I have been appalling at keeping up with this blog ever since my move to London. I am so sorry!! By now I have my room for the brief stay here, but have also been travelling constantly. For my birthday, I have been lucky enough to fly over to Spain for a week, to spend some time relaxing in the sunny Barcelona and Madrid. It was not my first times there, I had already been four years ago, but it was interesting to revisit the cities and see how they - and I - have changed.
Barcelona is still a cool city, though my first impression of it had not been so nice. Third time round, I still admire all the Gaudì's works, his bold and naïve imaginations, his strong link with nature, his sense of colour. Then there is the darker side of Barcelona, the old gothic side, which is equally fascinating. It was this dark side that had lured me to Barcelona in the first place, after all.
The highlight of the Madrid visit was definitely Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. I can't get over the dense complexity of this triptych. It's mind boggling how much detail has gone into this fascinating work, so sci fi that seems so utterly modern and still bizarre enough now as it must have been then. What was going inside your head as you drew these half human forms, Hieronymus?!
There was a small present in a box. There was a tiny cake, uneaten, on my actual birthday. I treated myself a pair of heels with bows. But my birthday celebration, stretched out over the space of one special week, was so good. I am overly grateful to have spent it with my loving parents, who came all the way over to Europe to see me. It had been too long! Thank you so much. Thank you for making me possible, thank you for raising me to be who I am today, thank you for always being there for me. I love you so much.
My birth month is almost, but not quite, over. One more week, and I get to see my other favourite person. The perfect last birthday present. Thank you for making my birth month so special.
I am in London on a short term stint before returning home to NZ in July. Here is a step-by-step process on how I settled down in a (yet another) new city.
Buy flight tickets - your arrival date is set
Which airline? Which airport? Which transportation option into city?
Start looking for accommodation
Book the first week at a friend's place, if you're lucky, or hostel/Airbnb. Research the areas you would like to live in your new city, then arrange as many house visits as possible in those areas in the first three days. Upon recommendations from friends, the Internet - Gumtree, spareroom.co.uk, FB groups - and office location, I chose Islington. I wanted to stay in zone 1-2, close to supermarkets and transportation options to my hangouts, central city, in/out of airports and Eurostar. This gets immensely easier if you have at least the first ten days free of any commitments.
Last week before leaving, start packing.
Do you really need that? Give away or sell unwanted things. Say your goodbyes. Buy some favourites you will miss, and as thank you presents for your hosts in the new city.
On day of travel.
Don't forget to take out any sharp objects from your carry on. Don't forget to carry some local currency in cash, chargers and adapter, screenshots of important documentations. Leave early or on time. Better early than late! Missing your bus/tram/train and/or flights is not much fun. I've been there. You've got your passport on you, right?
First week in the new city, get your essentials.
Sim card, bank account (after you've sorted your aforementioned accommodation). Transport - bike, metro card? Loyalty card to your new supermarket - shampoo, toothbrush, etc? Do some sightseeing in your city and neighbourhood to get used to your new surroundings. I usually come prepared with a list of things to see, cafes to try out, must eat dishes. The hunt for a new local haunt begins.
We are on our way down South from Paris to Bordeaux. In our train coach everyone is in a tired slumber while the rain beats past our fast moving carriage. Everyone except some young kids who won't go to sleep just behind my dad, who can't fall asleep with their chatter.
All I hear is people deep breathing and the big black lady next to me lightly snoring with her eyes half shut and dad sighing in exasperation from the lack and want of sleep, from time to time. Poor daddy, still jetlagged from the long flights from the other side of the world. Wait until you get your grandchildren visiting you for the holidays. Though that won't be for a great long while.
We pass greenness after greenness on grey canvas of wet drizzles. These lush plains are the French countryside I know and love. I have spent recent weeks travelling around Italy and the UK, and coming back, I realise just how much France feels home to me. The kids chatter are familiar, the train system is familiar, there is no time wasted trying to figure out each coloured coin's worth at counters.
I just showed my parents around my old street from four years ago. My old Metro stop has cleaned up. It has blue lights now. There are shops on 'my' street I don't remember. The scary church with the weird Michael Jackson memorial apparently is no longer a church. It has shut down, its cross taken down. Coming back to a place that once used to be home, and seeing it with a different eye, aged eye, experienced eye, is a weird experience. I think I crossed an old acquaintance at my old supermarket. Should I have said hi? Maybe she wouldn't have recognised me, any way.
Slumbering in and out of consciousness towards Bordeaux. In a few years' time, this little city I learnt to love will surely have changed, too. The next time I will have come back and see it in a different eye, at my old neighbourhood that is still as familiar as it is newly unfamiliar. Not just yet, though..
I have been to see two apartments. I'm finally ending my living room squatting mode and moving into my own room next Monday
Went to Italy last weekend! Saw an old friend from a decade ago, one of those friends who I am in awe of because she has this aura about her, you know she will go far in life. Also got to visit Venice for a day, the one city I was told to go and see before leaving Europe in July
London weather goes like this: Sunny Mon/Tue, grey Wed/Thu, rainy weekends. So far, anyway. It's coooooold today
Things I like about London: Colourful hipster Shoreditch, flat whites, sushi, Indian
UK customs have been asking me heaps of questions at the airports. I travel a lot, yes. I am basing myself in London for my last three months of the European stay, yes. But I definitely will return to NZ in July! I love Europe, but, seriously, I love NZ more. It's the best place on earth, where my family and my A are!
B&B are on their way to Europe right now, so we are going to Spain together. A is coming in exactly one month, and I am so excited/scared. I miss him like crazy crazy crazy!
The half marathon is finally approaching, J-3. What have I done to myself? Haha, excited and scared at the same time. I've spent the past few months trying to put off going for runs as much as possible, but at the same time, I really enjoy running - with others. Fortunately L has always been there to force me onwards, listening to my crazy puffed singings, my life drama/complaints in general.. Muchas gracias, L! Can't wait to cross that line together on Saturday/Sunday!
On the other hand, the move to London is just as fast approaching.
Things checked off:
couch space for the first couple of days
Things to get under way:
arrange apartment visits for next week - I've started scrounging on gumtree.co.uk, spareroom.co.uk, various FB groups, etc.
Things to do first week in London:
get an Oyster card for public transport
find apartment - hopefully won't be too difficult. A keeps scaring me saying it'll take awhile, but I'm not looking for a luxurious hotel room. It did take me awhile in Bordeaux, but I'm staying positive
fly to Milan for the weekend - so could have been better timed, but it wasn't up to me.
It's officially my last week in Bordeaux, and I am busy celebrating, packing, making last minute lists - to see everyone, to cross off those few remaining items on the to-do list.
On Saturday I went for a refreshing run with B - so sad I'm going to miss his concert next month! He keeps tempting me to stay for longer. Haha, these mixed feelings. You aren't making it easier on me, B.
Sunday started off with a freshly squeezed orange juice, like the one A keeps ordering me to take every morning. I'm still working on that. Maybe I'll have succeeded by the time we finally meet again, A. I can't wait.
This weekend, my appetite arrived back with the beautiful weather. So I'm feeling and eating better now. Thank goodness. I have started going through my things to take with me to London/leave behind in Bordeaux. Sell bike - check. This in the give away box. That in the throw away box. And those? Decisions, decisions.