Geocaching

Geocaching around Conwy

A map of geocaches around Conwy

When my brother took up geocaching years ago, I didn’t get it. I still remember taking a walk right after a heavy rainfall, and my brother stopped partway through to go trudge through the mud to find a cache. I just stood there on the trail, wondering what would possess someone to get all muddy and damp just to say they found a little container hidden in a field.

The first time I remember getting excited about geocaching was in Germany. My parents were visiting, and we decided to go for walk. My dad had been getting into geocaching and had looked up some nearby caches, so he brought along his GPS. At some point during our walk we veered off into a little wooded area. And after searching high and low, my dad found the cache. He kindly gave me hints while I continued to search, until I finally saw it hidden at the base of a tree.

From then on, I started thinking of geocaching as an excuse to explore. To me, it isn’t necessarily about finding the cache (although I admit that’s a cool feeling). It’s also about having a reason to visit a particular place, to go somewhere new and just enjoy being out and about.

If you look at the map above, those smiley faces around Conwy are the caches I’ve found already. They were mostly caches of opportunity. I just had the idea to look more strategically, to plan out the next caches I’ll look for. As the weather gets consistently warmer around here, I don’t think I’ll have any trouble coming up with new places to explore. :)

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Walk around Bodlondeb Woods

This morning I stepped outside, felt the warm air and sun on my face, and had a single thought: Today is the perfect day for a bike ride.

So when lunchtime rolled around, I grabbed a light jacket, pulled on my tennis shoes, and tied my hair back. Grabbing my keys, I opened the door and … realized that I couldn’t get to my bike. You see, my bike is in the garage, and we don’t have access to the garage from inside the house. The only way in is to go outside and open the garage door. With the garage door opener. The one my husband drove away with when he left for work.

Not to be deterred from the beautiful weather, I revised my plans. I quickly scanned the map for a walking route that would fit into a reasonable lunch break and still take me somewhere new. That’s when I noticed the walking path that goes around Bodlondeb Woods, along River Conwy:

Bodlondeb Wood Map

It ended up being the perfect place to walk. I made a two-mile loop, meandering a bit by the water and quickly escaping the tourists by taking a side street when I got back into town. And I made a mental note to return to Bodlondeb Woods soon to check out some of the trails that criss-cross through there.

 

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Looking Toward the Sea

View toward Conwy Marina and Deganwy

I love this view — not toward the city walls and castle, but toward the sea. You can just spy the masts of all of the boats in the marina down below. And as you look across you can’t help but notice the Great Orme on the left and, on the right, the hills where Deganwy Castle once stood.

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Reaching a Financial Milestone as an Expat

I finally made it to what I consider a major milestone in my financial life as an expat:

I got a credit card!

The new barclaycard, snug in my wallet

The new barclaycard, snug in my wallet

We never bothered to get German credit cards, because so many of our transactions were in cash or with our EC cards there. Instead, we continued to use US credit cards when we needed them — and we watched our US checking accounts get more and more depleted as a result. With all of our income being deposited into our local bank account, that just didn’t make sense long term.

It was a bit of an ordeal to get credit cards here in the UK. We arrived with 0 credit history here, and we found that UK institutions were very stingy about accepting proof of good credit from other countries. But after quite a few conversations with our bank, our cards were approved and arrived in the mail. I just used mine for the first time for an excellent purpose: a train ticket to go to Cardiff at the end of the month. :)

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Internet at the edge of the modern world

Have you heard “The Last Mile,” the latest episode of NPR’s Planet Money? If not, go listen — it’s only 15 minutes.

This episode is about the internet, internet companies, and internet service. I’m sure we all have stories. :) In the episode, they compare how internet companies work in the United States and the United Kingdom. Interestingly, there’s more local competition in the UK.

Basically, it boils down to this: In many parts of the US, there’s no competition for broadband internet service. One company owns the line to your house, and that company provides your internet service. Period. In the UK, many different internet companies offer internet service over the same lines. You have plenty of choices, and if one service disappoints you can try another.

Now, that may make the UK sound like a fantasy land for internet service. However, I zeroed in on the one downside they mentioned: In the UK, there’s less motivation for investment in infrastructure and innovation. If all the companies rent the same lines, who is going to spend the money to lay new cables or fiber and bring better, faster internet service to you? That may not be a concern if you live in London, but North Wales is like the end of the world in that sense.

Last I checked, my download speed was about 2.5 Mbps download/.3 Mbps upload. On a good day. I asked around, and it’s pretty much the same around here, no matter what company you use. It has nothing to do with my internet company or plan — theoretically, I could get up to about 15 Mbps download speed with my current plan and company. But the lines don’t support that kind of speed. We need an infrastructure upgrade, and no one seems to be in a hurry to bring it our way.

It’s times like this that I miss my speedy German internet service. Or even … if you can believe it … Time Warner Cable.

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