03 October 2013

Starting a New Life

I wanted to title this "Adjusting to Life in the UK" but I don't think I'm quite there yet. I don't have to adjust to anything just yet. I'm still staying at a friend's house in a nice part of London and have my days open and free to what I feel like doing. School officially starts on Monday and I do have a workshop I'm participating in on Saturday, but until then, I'm a bit footloose and fancy free.

My UK phone is officially set up, though I can't say I've mastered what's going on with my pay-as-you-go plan. My official Helper On All Things Britain is currently very, very sick and even though explaining things and helping organize are some of her favorite things to do, she has zero energy. This is my friend Laura, who I lived with when I studied abroad here the first time. She's absolutely lovely and can translate anything for me. (Yes, sometimes I need things described in an American way, she had an American step-dad so she's good in the translation arena.)

I'm getting quite excited about signing the paperwork for my flat. I'm heading to the estate agent (in US=Realtor) with my new flatmate tonight, yes we're meeting for the first time ever when we get there. Just jumping right in to a 12-month contract with a stranger (with two strangers, as there's a third room a guy is taking). There's no way this is risky at all. Feeling completely comfortable. Well, actually I am, cause I skyped with her and she is just lovely. I'll get to actually see the flat afterwards and I move in next week.

I've been researching gym's, local pools and yoga classes as well. Not sure if I can do yoga classes, depends on my class schedule, but I am really pumped to get back into exercising. I feel like once I start working out again, I'll really feel like I live here. Is that weird? On vacation I never work out...so it feels a bit like that.

Yesterday I didn't get up to much other than muck about on the internet in the morning, then visited sick Laura (if I get deathly ill in the next week, we'll know who to blame), and had an absolutely lovely home cooked meal with my hosts. Hilda made me butternut squash soup (with crème fraîche, never say no to crème fraîche), lamb chops with potatoes and ratatouille, and Merlot to sip on. I always get a spark of happiness through me whenever someone cooks for me. It's just the best thing. Absolutely love it.

That was quite a bit healthier than other choices I've made this week.

Shake Shack for the win.
 I just had to go to Shake Shack for lunch on Tuesday and honestly, I've been thinking about it ever since. So, so good. Can't help it. It's the American in me. My sister will be happy to see that ("you're AMERICAN damnit, act like it.")

When I was checking out a fancy coffee shop (still the American-me) called Notes, I found they served it in a glass carafe. I almost turned the barista away when she brought it over because....embarrassed to admit this, I couldn't quite understand her accent (if you've never been to the UK, you'd be surprised to learn that accents can make things hard to understand sometimes, despite speaking English....also, I swear I'm partially deaf) and I thought she was bringing me some kind of weird iced tea. But I did try it and the coffee itself was delicious. I swear, I will always love drip filter coffee (coffee grounds in a cone, water poured slowly over it and it takes a minute or two for it to filter down). Speaks to my soul, this stuff does. And don't you dare come near me with cream or sugar. Just about sacrilegious in my book.

Another fun thing I tried: muesli. I think we have it in America too, but it's just not very common. It was never anything I had heard of till living in London. It's really just like granola ingredients, though it doesn't seem to be oily at all or baked in something like that. My hosts explained that I just add milk and eat like cereal. It was lovely. I think it might be quite sugary which would make sense since I liked it. It just can't be that healthy. Yum!

Today I'll be off to get some coffee in town at my favorite take-away spot, New Row, and wander around a bit. I'm heading to Greenwich early to read some of my text for school at the local bookshop in the cafe before I meet up with my flatmate.

Lindsay xx

01 October 2013

First Day in London; Or What I Ate to Keep Awake

It should come to no one's surprise that I have a serious love of food in London. I can't link up all the posts I've done on food because it would be too many for me not to be embarrassed. 

The first thing I did in London wasn't actual eating. Cause I had to drop my luggage off and say hello to my hosts of course! My luggage was so heavy that I could just make it onto the Heathrow Express and get myself to Paddington. From there I had to cab it to my host's house because I just couldn't tackle the tube and piss off that many people in one go. I was terribly obnoxious with my load of cases and slow moving gait. The cab was quick and only 12 pounds.

My hosts for the next 9 days are the aunt and uncle of some family friends. They are truly lovely and so kind to let me stay. I don't know what I would have done without their generosity. I hope someday I can pay that forward and help out friends of friends in the same manner. Till I have a spare room, in 9 days or so I should have a very lovely floor in my new flat to offer my friends to stay on. Maybe I'll lend you towels and give you a mint, just to be fancy.

After I had a cup of tea and chatted a bit with my hosts, I walked to Westfield the largest and most American shopping center in the UK. Great big mall only a few blocks away from my where I'm staying. Lovely. I needed to speak to O2 people about my phone situation, but first, I needed to celebrate being in London with my first meal choice. Always gonna be Wagamama. I absolutely love them. I know I've had something else on their menu besides this meal, but I am really suck on Chicken Tama Rice. It's "grilled chicken breast, stir-fried with courgettes (British word for zucchini), mushroom, red and spring onions in a oyster, ginger, garlic and wine sauce. Served on sticky white rice." (from their menu online) Delicious. And I just had to have a glass of pino grigio. Cause ya know...celebrating. Also saying goodbye to having lunches like this considering that I will be a student soon and need to accept that I'm poor.

Instagrammed in all it's finest.
 After that I checked out the phone company and got a new SIM card for my Mom's old iPhone, paid for it, and then found out I need it "unlocked" from the US. So my parents are currently working on that so I use a UK SIM card on a phone bought in the US. So if you're moving over here, make sure you do that before you leave...if you have an iPhone. Otherwise, just get a new freaking phone here. They had pay-as-you-go long before we did in the US.

After that I could feel the jet lag starting to get to me. Needed coffee stat. I do tend to switch over to drinking tea when I'm in England because it's more common to find a good cup of tea than a good cup of coffee. But this being London and all, I just went over to the Covent Garden area and grabbed an expensive cup of drip filter from New Row Coffee for £2.70 ($4.38). Delicious and so worth it. Love it that there are a few places I can get, for a price, some good coffee that is not instant. (Just stop it Brits, and Starbucks, no more of this instant coffee. It's crap.)

Of course after texting on the app "What's App" with my American friend, Megan, who joined me in London adventures on last year's trip, I just had to go to a place I knew she was missing. Ben's Cookies. Seriously just the best cookies ever.
Drool worthy and so many choices!

I always love the chocolate and orange cookie. THE BEST.
 After that I really just wandered around for ages. Funnily enough, while leaving Covent Garden, I walked past a woman with this really cute, tailored looking, tweed jacket. I love checking out the different pieces women are wearing around London. The fashion is different from what you'd see in America, obviously. So it's fun to figure out how I should start piecing together outfits. I glanced at the woman's face, almost stopped and yelled "AMANDA" to her. But didn't cause that would be weird. Then everyone around me would have thought "weird American..." and I get enough of that already. She looked just like a blogger I read and who has been helping me with visa stuff via email. I thought it couldn't be her and I just am online too much. Turns out it was her, which I found out after DM'ing her on Twitter. Seeing people you know so randomly like that makes London feel a little smaller and more manageable, honestly.

I wandered over to this cafe chain called Eat to make use of their electrical outlets to charge my phone and use the wifi. And then headed towards the National Theatre's giftshop. I was hoping to buy my friend Caitlin's poster which they sell, but they don't have it in the store just yet. You can check out her awesome, kick ass artwork here.
Outside the National Theatre.

Just a cool ad outside the Airstream Cafe, which is you pass on Southbank.
To cap it all off, I needed steak & ale pie. Will not be eating this everyday, promise. Just, ya know, maybe every other day. I dedicated it to my friends Jenn and Eddie, who share my love for this dish and for all things British, especially Doctor Who. I had to have an Aspall's Cyder with it as well. I've grown to like this cider much better than Strongbow. I can thank a lovely English stage manager friend for that.
I love any place with free wifi.

Cider selfie. I wanted to make the group of business people having dinner  near me feel awkward with my many obvious selfie attempts.

Like this one. I call it the "I love PIE" selfie. This is probably why I don't get hit on in bars anymore.

Just the best food ever.
After that cider, I had to head home quickly in order to make it to bed before I passed out where ever I was. Going to bed at 8pm and getting up at 6 is definitely the way to go. I may continue that pattern for the next few days while I don't have school. Yay!

Lindsay xx

Let the Expat Adventures Begin

If you follow me on Twitter ( @LindsayDinsyDay ) or we're friends on Facebook (sorry, no blog FB page just yet. Just my regular IRL persona) you'll have read that I did indeed get my visa approved. Of course it was extremely last minute. I called A Briggs on Friday and they said I had to get an email from the Consulate telling me it was issued (never did), or I could call them after their last pick up at 430. So I did call them, after coming to terms that I was probably going to pay a shit ton of money to delay my Sunday flight but it was fine, and then they told me my visa was issued and I could get it Saturday! HURRAH!

Then I said "fuck, I need to pack" and scrambled for the rest of the weekend trying to get my shit together. It's hard to move when you have a 50 lb limit on suitcases and have to pay if you want to check more than one. But I did, damnit (paying $100 for the second..but totally worth it).

Brown bag is from Anthropology and was a gift to myself...from myself. For not developing an ulcer from the visa wait.
Before I left I also made sure to do the most "American" things I could think of. Ate apple cider donuts, took a trip to Wegmans (WEGGIES I miss you already!!), spent at least an hour at Target and left it more than $100 poorer (always worth it). I also checked out the pumpkin displays currently at Wegmans in Pittsford. Crazy and makes me just want to have a carving party with hot spiked cider and watch Halloween movies.

I was able to say goodbye to the family, on my Mom's birthday no less, in the morning. They were off to a Bills game, which worked perfectly for me only cause then I could focus on packing, unpacking, re-packing. It's a fun dance, you should try it.
Me and ma laaaadies. Sister, me and Mom. Guess which one of us is not a football fan?
My sister-in-law was super awesome and drove me to the airport and even waited while I got my luggage weighed and checked in, just in case I needed to unload some of it to her. Luckily, I just had to shift some shoes and a book or two to my carry on. YES I'm packed books. I can't live without a few near me. YES I have a kindle, and NO it's not enough for me. Additionally, I was only in London for a matter of hours before I bought another book. In my defense, it's one I wanted for awhile but couldn't get in the US unless I bought used on Amazon. It's called Be Awesome and you should check it out. If you're in America, I can totally give you my copy when I'm done. You're welcome.

Flying over was okay. I'm so uber picky when it comes to what airlines I use. After my trips earlier this year, I can cross Air Canada off my list. Absolutely did not like them at all. Entertainment and food. Those are the main things I'm looking for when clocking 7 hours in the air. If you mess those up, then all I can do is focus on how much I hate the small seats, what is that smell, and how much it sucks if you re-seat me to a middle row seat when I specifically chose an aisle seat so I could get up and use the bathroom whenever (I'm looking at you still Air Canada).

I couldn't afford Virgin Atlantic for this trip because I bought my tickets just three weeks ago and buying that close only gives you expensive options with them. They have way less flights than other carriers, so my recommendation is use them but buy your tickets early. I chose British Airways for this round because I have good memories of them from when I studied abroad. Except I wasn't flying with British Airways for this trip, oh no, they outsourced me to American Airlines. I spent the first hour of the flight wondering if I had booked directly through American Airlines if my flight would have been cheaper...probably.

The entertainment was sucky. My tv didn't work, and neither did another lady's in my row. The flight attendants could give two shits about it and after my first polite complaint they never really came within my vicinity again, unless armed with wine. Well done, good choice. Luckily it wasn't a big deal because the flight wasn't full so me and the other lady both moved over one and still had an open seat between us. Also it was the kind of in-flight entertainment where you have to "catch" your program at a certain time. No pausing or watching a new program whenever you like. But I guess it's better than nothing (looking at you STILL Air Canada).

For your enjoyment....or maybe just for mine...I took a photo of the food too. So in case you've never done an overseas flight, this is what you get with this particular carrier. Pro tip: bring snacks for the plane. And to help with turbulence nerves you can be like me and ALWAYS chose the wine option when offered a drink (it's freeeeee). Though don't ask for breakfast cause then they give you funny looks....
First snack. Wine and nuts.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner. And wine (not shown cause I was chugging. Kidding.).
 Dinner: chicken in a mysterious sauce. Salty and delicious though. Mashed potatoes and I think green beans. Surprisingly good salad cause it was covered in Parmesan cheese. Pepper cream dressing, Gruyere cheese, some crackers, a roll, and a sweet biscuit. It was an okay meal. Better than the crap I've had on other flights that was practically inedible (SERIOUSLY, Air Canada.)
Kind of hate un-inventive breakfasts such as these. Heartburn city too. 
Breakfast was served about 45 minutes before we landed. Something I actually appreciate because once you de-plane you'll be running around for ages trying to get where you're going. You need that energy right before you go. The croissant was warmed, which was a present surprise. There was butter and jam, a sugary strawberry yogurt which I didn't touch and some orange juice that I left as well. And I had quite a good cup of tea with milk too.

Overall, it was an okay flight. I would have really disliked them if it was a full flight, but I was able to snooze with empty seats on either side of me. Really wished I could have been on an actual British Airways flight, but c'est la vie.

Aren't you glad I just did a whole post on my flight? Me too. I always wanted to write one of those. Just like a real cantankerous travel writer. I'm like thisclose to being the next Bourdain.

Next post will be all about what I got up to my first day while wandering around London, fighting off jet lag. (A hint: food.)

Lindsay xx