Back Behind the Wheel

One of the perks of housesitting for my parents is that I have access to their car. That’s great in theory, but I have driven all of a week in the last ten months and the greater Montreal area is one of the most harrowing places I’ve ever driven. I went out for a very short run on Saturday to run errands within Chambly, but tonight was the big test: driving my parents to the airport in Dorval and then getting back home!

Despite traffic, the drive to the airport was quite easy since I had navigators. Like when I drove on Saturday, I found that the biggest stress was driving their new car with all its gadgets. I could have used one of those gadgets on Miranda, though, rearview mirrors that flash if there is someone in your blind spot and beep at you if you put your flashers on when someone is in your blind spot. That’s a feature I’d love on my next car!

When we got to the airport, they explained to me where the “cellparc” is. That’s a great feature at PE Trudeau Airport where you can park for up to an hour for free to wait for an arrival. There has to be someone in the car who has a cellphone. So when I go pick up my parents in three weeks, I will just go there and they will call me once they’ve cleared customs and have their luggage, then I will swing around and pick them up. That will save a hefty parking fee.

Then, I had to go home. They’d showed me the route when I arrived last week, but I wasn’t in a mindset then to remember much, although some landmarks stuck in my head. I was pretty sure I was headed in generally the right direction and that I’d hit a bridge to the South Shore, even if it wasn’t the one I meant to take, but I could get home easily from any of them even if I went out of my way. So I was very happy when I saw the first sign telling me I was indeed on the way to the Honoré-Mercier Bridge that I wanted to take. There was no traffic at that point, so the drive was very easy. I was exhausted when I came in, though!

I’ve got a big day of work tomorrow, but Friday should be focused on getting together my documents for my residente temporal visa application so I can go to the consulate on Saturday morning. If my request fails in Montreal (I hear that service here is abysmal), I’ll make a second attempt at the embassy in Ottawa. But I’m optimistic that I will be fine here as long as I have all my paperwork and proceed in Spanish. I’m having fun reading all the Spanish legalese to make sure I have everything and have no idea how people who don’t speak Spanish get through this process.

My host in Mexico keeps sending me teaser photos of where I’m headed and it looks so much like Isla that I’m really getting homesick! Who knows, I may change my mind about moving to downtown Mérida. 🙂

One Final Adventure

I can’t believe I only have one full day left here in Shrewsbury! I’m working today, but I should be able to go out tomorrow to do my last walking tour.

Unfortunately, I won’t get a chance to go see anything in the environs. The number one thing on my list was the Roman city of Wroxeter, but it’s only open during the weekends in winter months. 🙁

My host returns quite early on Wednesday morning. I had applied for a bunch of short-term sits that would fill a few nights of my last week and no one even bothered to get back to me to say no thank you to my services, leaving me in limbo for far too long. So I spent hours yesterday trying to decide what I was going to do next and the answer just wasn’t coming to me. I really wanted to at least step foot in Wales, but there was literally no accommodation within my price range in locations that were convenient from Shrewsbury and to London.

My host had offered to let me stay on a day or two more, but with my flight being on the 15th, it became clear that the most sensible thing to do would be to find a week’s rental near Gatwick as that would be the same price as renting for just a few nights.  But that also wasn’t coming together. And if you know me, you know I don’t like to force these things.

Well, answer came to me after a too short night’s sleep. I knew that I’d made the right decision when I found a week’s accommodation (private room with a desk) for just 250CAD AND the last half-price train fare (80 versus 160CAD!) on the 8th leaving at a convenient time for both departure from Shrewsbury and arrival in a destination that would get me to Gatwick in about 30 minutes with public transportation.

So my amazing European tour will end in the seaside holiday town of Brighton.

By the way, someone needs to remind me to write a post about travel planning with England and how sometimes just going to a location a few miles away on a bus is unfathomably difficult to organise but travelling clear across the country with several connections can be easy peasy.

This adventure is winding down and while it has sometimes felt like I was robbing Peter to pay Paul, ie. making sacrifices in Europe to fund my unexpected journey to Mexico in May, I think I’ve done very well with my travels considering I was working essentially full-time and on a tight budget. I am very happy what I have to show for the last nine months.

My hosts in Mexico have checked in, enticing me with pictures of the luxury home and adorable dog I’ll be minding, as well as firming up my arrival date of May 15th. There is so much to plan to get there and there could be so much money going out if the visa request is approved, but it will all be worth it. Frankly, I’m knackered and the thought that two months from now I’ll be able to just stay put for five months is really appealing. Like when I was RVing, moving around so much in a short period of time is really not my preferred travel style.

 

It’s a Small World

I don’t answer the landline when I’m housesitting, but when the phone rang last night, this morning, and about 30 minutes before Spanish class today, I made the correct deduction that I should pick up. It was the Spanish teacher uninviting me to attend her conversation class because my skills are too advanced. Instead, she suggested I come by around 3:30 and meet a Mexican friend of hers who lives here in Hebden. She could speak to me in English, me to her in Spanish, and we could talk about my impending move to Mexico. How awesome is that?!

Well…

The gal, who is from Chiapas, near Yucatán, cautiously felt me out, asking me quite pointed questions about why I’m moving to Mexico and what my views are on certain topics. It was incredible to see her warm up to me as I answered what I guess was correctly for her. Before I knew it, we were both laughing and crying as we talked about what we missed about Mexico, like the food (al pastor tacos and Abuelita hot chocolate!) and the brights colours. We bonded over how bland we find Europe, the US, and Canada compared to the explosion of sights, sounds, tastes, and smells that is Mexico. She was so excited for me to be moving at this time of major social transition in Mexico and she found my observations very astute for the limited amount of time I’ve been there and that I’ve really only been to one small part of the country.

We finally had to leave as our host had another class. I asked if they knew if Co-Op would still be open and my new friend’s expression brightened at that. She lives near the store, so she was happy that we could walk together and keep chatting as we headed there. Her English is very basic and after a bit more of her haltingly trying to make her points and me confirming that I could understand her we switched to just Spanish. We got some strange looks as we made our way through this sleepy English village giggling away in Spanish. It was the best time I’ve had with someone in a very long time, even more special than my last night in Spain.

I’ve only got two more weeks here (already!), but we promised to see each other again. I think that this is one person I might end up keeping in touch with. We shall see…

I got what I needed at Co-Op and then decided that since a) I didn’t spend the £5 I was going to spend on a lesson, b) I am incredibly well under my food budget for January (thank you, Tesco!), and c) I had to get back to work when I got home, I was going to get fish and chips to keep my hands warm on my long walk home! Oh, didn’t I mention that it was about -1C/30F out? BRRRRRRR.

The chippy was doing a brisk business, but the line moved quickly. I was able to get a half portion of chips for 50p less than a full portion and that was absolutely perfect for me. It was sooooo good and I conveniently finished as I approached the public garbage can by my house so I didn’t have to worry about stinky trash at home.

What an incredible day it’s been. I’m going to be working late, of course, but it was worth it. Who would have thought that I’d make a Mexican friend here of all places?

Filling In the Middle of the Puzzle

More things are falling into place… 2017 has been feeling like a jigsaw with the edge pieces all present and the middle part missing the centre-most pieces.

My host in Amsterdam emailed today with a bunch of information that will help me hit the ground running there, just as my host here did. I cannot wait to meet my new charges! My hosts are vegans and while they have told me that I can cook anything in their kitchen, I wouldn’t dream of it. So that will be an interesting challenge since I do still have many meatless days, but I never was able to manage to learn to cook without dairy (I lasted about 45 hours as a vegan!).  I suspect work is going to be really slow over the holidays, so I’m researching free or very inexpensive things to do over that period to fill my time and make the most of it.

Next, I get special deals on booking.com and was able to rent a whole studio apartment just outside of Manchester for just under 50CAD per night when the normal rate was almost twice that! It’s a newish place, but reviews look okay. I might be stuck taking a cab from the airport, but the distance is less than 10KM, so it shouldn’t be that expensive. Getting into Manchester will be cheap.

The next big piece of news is that I am definitely going to housesit for my parents for about three weeks and will be in Quebec for about a month total. I got an insane deal on a flight that has me landing in Montreal on March 15th. I am going to set foot in Iceland and get a glimpse of it, if only from the airport. 🙂

So now, I have to fill March 1st to the 15th. The obvious thing is to find a sit in or about London. There’s nothing posted for those dates yet, but I’ll keep checking back. It would be amazing to bookend this adventure with another stay in London, especially if I can stay in a different part of the city. I had hoped to find my way back to Scotland, but the airfares wouldn’t cooperate.

The next things to figure out are getting my residente temporal visa and getting myself to Mérida for about the 15th of May.

I have reviewed the visa requirements am quite confident that I won’t have any issues since I can present investment statements, which are well over the amount needed, rather than a convoluted package showing my income, which only averages the amount needed. Also, I contacted an immigration lawyer in Mérida who told me that I do not have to go to my “home” consulate, which is in Calgary. This means that I can attempt my request at the consulate in Montreal. If I have trouble with them (their reviews are appalling), I can try the embassy in Ottawa or even the consulate in Toronto. If I can get the visa while I’m in Montreal it will save me considerable expense and time.

Next, the inevitable question is do I have to go home to Haven before heading to Mérida? Why not take advantage of cheap flights from Montreal to Cancún and then just start from scratch in Mérida? I can’t say the thought didn’t cross my mind, but I want to go home to say a proper goodbye and to make sure there are no loose ends there. If I save the expense of going to Calgary, then I am going to drive, but will not take a trailer. So whatever I can squeeze into the truck, pretty much whatever I brought to Maz, is what’s coming with me. But I do have that roof frame and and am thinking of making use of exterior space for non-valuable/sentimental items. To be discussed with Charles and Caroline. 🙂

The residente temporal visa is a one-year commitment to being in Mexico, with the option to renew for up to another three years. So I am not going to be burning any Canadian bridges at this time, but I do feel committed to 18 months at least (five-month sit, plus a one-year lease).

I have a lot of expenses between now and May 15th (I’ll likely have $1,000 just in fuel costs to get to Mérida, never mind hotels!), but once I get there, expenses will drop significantly and I’ll be able to easily save up my housekeeping setup costs. I still can’t believe how long it took me to accept this housesitting offer!

I feel like I’m in a better version of the spring of 2013, clearly moving towards an ending, but without the fear of what the new beginning will be. I just need to remember to continue savouring the now and to make each step of my journey to Mexico count. I must never lose sight that the journey is often more important than the arrival.