Buying a Flat!

I know it has been radio silence over here for so long now. Part of that is because life has been so busy I really haven’t had time to do anything with this blog – every time I try to start writing, I have such a small amount of time to fit it in that what comes out is rushed and of such low quality I can’t do anything but throw it out and mourn the wasted time!

But ALSO I’ve had a lot of really exciting things in the works for months, and I didn’t want to share them until completely official. And the first one finally is so here we go…

We’re buying a flat! In South East London (where we’ve always lived), right next to Crystal Palace Park, and the commute will be fantastic, and it’s got two floors and three bedrooms and two bathrooms. And it’s finally official!

Did you know buying a flat in the UK takes an average 6 month to complete? Because I certainly didn’t, and when our offer was accepted back in June I expected to be in end of August at the latest. Very naïve, I have since learned.

Buying a flat in the UK is also different to the states in that it’s not legally binding until the very end. Meaning you can get months in and right before you expect it to be official (and after paying lawyers fees), you can be “gazumped”.

Per Google: Gazumping occurs when a seller accepts a verbal offer on the property from one potential buyer, but then accepts a higher offer from someone else. It can also refer to the seller raising the asking price or asking for more money at the last minute, after previously verbally agreeing to a lower one.

Basically it’s all verbal up until you exchange contracts, which doesn’t happen until the end of the process. Our offer was accepted in June and then July – October our lawyers sorted out the legal stuff, and we finally exchanged October 23rd, which made it all legally binding. We will then “complete” on November 4th, which is the day we get keys and officially own the house.

Another major difference between buying a flat in the UK vs the US are chains. The system here is legally set up so it’s not just your one purchase, but the sellers forward purchase, and so on, down the chain until you find someone “chain free” – ie moving to rented accommodation, moving abroad, or not buying for another reason. Depending on how long your chain is, it adds so much time. For example, we have been ready to exchange with our sellers for about a month, but there was an issue between their negotiations with their sellers which held things up. Then we were meant to all exchange on the 22nd, but the contract hadn’t been received from the people our sellers were buying from, so we had to wait on that. Nothing to do with our purchase, but legally it all happens on the same day. We were lucky in that our chain was just the three of us – the people our sellers are buying from are moving to rented accommodation. But there can be chains of 6 or 7 people, and if one of the purchases falls through, it delays completion for months for the entire chain. As such, a friend’s home purchase took over 12 months. And statistically, an accepted offer only leads to a completed sale 2/3 times in the UK (I’d imagine this is even closer to 50/50 in London).

We’ve been anxiously awaiting exchange – as desperate as we are to move in, we were more desperate to know nothing would fall apart last minute and no gazumping would transpire. And it has all finally happened! We’ll be in so soon – and with enough time to plan and host Thanksgiving!

We want to do a lot of work on the place but have very limited funds at the moment. So I’ll share photos of the “before” and then slowly share the “after”. We currently have a bed and an old, dilapidated sofa a friend has kindly bestowed upon us, and otherwise virtually no furniture. What a fun and expensive and terrifying adventure this will be!

A Thanksgiving in London

As I already posted about, I spent this Thanksgiving in London. I hadn’t been to London in quite a while, and was so excited to go back. I was a little nervous, because traditionally I spend Thanksgiving in America with Katie’s family, and I was worried I’d be homesick and surrounded by Brits on one of my very favorite holidays. That said, it was amazing!

The perfectness started after Gareth felt last minute guilt and agreed to pick me up from the airport. It’s so nice when someone is waiting for you at the gate, and even nicer when that isn’t followed by an hour long night bus (hint, hint x forever). I got in late the first night so we pretty much grabbed some food and went right to bed. Can I say again HOW MUCH I love to, on occasion, eat non-Spanish food? It’s pretty great.

On Friday we had breakfast at one of the best coffee shops in Peckham, and then headed into Greenwich. I used to spend a lot of time there when we were all still in college, but I can’t remember having gone anytime recently at all. It was almost the same as I remembered, except the got rid of the Tex Mex place which breaks my nostalgic Mexican-loving heart.

We wandered around the park, which was gorgeous. I caught a few pokemon, because I’m cool. Then it got too cold and we headed to a pub nearby for beer and mulled wine (guess who ordered what). After that we went to the market where I got a really old map of Massachusetts, and for quite the deal because apparently Gareth is an expert negotiator. We got lunch and an 8 pound bottle of Rioja wine (on sale from 16 and still about quadruple what you’d pay in actual La Rioja), and then went back and tried to sneak in a nap before meeting up with all our friends.

It was a chill night, we had a few rounds, played some pool, and caught up about everything I’d missed in my nearly 10 month absence! Just to put this out there, I have the best friends.

Saturday was our stand-in Thanksgiving day, and what better way to start stretching your stomach than with a classic fry up! After joyfully eating something other than a pastry for breakfast, we headed to the big Sainsbury’s in the hopes they would have all the American stuff I needed for my recipes. Which they did, apart from corn syrup (which I need a disgusting amount of for my chocolate bourbon pecan pie). I substituted golden syrup which was actually a pretty big step down but it worked in a pinch.

I spent the morning cooking the pie and helping (aka watching and criticizing) Gareth prepare the turkey. I met up with some friends at the pub to watch England defeat Argentina, and by the time we got back the kitchen was set up and food was nearly ready. (Thanks, G!)

I’ve never properly hosted a Thanksgiving before. I’ve had one at my place, but never was in charge of making sure everyone had assigned foods and knew what they were making. That said, because my friends put so much effort in, it was all perfect. We had enough for everyone to have seconds, the food was delicious, and I even got like two British people to say what they’re thankful for, which was the biggest surprise of all.

After eating we went to the park and spent about an hour playing 6 on 6 football. It was excellent (and not only because my team won by a lot). Eventually we wandered home and attempted to drink even half the wine that was brought. We played cards and talked about all the new engagements and had a perfect end to the night.

The next morning we watched Gilmore Girls (I want another season!), went to another great coffee place for breakfast, and then I had to leave for the airport. The trip went so fast. It mostly just reminded me how much I love London, and my friends there, and how much I miss it. It’s so nice seeing Gareth all the time, and exploring so many new places, but it was a reminder about how much I love the old ones too. Right now I’m deciding what to do after New Years, because in Spain we have the week after off too. I found cheap flights to Budapest and back to Spain from Vienna. Really cheap. But I could also spend like 5 more days in London, which I know I would love too. It´s hard to make decisions!

I’m writing this on my break before my lass class, and then I rush home, pack, and head to Barcelona. I fly out at 6:00am tomorrow morning for Berlin, and from there will visit Amsterdam, Prague, and Wroclaw. I get back Sunday morning, 10 days from now, and my mom arrives for the holidays on that Wednesday. I am so excited for all that’s coming up. Just once more, in case I’ve not made it sufficiently clear… I love the holidays!

26th Birthday and a last minute trip to London

On February 1st, two important things happened. I turned 26 and I made a crazy, impromptu weekend trip to London. It was also the year anniversary of the Patriots winning the Super Bowl, but who’s counting?

I found out a few weeks before that the weekend of my birthday, which was on a Monday, was a long one. We had Friday and Monday off. I joked to G a few times that I should fly to London, but it was always a joke. That’s 24 hours of flying for one weekend. That’s crazy.

Flash to Thursday morning. I woke up from a really vivid dream that I was in London with my girlfriends, getting ready to go out. Nothing special happened, it just felt SO real. And I woke up devastated it wasn’t. Heartbroken I wasn’t about to meet all my friends at the pub, that Gareth was actually half a world away, already midway through his Thursday.

So. I decided to be crazy. I booked the tickets. (Which I was able to do last minute because of the thousands of airline miles I obsessively collect.)

Also I was late for work, because I needed to make the decision, call the airline, and pack in the time it usually takes for me to just roll out of bed and get in my car (my morning routine, ladies and gentlemen). I spent the whole day buzzing with excitement. We had a birthday party at work for me and the other assistant who stole my birthday minus a year. Then I got a bunch of alerts that the plane was delayed by hours. I tweeted AA and they responded that they needed to find a whole new plane. Then I read this article and figured out why. That could have been me! That was the plane I was meant to take on its way back to the UK.

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It was mostly fine, I hung out in the admirals club and drank free wine. We boarded five and a half hours late, something I normally wouldn’t care about but that was a decent percentage of my total time in London! The flight was empty. Probably everyone else got on an earlier flight or decided to go home and sleep in their beds instead of wait at the airport until 1am. But not I! And I was rewarded with an empty row and basically a flight attendant all to myself.

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I landed in London and it was SO good to be back. It felt so surreal. 24 hours before I had no idea I’d be in London the next day. Seeing Gareth had been months away and actually being in London even longer. And suddenly, there I was! Fighting to get my oyster card working and sitting on the tube. It was a really special moment that reminded me not to take anything for granted, that the world is so much smaller than you think. And that Gareth really isn’t as far away as he sometimes feels. I took a picture to capture it. To me it’s a picture of the endless possibilities and the strange turns life takes. To everyone else it probably just looks like a train.


Then I was home and everything was amazing. My keys still worked (obviously), the drawer of clothes G convinced me to leave were still there, ready to be worn (though I did raid it on my way back, shhh), and Gareth had flowers, dinner, chocolate, red wine, Prosecco, and a toothbrush ready and waiting for me (read: he is perfect). And all my friends dropped everything and met me at the pub that night. It was amazing. I made my literal dream come true!

The weekend was a lovely mix of seeing friends and getting some great one on one time with G. Both nights all my friends came over, and during the days Gareth and I would stroll around London, eat delicious food, and play our favorite card game. It was really perfect. It was just a glowy haze of fun and feeling so full and happy.


The next morning the three people I hadn’t been able to see yet came over for breakfast (G makes the best breakfast sandwiches in probably the entire world), and then we went on another walk and then for my birthday dinner. Which was amazing. We keep trying to go to this Italian place by the train station, and it keeps being closed on the only night we can go. But instead we went to Olivelli on Lordship Lane, and it was perfect. The food was delicious and we had the most comically grumpy waiter. Also they had this dessert that was the best thing I’ve ever had. It wasn’t even chocolate, and it is RARE I enjoy a chocolate-free dessert. I don’t remember what it was called but the waiter said it was very traditional Sicilian. It looked like cottage cheese. And I want it 100 more times in my life.


My last morning we had breakfast and watched bad TV, which was what we did most mornings this summer. Then he took me to the airport and even though it was sad, because it always is, this time it felt different. This time I knew that he really was just a plane ride away. That we could plan to see each other in May but we could change our minds and be with each other 24 hours later.

It was the perfect weekend. It didn’t feel too rushed, it didn’t feel like a clock was ticking down. It felt stolen, or like the most perfect birthday gift. I’m so incredibly happy I had a vivid dream and a crazy, impulsive reaction to it. I hope I have them more often.