12 August 2015

intermission: life in london

i wanted to take a little break from posting about our travels to post about our new life in london! the last three weeks since our immigration to great britain have been suuuuch a wild blur of stress and excitement and newness and (sometimes painful) adjustment … and i don’t want to forget this crazy time of our lives! we are so so glad to have finally begun our new life, after months of traveling and living out of a suitcase. we have been craving routine and normalcy and putting clothes in drawers, and it feels so good to get started afresh! especially here. we are both completely falling in love with this city!

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^^ views from waterloo bridge, one of my favourite discovered spots! ^^

here’s some tidbits from our london adventure thus far: {now that i have written this and am scrolling back to the top of the page, i’m realizing it’s very wordy. skimming might be recommended… :) }

we arrived in the uk just about nine hours after we expected to … there was a problem with my flight confirmation that causes us to miss our flight and when we finally (after four and a half hours at the check in desk) got on the plane to london we sat on the tarmac for two and a half hours while technicians worked on a problem. when we got to the city, we hauled all our stuff (as much as we could take on a plane – the rest is coming in a shipping container) onto the train and then the tube, up stairs and down crowded streets, to our temporary flat that the boy’s company was putting us up in while we searching for housing. it was quite the travel day! but we made it!!

and immediately as we walked the streets of london that evening, the magic of this city got right into our veins. we turned to each other so excitedly several times in the first hour or so and said “we live here?! we live in such a cool place.” we have continued to be taken back by how quickly we totally love londontown.

most mornings in our first two weeks, i took a run around a different close-by neighborhood. it has been so fun to explore and get my bearings that way.

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we launched right into the housing search and to be totally honest, it was pretty awful. there was just so much to navigate and figure out and weigh and see and decide on. we ran all around this city looking at different neighborhoods and different flats, meeting with lots of different real estate agents, considering so many different factors from wood vs. carpet to commute times to storage space to washer/dryer availability. it was seriously such a crazy adventure. we eventually decided on a place we had seen on our first day of viewings, and then began negotiating for maintenance and rent price. when we reached an agreement with the landord, we had to hurry to put money down, but it was being transferred from our american (foreign) bank so it took time and we were on pins and needles wondering if someone would snatch the flat out from under us while the funds were being moved. we got it! and our fondness for the place has grown and grown and grown and we are soooo excited now about where we live.

in the meantime, we had to move flats three times! we had fifteen days of temporary accommodation through ian’s work, but because of availability different places, we had five days at one place and ten at another. our flat wasn’t ready to be moved into until after those last ten days expired, so we moved into some friends’ flat for about twelve hours until we could pick up the key for our flat. it was just totally wild moving all our stuff from place to place, on the busy sidewalks and up and down in tube stations until finally for the last move we called a taxi! :)

and from the very first night we moved in, we began being endeared to our new home. even though it’s not totally perfect in all the things we were looking for in a flat,we are getting more and more convinced that it is perfect in its imperfection for us right now. it’s on a not-so-busy street in a very busy part of town, a two minute walk from trafalgar square and a thirteen minute walk from the boy’s office. it has a bright red door, is on the second floor, has big windows and wood floors, was repainted just before we moved in, and really is rapidly staring to feel like home. i told ian soon after we moved in “i already have dartmouth feelings for this place.” (the first place we lived in together was on a street called dartmouth street in palo alto, and although it was a tiny and kind of dinky place, we grew so so so fond of it.)

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^^ at our door on move-in day! and i had to buy some yellow sunflowers to help fill up our empty flat with cheer! ^^

we had some visitors right off the bat! five days after we landed in london, my brother noah and his wife and five kids landed in london! all seven of them slept in our very, very small basement studio (the second of temporary flats we stayed in) with us one right! it was an epic slumber party. we love noah and kristi and their kids so so much and it was so so great to hang out with them in london, even though we couldn’t really devote too much time and attention to being with them because we had so many logistics to work out with housing and banks and phones and ian starting his job and me starting my job search.

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^^ this picture was taken from our bed, about six feet from the other wall of the studio. best sleepover ever! can you spot little baby mila in her tent crib? also, we took the kids to the sweet shoppe down the street from our temp flat ^^ (we are totally locals, taking visitors to our fave neighborhood spots ;) )

i met noah and kristi and the kids in trafalgar square one evening and it was one of those slices of time that is long and beautiful and crystally and so kind to the soul. the sun was setting and doing all kinds of lovely lighting up of the clouds in the sky, and big ben was starting to glimmer, and the kids were full of joy and wonder running around. so happy.

a couple days after noah and kristi landed in london, my brother jonah and his wife and five kids drove into london! they have been working their way through different parts of europe for the last three months, and will be staying in chelmsford (northeast of london) for a whole month! i went to borough market one afternoon with noah and kristi and their kids and we had determined to meet jonah and aja and their kids on a certain corner. when they came running down the street with arms wide for cousin hugs, it was such a happy reunion! (jonah and aja’s family wasn’t at bear lake this year, so we were all very excited to see them!) the fifteen of us walked from borough market to the houses of parliament along the thames. the walk took a really long time with ten kids, but it was awesome.

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oh and also my dear friend brittany came to london a couple of days after us too! haha! it has been so fun to see her and have a couple of little adventures with her. one afternoon, i met brittany at fortnum & mason, which may be one of the very best places in all of london and one of the dreamiest, loveliest places on earth! i am determined to go back and take pictures of everything. it is the prettiest store i can imagine, and on the top floor they have a tearoom that is so perfectly beautiful. we splurged and had afternoon tea there. brittany is the perfect person for me to share this experience with. we were freaking out a little pretty much the entire time. everything was just so pretty!!! and so yummy, too. we were constantly giggling and oodling and had such a great time.

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speaking of brittany, before we left palo alto after returning from our around the world trip, she gave me a stack of london city walks cards, which are maybe the best thing ever. i’ve been pulling them out every once in a while and have loved exploring the city on foot! it has been especially fun to stroll around our neighborhood of covent garden, which is darling and exciting and central and wonderful.

after getting the really necessary logistics sorted, i dove right into my job search. i am looking for work in my field of education and have some good leads, but i am also open to trying something new with our move to a new city, a new country, a new chapter of life. i am not sure where i will end up, but i am feeling optimistic that i will find something that is good for our family and allows me to contribute to the world in some meaningful way.

FullSizeRender (1) copyian started his job on monday the third of august and it was pretty exciting to send him off in the morning! it was a bit of a crazy journey back in january deciding on this job, but it is really a perfect fit for ian right now, and i am so glad he has found something that he feels he will love doing. all during his first day of work, as i was job searching and running errands, i was so so excited for him to get home and tell me about it! now he is a week and a half in and while the adjustment will take a while, he is generally very happy to be where he is professionally.

a few things i’ve noticed as i’ve been exploring and settling in our new city:
-british people are generally so, so nice! several people helped us with our bags in tube stations, and customer service people regularly call me “love,” and folks you pass on the street are overall just kind and courteous. it’s lovely.
-everyone jaywalks all the time. i kind of love it. and london is so so walkable! somehow i didn’t really recognize in the time i have spent here how easy it is generally to get from one tube stop to another on foot.
-grocery store options and definitely different here, and i think i will need to go to the grocery store (luckily it is literally around the corner from our flat) 3-4 times per week.
-i’m loving remembering the distinctly british things i encountered as a missionary: heated towel racks in every bathroom, “squash” to flavor your water, delightful phrases and accents, the fact that washing machines are always in the kitchen, etc. everything blackcurrent flavored! i love it.
and my absolute favourite thing that i’ve noticed:

gorgeous flower boxes are everywhere!, especially above pubs. i am obsessed. they are blooming like crazy and are so so so so beautiful. i heard about this place called the churchill arms that had the most outrageous flower boxes, so i took a run there one morning. i was freaking out. i mean, look at this!!!

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we maybe ate at nando’s five times our first week in london. haha! i know it’s certainly not the best food that london has to offer, but we just really love it! i have been so delighted by all the awesome fast and healthy places there are in this city and have loved trying different things. we’ve determined that we need to eat dinner out one time per week in our neighborhood of covent garden because there are so many awesome looking places!!

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^^ one evening we had a picnic at st. james’s park, which is a short walk from our flat! ^^

last thursday, my sister-in-law aja was kind enough to meet me at a train station with her car (that she and jonah bought in germany) and take me to costco, tesco extra (like target) and ikea. it was so nice to have a helper to decide on what we need and want for our flat (the belongings we shipped from america won’t arrive until the first week of september), and we had quite the adventure together (which of course included samples at costco and swedish meatballs at ikea). aja drove me and all my stuff right into central london during a tube strike (so the streets were packed) and jonah and the kids met us at the flat and carried everything up our two flights of stairs. i really have no idea what we would have done without them!! we are so grateful.

and now we have a kitchen table and a dresser, in addition to the air mattress we bought when noah and kristi stayed in our temp housing, in our little flat! we will sleep on the ground and eat off plastic plates until our boxes arrive. it’s been kind of fun to think about the absolute minimum we need to get by, and i am determined to master the art of not having a lot of stuff while we live in this little space (i began my learning at our studio in palo alto, but there we had a storage shed out back!).

after days and days of working on logistics (which were sometimes really frustrating), ian asked if he could take me on a date one night. we rented bikes (they have banks of bikes to rent all over london, and it’s so so great!) and we rode to hyde park during golden hour. it was so lovely and fun! we were both crushing hard on the city and on each other.

FullSizeRender copyspeaking of bikes and hyde park, a couple of saturdays ago we left our temp flat to go to the park for a ward activity. when we walked out onto fleet street, there was zero traffic on the road – instead it was full of hundreds of bikes. a “ride london” event that only happens once per year was going on! it was a gloriously sunny day, so we went ahead and rented some bikes and joined the party. it was seriously so awesome. the route went down fleet street, over waterloo bridge and back (best views of the city along the thames!), down whitehall to big ben, and up the street to buckingham palace. everyone was totally excited and the air was full of happiness and energy. we kept looking at each other and saying “this is so awesome!” we peeled off from the bikers to go to hyde park for the ward activity and we were so happy that we ran into that serendipity!

speaking of our ward (church congregation), it’s so so so great. we have really loved meeting the people there. the ward is very diverse – in our first weeks we met people from ghana, nigeria, portugal, russia, sweden, switzerland, liberia, guinea, italy, scotland, america… we love it! when we told the bishop we were moving into the ward, he bear hugged us both immediately :)

last sunday after church we went to regent’s park for a picnic, and it was just about the loveliest thing ever (dear reader, maybe you should get used to my copious usage of the word lovely? it just fits so many things here so perfectly!). in all my visits to london (i think i had been here 7 or 8 times before we moved), i had never stepped foot in regent’s park. and now it is definitely one of my favourite places in the city. we walked to the top of primrose hill for a unique vantage point overlooking central london. it was so sunny and warm! our hearts were so happy to be here.

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and to end this (now very long!) post, here are some photos i snapped from my walks around our covent garden neighborhood. i love love love this place. (and i wish i would have taken more pictures earlier…of all the craziness of moving, even. i am pretty worn out on photo-taking after our around the world trip! but we encounter so much that is fascinating and beautiful every single day here in london!)

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^^ i mean, seriously. i am obsessed. ^^
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^^ covent garden piazza! ^^
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^^ there are so many souvineer shops in this town! ^^
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^^ more flowers. they’re everywhere. and that’s the royal opera house behind! we can just walk to see the royal ballet perform the nutcracker at christmastime!! ^^
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^^ “seven dials” is a neighborhood just north of us. i love that blue and white bunting so much! ^^
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^^ we had the yummiest pizza in this magical little colorful courtyard one day after work. ^^
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^^ literally a ninety second walk from our red door. ^^
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^^ victoria embankment gardens, about a four minute walk from our flat – definitely our next picnic spot! ^^
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it has been a really difficult transition in a lot of ways, but we really, really love where we have landed. i am so excited for our new life in london.

21 comments :

  1. So y'all are right around the corner from our second favorite curry shop in London - Masala Zone. The decorations are a bit...unique...but the food is fantastic! Sadly I can't remember the name or location of our favorite place tho I know it was in the same area, I just remember it being in a basement and looking rather dingy from the outside.

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    1. okay, i read this comment on my phone literally ten seconds after i passed masala zona and thought it might be a good place to try. so crazy! we are going these tonight! i actually love all those hanging dolls for decoration! thanks!

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  2. Oh man! This is sounding so fun for you. Enjoy the warm weather while it lasts. :)

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  3. I am a little jealous of your amazing adventure over there in Londontown! We stayed in Covent Garden at the 7 dials when we visited last year and it is such a great neighbourhood! I am really excited for you guys to just settle down (if that's even possible for you ha!) and start "real life". And as far as I am concerned you can say lovely as much as you want, it is the truly British way to describe everything.

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  4. This makes me so excited to visit you guys at Christmas!!! :)

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  5. So fun to hear about all the craziness and excitement of your move. What a fun adventure for an adventurous couple. �� I bet your new bishop really was so excited that you moved in. I so look forward to reading your blog. You have such a sweet zeal for life and it's so fun to hear your experiences. I loved your long post. Keep them coming. Thank you for being the sweet person that you are. I don't even know you, but I feel like I do.

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  6. I loved your post. I am happy for you guys to settle down (and that in one of the greatest cities...) Excited to hear more about your job search and about your life abroad.

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  7. Wowzers! Congratulations on settling into a great little corner of the world. It looks amazing! Wishing you much luck as you get adjusted and settled in. If I were you I'd hold off on securing paid work and embrace figuring it all out.

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  8. Oh, this looks so wonderful! Congratulations on your new adventure! I did a study abroad program in London and went to Regent's College, so I got to LIVE in Regent's Park! It is absolutely stunning. Cheers!!!

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  9. Looks gorgeous! A few places you might like to try in Covent Garden: Homeslice, Polpo and Flesh & Buns/ Bone Daddies.

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    1. homeslice is the pizza place i mentioned in this post in neal's yard! it is so so good! thanks for your other suggestions!

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  10. double-ditto what commenter 'apple' said - - i adore visiting your blog! *lovely*

    xoxo from a stranger who's a better person for soaking up your sincerity and positivity.

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  11. I love your blog and your zest for life. You are such a brave adventurer!!!

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  12. Just along from Fortnum and Mason there is an amazing restaurant at the top of Waterstones book shop. Go in and take the lift right to the top floor then turn right. The food is wonderful and if you sit by the window you have the BEST view. It's kind of not that well known so it's never crowded. http://www.5thview.com/

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  13. Oh, and this is really really good pizza. http://fireandstone.com/ and this is amazing amazing and SO CHEAP French food in a beautiful and wonderful dining room with the most handsome and charming waiters you'll ever see ha ha ha. https://www.brasseriezedel.com/
    I did comment before so sorry if you think I'm a stalker, but I work in the House of Commons and would be more than happy to give you a tour if you'd like one once you've settled in.

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    1. thank you so much for your suggestions! i seriously appreciate it so much! i can't wait to try these places. and we would LOVE a tour of the house of commons!! can you email me at charityeyre at gmail?

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  14. Im travelling London in October and was feeling so unsure tonight but then this post! Oh my! Im so excited now, thank you so much Charity! This post and how it oozes passion and love for the city has made me so excited, Im now busily jotting down all the place you've said so I can visit them!

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  15. That afternoon tea at Fortmon and Mason looks lovely. That's the place where the queen orders hampers from every Christmas.

    Just curious, how different is the shopping here?

    I think there are some things going on in London this weekend for 70 years of the end of VJ Day, if you're going to any have a brill time.:)



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    1. *Fortnom

      Also, Embankment Gardens are very special to me as it 's somewhere where my Mum & Dad went to when they were going out with each other. I went there with my Dad a couple of times so that he could show me where they used to go & so he could sit & enjoy a cuppa.:)

      Embankment Station is the "Mind the Gap" one.

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  16. You have to go to Ottolenghi, Fantastic, they have a few delis around and are out of this world.
    Also a Restaurant called NOPI. Their cookbooks are all I use.
    Marisa

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