Morocco – Mistakes were made, lessons were learnt

In lack of my recent travel adventures, I offer my friend Steve’s. Go on, learn some hilariously unfortunate lessons at his expense before you next travel to Morocco.

The Glorious Adventures of Stev and Co

Traveling in Morocco was a great learning experience for myself. I learnt how to get lost in the middle of the Sahara during a sand storm and how to barter for wives with camels. But, I also learnt several life lessons which I feel I must impart on you should you ever travel to Morocco:

Always look down

If you are walking through Marrakech, stare at the ground at all times. If for whatever reason you need to look up, be prepared to be charged for watching a performance that was happening on the other side of town or be attacked by a hoard of monkeys and then be charged for taking photos with them.

Keep your mouth shut in the desert

Even if your nose is already full of sand, trust me, keep your mouth shut. I’m pretty sure I ate my own body weight in sand over the two days I…

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Year in Review: 2013

Better late than never, as they say! My annual year in review for 2013 begins now. In summary, it’s been a very full and eventful year. Some of my friends left Hugo & Cat but I also have made new ones this year too. I got a new work visa to stay in the UK another three years, I achieved the next level of kickboxing belt, I went surfing in Spain and I dyed my hair red. I only hope 2014 is even better and just as eventful!

January

  • Sherrie and I attended possibly one of the most cheesy (but very fun) musicals in London, Viva Forever. Sherrie, you spice up my life!
  • London got snow – always seems to come in January! I hope it comes soon again this year.
  • Happy Birthday Miriam!
  • Booked flights home to Canada to sort out a new visa in the summer.

February

  • I started the great cake adventure of 2013, beginning with a red velvet cheesecake which won hearts and fans.
  • I won tickets to the Kensington Roof Gardens for a movie date with my girl Sherrie
  • In the midst of a very bitterly frigid winter, Mother Nature graced us with balmy double figure temperatures. The people of London rejoice.
  • More cake. This time a chocolate peanut butter layer cake. Mmmmmmmmm.
  • Anita took me to see Justin Timberlake at the Forum, where as he walks on stage I promptly reverted to my 15 year old self, squealing like all the teenage girls I despise at concerts. HOW DOES HE DO THAT?!
  • I fell into a massive girl crush for J-Law. F*cking amazing woman. See her awesomeness here.
  • Rich left Hugo & Cat, so I made a carrot cake for him. A carrot cake that still continues to be requested to this day.

March

  • Cake continues… with carrots.
  • I made a Chocolate Guinness Cake for the St. Patricks Day Hugo & Cat bake-off. Disaster ensued. I cried. Further detail of the incident here.
  •  My good friend James left Hugo & Cat, so I made him a carrot cake too. Gee, lots of cake in March eh?
  • Booked a trip to Edinburgh for May. HERE I COME SCOTLAND!

April

  • James’ annual pub crawl. Always a winner. I made it to all 24 pubs this year and by the end of the day was ready to collapse and just sleep on the sidewalk, from fatigue (not intoxication).
  • Oreo cheesecake!
  • I started assisting classes at Springhealth kickboxing and spending a ridiculous amount of time at the gym in general as I also started training towards my next belt.
  • Attempted another chocolate guinness cake. This one managed to stay off the pavement.
  • The weather finally starts to get better and Joelle and I get our annual picnic in Green Park.
  • Due to the warmer climate, we also begin our work lunches in the park.

May

  • I take a lovely first class train journey on a beautiful day up to Edinburgh. Lovely. I meet some awesome ladies at my hostel and proceed to spend most of time with them. Miss you Maria and Lara!
  • Johnny leaves Hugo & Cat, thus continuing the mass exodus of my work friends in 2013. 😦
  • I head back to Kensington Roof Gardens with the lovely Anita for some cocktails!

June

  • The Sound of Change at Twickenham Stadium brought Beyonce and friends to London. Then somebody decided to jump in front of train stopping transport back into central London which meant 3 miles walk, 3 train stations, 1 train, and a £55 cab ride home.
  • I spent a very painful £550 extra for my summer flights home to Canada, having to push the dates back to fit with my new work visa application.
  • I reached my one year anniversary for kickboxing, and I’m still hooked!
  • Went to the zoo for the very first time in my life. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! 😀
  • Went to my very first live filming of a television show, the Graham Norton Show. Guests were Sandra Bullock, Samuel L Jackson, and Nick Frost. It was quite the fun night with my ladies from kickboxing. 🙂

July

  • Business trip to Helsinki – always love these!
  • Nam visits from Vancouver on his way through London to a trip around Europe. We went to see Thriller Live!, which was quite fun.
  • My girl Sherrie and I brought sexy back at the Wireless Festival with Justin Timberlake. JT never disappoints! 😀
  • I graded and passed for my next kickboxing belt, Red 2. Pretty sure it was the hottest day of the year, but we did it!
  • Twenty-fifth birthday celebrations with friends in the beer gardens, whoop whoop!
  • Got my new Nokia Lumia 925 and I still absolutely love it! Wouldn’t go back to iPhone now.
  • I went home to Canada for a couple of weeks while I applied for a new work visa to stay in the UK. I’m now legally able to stay for another 3 years!
  • Got to see one of my best friends play Joseph in the local production of Joseph and the technicolor dreamcoat three times!

August

  • Hugo & Cat summer party! Good times are had as always.
  • Booked a trip to Spain for a surfing holiday with my lovely lady friends from kickboxing!
  • Explored Kew Gardens for the first time with my friend Keith on a lovely bank holiday weekend.

September

  • Went to a burlesque show with Sherrie – was so much fun and a really interesting experience!
  • My favourite season arrived and I commenced celebrate by making pumpkin pie, as per usual.
  • SURFING IN SPAIN with the ladies. I’d never been on a holiday with friends before, but this turned out to be absolutely epic. I faced a fear of open water, and learned a few things about surfing too.
  • My two year anniversary in London came and passed. It’s been a whirlwind so far and it only continues to get better as I expand my horizons. Thank you London and all of my new friends here for what you’ve given me so far.

October

  • The guys at work went to Hong Kong for another Nokia film shoot and brought me back some awesome gifts.
  • I decided to move for the first time since I arrived in London. So far this has been an excellent decision as I’m now so much closer to the gym and all my social activities. Transport has also become infinitely easier.
  • I made cake again, for the first time in a long time. It was easily the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made.
  • Work and kickboxing continue to fill all my empty minutes.

November

  • Two of my kickboxing instructors went to the world’s and brought back championship medals. So proud and privileged to be trained by them!
  • Back to Helsinki for a couple days again – always love this! Unfortunately the trips are always a bit too short for my liking.
  • Kat’s birthday and a great night out in Camden to see Nick’s band Shapes & Colours. Always fun.
  • For the first time in my life I coloured my hair. It was time for a change and a little adventure. Turns out I love myself as a redhead and so do a lot of other people. 😀
  • Moved into my new home in North London. Now I will have more time to sleep and get to my social events quicker – boom!

December

  • Kat and I geeked out and went to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour of the Making of Harry Potter where we squealed with delight over butterbeer, props, and sets.
  • I began a countdown for not only my holidays but also for Morgan’s arrival.
  • Hugo & Cat Christmas party whoop whoop!
  • Morgan arrives with a satchel full of gifts from home – thanks Mum!
  • Christmas with my second family in London was great – it consisted of doing barely anything all day and eating and playing xbox and watching TV. Perfect.
  • New Years Eve was spent in a quiet pub with friends and there was no fuss made – just how I like it. Didn’t have to worry about crowds or stupid people on underground transportation. Perfect.

A mish-mash update from London

As far as I can remember, up until a week ago, I had never ever been to the zoo. And so I ventured to an evening of “zoo lates” at the London Zoo with a good friend of mine last Friday night. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but I was ridiculously excited to go and see animals from far off places. I did get to see lions and tigers and penguins (oh my!) however the one thing I really wanted to see but unfortunately missed, was the giraffes. I’ve been told they can be seen from outside the zoo (that’s how big they are!) so hopefully someone will take me by there again some time to see.

This past Wednesday my friend Anita was lovely enough to invite me along with her and some other friends to be in the studio audience for the Graham Norton Show. I’ve never done anything like this before and it was actually pretty cool! For those who don’t know, the Graham Norton Show is a talk show here in Britain that has celebrity guests on to promote their work and have a little fun. If you’ve not seen it yet, I highly recommend watching the below six minutes with Will Smith. The guests on the night we were there were Sandra Bullock, Samuel L Jackson, and Nick Frost. All great guests and I love how blunt Samuel L Jackson is.

This past week I also finally received my limited edition kickstarter reward Fitzroy film poster, designed and illustrated by my good friend Marko and delivered to me by my other good friend James, who is producing the film. I can’t wait to get this poster nicely framed and placed on my wall, I love it!

In my last post, I mentioned that there were some timing complications with my work visa application. The result is that yes, I had to pay an additional £550 to change my flight to July. That’s a £450 difference in flight fare and a £100 change fee. Despite the dark cloud of having to pay for this flight change which I can’t really afford, there are several silver linings to be thankful for. Firstly, my Certificate of Sponsorship was granted (in time for if I HADN’T changed my flight, of course!) so now the first hurdle is passed and there is not much left to do in preparation to apply for the work visa (passport photos, bank letters, etc). Secondly, my next kickboxing grading for my red 2 belt is scheduled to happen before I leave so that will be taken care of and I will be well prepared for it. Thirdly, I get to see my best friend in the lead role of a production of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat while I am in Canada. And lastly, I still get to celebrate my birthday and attend a concert here in London before I head back to Vancouver on the 18th of July. So all in all its not so bad, just expensive!

Lastly, tomorrow is Father’s Day. So I will end with a Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads I know! To my own father, the only words that are coming to mind right now are “thank you”. However these words and any others I could say are completely inadequate. There is nothing I can say or do to express my gratitude for such a great dad. I just wish I could give more to show my gratitude for the support and love he has given both myself and my mom these past 10 years. So, in lack of proper words, THANKS DAD and I LOVE YOU ALWAYS.

What happens when you live abroad

I saw this post today, shared through a fellow ex-pat friend on Facebook, and I had to share it here because it echoes my thoughts exactly. Thank you Chelsea Fagan, I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

“So you look at your life, and the two countries that hold it, and realize that you are now two distinct people. As much as your countries represent and fulfill different parts of you and what you enjoy about life, as much as you have formed unbreakable bonds with people you love in both places, as much as you feel truly at home in either one, so you are divided in two.”

Read Chelsea’s post on ‘What happens when you live abroad’.

My top 5 picks for tourism marketing films

My readers will be happy to know that I can no longer winge (canadian translation = moan) as much as usual about the weather. It has finally started to get better, slowly but surely! Today was a beautiful day without a cloud in the sky, although it could have been a bit warmer for mid-April. Nevertheless, things are looking up!

So there’s now less than two months until I return to Canada in an attempt to acquire a sponsored work visa, and I’m not gonna lie, I’m quite stressed! Logically, there’s not many reasons why it shouldn’t work out as it’s a points-based visa, however if things don’t work out…. that’s the part I’m stressed about. However, I will focus on the fact that I AM getting this work visa, as I’ve already started to plan things in London after that date!

My next kickboxing grading comes the first week of July, so if all goes well I will have a party to celebrate acquisition of my new visa, my red 2 kickboxing belt, and my 25th birthday. This summer could be one of epic proportions I hope! Mid-twenties whoa!

On my travelling agenda, next comes Edinburgh. I’m heading up to the great Scotland for three days over the first May bank holiday weekend in a couple of weeks. My excitement hasn’t quite kicked in yet, but it will as the time draws nearer! This trip will be the first one out of London (not counting going back to Canada) since last May when I went to Paris, so to say the least… it’s gonna be pretty awesome and very much needed!

And on the topic of travelling and the spur for my post today… I’ve been curiously looking at tourism marketing videos and found a few I’d like to share with you. It’s interesting to see how they differ and how each promotes it’s respective country and how they all do a fairly good job of making you want to visit there! So, here are my top 5 that I have found:

#5: New Zealand

This film relies firmly on visuals and the idea that New Zealand is the youngest country in the world. I give them kudos for using youth as it seems to be something most people crave as they grow older.

#4: Finland

Who doesn’t love Summer? Finland does a great job with putting forth the one thing everyone loves and saying you can have it at midnight. Good music choice doesn’t hurt either.


#3: Norway

Norway does a great job of showing off both their landscape and their culture and history. Points for making it slightly humorous as well.

#2: Iceland

I have to say I don’t know many people who think of Iceland and put it at the top of their list for places to go. However this video makes Iceland look like a fun and fantastic place to go no matter what the weather and the landscape looks like. Good work Iceland.

#1: Canada

I know I’m biased and all, but you didn’t expect me not to put them first did you? Well, honestly though – they really did do the best job. Canada is already very rich in beautiful landscape and cool outdoorsy things to do so all they needed was for the people who live there to bring it to life. Good job Canada – the rest of the world could take a lesson from your tourism marketing books. 🙂

 

In short, some lessons about tourism marketing films:

  • Make it real and fun
  • Make it play to the countries natural strengths
  • Make it under 3 minutes MAX
  • Put it to sweet music tracks
  • Make it something that people see it and go “YES, I WANT TO GO THERE”.

I would have thought that last one was obvious, but I’m not so sure it is given some of the other films I’ve seen for places like Stolkholm, Dubai, Central American countries and many others!