“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener
I live in London. I got off a plane on Friday at Gatwick, arriving in a place I had never been, and I was home. What a strange feeling. I love Michener’s quote, because when I find myself saying “is it like _____ in Canada?” or “I really miss (insert name of some kind of food),” I try to remind myself that we moved here to experience this culture, not to bring Canada with us. This is home now. Troy met me at the airport which was the best way to start this adventure, because the transit system can be a bit overwhelming and it was such a relief not to have to navigate it alone, with arms full of luggage, upon arrival.
Troy took Monday and Tuesday off, which was a thoughtful surprise especially after having been apart for more than two months. It gave us a chance to explore our neighbourhood together.
Our flat is in the neighbourhood of Rotherhithe, in the Borough of Southwark. It is small, but clean and bright and has a private garden in the back. Fun facts: Southwark is home to a 13th century manor home of King Henry III, and is also home to Shakespeare’s Globe theatre. For an English major, History minor, and lover of both, Troy could not have picked a more perfect area for us! Our first meal was dinner at the Blacksmith’s Arms, a lovely pub just a few minutes’ walk from here, and the food was amazing- which put my fears about British food quickly to rest.
After dinner, we walked along the Thames and then throughout our neighbourhood. This area was all dockyards until the 1970s and so the residential development here is very new by British standards. Because of the dockyards, there is water all around us. We have a pond across the street, another down the road, and then Canada Water the other way down the road, plus some canals and such. It’s quite picturesque.
In my first week, I got in a bit of exploring as I adjusted to the 8 hour time difference. I glimpsed St. Paul’s Cathedral (below, left), which is massive! I can’t wait to go back and explore it fully. St. Paul’s is visually impressive, and has an incredible history. After the Great Fire of 1666, it was rebuilt according to a design by the world-renowned Christopher Wren, and it survived the Blitz despite having been identified as a key target. Here’s a weblink for more info on St. Paul’s if you’re interested. I highly recommend it- especially the section entitled “War’s Greatest Picture.”
Troy and I climbed the Monument (above, right); a 311 step tower that was built from 1671-1677 to commemorate where the Great Fire began. It was such a surreal feeling to climb the tower, running our hands along the railing and knowing that we had become part of its history. We wandered through Soho the other day, and did some shopping on Oxford Street (by shopping, I mean that we went to the 3 storey Lush store, and bought lots of bath bombs). Soho was amazing and FULL of fabric stores! I definitely need to find myself a used sewing machine so that I have an excuse to buy fabric here! We went to an Irish pub called Waxy O’Connors. It has multiple floors which begin at street level and work their way underground, and is full of beautiful wood trim and details, and lacquered wooden floors.
In more mundane news, we bought some dishes and kitchen basics. After having stayed with friends for my last 2 1/2 months in Mission, it was quite exciting to have pots and pans and be able to cook in my own kitchen again! The little things can be such a comfort! Wednesday and Thursday we made our first dinners at home, which felt great. Wednesday, Troy returned to work and I did some exploring on my own, which included lunch with my cousin Caroline, who I had not seen in more than 20 years! It was surreal and amazing to reconnect and plan future visits. Thursday was my day of rest as the jet lag and my cold had caught up with me.
On Friday, I went to pick up my residence card from Clapham High Street. I took buses home so that I could see more of the area and walked along the Thames in the west part of Southwark, which is where I found King Henry’s manor home!
A few more pictures for the inaugural Life in London post:
On a parting note: Sunday Roast is a BIG thing here! Last week’s Sunday roast was at the Mayflower Pub. At almost 400 years old, it stakes its claim as the oldest pub on the Thames. The ambience and history were amazing but the food left us wanting. The meat was a disconcerting shade of grey, and I’m quite sure my British grandmother would have thrown the Yorkshire at the chef if given the chance. I am happy to report that last nights experience at Pub on the Park, with the backdrop of a beautiful sunset over the park and a flavourful roast, did not disappoint!
Sunday night, full from our dinner, I lay in bed, marvelling at the reality: this is where we live. There are so many things I can’t wait to see and do: exploring London; visiting the villages where my grandparents were born and the house my Grandma lived in; travelling to see family who I haven’t seen for years and others who I have yet to meet; European countries that once seemed a world away and are now on my doorstep. And it’s only just begun.