0

England

It’s funny how R and I ended up in England. We were in Köszeg, Hungary back in September 2016 for my four-month-long fieldwork. We were just settling in the country, exploring the area, and organizing our place when six days in, together with my colleagues, I went to the immigration office to get my work visa. Lo and behold, I was told that I needed to go to Indonesia (!) to extend my visa. I couldn’t do it in Hungary, nor in any other European country nearby. Consular matters from the Philippines are brought to the Hungarian Embassy in Indonesia; therefore, even for the slightest visa concerns, I need to travel to Indonesia.

At this point, I had two options: travel to Indonesia to sort out my visa and go back to Hungary, or defer my contract. The former is far from a practical option, and the latter is the last thing that I want to do. But living so far away from home, our families and friends, we had to choose practicality over anything else. Luckily, I applied for a UK visa three months prior when we were in Morocco. At that point, we didn’t have any travel plans for the UK; R just wanted me to apply “just in case.” Faced with this dilemma in Hungary a few months later, everything just came together.

What I love about England is its gardens and the locals’ fascination and appreciation of nature. I love how their gardens look so raw and where the settlements are planned around landscapes; not the other way around. It’s British naturalists that first come to mind when we talk of evolution, taxonomy, exploration, and literature on flora and fauna.

England-min.jpg

Morning coffee amidst the beautiful views. Thank you, Mother Nature! (Kirkby Malzeard)

I’m not a city person so I’m glad that we had to live in Kirkby Malzeard, Northern Yorkshire, a good eight hours away from London. Aside from Kirkby, we also had the chance to stay in London to meet with my cousin on a few weekends. Though I’m not a big fan of the city, traveling here with R who is so in love with London makes a big difference because it allowed me to see the beauty of this city.

In total, we stayed in England for two and a half months: mostly in the countryside, and a few weekends in London. It was nice to see vastly different landscapes in the country, and I’m glad we got the opportunity to do so.

Some Tips on Visiting England:

  • Philippine citizens need to apply for a visa which can be initially submitted online; however, you will still need to visit VFS, the embassy’s visa-handling provider, to have your photo and biometrics taken. It’s best to apply early since the embassy is quite strict with documents submitted, especially with bank and employment certificates.
  • I cannot stress enough how expensive it is to stay here. For one, British Pounds is a heavyweight compared to Australian Dollars and more so to Philippine Pesos. Conversion makes a huge difference as to your buying power. We stayed the longest in a container van in Kirkby Malzeard, Northern Yorkshire, which, I think is the highlight of this trip. Imagine living in the middle of a ranch, surrounded by a forest, where you wake up to a breathtaking sunrise and the birds’ calls, and you get to be so in touch with the land and the skies. It’s my favorite residence up until this day! Apart from Northern Yorkshire, we also got to stay in London. We’re lucky because we stayed with my aunt’s best friend and another time, with R’s uncle. It saved us loads given that food and transportation in London are already expensive.
  • As with any cuisine in the world, it depends upon your preference. I am not a big fan of traditional British food, but what I love is the variety of options everywhere (except in Kirkby Malzeard, being so far away from everything). On my stay here, I think I’ve eaten more Middle Eastern than British food because I was always looking for rice 😛
  • Public transportation here is so expensive, but I think, so far, nothing beats Geneva’s fares. So, when we had to travel to and from London, instead of taking a train, we hired a car which saved us hundreds of pounds. Traveling with a car in the UK allows you to visit so many picturesque places that can be hard to reach with public transportation. R and I had a one-week break when we were here, so we decided to do a road trip around England and Scotland. That one-week journey calls for a post on its own given all the adventures (hint: so many unforeseen expenses while on the road) that we’ve experienced doing it.
  • There’s just so much to see in England, let alone London, and to me it’s difficult to mention just a few places to visit. For an extensive guide, you can check out Visit Britain, the state’s official tourism website.
  • We had a great time sampling different kinds of teas while here and so, we bought teas as souvenirs for our families and friends back home. We also bought some trinkets from Buckingham and Kensington Palace, and I think these got our loved ones excited more than the selection of teas!

Why I want to go back: The garden and countryside sceneries in England are just breathtaking, and I would love to go live in that container van again if given the chance.

As with any country in the world: Do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | take good care of your valuables | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in the local language, culture, and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut ❤

0

Scotland

img_4048

Driving onto Scotland!

img_4127

Mission at Loch Ness: to spot Nessie over picnic.

Ah… The land of unicorns, bagpipes, whisky, Hadrian’s Wall, Nessie (the Loch Ness Monster), and not the least, of amazing sceneries with storybook-like features wherever your eyes, and mind, take you.

And yes, it’s the birthplace of Harry Potter!

Some Tips on Visiting Scotland:

  • The best way to get to Scotland is via car, train, bus or plane from England; or through one of its international airports at Edinburgh or Glasgow. I always use public transportation when traveling, but Scotland for me is an exception with a car hire ending up as more practical. Scotland is such a massive country and to get from point to point via bus or train is not as straightforward as it seems. If I may recommend a car hire company, go for Avis or Budget Car as they offer transparent pricing. I haven’t tried Hertz. But please, avoid Europcar at all costs. R and I have rented with them before and they surprise you with so many hidden charges when you return the car. Not to mention it’s almost impossible to contact them when you have the slightest questions.
  • Scotland is ‘still’ part of the UK after the first referendum on Scottish independence was voted against by a small margin. However, a second referendum was proposed and we can only wait for the results. For now, as Philippine passport holders, let us just be glad visa-wise that a UK visa can grant us entry to Scotland. For more info, visit VFS Global, now the only authorized UK visa processing facility in the Philippines.
  • There is just SO much to see in Scotland. My advice? Savor every moment and don’t try to see everything on the must-see list. To be in Scotland is like to walk in King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, in Robert Louis Stevensons’ world, in the Grimm Brothers’ tales, and in the Harry Potter series all at once. You can visit one of its hundreds of castles, and watch over the sea as you savor your packed lunch. You don’t have to drive another 20 miles just to have a picnic. And this is the beautiful thing about Scotland– it lets you take out the unnecessary fuss in building the ‘perfect’ itinerary.
  • Scotland is known for its nationalistic pride having gone through a long history of battles, sacrifices and discrimination from the invasion of England and the Vikings. The road for its long-sought independence will never be forgotten, so please do not mistake Brits for Scots; or Britain for Scotland. Unless, you’re prepared for a lecture.
  • Download Google Maps and make use of its offline access feature. I used to download a different app per country, but this just beats all of them for finding the best routes and restaurants. Plus, I don’t have to be on data all the time. CNET has a definitive guide on how to make the most of this new feature.
  • Why I want to go back: I haven’t had the chance to enjoy any of Scotland’s hundreds of hiking trails on this visit. So for sure, I’ll put hiking on my itinerary next time. 
  • As with any country in the world: Do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in the local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut❤