Sunday, September 6, 2009

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." (Samuel Johnson)

I have been in London for almost four days now and am already in love with it. I can certainly see what all the hype is about. The streets are filled with so many interesting people, shops, and historic buildings…which combined, creates an energy that makes you just want to go out and explore!

So far, I have spent most of my days wandering around with my “London: A-Z Map” and my Lonely Planet (thank you, Lauren!) trying to understand the city’s layout (which doesn’t really make sense to me- I tend to be directionally challenged to begin with, so the roundabouts, street names changing every couple of blocks, and backwards traffic flow only add to the confusion) and have loved everything I’ve seen. I am interested in knowing how many kilometers I covered over the past few days. I should have worn a pedometer (typical phys ed….whoops “P.E.” teacher thought-process)! I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to live in such an exciting city and experience the heart of it.

I haven’t actually done anything touristy yet- I am waiting until I get a paycheck before I fall victim to London’s tourist trap! However, I have walked past many of the major sights: Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Thames, Covent Garden Market, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, have explored many of the popular districts: Soho, Bloomsbury, Kensington, Westminster, and have gone on a few runs through Regent’s Park (which is a 5 min jog from my building!).

Today, after the big adventure of finding a replacement quill bit for my bike-- the bike box got damaged on the plane and a few parts fell out—I was finally able to take my bike out for a little spin around the city! Although drivers are really aggressive here, London seems to be cycle-friendly, at least in some areas. There are bike lanes throughout the city, many of which are separated from motorized traffic by a median. I am looking forward to doing some cycle trips throughout England on weekends, and hopefully, some of Europe!!! I hope to join a cycling club and would even like to do a road race or two while I’m here!!

I don’t think that the adjustment to a new place and way of life will as difficult as I anticipated. Everyone has been very helpful and friendly so far, which has made the transition really easy. Also, many things are familiar to me here. Often, I forget I’m in Europe, and feel like I’m just in another city in Canada! I think that I might even feel like more of a foreigner in Quebec! They have many of the same stores and restaurants here that they have back home: Starbucks, McDonald’s, Subway, GAP, H&M, HMV, American Apparel…so it doesn’t feel too foreign. I am looking forward to doing a bit of shopping in the stores which were previously unknown to me…and maybe become slightly more fashionable (I know, wishful thinking…). I already know that there is limited hope for saving money here, though. I live right in the middle of the shopping/fashion district…so even though I don’t plan on buying many “things” while I’m here, as I want to save my money for “experiences”, I am sure that I will get seduced by all the SALE signs and European fashions.

Actually, so far, I don’t find it too much more expensive here than it is in Toronto. I mean, I found living in Toronto expensive compared to Ottawa or Kingston (but maybe less expensive than Banff???), but I had prepared myself that London was going to be outrageously pricey. However, my rent is reasonable, and the prices of groceries are comparable to home. Even drinks in the pub are about the same (especially once you factor in that you don’ t have to tip!). I went to the Canadian pub, the Maple Leaf, with my cousin Laura, and her Canadian friends, so pub prices were a true comparison!

I haven’t spent much money over the past few days and have had a lot of fun… I think it is just difficult to save money in any big city because almost everything you do costs money. Based on what I’ve observed from the price tags here so far, as long as I don’t go to shows every night and have fancy dinners out all the time, I should manage just fine, and will be able to do lots of travelling. (Don’t worry, I do plan on going to shows and fancy dinners, though- I’m not going to be a total cheapskate).

My location is very central- close to Goodge Street and Oxford Circus tube stations for those of you who have visited London. Basically, I can walk to pretty much anywhere in the city, or hop on the tube if I’m feeling pressed for time. Anything I need-banks, grocery stores, pubs, drugstores- is a short walk away. I anticipate that I will have a good quality of life here and a very healthy lifestyle with all the walking!

I am living in a residence which is partnered with the University College of London Hospitals, so most of the other tenants are either working as nurses, are in medical school, or are Health Sciences students. It is nice to be living somewhere where it is so easy to meet other people!! I have my own room and share the kitchen and bathroom. It reminds me a lot of my room in Waldron Tower, where I lived during my first year of university at Queen’s- it also has a sink! It is great, all I need, and the price is right!

I haven’t started working yet, but am starting next week! Right now, I am going to be supply teaching in Central London (there is a teacher shortage here, so you get work almost every day), but may take a long-term contract if one comes up that interests me. However, I am actually excited to supply teach, as I will be exposed to many different types of classes and groups of students. There are many differences in the British school system compared to ours’ in Canada, so I am interested in having a range of experiences, which will hopefully translate into meaningful learning opportunities for me. Of course, supply teaching has its downsides (“whooooo! We have a supply teacher! Let’s go CRAZY!!!”), but I’m sure I’ll survive. It also has the benefits of no prep or marking, meaning, more time to experience London life! Without a doubt, I’ll have many stories to write about!!!

Tomorrow, I’m off to go watch my friend, Jane’s (a friend from Banff) rugby game at Wimbledon…looking forward to seeing how the game is played in England!

My plan is to update the blog weekly, unless something incredibly exciting happens to warrant an additional entry. Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at if you have any questions or comments--even if you just want to say hi. I’d love to hear from you.

Life is exciting, wherever you are in the world. There is so much to see and do, and so many wonderful people to share these experiences with! Whether you are in London, England or in the bouncing metropolis of Bells Corners, Ontario, partake in the adventure- every day is a gift.

Live. Dream. Explore.

xoxo Shannon :)


Nikki said...

Exciting stuff Shannon! Can't wait to hear how your first day of teaching goes!

Ms. Tam said...

Good luck on your teaching experiences! Sounds like you're having a blast in London :) I highly recommend visiting the British Museum and the National Gallery, both are free and you can literally spend weeks in there :P If you have time you have to watch a play at the Globe Theater. Ticket prices are fair and it is an amazing experience. Best wishes on your adventures!

MAV said...

This is my work blog account.... so no one is allowed to laugh at the "Ms Valois" part. hahah

Sounds awessome Shan!
So happy for you and proud of you.

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