the Vopni family
the Vopni family
Farewell BBQ at the Freathy's with some of our great Revy Friends

Preparing for the Trip

March, 2013


Lots going on right now. As we are only spending about 6 days in London, Paris, Istanbul and Dubai, we want to make the most of it and not spend too much time while there looking up what we should be doing; I am therefore doing a ton of research online now. It is incredible to see how things have changed in the dozen years since our last big Trip. Last time, we went to the store or library and bought or borrowed books on traveling. Mostly Lonely Plannet or Fodors books. Of course as soon as the books went to print they were out of date so the information we gleamed from them was not always as accurate as we would have hoped. Further, the opinions on the various things to do and see, sleep and eat etc were that of one or two writers/travelers. Now with the Internet, the information is current and with sites like you can benefit from thousands of opinions.


We plan to make most of our accommodation arrangements just before arriving at each non-SE Asia destination via the Internet and plan to stay at flats or apartments as much as possible because this seems to be the best value, and you get more than one room as well as the benefit of a kitchen and often laundry facilities.


Traveling with kids is not something we are that use to, at least not for this type of trip so we have lots to learn and figure out as we go. It will likely be a bit of give and take with what we see while on the road.

General comments made:

July 10, 2013

We are now on Flores Island, Indonesia and have been here for a little over a week. Our trip has changed so much since arriving here from the fast paced, no time, get it all done before we have to move on, to the relaxed pace one would expect in the tropics when one has 6 months and no definitive plans. Ahhhhh.


 Europe was fantastic. We loved it and we maximized and enjoyed every waking minute. In fact it was so busy, we didn’t have any time to write any updates as we were hoping we would. 6 weeks into the trip, it has been quite nice not writing and the thought up catching up on six activity and experience filled weeks is a bit daunting. With daunting comes procrastination, which of course makes it more daunting etc. So time to sit down and put to paper some of the highlights of the trip. Of course, I know that once, I start I will enjoy the process of sharing with you what we have done and knowing I will have a record to reflect upon in the years to come.

Packing up the storage containers

So here goes:

The last week in Revelstoke was crazy. Packing a house for moving is difficult, packing for the move and for an around the world seven month trip is, hellish. After what seemed like eternity, we managed to get all of our worldly belongings into two 20-foot storage containers, clean the house, fill the cars with all that was left including three kayaks, too many bikes and hit the road for Vancouver.

Ice cream fun at our favourite shop on SSI with our favourite friends

After some last minute shopping for the trip in Vancouver and seeing family, we were off to Salt Spring Island to spend a few days at Jim and Fran’s (Tracey’s parents). We LOVE Salt Spring Island and the McLennan cottage! We knew we were on vacation the moment we arrived. Trace and I have been fortunate and have traveled to over 45 countries and we still consider Vancouver, the Gulf Islands and the rest of BC as the best place on earth. We are so fortunate to live where we do and to have so many wonderful friends and loving family (and visa versa).


It was great to have some chill time at SSI as we felt like we needed a rest after the past few weeks and especially the last few days of moving. The Kaul’s ran over in their boat from their home on Piers Island for a day. What a wonderful time we had; kids playing in boats on the water and catching up.


May 5 – 10, 2013


The flight to London was fantastic. We flew Air Transat. Last time I flew Air Transat to London, I was not so keen on the airline, however they blew us away this time. They have a wonderful kids program, allowing us preferred check in lines, free snacks, priority baggage etc. Also, the airplane was brand-new with the latest and gratest entertainment system, we each got caught up on about 3 new movies. So much for getting homework done as per the plan.


We arrived in London at 8:00am their time, midnight our time. Our first day was a big one. We made our way from Gatwick to our flat, about a 2 hour journey all in, dropped our bags, got changed and headed out to explore.

First train ride from Gatwick to London


Last time I traveled to London, it took me the better part of 6 days to get adjusted to the time difference. Our plan was to stay up as late as possible to reset our clocks and I have to hand it to the kids, they were troopers. We had a full day of exploring the sites of London. We didn’t go to any attractions that day, but we still had a very eye opening first day for the kids in London. From riding the Tube, a double-decker bus, Victoria station and the train, British Pounds, money exchanging, grocery shopping with mostly unfamiliar brands, large crowds of people, a London taxi and more. We all loved our first day as for Trace and I it was so wonderful to finally be traveling with the kids and seeing them experience another country half way around the world. And for the kids it was simply a new world.


As we were all pretty darned tuckered out, we headed back to our flat around 5:00pm and had front row seats on the upper level of a classic red double-decker. On the way back, James was nodding off, so to keep him from sleeping too early, we had to do our best to keep him awake by pointing out with great vigor, the wonderful new sights he would otherwise miss.


After some grocery shopping and dinner in our flat, we hit the hay a bit early, hoping we would all sleep through the night. With a little help from Melatonin (a natural sleep-aid) we all slept right through and utterly amazed as I was, other than a tired first day in London, we had no jet-lag! Yahoo.


Note, I always suffer from jet lag. This is the fist time I have used Melatonin. Melatonin coupled with sleeping and waking at the new normal times, I am convinced virtually eliminates jet lag.

Up top in our first red Double-Decker

Our days in London were jam-packed. We literally would be out all day, heading out early and not back to our flat until around 10:00pm on average. The best part is we all loved it. The kids were just as keen as we were to do it all and we loved it. We would often get home and chat about the day, realizing that some of the things we thought we did the day before were actually the same morning. The days were so full and experience-packed; it often felt like two days in one. (In fact, that seems to be a fairly reoccurring theme and we have been loving it).


As I am writing this a few weeks later and I don’t want to bore you, I will mention the highlights in point form:


  • First off, I must say Thank you to the Londoners. We LOVED the people in London. In fact they completely amazed us with their warm, friendly and helpful demeanor. Not the “stiff upper lip” crusty bunch that they get labeled as at all. We all agreed we would love to go back and spend more time in the UK.
  • We rented bikes for an afternoon, as James and Caitlin were keen to do some riding. The bikes were the type you find from automatic bike dispensers typically found in larger cities and often used for one-way trips. The bikes were for 16 years and older and only adult sized. But thankfully the kids are good bikers and were able to handle the large frames. Although we did tell a white lie that they were “almost old enough”. We rode along the River Thames for about 8km, along narrow river-side paths and over cobblestone streets amongst light traffic (on the “wrong” side of the road) and to get back to central London from Greenwich,
  • The kids loved feeding the squirrels at St. James park. No matter if in Vancouver or London some things are just the same.
  • Caitlin navigating. Caitlin had a day of navigating our way around London to the various attractions via, the Tube, busses and walking. She did great. What a wonderful day of practical schooling.
  • The taxi drivers, were amazing. They were all super helpful, friendly and oddly enough coming from Vancouver, they were all white.
  • All of the houses in London are so small including their yards. Granted were were in the city. However even in the outskirts, our experience was theat everything was very tight on space. Even a flat that looked a good size was often a multiplex. Inside the flats, hotel room etc, space is extremely limited. It gave us a good appreciation of the space we all enjoy in Canada. From our forests to our yards and right down to our houses. Our houses are huge in comparison to many we saw in London – of course the English castles are a different story.
  • Regarding space, it is at such a premium the homes we saw all had horrible washer dryer combo machines that suck ass and are usually in the kitchen. They take forever to wash and dry and only take a tiny load of clothes. I have fallen in love our W/D at home all over again.
  • I have always loved the wonderful words Brits have for things such as jumper for sweater, boot for trunk etc. It was great to hear all these words again for the first time through the kid’s ears. We would often talk about our plan to create a UK English to Canadian English dictionary. Never got around to it.
  • The Tube/Metro is colourful all by itself, add in the sound of buskers in cavernous walkways and the experience is elevated to a new level.
  • How amazing the kids were every day. Enthusiastic and Energetic! T and I were bagged and the kids kept right up.
  • We watched the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham (pronounced Buckingham as I was corrected) Palace one sunny afternoon. It was quite the big deal judging by all the people there, however we found the actual changing a bit of a let down. But the entire experience, crowds and anticipation made it quite an event. After the ‘show’ we happened to stroll into the Palace gift shop where Caitlin took a very long time to decide on what to purchase. We have a tradition of buying a Christmas tree ornament from all the paces we go. Makes decorating the tree a fun event as we reminisce together. Thankfully Caitlin took her time because in doing so Trace got speaking with one of the employees who told us about the Queen making her speech at the opening of Parliament the next day and that we would be able to see her along the parade route.
  • The next day we were back at the Palace waiting for her. I must say this was an event. Hundreds of foot and mounted soldiers in their spectacular regalia all a hold over from glorious days past with feathered hats, shining breastplates and loud bands. We did get to see the Queen, her hubby, Prince Charles, Camilla and a bunch of other royalty who we were not quite as familiar with. Shame on us.
  • We stayed in a great pad close to everything in a great area, Clapham Common. Found it on Lovely quiet relatively spacious 2 bedroom flat.
  • Other than one afternoon for a couple of hours, we had perfect weather. Unheard of for that time of year in London


(For more images, see the photo gallery)


 Things we did in London:

  • Saw my parents flats they lived in 50 years ago
  • Natural History Museum – a MUST
  • Big Ben – well not really. The Big Ben is actually the 14 tonne bell inside the Elizabeth Tower.
  • Session of Parliament. Thanks to our friend Sarah Ludlow sister of Kate, we were invited inside the parliament buildings were we were able to see a session of parliament in progress. Great schooling.
  • London Eye – the large Ferris-wheel
  • Piccadilly Circus (I grew up in Vancouver on Piccadilly St)
  • Hamleys an incredible toy store on Regent St.
  • Regent St – incredible shopping, not that we realy did much. But fun to see the Lotus store, Ferrari and all the big name shops.
  • Wicked. We decided to get last minute tickets to the Musical, Wicked. It is one of the top shows in London right now. It is the story of the witches of the Land of Oz. It was fantastic. Also, great to be in the third row.
  • The town of Greenwich, the wonderful free museum and to be on the Prime Meridian, from which Greenwich Mean Time is derived.
  • Authentic Fish and Chips in an English pub, complete the the newspaper wrap
  • Tower of London. This is the old castle on the shores of the River Thames where generations of royalty lived and many queens and other royalty lost their heads. Quite gruesome displays in areas, all of which was of course a hit with the kids
  • Westminster Abby. An incredible church close to the Parliament buildings. We tried to get in one day and the line up was massive, it was also a bit costly to enter. We lucked out and ended up being allowed to enter during a service. This was not only free, we also were able to hear the wonderful organ, singing and more.
  • James is a huge fan of the Ripley’s Believe it or Not books and has ready everyone in his library and received some for Christmas. The museum is in Piccadilly Circus, so he and I toured it. Fascinating. From horses that paint rather artful paintings, to videos of men with no lower body at all, to more torture devices.
  • Seeing the Ludlow sisters
  • Last but not least having dinner with T’s cousin, Rob Meekison and girlfriend Preety. We had a great time together.

May 10, 2013 London to Paris:


Wow. Where do I start? London has been absolutely wonderful. We have not had time to update the site because since we landed we have been going at break-neck speed. We have been leaving our lovely flat early and not back until around 11:00pm.


The kids have been incredible and have completely impressed Trace and I as they have not only been intrepid travelers, keen for all we have been doing, but also very helpful.


We are now on the Eurostar, fast train to Paris. I will update on London when we have some time in Paris.


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