November 9th, we packed all our seventeen bags up again when we got the good news that the apartment we chose was ready for us to move in to. Lynn & Tyler got a taxi for all the luggage while the younger three and I raced during rush hour to pick up the keys, which we only had forty minutes until closing to retrieve. Just our luck, the tube had a major backup due to an earlier fire and we had to wait and wait. I’ve avoided traveling the tube at this time of day because it is so uncomfortable, but this snafu made it so much worse. I think I was the only one there crazy enough to have kids with me.
The first train that arrived was so packed, we tried shoving ourselves on, but couldn’t all fit. I was so stressed that Lynn was going to show up at the apartment and I wasn’t going to have a key and we’d be homeless over the weekend. I didn’t have my UK phone yet, so I couldn’t contact him. We now had ten minutes to get from Black Friars to High Street Kensington, which is about 7 stops. And still find the office with the keys, which I had never been to. When the second train arrived equally packed, we pushed with all our might and squeezed in, just in the nick of time. I felt so horrible for Jace and Nathan being trapped in a sea of legs hardly able to breathe. Why did I have to wear my wool coat and scarf, it was boiling!!! Jace and Nathan decided to argue and push each other right in the middle of all this. It was the worst 10 minutes of our lives here so far. I felt like Elaine on Seinfeld when she just wanted to scream on the subway. Get me out of here!!! We arrived a minute after 6:00 miraculously. Thank goodness for Cade for running up the street, finding the office and getting the keys. He saved the day!
We couldn’t have been happier to move into our new place. I’m so grateful it all worked out and we were able to get this place, after the dozens of apartments we considered–this was the clear winner! It was one of the few lateral ones and was completely furnished with great usable space that won’t make us feel cramped with school here. What sealed the deal were two rare features for London apartments: a full-size fridge/freezer and a King bed in the master. We’re living in Wynnstay Gardens in High Street Kensington-just a 5 minute walk from the tube stop. The building was built in 1883 and we’re on the top (5th) floor. The lift is probably the smallest they make, fitting only 2 people, but we sent all the bags up in numerous loads and took the stairs. The apartment has been totally refurbished and is very clean. We love this area, we can just walk outside and be in the heart of great shopping, parks and museums. The only real drawback to this place is the dreaded washer/dryer combo in the kitchen. Don’t even get me started on how frustrating laundry is here. There’s so many other things to love about being here though, I can deal.
We had our first meal at McDonald’s that night and it blew us away how nice it was-the atmosphere that is. The boys had fun ordering things unique to England like a 1955 burger (with the hugest patty, prosciutto and creamy bbq sauce), a sugared donut and mud pie mcflurry. We ate downstairs in a club-like area that even had fresh flowers on the table! The french fries (or chips) were gross, but that’s probably a good thing, we won’t eat them.
We stayed up really late getting settled, which meant we got a late start on Saturday and missed the huge Lord Mayor’s Day Parade. I really wanted to go see all the pomp and circumstance of this event, but it was raining and we didn’t have the energy to join a half million other people ring in the new female mayor of London.
Somehow we ended up at the Gap (because they’re everywhere) and outfitted the boys in some London gear. Tyler traded in his Nike shorts and tees for a wool coat and scarf. I never thought I’d see the day! The rest of the guys got scarves and some coats and we left realizing it was the first time we’ve ever shopped with me being the only one not to get anything. Oh well. The shopping here is amazing and I’m sure I’ll get my turn. We spent the rest of the day doing errands and I got my new phone, which is one more thing I have to learn. Nothing here is user friendly I’ve decided.
Saturday night we found a perfect spot on the bridge to watch the biggest fireworks show of the year, commemorating the new mayor. We met a great family from South Carolina next to us and watched the beautiful show on the river.
We were so close to Lynn’s office, we took the boys over to play the wii. They’re missing their videogames from home badly since we don’t have anything here. Nathan’s DS decided to stop charging the day we arrived, so they’ve been going through withdrawals. Without internet at the apartment yet and nothing on tv, it’s been a bit boring which encourages us to get out of the house. Not a bad thing!
Next up was the Christmas street lighting at Regent Street. We didn’t get there early enough to see the entertainment and singers (Ty Burrell, better known as Phil Dunphy from Modern Family did the honors), but we made it just in time to watch the lighting and more fireworks. It was so incredibly packed, but beautiful and made me excited for the Christmas season. They really know how to decorate for the holidays here!
I love Sundays here. We really like Hyde Park 2nd Ward and everyone is so friendly. It’s also the one day each week we’re all together without distraction and a perfect time to explore. After a short nap, we ventured out to Westminster Abbey to see the Veteran’s memorials. The Royal Family had been there earlier that day to place beautiful wreaths of remembrance on display. The Poppy Project honors fallen heroes and the lawns were covered with poppies and crosses with names on each. It was so impactful and meaningful for the boys to see, especially watching some of the really old veterans there.
St. Margaret’s Church was open right there for us to view. They didn’t allow photography, but it was incredible. Inside are countless memorials of people spanning generations along the walls and on the floor.
We finished off the night at the Tower Bridge. We stumbled upon the strangest playground right across the street from the Tower of London. It was completely dark, but the kids wanted to play and we wanted to rest, so we went with it. Tyler was enthralled with a wall there that the Romans built back in 400 that was still standing. Lynn and I laughed at this bizarre situation. You never know how the day will go here or what you will find.
The Tower Bridge was absolutely stunning, especially with the clear night and moon above. The whole city is gorgeous at night and there’s something to see around every corner. These are the moments burned in my mind, just being together on this wild experience together taking in the majesty of historic beauty.
By the end of the night, we were completely wiped out! Which is how we feel just about every night here. Time to get this crew to bed!