Love London: Hyde Park

This year I am leading the London walking tours for my international women’s group, AWBS. In the two years I’ve been a part of the group, this is one of my favorite activities as I’m always learning something new about the different neighborhoods in this amazing city. Luckily I’m being assisted by some world class Blue Badge tour guides who have an unbelievable wealth of knowledge.

Our first tour of the year was through Hyde Park. Actually, it was more Kensington Gardens as the two parks sit side by side, but are typically referred to as Hyde Park. The land originally belonged to the monks of Westminster Abbey, but during his reign, Henry VIII took them over as hunting grounds. In the late 17th century, William and Mary purchased Nottingham House – which later became known as Kensington Palace – as a means to escape the city of London for health reasons. George II’s wife, Queen Caroline, is the one primarily responsible for bringing the park together as we know it today. During the 1700’s the public started to be permitted access to the lands when the monarchy was not in town. It wasn’t until Queen Victoria’s reign in the 1800s when the public had full access to the grounds, as we do today.

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Stop 1: Bear StatueIMG_9247

Hyde Park is known for being a park for children with playgrounds, water features and statues all throughout the park. One of the first stops on our tour was at this drinking fountain of two bears hugging. It’s been stolen several times, and was just return from the most recent escapade two days ago.

Stop 2: Italian GardensIMG_9250

The Italian Gardens are most recently known for the fight scene in Bridget Jones 2 between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. They do, of course, have a much more historial significance in that they were a gift from Prince Albert to Queen Victoria and were designed after Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight.

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Stop 3: Peter Pan

The author of Peter Pan, JM Barrie, lived near Kensington Gardens and would frequently go for a casual stroll in the afternoon or evening. During these walks he befriended the Llewelyn-Davies family and became a pseudo guardian to the five boys, i.e. the lost boys, after their parents died tragically young. The one son, Michael, is who inspired Peter Pan for Barrie. The statue in the park was created by Sir George Frampton in 1912

 

IMG_9263Stop 4: Speke Monument

The sweet chestnut trees line the pathway in a 19th century addition to the park. The spire to the left is a tribute to Sir Henry Speke, the man credited with finding the source of the Nile, Lake Victoria Nyanza, in 1858. There was much debate on this topic at the time, but was validated by the Royal Geographical Society years later.

Stop 5: Physical Energy StatueIMG_9267

The Physical Energy statue is the work of the British artist George Frederic Watts. The statue represents the human need to find more and learn more, i.e. the “human need for new challenges – of our instinct to always be scanning the horizon, looking towards the future.” The statue was unveiled in 1907 after Watts’ death in 1904.

 

Stop 6: Isis Statue IMG_9273

The Isis statue sits on the banks of the Serpentine and is one of the most recent statues added to Hyde Park in 2009. It was part of a fundraising effort to raise money for children’s education center and is named after Isis the Egyptian goddess of motherhood.

IMG_9277Stop 7:  The Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Garden

The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain opened in 2004. It is a heart shaped water feature that is designed for children to be played in. It has calm and turbulant waters and was designed to represent the well known features of Diana’s life: “The design aims to reflect Diana’s life, water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom.”

IMG_9279Stop 8: Rotten Row

As often happens with language over time, Rotten Row is not the original name of this path horse path that traverses the south end of Hyde Park. Originally, it was known as “Route du Roi, which meant ‘King’s Road’ in French” as the path connected Kensington Palace all the way to Whitehall for the King.

Stop 9: The Site of the Great ExhibitionIMG_9280

For any fan of the TV series Victoria, the Great Exhibition of 1851 was a major plot point of the show. Originally designed as a showcase of art in industry, the Great Exhibition turned into a showcase of modern British manufacturing on a scale never seen before. The event was housed in a purpose built glass and steel structure known as Crystal Palace and sat on this site in Hyde Park. One third of the UK population attended the exhibition and the financial success of the event provided the foundation for all the museums that South Kensington is now famous for.

Stop 10: Prince Albert MemorialIMG_9287

Sitting across the street from Royal Albert Hall, the Prince Albert Memorial was designed by George Gilbert Scott to honor the impact that Prince Albert had on British society. Prince Albert died young in 1861 at the age of 42. Queen Victoria famously went into a deep mourning period after his death. The memorial celebrates Victorian achievement and Prince Albert’s passions and interests. It is an impressive structure standing at 176 feet in the air with gilded statues and world reknown freizes decorating the structure.

Stop 11: Kensington Palace

We wrapped up the tour at Kensington Palace. Its recent history is well known for being the modern royal residence of the extended Royal Family. It was the site of all the flowers that were laid upon the gardens after Princess Diana’s death in 1997. The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, lived here until her death in 2002 and is the current London residence of William and Kate. Harry and Meghan recently departed the building to live full-time at Frogmore Cottage in Windsor.

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Christmas Already?

Christmas already? Well, all the big London department stores have opened their Christmas shops, so clearly I’m not the only one. Plus, starting June 25, my husband usually begins counting down the days making for plenty of Christmas discussion in our household. Finally, no other major city in the world does Christmas better than London, so it’s easy to get excited about the holidays early.

The festive season begins November 1, which for my American friends presents a bit of a quandry because we all know Christmas doesn’t really begin until after Thanksgiving. But given the lack of my favorite holiday in my new homeland, I’ll happily roll with it. London makes it easy, as the city becomes so festive with lights twinkling everywhere – a huge bonus when it’s dark by 4:00pm in December.

If you are planning a trip to London over the holiday season, what should you do? Here are a few of my favorite things:

Christmas Lights

The displays change from year to year, but without a doubt they will be bright and sparkly and you won’t be able to help but get into the Christmas spirit. The entire city lights up, but here is my suggested route for maximizing light viewing over a leisurely evening stroll.

  • From Green Park Tube Station walk down Berkley IMG_0132Street towards Berkley Square. On the western side of the square there is an exclusive member’s only club called Annabel‘s that decks out the front of their building in a massive light display. In 2018, it was an enormous Christmas Tree that took up the entire front of the building and then some.

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  • From there you can cut across to Bruton Street that takes you to New (and Old) Bond Street. The luxury stores spare no expense in decorating for the holidays and it’s a really fun way to window shop.

 

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  • Take a left onto Burlington Gardens and you can make your way past the Burlington Arcade. Lots of lovely boutiques, but more importantly the Christmas lights make the centuries old shopping street sparkle like snow shimmering on the tree branches.

 

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  • Keeping walking straight ahead to Regent Street. This and Oxford Street are at the heart of London’s Christmas light displays. They go up and down the entire street and the glow of the lights shimmers across the shoppers bringing home their shopping for the night.

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  • From Regent Street, take a right onto Beak Street and you start to come across the funky, festive nature of SoHo. Bars and restaurants line the streets throughout this entire part of town, but there is one final stop to make along this walk. On your left you’ll come to Carnaby Street which is always glowing with a fun and unique take on the Christmas theme. In 2018, it honoured the Bohemian Rhapsody movie with a full-on Queen and Freddie Mercury splash.

Kew Gardens

If you haven’t had enough of Christmas lights on the streets of London, then be sure to check out Kew Gardens. Tickets for this sell out EARLY, like it’s hard to find tickets by October 1. There are light and music displays all around the gardens, along with food trucks to get a bite to eat and a bit of hot cider or mulled wine to warm your hands in the cold air. It’s a great family activity and there is enough to keep young kids, teenagers, adults and grandparents entertained all at the same time.

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Theatre Shows

Each year there are performances of The Nutcracker put on by the English National Ballet. It’s a Christmas classic performed by one of the world’s pre-eminant ballet companies. Get tickets if you can.

Also, be sure to check out A Christmas Carol – after all, you are in the birthplace of Charles Dickens! There are different performances every year, so you’ll need to do a search to see who is putting on the show. Even if you have seen it many times before, you never know what you might experience. We caught the Old Vic’s performance a few years ago and it was by far the most uplifting version I had ever seen.

Finally, another not-to-be missed English Christmas tradition is a Pantomime performance. I’ll be honest, we haven’t tried one yet, but they are a tried and true family tradition for most of the British population. These are family-friendly, interactive, slapstick, over-the-top theatrical performances that have been happening for hundreds of years. Many are based on children’s folk tales, so the stories are familiar to everyone in the crowd. A good time will definitely be had by all.

Carols at The Royal Albert Hall

In the final run up to Christmas, Royal Albert Hall puts on a Christmas extravaganza like no other. It’s one giant sing-along Christmas carol experience that would put even Ebenezer Scrooge into the Christmas spirit. Join the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for two hours of pure holiday magic. We did this last year on Christmas Eve and then went to lunch afterwards. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday.

Boxing Day Football Matches

If you have a football/soccer fan in your life, make sure they get to participate in the biggest day of the Premier League season. All 20 teams play on December 26 – Boxing Day – in matches up and down the country. The Premier League season goes into overdrive over the holidays, but the game to be at is a Boxing Day match. Tickets are hard to come by, but check out Viagogo (the UK’s version of StubHub) to see what is available for individual matches. The other alternative is to look at each club’s hospitality packages. You pay a bit more money, but are guaranteed a ticket along with a meal and a few other perks.

One Year On . . .

July 11. One year ago today we landed at Heathrow airport. The mix of emotions we were feeling at the time – fear, excitement, exhaustion (!) – were only a precursor to what we would experience over this past year. Moving to another country changes you in ways you could never anticipate.

It’s not just because things are different. Yes, even in a country where we share a language, the differences can be pronounced in good ways and bad. (For a great list of observations between the US and UK, check out this blog post – it sums it up brilliantly.) Fundamentally, though, those are just hiccups along the way. You get comfortable driving on the opposite side of the road. You expect to pay for parking everywhere you go. You bag your own groceries without even giving it a second thought.

What you don’t expect is how your world begins to shift on its axis. When you get to experience things others only read about, you can be boastful or you can be grateful. When you see family and friends struggle with your departure, you can be hurt or you can approach them with love and empathy for being in the place they are. When you see the turmoil your home country and locals ask “why”, you can be defensive or you can simply say “I don’t know”.

It’s subtle. The changes happen slowly and sometimes unexpectedly. All of a sudden, you realize how comfortable you are in your new expat skin and how joyful this journey makes you. You see your kids get amazing opportunities and you know this journey wasn’t about your job or your career move, but really was about giving them this life experience they never would have had otherwise. You feel the quick and strong embrace of new friendships that are different than others because no one takes their time for granted in the expat world.

We said “yes” to everything this first year and it was fun and exciting, and truthfully more than a bit exhausting. An experienced globe trotting friend told me before we left, the first year is exciting because everything is new; the second year is hard because the novelty wears off; and the third year it begins to feel like home. He was right about the first year and knowing the second year can be hard, I’m going to be mindful in how I approach it.

Even with that said, the gratitude I feel today one year later is immense. I am so glad I took this leap of faith to try something new. My family is fuller, emotionally richer and closer than we have ever been. I am a more complete version of me than I ever thought I could be. For that, I couldn’t be more thankful.

The New Normal

One of the expected pleasures of being an expat is the travel. When you sign up for this gig you anticipate the adventure of exploring new cultures, cities and countries. What I hadn’t really thought about was the fact all of my expat friends would be doing the same. This means everyone is going to a dozen different countries all at the same time.

Back home, planning a vacation to Europe is a big deal. It’s something you do as a special trip – a significant anniversary, a big birthday, a major milestone. When you go, you try to see and do as much as you can because you don’t know when you’ll have the opportunity to come back.

Now as school breaks approach, the conversation begins with a simple “where is everyone off to?” and the answers are as varied as people themselves. In six months, my friends and I have been to Amsterdam, Rome, Croatia, Paris, Malta, Spain, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Greece, Madeira, Scotland, Brussels, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Mallorca, Lisbon, Sicily and many, many more. As my 18 year old back in the US said as we landed in Florence this week, “you make this sound normal”.

You know what, he’s right. This is what becomes the new normal. If you are a traveler, like I am, it feels amazing. Knowing the thrill of exploring some place new is always around the corner and won’t – necessarily – break the bank is an incredible feeling. Knowing others and building friendships with those who get to live this life too? In some ways it feels as though I’ve found my people.

You give up a lot living 3000+ miles away from your friends and family. You aren’t there when tragedy strikes or loved ones fall ill. It’s really hard being so far away when these things happen and you can’t be there in person to offer a hug or a shoulder to cry on. You miss those conversations and laughter with people who know you best. Sometimes the travel feels like a small consolation for all you are missing out on.

In those moments, however, the biggest thing I take away is you have to live life to the fullest every day. You never know when a moment will come that will rob you of your ability to do the things you want, when you want to do them. Right now, I have an amazing opportunity to feed my travel soul. It’s such a strong part of who I am and I’m so thankful for this chance to explore it more. This new normal is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

100 Days of Darkness

Upon our arrival in the UK, our son’s school held a new parent session. It was very helpful and quickly put my mind at ease that a lot of what I’d been feeling during the early weeks of the move were totally normal.

One of the casual comments made during the session was about the “100 Days of Darkness”. I’ve been coming to the UK pretty regularly for 25+ years, but this was new to me. During Christmas visits in the past, I’ve noticed it was pretty much dark by 4:00pm. As a tourist, though, it’s something you just accept as a quirk of the place you are visiting and move on.

The “100 Days of Darkness” was defined as Halloween through Valentine’s Day. Turns out the lead up to Christmas wasn’t too bad. You have Guy Fawkes night in early November with giant bonfire celebrations. For Christmas, London does a spectacular job with thousands of festive lights decorating the streets of the city.

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Now, we are in the middle of January. As with most places in the northern hemisphere, January can be pretty grey and gloomy. Everyone tells me that this is crunch time during these days of darkness.  On one hand, I get it. With the sun hidden behind the clouds for days on end, it can get a bit depressing. When you don’t have a Christmas tree to light up your living room, twilight at 4:00 makes for a really long night.

But, there is also a subtle beauty to these days. The grey skies cast an Instagram-worthy filter across the beautiful landscapes. The structure of the trees without their leaves pop against the neutral sky. Tourists attractions are essentially empty. If you really want to explore a place, now is the time to go.

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There is one final upside. The sunny days literally make everything brighter. You appreciate the brilliance of the sunshine in a whole new way. Squinting at the golden orb in the sky is done with pleasure rather than annoyance. While it may be chilly, the brightness of the day makes you eager to be outside.

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So, overall, I’d say this first “100 Days of Darkness” isn’t as bad as I was expecting. That said, I will be happy to see the return of summer and 16 hours of daylight!

When It’s Not Your Holiday

Sitting here in the U.K. on a wet, grey Monday in January, it’s just another day. Another start to a work week that contains the usual mental preparations for all that needs to be done in the days ahead. Without a day off of school, media news stories or commercial reminders, it’s easy to forget today is the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. In fact, if it weren’t for posts by friends on social media, it would be far too easy to not remember it at all.

This isn’t a commentary about the holiday itself. Dr. King’s life deserves every ounce of honor we can bestow upon him as a freedom fighter for racial and social justice. I’d highly recommend a post I read yesterday that eloquently sums up the struggle many Black Americans are feeling right now. Chelle Wilson’s words reminded me how, more than any point in my life, we desperately need Dr. King’s legacy. We are struggling to find a way towards building a more perfect – and equal – union and we need the great leaders of our past to guide us.

As a new expat, however, I wasn’t prepared for the empty feeling this left behind. It’s a stark reminder of how I’m not in my own country anymore. Most Brits seem to be well versed in American history and current events. I have no doubt the vast majority know who Martin Luther King is and his role in the American civil rights movement. But the reality is, this is not their fight and there is no need here for a holiday to commemorate Dr. King.

It’s also a reminder to choose how you honor your own country and its holidays and traditions when you don’t live there any more. Today, I’m going to take Chelle’s advice and listen to the stories Black Americans want to share about Martin Luther King. I’m also going to learn more about race relations here in the U.K. I want to understand how similar and different we are as two countries that have much in common.

In true British style, I think I’ll get started by making myself a cup of tea and settling in on this rainy afternoon.

Adventure

It’s Tuesday night and as I channel surf, I come across U2 on the BBC. Being the fan I am, of course I have to watch. As I do, I marvel at the power of music to transport you to another moment in time. Hearing “With or Without You” I’m instantly taken back to a beautiful summer evening a mere five months ago in Dublin listening to this song live in front of U2’s hometown crowd. All the emotions I felt in that moment came rushing back to me.

Now maybe it’s because of my love for the band, but I think it’s something more. After all, I’ve seen them in concert many times before. What was different this time around? This concert in Ireland was a Bucket List event. A “pinch me” moment. An “I can’t believe I get to do this” kind of night.

One of the things I’ve learned in my first six months of living abroad is life as an expat is filled with a lot of these kinds of moments. Not just for the big trips or weekends away – because they are certainly fertile ground – but also the daily experiences as you wander the streets discovering something new at every turn. The high I used to get from trips abroad once a year happens all the time right now. It is absolutely addictive.

This brings me to “Adventure”. The last few years I’ve adopted a word for the year. Brave two years ago. Fearless this past year. Ironically, they seem to lead into one another and Adventure seems to fit the same pattern. Sometimes the words require thought, but other times it’s totally obvious. This is one of the obvious times.

Why Adventure? Well, this expat experience is certainly an adventure in and of itself. One of the pieces of advice I heard early on was to say yes to everything. Knowing what I know about how these manifest themselves over the course of a year, I knew “yes” would probably be too big of a word, but I also knew I wanted to say yes to the adventures.

Through this experience, I’ve also had people tell me I’m adventurous, which kinda stopped me in my tracks. It’s not how I’ve traditionally thought of myself, but in my heart I know my true self is an explorer. I want to embrace that even more, so Adventure it is.

As part of this journey, I’ve also made a promise with myself to blog more. I love telling my travel stories, so for 2018 I’m going to write and share more. #52WeeksOfAdventure begins now!

 

T-Minus Two Months

How are we at this point already? Two months from today the Wady family (including Henry) boards a flight from DC to London to begin our new adventure in the UK. I’m kind of shell shocked. The move seemed so far away when we first made the decision back in February. Now it feels like time is racing by. I’m scared to blink because I don’t want the last two months here to disappear.

This is a very surreal stage in the international moving process. When you first make the decision, there is a massive wave of emotions. Apprehension and excitement hit you as you begin to realize the magnitude of the decision you just made. That is quickly counterbalanced by the anticipation and possibilities awaiting you in your new country. Sadness definitely creeps in next as you start telling friends and family about your move. There were many tears shed in those early conversations and it was overwhelming at times. Luckily, though, the people closest to you seem to come to terms with it pretty quickly. While they may be sad for themselves, your true friends are excited for you and the next chapter in your life.

Now, we are at the point where the move is both mundane and overstimulating. There is so. much. paperwork! Immigration forms, legal documents, transportation papers, rental agreements (both here and there), bank account details – you name it we are currently filling it out. It’s a lot to keep track of and there is the constant worry that something is slipping through the cracks. The most frustrating part comes when one document (i.e. my immigration visa) is beginning to hold up two or three other critical steps – and there is NOTHING you can do about it. It’s testing every fiber of my control freak being.

The pressure is not just on me. I have a lot to do on the home front, but my husband is the feet on the ground in the UK and he is just as busy as me. He’s re-learning how to open a bank account in the UK, which is not as simple as it seems. Apparently, the old formalities and pleasantries of banking still exist in England and opening an international account requires an appointment to be made three weeks in advance. We’ll just consider that charming, right?

He’s also dealing with neither of us having a credit history in the UK. If you are lucky enough to not give your credit rating a second thought day in and day out, then having to go back and prove your credit worthiness is an eye opening experience. Add to it the complication that our bills and expenses in the US won’t necessarily be the same in the UK, so it’s not an apples to apples comparison. All of it can be pretty intimidating. Luckily we have a really good relocation agent guiding us step by step. She is worth every penny Cisco is paying her!

I know we are heading into the home stretch of the move. There will be lots of balls in the air for quite a while and we will make it through with flying colors. With so much happening, it’s easy to push aside the emotions of a move like this.

Outside of the initial sadness I described above, most days I’m too busy to really think about how I feel about this move. I know that’s not healthy. I don’t want to think too hard about saying goodbye to my friends who have become our family in North Carolina. I love our house as it’s been a beautiful home to raise our family in. I’m nervous about completely uprooting our lives, when, as a certain 15 year old likes to remind me, we have a pretty good life here.

But then, I think about how comfortable I’ve gotten and how it’s time to shake things up. I think about how it feels when I travel to another country and see and experience things for the first time and feel my soul just sing. I think about the opportunities in front of my kids and the joy I have in knowing their world view will be forever changed because they tried something different. When I think about those and so many other things, I know this will be a great move for our family.

So, we’ll make the most of these next two months . It’s time to embrace the possibility of what comes next.

Ten Little Things

Moving is overwhelming. As I’m quickly learning, making an international move puts the phrase overwhelming to shame. Even when it’s to a country you know well, there are small differences – sometimes subtle, sometimes glaringly obvious – that reinforce how much there is to learn.

Here are ten things I’ve learned this week about this crazy process:

  1. There are good days and bad days. When our first born came home from the hospital, my dad told us on a daily basis “there are good days and there are bad days. As long as the good days outweigh the bad, then you are doing fine.” I have the sense his words of wisdom will be playing a big role in our lives for a while. While most days were exciting and productive, the reality of why we were there set in for each of us at a different time. For all the good that will come from this move, we need to be prepared for the tough homesick days too.
  2. One step forward, two steps back. Even though we accomplished a lot this week, there is still so much to do. Every school visit, every conversation, every new piece of information answered some questions, but also left us with more new ones than any of us were prepared for.
  3. You begin to evaluate your new country the moment you walk off the plane. I’ve been to London dozens of times in the last 27 years. I know – and love – the city as well as any I’ve lived in throughout my life. This trip was different. From the moment we landed, I looked at everything around me with a different lense. How do the houses look? What do the towns feel like? Can I see myself living here? How close is the nearest grocery store? Where can I buy a hairdryer? (Literally got laughed at when I asked at a hair salon about that one.) Things I’ve never paid much attention to as a visitor, became the center of focus as we began scoping out a place to live.
  4. The weather! Maybe it’s because everyone expects the U.K. to rain all the time, but we had the most glorious weather this week. Beautiful spring days with sunnny skies and warm afternoons made it feel as if the English weather gods were putting on their best show to impress us. I don’t care what it was, I’ll take it. Sitting in the outdoor garden of a pub on a Friday afternoon with the warm sun easing away the stress of a busy week is pretty hard to beat.
  5. The Beautiful Game. When soccer plays as big of a role in a family’s life as it does ours, you think we’ve seen and heard it all. Yeah, not so much. A soccer tryout in the birth country of “football” opened our eyes to a whole new level of intensity to the game and raised a set of questions with decisions to make that we didn’t even know existed. On the flip side, it was a lot of fun to head to the local pub and watch a Premier League match where everyone in the pub actually cares about the game.
  6. Argos. Ah, what is there to say about this archaic in-store shopping nightmare. Paper catalogs, hand writing product numbers on slips of paper, computer inventory and check out systems that aren’t in sync. Nothing about this experience was customer service friendly. What should have been a five minute shopping trip took 20+ minutes. Thankfully local friends have assured me that it wasn’t just me and Amazon Prime in the U.K. is alive and well for a much more satisfying shopping experience.
  7. Traffic. I grew up in the Bay Area, so I learned to drive and commute in some of the worst traffic congestion in the United States. However, living in North Carolina for the last 14 years has enabled the heartache of a horrendous commute to become a distant, faded memory. Until now. Living in a metropolitan area with 8.5 million people means traffic is going to be intense. I’m going to very quickly have to readjust my drive time expectations. Thankfully there is an incredible public transport system right at our fingertips.
  8. Managing Expectations. We heard time and time again this week, make sure you set realistic expectations for yourself and manage your experience to them. Don’t expect to exactly replicate your life in the US to your life in the U.K. Things are different and the more you can embrace those differences the more fulfilling the experience will be. (Note to self: come back to this lesson frequently!)
  9. Pub life. Truly the cultural and social hub of a village or neighborhood, the pub plays a much different role than bars in the US. Seeing our 15 year old experience this for the first time was a great reminder of how tremendously unique this is in building out a sense of community.
  10. Having the world at your fingertips. London is one of the most global, diverse cities anywhere in the world. The people, cultures, languages and religions you see walking down the street is a great reminder of how we can all want the same things in life and be together at any moment in time. For those of us who believe in the strength of diversity, it was great to feel at “home” in such a vibrant city.

A Very Unexpected Adventure

London has always held a special place in my heart. I fell in love with the city on my very first visit after high school. The history, the vibe, the hustle and bustle all exposed my 17 year old self to the fact I was meant to be a city girl.

I fell in love a second time when studying abroad in London during college and met my future husband. London was the backdrop for an English boy and a California girl to prove that long distance relationships really can work. My feelings for the city were permanently colored by those early memories of newfound love.

Our kids had their first passports at 4 months old. The very first stamps came from Heathrow airport as they made the journey to meet family members for the first time. Over the years, we’ve watched their love affair with London begin with trains, taxis and double decker buses and grow to include football/soccer, Cadbury’s chocolate and exploring the streets where their dad was born.

Now, the next chapter in this London love affair is about to be told.

After 14 years in North Carolina, a job transfer is taking us (back?) to England. It’s exciting and scary all at the same time. The explorer in me is ready for the new adventure. Easy access to the city I love makes me want to squeal every time I think about it. Playing tour guide for family and friends who come to visit already has me looking forward to a house full of constant visitors. Knowing I’ll get to explore other cities and countries in Europe makes my heart burst with anticipation.

On the other hand, I can barely think about leaving the friends we have made here who have become our family. Those we’ve celebrated holidays with over the years. The girlfriends who have held my hand as I’ve shed tears through the rough patches in life. The moms who have scooped up my kids and treated them like their own. My fellow soccer parents who have cheered just as loud as I have for my kids on the field. All of these people have made North Carolina a very special place and make it very hard to say goodbye.

The good news is I know these friendships will persevere through the years. The better news is I don’t have to say goodbye quite yet. The best news of all is when this journey is over I will get to call London home for a few more years. I can’t wait to see how this very unexpected journey unfolds.