My London: My Perfect Day in London

What would I do to create a perfect day in London? What would be my dream day if I was well prepared with money to burn….?

I’ve put some thought into it, so come and join me for a day to remember.

20151025_Kew_Gardens_0015Well firstly, the weather gods would need to co-operate. I don’t want any pea soup fog. My favourite days in London are early autumn. When the mornings are just starting to get cooler and the nights are drawing in, but the days are still warm and the skies are the clearest blue with white fluffy clouds. We did have a few of these this year and I relished every second on my walk to work.

So, now that the weather is sorted get ready for a full day. I said it would be perfect, but that doesn’t necessarily mean realistic. We’re going to have to teleport everywhere if we want to keep up with my itinerary, I’m also moving Wimbledon to autumn to fit my schedule. Oh and bringing someone back from the dead…

First let’s wake up and wander down to the new Granary Square development in Kings Cross and park our bums at my favourite cafe, Caravan, for some avocado on toast. Yum! You need all that fuel for your next stop, St Pauls Cathedral.

20150705_walkietalkie_lookout_london_0222We’re up with the larks so we’ve bet all the tourists. You can marvel at the splendour to your hearts content before heading up the spiral staircase to the Whispering Gallery and higher to see the views of London from what was the highest point in London until 1967.

If you’re in need of more views from a higher vantage point, we can squeeze in a sky high view of the Thames from the Sky Garden. 20150705_walkietalkie_lookout_london_012120150705_WalkieTalkie_Lookout_London_0208.jpgWhile we’re in the east, a trip to Old Spitafields Market for a cupcake from Flavourtown Bakery is a must. Seriously they cannot be beaten!flavourtown-bakery-london-marketNext we need to hop, skip (or fly?) over to Richmond Park. We’ll rent a bike for the day (these guys are great) and pack a picnic lunch. We’re cycling around the park to the lake in the middle. It’s so secluded you will forget you’re in one of the biggest cities in the world for a moment. Be sure to make friends with the deer on your way.

Next up? Some world class sport. Yes! For once I won the ballot. Tickets to centre court in our hot little hands we’re off to one of the most quintessentially British events I know of. Be quiet as you go in, you don’t want to put Serena off.

You can’t spend a perfect day in London without catching some of the world class West End theatre. We have tickets to a matinee screening of my favourite musical Wicked. Enjoy!466516_10150800601007118_126440377_oPhew! You must be hungry. Time for a fancy dinner? My cuisine of choice is Japanese of course. I have always wanted to try out Roka, so guess where reservations are sorted..? We’ll be dining on sushi, prawn tempura and the Roka dessert platter tonight.p9040128-1024x745We’re finishing the day on my ultimate London high, a gig at Wembley! Because this is my perfect day, let’s see Bowie play Wembley. The gig of a lifetime, you must have sorted tickets out over a year ago for this…. You’re welcome.

It was lots of fun dreaming up ideas for this post. It’s a compilation of all the best things I have done in London, from the everyday to the fantastical, to those things that are still on my wish list. What would you do? What do you think I have missed?

The idea to talk about a perfect something came from the Travel Linkup bloggers. I’m too late to add my post to the link, but check out other bloggers ‘A perfect…’ interpretations through one of my favourite blogs Silverspoon London. Just scroll to the bottom of the post.

All pictures are my own aside from the below listed. Photo credits with thanks:

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My London: My Commute

20160909_andiescommute_0015I said in an earlier post, that my lifestyle had changed heaps since moving from Tottenham to Tufnell Park, and one of the most awesome changes has been my commute.

I no longer battle the rush hour squeeze on the Victoria Line at 8am. Instead I leave the house and wander (or power walk if I’m late) for about 4k to get to Finchley Road station then catch a tube one stop north to Wembley Park.

It is bliss!

I listen to podcasts, random playlists from my Apple music subscription or go sans sound and get in touch with nature or what not. Nature? Who am I kidding? Cars, trucks, buses and trains are the soundtrack to my commute

When it’s raining or I’m late/lazy I swap the walk for a 10 minute over ground train ride. Easy as, except the train is really unreliable, which is what lead me to walking in the first place. Talk about turning a negative into a positive.

Anyway, enough of my smug commute loving, today I want to share my journey with you. Ben was doing lots of research on his next camera lens purchase and decided to do some experimenting with our 50mm lens by taking photos on his commute. I might share his effort with you next post. I thought it was a really good idea, so the next day I slung the camera around my neck and decided to get creative.

I need a lot more practice with the 50mm, but it was fun and taught me a lot about moving for the shot. I got so engrossed my 35minute walk doubled and I was quite late for work that morning, ooops!

So this is what my journey looked like in September 2016.

This was a bit of a moody morning, but we had been having really warm sunny days. I think it was said to be the warmest September on record? Or maybe it was that we hit a few of the highest temperatures for September? A quick google search hasn’t really helped me come up with any facts for you, so actually just know that we had a good summer. It was hot.

20160909_andiescommute_0050_1^^^ The most excited empty shop I’ve seen.

^^^ This is my favourite pair of pictures; walking past this pink flat makes me smile every time.

^^^ Empty train. This is such a rare sight in London. The other guy and I basically had the whole train to ourselves.

My commute ends at the iconic Wembley Stadium. As with all things you encounter daily it has become part of the furniture for me, but every once in a while an event will be on or it will be lit up on dark winter nights and I’ll get swept up in awe of it. It is always one of those moments I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe I’m actually living in London.

 

My London: Hello, Tufnell Park

20160908_benscommute_0251After less than a year ago writing that I had finally found my groove on Tottenham Hale and we were never going to leave..We left. And it’s the best thing ever!

Some dodgy plumbing and a stubborn landlord meant our hand was forced and after a particularly riling note left by said landlord one day, we promptly handed in our notice and started looking for a new place to call home.

We set our budget, lowered our expectations, lowered them some more and then saw the first of what would turn out to be 18 flats all in all.. and we’re not even that fussy.

Anyway, we had pretty much closed a deal on a super hipster place in Dalston sharing with a chef and his fashionista girlfriend. The place was chic and totally aspirational for us, we’re nowhere near that cool and put together. But I had noticed a humble room in Tufnell Park that I thought I would go and check out just to be sure, as I had my doubts about Dalston.20160723_Saturday_BBQ_0602It was the one. I knew it as soon as a wandered in. But I had consumed half a bottle of wine with a friend down the road beforehand so I had to bring Ben back the next day to be sure. He agreed and luckily the current flatmates liked us too and the rest is history.

We have lived here 6 months now and it’s amazing how much our lifestyle has changed over this time. We walk everywhere possible and when we don’t walk we catch the 390 bus from straight outside our house.20160723_Saturday_BBQ_0554We picnic on Primrose Hill…

And swim* in the ponds at Hampstead Heath.img_6884*Well I have swum once so far but I’m trying to make it a more regular thing.

We buy way too decandent ice creams from Ruby Violet’s on the high street and have brunch at Tufnell Park’s claim to fame Bear + Wolf cafe where they serve Kiwi coffee.. Aaaand also import, to my everlasting surprise and gratefulness, Kiwi Hot Chocolate! I’m transported home with every sip.

We haven’t even scratched the surface of all the great restaurants and pubs in the area. I’m sure I read somewhere some research that shows that people who have a local pub are happier, or something along those lines. I can say that we are much more social having lots of drinking options close by. Shout out to-

Oh and did I mention all the excitement of Camden town is half an hours walk away and that means food markets for lunch!

It has been a great summer here so far. I love our new lifestyle, I feel like we spend much less time commuting and jumping on a tube as soon as we leave our front door and much more time exploring what’s around us and taking time to smell the roses.

So this is where I’m living. I’m posting this as part of a little project I’m doign to record this point in my life for posterity. You can check out earlier posts on My Visa Journey and My London Project.  Next I’ll introduce you to my netball team.

Follow me  @andieinspired and see more of my London life on snapchat @aaaaandie

My London Project

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I’m going to share even more about my life.. ! Yay!

There are many times while writing this blog that I have wished I had started writing earlier. I wish I had documentation on my first explorations of London when everything was new and overwhelming. It would be nice to go back even further, to when I was living in Japan and travelling in Asia. I wish I had a diary of that weird and wonderful time in my life.20160720_Primrose_hill_sunset_0471In that spirit, I have started a series on my life in London for posterity. In the next month or so I am going to share how I’m living and the ups and downs of big city life, because even though right now it is the normal and every day, I know one day I will look back wistfully, at least I hope I will.

I started with my visa story and hope to have a few more posts for you in the coming month on:

  • A day in the life
  • How I’m living
  • work work work work work work….
  • Why I love living here
  • My London Tour: Where I will take you if you come to visit
  • anything else I can think of..

Is there anything else you want to read? Let me know and I’ll add it to the mix..

I’ll leave you with some pics I took on Primrose Hill one night after work last week. Summer has finally come to London and I can’t get enough of the parks and outdoors.20160720_Primrose_hill_sunset_0464

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Such a beautiful skyline..

Thanks for joining me, Andie xxx

 

My London: Visa Journey

20160710_visa_extension_pics_0410Like every Kiwi who has lived in London over two years, we have a bit of a story to tell about how we managed to stay. In fact, you can almost guarantee when meeting expats over here, conversation will invariably come around to visa arrangements. It’s something that bubbles away in the back of all of our minds whether we have a renewal date looming, or have just come through the battle fields of visa application.

As my current visa is due to expire very soon (in August), it’s something that has been on my mind a little more often lately. My visa story is very much intertwined with my relationship. It’s based on my relationship that I have been able to stay in England for as long as I have. I talked a bit here about how Ben and I have followed each other around the world, and had some enforced periods apart due to visa and travel.

To catch you up: I went to Japan to teach English after university. Ben followed me after 6 months or so and stayed for a year. As his visa was coming to an end we were thinking about the next steps, I knew I didn’t want to stop travelling. I was filled with wanderlust after seeing what I had of Asia, I knew I couldn’t go home yet. Europe was calling.

I grew up listening to my mum and her friends recounting stories of their travels in and around Europe in the early 80’s. Tales of seedy men in Morocco, smuggling jeans into Russia, early Contiki tours and Kiwi hubs in South West London with intrepid travellers posting on notice boards looking for travel buddies.  I wanted to experience it all.

As Ben has a British passport, it was a no brainer for us to head to England next. So Ben headed off to set us up and I followed, in what turned out to be months after due to a family wedding in NZ.

As my mum, and countless other antipodeans before me and after me, I came to England on a two year working holiday visa. Two years went by in a flash and we quickly decided we didn’t want to leave when my visa was up. So we started exploring options to stay. This is where the really helpful network of Kiwi friends came in. Someone always knew of someone who had done it before and could get us lots of advice.

In the end the best option for me was to apply for an ‘unmarried spouse visa’. This means I could stay in the UK as a family member of a British settled person, i.e. Ben.

We put together mountains of paperwork…

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                                                                 …and I do mean mountains!

  •  You had to prove that you were in a genuine relationship.

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  • That we had lived together for the two years prior to apply for the visa.
  • That you meet the financial requirement, which for us was £18,600
  • And that you meet an English Language requirement. However coming from NZ meant I was exempt for providing evidence on that point.

20160710_visa_extension_pics_0445But for everything else we needed solid proof.

We spent about three months preparing for the visa, gathering documents from NZ and ordering things here. As everything has gone paperless it can be a bit of a hassle to get original payslips and bills and in many cases we were charged for them.

As we were doing it for the first time we had an immigration lawyer check over our application to see that we hadn’t missed anything or made any silly errors. I was really glad we did this for peace of mind as it is not something we had done before and …. it costs a whole lot of money to re-apply

We bundled it all up….20160710_visa_extension_pics_0454Then trekked down to the Home Office in Croydon for our appointment on Valentine’s Day. Woo! Romantic! We had decided to make our application in person as we had travel plans over the summer that I didn’t want to risk missing because our passports weren’t back. So that meant, we would find out whether we were successful on the day.

We arrived in Croydon overly early as we were nervous and thought we would have a coffee or something to calm ourselves once we got down there. Unfortunately Croydon is not a place you want to spend too much time in, we found a dingey mall, not yet open and a Costa Coffee shop on the main road. So we sat with our coffees looking out over grey buildings and greyer drizzly skies and started to wonder why we were making this application in the first place…

When the time came for our appointment we passed through airport style security at the entrance and then queued to sign in. The whole process was a lot of being called up, queueing and then waiting. We signed in, handed in paperwork, my biometrics were taken and then it was time for the decision.

We were sent to a cafeteria style waiting room with a ticket number and told to come up when we heard our number. I forget what number we had, but let’s call it 100. It took about an hour for the numbers to get close to 100… We started to pack our things and prepare to go up.. I was wired. I kept thinking worst case scenarios like, I was going to be denied and sent straight to Heathrow.

Then the numbers went past 100. 1021, 107, 115. My stomach started sinking… This could only mean bad news right? 121, 140. I started looking around at the others whose numbers had been skipped, were they over stayers? Were we all being deported today? 144, 153….

100!!!! I looked at Ben, well, this is it. We walked up to the decision desk and the officer handed me an A4 piece of paper and said we were successful. I had to ask her again as she delivered the news so casually I didn’t realise it had happened. After all the waiting I felt like I need the news to be delivered to a chorus of trumpets and fanfare.

We got it! 2.5 more years in London. We took these fuzzy pictures once we got home to commemorate. Yay wine! I definitely needed that.IMG_2237

This was all two and a half years ago now, so it’s time for me to get an extension.

This time we’re doing it ourselves, via the post. So my passport will be sent away for a few months. Fingers crossed it all goes well I’ll have another two and a half years to live in this amazing country.

What has your visa experience been like? Tell me about all the nerves and the paperwork… Soo much paperwork!