Monthly Archives: June 2008

An Unlikely Tourist

When I returned from London, I was eager to post the photos of my trip for you, only to realize I really didn’t have any to show.

I mean I have this one of Big Ben and the London Eye, but not much else…

Pathetic, I know.

It’s just with everything that we’ve have to do to move to London, this trip felt more like a reconnaissance mission, rather than an actual vacation.

First of all, Mike had to work the entire time I was there, so I was on my own most of the time. Not that that was a problem, as I had PLENTY to do…

My number one priority was to FIND US A HOME, which is exactly what I did a mere twelve hours upon arriving in the country… but then there was everything that has to go in it.

Fortunately, the house is coming furnished (just a tiny detail I negotiated with our management company, thankyouverymuch…), but I had no idea where to go for sheets and towels and toilet paper…

Well, of course, you can go anywhere for that. It’s not like we’re moving to Zimbabwe. I mean it is LONDON, after all, but I what I wanted to know what where I should go to get all that stuff.

I spent a great deal of time popping in and out of different stores comparing thread count, quality, and, most important of all… PRICE.

I also tried to familiarize myself with things like which company is a bank and which is a betting office. You know, the important stuff…

My time in London wasn’t all work. I did manage to see plenty of sights while I was there. Of course, it’s hard not to when it’s right there as you emerge from the Underground.

Walking down a street was like… “building, building, chicken restaurant, BUCKINGHAM PALACE!”

I mostly tried to see place and things that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to once I had Avery with me. For instance, I would tour a castle in depth, but skipped running around the gardens since that’s something we could do together as a family.

I went to the Tate Modern and Harrod’s, but left quickly as I didn’t really belong in either of those places. I opted instead to go antiquing in Notting Hill. I found such awesome stuff, but even that got old since A) we can’t move onto our new place for another month and B) we have no money (see A)…

After wandering around on my own for a few days and already having accomplished what I set out to do, I really started to miss Mike, and especially miss Avery. I started getting sad because I had no idea when Avery and I would be able to come over and I’d be leaving Mike at the end of the week.

Experiencing a great place like London just isn’t nearly as fun without someone else to share it with…

I’m excited that when I come back it’ll be to experience it all over again… together.

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The Thrill of the Hunt

I recently returned from a short visit to London for some house-hunting and Hubby-visiting.

Hear that British Embassy? I said VI-SIT, as in I returned to my home country and I did NOT stay illegally. In fact, I am patiently awaiting our dependent visas and would very much like them quite soon please (batting eyelashes)…

So yes, we signed for an adorable three-story town home in west London. It’s in a family-friendly, “greener” (read: suburban) part of the city with easy access to plenty of parks, cafes, and shopping. It’s about a third of the size of our home in Dallas (and double our mortgage), but that was expected…

Gorgeous kitchen, spacious bedrooms, and fully furnished, it truly is an incredible find, but I can hardly take all of the credit for finding it. Mike had spent every available moment since arriving in the UK visiting towns and contacting agents, which is A LOT of work.

In the US, we’re a bit… how you say… SPOILED when it comes to real estate. In fact, to find our house in Dallas, I simply logged on to ZipRealty.com to access to every house presently on the market- photos included. I could search by price, square footage, pool/no pool, hardwood, tile… the options seemed endless.

Once I found something “good on paper”, I could then look at the area school data, local education level, crime stats, and find the nearest pizza place… all in one place.

I would blissfully search for hours, never having to leave the comfort of my office where no one ever suspected I was pouring over real estate listing instead of spreadsheets. (Shh!)

Looking for a place to live in London, however… not so easy.

They are a few websites, but you can only limit your search by zip code, which is great if you know where the heck everything is… and we didn’t.

We also found that most of them are rather outdated, with agents remarking about our inquiries with, “Oh, Wow! Is THAT still listed? That was taken off the market months ago?”

Then, we discovered that lettings (rentals) for each part of town are actually handled by a single agency or two, and they probably don’t have any information on what is being let on the other part of the same town. It’s basically like having one real estate agent for each unique subdivision in your city.

So, just imagine having to go to each of them one by one to find a house and that they all close their offices at around four in the afternoon…

After one particularly exhaustive day of this, Mike just started stopping families on the street to ask where they lived and how they liked it. For those of you that do not personally know my husband, this is totally something that only Mike, as likable and nice as he is, would be able to pull off and not come off as sketchy… and it worked.

He found a wonderful part of town and the great agent. I merely swooped in to negotiate the deal. We make a pretty great team, if I do say so myself.

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Filed under Life In The States, Packing Up and Moving, Room and Board

Not Quite The Adventure I Had Planned

So, my break from stressing out… short lived. This morning, I received a personal call from the BRITISH EMBASSY…

…and no, it was NOT as high-profile and important as it sounds.

Mike must have sent them an e-mail regarding our dependent visa inquiries and a representative from the embassy was just calling to follow up. She was very polite, and more importantly… helpful.

She stepped me through the process and confirmed the quick turn-around time for the paperwork. She also assured me that entering into the UK as a tourist first, then submitting the paperwork for our dependent visa after was (insert prim British accent here) “absolutely not allowed. No, no, no. That is… FORBIDDEN”.

Well then. I suppose I’ll just go ahead and rebook our flights now…

I spent the rest of my day gathering original copies of our birth certificates, writing “letters of intent”, dotting i’s and crossing t’s. I don’t even know where my guidebooks have gone now…

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My Fabulous New Life

I’ve been so consumed with our frenzied moving to London that I haven’t given much thought about living in London. Not any, in fact… well, other than picking up a few guidebooks Half-Priced Books, which I have yet to actually open.

I’m going to miss Half-Priced Books although I’m perfectly sure that there will be plenty of used books stores to love in London, but I digress…

I am embarrassed to admit that beyond tired stereotypes, my only “knowledge” of Britain (and Brits) comes from… where else? TV and movies, as in every season of Coupling and Bridget Jone’s Diary

Oh, and the occasional celebrity gossip blog, of course.

When we announced our plans to move to London our friends several weeks ago, one of them eagerly responded by asking if we had picked our favorite soccer club, as that will be VERY important to living in Europe...

Umm, what? Yeah, I’ll get right on that one….

The other day, I got sucked into watching one of those silly cable countdown shows about the posh life of young royals…

Apparently, almost every deposed European monarch (and thier family) has taken up residence in London, where they shop at fabulous shops, live in fabulous homes, and sip champagne at fabulous clubs and restaurants. How fabulous!

Clearly, this is a very different London than the one I feel like I’m going to… where Mike is scrounging to find a decent place for us to live and we currently don’t have a shilling to our name.

I’ve been so beaten down by all the planning in the face of so much uncertainty, that it’s hard for me to focus on much else… and, believe it or not, I kind of forgot what a great place we’re actually moving to…

So, today, I decided to just stop worrying and start getting excited again. I’m actaully going to crack open my guidebooks and start thinking our adventure… instead of our move.

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Drowning in Paperwork

Mike departed for London a week ago this past Thursday, leaving me to deal with the painful process acquiring our dependent visas… on… my… own.

Do you know how difficult it is to acquire visas for the UK?

More importantly, can you tell that I’m super annoyed that Mike spent all of his time designating “foster homes” for his Star Wars toys and thirty-year-old Legos instead of submitting the paperwork for our dependent visas? Which, by the way, was something we were supposed to have done before we booked our flights to London… Oops!

I mean, really… wasn’t it enough for me to get us packed, get the house on the market, and get our affairs in order?

Now I’m the one who has to scramble to get it done… and done quickly as we leave for good at the end of the month, with or without our visas in hand. (Let’s just hope their immigration policies are forgiving of American wives supporting their husband’s dreams and ambitions… and that they DON’T deport us.)

Everything you “need” is online, of course… which means you never have contact with an actual human being who can reassure and guide you through the process, much less answer a freakin’ question.

Apparently, phone calls made directly to the British Embassy are strongly discouraged. Strongly…

In order to get our visas, we are required to surrender not only our passports, but our original (not photocopies and not even notarized photocopies of) birth certificates, marriage license, and such… you know the things you’re constantly warned never to lose under penalty of identity theft.

As you can imagine, this is just not something I am comfortable relinquishing to some faceless address on an impersonal website a week before I depart for my best friend’s wedding in Greece.

Like I said, this really should have been handled a long time ago…

But, as everyone annoyingly insistently reminds me, “there’s nothing that can be done about that now”…

I just wish there was something that could be done about the ulcer and the permanent frown lines forming over this process.

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