As of this week, we’re one month in to our European adventure.
I’m having trouble comprehending this. We’re already 4.21% done: 23 months to go.
And as I think about what we’ve already been able to see, what we’ve done, and what we have planned for the next two years, I feel incredibly lucky. I don’t want to miss a single opportunity to do and try everything new (much to Brad’s chagrin, as the pace that this requires is not his favorite).
We’ve already packed in so much. We’ve had our first friends visit (somewhat coincidentally, but I’ll count it). We visited Cambridge for the day. We walked down to the South Bank and took a look at the outside of the Tate Modern, because getting Brad into the modern art museum is frankly a lot to ask. We went to Paris for the weekend! We spent an afternoon at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. We saw a comedy show in the West End. We had our first British movie theatre experience (the popcorn was sub-par but the availability of prosecco was improved). We visited the Churchill War Rooms. We walked the Regents Canal. I managed to sneak in to the History of Magic exhibit at the British Library.
Okay, I kind of get where Brad is coming from.
Admittedly completely in the honeymoon phase, I found myself thinking this week about what I love the most about living in London (and, more broadly, in Europe) – and what I miss the most. I shall share.
What I love, in no particular order:
- On the way home from the park yesterday, I stopped at a little store where I picked up a pre-made (on sale!) goat cheese and beet salad and some new balsamic vinegar, and had a lovely conversation with the man who runs the wine section who recommended his new favorite red. I have been instructed to return to tell him how I like it. I love small shops with changing selection and sole proprietors who know their food/drink, and they are everywhere here.
- Every park is a dog park. I’m not entirely sure that there are any lead laws, as dogs seem generally to be allowed off-leash as long as we’re not on a road. Once we find that elusive piece of grass that exists every mile or so, Mia is allowed to run free in it.
- Rumors of cloudiness and misery of weather have been greatly exaggerated, especially in comparison to Seattle. All of my pictures include sun. It is currently sunny. I’m enjoying every second of it.
- Last weekend, I went to Paris for the weekend. You know, casual. In May I’m going to Prague and Vienna. Europe is right there.
- In an astonishing turn of events, I love commuting by public transit. Not the tube, because I am not comfortable being a sardine, but commuting by bus & walking is lovely and means so much more reading time. I lose some of my phone time, but it’s nice to be able to relax while traveling.
- I love my job. It is challenging and new and shiny.
- I love the pace. I love that it is forcing me to take coffee/tea breaks at work, take time for lunch, get up a little later in the morning, and see everything as I walk by. There are downsides to having to walk everywhere, but it does lead to a different mindset around expectations of where you go and what you do in a day.
- The food is amazing. Whoever said that British food was terrible was – well, honestly, British food isn’t winning any awards. However, I can get stellar food from anywhere else in the world without shifting my butt very far at all. I have never had so much good curry and Asian food and Moroccan food and pastry and…everything.
Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. — Samuel Johnson
What I miss is most immediately made up of all the things that are on the sea shipment of goods that has been delayed by weather and have not arrived including critical items like my favorite blanket scarf and my navy blue wool coat. However, more generally:
- I miss my people – my family and friends and all my loved ones. I don’t know what I’d do without FaceTime and WhatsApp and Facebook (who knew there were so many apps that would do VOIP calling?).
- Yesterday, it took me 75 minutes to get 9 miles down to Kew. Approximately. And it cost me £4.50 each way, which means that for me and Brad to go there and back, we paid £18. It took two buses and a train. Given, all of these buses came quickly & I got a seat and all of that was wonderful, but it took us 75 minutes and £18 to go 9 miles. Nine miles. In terms of the distance that I can travel quickly, my world has gotten quite small. Thankfully, there are infinite options of things to do in that ten mile radius.
- The coffee situation is dire. I don’t know what the problem is. My office doesn’t have coffee makers. We do, however, have an endless supply of Americanos. The irony of this is baffling.
- Mia is not allowed to come to work with me, and when I pass people on the street, they do not greet her like a human being like Seattleites do. This makes me sad.
- I do not know how to do anything, and thus accomplishing a fairly simple task like finding a doctor takes twice as long. It is like being a new adult all over again.
- I miss knowing the rules. This ranges from knowing the expectations around when it is or is not appropriate to poop in the work bathroom (the stall walls are so much closer to the ground but does this make it okay?) to when it is appropriate to sit in the handicapped seats on the bus (if nobody else is using them, is everyone else on the bus judging me?) to the incredibly stressful pub rules of when and how to tip the bartender, if at all, and who is keeping track of who has or has not bought their round (and why can we not simply buy our own drinks?). I have not tipped a bartender in weeks. I’m not sure that this is correct. I’m not sure that anyone would tell me if it wasn’t.
- I have developed a new pet peeve around people that talk loudly on the phone about inane things on the bus. You are allowed to have a conversation on the bus provided any of the following: a) you have a fun accent, b) you are speaking another language, or c) your conversation is interesting. If none of these apply, please wait until you are off the bus to make your call. This is generally related to missing having space. I am surrounded by people every moment of my day. This doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would, but it means that normal tics of human interaction are exacerbated.
- It is bafflingly difficult to find a tortilla chip in this country. I literally texted a friend when I found guacamole yesterday. There were celebratory emojis.
A person who is tired of London is not necessarily tired of life; it might be that he just can’t find a parking place. — Paul Theroux
I’m so glad we’re here. I can’t wait to see what the next month brings.