Despite rumors to the contrary Ashleigh and I are still very much alive and kicking! I haven’t purposely been neglecting the blog; we’ve just been extremely busy running all over town. We also don’t have Internet in our apartment yet so I’ve been living out of Starbucks, Cruush, Nero Coffee, and Pret et Manger to get my web fix. But enough with the formalities, let’s get onto the misadventures from the last couple weeks.
London is a city of tubes, and in the last couple of weeks I’ve been on pretty much all of them. Undergrounds, overgrounds, spunarounds, bikes, busses, you name it, I’ve been on it. On the street level navigating still is quite tricky, but the transportation system has been incredible (and surprisingly easy to navigate). As for the reason to all of my transit travels, well, that has to do with finding a job and place to live.
Trying to find a place to live in London is both soul destroying and absolutely ridiculous at the same time. To start with, the flat prices, as most people will tell you, are astronomical. I went to see one place in West Kensington that was a “split level loft”, and with my arms stretched out from my sides could basically touch both walls at once. The “loft” part of the flat wasn’t any better in that once I ascended up the ladder to the upper level I was greeted by a 3-foot ceiling clearance. Helpfully, the letting agent assured me that this was a steal at £350 per week plus council tax.
Now, expensive flats on their own wouldn’t be that bad, with enough perseverance you can always find a steal. The real issue with renting a flat in London is the letting agents. The best way I can describe them is a cross between a used-car sales person and Internet spam service. Sadly there doesn’t seem to be anyway to avoid them, and their extra fees, as every property that is listed is through one of their services. Ashleigh and I also encountered issues around not having any UK credit or proof of income combined (as I didn’t have a job yet). The only real solution to this was to put up six months rent up front plus the damage deposit (six weeks rent). Once we’d gotten the money out of our Canadian accounts and into Ashleigh’s UK one (I haven’t been able to open up a bank account in the UK yet as I don’t have a job), we were finally able to secure a place. Up until we actually got the keys on the Friday night however, neither of us was entirely sure that it was going to work (although we certainly hoped it was as we had no where else to stay that night). Thankfully, everything did work out in the end, and we did find a place we really do like. We are staying in the Canary Wharf area (think Yaletown Vancouver meets Amsterdam), in a spacious 300 square foot studio.
Thankfully, our time so far in London hasn’t all been stress filled with just “real life” stuff. We’ve also gone on lots of walks around various areas of the city, visited the Natural History Museum to check out the Dinosaurs, gone to both the Portabello and Borough markets, and done a night bus tour along with some other much more fun touristy activities and accompanying photos. I would go into more detail about them, but I hope we will go back and spend more time at each again so expect more detailed posts in the future (in particular the delicious Borough market).
We’ve also visited a few restaurants and pubs and discovered that as long as you stick to the ethnic food on the menu, it is delicious! We even ventured over to Brick Lane for its world famous curries. The place we ate at was quite good, but the entire experience felt a little bit like Koh San Road in Thailand (lots of people yelling at you to try their food with seemingly little difference). Still we had a fun evening there, and I’m sure at some point we will be back as well. The wines and beers have also been a pleasant surprise both in quality and price. I think it’s safe to say both Ashleigh and I are both enjoying the “pub culture”.
On a whole, we’ve both been very happy with the move so far, and despite some hiccups, are excited to be settled into our new home. We can’t wait to get the last few ‘move-items’ checked off our list so we can completely embrace our new city and all of the fun that awaits.