Wow! It’s been a loooong time between posts. I’m not sure if we have been super busy, or super chilled or a little of both really, but this one is a long time coming. We spent 6 weeks in South West London in the coolest housesit and I’m only just getting around to blogging about it now. I even snuck in a quick return to Oz for a wedding recently, so you might say there’s been a lot going on!
Years ago back in Australia, I must confess, I was a little afraid of returning to London. Having spent the first three years of our marriage there, London is a city very, very dear to us. For the longest time, I thought that if I returned to London, even for a visit, I’d never want to get back on the plane to return to Adelaide. And back when we had a house, jobs, kids in school there to consider, that just wasn’t an option. I just didn’t want to have my heart broken. But finally returning to London after a 13 year absence was everything I wanted it to be with none of the heartbreak. We had so much fun sharing our favourite city in the world with our children, and after six weeks we were even excited to move on to Surrey. Because now we are secure and happy in the knowledge that these days we are free as birds. We can return to the places we love whenever want.
Our housesit in South West London was just amazing, (I know, I always say that, but it’s true!). This time we were caring for Indy a rescue dog and Monty a Black Lab whilst their lovely owners Katy and Tom were away getting married in Thailand. It’s a pretty cool feeling knowing that we were able to care for and love this couple’s fur babies, allowing them to go off and have an amazing experience without worry for home. We had so much fun with these dogs. They are extremely affectionate and playful and the area was full of great places to walk, run and chase a ball. When we weren’t playing with the dogs we were only a short train ride from the centre of London catching up on all our favourite places, discovering what’s new in London (a lot!) and meeting up with old friends. It was awesome! But you know what? I don’t think that I would want to live in London anymore. It’s really, really busy. Housing is ridiculously overpriced and everyone is working too hard to make a life there. I just don’t think that after all the changes that we have made to our lifestyle we could return to both working full time just to pay the bills. If there is anything that we have learnt in the past two years, it’s that there has to be another way, even if we’re not entirely sure what that is yet.
Whilst in London we just HAD to go to the Warner Bros. Studio, Harry Potter Tour. It was worth every cent, so much fun, and entirely deserving of a blog post all of its own, so stay tuned for that one. We also bought a Historic Royal Palaces membership which allows us unlimited entry to great palaces including The Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace for a year. So naturally we returned to The Tower a couple of times. Even if you’re only in London for a short stay, we highly recommend The Tower of London, there is so much to see and learn there – make sure you do a free Beefeater tour as well, those guards are really entertaining! Museums and Galleries are FREE to visit in London, so of course we made the most of that opportunity, and even discovered a bronze statue by Lord Fredrick Leighton in the Tate. The model for the statue was actually my Great, Great Grandfather! We also discovered a new museum, The Museum of London, in the east end. It was so informative, with lots of really interactive displays about the history of London from pre-Roman days to the present. In fact, that one may have been our favourite!
London is the most amazing city to just wander about in. Around every bend there is an extraordinary site, both historic and modern. We loved walking along the Themes, getting amongst the crowds in the West End at Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden and Leicester Square, and even stumbling upon a protest in Trafalgar Square. There are so many beautiful parks in central London, and the Squirrels are friendly, so bring along peanuts in their shell for a close encounter. The flag was up on Buckingham Palace, so the Queen was in, but alas, we didn’t have a royal encounter, we just got soaked in the pouring rain!
Getting around London is easy. The public transport system is so comprehensive, and with Oyster Cards very affordable (Oscar is under 10 so he was free, and Lucy was half price). We even shared a snapshot of our past with the kids and rode the tube in peak hour which is not an entirely enjoyable experience, but one which has to be done once in your life. Oscar gave us all a laugh we he announced to crowd squished up against us all that “This is a good experience Dad, but I don’t think I’d want to do it every day!” Another great place we visited is Greenwich, which is only a short ride on the Docklands Light Railway. I’ve always liked Greenwich, it somehow has retained the feeling of a village whilst having been swallowed up by London’s expanding suburbia. It’s pretty and there is a great market there as well as an old Pie Shop that has been serving up pies and mushy peas for locals since 1890. And, in keeping up with the times, their vegetarian pie was pretty good too!
Since I had to pop home for a couple of weeks for my best friend’s wedding we were out souvenir hunting, and where else but Harrods for useless stuff that says “Hey, I’ve been to London!” But, Harrods is a pretty cool place to visit though even if you can only afford a chocolate in the food hall. And, if seeing how the rich and famous live in London is your thing take a wander through the streets of Kensington for a jaw-dropping session of car spotting. Simon and Oscar put together quite a dream-drive list from the cars parked between Kensington and Sloane Square.
It’s easy to fill six weeks in London with sightseeing, and we didn’t even scratch the surface, we still have a ‘to do’ list. Housesitting is an amazing way to spend time in great cities though. There is absolutely no way that we could afford to have stayed in hotels the whole time, (even though I did a bit of substitute teaching) and to be honest I don’t think that we’d want to. I like having a kitchen to cook in, and the kids love having a bit of space to chill out. We love how caring for dogs gets us out in the fresh air and exercising, and because we’re not paying per night there isn’t the same pressure to get out and do something every day. We can mix it up a little, we have days out and lazy days at home catching up on some homeschooling or just reading. It’s pretty much the best of both worlds.
London. Yes we LOVE it still, and I know that we will return again and again and again. But these days I’m happy to just be a visitor there. Life’s too short to be spent in one place!