Six Months in London

From freezing days and 3pm sunsets to now blue skies and 10pm daylight, a lot has changed over the last six months since I moved to London. Looking back at one of my earlier posts that marked the first month of living in Notting Hill, I realise so much has happened since then, not just with my travels but work (yes I do have a job!) and personal life as well. So I thought it was time to turn my reminiscing into words and put together a bit of a recap for you all.

TRAVEL LIFE

One of the biggest appeals of moving to London was the temptation and ease of travel compared to living in Sydney. Living on Europe’s doorstep and so close to Africa is something that I’ve definitely taken advantage of over the past six months. I’ve listed some of the destinations I have visited below, a few of which I have already written about and others that are still in the works. To be honest, time has gone so quickly and converting my travel journal notes and photos into enjoyable blog posts for you guys can be a bit of a juggling act! The closeness of destinations also means that I’m always thinking about a next trip or keeping an eye on free weekends and flight prices. My next adventure (leaving this weekend!) will be one of my biggest trips yet, taking me transatlantic for a two-week trip to the United States. Starting with a week in NYC and ending with a wedding on the West Coast, can’t wait to share it with you, stay tuned!

Places I have visited:

WORK LIFE

Besides what some people may think, I do work for a living! It just so happens that by a stroke of luck, this role has allowed me to go on two trips to Egypt to plan and host an international conference. While in London, I’ve been based in Mayfair (yes the Mayfair from Monopoly, just as flashy and corporate as you’d imagine) but also spent some time working from home in Notting Hill. I’ve delved into the world of start-ups and its community through friends and colleagues, and also been able to met other Londoners, locals and migrants, all on their own career path that involves facing the crazy peak hour commutes on the tube each day. London seems to be full of work opportunities but you also have to be savvy – and a bit lucky – to find the good ones. Generally, it does not pay as well as Australia either so you need to keep that in mind. Job roles are a lot more specialised here and having UK work experience under your belt really helps with career progression. One of the best things about working in London has been the friends I have made, who I would not have met otherwise working in Sydney. At my current job, our team is very international and in between working on issues related to Africa, my Portuguese colleague has also made sure we find time to search for the best Portuguese tarts in London!

FIT LIFE

One of the biggest challenges while living here has been trying to fill the void left by leaving my beloved fitness routine of F45 in the morning before work. Fitness classes can be pricey in London and finding something you like that fits your schedule and budget can be a little tricky. I have joined my local gym which I try to go to a few times a week (I do mainly pump and cycle classes) and I also play netball with an awesome mixed team on Tuesday evenings (I normally run or cycle to the games which is actually quicker than public transport!). While it’s always difficult to settle into a consistent routine, I did enjoy a trial week at F45 Tottenham Court Road and I’m planning to try Classpass with some of my friends who love it here to get back into it post America (and post all the bagels)!

Other than that, I’m enjoying the chance to try different things and found a new activity that is challenging, both physically and mentally, called bouldering. It’s basically rock climbing without a harness. I did it for the first time when visiting a friend in Norwich a few weeks ago and it was a lot of fun, not to mention your entire body gets a solid workout (you will feel it the next day!). It seems to be rapidly growing in the UK too so there are quite a few bouldering places or similar around London that I’m keen to check out.

FOOD LIFE

So still vegetarian and loving it but after spending much time during my first few months in London eating out and trying new restaurants, I’ve had to tame it back a bit after taking one too many bites out of my bank account! One of the best vegan/vegetarian spots I have discovered though has to be Bonnington Café. Located just a short walk from Vauxhall station, it’s a community café that has been around since the 80s and began as a venue for squatters. While the menu is simple, the homemade food is delicious and well-priced. It’s also BYO with no corkage charge.

Closer to home in Notting Hill, brunch is still one of my favourite things to do but every now and then I turn on the Masterchef mode and head to the Portobello Markets on Saturdays to buy some fresh produce from the local stalls and bread from Fabrique Bakery to create my own brunch. There are many cafés and restaurants in the area but having tried many of them, the best coffee I found is actually in a little café called Sweet Things just off Portobello Road. If you go during the week there’s normally an Australian girl there who manages the place and makes great coffee. The wifi is good with also power plugs on the tables, so I’ve spent a few days working there recently and rewarding myself with their carrot cake.

One Month in London

This week marked the one-month anniversary of my move to London and what better way to celebrate than with the first post of my new blog!? I’ve been sitting on this for a while and I promise I had the absolute BEST intentions to get this started as soon as I practically got off the plane from India (but that’s another story saved for another day). Time somehow seemed to get away so quickly since day one in London in between the dazzling lights of Christmas, a New Year with a countdown one minute early and that trip to Copenhagen…

Anyway, with the festive season over and it’s official that I have survived my first 30 days of London winter, I now have no excuse (besides searching for a way to supplement my spending)!

So what have I been doing and how did I spend my Christmas and New Year in London?

Firstly I’ll tell you that while I’m yet to find my dream job, I’ve managed to accomplish some adult things like moving into a flat, getting a bank account plus a UK phone number, applying for my National Insurance Number and most importantly, joining a gym. I won’t deny that some of this was made a little easier by the convenience of having a boyfriend who’d already moved here from Australia a few months earlier (enough time for him to develop what he believes is a ‘legitimate English twang’ to his voice, I beg to differ) so trust me, I have counted my blessings. If you want to hear an expat horror story, just ask any foreigner about their time searching for a suitable non-extortionist flat in London… in saying that though, every flat of my Australian friends I have visited so far is nice, you just need to take some time looking around and be prepared for a bit of stress on you and your bank account. Bonds aren’t always cheap and often you’ll have to provide proof from your employer that your salary is enough to cover monthly rent, which can be difficult if you are still looking for work.

Now on to the fun stuff that, I’m not going to lie, pretty much makes up everything else. I believe it fits nicely into three simple categories; eating, touristing and fiesta(ing?)…

EATING

I’m not a huge foodie (my friends who believe/know I can’t cook will attest to this) but I do try to eat healthy and can appreciate a tasty (and hopefully) nutritious meal. The thing is, after being vegetarian for two years I have finally come to realise that finding decent places to eat can be a matter of life and death(bycarbs) plus cheese and peanut butter can only get you so far.

What’s great about London though is that restaurants and cafes almost always have vegetarian options while wholefood stores are definitely not few and far between. Within the first four weeks of being here I took it upon myself to sample a few of the local places in my area and while they can be overpriced, for the most part they are delicious. Also grabbing organic chocolate from the wholefood stores makes it so much more healthy, right? Like Australia, avocado on toast is a thing here too while brunch is just as popular as back home except one key extra: the option of bottomless prosecco. Need I say more?

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Visited the vegan-inspired ‘Farmacy’ twice already!

TOURISTING 

Ok so I’ve been to London as a tourist a couple of times before, the first was on my inaugural “Eurotrip” eight years ago where, in my final year as a teenager, I thought Camden was the greatest place ever while taking a ride on the London Eye + getting the souvenir photo was absolutely essential. Besides that though I visited the typical sites, you know The British Museum, Big Ben, The Tower of London, Hyde Park… but looking back and thinking I’d “seen it all” was a massive underestimation. There are still so many things on my list of things to see and there is SO MUCH TO DO in London.

Although I’ve moved here with the intention of becoming a ‘local’, I openly admit that I’d never really been to the West of London until now. In saying that then, I’ve been taking the time to get to know the area and explore the city. Some of the highlights would include afternoons spent at Portobello Markets and Borough Markets (Portobello Road is literally a two minute walk down from me), a visit to the Tate Modern, seeing a  couple of theatre shows and going up on the viewing platform of the iconic Shard courtesy of a best friend who gave me tickets as a farewell gift.

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Exploring the pretty streets of Notting Hill
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The Thames from Tate Modern
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View from the Shard

FIESTA(ING)

Everyone says Christmas is truly magical in London and it’s the truth. The lights on Oxford Street, the carols, the sparkling trees shining through peoples’ windows, and just the general festive buzz is something unique. Then there’s Winterland Wonderland in Hyde Park, which is kind of like Oktoberfest in London minus the dirndls and lederhosen. I kid you not, there are even Bavarian beer halls. I spent Christmas Day a bit differently than I would in Australia, beginning with a midnight mass the night before at the local chapel, something I’d never done before. In the morning, I FaceTimed my parents where I found and opened the presents they’d hidden in my suitcase then made pancakes for breakfast before heading off to feast at a friend’s house with his family who were so nice to invite us over to spend the day with them. There were the cheesy Christmas sweaters, festive movies, games and round two of presents but I can tell you now that it was also the first time I’d ever had Indian food on Christmas day.

New Year’s Eve was also different to the norm in Australia, where the whole day is spent drinking in the sun and the whole night is spent, well, drinking in the dark. Getting back from Copenhagen at midday did not have a bearing on our plans as I found out that for Londoners the biggest events are often held on New Years Day and most people tend to go to house parties at night on NYE. And supposedly it’s only the dedicated tourists or “grown-ups” who camp out for hours, in the cold (and sometimes winter rain) to watch the fireworks on the Thames. In considering this then, we had a four-course pub dinner with some British friends and danced the year away at a NYE party instead. Come countdown however the DJ was a little too keen and did the New Year countdown a minute before the rest of the country. Regardless of this, I’ve had a great (and minute early) start to 2017 and am so ready for a year full of possibility ahead.

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The magic of Winter Wonderland
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Homes like this make Christmas in London special