Looking Back: Our First Year in London

expat life

July 14th, 2015

A year ago today, Dan and I arrived in England via the Queen Mary 2 (which by the way is the best way to make the transatlantic jaunt!) to begin what promised to be an unforgettable, exciting, sometimes frustrating, and eye-opening three year adventure. And has it ever!

Looking at the numbers, here’s a recap of our first year in the Big Smoke.

40: The number of flats looked at before settling on the 10th one we had seen.

The rental market and letting agencies work a bit differently here, and not in a better, more efficient way, though properties move fast so sometimes you have only as much time as it took to view the place to decide to sign a lease. We learned quickly to balance our U.S. sized expectations of space with our other must-haves to settle on a perfect garden flat in Maida Vale with a big, private backyard for Scooter which he loves! He spends almost the whole day out there, aside from his many naps, securing the perimeter against wayward squirrels and birds. Looking back now, BUYING my condo in San Diego seems like such a breeze.

Scooter exploring his backyard

3: The number of visitors we had come out to spend time with us in our new locale.

Not too long after we arrived in London, we got to spend a few days with the Jappes exploring our new city at the end of their greater England holiday. Over Christmas, Dan’s parents flew out for a few short days in London before we all spent the holidays in Bavaria. Lastly, the Mills stopped in London as part of a multi-country Europe trip and we rang in the cold New Year together over cider and Cards Against Humanity.

14: The number of museums and exhibits we’ve gotten cultured at.

The best part about London is that entrance to a majority of the museums is free of charge to both residents and visitors so you can go as often as you like for as little or as long of a day as you desire. We’ve spent time at the Imperial War Museum, National Gallery, Cutty Sark, Courtauld Gallery, Tate Britain, Royal Academy of Arts, Museum of London, Royal Observatory, National Portrait Gallery, Kenwood House, Docklands Museum, Churchill War Rooms, V&A Museum, Natural History Museum, British Museum, a private tour of Philip Treacy the haute couture milliner’s warehouse, the British Library, Year of the Bus sculpture trail, and the Tower of London for the First World War centennial remembrance poppy exhibit.

Tower of London poppy exhibitIMG_3609

3: The number of concerts, or gigs as they’re called here, that we rocked out at.

Dan and I were lucky enough to be invited to a Wounded Warriors celebration hosted partly by Prince Harry at the U.S. Embassy where we were treated to a private show by the Foo Fighters. It was awesome! Dan and I’s favorite summer pastime in San Diego was country music concerts outdoors on the lawn at San Diego’s Sleep Train Amphitheater and we were worried that we would be missing out on hearing our favorite country artists while we were over here. Fortunately, country music is gaining popularity here and London hosted its second Country 2 Country weekend festival in March. You can bet that we were there and we got to see not just one artist but six. I’ve even already bought next year’s tickets! Lastly, we did get to enjoy an outdoor concert last month at Hyde Park’s British Summertime Series where we soaked up some rays, gorged on delicious food truck fare, and nodded our heads along to the familiar tunes of Beck and The Strokes.

Foo Fighters

5: The number of pub tours and pub quizzes we’ve imbibed more than a few pints at.

Ah, yes the pub. The lifeblood of London and the cornerstone of British drinking society. In fact the name pub comes from “public house” and one’s neighborhood pub or “local” is often a gathering place for friends or colleagues after work and families on the weekends. Not just a bar but more of a community center where you can bring your newspaper, the kids, the dog. Scooter is well-loved at our local pub, The Elgin! He gets spoiled with dog treats there. We’ve discovered quite a few beautiful old pubs still serving up pints on our pub tours with Dragon and Flagon. And pub quizzes are so much fun! All that useless trivia stored in our heads was finally put to good use. Although I was pretty useless on all sections except for popular culture and music. Thank goodness Dan is more technically minded.

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7: The number of West End musicals and plays we’ve seen.

Dan and I enjoy going to the theatre and took advantage of the Get into London Theatre specials offered every January and February to see hit shows for half price. I loved every show I’ve seen so far; Miss Saigon, The Great Gatsby Ballet, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Jersey Boys, Memphis, and The Commitments.

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4: The number of proper afternoon teas where I’ve sipped on exotic teas and munched on various forms of little sandwiches and fresh scones with clotted cream.

Anyone who spends time in London, whether its a few days or a lifetime can’t escape the tea culture and an afternoon tea is a quintessential experience when visiting the UK. Some places offer a traditional tea experience such as the ones I went to at Hotel Intercontinental and Fortnum and Mason and there’s the quirky themed ones that I loved such as the “Mad Hatter Tea” at Sandersons or the fun fusion at Asia de Cuba.

British afternoon tea

3: The number of famous outdoor markets we’ve strolled.

We filled up on delicious eats at Borough Market, wandered the stalls of clothes and odd knickknacks at Spitalfields, and battled the Saturday morning crowds at the famous Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill.

Spitalfields market

8: The number of countries we traveled to in the past year.

Last year was the busiest travel year both Dan and I have ever undertaken, both before and after we met and married. We filled our passports with stamps from Luxembourg, France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland.

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Countless: The number of rainy days, packed tube rides, memories, and new friends we’ve made.

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  1. Love this! I’ve been feeling so nostalgic about our visit to London last year… I’m dying to go again. Missing meat pies, cider, millionaire bars, the gorgeous parks, and, of course, the Cadys!