At what point do you stop being a tourist and become a resident? How long does that process take? I am not sure we have officially reached that milestone, but we are on our way.
I can tell that we are settling in: I know my way around the grocery store, the owner of the green grocer (a shop to buy fresh produce) recognizes me and knows my name, I am getting faster at counting change without having to read the coin to see what type it is (there are a ton of coins!), I can read a tube map almost a fast as Rob (well that may be an exaggeration, but at least I don’t get lost!).
This week we have been a bit more productive with our time. We spent an afternoon at The British Museum learning about strange creatures. We were quite disappointed that the dragon room was closed for renovation. It has also been unbelievably hot the last few days. To try and stay cool we went to The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. We had a picnic and enjoyed playing in the water.
Today the girls had their second horse lesson. The horses were a bit more temperamental today than last week. The girls had to work a lot harder to get the horses to do what they asked. It was frustrating for them, but in the end they were proud of themselves for working hard and ultimately getting the horses to listen.
It has been a good week. We are looking forward to the upcoming three day weekend. Monday is a bank holiday so Rob gets the day off. This weekend there is what has been described to us as a crazy huge carnival in our town. I am not sure if I am more excited or nervous about it. It sounds fun and crazy all at the same time.
We have been in our home for a little more than one week now. I am struggling to find a routine. We don’t have to go anywhere, so it is easy to just stay home and watch the Olympics all day. We have done that for many days in a row and it’s time to get into a routine, a rhythm for our days. I think that is easier said than done. The girls and I were talking about this yesterday. At home in San Fran we didn’t seem to have trouble finding things to do, but here we can’t seem to come up with a plan for how to fill our day. Why is that? We came up with a few possible reasons:
There was always someone from the neighborhood to play with, so that was an easy, fun activity to fill the day. We don’t have kids on our street, so when your only playmate is your sister…that doesn’t always sound like fun.
Running errands took up some time, but it didn’t take all day since we had a car to get us there and back pretty quickly. Here we walk almost everywhere, so errands take time, effort and energy, which makes us less excited about doing them.
The kids enjoy imaginative play, but they didn’t bring any of their “toys” with them, so that makes play more challenging. They only brought art supplies and their instruments. The youngest is wishing she brought a few more play toys with her.
I also think that part of our laziness is that because our days were so full at the beginning of our time here, we have gone to the complete opposite extreme and allowed our days to be slow and at times boring.
With school starting in just a few weeks, I feel the need to get our lives on a schedule and allow routine to reign once again. I am hopeful that this week is the beginning of that change. The oldest has started viola lessons with a great teacher, horse lessons will also begin this week and starting in September the youngest will begin an acting class at the local theatre school.
Hopefully we didn’t go from slow and almost boring to too busy.
**As I finished writing this post I read this. Maybe it’s ok that our recent days haven’t been full to the brim, with loads of activities. Exploring a new park, walking to the movies, watching the olympics in our PJ’s, we have enjoyed our slow syrupy days, and that’s just fine.**
After 25 nights in the hotel we have finally moved into our own place. Unpacking our suitcases felt a little bit like Christmas. I didn’t remember all that I had packed. I am pretty sure I brought along too many sweaters. We spent the afternoon unpacking and organizing, grocery shopping and laundry. It was so nice to make dinner in our kitchen. Honestly by the end of the day I was so tired I really wanted to just walk to a restaurant, but we made spaghetti and enjoyed a home cooked meal for the first time in a while.
This morning we spent a really long time in our pajamas, casually eating breakfast, playing card games and watching the Olympics. It was a very quiet, slow morning. After lunch we took a walk around the neighborhood to see what was around us. I was really surprised to see how many great shops are really close to us. We have several small grocery options right around the corner, several bakery/coffee shops, a bookstore, a fruit and vegetable store, wine & cheese shop, a butcher, a dry cleaner, a drug store, a home and garden store (think Home Depot without the lumber and power tools), and many restaurants. We also have a tube stop literally at the end of the street and a park a few blocks away. We are in a great location. Just in case we get a strong craving for Twizzlers or Pop Tarts, which are hard to find here, we also have the American Food Store close by.
We are finding ourselves settling in well. It has been a process getting to this point, but we are here and now we can develop our routines and try to make connections. The guest room is open and ready for visitors anytime!
This week has been much calmer and quieter. We decided to take it easy and do things as we wanted to and not pressure ourselves to get out everyday.
Sunday started out with some frustration as the bus routes were all different because the streets were closed for a cycling event. While initially we were upset that we weren’t going to make it church on time, it turned out to be a nice relaxing day. We walked through Hyde Park to find the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens. On our way there we saw a group of people under some trees. They were holding green parakeets. We thought maybe they were someone’s pets. We stopped to watch and learned that they are wild birds that live in the park. They are very tame. If you stand near the trees with your arm out stretched they will come land on you. Someone had bird seed with them and they shared with all of us that were standing there. We stood under the trees for quite some time and enjoyed feeding the birds.
Monday we took a visit to the Bank of England Museum. It was a quick tube ride away and since it is a small museum we knew it would be a short outing for the day. It was a pretty interesting museum and we learned a lot of things about the beginning of the bank. We learned about the security measures used in making English money. In the center of the museum they have a gold bar that weighs 28 pounds. It is valued at about £406,000. Each of us got to hold the gold bar. We will never hold that much money in one hand ever again. On our walk back to the hotel we got caught in a rainstorm. It was a wet walk home, full of lots of laughing.
We have found several coffee shops and bakeries near us. It’s been fun to stop in the afternoon for a cup of tea or hot chocolate and a pastry (or a shot of M&M’s), especially on a drizzly day.
It’s been a slow week, but it’s been good to take a little time to just relax and have some down time.
It’s hard to get a full picture of someone’s life based on social media posts alone. While everything looks like it’s all butterflies and rainbows all the time, there may be some uncomfortable parts too. So this is to give a different perspective on what our life has been like. This is not meant to be read as complaining or petty, just a fuller picture of things.
We have been living in a hotel for the last 20 days. What does that really look like? That means we are living out of a suitcase. Where is that one shirt I wanted? Oh, it’s at the bottom of the suitcase. I have to unpack the whole thing to get to it? Forget it, I’ll wear the one that’s on the top.
I don’t know about you but I don’t wash my jeans after every wear. So, after a few wears they stretch out a little bit and you put on a belt. Well, the belts are in a box that is in the hotel’s long term storage, so you end up wearing jeans that are so stretched out it doesn’t really work to wear them.
You can eat out for every meal for a while, but after some time you really just want to stay in your room to eat. So you have the hotel empty the mini bar so you can put some food in it. You go to the store and try to figure out what you can get to make a meal that doesn’t require cooking. Veggies, cereal, yogurt, milk, fruit, bread, pb, jelly, lunch meat, hummus, cheese, crackers, chips, oatmeal and ramen noodles – (just add hot water from the kettle). Cereal is best eaten out of a water glass, and noodles out of a tea cup. There aren’t many dish options so you have to use what you have.
While our hotel is nice, and we are super happy to have adjoining rooms, there isn’t a ton of space. We are living among many suitcases and boxes piled around our beds. I can’t tell you how many times I have stubbed my toes on the furniture trying to navigate around the room. (However I stubbed my toes all the time while living in our house, so this may really mean I am clumsy.)
Let’s talk about laundry. I normally do laundry several times a week but right now that isn’t really feasible. Here my options are, spend a fortune having the hotel do the laundry, or put the laundry in a suitcase and walk one mile to the laundromat and get it done there, then walk the mile back. It takes some time but it’s much more cost effective.
I love my family, but sometimes we all need our space. In the hotel room there isn’t anywhere to escape. We are in each other’s space 24/7. Sometimes tensions run high, but we have been able to talk through it and have learned to give each other grace. This is why we go out all the time. We don’t really want to sit in the room all day, so we find ways to fill the day. We like exploring but touristing gets tiring. We are learning our way around the city and learning the tube, but being out and about everyday can be too much.
All of this to say, each of us is amazed that we get to have this opportunity. It is not lost on us that we are having a once in a lifetime experience. Our hotel situation is temporary and soon (hopefully!) we will have our own space, where we will have food in a kitchen, a table to sit at and a washing machine readily available. We are happy to be here and are looking forward to the next phase of our amazing adventure.
When we look back on our first few weeks here, these are the things we will remember.
We arrived in London on a Wednesday afternoon. Thursday morning we had appointments lined up to look at several rental options. My gut thought was that while I really wanted to know where we were going to live, I hoped that it would take a little bit of time so we could enjoy a bit of hotel pampering before diving into real life. Fast forward 16 days and we are still in our hotel. The real estate process is a touch slower here than what we are used to in the United States. It seems as though contract negotiations don’t have real deadlines and “yes” is the answer for everything even if the true answer is “no”.
I’ve enjoyed not having to cook or clean, but I’m ready to unpack my suitcase and have a fridge with food in it. I love eating out, but sometimes you just want to stay in your pajamas and eat at home. We are becoming pretty creative with what we can buy at the grocery store and craft into a meal without cooking, and it all has to fit in the mini-bar fridge.
We have found a place that we really like and thought that we were going to be able to move in on Wednesday the 27th. But, that didn’t work out for a number of frustrating reasons. The new plan is that we can move in August 7. So here we sit in the hotel crossing our fingers and toes that on the evening of August 7 we will be sitting around a kitchen table eating a warm home cooked meal.
We spent the day being “off-the-beaten-path” tourists. Our plan had three stops; Kings Cross Station to see Platform 9 3/4, Leadenhall Market, the location where some of the exterior Diagon Alley scenes were filmed, and House of Minalima to see an exhibition that showcases graphic designs from the Harry Potter films.
Kings Cross Station was quite crowded, but pretty fun. We waited in line to have our photos taken pushing a trolley through the wall at Platform 9 3/4. The attendants took their time with each family and we didn’t feel rushed through the line. Everyone got to pick their house (Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff) and which wand you wanted to use. It was a pretty entertaining time.
Next was Leadenhall Market. It is a beautiful covered market. Several scenes from the movie were shot here. We had a lovely lunch, and walked around the market. We even found the blue door that was used as the entrance into the Leaky Cauldron.
Next we stopped by the Palace Theater to pick up tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It is a two part play that takes place 19 years after the final book. Several months ago while Rob was here on a business trip, on a whim he stopped by the theater to inquire about tickets and he was able to get two tickets. The oldest gets to go on a very special date with Dad to celebrate her 8th grade graduation. It is a sold out show so they are super lucky to have gotten tickets and they are very excited about their special day.
Our final stop was at Minalima which showcases the work of Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, graphic designers on the Harry Potter Films. The shop is full of props and many designs from the movies, like a Hogwarts Express ticket, Harry’s Hogwarts acceptance letter and the Marauder’s Map.