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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ciao Venezia! - A short story about that time that we braved the angry seas of Venice

It was a typical Friday afternoon as I rushed out of the office at exactly 5:30 (okay, it was 5:28 shhh) and made an 11 minute 15 second record bike ride from my office to Mick's to (literally) throw my bike inside the door and RUN to Farringdon. We made it there with 2 minutes to spare before the train, which would get us to the airport at least 1.5 hours before the flight. We RAN down the stairs expecting to find the train about to leave. Instead, we arrived to announcements about the cancellation of OUR TRAIN. $#&*!!

The next train was in 35 minutes and would get us to the airport with less than an hour before the flight. We've been in this situation before, so we were still sure we could make it if everything went correctly from here on out, but there is never any promise that it will.

We made the flight. Which in the end, was delayed about 2 hours anyways. Wish I could have known earlier, I wouldn't have had to ditch out of work 2 minutes early and RUSH to Farringdon, ripping a hole in my new flowy top by getting it caught in my bike tire.

What we didn't make it in time for was the water bus from Marco Polo airport to San Marco Island. We arrived about an hour too late to catch this shuttle. We saw some buses outside the airport and thought maybe they run a shuttle to Venice from the airport. Nope, we were informed that you can not take land vehicles to Venice, you have to go by water bus or taxi. We were directed towards the water bus area, which made us think "oooh! maybe it IS still running!"
We got to the waterbus dock to find zero boats of any sort.  We did come across a group of travellers who had all grouped together because of the same problem we were facing. One man spoke italian and visited Venice often, so he was able to find us a water taxi and negotiate the trip for us all. The agreed terms were 140euro to take all 8 of us to stop at Morano, Lido and San Marco.

Here's where I think I should mention the weather. It was thunderstorming. Not just little flashes of lightning and small thunder rumbles. It was the kind of lightning that turns night into day for a flash of a second and thunder that sends your cat under the bed. If you know anything about the sea, you'll understand why this was just a smidge bit scary. The sea was ANGRY.

Here's a shot I got from the boat right as lightning struck. At the time of the picture we had actually pulled over into a small protected canal after being drenched at sea and a little bit scared for our lives.

And here's our water taxi pulling away after dropping us off safely on San Marco.

Daytime view

Here is Mick in front of our adorable little hotel. The dark square behind him is like a door to the canal.

And here's what it looks like in the day time

This was a sight for tired eyes

And we slept! Photo dump to come :)


Friday, October 3, 2014

Bringing a Cat from the US to the UK - Everything You Need to Know

Making sure Archibald (the curious kitty pictured above) could come with me to London was by far the most stressful part of the move for me (considering it was Mick who dealt with all of the visa paperwork and whatnot). The UK is a NO RABIES country, which means you will need to gather all of the necessary paperwork on your cat and have it authorized by your states USDA representative.

The USDA website gives you a list of three things that you need when bringing your cat to the UK:

1. Microchip
2. Up-to-date rabies vaccination
3. USDA Pet Health Certificate Link to Pet Health Certificate Form 

Here are some tips for getting your cat into the UK that I learned along the way. 

1. Make sure that your cat is microchipped. This MUST be your first step. If you do anything else (rabies shot, exam) before fluffball is microchipped it will be for nothing. 

2. Make sure your cats microchip can be read at the airport that you will be arriving at. We came in to London Heathrow (LHR) and were told by our USDA representative that Archibald's microchip was the incorrect type. ISO compliant is what is required, Arch has a 24petwatch microchip which is NOT ISO compliant. After many phone calls, we were able to determine the frequency at which his chip runs at (125ghz) and that the Animal Reception Office at LHR does have the scanner to read this type of chip. PHEW, as it was a week before my move date that I found this all out. 

3. Now that kitty cat is microchipped and you are sure the chip is compatible with the receiving airport's technology, you must ensure your cat is up to date on its rabies shots. If you are not up to date, do this ASAP. You'll need to wait 21 days after re-upping kitty's rabies shot before he/she can fly. Ensure that the vaccination has been recorded on your cat's microchip. 

4. Contact your airline's cargo department and find out their rules for pet shipping. Pets can not ride in the main cabin when entering the UK. I flew with Virgin Atlantic and they had a whole bunch of forms for me and my vet to fill out. The most important of which were an overall health exam that needed to have been done within 10 days of our flight. Note that there are TWO different health forms your vet will need to sign; One from the USDA and one from Virgin (or whatever airline you're flying). DO NOT forget to have either of these signed.

5. Make appointments with your vet and your local USDA office. Schedule the vet appointment before the USDA. 

6. Bring all forms (USDA UK pet immigration health certificate, any and all forms required by your airline) to your cats health exam. Your vet may or may not have experience with this type of form so do them a favor and inform them ahead of time what you are doing. My vet was very helpful and did a lot of research before Archibald's visit to ensure we did everything correctly. 

7. Once you have the i's dotted and t's crossed on kitty's forms, you will bring them in to your USDA representative who will look over and ensure everything is correct. She will then sign and seal each document. 

8. Now your cat should be ready to fly! Remember to read your airlines guidelines for acceptable carriers. Kitty needs to have enough room to stand and turn around in its carrier. The carrier should also have ventilation on each of its four sides. DO NOT use tranquilizers on fluffy. He will be just fine and he's in cargo, nobody will hear him whining anyways. 

Day of:

1. Make sure cat has eaten, drank, peed and poo'd before you drop him off at your airlines cargo office. He will be in his cage for a long time as you will need to drop him off about 4-5 hours prior to your flight.

2. Bring a leash as you will need to take kitters out to have his carrier inspected at the cargo office.

3. Attach a water bowl to the inside of the cage so kitty can keep hydrated. Be sure it is one that can not be knocked over.

4. Keep all of your documents in a spot where you will not forget or lose them. I kept mine in a folder.

5. Relax, your mood rubs off on your cat. If you're stressed, he will be too. Stay calm to ensure kitty has the best trip possible.

6. Give kitty bye-bye kisses and tell him you will see him again soon. Then a pathetically sad picture of him in his cage so you can stare at it and worry about him for the entire flight.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fairytales in Bruges

Our first trip since moving to London. Planned over after - dinner drinks on Monday night, we left Friday afternoon! Bruges! I'd never even heard of it. Didn't know what country it was in, but it was booked before I had a chance to even think about that. 
Funny thing that happened is the next day, Mick and I were looking through Netflix for something to watch and the title "In Bruges" scrolled by. I told Mick to scroll back, that I think I just saw a movie about Bruges! Obviously we had to watch it to prep for our trip. I would very much recommend the movie, very funny with beautiful views of Bruges. I felt like I'd already been there once we arrived Friday night. 

Getting there
We decided to fly rather than train, although if I ever go again I will just take the train. We took a train from Farringdon to Gatwick Airport (about 1 hour) then a 45 minute flight to Brussels (btw, coffee, tea, water - NOT FREE on EasyJet :( ). Once we got to Brussels we had to figure out the train to Bruges. This was especially painful because there was not a train schedule in English, nor did any of our phones work to use Google Maps. We went off of the word of one dude who spoke a tiny bit of English. Thankfully, he was telling the truth and we made it to Bruges around 10 or 11pm, making the train journey from Brussels to Bruges somewhere around 2 hours. The train trips (round trip) added probably 50 pounds ($80) per person to the cost of the trip. 


As I said earlier, we got in pretty late on Friday night. Our hotel, a nice spot right outside the city center and on the canal, was closed for the night. Audrey and I, being the smart ones of the group, decided to check out the wifi situation at the restaurant across the street. The waiters were sympathetic to our situation (or to two cute girls stranded in a foreign country) and gave us the password to the wifi (67896789) and offered their help in calling the hotel. Since nobody was actually at the hotel to answer the phone call (surprise), this was not helpful. But! The kind waiter had another idea, call somebody who works at the hotel! I don't know who he called but he was able to get the key code to the front door and let us in. By the way, through all this we have given him zero proof that we actually were booked to stay at this hotel. Bruges is just a trusting city. Once we got in, we found our room keys on the front desk and then barely found our way up to our room ("these stairs go to nowhere", "oh shit, that door leads straight into the canal", "where are the rooms!!") which was on the top floor and very large. 

We spent one full day and two nights in Bruges. I could have spent a week there just relaxing and taking it in, but I would likely gain 10 or so pounds on waffles alone.

My Bruges Top Five

1. Chocolate/Waffles - You should have to pay for smells at some of the confectionary shops we stopped in. Amazing.
2. Spicy Chicken Schwarma - Probably my favorite thing that I ate there
3. Canal-side beers - Because duh
4. The views - The entire city is a postcard
5. The people - It says a lot about the people of a city when they are all comfortable with leaving their bikes out on the street, unlocked

Views from our window over the canal

View of our window, from the canal ;)

I carried this umbrella around the entire trip and it only sprinkled once ...On our way out the door in London

Btw, I'm aware that I dress like my cat when I'm away from him

Oh yeah, that's heavenly

Belfrey Tower

These two were too cute. Snickering about something adorably funny, I presume.

We bought a watercolor here

We did not buy a doll here

Church of Our Lady

I loved our tour guide's hand gestures. He spoke each bit in English, French and Dutch, so he did every gesture three times :) 

Spy window! "Be careful, if you zoom in too much then it is just a regular sized window"