I’ve not been blogging much due to a lack of time and the feeling of needing to backdate some posts to share some amazing travel experiences I’ve had since leaving New Zealand in October 2014. But so much is happening as I’ve been settling into life in London and it seems like a miss opportunity not to be writing it down. So I’m just going to start writing & will back fill some posts as time permits. I hope this is OK with you!
Holy crap… welcome back to London! After 2.5 weeks away I’ve returned to find the weather is colder, the leaves are falling off the trees (its actually quite pretty) & work is still FULL on. To make a pretty rough 2nd day back in London worse, getting out of Canary Wharf this evening was diabolical due to a DLR strike. Tonight was possibly the worst commute so far! I left work quite late (around 7pm) and by then the Canary Wharf tube station was limited to one exit, there was an obvious presence of police (with their bomb sniffing dogs) and the queues for the tube started outside the station! The mall & pubs seemed unusually busy. Being so tired from my trip I have been struggling with the crowds at Canary Wharf today, I did a U-Turn and went back to the office for a couple of hours. I couldn’t even handle going to the pub as it was too crowded!
Take 2 of my commute home involved avoidance of the tube. I got a bus to Liverpool Street and then the train to Walthamstow. It took me over 1.5hours to get home but I was quietly surprised at how lovely it is to be overground on a bus. I spent a lot of time in the area around Liverpool Street when I first arrived to London and it is VERY different to Canary Wharf in so many ways. I think my impressions of London are skewed a lot by the place I work & the area I currently live. It will be interesting to see how I feel a few months time when I will have settled into my NEW area. This weekend I’m moving into my new flat. Exciting.
I’ve been in London a week now and my first impressions on day one were that “it’s old, cold, grey and green”. It is spring here so its not actually that cold, but it was really hot in Asia and I’m a wuss when it comes to being cold.
The plan is to stay here in London, find an awesome job, settle and make the most of my new British passport. After the first week I will admit I have doubts about this plan. Yesterday I shed a few tears and thought “what the F* was I thinking?”. If I’m honest, my first impressions aren’t fantastic. But to be fair on London, being broke, unemployed and having just had 6 months in Asia (where it was warm and constantly sunny) has not helped. I also managed to get a cold on my 2nd day so have been feeling a bit rubbish.
I get the impression that many Kiwis who come to London are in awe at its size, the history and charm..etc. All of this is a little lost on me as I’ve been here before and have lived in other big cities before. I do like London, I just don’t love it yet. It is a little bit like Brussels, but not as charming or interesting. Quite frankly I’ve been spoilt by my travels and am being a little bit of a brat! I’d love to live in Europe again, but I don’t speak any other languages so it makes finding work near impossible. London is a relatively easy place to find work and my family is here, so London it is.
London is huge and I’m living on the outskirts. Commuting has never been my favourite thing and I can see there is going to be a lot of time wasted commuting in this city. The public transport is fantastic though, expensive but fantastic. My place is a 15min walk to the train station and a 30-40mins walk to the tube station. If I’m feeling lazy (or if its raining) I can catch the train to the tube station. I have decided that I prefer the train as being so far underground a little creepy. The tube is a little smelly, claustrophobic, a rabbit warren of stairs/passageways when you change lines, and it’s a little creepy. I suspect I’ll get used to it fairly quick as it’s definitely the easiest/fastest way to get around the city.
Supermarket shopping here has been a joy after 6 months in Asia. In Mysore I went to the supermarket 3-4 times and did a lot of my shopping at small local street shops/markets. In Bangkok I was disappointed by the supermarket as the food was highly processed and I couldn’t find familiar vegetables that I’d been craving. In London I found familiar fruit and vegetables, a good range of organic products and my favourite herbal tea comes from the UK so it is cheap. I also found my favourite chocolate, fresh free range organic eggs and artisan bread. There are also plenty of ‘international supermarkets’ so I was able to easily find spices, rice and chilli sauce.
The EU rules state that produce must have the country of origin in the packaging which I think is really cool, but the packaging is not so cool. Everything here comes pre-packed in plastic which is not currently recyclable. In general though, food shopping is MUCH cheaper here than in New Zealand.
They have a really good recycling system here in London that I’m impressed with. Each household has 3 bins. 1 for rubbish, 1 for compost and 1 for recycling. The rubbish bin gets collected fortnightly which forces residents to recycle and use the compost bins. They even give each house a small compost bin for the bench. As soon as the plastic packaging at the supermarket is recyclable, it will be a really good system.
The other big thing that has left an impression… central heating and double glazing is awesome. It must be costly to run the central heating, but its lovely. The whole house is warm. Er.. except my room as my radiator is a bit broken and needs fixing. Houses in New Zealand are typically very cold as we only heat the rooms that are being used, we don’t have double glazing and we have a “put a jersey on” type of an attitude. This is changing thankfully as many homes get insulated and I have a few friends who are now installing double glazing and central heating.
So, as you can see my first impressions aren’t great. But they aren’t terrible either. I’m very lucky to be able to stay with family as I get settled. I’ve got two brothers here, both with partners and one with two children who are under 4. Its been wonderful to spend time with the family and overall I’m feeling OK about the move here. My plan is to find work ASAP, find a yoga studio to go to regularly (probably one in the city) and join a local community choir. I know that if I don’t make an effort to like London, London won’t make an effort to be kind to me!
Today I had to go into the city to get my national insurance number, I decided to make the most of the trip and met my brother for lunch. I got the train to the city, found the job centre where my appointment was, dealt with English bureaucracy (terribly inefficient) and got told it will take 4 weeks to process the application.
I had a wander around Liverpool Street which seems to be where a lot of offices are. I liked the vibe and can see myself working in this area. The contrast of modern and old buildings is great, I saw the Gherkin (not sure if its real name) and checked out a street market.
After that I got the tube to Oxford Street and got lost down the backstreets of Soho. I was going to check out an art gallery but couldn’t find it. I did find lots of little shops, cafes and bars. I imagine its quite lively at night, but at 11am on a rainy weekday it was fairly quiet. I made my way to Piccadilly where I met my brother for lunch. His office has a view of Piccadilly square which is quite cool, the area is an interesting mix of tourists and suits. We met his girlfriend for lunch in a pub and after that I did a bit of window shopping and got the tube home.
So, first day sightseeing in London. I’ve been to London a few times so it wasn’t new to me, but I’ve not been here for years and it was fun to play tourist. My plan in the next few weeks is to check out the free museums and art galleries as I have a feeling that when I start working the idea of playing tourist will quickly loose its appeal.
Its been a crazy couple of weeks as I pack up my belongings, give stuff away and prepare to hit the road again. This time I’ll be away for approximately 6 months and will do some gentle travel in Thailand, India and the UK. The reason why its gentle travel is because I had hip surgery in August and I’m recovering slowly, I’m still on crutches and have a long way to go with my rehabilitation. They say this surgery takes 3 months to get over the initial surgery, and then a year to full recovery but because its my second surgery on the same hip and I’ve had the hip pain for so long, I’m in the slow lane. But I have a cunning plan to get myself back in shape, and my work has given me 6 months leave without pay to focus on my health and do some travel. Here is what I have planned:
1. 4-6 weeks in Thailand – Resting and chilling out with my family.
2. 3 months in Mysore, India – Doing yoga therapy with my teacher Vinay Kumar of Prana Vashya Yoga
3. However long I have left split between Thailand and the UK, relaxing and having fun with family (including my nieces and nephew who I miss terribly).
I’m looking forward to the yoga therapy in Mysore as this is my 5th trip to study with my teacher and I’ve had great success working with him in the past. My goal is to get the strength back in my body and then use yoga long-term to manage any residual pain and maintain my health. I’m looking forward to staying put for a while and having my own place. I’m also looking forward to hanging out with my international yoga buddies who tend to visit Mysore at this time of the year.
So that’s the plan. It will be interesting to see how it pans out and I hope I can get some actual travelling in too. Its been too long!
I will admit I quite like being on the road at Christmas time, you always end up doing something interesting and it’s nice to get away from the hype of a Western Christmas. This year a small group of yoga students went to the Regalais Hotel to hang out at the pool and have the buffet lunch. We all balked at the price tag (1000 rupees) but when we converted it into our local currencies it was very reasonable. About $20nzd for an all you can eat buffet of international standards and one ‘free’ drink.
We had our lunch at 12.30ish, went back to the pool for a bit then went back for more at 4pm. The food was amazing, I took the opportunity to eat lots of meat as I generally stick to vegetarian I’m in India. I had turkey, chicken, lamb shank and fish, as well as veggies and an assortment of puddings. It was a lovely day, spent with new and old friends.
I had a rough start to my trip as I was set up in temporary accommodation while something more permanent was found. The place I rented for 5 days was on a main road, was incredibly noisy and cost a lot of rupees. In fact, it cost me the same as what I am paying in my new place for the whole month!
Anyway, I’m in my new place now and am very happy. It’s a tiny one bedroom studio with hot water and a lovely rooftop. It’s on the outskirts of Gookolum (a suburb in Mysore) and I pass cows, chickens, goats and the occasional group of monkeys on my way to class. It’s lovely. Here are some photos: