We’ve just arrived at our first house sit in Oxfordshire (it’s amazing, but more on that later!), both kids are fast asleep in our current mansion, and we finally feel like we have the energy to reflect on our first week in England (meaning, it is past 7pm and we are still awake!). This week has been fairly eventful in some ways, and fairly uneventful in others. So we’ve decided to share with you all some lessons we’ve learned this week.
Babies and toddlers can fly (with minimal disruption to parents and other passengers). I can’t say I have viewed this trip with much apprehension at all (I have a general lack of foresight for pretty much any situation – seriously though, what could go wrong?), and the flight wasn’t much of an exception. But I have to admit, I did wonder if my happy optimism would betray me in this instance. My expectations were, that Kilian would be fairly straightforward, after all, all babies do is eat and sleep, right? And that Elena would be more demanding, being an active two year old. I am happy to report that the first 11 hour flight went way better than expected – Elena was super excited at being on the plane, the prospect of endless movies, and all the new “tivties” (activities) we had brought her. She had a decent sleep, and as for Kilian, he pretty much slept the entire flight, in his bassinet. Winning so far. The second flight was as expected, two tired children, two tired parents, more movies, more activities, more tantrums and more babes in arms. The success of the flights leads me to my next point…..
Babies and jet lag are NOT fun. We learned this the hard way – three solid nights of Kilian waking up literally every half an hour. I don’t think I need to say much more on this. By the third day, I felt like my eyes were wired open and I was actually struggling to shut them to sleep, that’s how tired I was.
Croydon, London, is not the nicest place to stay on a holiday. It was a bit out of the way – only 2 buses and 3 trains to get into central London! I’m not sure that we felt overly safe while we were staying there, and it was in general a bit dinghy. Maybe it was just the particular area we were in….. So the next important lesson is:
Don’t book an airbnb with no reviews! This one’s a no brainer – and to be fair, this one we knew already. But to be able to travel for a year, we have to be strict with sticking to our budget, and this flat fit into our budget. Our accommodation for the week was okay – it was warm, clean, and spacious. Unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to it’s claims, and was missing some amenities which would have made the stay a bit more comfortable. Possible the worst deception was the claim ‘30 minutes to central London’. I’d love to know which shortcut the host was taking, because we never achieved anything near that time. Lesson learned – sometimes, it’s okay to go over your budget a little (and make it up elsewhere).
Buying a car as a foreigner is difficult. Part of our aim for the first few days in London was to get a car fairly quickly. We already knew that this would be tricky – we had only a surface understanding of how things like the registration and insurance works over here, let alone actually finding the car. Pete spent a couple of days traipsing back and forth over London on public transport until we found one. Then there was the issue of getting insurance when we don’t have a permanent address. It was a busy first couple of days, but we managed it and now have a great car to explore the country in.
Public transport is expensive. Pete spent a lot of time learning this as he looked at cars. The bus rides, overland train trips and underground trips all added up after a while, and then there was that fateful high speed train that Pete hopped on unknowingly, that each trip actually cost £20 (about $35 each way). We might incorporate more walking from now on 😛
Supermarkets in another country are great. We love checking out supermarkets overseas, seeing what fun and weird things British people like to eat. This afternoon we returned from the supermarket and realised we had bought four different types of cheese and three hummus dips – a testament to what Brits are into, because this was covering their shelves! We also bought three persimmons (whatever they are?) and Elena insisted we buy some whole beetroots, for dinner of course. Can’t wait to see how they go down!
Croup sucks. Especially on holidays when you already have one jetlagged baby with a cold. I guess the chilly weather has finally gotten to our cold-impervious toddler, because on Tuesday night (after going to bed perfectly fine), Elena woke up coughing and spluttering with croup. We are experts in croup now, because unfortunately for Elena, this has been a recurring illness since she was a baby. It still sucks. We advise against it. Don’t worry, she’s already on the mend.
Winter is not so bad. Especially when we hear of the heatwave in Sydney right now, as we sit by our roaring fire in a cosy little sitting room. Before we left, most people made a point to mention the cold, and how would we cope? Even I thought that we would be house bound, because who would go outdoors when it’s only 1 degree outside? We’ve realised pretty quickly that the cold is not so bad, and it is pretty quickly made up for by the cosy warmth of every single building you enter.
We always thought of this first week as a ‘recovery week’, as we knew that taking small children on a journey across the world is not small feat. It might sound like there were more negatives than positives, but we have actually had a great week together. We’ve been able to catch up with Pete’s cousin Jo over a delicious pub meal, have a home cooked meal in a beautiful house in the country (we’ve just learned that Brits serve their cheese during/after the meal, and NEVER before), check out the British Museum (this was a smash hit with Elena – not) and bond together over plenty of Peppa Pig and microwave dinners. One week down, and can’t wait for the next 51!