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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Things I'm going to miss about London

By the time we move next week we will have been here for three years and four months. To me, that's a long time - it's almost as long as I lived in New York City.  And although this has been an amazing opportunity and I have so many wonderful memories, I never really called London "home".  I always saw it as a temporary move, never thought of our life here for longer than 1-2 year increments. And maybe that was part of the problem. A friend of ours mentioned that the London relocation program at her work was the least successful out of all the programs. That simultaneously did and did not surprise me. It was a little surprising to hear that employees found settling in to far away places like Singapore easier than London. And at the same time, I know exactly how they feel.

We have been looking forward to moving back to the US for quite some time now - especially since we found out about Baby C. And as much as I am looking forward to starting a new adventure in Houston, there are a few things about London that I am going to miss...

London Cabs
London Cabs are fantastic. They are bigger and roomier than NYC cabs and can fit a lot more people (and more comfortably as well). They are just as iconic as the yellow taxis of New York, albeit a bit more expensive (that exchange rate still kills me). But perhaps the best thing about London cabs are the drivers. They are usually super friendly and are eager to strike up a conversation with you. There are some times when I just want to relax and not be bothered, but more often than not I love a little conversation. They like to talk about current events, the horrible London traffic - and even better - the never-ending construction that has consumed the streets of London for the last couple of years. They always ask where I am from and always have such nice things to say about New York and the US in general. Very few times have they tried to scam me by taking me an obscure way home just to get a few more pence in their pockets. And the training that they have to go through in order to get their license is really admirable. This is taken from the Transport for London (TFL) website, who administers the test:

"All-London drivers - also known as Green Badge drivers - need a detailed knowledge of London within a six mile radius of Charing Cross.
All-London drivers' Knowledge is based on learning 320 routes (or runs). This will help them learn the 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks and places of interest in the six mile radius of Charing Cross.
It takes between two and four years to pass the All-London Knowledge. Once you are licensed you can work anywhere in the Greater London area."

London Buses
I used to take the bus every day to and from work. I can't stand taking the tube during rush hour and found the bus to be quite an enjoyable alternative. First of all you get to see more. You get to see the roads and buildings and trees and the hundreds of bikers all going to work at the same time you are. To me that wins hands down versus being stuck underground in a packed tube train like a sardine, with nothing to look at except for the other commuters who hate being on there just as much as you do. Second, if you can snag a seat on the upper deck its much more civilized than taking the tube (especially during rush hours). If you can sit upstairs then you have a seat, people don't push and you don't have to worry about more and more people cramping your space. Now, downstairs is a different story altogether so I suggest high-tailing it upstairs as soon as you get on the bus! Also, it's cheaper than taking the tube. When you're riding it twice a day, five days a week that can really add up. Sure, it does take longer than the tube. And when you have to go through a high volume traffic area (like Piccadilly Circus like I used to have to do) you can be stuck on the bus for quite a while. But at least you have a seat and you can browse the internet during your extra time.

Thanks a lot PERSON for walking in the middle of my bus photo!
Afternoon Tea
Of all the British traditions that we have been exposed to (binge drinking, fish and chips, Sunday roast) I have to say that Afternoon Tea is hands down my favorite. Think about it - you get lovely little sandwiches, warm scones with jam and clotted cream (can we just talk about how amazing clotted cream is for a second??) and little desserts and pastries. All of which are brought to you on an adorable multi-tiered cake tray, with a warm pot of tea and (more often than not, in my case) a glass of champagne! It doesn't get more perfect than that! I have had many afternoon teas during my time here, though not as many recently. I have had fancy afternoon tea, casual afternoon tea, high society afternoon tea, afternoon tea above a grungy name it, I have pretty much done it. I could go on and on for days...but instead I think I'll go make a reservation for my last afternoon tea in London - and leave you to drool at the photos (these were taken at the fancy Pret-a-Portea Fashion Afternoon tea at The Berkeley - we went right before my wedding last year)

London has some of the best and most varied markets that I have ever been to. From Borough Food Market to Columbia Road Flower Market to the vintage market on Portobello Road and everything in between - there is a market for everyone in London. There are many more that I never even had a chance to explore. Borough Market was my favorite - not only because of the amazing food but also because it was relatively close and easy to get to. Need some drop dead gorgeous flowers for a special occasion? Head to Columbia Road flower market to pick up everything that you need (make sure you build in time to grab a bite to eat from one of the local eateries and to peruse the cute shops). In search for the perfect vintage find? Portobello is the place to be. And a word to the wise for someone who wants to visit one or all of these famous markets - go early!! Tourist and locals alike gather there and the crowds can get thick. Beat the rush for the best finds and to make it out of there with your sanity still in tact.


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