Six Cool Cafe’s for Kids

I LOVE eating out during the day… Breakfast, lunch, morning and afternoon tea. Born from travel, this love affair began in beer gardens, progressed to restaurants and cafes and has most recently progressed to ‘cafes with high chairs!’ It was never solely about the best food and wine, but more about the occasion, sharing with family and friends. If the company is right…. and the children are happy, I’ll happily pass up oysters and champaign (well maybe not every time!) to share fish and chips on the beach. Plastic high chairs at the ready, kids menus and crayons, these six Edinburgh Cafe’s will give friendly service rather than silver, serve baked beans instead of (or as well as) fresh salmon, and will leave money over for ice cream and hot chocolates later!!

The Scottish Storytelling Centre

A personal favourite. A retreat in the centre of Edinburgh. If you’re in a sudden down pour, having a ‘bathroom emergency’, need to regroup your herd (and your own sanity), or for no reason at all, the cafe in the Scottish Storytelling Centre is the place.

john knox house

Enter through the ancient and rather dark John Knox House, the reception to the storytelling centre, go straight ahead and emerge in a light, airy, quite spectacular space. Let the kids escape into it, and they’ll find a wall of little doors revealing all kinds of treasures, a basket of dressups, and maybe even a story being told. Make yourself comfortable on the carved wooden chairs, feast your eyes on the array of home made cakes and try to decide which one to order with your beautifully prepared coffee. Enjoy the table service, which for a flustered parent, without any grown up help, is more a necessity than a luxury, and have a personal moment while the children explore. The food is fresh and home made.

Scottish story telling centre

So where do I find it?
Scottish Storytelling Centre
43-45 High Street


High chairs, Baby change, big open indoor space to play.

For more information visit their website

Debenhams Cafe

On the top floor of the Debenhams Princess Street department store, this place is worth a visit, just for the view. On a snowy, rainy, windy day, enjoying a bowl of hot soup, with Edinburgh Castle filling the entire top floor window, there cannot be any forgetting where you are. It is a typical push your tray along, pick up your tab at the end type eatery, which can be a challenge with children and buggy’s in tow. However the staff are friendly and will help you to your table if needed. If the weather is really bad, It’s also  a great opportunity for a little shopping after lunch 😉

Edinburgh Castle

Where do I go?
109 Princess Street, Edinburgh

Bathrooms, Baby change. High chiars, Lift.

As it is a national department store the Debenhams website doesn’t have any specific info on this particular restaurant.

The Gyle Centre Food Hall

Not strictly speaking a cafe or restaurant, this place is still worth a mention. Tucked away at one end of the food hall is the ‘family area’. Don’t be put off by the connotation, as families can sit anywhere, however the beauty of this is the large, fairly well enclosed space. There is only one, relatively small exit into the main area, instead of 2 escalators, a stair case and a lift to avoid. There are fairy tale murals on the walls and right in the middle of the room are play tables surrounded with new friends to play with. You may find yourself (as we did) sitting, relaxing over a coffee and having a proper conversation.

Where is it?

Gyle Shopping Centre
Gyle Avenue, South Gyle, Edinburgh, EH12 9JY


Toilets big enough for buggies, a dedicated changing room, high chairs

Sainsbury’s Cafe

This is my most regular ‘haunt’ as it is attached to my local supermarket.

A cafe attached to a supermarket…. really?

In Australia this brings up images of pre cut sandwhiches sitting in glass cabinets and chocolate mousse in plastic wine glasses with not so fresh cream on top.

Sainsbury’s cafes are nothing like this 😉

Another ‘push your tray along’ type, this one does have a selection of sandwhiches/paninis (for toasting and serving with chips), as well as fresh baking, cool drinks, and great healthy lunch bags for the kids (fantastic when they need to eat immediately). Freshly brewed tea or coffee, and any hot meals are ordered at the end of the line…… The hot meals are large and excellent value for money. The only thing delivered to the table is the hot food, so with kids and buggies in tow, it can take 2 trips. We tend to go at the beginning, before the shopping as I find the resulting full tummies can reduce the amount of nagging…. a little. On the other hand if you save it for after, it can be a great bribe 😉

How do I get there?

Sainsbury’s Superstore
39 Westfield Road
EH11 2QW
High chairs, Baby change room and toilets.

Jemimas Pantry

Careful not to blink, as you might miss this one. Jemimas Pantry is tucked under a rail bridge, on the corner of Tynecstle Alley and Gorgie Road, and is attached to the Gorgie City Farm. The menu is simple, with fresh home made soups and a good selection for those knee high fuss pots. I like having the toasted sandwhiches, as the side of coleslaw is to die for. The coffee is also lovely. The atmosphere is really relaxed…. and as it’s attached to the farm, always full of families. It is also very cheap… we rarely spend more than 10 quid for a family of four and on a warm day you can sit outside while the kids play in the play park, and the lovely staff will bring your food and drinks out.
A great way to finish a trip to the farm or just drop in for a coffee to support them.
Which way?
51 Gorgie Road
Edinburgh, EH11 2LA
0131 337 4202
High Chairs, Kids Menu, Play Park, Farm, Toilets

Coffee Republic – Saint Andrew’s Square

coffee republick
A little round house on the edge of Saint Andrew’s Square, this place is cool mainly for it’s location. It is more a ‘snack’ type cafe, with mainly paninis, toasted sandwhiches and muffins on offer. The coffee and food are lovely despite being a little more expensive due to the location. If you buy ‘takeaway’ and sit outside, it’s cheaper (there is limited indoor seating anyway) and the kids can play while you take in the atmosphere that is Saint Andrew’s Square. We went on a Autumn day, and played in the leaves before brunch. It was one of my favourite days.
Can you give me directions?
Saint Andrew’s Square is located at the east end of George Street and has a massive pillar in the middle with Saint Andrew on the top.
None- except the beautiful green grass and big trees.
The Saint James centre is near by with toilets etc.
Posted in Food, Reviews | 1 Comment

Book Review – ‘Addition’ by Toni Jordan

I loved this book…. so from here expect an unadulterated rave 😉

Addition is the narrative of a woman teetering on the edge of madness (of which kind I’ll not tell) and occasionally diving head first all the way in.

The ‘back story’ is gently revealed. The story behind her madness. The story that is her, teased from the pages as each chapter unfolds.

Her voice changes markedly……. through her ‘normal’ life….. to her sinking completely into the depths…… and her period of ‘recovery’….. yet it is always satyrical and humerous and completely self justified.

There is wisdom, pain, sex, swearing and completely unexpected tangents.

I laughed out loud

I almost cried

And I loved that it was set in Melbourne, my home town, spoken in my language. I felt I understood her…and felt her madness…. as only someone who has lived in Melbourne can truly understand her distaste for Melbourne weather….. it, in itself is enough to send anyone mad 😉

You may also enjoy my review of Richard Brason’s Losing My Virginity.

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Christmas in Aviemore

The day started like millions around the world with the excited pitter patter of little feet. Our world is still in darkness as D runs into our room ‘did he come mummy… did Santa really come here?’ R is still sleeping soundly. He doesn’t get the anticipation of it all just yet.
‘Where did you hang your stocking little man?’….. an excited shriek and he is out the door in search of his loot.

Being just the four of us this year, we decided to give ourselves the best possible chance of a white Christmas, and travel to the beautiful little town of Aviemore in the North of Scotland. (As it turns out we would have had a white Christmas in Edinburgh!)

Far far away from our usual Melbourne Christmas… which is admittedly not always hot.. but absolutely NEVER covered in a blanket of snow, Aviemore is a wee winter wonderland….

A gorgeous 3 hour train journey took us North through the Scottish country side to Inverness Shire. Aviemore itself is located about 10 Miles NW of the Ski fields in the Cairngorms National Park and is also only 50 miles East from LochNess.
The snow fell almost the whole way, giving only glimpses of blanketed villiages, frozen streams and heavily laden trees.
I have to say, it was absolutely dumping when we arrived and hauled our luggage (more than we had for our original trip overseas I think!) accross the platform and out into the ‘big snow’. D was having a ball in knee deep (for him) powder as we got our bearings (sort of) and found a taxi. R wasn’t so sure :(.

Our first ‘local’ encounter was with a taxi driver grumping about the weather… (live somewhere else?) who also succeeded in confusing us, in what eventually turned out to be a fairly simple trip from town to our accomodation. (thats a whole other story).

That aside… we arrived safe and sound with our white Christmas a certainty…YAY

From that first day, it snowed buckets everynight, and cleared most days…. perfect.

There is a lot to do around Aviemore, such as the Steam Train, Wild Life Park, Brewery and Funicular (transport to the tobagan park ‘up the mountain’). They also had some very Christmassy events throughout the town. We didn’t do any of that though….. why? Mainly the weather. The boys just didn’t cope with being out in the cold for very long… despite snow suits and thermals… too long meant tears. We spent our days building snowmen, sledging, throwing snowballs, and of course finding yummy places to eat. The rest of the time we spent in our lovely, large, warm apartment, taking in the views (and the odd Christmas drink!) The boys also had enough baths for the next six months! In fact I think the bath tub may have been R’s highlight for the whole trip ;D. (he pronounces it ‘bart’)

Christmas eve we had an early tea and watched some beautiful carols on the TV. After making sure the milk and shortbreads were left for santa, and the carrots for the reindeers, the wee boys were easily off to bed. The snow was falling as we wrapped the last of the gifts, enjoyed a drink or two and chatted to friends and family back home (where it was already christmas day).
And finally off to bed to eagerly await the pitter patter of little feet 😉

Fancy a wee look?…….. The best pictures are at the bottom 😉

Welcome to Aviemore

Mr Snowman

D Just loves it

R is not so sure!!

Chistmas Eve

Hanging the stockings

Christmas Morning

Opening Presents

Christmas Lunch

Our wee Christmas Spread

And the afternoon in the snow

Dashing through the snow ;)

The Scenic Tour

Gingerbread houses

Soft light and snow 1

Light at the end of the tunnel

Silver Lining

Soft light and snow 2

Frozen Tracks

blue hughs

Getting to Aviemore

By Train

Trains Depart Edinburgh and HayMarket Stations approximately 2 hourly throughout the day, with more frequent departures during peak times. The journey takes about three hours and there are comfortable seats and refreshmets on board. For more information please visit the National Rail website.

By Car

According to GoogleMaps the drive from Edinburgh to Aviemore is 127 miles and takes just under 3 hours. Given the recent conditions, I would leave more time to travel, and carry with you a shovel and a bag of sand.

For more information on Aviemore go to

My personal recommendation for accomodation is Aspen 198

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Sunday’s Stories – Interview with Honor

Introducing Honor Dargan, an English expat in Tokyo and author of a website with one philosophy ‘Tokyo Made Simple’. I’ll leave the story to her… It’s a good one 😉

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I’m originally from the north of England. I was born in Durham (the home of the Pink Panther) but we moved to Yorkshire when I was 8 where I grew up and went to university. After graduation I moved to Nottingham for a couple of years before making the biggest leap of my life and relocating to Tokyo, Japan. Originally I came here for one year but somehow, with one year in Singapore from 2006 – 2007, I’m still here 9 years later!

Where do you consider your home to be?

This is a tough question. My roots will always be in England as that’s where my family is and where I spent all my formative years. England is undoubtedly an integral part of me. Still, if you ask me where home is at the end of a hard day or when returning from a vacation, it’s definitely Tokyo for now. I think I’ve changed during my time away from England and wherever I am now turns into my home. I don’t feel particularly tied to one place. More it’s a case of I’ll make my home wherever I happen to be. Perhaps the Tokyo lifestyle is partly responsible for this as apartments are tiny and I’ve moved several times so there is no one fixed abode.

How many addresses have you had?

Blimey! Hang on a minute. I need to work this out. In England I’ve lived in 8 different places. 1 in Durham, 5 around the Yorkshire area, and 2 in Nottingham. Then there’s the one address I had in Singapore. Finally there have been 6 different addresses in Tokyo. So the grand total is 15 different addresses.

Can you tell me about the different jobs or careers you’ve had?

When I first left school I figured I’d study law as it seemed like a sensible option and one with good future prospects. I really had no idea at this stage what I wanted to do in life. After one year though I found this just wasn’t for me. After passing my first year exams I decided to quit and find a job while I worked out my next steps.

Over the next 4 years or so I worked in a variety of sales roles including car sales and then as a manager for Clinique. Finally I realized that I love working with people and seemed to have a knack for teaching. My personal beliefs about education are strong so I decided to study to become a primary school teacher. While I studied I worked part time in a call center as a floor supervisor at weekends and in the evenings so I could pay for my tuition.

I guess perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about myself throughout my life is that I don’t like to be managed. Although I loved teaching I didn’t like the system and the trail of paperwork that took me away from this main objective. I moved on to work with the unemployed in the UK and teach some basic skills but was frustrated with the way every job tried to box me in and limit me to certain roles. I like my independence and am pretty strong minded – for good or bad!

This is when I decided to take a break and a spend a year overseas. I wanted to test myself and my capabilities to see if I could manage. I stayed within the field of education and, as the first year was a year out from regular life, worked for a conversation (or eikaiwa) school. It was fun and a great way to experience Japan and its culture without having the stresses of a mainstream job. Once I decided I wanted to stay beyond the first year though, I had to rethink my goals. I worked with returnee children and international school children for a number of years before moving into my current position which is teaching cross cultural skills to corporate employees.

My personal goal, however, is still to break the traditions of having a ‘job.’ I want to work for myself and am steadily developing my own website, I love Tokyo and want to encourage others to experience this city and Japan for themselves. That’s how I got started writing and developing my own online presence.

I’m now working on my second site which is not yet live but will be up sometime in 2010. I really want to make 2010 the year that I push to become truly independent of the ‘salary’ machine. Developing my own income streams has been one of the most freeing feelings I’ve experienced!

Can you describe the process behind deciding to move to Tokyo

Honestly? There wasn’t much of a process to this. I found myself a job before I left with a company called GEOS who happened to be advertising in England at the time. I went for training in Edinburgh and then received my position details about 1 month before I left the UK. My flight was booked and my bags were packed and that was it. I took only the essential items with me so one suitcase and one piece of carry on luggage was my limit. My apartment was arranged by GEOS so I didn’t need to worry about anything like that. I started work the day after landing so there was little time to feel homesick or to worry about the soundness of my decision.

What do you enjoy most about living there?

Again a tough question. There are many things I enjoy about living here. I think the most important one though is the sense of freedom I have here. I can be whoever I want to be and, as long as I am respectful of local culture and rules, I can do just about anything I like.

Is there anything you miss about ‘back home’? If so what is it?

Yorkshire pudding and roast beef!

How has travelling/ becoming an expat changed you as a person?

Like I said earlier, I think I’m a far more confident person these days. I can make myself feel at home just about anywhere and know that, whatever happens, I can pick myself up and dust myself off to start again if necessary. Life and the changes it brings are not so scary anymore and change is an exciting thing I look forward to.

How has your lifestyle changed?

I’ve got used to living in an apartment the size of my old bedroom back home! No kidding. I used to be a hoarder and would never throw anything away. Now I’m the first to say, “Do we really need that?” If we haven’t used something for more than 6 months my instinct is to get rid of it. It’s obviously not something we need and it’s taking up valuable space!

Did you move with your family?

No I moved with me, myself, and I : ) Now that part was scary.

Any last words…..?
If you’re reading this and would like to try living overseas somewhere but feel afraid to make the first move… go for it. If it ends up that you don’t like where you go the worst that can happen is that you return to your original life. Make sure to leave doors open when you leave and gain the support of those around you and you have that safety cushion in case you need it. If you never try though you’ll never know and that, I think, would be a real shame. is an excellent resource for anyone interested in visiting Tokyo. Might I add, It’s also a fantastic example of how a travel/ destination webite should look.
Pay her a visit at or follow her on Twitter.

Oh and in the words of Honor herself ‘Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu’ – Happy New Year!

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Sunday’s Stories – Interview with IamExpat

To kick off Sunday’s Stories for 2010, I have for you an interview with a difference.
IamExpat is a website designed to provide information and insights to expats living in the Netherlands. They are a company of four and as such decided to interview together. The questions are necessarily slightly different, and the answers while not personal like previous interviews, are insightful. I enjoyed the read and I hope you do too.

What is IamExpat?
IamExpat is an information guide conceived and developed by expats that live in the Netherlands. It refers to the expat community in the Netherlands and covers the needs of any expat related topic; from official issues, careers and housing, to education, lifestyle and more. Apart from the website, the concept comes together with the popular online social networks LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and an interactive Expat Forum that provides the opportunity for interaction among the members.

Where did IamExpat originate?
IamExpat was born in the Netherlands and currently resides there. With the team welcoming new members, IamExpat will soon consist of multiple cultures, being established in more countries among the world.

How did you come up with the idea?
Being expats ourselves we identified a gap in the information and services that are provided. Therefore, driven by our own experiences and motive to cover the expat needs in the Netherlands in a better way, we decided to create IamExpat. In this way, we aim to facilitate the process of establishing in the country, and give the opportunity for expats to improve their social and professional life. Consider that the Netherlands is a country where English is widely spoken, internationals however still encounter difficulties, especially with official issues e.g. taxation. Also, the opportunities for a better expat lifestyle are always limitless!

Definitely, our entrepreneurial attitude and familiarity with the internet have given a great boost in coming up with the idea, designing, developing and growing IamExpat. For us, the pleasure of sharing common ideas and beliefs, and the ability to transform a vision into a concrete reality is comparable to few things :-)

Who would you consider to be an expat?
You can find various definitions for the word expat and/or expatriate, with all of them focusing on the fact that an expat resides in a different country from the one he/she was brought up, as well as emphasizing on the “attribute of mobility”. In that direction, we consider as expats: the international professionals that work in a country different from the one of origin, either because they were relocated by their companies or they chose to follow a career abroad, the governmental agents / representatives like diplomats and ambassadors, the international students and those that follow their family in the new country of residence.

Also, the wanderers / adventurers / travelers that move in a new country and look forward to meeting people from other cultures, experiencing a different way of life and expanding their horizons; “attributes” of most expats, but in a more romantic way..

What do you think are the needs of an expat?
One of the key elements that characterize an expat is his/her ability to adjust rapidly to a new country/environment. Taking that into account, proper housing and dealing with local authorities play a really important role, especially at the beginning i.e. newcomer into a town/country. Work permit, taxation, registration with local authorities, pension planning, international education system are the core topics an expat needs to consider once decided to relocate to a foreign country. As any other local, expats want to have all the necessary information available in order to make relocation as smooth and fast as possible.

Among other reasons, a person chooses to live in a foreign country to take advantage of a business opportunity or explore a career move if he/she is working for a multinational company. Therefore, career and the ability to switch jobs surely qualify as a major need for an expat.

Last but not least, an expat moving into a new country has the need to socialize and establish a local network. Expat organizations, websites, blogs, forums are always the starting point for an expat to start building his/her network. It’s a fact that expat people are generally quite active and social, which makes it easier to adjust to a foreign environment.

What are the difficulties that an expat encounters in the Netherlands?
Generally speaking, the Netherlands is an expat friendly country and local people have a really open-minded mentality, which makes it quite easy for an expat to adjust quickly. Nevertheless, the Dutch language can be quite a challenge to learn and to understand, but with the proper support within a couple of years one can have a pretty satisfactory level of Dutch. Surely a pain for expat people in the Netherlands is to find the ideal accommodation, as prices can differ a lot. Especially in the largest cities the market is moving really fast, so you need to be quick and efficient. Next to that, Holland is a country with one of the highest taxation systems across Europe with the taxation rate being as much as 50%. Definitely, something to consider when you sign a local contract even though we have to admit that the quality of life is equivalent to the high taxation in the Netherlands. Having said that, quality comes with a price and the cost of living is considered to be on the high side depending on the person’s choices in terms of lifestyle.

It’s probably also worth mentioning the special attributes of the Dutch weather; you can start with a lovely sunny morning and by the end of your day with a strong wind storm, making it sometimes quite difficult to plan properly. If you end up cycling under heavy rain don’t panic, just look around you and you will realize that it’s quite normal!

What are the different backgrounds in your group?
Our team consists of 4 people with various educational and professional backgrounds. All of us experienced the Dutch upper education system, while studying either on a Msc or Mphill level. The areas of our studies in Holland were Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Finance. This multi dimension was one of the factors that triggered the development and evolution of the IamExpat concept.

We are all young enthusiastic professionals that for one reason or another decided to live in Holland and explore our academic and professional ambitions. We have all worked for different kinds of companies from small-medium size to multinational ones that are active not only in Holland but have a broader market perspective.

Since September 2009 we have been focusing on our first project IamExpat, at the same time looking forward to new challenges. An important contributor on this conquest is the fact that the entrepreneurial ground remains fertile in the Netherlands, even in the crisis period.

What do you enjoy most about the Netherlands?
The Netherlands is considered  one of the most attractive countries for expatriates. The open-mindedness of the people, the multicultural identity of the population and the ability of the Dutchies to speak the English language fluently creates a friendly international environment. In addition, the strategic geographic location of the country makes traveling around the world more accessible and affordable. The pace of the daily life is very relaxing, people are easygoing and using your bike as the basic means of transport contributes to a smooth and easy integration for an expat. Furthermore, in the Netherlands you can find restaurants serving international cuisine for every taste, big outdoor markets and many international events and festivities, which are organized every year.

How has becoming an expat changed your lifestyle?
Being an expat can be very exciting for many reasons. Meeting other expats and sharing personal experiences, as well as explaining the different reasons why each of us left his/her country of origin, always results in interesting conversations. A person, who travels abroad and resides in different places , may gain valuable experiences, explore new horizons and mentalities as well as business opportunities around the world. From a recreational perspective, expats become familiar with leisure activities from other cultures and that makes their lifestyle more appealing. This international experience is nowadays something really highly regarded. Being an expat makes you more open minded and contributes to your self development. Last but not least, expats build a wide international social network, which enables them to travel more and adjust to multicultural environments easily.

Any last words…..?
Being expats has defined a new way of living and thinking for us. Residing and doing business in the Netherlands has positively influenced our personal development from a social and also business perspective.

Netherlands is an ideal location for expats, which can be explained by the fact that many Dutch people have been expats themselves, making them really open and tolerant towards expats from all over the world.

This positive expat experience in the Netherlands has given us an even greater boost to further grow our entrepreneurial endeavor and embrace even more cultures and mentalities by taking this idea outside the borders of the Netherlands.

We would like to thank Emma O’Connor for the opportunity she has given us to share our own expat story, hoping that we can inspire other expats and urge people who are skeptical about living abroad to take the step and live the expat experience.

With warm regards,

The IamExpat team

To learn more about IamExpat visit
Feel free to contact IamExpat at We are always glad to interact :-)

Twitter: @IamExpat
LinkedIn Group: IamExpat in the Netherlands
Facebook Page: IamExpat in the Netherlands

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Sunday’s Stories – On Holidays for Christmas

As I have been busy over the last week Christmas shopping, christmas wrapping, starting a new job, getting the family ready for our trip North to Aviemore (estimated temp -9), I figured that everyone else is similarly busy, so have decided to give the series a ‘holiday’ for the Festive Season.

Tomorrow we board the train at Hay Market station for a 3 hour journey through the beautiful Snow covered Scottish Country side to Aviemore. (Stay tuned for some photos). We should arrive in time for lunch and have it on good authority that our holiday appartment (because they got the dates wrong and thought we arrived today) is already warm (thank goodness). Even though it’s only a mile, they’ve recommended a taxi, as it’s too cold to walk!! I’m glad we invested in some thermals today.

Looks like our wish for a white Christmas is going to come true!!

Some of the early Sunday’s Stories are;

Interview with MikeCJ

Interview with Leighann

The Intrigue of Anonymity

Or you may enjoy my Autumn Gallery,

Or why not take a look around at some older posts
The Party at the Palace
The Museum of Childhood

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Sunday’s Stories – Interview with The Accidental Expat

Ok… so here’s the thing… I ‘talk’ to people regularly about my Sunday’s Stories interviews, many have said yes and I’ve sent off the questions, very much looking forward to reading some amazing stories…. I suppose it’s the Christmas ‘business’, but none have come back in time for this weeks deadline… so to keep my promise of an interview every Sunday I have decided to answer the questions myself!

(I know it’s late… But i’m sure it’s still Sunday somewhere right?)

GULP… Here goes

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I am origianlly from Melbourne and after spending around 10 years travelling around Australia (the slow way) I settled back in Melbourne again to study, marry and start our family. After around 5 years the opportunity came for us to travel overseas for the first time. Not to do anything by halves we decided on our first ever trip abroad to move to Scotland. We now call Edinburgh our “Holiday Home” and Melbourne our “Far Away Home”

Where do you consider your home to be?

I definitely consider Australia my home, it’s where my heart belongs, where my family are, and my closest friends. In saying that, I feel at ease in Edinburgh and have made some lovely friends.

How many addresses have you had?

Honestly I’ve lost count…. I’ve lived all over Australia and had postal addresses in Darwin, Jindabyne, Thredbo, Perth, Carnarvon, Broome and Melbourne. I also spent a good amout of that time at ‘no fixed address’. I’ve lived in many and varied forms of accommodation too, from my tent, to a couple of caravans, various standards of ski chalet, houses verging on derelict, a tipi, a bungalow in Broome with only fly screens for windows, a sailing ship, a four wheel drive, a van, goodness, the list grows long!

Can you tell me about the different jobs/careers you’ve had?

I haven’t exactly worked my way up any corporate ladder…. sideways accross some form of scaffolding may be a better analogy. My first business was in High School, I only remebered the other day, I used to make ‘Fergie Bows’ (ok I’m giving away my age now!!) and sell them to my friends. My first ’employment was as a cleaner, and I’ve done it various times since… it’s a great travelling job… easy to get… easy to give up. Kitchen hand, waitress, and bar person complete my hospitality repertoir.

I also used my skills to make money for travel, creating little temporary cash businesses. I know it sounds bazaar, but I’ve tied ‘hair wraps’ at markets, taken photos, fire danced and even played classical piano! (In one place I was a kitchen hand on week days and classical pianist on a Saturday Night)

I did finally get sick of not having any qualifications, and have in the last few years become a remedial therapist, and then a swimming teacher…

Currently I’m using neither of those and working as a receptionist at my local gym, I’m hoping to mix it up though as they have both swimming lessons, and a Spa…. so I’ll keep you posted!!

Can you describe the process behind deciding to travel/ become an expat?

When I left the first time, I was initially running away from my unhappy self…. I was young and thought travel was the answer… Obviously it wasn’t. It did give me the space to work things out for myself though, and by then, the travel bug had set in forever. On coming to Scotland, our initial trip was booked for 5 weeks to attend a wedding, then it gradually got extended. We ended up forfeigting our tickets home to stay and experience life here.

What do you enjoy most about where you live now?

I love the people and the community we have created around ourselves. I like how different it is, It’s subtle, but there. I love the language, the history, the architecture and the proximity to the rest of Europe. (Think more travel)

Is there anything you miss about ‘back home’? If so what is it?

Warm weather, the beach, and TIMTAMS (biscuits)

How has travelling and becoming and expat changed you as a person?

It’s hard to say, as I started travelling so young. I think I’m flexible, tolerant and fairly culturally aware because of my travels. I’ve also had to be pretty creative at times. This year in Edinburgh has been one of our most challenging, we’ve faced financial hardship in a year we thought would be all about jetsetting around Europe, and eating out at restaurants. This forced me into a state of creativity once more. My blog was born… a charity project for our nursery has been developed, and I’ve started writing some childrens books…

How has travelling and becoming an expat changed your lifestyle?

I have to say, I’ve never had a ‘fixed’ type of lifestyle, because of the temporary nature of my life. I’ve just ‘fit in’. There are certainly a few things that are very different about living in Scotland, compared with Melbourne! As I’m writing this, my friends are getting up on a hot summers day (maybe so hot that they have to turn the aircon on, and not leave the house). That just doesn’t happen here. Someone probably had a BBQ in the backyard…. here not likely… and there were probably Christmas drinks on someones balcony in the sun. It is literally indoors compared with outdoors, flip flops, compared with UGG boots.

Did you travel or move with your family?

I travelled on my own for years, meeting up with various people along the way for some fabulous adventures. At one of my longer stops I met my now Husband, and we went on some fantastic adventures together before settling in Melbourne. Four of us boarded our plane to the UK, Me aka mummy, ‘B’ aka Daddy, three year old ‘D’ and 9 month old ‘R’.

If so how has travelling/ changed your family life?

We are close, (partly because we are crammed into a 1 bedroom flat) but also because we have had to rely on each other, certainly for the first 6 months after all our family and friends went back to Australia. We have since developed a community of support (now we have baby sitters!).

Any last words…..?

I think this journey has given me personally a sense of pride and accomplishment, despite being unplanned, unprepared and accidental!

So thats me 😉

Thank you to everyone who has already done interviews, and also to everyone ‘working on them’ 😉

If you’d like to tell your story please contact me via comments here, @emmaoconnor on twitter or email

Posted in Sunday's Stories | Tagged , | 4 Comments

An Exercise in Gratitude

It’s the festive season, the holdays, Christmas time, a time to spend with family and friends, looking back, having a laugh and looking ahead.
As an ‘expat’ in a foreign land (I know it’s not that foreign being English speaking and all… but bear with me it’s all about the rhythm) it can be a time of yearning… for family… old friends …and better weather (when you’re an Aussie in Scotland you do 😉 )
I was having a bit of a ‘moment’ feeling lonely and a little sorry for myself when I realized….. I’m Lucky…..  Not just lucky… absolutely privelidged. So now I say thank you to…

Paper presents under our handmade tree

New Friends

For inviting us to your weddings, parties and for more cups of tea than I can count. For welcoming us into your homes and providing friendship and support (and lots of ‘stuff to loan!!)

Old Friends

For just being there and staying in touch. For not taking it personally that we’ve extended our stay, but still asking regularly enough ‘so when are you coming home?’ (You could’ve stopped having fun completely, stopped acheiving milestones and just waited for us…. but then we’d have nothing to talk about when we do get home) And for the most precious gifts, hand written letters and photos of the kids.

Family far Away

For still being as helpful and ‘there for us’ as you possibly can from the other side of the world. For the letters and parcels in the post. For the hour long skype calls even though It’s really late. For  making sure the insurance company coughed up when the shed burnt down! And for everthing else too.

Family here

For being my biggest joy, and my biggest challenge. For seeing the best and worst of me and loving me anyway. Simply for being you.


For the experience. Because we are here my boys have played under the sprinkler in the backyard (no longer allowed in Melbourne). For the challenges, and rewards they have offered. For the opportunities… I certainly wouldn’t be a budding blogger on expat life, had we never left!!  For the glorious spring days, and the bitterly cold winter mornings, orange leaves in Autumn and the summer of festivals.

There are so many things!!

When you really start thinking about it, if you have a family, home, food (and an internet connection) you’re pretty wealthy in the whole scheme of things…

Life is good

What are you thankful for?

Posted in Musings | 1 Comment

Jetlagged and Hungry


This place is beautiful….
Rolling hills, eucalyptus trees, sweeping lawns and a 400 year old Spanish villa, complete with grape vines, and a pool on the side of a hill.
It really is beautiful.
We are here.
We haul our luggage once more to our room, a massive suite (we didn’t know quite how massive as this was our first European accommodation) complete with ensuite and view across the valley.
The long haul is finally over (for now) and we can relax.
The day is spent catching up with old friends and family, exploring, and sitting around the patio drinking a little (well maybe more than a little for some). The weather is warm.

The Venue is Casa Grande do Bachao, and the event is a family wedding.

The afternoon wears on, and no one really thinks about food… some bread, ham, and crisps get passed around, but nothing too substantial… thats OK, it should be dinner time soon…. shouldn’t it?

We’re in Spain now… Dinner is served at 9 o’clock (ish)

Oh no it was dark this morning when we had room service breakfast at our hotel (was that this morning?) and the kids are hungry thirsty TIRED! From dusk onwards, its all a bit of a blur, a haze of jetlag and wine and waiting for dinner. The boys go to bed, they just can’t make it (looking forward to another midnight snack) they’ve had a massive few days.

I vaguely remember roast meat and potatoes, and there was cheese there too. What I do remember is the fact that it was exquisite… perfection… and definitely worth the wait. There are also vague recollcections of conversations…but I just wasn’t up to it. My head growing very heavy I shuffle to my bed.

Nighty night 😉


Posted in On the Road | Leave a comment

Sunday’s Stories – Interview with Sharon


Originally from Israel, Sharon had her first Expat experience as a child when her family moved to the USA. Thrilled by her childhood experience Sharon remained interested in foreign living through to adulthood and imediately agreed to her Husband becoming a Diplomat for Israel Foreign Affairs. This was the beginning of what has become a 12 year journey through 5 houses and across 3 continents. She refers to herself as a veteran expat. You can find out more about Sharon, and get some excellent advice on moving abroad on her website Expats Moving and Relocation Guide.

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I am originally from Israel. During my childhood we have lived in Fort Knox. KY, U.S.A.

After I got married my husband joined the Israeli Foreign Affairs and we started traveling around the world. Our first posting was in Caracas/Venezuela, and later we were posted to Ottawa/Canada. In between we repatriated to Israel.

Now we are back in Israel and planning to go on a new posting in the summer of 2010.

Where do you consider your home to be?

Home is definitely Israel.  I believe I feel this way because we are part of the Israeli Foreign Affairs – when we live overseas we represent Israel, its policy and its culture.

Can you describe the process behind deciding to travel/ become an expat?

When my husband joined the Israeli Foreign Affairs we were thinking more about representing our country and less about living overseas (huge mistake). However we did have 2 years to prepare ourselves mentally as my husband had to do 2 years of training before we could go abroad.

I think that only when we received our posting to Caracas/Venezuela it finally hit us that we are about to relocate overseas. Lucky for us the Israeli Foreign Affairs took care of many tasks – visas, healthcare, moving company, language learning and more.

I would strongly suggest to future expats to prepare thoroughly for overseas relocation, to research and to gather all information about moving abroad and especially about your target country.

We tend to take for granted so many services that are provided for us in our home country, and we don’t fully comprehend that those services won’t be available for us in the target country, or would cost lots of money.  One example is school – If you relocate to a country where the local language is not English, you might need to send your kids to an international school, which is usually quite expensive. Who will pay the tuition?  Your Employer? You? Can you afford it?

Did you travel/ move with your family?

We always moved with our family – we were a family of four (2 adults, a 4 years old, and a baby) when we moved to Venezuela. Our third son was born in Caracas. In Canada we were a family of 5.

How do your children cope with the changes? (any tips?)

Each one of our kids copes differently – Our eldest doesn’t like changes, and hates the expats lifestyle. Our middle one loves it, and connect with new friends quite easily. Our youngest feels a little nervous before the change, but at the end he finds his place in the new surrounding.

The best tip I can give is – Know who is your kid, let him speak openly about his concerns and listen carefully to what he is telling you. Try to answer all his questions the best way you can. If you feel you can’t provide the assistance that your kid needs then do not hesitate to consult a professional.

How has traveling changed your family life?

There is no doubt that the expats lifestyle has made our family much closer. We like hanging out together and enjoy traveling, and the boys have a special bond between them.

How has becoming and expat changed you as a person?

I have a broader worldview, more tolerance and patience, and I am less judgmental.

Can you tell me about the different jobs/ careers you have had?

I always enjoyed working with people from different countries and cultures. After I graduated from University and before my husband joined the Israeli Foreign Affairs I worked at an international freight forwarding company and was the director of overseas relations department.

In Venezuela and in Canada I have worked at the Consular department in our Embassy. In between postings I went back to University for graduate studies.

After our second posting, I have realized that I can’t keep on looking for a new job every few years, and that I must find a work that I can do from anywhere in the world.

I enjoyed helping out other expats while working at the embassy’s consular department. Therefore I thought that I can take it a step further and build a website to assist expats around the world.

This is how was founded. Expats moving and relocation guide provides free information from packing tips to language learning, moving with kids, financial planning and much more. Other than that you can ask any question you have and share your stories about life in a foreign country.

Tell your story

Posted in Sunday's Stories | 5 Comments