I can’t believe it’s only been 2 weeks since we arrived. The last 2 weeks have been both fun frustrating, I think the biggest surprise has been how different things are here while at times being so much the same.
We live in the Wokingham area of Reading, about 30 miles west of London. Neighbourhoods are organized as villages, normally centred on a few pubs and a post office. We have easy access to central Reading, shopping, Patrick’s school and Jamie’s work so it’s a great location. The house is fairly new so the appliances and the features of the home are nice but I have had to readjust what my version of small is in the last 2 weeks. Before the movers came to pack our things from the Duvall house we really tried to go through and get rid of the things we didn’t need, well the definition of what you don’t need is very different based on the size of house you are moving into. Since we didn’t yet have the house we had no idea how little space there would be, for example we have 3 bathrooms which is a luxury around here, but each bathroom has only a pedestal sink so there is not one bathroom cabinet or drawer in the entire house! Thank goodness for my Mom because we spend the majority of the first week organizing, cleaning out and running back and forth from the B&Q (think Home Depot) to find creative solutions. Now 2 weeks later the house feels like home.
I’m amazed by how well settled Patrick is. He goes to The Forest School and has his group of friends that are all in his classes. He’s been the first to start to pick up the sayings and is quick to correct me when I use the American words. Chips are now crisps thank you very much. He is also navigating the buses like a pro and played tour guide to Grandma that first weekend. I think they covered half of the Rick Steve’s book in one day, they both got home exhausted.
I’m driving here which is good and bad. I feel like a new driver all over again because I have to pay such close attention while driving. First there is the whole opposite side of the road issue, which is actually easier to adjust to then I anticipated. The hard part is the fact that the speed limit goes from 30 to 60 to 30 again as you go in and out of roundabouts everywhere you go, people drive fast but then there are also speed cameras on every street. So you need to drive too fast but try not to get a ticket while trying to navigate roundabouts that seem set up to trick you.
It really is amazing to see so much history on a daily basis, we pass buildings that are hundreds of years old or out of nowhere will be an old cross or statue. Sometimes it seems unreal that these towns have been there for so long that you can see different periods of history in one street’s architecture. But then in central Reading there’s The Oracle which could easily be in Seattle with its high end shops, movie theatre and restaurants. The little kids, Grandma and I had lunch at jamie’s italian, the Jamie Oliver restaurant and it was delicious.
We have managed to do some sightseeing; so far my favourite has been the town of Windsor. The castle was amazing and the town itself was so charming. Walking around the streets I felt like I could spend hours exploring each alley and am looking forward to going back since it’s only about 30 minutes away. Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral made up another days excursion. London of course has so much to see. We took the train in last weekend and started our day at Trafalgar Square which now has a countdown clock to the 2012 London Olympics, we then walked to Parliament and Big Ben passing 10 Downing Street along the way. We had lunch in the park across from Buckingham Palace then took a bus tour of the city. Kellen was in heaven, he’s obsessed with trains and buses so to not only get to ride both but to ride a double decker in the open section on top was almost too much.
Those were really our big tourist days. The rest of the time I have been trying different grocery stores, attempting to get a cell phone and exploring our immediate area to get a better sense of direction. Having always lived in Seattle or the Eastside I always had a general sense of how to get where I needed to go, you always know where north is or how to get home. Moving somewhere totally new I have no sense of direction, thank goodness for GPS.
We had to take Grandma to the airport on Friday, it was sad to see her go. I can’t thank her enough for all of her help. When we arrived and I saw a house that was already overflowing but still full of unpacked boxes I was totally overwhelmed and as usual she had the vision. This was our first weekend without a visitor so we took it much easier. After a much needed lazy Saturday we drove into London today and checked out the Covent Garden Market, the kids loved the street performers and we had a great lunch.
So now 2 weeks into our adventure it is starting to feel somewhat like home. There have been moments that I have wanted to pull my hair our, like when I’ve gotten off on the wrong street from the stupid roundabout for the 2nd or 3rd time. There are things that surprise me, they swear freely on TV and actually show nudity as well, so far it’s mainly been men’s naked butts much to Jamie’s disappointment. There have also been those wow moments, driving down a road and realizing I’m passing the location of the Ascot races, riding the bus over London Bridge or even just passing a Celtic cross of the way to Patrick’s school that’s at least 300 years old.