my list because it was right down the road from our house and we just loved it here. Located in Colwood on the west shore of the Greater Victoria Area (about 20 minutes from downtown), is about 4 km of beach lined with driftwood on one side of a spit with a lagoon and bird sanctuary on the other side! There is a local artist who has made bird sculptures out of driftwood and put them up, and they are dotted along the beach side (all birds native to the area, too). Every Friday and Saturday in the summer from 11am-7pm there are food trucks and live music at 5pm. This is an excellent place to come sit and spend a few minutes, a few hours, or the whole day. Watch the boats go by, see some seals usually pop their heads up and down, take the dog for a walk, grab a bite to eat, and just enjoy the sea breeze. Parking is free, the beach is free, and there are public toilets on the west end of the beach.
7. Beacon Hill Park Beacon Hill park is a beautiful gift right in the middle of the city for everyone to enjoy. The big draw for families is the Beacon Hill Children’s Zoo and their petting area for goats! This opens at 10am every day from spring-fall with a GOAT STAMPEDE where the goats all run from the barn down to the petting pen and you get to cheer them along. Then you go into the pen with them and play! The babies are the big crowd-draw here- they’re as adorable as kittens or puppies and want to play and discover just as much! The children’s zoo admission is by donation with suggested amounts being $4/adult and $3/child. Outside of the children’s zoo is a beautiful expansive park with gardens, ponds, trails, play equipment, and public toilets. The peacocks are not to be missed!!
8. BC Ferries Now, I may be lambasted for this by locals who detest BC Ferries service- but I have nothing bad to say about them because honestly, we haven’t used the ferry a tonne since we’ve moved here and I’ve always been happy with them when we have! Other than the time it takes and planning to travel in general, I love being on the ferry and on the water! If you have a reason to take a ferry – to go to Vancouver, Duncan, Salt Spring Island, or many other places- go! And then enjoy the ferry ride as a little on-water tour. It’s a vantage point you so rarely get to see. Sometimes you are lucky enough to see whales or wildlife (I’ve never seen whales but I saw porpoises last time!) and every view is spectacular. Grab a bite to eat on the ferry or bring a packed snack – kick up your feet and enjoy the cruise. (Bonus- they have fantastic parents’ rooms on board – we needed to change Sophie’s Omnipod during our last trip and she wasn’t comfortable doing it in the cafeteria in front of people. We found this quiet parents’ room, it was clean, comfortable, and private. Great to nurse your baby or change your medical device!)
9. Goldstream Provincial Park Goldstream is another point that is outside of Victoria proper, but is a direct shot out the Trans-Canada Highway from downtown, only about 25 minutes. Then when you get there, you’re in a different world. If you’ve never been to the west coast or our temperate rain-forests before, this is something awesome to check out. As soon as you park in the day-use parking area, you’ll be astounded by the old-growth trees. Go for a short walk along Goldstream river and you may see bears and salmon (especially in October/November when you’ll see the salmon jump upstream to spawn). There’s a small walk to ‘Niagara Falls’ which in the springtime doesn’t disappoint (is a mere trickle in the dry summer and fall months). There is a Visitor’s Centre with lots of information and a little snack shack at the day-use area near the public toilets. There’s also picnic tables and fire pits if you’re so inclined to lay a fire and roast some marshmallows and weenies. There is no cost to the day-use area.
While I’m at it– I won’t put it in a new point here but hikes anywhere around Victoria and Vancouver Island are worth heading out to, if you can. Some of our favourite are Charlie’s Trail at Royal Roads, Witty’s Lagoon, Mystic Beach, and here in Goldstream. Check out Victoria Trails to see what trails are convenient to you and the difficulty level you want. We always needed to be aware of what I could manage with my MS and then what the difficulty level was for Sophie’s T1D – how much carb-loading did she have to do beforehand and how often would we have to check her blood sugars throughout. Hiking in Victoria was always an adventure – if it wasn’t rain-forests and old growth trees, it was ocean views. You couldn’t beat it!
10. Brunch Yep. Just brunch. That’s not some exotic place that you can’t see anywhere else in the world; however, Victoria is the brunch capital of Canada. Yes, that’s right- we know how to brunch it up real good. There are so many places to brunch in Victoria – eclectic places, fine dining, hole-in-the-wall, funky, upbeat, greasy spoon, hearty, veggie/vegan, pop-ups, food trucks, and top secret places. Just check out this 2018 article by The Globe and Mail detailing why we’re such an awesome brunch hot spot. Sure, there’s a line up at a lot of these places, and I’m completely adverse to lines – but even I have to admit they’re worth it. Jam Cafe and Floyd’s Diner may be my favourite’s. Do they have carb counts listed? heck no. Sophie got a Belgian waffle the other day and we had her put in the carbs we estimated (waffle+syrup+strawberry topping=100g??) and it was more insulin than her pump allows in a single dose (the pump is programmed this way to avoid overdoses because she so rarely needs this much in a single sitting). So we maxed out how much it would give her and ‘surfed’ the rest…. this means watching her blood glucose graph closely afterwards and as soon as we deemed she needed more insulin, we gave her the remaining 3 units that we calculated she needed. It’s a huge indulgence. I don’t suggest you do this every day of vacation or if you live here, but at least once, or on special occasions, it’s so worth it. Hit up the great brunch spots of Victoria and enjoy!
So I know there’s a lot more to do, of course there is. But jeez, I can’t write forever, can I? These are just my 10 suggestions. Victoria is a fantastic place to tour as a family – see history, culture, and natural beauty!
I haven’t posted much in the past 2 weeks because we’ve been so busy getting our house ready to be packed and loaded on the sea can. Because of our international move, we actually have two sets of pack and load days – one pack day and one load day for our sea canister that is heading to England, then one pack day and one load day for our long-term storage – things staying here in Canada for 3 years (like our electronics and such that we can’t use there).
Leading up to our pack day, we had to first pack our suitcases – decide what we will need to bring with us on our persons to England. We are given 5 checked suitcases and 3 carry-on suitcases (but could pay for more, I guess). In this luggage, we need to bring 6 months’ worth of medication and medication supplies like Dexcom and Omnipod supplies. This greatly reduces how much clothes we can bring!!
Then aside from having to pack our suitcases (so plan our lives for the next 6+ weeks), we have also had to rearrange our house to separate the things going to England and the things going into storage. This also meant a lot of cleaning and purging, too. People have said to me that because we have military moves and ‘they pack for us’ that it must be easy, but I promise you it is not. To make any move successful there is so much preparing and work involved at origin and then again weeks and weeks of work at destination (sure, they ‘unpack’ for us, but that just means taking things out of boxes at break-neck speed and putting it on any flat surface – they don’t put anything away or organise or clean!). Luckily, this is our fifth military move and I’ve learned things each time and am more and more ready each time!
Then came the packers! An overseas move requires our furniture to all be bubble-wrapped (rather than in quilted moving blankets) so it took the packers a while but soon enough, our house looked like a Tetris game:
Now we’re living in an AirBNB in downtown Victoria for the next 2 weeks. Our house sale doesn’t close for 4 more days so we’ll be there every day cleaning up and getting the long-term storage packed then trucked out. We’ll also try to enjoy what there is to enjoy of Victoria down here – restaurants, Market Square is just below our rooftop patio, and FanTan Alley (the most narrow street in Canada) is right across the street:
So, we’re exhausted, but we’re a few steps closer to getting to England….