The last week was filled with appointments and “things-to-do”s.
First we got new, local SIM cards for our phones. We realised that our monthly phone bill will be less than half of what we used to pay in the States. Even with adding smart phone service for Hannah and a new smart phone for Tristan (the phone we paid for outright: no contract) service is still cheaper for 4 smart phones than it was for 2 smart phones and one dumb phone in Seattle. Win!!! We relocated from our hotel in the Financial district to Peckham in order to be closer to the house hunt. These two areas of London are VERY different indeed. The financial district, as in any other big city I suppose, is filled with busy people in suits rushing places…and tourists.
Peckham has a distinct working class, multinational cosmopolitan feel. No obvious tourists here. Tristan and I started a count: How many native British people can we meet in a day. We judged on dialect/language. Lets just say there weren’t many.
Right! We are in Peckham, close to Hannah’s college. A good base to start the house hunt. Distance to Hannah’s college, distance to potential work places for Kath, quality of schools for Tristan, feel of the neighbourhood were all taken into consideration.
Over the course of the week we looked at ten places in greater southeast London. We got ourselves Oyster cards (London metro transit passes.) We used a taxi once and realised we could do all of our travel with public transport. London’s transport infrastructure is outstanding. AND we were walking. Walking like I have never walked before. I walked more in the past week than in the past two decades combined. I did not realise that when we embarked on this journey I also somehow must have signed up for a hard core exercise program.
The upside of all this walking and tootling around on buses and overground trains is that we are getting a great sense of this part of the city. It is also a better way to judge the potential commutes, as we wouldn’t be doing those by taxicab.
The flats/houses we looked at:
Friends, we were in some places this week that made me wonder if we had been transported to the pre world war era. Naked light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, peeling wall paper, clothe drying lines strung up in bedrooms, mattresses that tell stories of incontinence and careless love acts. Places that should be burnt, not rented. And yet, they were going for a handsome $2000 a month. You had to see it to believe it.
All right, those were the lows. Those were also the places that had been listed on rightmove.co.uk for several months, and probably will be there for the next few months.
In the end we found a lovely 3 bedroom family home near Hither Green. Ten minute train ride south east of Hannah’s college. Great place, end of block terraced house, easy walking distance to shops (yes, more walking), 10 minute walk to a major supermarket. Quick transportation links into the city. Outstanding public schools within 1-2 miles for Tristan. The landlords are a couple that is going to Australia for a few years, very similar to what we are doing.
Our real estate agent is outstanding to work with, helping us with the logistics of renting a place when you have no credit history in the country, or previous address, or bank account.
The house is not available till the 20th of July so we are heading out of town to lie low for a week while the tenant referencing happens. Kathleen found a B&B near Brighton with internet connection so I can get some work done. It is just a few minute’s walk to the beach.
We also rented a small storage unit to dump most of our suitcases and just take the essentials with us to the seaside.
Let me just say a word or two about food prices:
Yes, you can get yourself that $15 sandwich in London, hell you can get that $15 sandwich in any larger city. We started going to supermarkets for our food most days. With a few exceptions food here (bread, fruit, vegetables, meat) can be up to a third of what I paid back in the US. I always felt that $4 was too much for cherry tomatoes. Here they are $1.50; or that $4 was too much for a baguette…I found it here for under a dollar (and its bigger). This is also true for cheese, smoked fish (yes, you can afford that lox), cold cuts etc.
I realise that all of this might change if this whole Brexit thing happens, but for now its good… really good.