Scotland

The ABC Tour

Mike has always joked that he is on the ABC Tour. That stands for, Another Blessed Cathedral. In many ways he is right. We have visited the main cathedral or church in every city we have traveled too. However, there are reasons other than my just wanting to light candles.

Many of the cathedrals or church’s we have entered have been around for hundreds of years, some going back as far as the 13th Century. Many of these places of worship were sponsored by the wealthiest patrons of their time so no expense was spared in the decoration or the carvings that can be found inside their walls. These are not modern buildings with stucco drywalls and simple stained glass windows or paint by number paintings. Many of the places we have toured have sculptures and deities leaping from the walls, chiseled in their glory to make them feel like they are alive; they have medieval stained glass windows that tell a story or gives praise to the people who helped to protect the church; they are filled with wooden ceilings and golden altars and even in some cases scientific advancements.

 

This stained glass window in the Church of Perth, Scotland shows the legendary Black Watch regiment,  Scotland's elite military regiment whose history stretches back almost three centuries.   © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This stained glass window in the Church of Perth, Scotland shows the legendary Black Watch regiment, Scotland’s elite military group whose history stretches back almost three centuries. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

In other words many of the churches and Cathedrals we have entered are really works of art unto themselves and they should be photographed and visited. I prefer visiting a city’s main Cathedral sometimes more than its main museum.

 

This is the ceiling in the Church of St. Francis in Sibenik, Croatia which dates back to the 13th Century.  The ceiling is made of wood and the paintings date from 1674.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This is the ceiling in the Church of St. Francis in Sibenik, Croatia which dates back to the 13th Century. The ceiling is made of wood and the paintings date from 1674. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Mike was raised Protestant, I was raised Roman Catholic. Mike wasn’t overly what you would call religious when we met so when I first told him that I wanted to visit the main Cathedral or Church in every city we visited he thought it was some sort of pilgrimage thing or something. Then he learned that I didn’t care if the church was Roman Catholic, Protestant, Episcopalian or a Mosque; church’s and religious houses of worship are really testaments to great art.

This mosque is located in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina.  It was the first time either of us had entered a Mosque and it was beautiful in its décor and simplicity.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This mosque is located in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was the first time either of us had entered a Mosque and it was beautiful in its décor and simplicity. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

Sometimes the artwork begins well before you enter the church.  This is one of the doors that enter The Vatican in Rome, Italy.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Sometimes the artwork begins well before you enter the church. This is one of the doors that enter The Vatican in Rome, Italy. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

The main altar in the Cathedral in Taxco, Mexico is covered in gold leaf and sculptures.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The main altar in the Cathedral in Taxco, Mexico is covered in gold leaf and sculptures. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

At famous Rosslyn Chapel, Edinburgh, Scotland (of Da Vinci Code fame) the sculptures are part of the façade and leap out at you as you get close to the entrance of the chapel.   © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

At famous Rosslyn Chapel, Edinburgh, Scotland (of Da Vinci Code fame) the sculptures are part of the façade and leap out at you as you get close to the entrance of the chapel. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

Gold leaf fills this church, not just the main altar, in Monreale, Sicily.   © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Gold leaf fills this church, not just the main altar, in Monreale, Sicily. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

Sometimes the main church's are used for ceremonies.  Changing of the guard happens in the Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina because the remains of Argentina's most loved general resides here; General José de San Martín.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Sometimes the main church’s are used for ceremonies. Changing of the guard happens in the Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina because the remains of Argentina’s most loved general resides here; General José de San Martín. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

After traveling for over three years and entering well over 100 church’s or Cathedrals he now has come to enjoy exploring them as much as I. In fact when we get to a new city one of the first places he pinpoints on a map is the nearest church and/or Cathedral. Maybe he can be a convert after all…

 

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

A Look Back

 Reflections of 2013

I love this time of year.  I have always written a ‘Year in Review’ letter to family and friends highlighting the crazy things I have been up too and stuffed that letter inside a Christmas card.  With the advent of so many social media channels I find that I really don’t have to recap my year because everyone has come along for the ride.

However, this is my first year with a blog and sometimes I want to tell my story in more than 140 characters or have more connection than just filling an album with pictures.  There are stories behind the pictures that just need to be told, and memories that I want to expound on beyond a tweet.

This was quite a year.  As 2012 ended we had thought we would be in Panama for at least two years but things changed quickly and we realized that our time in Panama was at an end.  It was while we were leaving that I came up with an inkling of an idea and we turned our lives into The 6 Monthers; a concept where we would stay 6 months in every country we wanted to live in.  Six months allows us to really get to know the locals and to explore more of the country on a completely different basis than just being on a two-week vacation.  So our adventure began.  I started out looking for countries where we could live for 6 months on our regular visas and while there are some, not all the countries we want to live in allow it.  Those that don’t we will deal with them on a case by case basis.  I also began in 2013 to work on obtaining dual citizenship for Italy which we hope will help with our request to stay someplace longer than 3 months.

Where we thought we would live for two years turned out to be no more than 6 months but it gave me an idea...

Where we thought we would live for two years turned out to be no more than 6 months but it gave me an idea… © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Leaving Panama we looked north and decided on giving Mexico a try.  Other than stopping in various Mexican cities during cruises I had never spent any real time in Mexico.  Arranging our time in Mexico was easier than I expected and we found the ideal location to begin 2013 in Cuernavaca.  Mexico was a nice surprise and nothing like what the news media would have us believe.  We never heard a gun shot and we never felt unsafe.  We met nice people and we ate wonderful food.  We visited amazing places and loved every second of our time there.  Yes Mexico has its challenges but there is nothing about Mexico that should stop someone from exploring this beautiful country.

See more about Teotiuachan by clicking here

See more about Teotihuacan by clicking here. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

We returned to the US for a short period to exchange clothing and to clean out the last few boxes of items we had left in my parents’ garage.  We then packed for our move to Scotland.  Hindsight they say is sometimes best and sadly living in Scotland was not the dream that I was hoping it was going to be.

Being ever alert to prospects for new adventures, and wanting to build our 6 Monthers brand, earlier in 2013 I had connected via LinkedIn with the manager of Dhar Media in Zagreb, Croatia.  They were looking for journalists interested in exploring Croatia and filming a web series called Discover Croatia.  Filming was scheduled for the month of September.  September couldn’t come fast enough and while our 24 day filming schedule was grueling our time in Croatia was fun and filled with great contacts and new friends.

I know this was supposed to be serious business but I was having so much fun!  Our visit to Zelingrad Castle happened during the filming of Discover Croatia. Loved it!

I know this was supposed to be serious business but I was having so much fun! Our visit to Zelingrad Castle happened during the filming of Discover Croatia. Loved it! © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

But we returned to Scotland because we had prepaid our six months rent.  We were however increasingly unhappy in Scotland and wanted to leave.  The people were not friendly or in some instances unkind.  I received more than one look from strangers where I just felt that if anything happened to me on the street no one would help me.  The weather was turning colder and the costs to heat our small apartment that had no TV, no internet and no elevator was getting to be ridiculous.  We talked with our landlady who would not return our money since she said the banks didn’t allow money to flow in reverse but that if we found someone who would take good care of the place we could sublet to them.  And the hunt was on.  I told Mike I was determined to find someone to get us out of Scotland.  He wanted to know where we wanted to go.  I told him Sibenik, Croatia.  He was surprised since I have family in Sicily and they could have arranged a place for us to stay, even on short notice.

Scotland is a beautiful country and there is a lot to see. It was just not the right place for us to live.

Scotland is a beautiful country and there is a lot to see. It was just not the right place for us to live. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Luck was on our side, or fate intervened, and we left Scotland without looking back on October 26th and landed once again in Croatia. Since we had already spent 24 days in the country we were only allowed to stay in the country on our regular visas until early January 2014 but we didn’t mind.  We found a great apartment to rent in Sibenik for 2.2 months and we grabbed it.  We connected with several locals who toured us around and we learned more about this region and this country.  To thank everyone we had met and who treated us so warmly we threw a Holiday / 6th Wedding Anniversary party.   It was a happy event and we are glad that we did it.

From left; Our own Personal Insider - Biljana Lambasa, Tina Vickov, owner of Sibenik Plus Tourist Agency, Mike and Me.  We were in good hands with these two who showed us the Sibenik we called home.  We wouldn't have learned as much without them.

From left; Our own Personal Insider – Biljana Lambasa, Tina Vickov, owner of Sibenik Plus Tourist Agency, Mike and Me. We were in good hands with these two who showed us the Sibenik we called home. We wouldn’t have learned as much without them. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Holidays in other countries are always interesting because so many customs and traditions are different from our own country.  Here in Croatia they celebrate St. Nicholas day (December 15th) and the Epiphany (January 6th) which hold just as much significance as the main event; Christmas.  New Year’s Eve is yet to come but we already know there will be parties to attend and more stories to file away.

Mike and I met St. Nicholas along the waterfront in Sibenik - he tells me I've been a good girl this year

Mike and I met St. Nicholas along the waterfront in Sibenik – he tells me I’ve been a good girl this year. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

So while 2012 ended on a sour note we turned 2013 into a time of new beginnings, new friendships and new memories.  After all, isn’t that what the ball drop on New Year’s Eve represents?  Isn’t this why everyone cheers and sings and toasts the coming year?  New Year’s Eve is a time to say goodbye to the past and to look forward to the future.  New Year’s Eve is a time to make a toast to the coming year’s possibilities and a time to sing to let the world know that you are coming.

Here we come 2014, let’s see what you’ve got…

Florence Lince

http://www.6monthers.com

Our time in Perth, no not that one, the one in Scotland

We had every intention when landing in Scotland of being here six months.  We had done a lot of extensive research on places to live, costs of living, and so on before we came there. Unfortunately things didn’t turn out the way we had been told they would, or how we wanted.

I had been online well before we landed chatting with realtors and letting agencies.   I had appointments lined up in Perth with agencies and house sharing folks.  Most of the apartments I found before we landed were around the 400 pound or less a month range and we knew that this was acceptable for us as costs went.  The reality upon landing however was somewhat harsher.  Even though I had communicated for months that we were coming all of a sudden people didn’t want to rent to us as expats.  They had forgotten what our requirements for a place to let were (one bedroom fully furnished with internet).  Since we weren’t asking for the moon we thought our request would be simple.

We went from letting agent to letting agent and however much you see it on TV where they work with an expat and show you from place to place with ease that is not the case.  We were told in office after office that they simply did not have anything to show us and they didn’t seem all that interested in renting to expats.

We thought we had hit the mother lode when one agent in a local agency in Perth said she remembered that a two bedroom unit, renting for 495 pounds a month, fully furnished was going to come on the market, but we had to wait a month’s time to get into it.  Being resourceful and desperate, we decided to see the apartment anyway.  We did, thought it would suit us just fine and left to explore other parts of Scotland for the month we had to wait to get into the apartment.

We toured Perth, Kinross, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and then Birmingham staying for a week in each city while we waited.  To say we enjoyed our tours of each city would not be an understatement.  Scotland has beautiful vistas and lush and green valleys and there was much to see and do.  Most of which Mike wrote about on his blog.

Our fateful day arrived and pulling our last two suitcases through Perth to the letting agency we found that they forgot to tell us one little piece of information; that the rent needed to be paid in advance.  You see we didn’t have a credit history in Scotland and hence they decided that since they couldn’t do a proper credit check we needed to pay the rent in advance before we were given the keys.  We toddled off to the local bank and there found out that they would not wire money from our bank in the US (even though it was the same international bank).  That should have been our first clue that things were not going to work out well in the end.

A month after taking the unit we received in the mail a bill from the council tax folks for the whopping sum of 900 pounds.  This equates to roughly $1200 USD.  This bill is for the taxes on the property and the water bill.  Here in the UK (and Scotland is still a part of the UK) the tenants pay the council tax on a rental.  To get a 900 pound bill for taxes for a place we did not own was just outside the realm of reality so we marched down to the letting agency who said, oops, didn’t we tell you that you had to pay that too?  Needless to say we were not happy and never in a million years would I suggest anyone deal with this agency again.  So this little two bedroom apartment where the rent was 495 pounds is in reality 650 pounds a month, and its way overpriced.  Because this is a socialist government the taxes collected pay for the free bus rides seniors get, medical care for the locals and other benefits, none of which we could use as expats, so why were we required to pay it?

Now to be fair and in answer to why did we rent this place it is the unit on the top floor of a four story building.  There are no common walls between us and any other apartment in the area and the location is terrific as it is in the city center of old Perth.  It is ideal if you want to walk everywhere and have access to shops and buses and even coffee shops.  What was not ideal was that this apartment was now costing us the equivalent of living in the sunnier state of CA in the US and we had no TV, no internet connection and we were paying the utilities.  To say we felt like we had been cheated would be putting it mildly.

We tried to chat with the owner, and you guessed it, once she had our hard earned cash she certainly wasn’t going to let that go.  She said the bank didn’t allow money to flow in reverse and there was nothing she could do.  Really?  I wouldn’t let anyone rent from her either.

What have we learned?  Never give anyone six months rent in cash, ask exhaustive questions about the rental and the costs that go with it and be prepared to leave the country in question if you don’t get the answers you want.  In hind site, and what other kind is there really in this situation, when we were told that we would have to wait a month for a place to live, it would have been better to have left the country in question immediately.  And that is what we will do in the future.  If we get someplace and things are just not as they were told to us or they don’t seem to be lining up correctly we’ll leave.  And it is that easy.  This is a great big world and sooner or later someone will want to rent to an expat and treat them fairly.  We just didn’t find that to be the case in Scotland.

                                                                                                            Florence Lince

http://www.6monthers.com