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This week’s guest post for the ‘Day-to-Day’ series comes from Julie, an American expat who’s currently working and living in London. If you’re an expat and interested in sharing the day-to-day details of your city, shoot me a message at thepaperplanesblog @ gmail.com.
It’s getting to be summer in London. The days are getting long, the nights are short. It’s warm enough out for the windows to be cracked during the night, which inevitably means I am woken early by the sun, birds or both. My dog, Basil, and I take our morning walk as soon as we wake up in the morning. We go past the rose garden, several pubs that are blissfully still, and down my favourite residential street in the neighbourhood, the one with the wisteria and daily milk deliveries. I feel like I’ve stepped back in time.
When my husband and I moved from New York City to London a couple years ago, we didn’t expect the amount of green space, public gardens and blooming flowers that we found here. Thanks to the mild temperatures, spring arrives early and lingers for months. Basil, a New York dog, also appreciates it. We visit each of our neighbourhood parks in rotation each day. Late morning we go to Thornhill. Mid-afternoon we’ll walk through Barnard. It’s a lovely routine.
After our morning walk, I usually take off to the gym to get some real exercise. On Fridays I take a class called Body Attack, taught by a guy named Chris who wears an ever-changing variety of headbands. He’s hilarious and the class gets me ready for the weekend every time!
I work in the corporate world, as a marketing research consultant. That’s shorthand for lots of project management and telling people what to do. It’s fun and stressful and exciting. I spend several days each week at clients’ offices, but I also work from home, usually two days per week. On those days, I sit at our dining room table, mobile phone in one hand, and cup of tea in the other. The workday officially starts around 8:30.
One of my favourite British-found habits is my growing tea addiction. Frankly, it’s just easier to drink tea when the whole culture is set up for it (the selection of teas at the grocery store is enormous and dwarfs the coffee selection). I also feel like I get less of a caffeine jolt from tea, so I basically drink it like water. With milk and sugar, of course.
My work-at-home days are always a bit of a blur. I take a bunch of phone calls, I send a million emails, I dial into conference calls. My husband also works from home, managing our website (Drive on the Left), so we’ll frequently sit across from each other at the dining room table. I’ll read drafts of blog posts during an especially boring conference call. When I have downtime, I cycle through our social media accounts for the website – quick check of comments on Facebook, post a photo to Instagram, connect with new Twitter followers and comment on some of my favourite blogs as well. This kind of upkeep work is a nice way to take a break from my ‘day job’ so to speak, but it is easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of social media. I try and limit myself to 15 minute blocks of time here and there.
The workday ends between 5-6pm. These days it’s light out for another few hours, so we will frequently go across the street to our local pub, The Crown, for a pint of beer out in the garden. I really enjoy British beers, as they are mostly crisp and light. The heavier style American beers are just making their way over, but I usually go for a Camden Pale, brewed in London.
Living in London is very, very expensive, so my husband and I have recently started a new game where we try and find the best value restaurants in town. It gives us a good excuse to get out of our neighbourhood and the food is fantastic. (Side note: London’s restaurant scene is booming big time. As former residents of NYC, we love a great restaurant and have been thrilled with the choices here.) Last week we went to an off-the-grid restaurant behind Euston train station called Roti King. They have no website of course, and only take cash, but you can get amazing roti for less than £5. This, my friends, is a steal. It was amazing!
Given London’s proximity to Europe (and our five local airports), we travel a ton on the weekends. We try and escape town one weekend per month, or as frequently as our dog sitter is available to come and look after Basil. We went to Sweden finally for the first time a few weeks ago and loved it. It’s my personal goal to visit all European countries before it comes time to leave London. We’re a little more than halfway there.
If we’re in London for the weekend, we like to mix it up with our activities. I enjoy attending all kinds of cultural events – plays, art exhibitions, you name it. I keep track of what’s going on through Time Out London, which is a widely used resource. My husband is an avid Arsenal football fan (we live a mile from the stadium) so we also go to a nearby pub to watch the most important matches. I usually go to a match or two each season, which is surprisingly a blast. Aside from all of the extremely good looking players (yes, I notice and it helps me keep track of who’s who!), I love how much the fans love their teams. There are songs, chants and crowd waves that last literally minutes. The tickets are expensive, so it’s a treat to be able to go, but definitely worth it.
Sunday lunches are another amazing British tradition, one that we learned about upon moving here. Most pubs will do some version of a roast lunch, complete with a variety of meats, veggies, potatoes and the famous Yorkshire pudding (a puffy roll, not actually pudding). We like to show up with friends for lunch around 1pm. After a massive plate of food and one or more pints, we all waddle home for a nap. After a dose of BBC television and an evening walk with Basil, we call it a night and start a new week!