My First Year in the UK

I have officially been in the UK for one year. Actually, I’m very late writing this as my one year was in September. But, life has a way of keeping you busy.

I still find it funny that I live in another country. I never imagined that I would ever live outside of the United States. But being here has been amazing. There are so many things that I have learned about myself and about the world by simply putting myself in a different space.

In just this past year, I’ve done more than I have in years of my life. Sometimes I think to myself, this is what living really feels like. There really is no timeline on when you should have accomplished different milestones in life and no timeline will be the same for two people. This is something I used to struggle with. I always thought by this point in my life I would have a certain number of goals ticked off and that since I didn’t, I was somehow failing.

Restarting my life in the UK has given me a new perspective and I have to say, I’m pretty happy I didn’t get all the things I thought I wanted, at the exact moment I wanted them. I’m so happy to be able to create a new timeline with a life I’m truly in love with.

When I sit back and think about everything we’ve done over the past year, I’m actually surprised we’ve squeezed so much in. I got a pretty amazing job working for FQ Magazine. We’ve been to plays, festivals, and iconic London tourist attractions. We spent a week in Wales, we moved into a bigger space and even planned a wedding. Most impressively, I mastered the underground system in London.

The UK has taught me portion control (forcibly), and that I can walk farther than the parking lot to the store. I didn’t realize how much I was overeating until I moved here. I remember our first time to going to a restaurant and thinking the waitress had only brought my dish out and then realizing that was food for two people. I remember being equally shocked at all the medium sized coffees that are masquerading around as larges.

But with smaller portions and no options other than trains and walking, I’m in better shape and much healthier so I can’t really complain.

I still feel like the same person I was a year ago. Although, if you ask my husband he’ll tell you London has changed me. That I’m now one of the impatient and aggressive people on the trains, that don’t have time for tourists wandering around…. that might be true.

Another huge event is that, we’ve been married for two years now. Marriage has taught me a lot. I’ve definitely learned to compromise, how to share a space with another person. After living on my own for years, that was an adjustment. I think most importantly, I’ve learned that people give and receive love differently than I do, and that’s okay. I’ve learned that there are different ways of communicating and that a marriage takes effort and patience…. sometimes a lot of patience. But it’s so worth it.

This past year has flown by and I cannot wait to see what the next year has in store.

Summer Days in London

When the weather heats up in London, everything breaks.

Literally everything. England is not here for extreme weather be that snow or sun. They function their absolute best in cloudy, rainy weather. This I learned this past weekend when a simple plan of wedding shopping and sight-seeing turned into the longest days of my life.

Wedding Shopping

As you know, our walimah is coming up in August. With all the big stuff done, we really only have a few bits and bobs left to sort out. One of those being hijabs for the girls, including me. The mission of the day was to find scarves for everyone that matches our dress. Ivory for me and a taupe-ish color for the girls.

Everything started out great. My sister in laws and I had breakfast at the my favorite cafe and then headed to Whitechapel in London to start shopping.

If you’ve never been to London, I’ll warn you now… they don’t believe in air conditioning. Very few places have air conditioning and if they do, it’s not the cold air I’ve grown to love in the U.S. it’s more of light breeze that’s still slightly warm. The underground where Londoners do 90% of their traveling has no air conditioning. So by the time we made it to Whitechapel, I was already hot and sweaty. But it was just so exciting for the weather to finally be sunny and getting the last things for the wedding, that I wasn’t too upset. But after hours of walking around in the heat, I could absolutely care less about what people were wearing or if it matched.

We took a quick break to visit some family that lived in the area and then headed home. This was when trouble begin. We arrived at Waterloo to get on the last train to go home, only to find out ALL the trains in ALL directions were either canceled or delayed. So, in a station that is already one of the busiest in London was even more packed with angry, hot travelers. To sum up we waited around three hours to finally get going. It was also confirmed that this was the hottest day of the year so far.

The London Eye

As a wedding gift, my hubby and I were given a hop-on and hop-off cruise voucher. This voucher allowed us to travel along the Thames River and get on and off as many times as we liked for the day to visit some of London’s biggest tourist attractions.

We decided to go a couple days after the wedding shopping fiasco as the weather was still super nice. Thankfully all the trains were working and we arrived at the London Eye with no problem. We get in line, super excited as I’ve been dying to do this since I got to the UK. The line is literally a mile long but moving quickly. We even got some ice-cream while we waiting. (Fun fact: a soft serve cone is called a Mr. Whippy and they serve it with a chocolate wafer stick)

Ice cream with chocolate flake – a taste of summer

We get up the ramp to the London Eye, I can literally count the people ahead of us until it’s our turn… and the ride stops. So, we wait and wait and wait. Eventually, workers start evacuating everyone and say they are issuing refunds for people who would like their money back as the ride is now shut down. Apparently, due to the heat something caused something to expand and blah blah blah, a very technical answer was given, all I understood was because the sun is shining the ride is broken. Naturally mobs of people started heading towards the ticket office for their refund.

We decided to get something to eat and then head back to the London Eye since that is also a cruise point we could get on our cruise at. After lunch we came back and JOY everything is working. We were allowed to go through the fast track line and are on the London Eye in no time. It was definitely worth the wait. I would highly recommend everyone who visits London take a ride. On our cruise we also stopped at London Tower and London Bridge.

We’re now back to cloudier weather but it’s still warm at least… I wonder what other adventures the summer will bring.

Things I miss

It’s crazy to think that I’ve been in the UK for six months now. Sometimes it still feels like I got here yesterday. It’s unbelievable how fast time goes by.

We’ve been super busy since I got here. Afternoon teas, anniversary trips, wedding planning and as if that wasn’t enough we just moved into a new flat. That’s right, I said flat… I’m a British lady now. But even though my days are pretty busy either with work or just living my new life, there are definitely times I miss home.

Aside from my family and friends, it’s hard to say what I miss the most. I definitely miss flavored creamer in my coffee. If you guys haven’t heard me whine about this before, there is only powder creamer here and it only comes in plain. My mom sent me vanilla powder creamer and I had to restrain myself from drinking coffee all day long. On the lines of different flavored things, I also miss flavored cream cheese. I don’t mean this onion and herb nonsense, I mean strawberry, honey walnut, blueberry.. I could go on forever. I miss real pancakes. Not crepes that they are tryin to pass off as pancakes here. Fun fact, they call thick, fluffy pancakes “American pancakes,” in the UK. Lastly, I miss Chick-Fil-A.

If I had to go past just food items. I would say that I miss free parking. Everywhere charges you to park. It’s more hassle to drive in general here. Driving places, because of the traffic takes just as long if not longer than the train. Then when you finally arrive at your destination, you have to find somewhere to park your car which could be 10 or 15 minute walk from where you’re going and usually next to a train station. More than all of this, I miss Target.

Flat sheets.. you only get fitted sheets and I miss stores that stay open late. Sometimes you just want a late night snack. I also miss having screens on the windows. I’m just waiting for the day a bird flies into my house, makes a nest and I have to move out.

Even though home will always be home, I’m still so happy here in this new home of mine.

My First Time in Wales

Anniversaries call for celebrations, or trips in our case. We landed on Wales to get away and celebrate. We decided to forgo the hustle and bustle of busy cities, we get enough of that in London. We picked a cozy little cottage, nestled away in acres of acres and farmland and countryside. Literally, in the middle of nowhere.

We found this cottage on Airbnb and had no trouble. When we got into Wales it looked like the zombie apocalypse was about to take place with all the fog, but it was still gorgeous!

After a four hour drive, some of which were on streets that realistically should only have horse-drawn carriages (I mean really why are the roads so narrow?) we spent the first day getting settled in. But the next day brought on a new adventure.

We decided to visit the Bosherton Lily Ponds. What we didn’t know was that lily ponds really come alive in June/July. Although the lily ponds weren’t there, we could not have asked for more beautiful scenery. Walking around the park, which turned into a venture up and through mountains was breathtaking. It looked like we were walking around in a Lord of the Rings movie. I thought England was beautiful, but it has nothing on the landscapes of Wales. The biggest surprise of the day was the beach that we stumbled upon, Broadhaven.

Our next day out we headed to Pembroke. The most charming city I’ve seen. Everyone was super friendly. To be honest people in general were much more friendly in Wales than London. Pembroke holds, Pembroke Castle among other attractions. This castle built in 926, still stands till this day. With some updating, they’ve added technology throughout the castle so that you can learn all about the birthplace of Henry VII while you explore the grounds. We met the nicest guy before we went inside the castle. His name was John and he gave us the lowdown on not just the castle, but all of Pembroke. If you happen to visit Pembroke Castle and hear a trumpet playing, that’s our friend John!

The castle was gorgeous. It’s definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my life. Just an FYI, there was a TON of walking involved and even more windy stairs. So, if you ever visit a castle be prepared for a workout along with a history lesson.

We ate Pembroke’s own, Food at Williams. Delicious. We both had the chili and garlic shrimp, it was amazing. I also had an apple pie latte, that tasted like everything good in this world. We walked across the street to Saltwater Studio, a bespoke shop in the town center. We bought candles, of course and found that the lattes we had were roasted by the owner’s husband! You can check the entire collection as well as the selection of coffee here.

We’ve been home about a week and I miss Wales already. I definitely recommend this place for anyone looking to explore the UK.

A Very British Day

Afternoon tea has quickly become a favorite date for my hubby and I. It’s such a fun thing to do and because it’s such a common thing here in the UK, there are tons of places with different vibes to pick from.

This time we choose afternoon tea at The Podium. A fancy restaurant in Westminster London, this place is inside a Hilton. So if you’re traveling in the London, you don’t even have to venture outside for this British staple.

For drinks I had a mocha latte and my hubby had a fig and rose mixture tea. I’m not even a tea drinker, and that tea was delicious. The first round were sandwiches, that were almost too pretty to eat… almost. The best round of course, was the dessert. A layer of scones and then two layers of chocolate treats. The black forest gateaux and the passionfruit strawberry tartlet were my favorite.

On our way back, we took a walk through what we thought was just a park. Turns of it was Buckingham Garden. While we were strolling through, we spotted Buckingham Palace! One of the places I’ve always wanted to see! We made our way to the palace and it was so busy. Side note: if you’re American in the UK and you’re missing home, just to go to a tourist site. All the Americans are there. We walked around taking pictures and taking in the all the sights. Literally just as we were about to leave we saw the guards coming out. To see the changing of the guards was something I put on my London bucket list, so be able to tick this off with my favorite person was incredible!