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Report 645: Living in London for Six Months

By LisaW from CA, Fall 2004

Trip Description: I spent six months in London for work. These are my experiences and reviews of shops and restaurants. This was originally written as a blog.

Destinations: Countries - France, Italy, United Kingdom; Regions/Cities - Paris, Emilia-Romagna, London

Categories: Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Garden Visits; Shopping; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; Single Traveler

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Page 1 of 22: The beginning

photo by Lisa Wisniewski

In my Neighborhood

Thursday, August 19, 2004

I have been seconded to London for six-months and have now been here about one-month. This is not the first time I have lived in the UK (I lived outside Cambridge for four years in the early 90's) and that certainly has made the transition easier. My familiarity with the grocery stores (I prefer Waitrose), telephone/utility companies and tax issues (one has to pay council tax and don't forget the TV license) meant that within three weeks of my arrival all of the major arrangements needed for day-to-day living had been made.

I am living in a very small, one-bedroom flat (less than 450 square ft) in South Kensington very close to the V&A. Neighborhoods in London are small so I am very close (walking distance) to Knightsbridge and Chelsea and slightly further (1 - 2 miles) from Notting Hill and Holland Park. When I moved into my "furnished" flat I had two suit cases of clothes and three bags filled with sheets, towels and a few other items. Eight boxes arrived from the US a week later and my move was complete. As I became acquainted with the contents furnished with my flat I realized I would need to "fill in" if I was going to live there for six months. Some were small (measuring spoons) while others were larger (microwave, lamps and rugs).

Before I go too much further, I should say the obvious. London is expensive - or more accurately, very expensive. If you missed it, it was recently designated as the second most expensive place in the world to live in behind Tokyo. To give you some perspective, NYC was #27 on the list. So, in that background I began the process of buying what I would need to make my flat home for the time I am here.

In the US, I am an avid gardener so one of the first things I wanted was house plants. I heard about Chelsea Gardner (125 Sydney Street, Chelsea) and hoped I would be able to buy a few house plants. If you have a garden, Chelsea Gardner is the place to go. They have everything needed for a great garden - a good selection of plants (indoor and out) as well as garden furniture, pottery, gardening books and the all important wellies. If you buy too much to take home with you (don't drive, parking is horrible) they can deliver. The quality is good but don't expect any bargains.

At Divertimenti (139/141 Fulham Rd, South Kensington; Ph (0207) 581 8065) I was able to fill in my kitchen needs. This kitchen store has everything any cook would need as well as many things you might only use once. They have an excellent selection of cooking books but be careful about buying them with the thought of using the recipes in the US. I have, with only minimal success, tried to use US recipes in the UK and vice versa. The only thing I can think is that the ingredients are different enough to really effect the final product.

I love the Conran Shop (81 Fulham Rd, Chelsea; (0207) 589 7401) - the high end shop of Terrance Conran. It has almost everything you would need to set up house - if you like more modern furniture, lighting, bathroom and kitchen accessories, etc. Even if you have no intention of buying anything it is well worth the trip. In my experience, Europeans love modern furniture. I think it is the antidote to all of the old architecture.

Over the next few months, I hope to give you a taste of what living here is like - some politics, some day-to-day and a few oddities. I also hope to give you some ideas of where you might go to shop or eat if you make it over.

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