Thursday, July 31, 2008

Days Like This

As I have mentioned in the past, I am a huge fan of public transportation. However, when it is pouring buckets and I am carrying a gym bag, iron, ironing board, and two other bags filled with various additional items (at least I am going to have a clean toilet tonight), a bus packed with other wet, cranky passengers is just not my idea of fun. It is days like these that I miss the covnience of a car and garage!


Monday, July 28, 2008

Loving London

Although I dearly miss many things about my life in the states, there are loads of things in London that I have fallen in love with. Here are just a few.

1. Public Transportation- Public transportation here is amazing. While the underground is the most well known, I have become a regular on the buses. You can find me every morning on the C11 or 268 heading to the gym.

2. Cultural Diversity- It is not unusual to hear 10 or more different languages on a daily basis. I admit that I usually cannot even identify the language but I love hearing the variety.

3. Heated Towel Racks- They are standard in residental bathrooms.

4. Small Cars- It is rare to see a gas guzzler here!

5. Double Decker Buses- Who doesn't love a double decker bus? Although I have been on a double decker, I have not ridden on the top. UMMM...definitely a goal for this week.

6. Bakeries- You can find them on every corner. There is nothing better than picking up a fresh baguette on your way home from a day out.

7. No Leash Laws- There is no such thing as a leash law in London. Dogs roam freely and they are all amazingly well behaved.

8. Gardens- The British love their gardens/flowers and spend loads of time caring for them.

9. Old Homes- I love walking the streets and looking at all the old homes. While some have been renovated into flats, others remains as single homes. They all have so much character.

I am sure I will have many more things to add to the list as my time here grows.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Lazy Saturday and the Week in Review

Today, I am enjoying a lazy Saturday by myself. I am currently sitting at Starbuck's sipping a coffee (Yes, I have developed a small taste for coffee) and catching up on email, looking for jobs, etc. Jignesh left at the break of dawn yesterday for a 10 day trip to the states. While I hate being away him, this trip marks the end of all his travels for a while (at least I hope). Jignesh's trip is quite a whirlwind as it will start with a visit to Charlotte to see his Mom and sister and then proceed to Orlando for a conference. After the conference, he will head to Knoxville to visit my parents and to collect our "son." The trip will finally end with a long drive from Knoxvill to Cleveland where father and son will board a flight to London next Sunday!

I will be extremely relieved when I see Jignesh and Schlopy walk through the Gatwick airport (I think that is a future photo op). The whole process of getting Schlopy here as been long, confusing, and frustrating. I just hope all the paperwork is completed correctly and all goes well with customs. I have had nightmares about some mean customs agent who got out of the wrong side of the bed and sends Schlopy to quarantine. My parents deserve a ton of credit as they have been incredible about helping with the process... or maybe they are just anxious to get rid of Schlopy!

This week past week was a rather quiet one. I am trying to break out of my shell and meet people on my own. On Tuesday, I attended a meeting of the American Women's Club in London. I am not sure if a women's club (I will let you determine why) is my thing but I know I should give it another chance. On Wednesday, I met up with a runing group and then joined them for a pint at a pub....this is more my style. Throughtout the week, I have been slowly unpacking our sea shipment (surprisingly everything arrived intact!) and attempting to find creative ways to organize and store our belongings. We still need to buy quite a few pieces of furniture (dressers, dining table, etc) but it is nice to have our stuff.

Oh, I did see Buckingham Palace and the beautiful St. James Park for the first time...I am saving the tour for when we have visitors (HINT, HINT, HINT). The Queen was hosting a garden party so there were quite a few people strolling around in dresses and suits. Some of the women were wearing very interesting hats and I even saw a few men with thick gold necklaces/medallions around their necks...I later learned that these medallions probably indicate a level of knighthood. Umm...I wonder I could score an invite to the next garden party?

Ok, I am off to Tesco, the local grocery, store to find some goodies for dinner.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Things are Finally Coming Together

A lot has happened this week and I am starting to feel like things are coming together. The first and most exciting news is that Jignesh will be finished with his Rotterdam project tomorrow! Because Jignesh has been in Rotterdam since the day he arrived in London, it has been tough for us to adjust to life abroad. I know that Jignesh will continue to work long hours in the London office but it will be nice to see him every evening and be able to relax and explore a little more on the weekends. I think we might have to visit a pub (or two) this weekend to celebrate.

Another big event that occured this week is the installation of blinds in our flat! I know that this seems like a very small thing but for me blinds are huge! This means that the street lights will no longer keep me up at night and the sun will no longer wake me at 5:30am. Also, pedestrians can no longer watch us drooling in our sleep and walk by while loudly proclaiming "Wow. That is quite strange. There are people sleeping down there!"

As the blinds were being installed yesterday, I also found out that our sea shipment will be delivered on Monday! Up to now, we have been using rented furniture, dishes, etc. While the rental package is actually decent, it is not ours. We have held off buying anything and decorating until we got our shipment and took an solid inventory of exactly what we have and what we need. Next week our flat will finally start to become a home. Ummm...I guess I will HAVE to go shopping.

The final item is that on August 3rd, the entire Shroff Family will be together! Yes, Schlopy has a ticket to London! I am smiling to myself right now just thinking about it. For those of you who have pets, you know how I feel. Jignesh is returning to the states for a conference and is going to bring Schlopy back with him (assuming all goes well with the endless rules and documents required by customs). Mom and Dad...thanks for being incredible surrogate parents. I am sure Schlopy will miss his swim lessons, boat rides, and long walks. Schlopy...August 3rd is officially dedicated to you. We will go for a long walk in the Heath and give you all the treats your stomach can handle.

I know that there are still a lot of obstacles that need to be crossed (internet, meeting people, finding a job for Kat, etc) and the there are going to be lots of future frustrations but I am excited about the upcoming weeks. I almost feel like we are starting ANOTHER new adventure.


Monday, July 14, 2008

A Day out and About...and our New Flatmate

Last week, I ventured out with two new friends! Tracy (the wife of one of Jiggy's co-workers), Barack (the 11 week old son of Tracy...he is SOOOO cute), and I met for coffee and a stroll through London. Tracy has lived in London on and off for many years so she knows the city well. We met at Covenant Garden tube station and I was able to see an area of London that I had not yet seen! We strolled around Tralfager Square and the theater district. We even briefly poked our heads into the National Gallery! The place is huge and has some amazing art. There certaintly is no lack of museums in London and they are all free! I might check one out one later this week. It was great to get out and see some different parts of London.

Ok, so now on to our new flatmate. As Jiggy and I were sitting down to dinner on Friday night, I spotted something a little unusual near the ceiling of our conservatory. What could it be? Upon further investigation, we discovered it was a snail! We have no idea how he got into the the flat or how he got so high. He is quite the adventurous little bloke. After careful cosideration, we named him Budgens. Sadly, we decided he would be happier in the garden than in the house and so we sent him on his merry way. Goodbye Budgens...have a nice life and don't forget to write.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Sex, drugs, and great art museums. Can you pick the one that does not belong? Amazingly enough, in Amsterdam, all three seem to perfectly exist side by side. Even though I had been to Amsterdam a few years ago, I did not remember all that well. This past weekend, I learned that all the rumors about Amsterdam are true. Marijuana is legal and “coffee shops” on every corner sell a lot of it! I know you are wondering if we participated in this local tradition…I will keep you guessing on that one! You cannot go to Amsterdam and not take a stroll through the Red Light District. There has been talk of the city getting rid of this famous area but I can assure that it is still alive. 24 hours a day you can see the scantily clad “ladies of the night” sitting in windows waiting for business. These windows never seem to end…there and streets and alleys full of them. One of our travel books estimated the number of working prostitutes in Amsterdam to be over 10,000! And no, we did not participate in this tradition (although Jignesh did inquire about prices from a few ladies)!

Ok, so I know everyone knows about the sex and drugs but if you can stop thinking about those things you might be interested (or maybe not) to know that there are some great museums (Van Gogh, Anne Frank House). I have to admit, though, that we skipped the museums and opted for the canal boat tour instead. We both just needed some relaxation and did not want to think too much. Even though I am not big a fan of tourist traps, the canal tour was a great way to see the city…you could get on and off at 14 different stops. I also really likes the flower market. The range of flowers there is amazing...they had flowers I have never seen before..and they were so cheap. You could buy a 20 beautiful roses for about $12.00!

Overall, my thoughts on Amsterdam are mixed. The canals are beautiful and the legalized sex and drugs are undoubtedly entertaining but it is very dirty and crowed city. The best thing about Amsterdam? The questions is easy…spending time with Jignesh. Things have been very hectic with him working in The Netherlands since we got here so it was night to just see him and not have to worry about running around looking at curtains!


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

There are three ways you can get killed in Rotterdam...bus, tram, or bike. Of the three, I would put my money on the bike. Bikes are a way of life here. Everyone has them and they definitely rule the road. I love it!

I arrived in Rotterdam yesterday to join Jignesh (who has been here for work since we moved to London) for a few days. Tomorrow (Friday) we are going to head to Amsterdam for the weekend. I explored the area with a brillant run this morning. Rotterdam is the second largest city in The Netherlands (behind Amsterdam) and the port of Rotterdam is the largest in Europe and was the world's busiest port until it was overtaken by Shanghi in 2004. Rotterdam was almost completely destroyed in World War II and, therefore, is full of very modern buildings and arcitecture. It is definitely an interesting city...I am going to head out later to take some pictures so check back!


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Moving Pains and a Needed Escape

Over the last few weeks, we have been experiencing some moving pains. Even though I have moved many, many times, I had forgotten about all the little things that need to be done. Add the fact that we have moved to a different country and you can multiply all those things by ten! Nothing seems to be easy. Since we don't have established credit in the UK, I could not get both a phone and a mobile broadband contract together (Jignesh has a phone through work so no worries there). So, I ended up with just a phone contract (after a £100 deposit due to no credit) and a seperate pay as you go broadband plan. Ok, no big deal. I was pretty psyched to finally have internet in the flat (no more hanging out at stinky McDonald's) but reality set in when it still did not work after spending an hour on the phone with Vodaphone. ..back to stinky McDonald's I go. As for a tele...we did manage to snag a free one from one of Jignesh's co-workers who is returning the states this week...score! However, it could never be that easy. We don't seem to have the right connection for the outlet and have been on a treasure hunt for the correct cable ever since. Oh, I forgot to mention that we have been receiving nasty letters from the TV license (yes, you must pay to even plug your tele into the wall) when we don't even have a working tele yet. And then there is our eventful trip to Ikea. Since we don't have any window coverings in our bedroom that faces the main street we decided to go the cheap route and trek across London to Ikea. After braving the masses (not a fan of Ikea), we finally found our way home with curtains and rods. I was excited about the prospect of no longer have people walking by, looking into our window and exclaiming "Hey, there are people sleeping in there!" Of course, the curtains did not fit so we are back to square one! These are just many of our current moving pains.

What do you do when things are a little stressful in your new home...You escape. That is exactly what I am going to do this weekend. I am headed to Amsterdam to meet up with Jignesh for a weekend of relaxation. I think a visit to one of those infamous coffee shops might solve all my frustrations!