I have no idea what words I might use to describe our arrival in London, so I guess I will spit out my thoughts and let you sort them out!
We got here on a Friday afternoon after over 24 hours of traveling from Puerto Rico, including a layover at JFK in New York, and in Iceland. We spent a good week or two saying goodbye to people as we packed and tried to get everything organized to go.
Saying goodbye to my amazing coworker and her daughter.
Saying goodbye to the Young Women! I miss them already!
Goodbye to a wonderful family. One of so many!
Goodbye to our amazing Bishop and his wife.
Goodbye to grown up M, going to college and driving!
To abuela Mare...
And many more! It is so hard to leave people you love. We will be back!
J even made us a picture. We felt so special!!
We are going to miss Puerto Rico's beauty and the so many people whom we love, but we won't miss the inefficiencies we dealt with while living there.
After getting off the last plane in the Gatwick Airport in London, we bought ourselves some train tickets and took the train (two stops in total) to Norbury, where we took a cab to our Airbnb.
I was very proud of us making it so far with two HUGE suitcases each (carefully stuffed to 50.2ish pounds each), two carry ons each (one of which contained our ever-important Blendtec), and my violin.
Our hunger and our curiosity outweighed our exhaustion, and so we walked around, found a place to eat, and became more exhausted! We slept very well Friday night. Saturday we bought ourselves Oyster cards with which to get around the city (the one we got lets you use the underground, overground, buses, and even riverboat), and some new chips that are compatible with our cell phones as well as a plan.
This took a long time, because we got lost a few times and also had a really hard time finding the store Boricua had researched in Puerto Rico, but we finally found it! Sunday we journeyed into a beautiful area where a really cool LDS church building is, and ran into old friends in this huge city!
On Monday we wanted to begin the house hunt but it was a bank holiday, which I still am quite not sure what that means, but people weren't working very much so after finding the location of a couple of letting agencies, we ended up looking for a rain coat for Boricua and a dream come true - Hunter rain boots for me!
Today and yesterday we have taken the tube, the train, buses, and walked all over the city to appointments where we could view studios that the letting agency we ended up with booked for us. Tomorrow we will be looking at more! It's kind of a mess because many landlords want a guarantor from the UK, which is a person with a UK property that will promise to pay if you fall through on your rent, and some places that have two good things, say, a good price and a good location, are dirty or way too tiny (we're talking smaller than a hotel room tiny).
The other reason it's crazy is the fact that there is cut throat competition for anything good - if you like something, you have to act immediately or else someone else will claim it! We met an Australian couple that was walking to the same places as we were yesterday, in the same boat as us. I hope they find something, too!
Anyway, that's that. It's probably way too much detail. Besides our desperate house hunting, we've been amazed at so many aspects of life here.
- So much variety of food! So far we have eaten garam masala, sushi, Moorish lamb wraps, hamburgers, and even white chocolate crepes with peanutella ice cream. Yes, it's a flavor. We had no idea it existed until today. We are very happy! It's surprisingly less expensive than what we were warned - I imagine the sticker shock must be bigger for people who are coming from the states than for us, who are coming from an island where food (especially healthy food) is really expensive already, plus a huge sales tax increase over the summer. And so much variety in the grocery store! I am so excited to buy lots of vegetables! Oh yes and we have also been eating a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until we have our own place.
- Sooooooooooooooooo many people! Seriously. So. Many. People. Crowded subway stations, walking everywhere, busy professionals, immigrants, and tourists just fill up our minds and we are still so amazed! It has been fun picking out where people are from based on their accents. Speaking of people, we were also warned that body odor can be an issue in Europe. I don't know about the other countries, but I can vouch for that in England. Sometimes getting onto the undergound feels more like stepping into my classroom just after P.E. back in middle school! Times 100. It's the complete opposite in Puerto Rico, where for many people it's normal to shower three times a day! I don't know if we will get used to that, and it's certainly not everyone, but sometimes it just hits you!
- Very old! This is a really beautiful city, and the architecture is amazing. Although we've been too busy to go see the famous spots, yet, I love the gardens people have and all of the brick everywhere.
It is chilly (we are both already wearing our winter coats, although we have seen some people still wearing tank tops and shorts), and it rains every day, which adds to the feel of everything. Seriously, at some of the train stations, I feel like I'm waiting for a Disneyland ride because it feels so thematic.
- LSE will be awesome! Although classes are starting at the end of September, I was able to meet with two former Development Management students to buy some books for the core course from them, and one of them gave me some information that I should go into the program knowing, for which I am very grateful. We visited the school to know where it was and it will be a charming place to study.
Despite these very challenging few days, I feel so incredibly blessed. Boricua has even been contacted by an engineering recruitment agency to which he submitted his resume, and although he wasn't qualified for that particular job (they were looking for someone with UK experience), we are hoping that there will be someone who will consider his outside experience!
And that has been our first few days in London.
p.s. The bathrooms in the Iceland airport were out of this world. In a good way.
p.p.s. Don't be surprised if you come to London and see a dog driving the car - they don't, actually, they just sit on the "driver's" side!
p.p.p.s. Don't try to tell everyone "excuse me" ("permiso") in Spanish to get off a train - they will just stare at you. Then you might lose your stop, unless you have a smart traveling companion who remembers to press the door open.
p.p.p.p.s. If your husband tells you he just saw a fox in the middle of a residential neighborhood, believe him - it's probably true. It's not just a big cat with a bushy tail.
p.p.p.p.p.s. If you are ever in a tight spot far away from the grocrey store and need some hot chocolate, no fears! Just use your chocolate rice krispies. That's what the best husbands do, and they make two cups!