Friday, September 27, 2013

A Practical Post (and Other Things)

A foggy day in London-town.....

Actually, did you know that London rarely has fog? Times like this in early morning are somewhat common, but almost never during the day. Drizzly, yes. Smoggy, yes. But neither of those make for such a pretty song, now do they?

And They Said it Wouldn't Last...
As of yesterday, we have officially been on English soil for 2 months now! Its kind of crazy to think about how much has happened, how much we've learned, seen, changed. But in other ways, nothing has changed. It's like any other move: settling back into your normal life and routines. The places and details may change, but the general life stays the same: relationships, conflicts, growth, tiredness, good days, bad days, movie nights, dinners out, leftovers in the fridge... you know, life.

I thought I'd write out a few things about practical life in London. When I was planning to move, I tried to be as over-prepared as possible (blame my mom for that gene!), and I Googled "life in London" over and over looking for info. So now that I'm actually living here, I thought I'd write about some of the practical daily differences, before I adjust and consider them normal. Maybe someone else can benefit from my learning.

The Tube, etc.
So, first thing: everything takes longer. Yes, it's London, and in some ways, life moves fast. If you sit and watch, people rush past, busses whizz by, planes fly overhead, and tubes move silently beneath the surface. But in actuality, getting anywhere takes forever. I live in Islington, which is a central borough convenient for getting about. I also have an app (CityMapper) that is brilliant for finding my way. I type in an address, and it gives me options for busses, tubes, walking, cycling, taxi, catapult, or jetpack, (yep, its cool), along with the travel time, charges involved, and calories burned (equivalent to .6 packs of pork scratchings, or something similar). :-) I love this app. But still, it takes a while. Example: Greenwich is only 11 miles away, but it takes at least an hour to get there by public transport. Tubes are fast, yes; but they stop a lot. Imagine if you drove across town and stopped at every gas station you passed. Yep. Slow. So I keep underestimating my errands. It'll get me in trouble someday.

Also, shops here are different. In America, we have Walmart and Target, where you walk in, buy everything you need, and leave. Not in London. In the city, everything is specialized. You have the hardware store (DIY shop, as its called), the clothing shop, the pharmacy, the grocer, the shoe shop, the electrics shop.
So your short shopping list: band-aids (plasters), socks, a lightbulb, and milk... is four separate stops. :-P It takes some walking.

Oh, and you get keys made at the cobbler. Don't ask me why.

Second-hand Living
You can get second-hand items, which I like, as most of my home has always been furnished by Goodwill and Craigslist. They have charity shops (thrift stores), such as Marie Curie and Oxfam,  but they're pricier than most Goodwills.
Online, Gumtree is like the English Craigslist (Craigslist is available, but filled with a lot more junk and inappropriate content). We keep the search field local, but still, pick-up is hard without a big car. People give you funny looks when you carry a dining table down the sidewalk, or wheel a sofa on a trolley (dolly) for half a mile.
And getting a taxi that could fit this armchair (which was admittedly, out of our region) may or may not have doubled its original selling price. :-p Good thing it started out cheap!

My poor husband is a trooper with all my online shopping shenanigans, but I figure we'll eventually run out of room..... right? 

I'm learning and adjusting, and I think someday I'll get the hang of it. After all, its only been 2 months.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Yes Mom, I know that's not a word.

So, I thought I'd just catch ya'll up on the little things I see along daily life that I haven't made into full posts. My poor husband has to deal with my people- watching obsession and play along when I suddenly pull him in and whisper "Holy Cow! Did you see that grandma?! She was wearing 4-inch platform heels!" (No joke, btw. Couldn't catch a picture (yes, I tried), but a 65 year old was wearing skinnies, a shrunken leather jacket, and 4 inch platforms. It was weird.)

Anyhoo.... so begins the post of random shots and the stories that accompany them. *Some of them have been posted on Instagram, but for some reason, my Instagram won't share with Facebook, so I'm putting them here till I figure out how to fix that.

This is a fruit/veg stand just a few blocks from our flat. Though this one is especially packed, places like this are all over the place, with prices comparable to most of the supermarkets. I just love these colors that brighten the city streets.

I still catch myself marveling at the fact that this is my city now. This is where I live. So thankful for the opportunity God has given us!

So this bag was across from me on the tube. I love Asian fashion accessories and their translations. Select quotes from this bag include "Fragrantly Memories", "Haughty Hearing Girl", and "I used to think/ I had the answeet. To everythink/ The dream is sweet."

So there's a restaurant nearby called The Breakfast Club that supposedly has amazing American-style pancakes. The changing board out front always features something punny and hilarious. The other side of this board featured a great chalk drawing of Pierce Brosnan and the name "Fry Another Day". Last month was Bruce Willis and "Fry Hard". Check out the artist's work on Twitter (I don't have an account either, but its still worth flipping through!) It's pretty much awesome.

This was anchored at Greenwich. I know nothing about it but in the words of Finding Nemo "That's a big butt."

Oh sweet caffeinated mornings!
Most English-folk don't have a drip coffee pot like the Americans do. They'll do K-cups, French Press, or just go out for coffee. In our house, we have 3 modes of coffee making: french press, stovetop espresso maker, and turkish coffee pot. Yes, we're well caffeinated.
However, we're starting to use up the Prelock Blueberry Farm coffee we brought with us, so we need to find another supplier. The hubs wants to learn to roast it himself. I'll keep you posted on that endeavor.

The Borough Market tops my list of London must-sees, for foodies, or anyone who just likes to eat anything whatsoever. You can get anything here- and it all looks amazing! Someday I'll do an entire post on the market. But for today, this 3 foot wok of paella will have to suffice. :-)

Oh my goodness. Have I mentioned London has amazing food?! Boulangeries, Patisseries, and Cafes line the streets and display these sumptuous treats: colorful mounds of meringues, rich Victorian cakes filled with clotted cream and jam, cupcakes with equal parts frosting and cake... in tasty combinations of fruits, florals, and spices. It's pretty much a waistline's worst enemy.  

My sweet hubby and me!
Behind us is Leeds Castle- billed as the "Loveliest Castle in the World". Though is was quite nice, the £21 entry fee puts a sting in the loveliness. However, a day walking gardens with my love is always lovely. Thanks for sharing this adventure with me, sweetheart. There's no one else I'd rather share it with!