Today was our big day to hopefully find a flat. I woke up with low expectations this morning in finding a home. In London, you get so little for your money (not to mention the exchange rate between dollars and pounds is terrible- you see that a place is 400 pounds a week...that's really $600 a week...which is about $2600 a month). Places are teeny tiny- most were 400-500 square feet. They are not equipped like we are used to...most have dorm style fridges, no clothes dryer, no AC, and are in poor condition. Nothing is new (which I like, Daniel not so much).
Our very friendly realtor, Monica, picked us up bright and early at 9:15. We had a driver named Tim and he was so informative- he drove us all around London in a fancy Mercedes, showing us different tourist attractions before taking us to the areas we wanted to live in. He drove us past London tower, Westminster Abbey, the big museums in Kennsington, Buckingham Palace...it was so neat and I am very greatful that we got to experience at.
We looked in the areas of Kensington and St Johns Wood. St Johns Wood is one neighborhood north of Marylebone, so we decided to look there instead since we could get much larger flat.
Some of the places we saw were DISGUSTING: smelled like smoke, filthy bathrooms, ancient stained carpets. I didn't bother taking pictures of those, but just know...I almost cried in some of them.
Nowhere was nearly as nice as our home in Houston, and that's okay. We know we will eventually go back to that one day. We have experienced having a nice new house...now it's time for us to expand our horizons and live in an amazing(ly expensive) city.
Here are the best places that we visited, starting with 3rd choice and ending at 1st choice.
3rd choice: tiny flat with amazing views in Kensington
I didn't even bother taking pics of the flat. It was tiny. Lots of character, but there was no counter space to cook, no room to lounge, and it was poorly furnished. But I loved the views. Those garage looking things are called mews. They used to be stables for the horses to live in, and above it would be the people that took care of them. They were adorable! Ultimately, Kensington was just too expensive and really, had way too much action going on there because all of the museums are near.
2nd choice: 5th floor flat with beautiful floors in St. Johns Wood
I love this place and I will be happy with it as our 2nd choice if our #1 doesn't work out. It is right next to the Cricket Stadium and close to all of the restaurants and shops. It was fully stocked with kitchen utensils, had a huge fridge (well, larger than a dorm sized one), eat in kitchen, gorgeous lighting, and a KING sized bed! The cons were that the couch sucked and it just wasn't as spacious as our number 1 choice.
The winner: Huge garden flat in St. Johns Wood
This was the Beatles recording studio on Abbey Road...our flat is a block from here. Traffic was stopped from tourists trying to take their picture crossing Abbey Road like the Famous picture of the Beatles...*sigh* tourists.
So, at first glance I hated it. Its essentially in the basement of an old mansion, which I thought would mean no natural light in the flat. However, there actually were several windows. The real catch for us was the amount of storage space and the size of the flat. It was even large for Houston standards! We have our own private entrance that is surrounded by different flowers. We walk into a long, closed off hall where we can store bikes and other things. We have a "bomb shelter" closet as Daniel calls it that has a seperate clothes dryer (!!!) and shelves for storage. We could fit an air mattress in it of we needed to. There's also another closet by the door, and....are you ready...the real winner in Daniel's eyes...he has a MAN CAVE...well, it's more like a man closet, but he'll take it! The kitchen was larger than any other kitchen we'd seen, and we have our own private terrace. The only con is that we are going to have to buy a lot of stuff to fill up the flat :-) and the kitchen isn't fully equipped with plates and what not.
We will hear by tonight or tomorrow morning if we got it...pray that we did! It is both of our first picks and will be a great place to call home while we are in London.