New Digs for New Days

Life is real busy ’round here. Twenty-ten keeps bringing new things. I am worn slap out!

Drew and Jen woke me up at the crack of dawn on Sunday; the new place (where I have my own bedroom) is nice, but I was not excited about moving at that unheard of hour. Our friend Ade helped us – and by “helped us” I mean that he masterminded the work, wouldn’t let me lift a thing, drove our well loved stuff from one place to the other, and kept us entertained with stories about his kids. He is so cute. And spoken for. But I do think he was flirting with me; he called me doll.

As a celebration, and because we don’t need an excuse to enjoy lunch with good-looking people, we had lunch with Ade and Mel at The Red Lion when the move was complete. The nut roast will make you fall right out of your chair and the strawberry mess might be made of heaven. I ain’t kiddin’. BTW, it turns out that Mel is pretty dang stunning, so Ade may not be asking me out. More power to them, really. Besides, I think I have got a thing for this guy that Sarah introduced me to.

Gina and Alexsander

I think Aleksandr is more my type. Just look at him. He is so well spoken and very polite. He has a hot tub. But I don’t spill all the details of my dates. For that, you might want to rely on Nicole.

Photos don’t always display correctly on facebook – you may want to visit the website.

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday

A moment of silence while you give it up for Boyz II Men….

And scene.

We are going to miss this modern city flat with its Le Corbusier influences. Its modern furnishings have given us a true taste of urban life.
living room

My little intimate kitchen has been a hazard and a haven. Cakes have been made here.

The tiny bathroom, with the weird European shower – that always reminds me of how hard it might be for my mom to get in should she ever come to visit – will always be special to me somehow. Yes, the pink toilet paper, too, Stinky.

And the view that made us feel like real city folk might be soon sorely missed, but the street noise will not.
bedroom view

This was our first flat in London. This was the place that I got the worst news I had ever heard – and the place in which I resigned myself to conquer everything I feared. It was the place where our guests stayed our first year in London… No value can be given to the memories we have in this simple brick and mortar. But I can tell you that I know we’ve made the right decision in choosing to move on.

Our offer on the canal side flat in King’s Cross has been accepted; a beautiful two bedroom flat is officially ours to let from 20 Feb 2010 to 19 Aug 2011. Please make plans to stay in the upgraded Huddleston B&B before we change our minds. There are so far only two bookings for 2010… Couldn’t you stand to spend some time with me? With us. With London. With a bit of history.

But before you come, get versed in the lingo on the website.

A Room with a View

I’ll make it simple for you to figure out – without the gushing and tears. This is the kind of thing I might be doing today, right now, if we hadn’t taken the crazy train to London in October 2008.
fixing hem

pinning cassi

me with statues

So. What do color guard addict-turned-fans do with their weekends?! This addict-turned-fan filled the day with flat hunting, job training, and educational activities. (Snicker.) Sort of.

Because you’ve told us that you need to know where you’ll be staying when you come, I understand how anxious you are to hear the flat hunt update – so we’ll talk about the job training (wink, wink – right Lauren?) tomorrow. But I am going to tell the story the way I always do; the long way.

Estate agents are generally accepted to be on the social hierarchy beneath the feet of tax collectors and lawyers. (Drew and I have had our frustrations with a few agents who shall not be named.) You might remember, also, that flat hunting in London is a bit of a pain. Taking all of this into consideration I must say that we have had the pleasure of working with some really sweet estate agents. But Mumzad is tops. He took us to see at least 5-8 properties in October 2008; he was terribly kind even when I told him we had found something with another agent. When we were ready to move this time around, I gave him a call. He has shown me at least 15 flats. Bless his cotton socks, for real though. I am a pain to work with, having a long list of requirements and tastes outside my budget. Mumzad totally took it in stride. I am relieved to say that he may have just found the right place for us today.

Do you remember contestant number nine with the balcony overlooking the canal? Yes, this one.
new wharf road
photo courtesy of Foxtons

I didn’t ask to take photos inside the flat because the current tenant is still in and that seemed like an invasion of their privacy. However, we did snap a shot of the entrance.

entrance new wharf

We also wandered through the London Canal Museum a few doors down. It’s a cheap school lesson on a very interesting topic if you ask me.

london canal museum

The flat “ticks quite a few boxes” for us – great location for transport, open plan reception/kitchen, washing machine, quiet, good light, secure, good floor plan, two good sized bedrooms, nice size fridge, freezer, good amount of storage… It also has some extras that are worth a lot – like the nearby nightlife, the balcony and the super cool kitchen/dining area. (Previous guests of the Huddleston B&B might be pleased to know that a full shower curtain is in use in this flat. Brilliant, right?!) Really, my requirements are largely relative to my desire for people to enjoy staying with us – having a space in which we are comfortable entertaining.

By the way – did you know that you can rent or buy a place on a houseboat or barge? Not kidding.

Yeah, so. We talked about it at length. We put in an offer. There isn’t any reason that the landlord wouldn’t accept a realistic offer from two people as nice as us, except that he doesn’t know what ridiculously good tenants we are. That’s what references are for, right? We’ll know something as soon as our agent does. And when I know, you will know. Thank you in advance for the good vibes.

By the way, when you visit the website it tallies our “hits”. It gives me a good cheap thrill to see the numbers. No pressure.

A Bog for My Blog

Snow flurries in London have brought to my mind the most ultimate of questions. “Which one of these things is not like the others?” Do take your time to see if you can spot it.

snow one

snow two

snow three

snow on toilet

You are right! One of them is street art!

Or not.

In other news, flat viewing 2010 visit two is complete. Contestant number two is very quirky cool in person. It is in the front running for an offer. After tomorrow I should be able to narrow it down to the one and the runner-up. Either way, I think we’ll be really happy in our new place.

Surreal Life Begins Again

I. Am. A flat hunting maniac (having been recently promoted from “flat finding enthusiast”; thank you kindly – but do hold your applause). Now those things they have said to me about Londoners pouring their hearts into choosing property is beginning to make sense… It is an emotional thing to choose the right little space to hang your clothes and your head at night, let alone choose the right neighborhood. Barbican has been my home for just over a year, but a sinking sensation in my gut tells me I am cheating on the City of London proper in viewing a flat south of the river. Yes, I said south. South, south, south, south, south. So there. And it’s southeast to boot. Please excuse me while I vigorously wash my mouth out with soap.

The west side is greener and may well be cleaner, but the east side calls to my inner artist. Besides, my search has barely even extended outside zone 1! Stick any post code you want on it – I must argue that SE1 is absolutely borderline central. Don’t judge.

And there are properties on the north side of the river that I am booked to see as well. Lovely, sweet, good sized, nice places. Close to the canals and the Vue Cinema… Trust me, I am torn. In such a good way.

It’s not just the neighborhoods that tear at my heartstrings. Those dang neighborhood pubs loom on the map – beacons of big piles of mash and mushy peas on lazy Sundays, over a game of Jenga on an uneven planked table with friends all around… Really. I said it. It’s a big factor. But bigger than that is the tug-of-war between the well planned out conversion and the spiffy new purpose built.

Ultimately, I am sure I will know the one. Can you pick it out of the line-up?

Contestant number one is ten minutes walk from Borough Market.
Great Suffolk Street
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number two is impressive with the loft style- warehouse conversion vibe.
Cardigan Street
photo courtesy Kinleigh Folkard and Hayward

Contestant number three certainly entices in the could-be-a-warehouse-refurbishment department.
St John Street
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number four is charming and quaint.
New North Road
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number five comes in strong with a view.
Lever Street
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number six just looks so cozy.
Halton Road
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number seven seems to belong on an episode of Dr. Who. Enough said.
Baalbec Road
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number eight does not fail to impress in any way.
Ecclesbourne Road
photo courtesy Foxtons

Contest number nine makes me swoon with the waterside balcony.
New Wharf Road
photo courtesy Foxtons

[Commence with applause.] These contestants really are quite a delight, wouldn’t you say?!

We have been lax in updating the website, but you miss it anyway don’t you?

Friday I’m in Love

(Just so you know I have written, published and mysteriously lost this entry already this evening–but here it goes again.)

We got the keys to our new place today after meeting an inventory specialist to sign off on the evaluation and take a last look at the place.  There are several reasons why we have decided not to move in today:

  • The internet connection will be activated on 31 October
  • The whole flat needs a good, thorough cleaning
  • We still have to purchase bed linens and towels
  • The landline connecting us to emergency services will be activated on 29 October
  • Seven Dials is a fun and convenient place to be on the weekend
  • The landlord still has to get back to us regarding the location of the electric meter
Although I have registered to pay council taxes, arranged for the water to be in our name and signed up for telephone/internet services, I still have a few more things to take care of.  Of course we have to get an electricity/gas account, but I also have to investigate whether or not we have to get a tv license.  I am hoping the landlord might have one that is good for a while…
London isn’t everything we dreamed it would be just yet.  We’ve spent too much time doing work type things.  However, I think we have saved enough allowance money to see the Dr. Who exhibition this weekend at Earls Court.  You’re jealous.  We’re geeks.  It all evens out.  I just hope I get to spend some stress-free time with this boy I’m crushing on.
My former Project Manager from ICON is an hour away from London on business this week, so I am hoping that we will somehow be able to swing catching her in her travels to or from her other destinations.  It would be great to see someone familiar, from home…  So, when did you say you were coming?
There isn’t much else to tell in the way of bigs news, so I will leave you with a few photos of some green space that I have enjoyed in the city.


Money Down on New Digs

Right to the point – we put a deposit down on this [link removed] place today.

Jen had been talking to me about a different place yesterday. Yeah, the same one she posted a blog entry about because she was so excited about it, and today she passed on it completely – even putting a deposit down on it before I had seen it. Okay, not really, but she was prepared to put one down because she knew I would love it as much as her.

Well when I left for work this morning the plan as I understood it was for me to meet one of our fleet of estate agents at 4:30 to take a look at the place Jen was so excited about yesterday. I was even excited about it because she thought it was so perfect and I was ready to be done with the hunt (for her sanity). Then, an hour before I was supposed to leave to view the property, she pops on IM and says she has found the place. I was confused for a moment. What happened to the other place? The place you saw yesterday? She tells me that it is still a great place, but the one she visited today blew all the other places out of the water (my words not hers).

So after a very excited exchange over IM, I meet Jen outside the TM office and we head to our original appointment with new plans to visit “The New Hotness” a second time today. Our tube trip had us travel from the Leicester Square tube station to the Russell Square tube station, and let me just say, take the elevator unless you really want the workout and that awesome “my lungs are on fire” feeling.

We met the agent to view the place from yesterday, and it was great. Really nice place with a great view and lots of nice places near by for food, etc. As we were preparing to leave the first place we told the agent we had found one other property which was really exciting to us and that we REALLY appreciated all of his hard work and help. He of course said he hoped he could work with us, we shook hands and told him we would let him know. He really has been super helpful and we may send him a thank you gift for his time.

Soon as he was around the corner we “legged it” (new local term I have picked up) over to the other agent’s office to meet her for the second viewing and put down a deposit. You see she and Jen had been on the phone while I was touring the first place and the landlord had accepted our offer (yes, you can negotiate rent). So we were off to see it.

The walk from the first to the last was not a short one, but it was nice. We saw a lot of what will be our new neighborhood. The agent, Sky, was very very friendly and was more than willing to go through everything she had already told Jen again for my benefit.

We had a bit of an adventure getting into the building, there is a magic spot on the door where you wave an equally magic card and it will open. Would have been easier if either the card or the spot had instructions or if perhaps said spot was not completely hidden behind a sign.

Once we finally made it inside I was sold. Jen was right, it was perfect. You can tell the architect who owns it was taking great care to restore it to its original glory (I am thinking 60’s but am not sure yet). It is a really nice space – lots of room, lots of light, and the modern vibe we wanted. I think anyone of you who come visit will absolutely enjoy the space. And good news too, while it is on the 3rd floor (4th in American), there is actually a lift (elevator).

Okay, fingers crossed that I didn’t make a mistake asking Pinky to be my reference and that my salary is enough for them to think I can actually afford this place!

Isn’t It Ironic? (Not to be confused with the completely coincidental Alanis version.)

I apologize for the lengthy radio silence.  Monday was a bit of a day of recovery for me.  I was tired from everything that I had squeezed in.  The weekend was wonderful, but not much of a break.  I did manage to field some calls from agents following up on the properties we had seen in Ealing.  Yesterday, we met an agent for our first property viewings in Islington.

I don’t know if you are aware of the way it works if you are me and you want to rent an apartment in London. Basically, a landlord lists a property with one or more agencies it’s the job of an agency to help them determine the asking price and get it filled. “Renting” is called “letting” and you should know whether you are interested in a conversion, purpose-built, apartment, flat, or house. There are letting agencies every few blocks in the busier areas and every borough has its own set of agencies. So, company A will have lettings offices all over London that list/show properties in their respective areas only. When you set out, you have to identify the area you want to look in, then contact agents in that area to arrange to see what they may have on the market that fits your specifications. Rents are negotiable, they are usually listed by the week, and the properties move very quickly. Renting a property is like buying a house. You put in an offer and hope to win the landlord over by being a good tenant with smashing references or signing a long lease. Keep in mind I don’t have a car and I am using Drew’s AMAZING iPHONE (to be read in a big, loud, intentionally show-y voice), which is still a US number and very expensive to use–besides the fact that it is a pain for agents to have to call an international number to get me. I am in a huge city going to places I’ve never been to find these agencies and have a hard time judging how long it will take me to get from place to place. I also have to figure out my route and exactly how I will get somewhere. If you didn’t have that all sorted out, you now have a better idea why my body and my brain are fragile these days.

I think it was Saturday that we really decided that Ealing was just too far west of the heart of London.  It was too similar to living in the residential areas we had lived in our whole lives.  It just seemed to make more sense that if we are going to live here for a short time, we might as well have an experience that is uniquely “big city” and close to the sites.  Ealing was nice and quiet with some very beautiful properties, but the cost of transport to (and distance from) work and play made it quite unattractive to us upon proper inspection.

Those considerations led us to look in the Islington area, which is on the outskirts of central London.  It has quieter areas and a cool vibe.  We did find something north of Islington, in Highbury, that was very nice and afforable.  We also found an awesome loft in a converted schoolhouse on the same street as the flat where we stayed with Keith and Jen!

After considering the Islington and Highbury areas, our search opened up options moving closer in to central London.  The type of properties we liked and the surroundings we were describing to the agents kept pushing away from the more residential areas.  I have spoken to no less than 10 agents and I have viewed at least twice that many properties.  Tomorrow I have three appointments to see new things and a second viewing of a flat that I would like to make an offer on; I want Drew to see it first.  I was so excited that I forgot to take photos when I was inside.  I did get two shots of the outside; I asked the agent to leave me there because it was close enough for me to walk to where we live now from the flat we were seeing.  While I was standing there deciding which direction to walk, I remembered to pull out MY AMAZING iPHONE (again with the big, loud, intentionally show-y voice) and get the shots.

The flat is above a restaurant that looks quite nice.
the restaurant

It is the fourth floor penthouse, but it is still a one bedroomed postage stamp. I’ll not go in to great detail unless we get it–I would just hate to get your hopes up, hahaha!

The area is more of what is considered Clerkenwell. It seems to be a cool place to live (and maybe for me to work). The flat I’ve found there is close enough to where Drew works that he could bike, bus, or take a long walk to work (20-30 minutes). Transport links to great sites are also right on our doorstep. It’s quite exciting to think about living there. I also don’t want to get my hopes up; the landlord doesn’t have to take our offer. Depending on what else I see tomorrow I may or may not still want it, but I think I might : )

I’ve spent a bit of time with Drew’s workmates (from echo Europe). They’ve been really helpful and I am thankful that they have included me so much in their social outings. When you are surrounded by such masses of people, it is so easy to be lonely. That’s true irony. I don’t think I really anticipated how strange it would feel to have such little quality interaction with people on a day-to-day basis. Of course, I knew that we would have to make friends and find our “home” in London; that will take time. I just didn’t know how stark the contrast or the realization would be.

Drew keeps encouraging me to find time to relax and enjoy being off work. Although it is a bit torturous to think about not having a job for an extended period of time, the weather is quickly turning colder. There will be great opportunities for cuddling up in some coffee house with a comfy chair and great view to start writing any one of the five books that I’ve got swimming in my head. I might need to spend some time deciding which one will come out first.

When we have our flat situation sorted, I am sure I will have a perfectly lovely writing space. I envision that I might enjoy some reading as well. For now, though, I fancy letting sleep and some nice dreams take me.  Maybe I will see you there.