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How one widow has changed how women solo travel

<p>After Yvonne Vickers' husband passed away in 2014, she thought her opportunities to travel and see the world had slipped away. </p> <p>Yvonne had always been a keen traveller and went on trips with her married friends after becoming a widow, but she "got over being the third wheel", she admitted to <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>9Travel</em></a>. </p> <p>Still wanting to see the world on her own terms, Yvonne took to Facebook where she created a group seeking like-minded women who share her passion for adventure. </p> <p>Now, the Find A Female Cruise or Travel Buddy is an ever-growing group that has connected thousands of women looking for travel companions. </p> <p>Whether they're single, widowed, or just married to someone who doesn't want to travel, the group is open to women across the globe to join.</p> <p>Thanks to her newfound community, Yvonne has taken 41 cruises and dozens of land trips since her husband's death, all while making friends for life, and the rest of the group's members are in the same boat.</p> <p>"It's wonderful to get feedback from ladies saying that it's helped to change their life," Yvonne said. "That's the rewarding part of it for me."</p> <p>Members can make a post in the group, detailing a cruise sailing or trip that they have their eye on booking, to see if anyone else would like to join them.</p> <p>"We have a lot of widows in our group who are cashed up and want to travel but don't have anyone to travel with or share their experiences with," Yvonne said. "The group gives them the opportunity to be able to do that."</p> <p>"There are also a lot of ladies who are married but their husbands don't want to travel. It gives them the opportunity to be able to travel."</p> <p>Yvonne says that cruising is a perfect way for older females to travel, especially if they're on their own.</p> <p>"It's a really safe way to travel as a solo female," she says, also noting that it's an easy way to get around and see places. Recently, she did a 35-day trip around Hawaii with a group of women from the group.</p> <p>For the Find A Female Cruise or Travel Buddy group, there's even more fun trips on the horizon.</p> <p>Yvonne just came back from a trip to Japan with 14 group members, and is heading to Bali in August with a friend she made through the group.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Nine News \ Facebook</em></p>


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Discovering the wonders of Europe from London to Lille

<p><em><strong>Yvonne Dixon describes a trip from London to Lille with her husband, where she discovers the wonders of travelling through this beautiful part of Europe.</strong></em></p> <p>On 26 September, we travelled by underground train from our base in West London into St Pancras-International Station in Central London. The check in for Eurostar closed half an hour before the 1pm departure. This allowed time for going through body and bag security checks and immigration control. We were amused to find that we “crossed the border” from UK into France before we boarded the train.</p> <p>The Eurostar train travels through outer East London, then through Kent countryside, down to Folkestone on the coast. There are some tunnels on the English side, including one under the Thames. It was difficult to tell when we entered the BIG tunnel. We realised when a tunnel seemed long. The train spent about 25 minutes under the Channel and emerged in France. </p> <p>A brief stop was made at Calais, with prior notice given in French and English.  We eagerly looked out the train windows. Now we could see plastic wrapped bales of hay in French farm fields.  Church spires in villages could be seen every few minutes. The impending arrival at “Gare Lille Europe” was announced, with warning to be quick. The train was going on to Brussels in Belgium.</p> <p>We grabbed our luggage and walked off the train. Lille station was big and busy. Many bi-lingual signs helped us find the way.   We found a public toilet at the railway station but there was a charge of E0.70c, to be paid to the attendant. We needed to get some small change to use it. I remembered “spending a penny” for the toilets at the Wellington, NZ railway station, back in 1967.</p> <p>We walked down the stairs, and emerged, into a large plaza.  We could see a dazzling contemporary flower sculpture, and old buildings in the distance. Lille is only 10 km from the French border with Belgium, so has Flemish elements in the culture. It was interesting to walk on narrow roughly cobbled streets. Many of the magnificent buildings were erected in the seventeenth century.  Some old multi-storey structures have beautiful shining gilded trimmings on the top levels. There is a former stock exchange, built in 1652. We walked through the antique book market in the central courtyard, and looked up. Housing for workers was provided on the upper floors. </p> <p>Near to our apartment was a fortified citadel built in a star shape for defence when the King of France annexed Lille in 1667. We took photos of the fort’s heavy wooden doors and the drawbridge, over a moat. The small landscaped Lille zoo is in part of the surrounding green park. (The Entry cost 4 Euros.)  I liked the owls, and the picture panels to read about the animals.</p> <p>In the central city we visited St Maurice’s church which has a 68 metre tower. There are intricate wood carvings on the interior fittings. The oldest part dates back to the 14<sup>th</sup> century. We were intrigued to read that at the time of the French Revolution, the church had been stripped of treasures and turned into a “temple of reason”. In the 19<sup>th</sup> century, the church was restored and again used for Christian worship. The “Liberte, Equalitie, Fraternitie” slogan of the French revolution was part of the signage on a Council building.</p> <p>The central areas of Lille are strongly oriented to pedestrians. Where there were lanes for cars, vehicles travelled slowly and deferred to pedestrians.  Drivers on the motorway were polite and considerate to us and other vehicles.   Lots of people whizz around on bicycles in central Lille, but few wear helmets.  We observed some workmen repairing paving on the street. They did not have safety goggles or boots despite using an electric cutting saw.  Safety rules seem to be different in France.</p> <p>We found that shop and office workers in Lille were polite and helpful, when they realised we did not have much French. Many people used their English to assist. First it was said “my English is not good” but functional English was spoken everywhere we went. We remembered our French numbers and a few words from high school classes. We had a French phrase book and dictionary. My husband went to buy bread in the little nearby bakery.  I asked how he managed. “Oh I just pointed and then said “Trois croissants”, he replied.</p> <p>Fresh baguette slices were delicious with butter and jam for breakfast.  The phrase “Je ne parle Francais” was useful to discourage hawkers and beggars who approached us in the street. </p> <p>When we left France early on Thursday evening, Eurostar Border bio security only seemed to concern water.  We took fruit, breads and cheese back to the UK. There are restrictions so some items, such as knives can’t be carried on the Train. </p> <p>We liked the size and location of Lille.  It is 30 minutes closer to London, and the train fares and accommodation are cheaper than going to Paris.  We visited midweek during the UK and French school term so it did not seem crowded. We felt welcome as visitors. We were very pleased with our little taste of travel to France. We were glad of our walking shoes. It is easy to trip or stub toes on cobbles and pavers on the streets.</p>

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