We always knew this time would come – most expats do – but we just didn’t know when. Until now. After almost four years of calling this manic mosh pit of a city our home-sweet-home, we have decided that it’s time to say goodbye. It wasn’t an easy decision to make but our feet are getting itchy, our minds are a tad weary, and all the other little signs were pointing to the need for a change. A certain someone has done this whole ‘see ya later London’ thing before but for me, the thought of uprooting and leaving our London life behind is still a little overwhelming. Aside from all the logistical issues of packing and storing our stuff, and plotting our next steps, I’m not sure there’s anything I can do that will truly get me ready to leave.
Being a temporary Londoner has been thrilling, frustrating, engaging, challenging, rewarding – just throw in the whole gambit of human emotion and take your pick of what it might be on any given day. There are things about this city I despise, there have been brief moments where it has turned me into a person I don’t like (mainly when public transport is involved), but nowhere is perfect and all that seems trivial when I think about all the opportunities and experiences I’ve had here. So in honour of this city which I clearly love so much, these are the ten things, in no particular order, I’ll miss most about London…
Long before I acquired a certain someone as my regular dining and travel buddy, I had some other partners in crime. Throughout my high school and university days, I was mostly a single lady and I did what other footloose and fancy free ladies did… hit the town with my girls! Back then, the travel destinations were not as extensive or exotic but there were still plenty of road trips, beach holidays, shopping days, and always lots of eating and drinking along the way. We laughed, we cried, we did things we would never ever do now… but it was always fun.
I still see many of these ladies regularly (by London standards anyway)… a few I have known since the tender age of 11, some since university, and others I’ve met more recently; but all I’m happy to call my friends. As everyone’s work lives and social schedules get busier and busier, it gets harder and harder to fit in quality girl time so I was super excited when a group of us booked in a weekend away to Bordeaux; no boys allowed, this was a girls only weekend!
When I was a foot loose and fancy free single lady, I didn’t really care for Valentine’s Day. That silly little cupid with his overpriced red roses and heart shaped chocolates can move right on because this lady was not falling for it. However, in the last couple of years, the 14th of February has held a special place in my heart… but probably not for the reasons you’re thinking!
Have you ever reached that point where you really need a holiday? Not just that ‘itchy feet desperate to explore’ point, but that point where you’re completely exhausted. That point where you spend almost all your waking hours in the office, your flatmates have forgotten what you look like, and you fear your eyesight fading away with every extra minute you stare at your screen. That’s when you know you really need that holiday. We have.
The plan was to go somewhere hot, affordable, and preferably with a beach; our top choices were fairly easy, somewhere in Thailand or Indonesia. However, in typical last minute fashion, it was nearing the end of November, we were planning to go at the end of December, and as it happens, a lot of other overworked New Zealanders also plan to go somewhere hot, affordable and beachy over their Christmas holidays. Plan A was either all booked out or criminally expensive so we went to Plan B – google something else.
When it comes to travel planning, we are definitely in the ‘play it cool’ category. There are pats on the back all round if we’ve booked flights a month before we leave, got accommodation lined up a few weeks before arriving and put together a general plan to get from the airport to the hotel. Obviously we pack our bags on the morning of departure, why bother doing it any earlier?
At the airport we are those cool kids who board the plane last, at the other end we are always swift to alight with only our small backpacks in hand. Once at our destination we are armed with little more than a map and a vague idea of the main attractions. We alternate between days of pounding the pavements until our feet ache, taking in whatever sights we happen upon, or casually whittling away the hours simply soaking in the atmosphere. Often these hours will be spent baking on the beach or people watching in the town square with a glass of wine in hand; basically living the life!
If I’m being really ambitious I can claim to be trilingual. I have a firm grasp of one language (hopefully you’ll agree it’s English) and a passable conversational grasp of the others- Mandarin and Cantonese. Much to a certain someone’s amusement, conversations in my family are a mish-mash of the three languages in a strange symphony of accents. You might think that this, combined with my love of travel means I have quite the knack for picking up languages but you would be wrong. Any German or Japanese I learnt during high school has deserted me; I could barely order a beer on our recent weekend in Nuremberg and let’s face it, my Japanese is sadly now limited to types of sushi.
We attempted to learn Spanish before our trip to Mexico and Cuba but that plan was swiftly abandoned after only 2 lessons from a ‘Learn Spanish’ CD. There were some accusatory conversations over who was practising the phrases too loudly and therefore making it hard for the other to hear the CD; we stopped for the sake of our relationship. We did pick up some basics by the end of our month long jaunt but that wasn’t before some taxi-ordering difficulties in Havana, and that time in Mexico City when our ‘enchilada’ was not rolled and covered in mole as expected but tacos filled with the spiciest of porks. But when it really came to haunt me was during a long weekend in Barcelona when all my orders of ‘te con leche’ resulted in cups of scalding hot milk with tea bags in them. I’m sure we can all agree that milk is not great for brewing tea.
2014 was definitely an action packed year full of travel and foodie adventures. Looking back through the photos I still get warm fuzzies reminiscing about all the places we’ve been lucky enough to get to, and a little disturbed about how much we’ve eaten!
We started the year in Havana squeezed into a tiny bar, knocking back mojitos and avoiding the buckets of water being thrown down from balconies, and ended it strolling the cobbled streets of Lisbon eating custard tarts.