Wednesday 22 April 2015

Goodbye Little Home

The view from our window for the past 6 years.

The battered brown door wasn’t inviting, neither was the narrow, dark corridor leading up the stairwell. We could already hear noisy floorboards and other peoples steps upstairs. The prospects were not looking good for this one. It was January 2009 and a nervous estate agent said goodbye to one couple leaving the open viewing and welcomed us in to what would become our home for the next 6 years, 2 months and 10 days.

Oh sweet Jesus, the horror! So much wood, so much badly varnished wood. The imposing built-in bookshelves that covered one wall of the living room immediately brought to mind Ron Burgundy’s “My apartment smells of rich mahogany” quote.
We had just come from seeing a tiny studio flat round the corner in Primrose Hill which hadn’t given us much hope and now we were being subjected to what was basically a first-floor wooden shed. The swinging Wild West style doors to the bathroom added a certain charm and it was quite cosy for a one bedroom flat with high ceilings, big sash windows and small rooms. Looking past the wood, could this be what we were looking for?

We had both moved to London the previous October, both to Finsbury Park but to different flats- Ellie to an airy, stylish flat which she shared with a lovely German woman but with a tiny bedroom and me to a dingy, dirty flat nearer the station shared with three others. Everybody has to start from somewhere but the constant toilet blockages, horrible living room/kitchen setup and stench of weed strongly motivated me to find somewhere else for us to live together. We already had best friends living in Chalk Farm so when we spotted a flat in Belsize Park for a knockdown price we had to have a look.

The flat viewing had not filled me with joy though. After saying goodbye to the agent, we went for a cuppa in Violettes CafĂ© and had a chat about what we had just seen. I wasn’t enamoured, however, Ellie has much keener eye than me and knew we had seen something special. She persuaded me that we could do something with the wood and was adamant we could turn it into our home.  
Three weeks later we moved in and begun painting the shelving and desk in the living room. It wasn’t a smooth process, what with all the moving and painting, but we slowly started to make it more homely.

Over the past 6 years we’ve had drunken parties, mock Come Dine With Me competitions, watched scary movies with shrieking friends, hosted weekend Take Me Out nights, eaten hundreds of Dominos pizzas and had a sleepover to see how many people we could fit into such a small space (twelve as it turned out- three to the bed and nine to the living room).

It’s funny how time changes your perspective on things. I never thought that I would ever live and work in London but the flat has been our constant and provided us with the home that we hoped it would. This flat will be a sad place to say goodbye to next week but we have brilliant memories to take away with us.

Goodbye little home.

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Wednesday 15 April 2015

Eighty Days: The Route


Eighty days on the road, almost three months away from home. The enormity of it only hit us recently. We'll do another post about it later but leaving everything behind is easier said than done- arranging for things to tick over nicely is an administrative headache- but we're getting there.

Now it's mainly double and triple checking AirBnBs, reading reviews on Trip Advisor until our brains melt and making sure we're not missing out on anything remotely cool along the way, all to feed into the magical spreadsheet that has become our little baby. If we lose this bloody spreadsheet...

I thought I'd lay down our route in this post. We'll have that little map to your right (--->) which we'll try and update every day so you can see where we are but this is our plan as it stands.

Part One 
4th- 21st May 2015
  • Fly into Las Vegas
  • Drive to Flagstaff, Arizona via Route 66
  • Up to Page, Arizona via Monument Valley Navajo Nation
  • Cross into Utah and stay in Cedar City and St George, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park
  • Back to Las Vegas for our friends wedding
  • On to California via Death Valley
  • Upwards to Bridgeport and Bodie Ghost Town
  • Finish the stage in Yosemite 

Part Two 

22nd May- 10th June 2015
  • Two brief stopovers in Lake Tahoe and Klamath Falls
  • Onto Bend, Oregon for a few days rest and a Robert Plant show
  • Eugene, Oregon
  • Portland, Oregon for a four night stay and our wedding anniversary!
  • Olympia, Washington for a stay in a tree house
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Port Angeles, Washingon

Part 3
11th June- 28th June 2015
  • Mt Olympia National Park, WA
  • Pacific Northwest coast
  • Back to Oregon via Astoria
  • Florence, OR
  • Crescent City, OR
  • Miranda, CA for the Redwood parks.
  • Boyes Hot Springs in Sonoma Valley, CA
  • Sacramento, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Carmel, CA

Part Four
29th June-22nd July 2015
  • Carmel Valley, CA
  • San Luis Obispo, CA for a stay at The Madonna Inn 
  • Independence Day in Santa Barbara
  • Big Bear Lake, CA
  • Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • Finishing the whole trip in Los Angeles staying in Los Feliz

We'll be back in a few days with some of our favourite London spots that we'll be sad to say goodbye to when we move out of town!

Monday 13 April 2015

Hello to Home & Highways

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Photos: Emma Case

This is us. In 21 days we leave the UK for 80 days in America. I'm terrified and excited. We both are.

Almost three months of unpaid leave in a country we think we know, that everybody thinks they know, is probably the biggest, craziest thing either of us has ever done. It's taken nearly two years of saving every bit of spare money and even now we aren't fully certain that we won't run out of money somewhere near San Diego.

We've just made the first mortgage payment on the home mentioned in our blog name. It's a home we don't currently live in, one that has no white goods, needs decorating and is, at the moment, full of boxes of our non-essential items. We don't officially move out of London until May 1st so the three days between us closing one door, opening another 30 miles away and then jumping on a plane and flying 5,000 miles west will probably be a bit stressful but we're trying to stay focused, plan as much as we can and technically speaking, not lose our shit.

We wanted to blog along the way because we didn't want the trip to happen and for us not to have absorbed any of it. Last time we did something similar, I promised myself I'd keep a travel journal and it just didn't happen. That was a three week trip and I still have to be reminded about certain parts of it- I don't want to forget anything this time and sitting down to write up our experiences every few days will help us to reflect on it all.

Just as a side note, we aren't travellers in the usual sense. We like home comforts and our own bed. We don't know anything about gap years and we're both pushing 30. We just want to do something to remember for the rest of our lives, something to force us outside of our comfort zone and scare us. Bring it on!

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