Monday, February 19, 2018

Stonehenge and Bath

So Week 6 was more unpacking, putting things away and up on walls, rearranging cabinets, and getting settled. We stocked the pantry (free grocery delivery here!!) and started cooking again, and tried to order some of the things we were missing, like all the lamps and hair dryers we had just gotten rid of. We also started to transition into daycare (called nursery here), which went mostly smoothly, though he already has a runny nose. All in all, it was another week of getting settled into the house, which meant that by the weekend - I was desperate to get out of the house. So, after a little research, we decided to try our first day trip to see Stonehenge and Bath, which are located near each other in southwest England. 

The Bus
Stonehenge is about 2 hours from London, and Bath is about 3 hours from London. I looked into trains, but to get the timing to work out - it would have required us to stretch the trip across two days, with some wasted time waiting for trains to arrive. So we somewhat begrudgingly decided to take a tour bus -  which would be faster and much cheaper, allowing us to hit both sites in one day.

We picked up the bus at 8am after a quick tube ride to the station. The kiddo was free (which is nice), but that meant that he was sitting on our laps the whole time. Surprisingly, the bus was completely packed, with both a top and bottom level and a second bus leaving at the same time. I didn't expect that many people in February. Thankfully, we brought the iPad , so he mostly watched paw patrol while I enjoyed the drive. 

squished up against the window 

After a quick 2 hour drive through some nice countryside, we arrived at the Stonehenge visitors center, where we picked up a shuttle bus to drive to the stones. Even though there were a lot of people there - it didn't seem very crowded because there's a wide circular path you follow to walk around the rocks. As we walked, we could use our little audio devices to listen to bit of info about them, even though really they don't know much about them at all. I had the idea that we should come for the lunar new year - but I was totally off. There are a bunch of theories about why the stones were placed here, but apparently no one thinks this has anything to do with the moon. The most accepted theory is that it was a seasonal calendar, because the sun rises exactly in one of the arches during the summer equinox and another in the winter equinox - but that doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Seems like you could've built something much smaller with easily available stones for the same function. Anyhoo.

The path was pretty muddy and long, so a stroller or scooter would not have even been an option and the boy tired out quickly from walking - so inevitably we ended up carrying him. He is literally filling his pockets with rocks these days - so everyone's backs were hurting quickly.  The stones are really impressive and beautiful, and we were lucky to get a really clear sky and a beautiful day - which is really rare right now-  so we used the excuse to take lots of pictures and give our backs a break. 

walking towards them

Stonehenge had a new visitors center, which looked like it had some nice things to see- but there was no time for that. The bus kept a very tight schedule and actually drove off without a few people, who chased after us. We had a short 1 hour drive, so the boy took a quick nap.

Then we arrived in Bath just around lunchtime. Bath is located on a natural hot spring, so the Romans built a whole vacation destination city here, with a remaining bath house still in good shape. In the 1600s, the Georgians (who had really nice architecture) built up the city also as a vacation spot for the wealthy, using this yellow stone from a nearby quarry, resulting in a very tidy and lovely little village.  We quickly ditched the group, walked around town a bit, and found lunch.

still sleepy

bridge over the river

high street

spire of the abbey

the abbey and front of bath house

The Baths
Then we met up the group again to go into the bath museum. It had a few exhibits about the Romans and their structure, but it was really all about the main bath itself. Of course, as a historical site, you aren't allowed to go in the water, which was very confusing for the boy who kept pointing out that it was warm water and would be a good bath tub (though it was so full of algae). With the abbey just behind it - it was just beautiful.

view from the top level

view from the lower level 

explaining why he can't go in

tasting the water at the end of the tour (supposed to have magical medicinal powers)

Quick Walk around Town
Then we did a quick snack break and were lucky to catch a violinist in one of the squares near the abbey. It was just a beautiful town and would've been nice to spend a bit more time in - but we had to get back to the bus for the 3 hour drive back to London.

we don't know how to travel without pastries

going up to give change all by himself!

So I think we're still undecided on the bus tour thing. On the one hand - it was nicely timed to allow us just enough time to see the big sites all in one day. Our bus fare covered admission into both sites as well, so it was both easy and much cheaper than the train would have been. Unlike a car, they did all the driving, so we didn't have to navigate or anything and could play with our phones on the way. On the other hand- we were really tied to their schedule which was tight - so there was no way to stay a bit longer if we wanted. Most importantly, on the ride home, the boy was exhausted and decided to just melt down.  There was no place to take him - so I just felt mortified for our neighbors. At least a train is a bit bigger, and we could've taken him for a walk to another car or something. Also - even though it was easy to ditch the group off of the bus - on the bus we were completely stuck. So when our tour guide wanted to just talk for hours on end - we couldn't escape him. I'm thinking we might want to try renting a car or taking the train for our next trips - but we'll keep the bus tour as an option. All in all, it was a nice getaway from the city.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Moving and Unpacking

So the end of our 4th week here in London was all about prepping for the move - getting the lease signed at the last minute and arranging for the moving trucks and movers. Our 5th week has been all about unpacking and settling in.

On Saturday we came to the new house to meet the property management company for a very thorough walk through. We hung out in the empty house briefly, trying to decide where everything should go. Then Sunday we packed up the temporary house, which had accumulated more stuff than I  realized, and two trucks came to pick everything up. We spent that afternoon putting a few things away, but without furniture - we couldn't do much and had to go back to the temporary house to sleep. Monday morning, we came back to the new house to meet the movers and the huge shipping container. They spent a few hours that day getting everything into the house. They came back the next day to finish getting everything unwrapped and out of boxes - but most things didn't have anywhere to go, so they just got dumped on the floor.

first day - finding places for the furniture to go

snowing on moving day - just like our last move

end of first moving day - everything inside but still wrapped up

So after the movers left, I got to work unpacking. I've been moving through the house, spending an hour or so in every room every day, just making things incrementally better. At the end of the week, things are now feeling kind of familiar, but there's still a lot to do. We have way too much stuff - and even though we picked this house because it had better storage than most, we just have nowhere to put a lot of things.

First Floor
A quick house tour - keeping in mind that we're still getting things unpacked:

When you come in the door, there's a long hallway back to the kitchen that has this great tile floor.

entryway floor

very ornate front door 

There are two living rooms. We wanted the front one to be for adults, but it is constantly full of toys anyway. We think the fireplace works, but haven't figured it out yet. 

front living room

Grandpa's window is up and looking cool

these things are fun- they really shine in the sunlight

possibly working gas fireplace

Behind the front living room is a smaller living room that's perfect for all the toys. It has a whole wall of cabinets for extra storage. 

the toy room

So behind the toy room is a short hallway back to the kitchen. This is a common renovation - it used to be an outside side garden that has been closed in with lots of skylights on top so that the kitchen can be bigger. Because of all the skylights - both the kitchen and toy room are super bright.  Because of the extension - our table and buffet can fit (they wouldn't fit in most of the houses we looked at), but the kitchen itself is still really small. One thing we really liked about it though, is that the whole back wall opens up onto the back yard - which should be awesome when it gets a bit warmer. 

the skylights along the kitchen extension

our buffet and table fit because of the extension

the super small kitchen

kitchen and dining room

back wall of doors

Second Floor
So upstairs is the master bedroom - another huge selling point for this house. Not only is the room itself huge - biggest in the house - but they turned the small bedroom next to it into a walk-in closet. Most houses we looked at had small cabinets or wardrobes, but this room has a massive closet that's almost as big as the one we left behind. It also has a great little fireplace. 

huge bedroom

lots of stuff to be put away still

closet room

closet room fireplace

master bathroom

So we debated which room should be the boy's. Ultimately we decided to put him in the room on the same floor as the master in case he wakes up in the middle of the night - but it's the smallest room in the house.  We haven't gotten his chair in there yet and will have to take it apart to fit through the door. We didn't need his dresser, because of the built-in closet. Even so - it's looking pretty nice in there with all the things on the walls and ceiling.

boat kite in the corner

his map above his fireplace

mobile above space for the chair

Third Floor
Up another flight of stairs is the office, another bathroom, the guest room and its ensuite. I'm not a big fan of the one bathroom, which is where the laundry is hidden. The office will be nice, but needs lots of unpacking. Spouso will be teleworking 2 days a week - so it was important to get a nice space.

bathroom with laundry under the sink

the office

more office

All the way up is one of the coolest places in the house. The guest room is huge, and has a really nice bathroom with a tub. I think eventually this will be the kiddo's room - but for now it will be the guest room. It is also accumulating everything that has nowhere to go - so we'll have to do something about that. 

guest room with juliet balcony

little window in the eaves

nice bathroom

Other Thoughts:

  • Stairs
  • There are a lot of stairs in this house, even though it thankfully only has 3 flights. There are even stairs on each floor - the master bedroom is one step up from the rest of the floor and the guest room is 5-6 steps up from the rest of the third floor. My knees hurt. 

so many steps
  • Wooden floors
  • One of the features of the house that we liked was that there are wooden floors everywhere, and on the 2nd and 3rd floors they are original with lots of character. But now I'm thinking it's a bit too much character - lots of gaps and holes - so maybe I want a few more rugs. 

original wood floors

  • Other Character
  • The house also has some cool features like ceiling medallions, huge crown molding, and these random guys on the 2nd floor. 

crown molding guys
  • Light
  • It's funny to me that we traded out one row house for another row house (called terraced houses here), but this one is so much brighter. Maybe it's because of the layout with the side yard to allow windows on the interior walls, or maybe it's because we don't have dark trim here,  or maybe it's because of the high ceilings and recessed lights - but it is super bright here. Especially big deal considering the constantly rainy weather we have now. 
  • Cats
  • The cats are doing fine. They didn't like getting back in their carriers for the move, but are otherwise pretty happy. Both are very interested in the back yard but haven't gone out yet. I need to patch some holes in the fence first. 

happy cats

  • Kiddo
  • I was really hoping he would've started daycare a while ago so that he wouldn't be underfoot during the move and to keep him from the stress - but that didn't happen. Instead, he's been here with me every day, taking short trips to explore the grocery stores and hardware store, and watching more Paw Patrol than I would like to keep him occupied. He was pretty confused about the couple days where we went back a forth between the new house and the temporary house, but now seems excited about "the new house with the big closet". We had a major regression on the potty training at first, but now he's doing great again as things calm down and get settled. We have a daycare picked out that should be great because it's really close to the house, and he'll start transitioning next week. 
drinking something called a "babycino" 
  • Next Steps
  • So obviously there's more unpacking to do, getting things up on the walls and feeling like home. We still need to get utilities hooked up, and there are a few other things like bank accounts to get set up. Otherwise - after 5 weeks - we're awfully close to being settled in.