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Hullo from London
My name is Antonia and I am a non-smoker. I don’t have any children. I was with IBM for 25 years in various management roles the last of which was as Communications Manager. I took early retirement in 1992 after I had cancer. Unfortunately I lost my Swedish husband Ken in February 2005 on the same day that we were due to fly to Rio. We both enjoyed travelling extensively. In 2005 my first Christmas without my husband, I exchanged with Melbourne and Sydney, went on to Bangkok and then on to Myanmar or Burma. It was so unspoilt and the best part was doing the Orient Express Riverboat "Road to Mandalay" trip from Mandalay to Rangoon. Prior to the visit to Oz,after my husband died, I had visited Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and various countries in the Caribbean and Sweden. In the autumn of 2006 I went to several Middle East countries and even made it to Yemen, Sudan and Iran. My most mind blowing trip was on an expedition to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands in December 2006 and Jan 2007. I managed to combine an exchange at the end of the trip with Buenos Aires and even had the good fortune to include a memorable trip to Iguaccu Falls and take tango lessons in BA on a one to one basis with Carlos Copello who taught Robert Duvall to tango. 2007 saw me in Long Beach to attend my Swedish friend's wedding but which, unfortunately, got cancelled, so I moved on to LA, Seattle and San Francisco on exchanges and took a trip on the famous scenic Coast Starlight train from LA to Seattle.
I made a 3 week trip to Mumbai in March 2007 and later that year, did an extensive trip to Alaska, and across Canada on some of their famous trains - The Rocky Mountaineer through the stunning Canadian Rockies, the Hudson Bay train to Churchill to see the polar bears and the Canadian from Winnipeg to Toronto. I was glad to have been able to combine 2 exchanges in Vancouver on either side of my Alaskan trip and my last exchange for 2007 in Toronto. It was good to also experience Calgary, Regina home of the Mounties and Winnipeg during this long trip. So 2007 saw me start the year surrounded by penguins in the Antarctic and end the year with polar bears in Churchill. At the start of 2008 I travelled throughout South Africa, and visited Botswana, Ghana and Victoria in Zimbabwe where I walked with lions - an experience I viewed with trepidation but thoroughly enjoyed - safari trips through all 4 countries added to an unforgettable experience. Unfortunately, a car accident affected all my exchange plans for 2008 so I stayed within Europe during 2009 spending a month in Berlin and a month in Barcelona. In 2010 I spent a month in Madrid on an exchange which was timed to coincide with the Champions League Final which was played at the Bernebeau stadium which was literally opposite the home exchange flat. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a ticket to the final but did enjoy the game in one of several bars around the stadium and take part in the week long celebrations leading up to the finals. Madrid was also celebrating 100 years of the Gran Via street so there were all sorts of events and parades to mark that centenary. All in all, a great Madrid experience
I had a marvellous month long non sim exchange with Shanghai in June2011.and took a cruise down the Yangtze. In July I exchanged with Milan - a classy and intimate city - fell in love with their unique habit of apperitivo with their campari and prosecco spritzer and a range of tapas like dishes. On 1 February I did an 18 day trip on the Spirit of Adventure, on their Undiscovered Coast of Africa tour, sailing from Cape Town and visited Namibia, Angola, Gabon, Cameroon, Benin, Togo and Ghana crossing the Equator in the process.. It was a very educational trip but we had to abandon our stop in Gabon due to unrest there. We went to Sao Tome instead. I was really glad to experience these new countries.
As an Arsenal Platinum Club member, I generally work around the Arsenal season and their home games. In fact, as I missed the Arsenal Barcelona game as I was on the cruise, I was glad to secure a ticket to see the return leg in Barcelona and to also have an exchange from 3-11 March. In fact, I repeated my non-sim exchangefor 10 days with Milan in February 2012 to see Arsenal play AC Milan.This time I was lucky enough to get to the ballet and the opera AIDA at La Scala. Thanks to my helpful homeexchanger, I also got to see Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper.
In 2012 I decided to take a "staycation" as they said in England so I stayed at the flat most of the time. There was so much going on - the Queen's 60th Diamond Jubilee, Euro 2012, Olympics and Para Olympics 2012 and I tried to get as much enjoyment from all these once in a lifetime events. So glad I was able to attend several Olympic and Paralympic events as well. .
For the last few Christmases I have worked as a volunteer over the Christmas period, for Crisis At Christmas which makes the single homeless of London feel wanted, providing warmth and shelter, good food, medical and dental attention, hairdressing, manicures etc and a full programme of social activities for our guests. Over the years, one has come to know several of the regular guests who see us as home and come back, even after we have helped them get back on their feet. As some of them have said, it is like going back to visit one's family over Christmas. I get as much from this voluntary stint, as they get from us. This is the first year I have had to miss my shifts because I was away on a home exchange in Melbourne. I was attending a wedding there and took the opportunity to visit elderly relatives in Sydney as well.
I continue to enjoy travelling but miss my husband terribly. I am still keen on my Ceroc, Salsa, tango and zumba dance classes. I also enjoy painting on silk and glass, parchment craft stencilling and card making. My husband made me promise that I would continue doing all the things we so enjoyed doing like travelling, going to the theatre, jazz clubs, ballet, literary lunches and eating out.
These have been difficult years but I have kept going. In 2013 after returning from Melbourne, I went to Munich, San Sebastian, Warsaw and Naples. In February 2014 I will be in Sweden attending a wedding so the home exchange scheme adds to the enjoyment of my travel - living like a local.
I love cooking and experimenting with dishes from around the world and trying out recipes that I have gathered whilst abroad. Just as importantly, I like checking out the gourmet chef restaurants in London and tasting menus on my travels.