Showing posts with label Getting Settled. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Getting Settled. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Back to the Homeland

After 1 year and (what will be...) 29 days, Simon will return to the mother ship for the first time since departure.

I am incredibly excited for him to be able to go home and see friends and family-and experience the sense of familiar that he will surely feel by being back in London.

I wonder if he's truly prepared however, for what has changed-both in London, and him.  I recall that there was a tipping point for me that made me feel less familiar with the US and more familiar with London-almost a comfort level.  I don't know if this will be the trip for Simon-it is just the first year after all, but it has been a year, so he's probably quite settled in the 'American-ness' of his life already.

This should be interesting.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Season of Firsts

It's safe to say, I now know what it must be like to be the parent of a small child...Since our time back in the US, and presuming it isn't permanent, I am keen to chase as many First Time Experiences as possible-for both Simon & I, though mainly for Simon.

To wit:  This year alone, in no particular order, Simon has:

  • Filed his first US tax return
  • Attended opening night for the Seattle Mariners (a first for me as well)
  • Joined a softball league, and played two games.  Which led to...
  • Visiting the emergency room-just this week..Simon fractured a bone in his arm after falling at said Softball game on Sunday.  OK. That one we didn't 'chase.'
  • Played a game of kickball.  Only one game, unfortunately-due to the aforementioned arm, he will be playing no more.
  • Purchased a house
  • Observed just *how many* prescription drug commercials are on TV (it's not legal to do so in the UK)
  • Started to  just a *little bit*) enjoy drinking an IPA
...and that's just the big stuff.  We do however, still have a few boxes to tick.  Like:
  • Learning how to drive
  • ..and with that knowledge, getting a drivers license.  Just in case.
  • Visiting Alaska and Hawaii (we'll tick these boxes before the end of the year.  woo!)

What else?   What other first time experiences (parents?  Expats?...) should we be chasing for Simon?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Through The Eyes of Others

I think I've mentioned a few of the observations (drivers, portions, etc) Simon has made past few months in the US.

His latest observation-well, flat out surprise, is over the H&R Block TV Adverts that are now playing in full rotation in prime-time.  As someone who has only ever lived in a country where the concept of actively completing a return is reserved only for those who have the most complicated of taxes, it is blowing his mind that everyone-including the most average of households are expected to submit a paper return to the IRS. Hee..

On the flip side of the coin, I've an acquaintance who just landed in London a few days ago for an expat assignment, and I have just seen some of her first Facebook posts about her experiences.  It's bringing back a flood of memories for me, and I can't help but feel a little envious of her new & exciting experience.  

London-life is especially fresh on my mind as I'll be heading there in a few weeks for work-and I'm so
excited (oh, the irony...)-and also a little sad to know that my experience will be temporary (oh, the irony).  I couldn't be happier in Seattle, but I have pangs for London every now and then.

I guess that is what the norm is for me now...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Last Leg of the Trip

Where did the time go?!?!?  I've been back in Seattle for 2 weeks, and it seems like references to our trip-especially the earliest parts-are for a trip that happened years ago, not weeks ago.  Sigh.  I think real life has settled in again.

Before too much more time passes by, I want to get details down for the last leg of the trip.  In some ways, it was my favorite part of the trip, and fortunately, given the proximity of this area to Seattle, comprises the easiest places on the trip to pop back to for a weekend away from Seattle.

Stats since the last update
20 days.  2500 miles.  3 States.  Cities visited: Sedona, AZ; Scottsdale, AZ; Palm Springs, CA; Venice, CA; Santa Barbara, CA: Santa Cruz, CA; San Francisco, CA; Sonoma, CA; Eureka, CA; Gold Beach, OR; Newport, OR; Astoria, OR; Portland, OR.

Highlights...Sedona was a godsend-both the beauty of the scenery, and we stayed in an "AirBNB" type condo that had a kitchen-so, we got to cook!.  All of the Wineries we stopped at along the way were lovely-some better than others...Fess Parker was incredible, and our last winery (sadly, the name currently escapes me), was simple perfection in the setting and experience.  Astoria -and well, any of the Oregon Coast cities-are all hidden gems that I can't wait to return to during weekend trips from Seattle.

Lowlights...really just one...Santa Cruz. The one place on the trip that, hindsight 20/20, I wish we hadn't stayed in.  After booking the hotel, we were unfortunately 'locked in' for 2 days. The town is 'meh', and our hotel be brutally honest (if not a bit kind...) was a shit hole.  Yes, a shit hole.  I've never used that phrase to refer to a hotel before.  Until now.  Santa Cruz is very expensive, but you'd think that for ~$150 a night, you'd get something in which you didn't feel the need to wear socks while walking on the carpet in your room.  Ew.  Oh we know!

So, that's it.  That's the trip-a trip of a lifetime.  All told, we travelled 7700 miles across 13 States and 29 cities.  We started the trip Sunday, July 15 in Charleston, SC, and arrived in Seattle on Friday, August 31.  48 days.  Whew.

It's good to get settled in to Seattle (well, as settled as we can be without our stuff from London yet..), but I could have easily done another 2-3 weeks of the trip.  I start a new job on Monday, but hopefully in another 3-4 years, we'll have the opportunity to take some time off and do the northern route from Seattle to NYC!

I'm sorting thru pictures now.  Once we've been thru-and noted everything-I'll do a pictures post.  Should happen next weekend-it's Simon's task this week to tag the pictures. :)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Moving to London-Revisited

Blogger has a new interface (I promise I'm going somewhere with this...).  On the 'back-end', I can now see a basic level of Google Analytics with each post.  It's a nifty way of seeing high-level information at a quick glance.
While posting about my Reims trip, I had a quick potter thru to see what old post had had the biggest number of views.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but a post I made in October, 2009 called Moving to London has received more views than just about anything else.  Though, British Teeth Explained is a close second. Hee..

So, I had a re-read of the Moving to London post, and I'm pleased that I think it still holds up.  My 20/20 hindsight on my 20/20 hindsight post hasn't changed.  And, even 2.5 years on, except for perhaps adding a few nit-picky things (paperwork to bring with you), I probably wouldn't add loads more.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Life Admin: The Necessary Paperwork

Thanks to David for asking a question that I think prompts a post about my response-what paperwork/legal documents should you plan to bring to the UK when you move?  With the benefit of hindsight, I can only say this:  Bring everything you think you would need-and even everything you don't think you will need.  In other words, if it's an important document to you in the US, it will be equally valuable to you in the UK. If not moreso.
My list of documents-in no particular order- I've needed/reference on a regular basis include:
  1. My passport-kinda goes without saying
  2. US Drivers license-seems to be acceptable here as a form of ID (I've used it at the Post Office to collect packages..)
  3. College transcripts
  4. College diplomas-an odd one, but I did have to have this for my Tier 1 visa app
  5. At least 3 years previous tax returns.  A. You'll want a few to help your tax pro when preparing your current year TR-and B. You could end up being the fortunate recipient of an IRS Audit letter of a recent tax return filing, and you'll want to have a copy of your returns handy.
  6. Birth certificate
  7. Social Security Card
  8. Marriage certificate-certified
  9. US Home mortgage paperwork-deed & loan docs
  10. Immunization/Medical Records-probably even more important if you have kids
It will only take up a bit of space to have these handy-but could save some serious stress (and cost) if you suddenly have a need for one of these-and have to put an express order in.  Yikes.  

At some point in my 4 years in London, I've needed every one of these docs.  But, I'm probably missing a few things that I'm just not aware of.  What else? What other documents have some of you had to have?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Moving to London? Part 2

Well, as expected, after my first Moving to London post, I've had a few other things come to mind that I thought might be worth mentioning. I tried to wait until I had several more things to mention, so there wasn't a constant stream of blog posts entitled, 'oh. one more thing.' :). In no particular order of importance..
1. If you have the luxury/flexibility/budget-and assuming you won't drive, pick a place to live that doesn't force you to rely on *only* one tube line. Especially the Jubilee. With increasing frequency as I've lived here the past (almost) two years, parts of a tube line-or in some cases an entire line will be shut for part if not all of the weekend. Yes, there may be bus-replacement service, but seriously...what would normally be a 15 minute trip for you may be a 45 minute-plus trip. You won't want to deal with this on such an ongoing basis. I have a friend who signed an 18 month lease in Canary Wharf a few months ago. The Jubilee line is the only lie that serves that part of town. He's effectively without tube transport at all on the weekends. Every weekend. For 18 months. Avoid at all costs...
2. Say goodbye to your American clothes dryer and hello to your new best friend-a clothes rack. Most London flats don't have the space here as in the US. I realize that's stating the obvious that most people know already. But, what most people don't know (I didn't until I moved here...) was that that in the never-ending pursuit of space-saving appliances in Britain, the invention of the combo washer/dryer simply means that your clothes will never, ever get dried in the machine. Not unless you wish to dry a load of clothes for well over three hours. Which, let's face it: who has the time-or budget to run such an appliance? Instead, you'll end up buying one of those multi-tiered clothes racks, just like you used to have in college. Joy.
3. With that being said, what not having a proper dryer also means is that your jeans will never fit you tightly again (god, how I miss the miracle-jeans-shrinking my American dryer provided).
4. will become crucial to you knowing what tube lines are open at any given time during the week and on the weekend. You will save yourself endless amounts of frustration if you sign up to receive the weekly email that provides details on all the weekend line closures.
5. Customer service. I know this is one of the things I've talked about several times in this blog-especially early on, but I'm just going to come out and say it: The customer service is so bad-and there is so much to take care of when you first arrive-that the first three months you're in the UK, you will simply be perpetually pissed off. When I first moved here, I reached the point after having so many bad experiences, that I *started off* my calls to customer service already in a bad mood-and I'm definitely of the 'catch more flies with honey' belief. It simply couldn't be helped. Perpetually pissed off...
6. Timeout website. For me, it's an infinite source of information when trying to find a new place to eat, new pub to try, movie information...basically, all things entertainment. There are a ton of websites that go into more detail on individual topics, but for one-stop-shopping, Timeout is a great source of info.
7. I am soooo not a tax advisor, but I implore you: talk to a tax professional about something called the 'DDR.' It's a special (and somewhat unknown-though, I certainly don't understand why...) deduction that expatriates who *intend* to live in the UK for under two years-and who have been moved here by their employer-are allowed to take. The DDR effectively allows you to deduct all of your basic living expenses (rent, most utilities, council tax, food...), transportation to work costs, and transportation 'back home' costs. This is NOT an inconsequential deduction-most of your out of pocket expenses in the UK are for these very items. This can mean the difference between kissing 42% of your paycheck goodbye or keeping most of it. If there is one thing you do before moving to the UK, seek tax advice from someone who specializes in US Expatriate tax returns, and talk to them about this. DO IT.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Moving to London?

It seems like 'tis the season for expats moving to London. I've had two seperate conversations with people this week who are moving here and in the course of answering some of their questions have realized that though I talk 'around' some of these things in my blog, I've never directly come out and stated a few things I've figured out since being here.

In the spirit of one of the reasons I started this blog, it's never too late to disclose my top 'hindsight 20/20' thoughts on the topic. So, in no particular order, if you're moving to London, here are my tips/thoughts-for what it's worth...

1. Furniture...Most flats in London come furnished-even down to the toaster & tea kettle & utensils. So, unless you simply have a piece of furniture you *can't live without*, I'd strongly encourage you to sell it/give it away/store it...something. Just don't bring it. Aside from possibly not needing it, it may be too big to even fit! :) An American Queen size bed=a British King size bed, and many flats are multi-level non-elevator. Think about how difficult it was just to get your Queen mattress into your 3rd floor apartment in the US-that accomodates larger things. Now, cut that hallway width in half, add a few turns up the stairs, and imagine trying to cut the corners. It can't be done.
If, for some crazy reaon you end up in a flat that isn't furnished, I have one simple word: Ikea.
2. Appliances...Regardles of what the label says it will accomodate-in terms of voltage-very few US appliances will properly function/charge here in the UK. The only thing I've been able to use without any problems (though I have had to use both a plug & voltage converter) is my Wii and my Blackberry charger (though again, I've had to use a plug converter). Leave everything else at home. Yes, especially the TV-voltage aside, US TVs will simply not receive a picture in the UK. Also...if you're keen on bringing your US DVDs, know that you will need to buy a DVD player here that is either 'multi-region' or can be programmed to play DVDs from just the UK.
3. Prams (Strollers)....People here seem to use prams for one of three reasons (sometimes all at the same time): to transport their children, to transport their shopping, or as a weapon. I somewhat joke about the last one. Only somewhat...
Nonetheless, unlike in the US, where it is expected that past just a few years, kids will toddle around when they're out with their parents, the reality in London is it's not possible. Sidewalks are too crowded/unstable, people are too agressive, and ultimately, children will be too slow. So, people here seem perfectly fine continuing to use a pram even when toting around a child of 4 or even 5 (at least, a few look this old). My point is, if you're moving here with children under the age of 5-and planning to live *in* London, you may seriously want to consider bringing your stroller.
4. One of the best information resources for financial, utility, shopping, coupons, deals...anything: Money Saving Expert. Find the website and save it as a favourite. You will want & need to refer to it often!
5. Shoes...Unless you will have a car here, or won't be walking 3+ miles a day...leave your heels at home. I'm not talking stilettos. I'm talking anything over a one-inch heel-perhaps two for special occasions. You will simply ruin your feet. I brought a pair of wedge shoes with me that were comfortable. Right. Comfortable in the US when I drive and park two blocks from the building I'm going in. Not when I'm in London and have 2 blocks to walk just to get to my nearest tube. Save the space in your closet-and your feet.
6. Mobile phones. Unless you're going to have a phone provided/paid for by your employer, don't bother getting a contract. 18 month contracts are the norm here-you can find some 12 month contracts, but it's rare, and more expensive. And really, as cheap as a pay as you go SIM card is, you'd be hard pressed to save any money by going on a contract. Also, you can't get a contract unless you have a UK debit card/bank account (more on that in a moment..).
5. Coffee. Sadly, it breaks my heart to say this: Starbucks in the UK is no bueno. On a normal day in the US, a drip coffee from Starbucks would do me just fine. But, flavour palates here are different, and as such, SBUX drip here is pretty awful. Save yourself and just pay a few pence more and get an Americano. Also, if you tend to like your coffee a bit strong-skip the Starbucks (oh, the pain...) and go to Nero. Nero is another coffee chain here who makes the best coffee-for a chain...
6. Banking...For the love of god: if you're transferring with your employer, DEMAND that they help you get sorted with your bank account-AND a credit card. If possible, even prior to your arrival here. You will simply not be able to funciton without a UK bank account-there are many things (mobile contract, montly gym membership, etc...) that you can't even get without a UK debit card. And credit cards?....Get one if you can at the time you're getting your banking sorted. It will help build up your credit rating here-should you decide to stay for any lenght of time.
If possible, work to have your bank applications started-and completed before your final deparure to the UK. And, most importantly: your first ATM/Debit card and Credit Card will have to be signed for upon delivery-not that you know when it's going to be delivered. So, unless you work at home every day: have the card either sent to your local bank branch or to your work address. Trust me on this one. I had to learn the hard way.
7. Banks...not to be confused with 'Banking'...I personally bank with NatWest. Wasn't my choice-it was who my employer had the relationship with. But, hindsight and choice allowed?...I would suggest Barclay or HSBC. They're a bit more 'global', and I think provide better features than NatWest. But, beggars can't be choosy.
8. Getting around...if you're not fortunate enough to have a phone that has either built in GPS or you've been able to download some type of GPS application, get yourself an AtoZ" (prounounced A to Zed). It's a tiny book of all London roads-indexed. It was invaluable for my first year here in being able to get around. You should be able to grab them in any book store-or online at (hint, hint.. ;)).

OK. That's the brain dump. I'm sure that's not it. Likely a few more things will come to mind, and once I've save up, I'll post again.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The House is Officially Warmed

Sarah & I had our house warming party Saturday nite. It's safe to say, I now know I can easily fit 20-30 people on the 2nd floor living area without any problems. Hopefully, once the weather warms up (is it just me, or does it suck to have to say that in the middle of June?!?), we'll be able to have another gathering and take advantage of the rooftop. Preferrably with a grill!

Saturday was good fun. Yummy food (especially the Neal's Yard Cheese. I know Beechers imports it. Check it out!), good beer selection, and the Wii was great entertainment. Fun folks too! After meeting so many people in a one-off manner over the last several months, it was surprising to see just how many new friends I have-now that they were all standing in one place! I'm a lucky girl.

The one oddity of the evening? Due to the tube closing around midnight, most folks were gone by 12.30 (they were walking/biking home), and we were basically cleaned up by 1a. Crazy. Seems like this is the time when most house parties are just getting out of control in the US. :) Though, I don't think I'm complaining. Just an observation that makes me go, 'hm.'

I'll test the theory again this Saturday, as I have a house party to *attend.* We'll see!

This is Paul-he's Scott's (my bff) younger brother. Doesn't he look cute?...He was in London on business and was able to come to the party as well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Home Sweet Home

My things that came over by ship were delivered yesterday.


I slept in *my* bed for the first time last nite in two months. And, ironically, I didn't sleep well. It's like it took me a while to get used to the actual comfort of my bed. But, the best part is, I didn't care that I was awake-I was COMFORTABLE!!!

The couch was too big to bring up the stairs (they're a little wonky as you turn a corner), so it had to be put in through a window on the second floor with ropes. I took a few pics & will post in a few days. Talk about nerve racking!

I'm already so excited at the thought of going home again tonite and sleeping in my bed.

Friday, April 18, 2008

You know you've lived in London to long when...

I had to call Seattle Public Utilities today to switch the name on the account over to my renter, Jorge.

All it took was one simple phone call. Not 10. Not a form. Not 7-10 business days before it would take effect. I didn't have to provide a blood sample to prove who I was. One phone call.

After the things I've had to deal with here so far to take care of 'basic living,' I forgot how easy taking care of things could be in the States.

Three More Nights!

It was confirmed today: My cargo shipment arrives on Monday. My bed, more clothes, kitchen 'things.'!

Three more nights of sleeping on an air mattress, then I get my bed back. It will be a good night of sleep on Monday. For once, I can't wait for Monday to come!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Last Connection has Been Cut

I just finished cancelling my US cell phone. Done. Gone. No longer. 206...does not exist to me any longer.
And, for just one brief moment, when the T-Mobile person said, 'are you sure?'...there was a moment of hesitation on my part.

But then, I plunged ahead. What the heck.

Friday, April 11, 2008

O Happy Day!

I finally got the PIN to my ATM card!!! Dance of joy!!!

Now, while this may seem like a non-event to those of us who have spent our lives in the US, let me explain. I don't think I've yet told the saga of "kristina trying to get her ATM & Credit Card.." If I thought Ikea was Hell, Banking in the UK is surely Purgatory!

I knew several weeks before moving the UK (that's like 2 months ago by now..) that with Amazon's help, I could set up a bank account and get a credit card at NatWest. Cool. I was told the process would take 2 weeks for the bank account and another week or so for the credit card. Cool! I even emailed the paperwork over from the US before leaving. Two months ago. remember this.

I arrive in the UK, and after a week am told the bank needs the 'originals' to the paperwork. OK. No problem. I mail it in. On March 26-3 weeks after I arrive and 5 weeks aftere I've submitted even the first hint of paperwork-I get my bank account. I then am told, my ATM card is on it's way to your home. Cool.

Two Saturdays later, I just happen to be home at 9a, when the mail courrier comes. I have a package to sign for. It's my ATM card. I had NO IDEA I had to be present to sign for it (which likely explains why Sarah never received her card...), I just happened to be at home. Cool. I'm in business!

Wrong. I still need my PIN. Which, I have to apply for seperately, and will be mailed to me seperately. OR I can go to my local branch bank and receive. There's literally a NatWest downstairs, so I pop out at 9.30a on Saturday, March 29-10 minutes after receiving the card. I am told by the teller, 'oh. your account is in Jersey. we can't do anything for you in the local branches.' Jersey, folks, is the offshore place I was told to set my account up at-for tax purposes. whatever. like i ever have to do anything 'for tax purposes' given what my income is here. the best the branch can do is mail the application form for me. but WAIT. the address the bank has for me is the corporate housing address and I'm moving to my permanent housing in the next weeek. so, I have to also change my address. which the local branch can't do. grr..

Monday comes, and I call Jersey to request an address change. I have to mail in another form. And pray it gets there and gets processed before the PIN is issued. Well, thank my lucky stars it was-hence the delivery of my pin to my house just now. 8 weeks after I started this proces.

Oh, and the credit card?!?! First one was mailed to the old address last week. A. I have to be present to sign for it. and B. It's my old address. So, I then had to call the bank up (not Jersey..) and request an address change, have the first card cancelled, and request a new card. I requested that it be mailed to work. If I'm lucky, it will come some time next week. 9 weeks after I started this process.

So, in the time that I've been here, I've charged just a few things on my US credit cards (freakin 3% 'international transaction fee'), and paid for most things with cash. Food, beverages, touristy things in Edinburgh, transportation, 'stuff.' I feel like I'm bleeding cash. Which, I basically am.

But, with the arrival of my PIN today, I can stop tapping into the US account and start actually using the money that's been sitting in my UK account and inaccessable.

This process has been the bane of my existence since I arrived, and has wasted so much of my time. I don't know if it's this bad for folks who move to the US from outside the US, but if it is, I can certainly sympathize.

My American Optimism has certainly been crushed, but maybe with the arrival of the PIN today, I can buy a bit of it back later tonite! :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Homeless no More

By tomorrow, I will officially be a renter in London. We had our Mews House inspected this afternoon (yes, inspected. the process here to rent is almost as rigorous as the process to BUY in the US), which is the last step before getting keys. Our lease terms starts today, but due to some MAJOR screw ups by the bank, it will be tomorrow before our first month's rent is deposited with the landlord and we get keys.

woo hoo! thiiis close to feeling like I have a home here, which should make London in general seem more like home. though it's funny. i had to pop over to the leasing agent this morning to drop off some paperwork, and I couldn't help but notice how incredibly comfortable I felt just walking the streets with nothing more than my AtoZ London Street Guide and written directions. I guess London is starting to feel more like home already!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The First Week in Review

I must admit: I really didn't think this week would be as productive and painless as it was. I was expecting a general sense of overwhelming stress (not that there weren't moments...), late nites at work(not that there wasn't one or two), and an overall feeling of 'oh crap' (which, this never really happened).

But the reality was 180 degrees away from this for the most part. In review: Monday was a wasted day really-half day of orientation, 2 hour lunch, and the rest of the day was filled with 'new job' things-paperwork for health insurance, getting the computer set up, getting the phone set up, passwords, etc...ick. All in all, a lost day-but necessary in any new job. It is what it is.

Tuesday (and BTW, I won't review every single week like this...I just want to get the first week down for memory...) was more productive: I drafted my 90 day and 12 month roadmap (yikes! more like 6 month and 2 year roadmap-from all the work...), had a brief chat with my new boss, Les, and finalized all the little details (setting up meetings with all my main points of contact for the balance of the week) that i didn't get to do on Monday.

Wednesday and Friday were one in the same: meetings with those main points of contact. About 10 in all, I think? And from each of these, a long list of things that need to be done. I should add it to the roadmap next week. oy. I think I'l now be up to a one year and three year roadmap! :)

Thursday was a treat-and frustrating all at the same time. I worked from home on Thursday because I had a 3 hour lunch & chat with a vendor right in the middle of the day. A trip out to Slough and back (and the expense) for just a half day isn't worth it. Our lunch was at a restaurant called Scott. It's in one of the poshest areas of town I've seen so far-a Rolls Royce dealership and Marc Jacobs store were just around the corner. The cool thing was that this is the restaurant where Ian Flemming (James Bond writer) came up with his 'shaken not stirred' martini idea. Yep. That chi-chi-poo-poo...One of the ladies at lunch said this was one of the places that get stalked by paparazzi on a regualr basis.

The frustrating thing was that the metro line I was on to get to said restaurant shut down due to a train problem-and I was still 2 miles away from the restaurant. By the time I surfaced and started walking, all of the cabs I saw were full of people. So, I started walking. About a mile and 20 minutes later, my feet said 'no more', and at about that time I turned around and saw the first vacant cab I'd seen since I started walking. Whew. My poor feet, after living here, will never be the same. I understand now why it seems like everyone's shoes always look so shabby. Mine are already taking on that appearance. Between this little walk and my other walking for the evening, I'll bet I walked 4-5 miles that day. whew!

The social life this week was a hodge podge: Sushi with co-workers Monday nite. Mexican with my soon-to-be roomie, Sarah on Tuesday. Crazy Homies. Actually, really good-and packed with American expats...I stayed home on Wednesday. Dinner with the brother of a friend of a friend (crazy, I know...Jeff. Nice guy. We had a good chat.) on Thursday (Thai-and it was quite tasty!), and dinner out last nite. So much for cutting back on my going out spending. I figure the first few weeks while I'm trying to meet as many folks as possible, that I'm not going to turn down any offer simply because of cost. A month from now? Different story. But, I'm being really good about eating lunch in-either taking or bringing leftovers from the nite before. And, since the 'good' coffee at work isn't that great, I'm suddenly down to two cups a day (and one of those I make at home!).

All in all? Short of winning the lottery, being told they made a mistake in my salary-and it really should be double my US earings, or meeting Mr Perfect, I couldn't have asked for a better first week. Oh, and the weather-up until today has been brilliant. Cool, but sunny every day. Not too bad!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Successful 24 Hours!

Whew! What a whirlwind 24 hours...For some crazy reason, everything has gone off without any problems-and if anything has been tons easier than I even imagined. I don't know where my luck has come from, but I'll take it!

To wit:

-British Airways didn't charge me for the extra luggage and the three pieces that weighed a combined 80 kg (that's ~160 pounds. seriously!) that I checked on my flight over.
-I was able to score a vegetarian meal for the flight over. A small victory for my tastebuds.
-Even with two bulging suitcases and a box stuffed full, a backpack, and a huge purse, I didn't get stopped by customs and searched. I don't think I had anything that was illeagl, but the hassle would have been a pain.
-My ATM card is working! So, I was able to take cash out and take an exhorbitantly expensive Black Cab from Heathrow to Corp housing. It was £52, but I reference the 160 pounds and three pieces I would have had to have struggled with otherwise...
-Food shopping on Sunday was fun, convenient (most things I bought at the Sainsburys at Paddington Station-a 3 minute walk from my flat), and not as expensive as I had thought-£24 for a good amount of basics. The curse was then having to tote it back home!
-A fluke in that the T-Mobile store I went to this morning didn't open on time: I had time to stroll the shops on Queensway Rd and easily pick up a Hairdryer (Boots. yea!), French Press, and Space Heater. Things I was going to buy anyhow, but I figured I'd have to trek to a different part of town to do so. Easy peasy.
-The T-Mobile guy was so nice, that he gave me my new SIM card for free (saved £15)! "Technically", I have my London number now, but I can't apply for an actual contract with T-Mobile yet until I have a bank account-which will come later this week.
-I've updated my Telegraph Dating profile, and a cutie has already been spied. We'll see. Dating in general will be a seperate post altogether later this week-hopefully, I'll have something to report!!

Woo hoo. Let's hope the next 24 hours are as good as this!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Home Sweet Home!

I can't believe the dumb luck, but I think we (my soon to be roomie, Sarah-more on her later...) may have found a place to live! My goal was to get a sense of what we 'could' have, and instead, I'm walking away from the trip with what we 'will' have. I hope. Phew!

I've been in London this week, and spent Wednesday and today searching for flats. Sarah was able to join for yesterday, and then I had a go at it solo today. Yesterday was the 'lower' end of our price range, and honestly, most of the places made me sad. We saw 10-12, and of all of those, only one strong contender (though it wasn't bad, it's not as *awesome* as what I think we'll get). Most places had a 2nd BR that really wasn't more than a closet, only one Bathroom, were just too small, or just 'off.' I wasn't dejected, or even concerned, but was really just hoping that today would be different.

It was.

Today was the 'higher end' of our price range, and the very first place I saw this morning ended up being the one that we got. It's huge (by US and UK standards), only 7 minutes walk to Paddington, has 3 BR-two of which are great sized, a huge, modern kitchen, and is generally a great property. Oh, and there's a rooftop area as well. We'd call it a townhome in the US, but here it's called a house. It's a few pounds out of the pricerange, but is absolutely perfect, so we're going to suck it up. How much, you might ask? £735 a week. Yes. Ouch. Don't do the math to convert to dollars per month, or you'll cry.

But, it is stunning. Here are a few pics. I've more that I'll upload from my camera when I can, but in the interim:

And the best part of all, is that it's located on a "mews." Right. I didn't know what a "mews" was until yesterday either! In general, it's the back alley behind the really big, nice houses that used to be where the servants' quarters and stables would be kept. In addition, falcons were kept there as well, and apparently, when they shed their feathers, this was called "mewsing", hence mews. Is that not quinticential British or what?!? The best part of this 'flat', is that though the inside is updated and fairly modern, the outside looks like what most of us think a British building would like like.

I'm in love!