Best of 2017

Last year, I wrote a massively long Best of 2016 post and I still reread it constantly, every time I want to reminisce on how awesome that year was. I don’t know if anyone else found it as interesting as I do, but either way I really enjoyed writing it.

This year, I was thinking about writing one but I didn’t think there would be enough highlights since I didn’t travel as much. Then I realized I had been to Chicago, Vancouver, Victoria, Nova Scotia three times, Colombia, Greece, Italy, England, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. So I guess 2016 just really spoiled me; because objectively this was still an awesome year. When I actually got in to writing this post it was so nice to reminisce on everything wonderful that happened this year. Also this is long again. Sorry.

Sailing around Greece

Obviously, this is number one. I wrote a whole post about my week with MedSailors aboard a yacht, but suffice it to say this will be a tough adventure to top. Honestly, the best thing about this week was that I didn’t touch my phone after the first day. It was so freeing to actually live in the moment and not worry about posting the perfect snap story.

Me and Haley still text constantly about this trip, and we are definitely still planning to do the same in Croatia ASAP.

Exploring the Cotswolds

I LOVE England. I’ve been five times now, and I always try to make it to somewhere new while I’m in the country. In January I headed over to Surrey to visit my friend Brooke, who was au pairing for the sweetest family of all time. On her weekend off, we bussed to Cheltenham to visit my parents’ friends Rob and Karen. I’ve seen them lots of times over the years, when they come to Canada or when we go to England, and they are possibly the best hosts of all time.

Me and Brooke were just grateful that they let us crash with them, so we weren’t expecting the royal treatment we got: a personalized tour around the Cotswolds, wonderful home-cooked meals accompanied with lots of wine, and definitely more generosity than we deserved!

It couldn’t have been a more perfect weekend getaway, and I know I’ll be back to the Cotswolds. Every town was breathtaking and charming, especially since it was January and they weren’t packed with tourists.

Seeing the northern lights

On a related note, I flew to London via Reykjavik on Wow Air. I paid $400 CAD for the ticket, which was a darn good deal for a flight to Europe – but of course it came with the reduced service of a budget airline.

Right before I checked in, my dad sent me a message suggesting I get a window seat on the left side of the plane in case the northern lights were out. I took his advice, not really expecting it to happen. About halfway through the flight, the flight attendants announced that we were about to see the Northern Lights out of the left side. I immediately threw my book down and pressed my face against the window.

I don’t have a photo of the Northern Lights because I was busy crying. Here’s Iceland.

For the next twenty minutes I couldn’t take my eyes off the sky: as a child I loved the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, following a child named Lyra in a magical world. A lot of it takes place in the Arctic, and the northern lights feature heavily. I felt like Lyra, staring out at the sky and feeling strangely spiritual. It was a beautiful experience (I sound like a hippie) and I can’t WAIT to see the northern lights again.

Falling in love with Naples

Something I have learned this year: I do not appear to be destined to visit the Amalfi Coast. Three times I have booked and paid for a stay there, and three times something has gone wrong and I didn’t make it.  Our flight to Naples was so delayed that we couldn’t get to Positano without paying a truly absurd amount of money for a cab.

So we hopped in a cab to downtown Naples instead, at 1AM, without a place to stay. We went to the hostel we had booked for the NEXT night, assuming they’d have availability, but we were out of luck. We eventually found somewhere, and crashed around 2:30.

With this inauspicious start, our time in Naples could have been total crap. On the contrary, we fell in love! The castles and forts have stunning views, the people are so friendly, every alley is stunning. Naples certainly has a special Italian magic, and I would go back in a heartbeat.

Properly seeing Chicago

My previous experience in Chicago involved an unplanned overnight layover. I had been wanting to go back since then, so in June my friend Sunjita and I flew down for a weekend and had an absolute blast.

This was also the weekend that Porter Airlines delayed us over 4 hours on the way there and OVERNIGHT on the way back, and I swore off Porter forever. However, Chicago was worth it.

Ironically, in my Best of 2016 post I talked about two awesome girls I met in Austria. They lived in Chicago, so we stayed with Kim and spent the whole weekend with them!! It is so, so nice to actually reunite with friends I meet abroad, and I can’t wait to see them again.

Anyway, Chicago is awesome. We went to a taco festival, tanned at the incredible beaches (who knew?), and tried the life-changing deep dish pizza. 10/10.

Our Meteora Hotel Room

I am confident that this is my favorite accommodation of all time, and I’ve stayed in some pretty awesome places from houseboats to resorts. We stayed in dirt-cheap hostels for our entire Greece/Italy trip EXCEPT in Meteora. I came upon Hotel Doupiani House and once I saw the view I knew we had to stay there.

This was our view!

Everything about our room was perfect, and the staff at the hotel were unbelievably helpful and sweet, but the best part by far was our balcony. We sat out there until late in the night, drinking a bottle of wine and catching up on all the gossip that we had missed in eachother’s lives.

Meteora is a magical place, and staying at the Hotel Doupiani House is an amazing way to make it even more magical.

One of my favorite photos from Greece

Hiking Grouse Mountain

If you read my Best of 2016 post you may remember that I have suddenly found myself really into hiking. Obviously, there were gonna be some hikes on this list as well. I visited Vancouver for the first time since I was three in May, spending two days in Victoria and two days in Vancouver. The indisputed highlight of my trip was hiking up Grouse Mountain!

Look how Canadian I am in this photo. Shorts in the snow! It was great to hike this right at the beginning of the season since it was fairly empty, but I did trip into the snow and get soaked at one point. Good thing I was sweating from the hike!

The view from the top is gorgeous, but the hike itself was a great experience as well. I met a lovely Austrian couple and we chattered away in German and English about their trip to Canada and my trip to Austria. We hiked most of the way together which was a nice change since I usually hike solo! It was probably the hardest hike I’ve ever done but well worth the effort.

Going back to Carter’s Beach

Carter’s Beach is a specific place in Nova Scotia, but really this highlight is just about learning to appreciate my home province again. I never realized how much I would miss the ocean when I moved to the middle of the country, and now every time I come home for a visit my first request is to visit a beach.

Carter’s Beach in particular is one of the most surprising beaches I’ve ever been to. The water is beyond freezing, but from the look of it Carter’s could be in the Caribbean. Being away from home has made me fall so much more in love with my home and I have loved being back here for Christmas!

A Day in Paradise in Colombia

Every single day in Colombia was amazing, and I still need to write a few more posts about it. The best day, though, was on our boat trip to the Rosario Islands. I don’t want to give a ton away here because I’m dying to write a really detailed post and use every single one of my photos, but basically, I had no idea this kind of water existed off the coast of Colombia. The Caribbean coast here is such an underrated gem and I had the time of my life snorkelling, hanging out with a random extended family from Miami, and getting a really great tan.

This is the aforementioned random family from Miami

Jungle Living in Minca

Another Colombia entry. Warning, the next one is Colombia too.

Anyway, Minca was so cool. Staying in a jungle cabana was such a lovely way to connect with the sights and sounds of the jungle, and I will never forget how lovely it was to wake up and grab coffee while everything around me woke up. The second night, staying in a dorm bed perched at the top of the building, with a totally open wall to my right, was simultaneously terrifying and extremely peaceful.

Ugh, now I miss Minca.

The Most Fun Five Days Ever in Cartagena

A friend recently asked me what to do in Cartagena, and I said, “I went to a rooftop that was really nice. But it was my friend’s apartment so you can’t go there. Otherwise I don’t know, just like walk around.”

Really, that sums up my time in Cartagena. I didn’t really DO a lot, but I sure had a lot of fun. Our hostel, Republica, was pretty much the definition of a party hostel, and we took full advantage of the party.

From having a beer on the city walls, to exploring a different nightlife district every night but always ending up in the same club, to the pool parties at the hostel, there was definitely a lot of drinking involved in our Cartagena stay. The vibe of the city just makes you want to live it up, and we did.

Also, I met a very cute and very tall Australian boy, which never hurts.

Quitting my job

Remember what I said about sailing in Greece being my number one highlight of the year? I take it back, quitting my job was DEFINITELY the best thing I did in 2017. I was so deeply unhappy sitting in an outdated office in a sketchy part of town, doing work I physically couldn’t have cared less about. One day I arbitrarily applied for a few travel jobs, hoping someone would throw me a rope that would convince me to take the plunge and quit.

Now I have fun coworkers who do things like get me sweet 16 cakes for my 22nd birthday.

Flight Centre called me in for an interview, and I made it through the process. I was hooked! I make a ton less money and work a lot more hours, but I am also about 1000% happier as a travel agent than I was as a “Category Shopper Development Analyst” (Barf)

How fitting to end on the best decision I’ve ever made. To 2018 – hoping for even more adventures!

York May Be My Favourite Part of England

I grew up on British humour like Fawlty Towers. If you haven’t seen Fawlty Towers, please watch it – it is literally the funniest thing in the history of comedy. It’s a show by John Cleese (the funniest member of Monty Python) and basically all of my family’s jokes come from the show. My dad also had a friend who lived in England while I was growing up, and we saw his British family occasionally. I also feel like most Canadians (maybe just me?) feel a connection to the UK since we’re still so involved with them – good old Commonwealth. Anyway, suffice it to say I was a total Anglophile as a kid.

My family took a wonderful trip to England when I was probably 9 or 10, and it was the first time I ever kept a travel journal – a lovely tradition that I still do every time I take a trip. We spent 10 days in a rural home, taking trips to places like Stonehenge, Durdle Door and Bath, and then 3 days in London. It was the greatest way for a pair of preteens to learn about a culture and country that had always fascinated us – we memorized the monarchs using a poem we found in the home we were staying in, talked in fake British accents half the time, and were likely generally annoying to locals.

I love London and all of its cosmopolitan charm, but smaller-town England has always been where my heart lies (weird, since in a lot of places I’m obsessed with the cities). There’s something special about the English countryside; it lives up to every single one of its stereotypes and everything is just so cute.

On this summer’s trip, York offered the perfect stopover between Edinburgh and London, and also helped me with my goal of checking off more of England. It’s got the old world charm that makes England feel so different from Canada, but the same kind of people that make Canada so great. That’s why York may be my favourite part of England.

I loved walking the walls, because the sentence ‘walking the walls’ is just so cool and princess-y. This was probably my highlight, and if I hadn’t been so hungover from Edinburgh (oops) I would have done the whole circuit – as it is, I just did the part closest to the famous Minster and was totally blown away. The walls are free to access and there are various points you can get up and down; the views are great and like I said, it’s just a really cool way to feel like you’re in history.

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As for the Minster, it’s probably the most famous and therefore most touristy part of York. It was the only place I found super crowded, and I didn’t even go in because I’ve decided I don’t appreciate the inside of churches enough to pay £15 for them. I did enjoy admiring the incredible intricacy of the outside, but the construction was kind of annoying. Churches – beautiful, but meh. I look at them and then I’m like …ok let’s go. Might mean I’m uncultured, but ah well.

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‘The Shambles’ is the cutest name ever for the historic shopping district in York. They’re home to everything you would expect; tea shops, ‘traditional’ British goods stores, and then the touristy trinkets. They’re a super cool look into medieval England town life, and despite the crowds I enjoyed wandering through. It was, however, impossible to get a good picture, so here’s one I got from somebody with more talent than me.

I think the part of this trip that made my time in York so special was where I stayed. Hostels were absurdly expensive, so I stayed at an Airbnb just across the river from the historic part of town. The couple who owned the beautiful house I stayed in were incredibly welcoming, even offering up a free breakfast. I booked the place almost solely based on the fact that they had a black lab, and his name was Oscar and I loved him. It’s always nice to break up hostel dorms with a good night’s sleep in a private room, and this night was worth every penny! Sitting around the breakfast island in the morning, watching the news and petting the dog, I let myself believe I was actually from York and this was my home, and it was delightful. Hostels are great, but in a place like this, experiencing local living can really add to the experience.

A Walking Tour of the City of London

One of my goals for the summer is to become more cultured. As I’ve talked about, I don’t love museums because they’re not engaging enough for me, so I tend to skip learning a lot of important knowledge about the places I’m visiting. Certain aspects of history and culture absolutely fascinate me, like Greek mythology and World War 2. However, I most enjoy learning about these things through novels or movies (i.e. Anne Frank, Hercules – the Disney one, of course). I just find it tiresome to read a laundry list of dates and names that don’t give me a feeling for what life was like and who these people were. What I want is personal stories and special insight into the history of a location.

When Context Travel reached out to me about a partnership during my trip to London, I took a quick look at their tour offerings and was immediately sold: what better way to kick off my Euro-trip than a private walk through lesser-seen historical sites in London, run by a PhD student who likes history more than I like ice-cream (just kidding, that’s not possible). I selected the Portrait of a City tour for my sister and I; since we’d been to the city before it would give us a deeper look into some of the places we didn’t explore while still going back over the highlights!

We met Julia at a very easy-to-find sundial outside Tower Hill station and set off for a journey into the depths of the City of London’s long and storied history. There’s no way I can cover all the fascinating things we learned and gorgeous places we saw without writing a novella, but here’s a look at my personal highlights.


I have become extremely fixated on bridges. I feel like this is a pretty common thing, but when I first start planning a trip I immediately check whether there’s a bridge I can walk across. New York has the Brooklyn Bridge, Prague has Charles’ Bridge, and London has many bridges: Tower Bridge being my uncreative self’s favorite. I loved hearing Julia’s opinions on each bridge and which ones Londoners liked the most: she explained the history of each bridge and showed us pictures of their various incarnations, one of which totally looks like Volantis’s bridge in Game of Thrones.


Londoners’ Opinions on Modern Architecture

When you briefly visit a city, it can be hard to get a feeling for how locals view tourists and what they think of the attractions that we find so compelling. As a long-time Londoner, Julia had tons of insight into the various sights in London and what the general opinions of them are. I found her thoughts on buildings like the Shard, the Gherkin and the Walkie Talkie particularly fascinating: they’re icons of London, and most Londoners seem to have very strong opinions about their effect on the city skyline.

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Hidden churches

I’ve never been religious, so I usually feel pretty uncomfortable going into churches unless they’re crazy famous and I’m certain that I’m supposed to go in – think Notre Dame. Julia took us into churches down tiny alleys that I never would have walked down, and I certainly wouldn’t have felt like I could just go in the churches. She showed us the coolest ones and the Roman ruins they housed, helping to satisfy my sister’s fascination with everything Roman.

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Leadenhall Market

I think the best part of the tour, for me, was being shown the place where DIAGON ALLEY was filmed. My sister and I are both excessively obsessed with the world of Harry Potter, and if we had a second day in London would certainly have made our way to the Leavesdon Studios outside London – this was a nice substitute. The alleys and market streets were beautiful and pretending I was shopping for my first day at Hogwarts was glorious. Wow, I’m so cool.

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View of St. Pauls

To finish off our incredible afternoon, Julia showed us a view that most tourists don’t see: from the rooftop of the Stealth Bomber Building. The view of St. Paul’s could not have been better, and looking at a panorama of London never gets old. And in such an expensive city, how could you not love the fact that something so beautiful is free!

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My sister and I both had a fabulous time on our walking tour of the city of London with Context Travel. I think this was an awesome first step to learning more about history and becoming more cultured – I genuinely enjoyed hearing about the events that have shaped London and gaining insight into how this enigmatic and globalized city operates. Julia was the best tour guide we could have asked for, giving us breaks when our feet started to hurt and answering any and every question that crossed our minds.

I’m starting to figure out what my philosophy is for spending money on travel: there are certain things I’m happy to pay a premium for. Accommodation is NOT one of those things, but Broadway and/or West End musicals are one – and perhaps walking tours might become a part of my travel style. If you want to get a deeper understanding of a city, check if Context Travel operates there and look into their walking tours: you’ll leave smarter than you were before!

This tour was complimentary courtesy of Context Travel, but I am not being compensated for this post. I also wasn’t required to write a review, much less a glowing one! This is my honest opinion.

Revisiting London

After our awesome walking tour (read about it here) during our first few hours in London, we were eager to hit a few of the sights we had seen when we visited 9 or 10 years ago. Also on the list were things we’ve been sad about missing out on for 9 or 10 years, most excitingly including a West End musical. It can be hard to plan a trip to somewhere you’ve already visited (and it’s definitely harder if you were old enough to remember your first trip well) but with just a few hours before our show, we headed out to make the most of our limited time in London.

First up was walking across the bridge featured in Harry Potter when the Death Eaters destroyed it: Millennium Bridge. I talked in my last post about my fixation on bridges so I loved this experience: we even purchased some touristy roasted nuts to warm us up. The best part of bridges is the views you can get from the middle: after all, riverbanks tend to hold some of the most impressive buildings a city has to offer!

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Next we hopped on a bus (explained by our walking tour guide) and naturally made a beeline for the top floor of the iconic double deckers. Enjoying the view along the way, we hopped off at Trafalgar Square and decided to do a quick walk by arguably the three biggest attractions in London: Westminster Abbey, the London Eye and the Parliament Buildings. Pictures are gorgeous, but there’s nothing like gazing up at the ornate and unbelievably beautiful British Parliament or admiring the intricate architecture of Westminster Abbey. The London Eye is imposing and iconic and in my opinion, London wouldn’t be London without the Eye.

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I wish I could have spent hours admiring this area of the city and photographing its buildings, but something even more exciting was ahead. After a quick stop for a dinner of British pie at the lively and exploration-worthy Covent Garden Market, where the sound of opera singers rang out above the clatter of shoppers and diners, it was off to the Lyceum Theatre.


Side note: to put into perspective how tired I was in London, my eyes kept drifting shut during a MUSICAL. I love nothing more than musicals, but a cumulative 3 hours of sleep in the past 2 days made my body cry out for sleep. I wanted to slap myself in the face, but despite the occasional drifting I was on the edge of my seat watching a show I’ve wanted to see for SO long: The Lion King. The sets, the singers, the costumes, the elaborate detail put into every element of the show….this was worth every single penny we paid for it – and that was a lot of pennies. Hearing a play in British accents was also marvellous, as I obviously have a fascination with British accents. What North American doesn’t?

Literally the only downside to the show was the ridiculous number of school groups. For someone who is technically still a teenager, I say the sentence, “I hate teenagers” an awful lot, and it was certainly muttered often under my breath. I think every school in Europe sent 8000 kids to see the show and they would not stop talking. As a born and bred excessively polite Canadian, I often feel too bad to shush people, but that night I was so frustrated that it happened a few times. Despite that, nothing will deter me from leaving with a fantastic impression of this show: my all time favourite is still Mamma Mia (best night of my life) but I think the Lion King is up there now: especially if you’re as obsessed with Disney as most people I know.

All in all, we packed in quite a good amount for one day in London: I think the best strategy for seeing a city for the second (or third, or fourth) time is to revisit the iconic things that you loved most, make it to the things you regret missing the first time, and maybe delve a little deeper on a historic tour. Cities like London never run out of new things for you to see and do, but I think I could go to London 12 times and I’d go back to see Parliament and the London Eye every single time.

Do you like revisiting cities? Have you been to London? What’s your strategy for revisiting a city?


Three Days in London

This is the last in a series of posts about my family’s England trip.

Ever since my family left London, we have wanted to go back. This city seems to draw everyone in; it really has everything you could want, with the old-world charm that my love New York City is missing. We only had three days in London, which is in no way enough. We don’t regret planning most of our time in the countryside, but we certainly missed lots of amazing places and sights in the capital of the UK!


I didn’t keep a travel journal for this part of the trip, which I am still kicking myself for! This post will be more like a photo essay – lots of gorgeous photos courtesy of my dad, and not much practical advice given that I remember quite little.

Three Days in London


Walking around London is like walking around in a dream. Every corner brings a brand new landmark that you’ve been dreaming of seeing for your whole life. We would have loved to delve into more of London’s quirky neighborhoods, but with only three days we stuck to all the main landmarks.


I have a poster of Tower Bridge with the lights of the city around it, and it could not be any more beautiful. No matter what time of day, this bridge is glorious – one of the most iconic views in the city.

My bratty self was quite petulant about visiting the British Museum and a few other historical sites, but I was SO excited about the Tower of London. I’ve always loved learning about the British Monarchy – to the point that my sister and I memorized a poem with the names of all the Monarchs since William the Conqueror – which I think I still remember.


You’d think the disturbing things that have happened at the Tower of London would have upset sensitive little me, but I was fascinated. I look starstruck in the picture above, which is a bit sad.

The London Eye was absolutely breathtaking. My mom’s fear of heights forced her to stay on the ground, but the rest of us went up this rather expensive Ferris wheel and definitely got our money’s worth. Even if you’re on a budget, this is something you can’t miss. I hear the Shard has equally epic views – can’t wait to test it out when I someday get back to London.


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This next photo is, in my opinion, one of the best my dad has ever taken. The combination of the double decker buses, lion statue, and Big Ben towering in the background immediately evoke a certain feeling in me.


Writing this post made me feel even more nostalgic for London. As a transportation hub and the easiest European city to get to from Halifax, I’m sure I’ll be back someday (Update September 2016 – I have now been twice more!) – do you love London as much as I do?

Day of Henges: Stonehenge and Avebury

My family couldn’t go to England without hitting up Stonehenge, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country – and we couldn’t resist throwing another henge in there! From our home in the English countryside, we drove a bit over an hour to see Avebury Stone Circle first. It’s much less frequented than Stonehenge, and I certainly hadn’t heard of it until we went…but we loved it!


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Sheep roam freely among the stones of Avebury, and the relaxed and uncrowded atmosphere means that Avebury has a completely different vibe than Stonehenge. The National Trust has made sure this site is well protected, and the gate put up to prevent local cows from coming in is just one of those protective measures – so English.

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This place feels much more real than Stonehenge, which is so well kept and touristy that it doesn’t seem as authentic. Here, it feels like you’ve stepped back into a time when these stones were used for whatever their purpose was –  magic, worship, etc.


After another 45 minute drive, we arrived among the mob of tourists at Stonehenge on this gorgeous sunny day. For a very detailed and intelligent perspective on our experience (cue the sarcasm), let’s refer to the travel journal I kept at the time:

We went to Stonehenge. VERY crowded. However there wasn’t the raucous noise you would expect. We went around with the audio tours. I love audio tours. We got ice cream again :). I love ice cream.”

How helpful. I do, however, remember loving the audio tour! It’s a place that you really need to know some history to enjoy, so the audio enriched our experience and made us feel a bit more knowledgeable.

Every picture I share of me and my sister is very humiliating. Oh well.

Every picture I share of me and my sister is very humiliating. Oh well.

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All in all, our day of henges at Stonehenge and Avebury was great! I would absolutely recommend combining a day trip to Stonehenge with one to Avebury, as they’re quite close and have completely different feels.

Have you ever been to Stonehenge? Would you like to go? What about Avebury? Do you love audio tours and ice cream as much as I do? 

Our Home in the English Countryside

One of the best trips my family has taken was to England 7 or 8 years ago. For about two weeks, we roamed the English countryside and hit all the main sights before packing as much of London as we could into a few short days. Although we all wish we had more time in London, our home in the English countryside was an amazing home base to get to places like Bath, Durdle Door and Stonehenge.


I’ve talked before about the type of place we like to stay in the Caribbean, and we had the same checklist for England! Here, we did something a bit different and exchanged homes with another family. On a smaller scale than our move to Australia (we exchanged homes, cars and jobs with the family), we swapped houses to live in full comfort for our respective trips.

Our gorgeous country home was in Lamyatt, a tiny town near Bruton & Glastonbury. It was so great to have an entire house (plus two cats!) to ourselves as opposed to a cramped hotel room. We all got our own bedrooms, and in true English fashion the sprawling house had various sitting rooms and a great yard.

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The views from our house were absolutely beautiful, and staying in a home really gave us a different experience of English life.

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If you’re interested in swapping homes, there are a lot of very reputable websites out there like, Homelink and Intervac. I know my family definitely recommends home exchange – and look for lots more posts in the next few weeks about our time in England.