Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sweet Home (away from) Chicago

We will be living in a house named The Latimer House. It actually has an official name. 
Bishop Hugh Latimer
We met the owners and they were lovely - former expats themselves, which was a nice bit of comfort to us - and they told us that the house was named for the English Bishop Hugh Latimer. Bishop Latimer was a famous Anglican preacher in the time of King Henry VIII and then in the time of Queen Mary I. He was burned at the stake for preaching his protestant beliefs during a time when the new Queen Mary (who was married to Spanish royalty) was attempting to convert the country to Catholicism.  When the subject came up during our inspection of the house, all parties present seemed to have incredible knowledge of the man, the events, and the period. (We are told the English are history buffs...and it certainly appears that way)

The above of Bishop Latimer actually hangs inside of our new house. 

We surely hope we are living in this house when we arrive in the little town in early August. It is a lovely in-town home that was built prior to the 1700s. It has its quirks with shorter doorways, and many period features (as they say in the UK) but it has more character than any place we have ever seen in a house here in Chicago. My favorite parts of the house are:
1. The Snug (aka the small study room with built in book shelves, a desk in the corner, and a fireplace - perfect for drinking tea or coffee and checking email or reading the paper)
2. The AGA Stove. It allows a whole new cooking challenge for me and I cannot wait to learn how to cook with it. I have even signed up for an afternoon cooking class at the near by AGA store how to use these stoves! 
3. The Mature English Garden - a beautiful garden in the back of the house with lots of flowers, plants, and even a pond with a fish resident! This video below takes you on a very short (and bumpy) walk through the garden and into the back door of the house. It looks a bit blair-witch-project-like, so please excuse the home video production quality....

We know this house will be quite different than our city place in Chicago. However, we have a few guest rooms, so visitors will be welcome! 

Monday, June 23, 2008

A weekend in London

We took a (short) break from house hunting in the midlands this past weekend to explore the city of London. It was my first visit to the city and Scott's second visit. For a mere 2 days in the city, we seemed to hit all of the major land marks and attractions. We figured out we walked about 15 - 20 miles, and saw multiple London neighborhoods by foot, so our legs are pretty much tapped for the rest of our trip!
I would say I have a certain fascination with big cities and the hustle and bustle that comes with them. There is always a vibrancy and excitement about what's going on in a big city. Visiting London for the first time, made me think about how I used to view Chicago prior to living there. 
There was always an excitement that came from visiting my grandparents outside the city and taking the train into the loop to shop, visit museums, and be a tourist. I wondered if I were going to have that same feeling about London or if the city would offer such a sense of amazement as Chicago did to me when I was younger.


Scott at the London "eye"; Cassie Hyde Park
London did impress me with its "hustle and bustle" but I found myself noting the similarities between Chicago and London more than I expected I would. London felt much larger than Chicago, but I found the large sidewalks more like Chicago vs. New York, and found Hyde Park and the many green spaces to offer a sense of what Chicago tries to convey with its many parks and lakefront. The streets were surprisingly clean too. The shopping, of course, was more exciting to me in London (and MUCH more expensive!), and I also found it to be a fabulous treat to not only shop inside of Harrods, but also enjoy a gourmet lunch within their food area. Talk about a great afternoon!
 A perfect Lunch at Harrods. 
Wrapping up the weekend with fish and chips and a few traditional ales a local pub, we rounded out a quick but packed weekend in London.... We look forward to many more visits to the city from our little countryside town, for more sightseeing, shopping, and people watching as soon as we return to the UK as (temporary) residents here. 

Scott has his own restaurant in the Mayfair neighborhood. :) 

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A pint in a pub

I think we can stay....mmmmm....

Scott & Cassie's Saloon

We traveled and made it safely here to the UK for our "house finding" trip. Scott & I both knew that the British speak a different version of English than we do in America, but we can barely understand what these people are saying.

Upon landing at Heathrow, we claimed our bags and then we went to pick up our car at the car rental agency. The nice English rental agent, asked us if we would like a saloon. Not sure if it was the jet-lag or just our complete incompetence, we asked her to repeat herself (at least 5 times). "A saloon," we asked? Yes, she said a saloon. Scott & I looked at each other and eventually just shrugged. The rental agent didn't really know how to explain the car to us (when she did, we still could not understand what she was saying), so we said that car sounded fine. We are not quite sure what type of car a saloon is, but we think we may have one....

We left Heathrow and headed towards our destination in the West Midlands, and made it there in one piece, despite not knowing what half of the traffic signs here mean. There were LOTS of round-abouts and lots of VERY FAST moving cars. I think I will need to start taking valium in order to survive driving long distances as a passenger here! 

We will prepare to house hunt for the rest of our time here, with our agent in hopes of finding our dwelling for our time here in the English countryside.

Friday, June 13, 2008

What's in a Name

Well, Cassie and I are moving to England.  

Just when the thought of moving abroad had escaped our (my) conciseness, the opportunity has finally presented itself.  My employer will be moving us to a small town (near the birthplace of Shakespeare) in the central part of England.  

The thought of our coming move has had us dreaming of the travel....the romance...the history....the...wait, we're moving out of the country.....and soon.

The thing about moving is that it is kind of hectic....make that really hectic.  And moving out of the country is just that, but raised to some exponential degree.  There are packers, movers, tax accountants, real-estate agents, human resource professionals, bankers, lawyers, travel agents, new bosses, foreign exchange consultants, insurance agents....and more that we have yet to talk to.  

The funny thing, though, is that considering the inherent diversity of the ex-pat relocation support army....almost each and every one of my soon-to-be British compatriots has had the same response upon completing their respective introduction:

Ex-pat support infantry person:  I'm so-and-so and I provide such-and-such.

Me:  Thank you for your time.  

Ex-pat support infantry person: Your name,  well that's a good Scottish name!

Me: In fact I am of Scottish descent - here is my family history, looking forward to living in the UK, thanks again for your time

Ex-pat support person:  Wonderful.  This is my family lineage, (this is where the specific infantry person's story varies somewhat)....and finally let's get down to business.

We're not quite sure exactly what is going to unfold over the next few years, but one thing is certain....I do have a uniquely Scottish name, a family name now for both of us.  

We decided to enter the blogging world to chronicle our adventures ahead, and invite you to follow along as we explore our new home (England) and neighborhood (Greater Europe) and settle into our new, strange, historic surroundings.