Birthday in London

First birthday in London. WOW. Didn’t think I’d ever be living, let alone having a birthday in Europe.

Great news! We found a flat in London. Notting Hill to be exact. Just steps away from the famous Portobello Road market. First order of business in London – drop off remaining paperwork for the flat. Second order of business – check out Portobello Road market and see how close it is to our new home.

The weekday market has the fruits and veggies. The Saturday market has vintage clothes and any other wares you can think of.

Literally a couple blocks away…

Our new flat!

The market is CRAZY and packed with people. There’s a whole other end of the market that we didn’t have the chance to venture to because we had to go to Borough Market to find the wild boar sausage sandwich that Tim Yee told us to find.

Borough Market!

Success! After walking around and getting hungrier and hungrier, we FOUND IT.

Next stop, the British Museum! An absolutely gorgeous building with so much to see. I don’t think we even saw a 1/4 of what is there. What’s great, is that it’s free! So you can go back and see the rooms you didn’t see before. Joe’s not a big fan of museums. But what’s great about this one, is that there is so much variety. There is ancient Rome, ancient Greece, Egypt, a room on money, a room on clocks and watches…a lot of variety for everyone.

The interior
A building within a building.
My favourite exhibit - The Rosetta Stone

There was a neat exhibit on jade - one of my favourite stones to use when making jewelry
What my bored husband was doing while I looked at the jade 🙂

Exploratory Trip to the UK

Going to England for our exploratory trip was quite an adventure. While we haven’t specifically found a flat, we’ve narrowed down the places we’d like to live. We have corporate housing for a month which gives us time to find somewhere specific. There were a few things we learned/discovered while we were there:

  1. Don’t expect a grid system of streets…they don’t exist here. The roads in many of the towns are older than your grandparents.
  2. Due to the lack of grid system, don’t expect to be able to get around without a map…big mistake on our part. It took 2 hours to find our hotel 😛
  3. I was led to believe that people in Europe drive small cars because they’re more environmentally conscious than in the US. While that may be true…it’s almost necessary to have a small car because of how narrow the streets are.
  4. Customer service is NOT as important as it is in the US.
  5. The concept of a doggy-bag isn’t the norm.
  6. The train/tube system, while complicated at first, is really convenient.
  7. We will most likely miss the easy access to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  8. Most of the towns have a centre street that they refer to as “High Street”. This is normally where all the stores and such for that area are. It may not be named “High Street” but the US equivalent would be a “Main Street”.
  9. Letting a flat (i.e. renting an apartment) is almost like buying a house, in that you make an offer on the rent as rent is negotiable.
  10. Living there…is expensive.

The weather was somewhat gloomy, but there were a couple days of gorgeous weather so we took the opportunity to do some sight-seeing.

View over the Thames next to Big Ben
Big Ben

The Lions of Trafalgar Square

Joe’s coworker gave us a tour of the area and we were able to visit Oxford. The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Lots of old buildings and more history than we were able to take in in our short visit.

The Harry Potter Bridge
One of the many libraries
A quaint street in Oxford

Just before we left, we took the opportunity to go into London and visit the Tower of London. Since it was the summer we made sure to go first thing in the morning because it isn’t as busy. Turns out it was a good idea because when we left in the early afternoon, there were long queues and it was very crowded.

The Tower of London was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror. It was resented because it was seen as a symbol of oppression of London by the new ruling elite. Since 1100 it was used as a royal residence and a prison.

The Royal Menagerie that became the London Zoo
Outside the building that houses the Crown Jewels
The White Tower - Central Tower that the Tower of London is named after
Execution site within the Tower of London
Anne Boleyn (like the movie) was executed here