After I blogged yesterday, I ventured out again: I needed a sim card for my phone, and to vote at Australia House, and anything else was a bonus. Sticking to my ‘walk as much as you can’ plan, I decided that the 45-odd minute walk to Australia House was perfectly reasonable, and off I went. My meandering path eventually took me through a different bit of Hyde Park (and, okay, down Park Lane because Monopoly demanded it of me)… and eventually past Buckingham Palace where, quite by chance, I was just in time for the Changing of the Guard. I hadn’t intended to go that way– I saw the Guard twenty-five years ago– and I didn’t actually see much (the throngs of people! It was insane), but still. I was there.
I then made my way through St James’ Park, up towards Trafalgar Square, and then down the Embankment for a ways. By this time, my feet hurt. A lot. I am not… how shall I put it? In my previous life, I was not terribly active. I had a five minute walk to work; at most, I walked a couple of kms into the city, and that was it. I struggled to get 10,000 steps per day when I was doing Steptember last year: I literally only managed because I went out of my way to try and catch up. So. This walking? This is new. This is intense.
Nonetheless, I was undaunted. Catching the tube would be for wimps! I am trying to explore and get to know this city, and I am going to do that on foot (damn it).
I did, however, eventually make it to Australia House, where I dutifully performed my democratic obligation, and cast my vote (no, you don’t get to ask how I voted). It was actually pretty cool, and definitely the prettiest polling place I’ve ever been in, all ornate floors and walls and arches and… well, you know. Old building stuff. I’m not homesick or anything (yet), but there is something comforting about being around one’s own countrymen, however briefly. Having said that, I very much did regret the lack of democracy sausage sizzle or cake stall, though I guess I can understand why one would not have either in an official diplomatic building (sigh).
I intended to catch the tube back. I even got on one! But… but. I got off again. My feet were hurting less, and it seemed like a bright idea.
It was not a bright idea.
I mean, don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed my walk back. I saw interesting buildings, and did not take any photos because I was distracted, but still. By the time I arrived back at my hotel, my feet really hurt, and so did my legs.
Not that I was done yet, oh no. I took a rest for a while, but then I went back out, because the one thing I hadn’t done yet was open a bank account, and as I had received on my way back an offer of a job interview, and that interview required me to provide proof of address, this seemed important. Unfortunately, that venture was a bust: the woman at the bank insisted that that bank would close my account if I listed a residential address that was not an actual flat or house, and so could not help me. ‘List a friend’s address’ she suggested, which… meh. It was frustrating, and I was tired enough and feeling alone enough that I shed a few tears, even; I did not agree with her assessment, and this bank was the only one I could find that would let me open an account without proof of address, and… frustrating. (I report back, now, that today I visited a different branch of the same bank and opened an account without incident.)
After that, I was just done. Done with the day, done with everything. I had an early dinner and was in bed before 8pm, which turns out not to have been a good idea, because I woke up at 12:30 convinced it must be morning. It was not morning. It was not even a little bit morning.
Happily, I did eventually go back to sleep, but it was restless and intermittent and not ideal. Still, it was enough to get me started today, when I promptly failed to learn my lesson from yesterday, and decided it was perfectly okay for me to walk from Paddington to the British Museum. Which… well, sure, the walk over was fine, but clearly I hadn’t taken into account the fact that I would want to, you know, walk around the museum as well. I am not always the brightest of people. I say this, because I then ended up walking back to Paddington. Oh, self.
But: the museum. I love the British museum. I only explored little bits of it (see previous paragraph re sore feet), but I know I’ll be back. There’s time!
The walk back was hard. By the end, I was not filling too great, and… well. My next step? I had to get my two suitcases from Paddington to Notting Hill. ‘Relatively easy!’ I thought, on the basis that I was not far from a tube station, and Notting Hill Gate was only two stops away. What I had failed to consider– and this is something I am going to have to remember in future– was that not all platforms have lifts, and sometimes there are multiple staircases to ascend and descend in order to reach the correct platform.
Twice, some very well-meaning and kind people offered to carry one of the suitcases for me as I descended or ascended a flight of stairs. Which was lovely of them, and very helpful. The rest of the time (and there were several times), I had to manage it myself, while people around me stared at the stupid tourist with too many belongings. Which was frustrating, because I am normally an incredibly light packer– if I can get away with carry-on baggage, I absolutely will. I’ve never had multiple suitcases for anything in my life, until now, and now… well. Those suitcases contain almost everything I own. Oh well. (Next time I move, here, I am going to suck it up and get a cab.)
I was, needless to say, exhausted and hot and sweaty and feeling gross by the time I arrived at my new home. I had a moment of horror when told my room was on the fourth floor, fearing I would have to lug my bags up the stairs; you can imagine, I think, my relief and glee, when I discovered that there was, in fact, a lift. My room here is small but comfortable: I have a private bathroom, a single bed, a desk, a bookcase, a TV, and a wardrobe. The room overlooks a little private garden in the back, and it’s all lovely. Having showered, and collapsed on the bed for an hour, I even unpacked: I have a home again!
A quick trip to the bank (to open my account), and to Tesco (to buy some necessities), and I’m basically all set up. This place has about 150 rooms, with people staying anywhere from a couple of weeks to upwards of a year, so I’m hoping it will be a good place to meet some people – perhaps even at dinner tonight (dinner being part of the room rate). For now, though, I am resting my aching feet and legs. I have blisters (not surprising), and my muscles are cramping, but it probably was worth it. I managed 20km on foot yesterday, and another 15 today, and that feels pretty good. Tomorrow? Tomorrow, I think I’ll take it a little easier.
I’m really glad to be in my medium-term accommodation now. I now have five weeks (more, if I need it) to get a job, and then find somewhere else to live. Being here, rather than in a hotel, makes me feel just that little bit more settled and ready to build a life. I’m feeling pretty positive about things (knowing I have an interview, and potentially more than one, next week helps – I’m not desperately rushing to get a job, but I like to see progress).
So! That’s where things are. So far so good.