Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Simply Worn Out

When I first arrived in London 14 months ago, one of the most vivid memories I have is of noticing how worn out people's shoes here seem to be (I'm a girl. I notice shoes. I can't help it...). Holes, tattered, worn down heels. You name it. I was really surprised at the common, sad state of people's shoes.
Well, it's dawned on me recently that I have now joined the ranks of these very people I was noticing last year:

What can I say? Walking 4-5 miles in an average day takes its toll!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why I love living in London

For all of my moaning, as the Brits say, there are some obvious reasons why I (or anyone) would love living in London...
Just yesterday, Simon & I decided we wanted to 'pop' down to Brussels for the weekend-Monday is a bank holiday here.
So, in matter of minutes, we were booked on the Eurostar, with hotel for one night for the measley cost of £170 per person. How easy is that?!?
Also, another reason I love living here: the 'cultural opportunities.' Last nite, I went to see 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert' musical with a few girlfriends. All I can say is: Pray the show tours where you live! It was fantastic. If you like the movie, you'll love the play. Wow.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A few photos

A few photos for some of the things I just referenced in the blog...Budapest, and a few funny things I've seen in London recently...

Looking back down at Buda, as we're climbing the stairs up to the Castle.

A few photos from inside the Jewish SynagogueBurial site at the Jewish Synagogue. Though this isn't 'kosher', as these people died during the one of the coldest winters in Budapest during the War, the only option, once the ground thawed, was to bury them in the Synagogue.

Just a random road in Budapest. I thought the buildings were pretty..
As seen at a Tesco (like walmart) in Slough. Open 24 hours? Really?'re closed from 1op on Saturday to 10a on Sunday, and close again at 4p on Sunday. Apparently, the British version of Open 24 hours is different from the US version. :)

Cajun Squirrel potato chips. 'Suitable for Vegetarians,' the packaging says. Seriously. I'm not sure which I find more disturbing: the thought that they *are* suitable for vegetarians or the thought that they're *not.* hm...

A proper catchup

Wow. has it really been a few weeks since I last posted? amazing what not having the internet at home can do to a blog! the good news is, we finally got interenet access-a story within itself...

And, I haven't said a thing about my trip to Budapest with my old flat-mate, Sarah over Easter weekend (got bless the UK for making Good Friday & Easter Monday proper holidays that most companies are compelled to give...).

Lastly, there a few general life things, both Simon/new flat related and some more of the 'you crazy Brits' photos that I wanted to post...

Where to begin?..internet access. such a simple thing that I take for granted has become a pain/effort all unto it's own. Apparently, the owner of our flat didn't install phonelines when he lived here, so if we wish to get a landline/internet access via a 'traditional route', it will cost us 122 pounds to get things installed. and, if we're lucky, we'll have internet access in 6 weeks time. mind you, we've already been here for 4 weeks. yeesh. apparently, to get everything all set up, you have to first get the lines 'installed', then wait two weeks to get the phone actually up and running, then wait another two weeks before you can try to include internet access. good grief. neither of us have the patience to wait that long-or think we should have to pay to install. so...we've gone to plan B, and my fingers are crossed that it works-Mobile Broadband!

O2 (one of the UK Mobile companies) offers a pay as you go plan for 20 quid a month. internet? check. Phone capability? maybe check. I'm going to try out Skype this weekend with Sarah's Skype headset, and if i can easily make a call to Dad...check. No BT (British Telecom-the company we'd have to have the line installed with..). No Landline. And, considerably cheaper than a BT plan altogether! Fingers crossed Skype works...

What else? Oh, Budapest....What an AWESOME place. The weather for the four-day weekend was unseasonably warm. Meaning, tshirts and capris for four days. Yea! People were *amazingly* friendly. The food was much, much better than what I was anticipating (gulash isn't something I feel compelled to eat...), and Budapest as a city is just beautiful. The Buda side (to the East of the Danube) is hilly. Pest (the West side of the Danube) is flat. Each side has a different vibe, even thought it's part of the same city. And generally, it was not only *much* cheaper than London, but it was really even reasonably priced/cheap by 'American Standards.'

Aside from simply walking around, my favorite thing in Budapest is the Jewish Synagogue. Outside of the synagogue in NYC, it's the largest in the world (it can hold 3,000 people), and was absolutely beautiful. I'll post photos in a moment of the inside-and a few other things-but they simply won't do justice...Budapest is a great city for a weekend break-there's enough to hold your interest for a few days without feeling like you're not going to get to see it all, but there's not so much to do that you feel compelled to spend a week there. Probably one of my most favorite cities in Europe now. Yea Budapest!

I should jot down a few extra details of the trip for my own memory...We arrived super-late Thursday evening, and really all we did was get to the hotel & go to sleep. Friday and a good chunk of Saturday were just walking around days. Friday, we probably walked 8 miles! All on one side of Pest. Crossed a bridge to Margit Island-an 'island' on the Danube-and walked all around there. Then we continued on over to the Buda side, and walked around even more. By the evening, I was pooped!
Saturday was a bit more of the same. We went to the local Saturday market (think Borough or Pike Place), and puttered around there. Bought some souvenirs, walked around town some more, walked up to the top of the 'mountain' on the Buda side to the Castle, took an evening boat cruise on the Danube (all of the really beautiful bulidng...Castle, Parliment, etc...are all lit up at night. beautiful), and called it a night.
Sunday was more puttering. The first part of the morning was spent at the Jewish Synagogue-tour of the synagogue, museum, and holocaust memorial. Then, more puttering.
Monday was our last day-and our flight was at 6p. We spent the bulk of our day at Gellert. It's a swanky hotel on the Buda side, but it's also renowned for their Turkish spa. Wowsers. The size and features were really impressive. The 'logistics' of getting in, getting a locker, and getting sorted, were horrible. The place is so disorganized, I have no words. It could have been the perfect, stress-free experience, but was unfortunately very stressful to get in and get sorted. oh well. It was however, warm enough to lay outside and get a bit of sun in our bathingsuits, so I really can't complain that much!

Life in general...This is week five of the move in with Simon, and I have to's going better-and is even easier than I had hoped for. Laughingly, in speaking with other friends that co-habitate, Ithink it's because we have seperate bathrooms...but, I'm not going to complain! :)
As liberal about male/female roles as I am, I absolutely love coming home from work and getting dinner ready for 'my man.' And thankfully, he likes to eat what I cook! I love to cook, so it's really win/win. Simon's dad, Jerry came down last weekend, and I think he enjoyed himself-it was nice to have a spare Bedroom/Bathroom to put a guest in without feeling like they're still 'in your space,' but with the setup of the flat, it's going to be pretty easy to host folks who want to come for a visit (hint, hint, y'all...).

OK. Short of posting a mini-novel, I should stop there. Since we have the internet sorted at the flat for the time being, I should be able to get back to more regular posts now..


Friday, April 3, 2009

Finally Settled and Flat Moving Lessons Learned

It's been two weeks since Simon & I have moved in together, and I think it feels like we're finally settled. One of the biggest lessons I've learned since moving flat here in London? Once you're out, there's still work to be done. And, because of the 'work to be done', you actually will never be able to stay in your rental up to the date your contract expires. Here's what I mean...
When renting here, you go thru an 'inventory check in/out' process. This is where an independent agent comes and makes note of all of the furniture (if applicable), scratches, dings, working condition, etc...of everything in the flat. The checkin is to make note of all of these things, and the checkout is to make note as well-and compare to the checkin. The things that are different-and not associated with 'basic wear & tear' you're charged for. Fair enough.

But, to get ready for said check-out, you have to have the place professionally cleaned (at your own expense)-and perhaps repaired (though, we didn't damage, so that wasn't a problem...), so in all actuality, though Sarah & I had our flat until the 27th of March, we actually needed to be out at least 3 days before that so that the cleaning/check out could happen. Hm. I've paid for 3 days of rent (which, at £735 a week, comes to £315, or £157.50 per person. no small beans...) for a flat which I won't be able to use.

Rubbish, as the Brits would say.

The other big learning I've had? Hindsight 20/20...though it was nice to have my furniture here the first year, as a 'safety blanket', I look at it now and think, 'Pain in the Ass'...Here's what I mean...

Though Sarah & I rented our flat unfurnished, the greater likelyhood is that flats here are furnished (odd in its own way, as far as I'm concerned). The flat that Simon & I moved into? Furnished. Fortunately (and rarely...), we have an attached garage, so storage isn't an issue. Swapping things out, and getting my "American Size Queen Bed" (aka a King in the UK) up to the second floor (or First, according to the Brits..) was a horrible experience. Luckily, the mattress is bendy. Unfortunately, the boxsprings aren't. It wouldn't fit. But, not so surprisingly, the Brits have found a way around this: Box Springs that come in two pieces (halves) that you then link together. Half of a queen box spring will easily fit up our stairs. A whole wouldn't. Whew. But, that means that for the next year (or however long...) my American Queen Boxsprings are sitting in the garage unused, and wasting space. And of course, we then had to bring the two twin beds that were up on the 2nd floor (now I understand why there were only twin beds on the 2nd floor...) down to the garage and store them as well. Lesson learned.

My #1 piece of advice for anyone thinking of moving here?...As painful as it may seem (we all like the 'comforts of home'-especially when not at 'home'), leave the big stuff at home/sell it/give it away/whatever. It just makes no sense to bring it, when keeping it will likeley mean extra expense, effort, annoyance, need for more space (which also brings about extra expense, effort, and annoyance... :)).