Monday, January 5, 2009

Our not-so-flat flat, part 1

Spending such a long stretch in London required some detailed research on where to live, and Anne gets all the credit for a job well done. Our first step was to determine where the girls are going to school, and they'll be attending (starting Wednesday) the Royal School Hampstead. How we found the school is a story for another post. But once we knew where they were going to school, we could then concentrate our house-hunting search a bit more, as we wanted to be fairly near the girls' school. Working primarily on-line, Anne found our flat in Islington (our neighborhood will also be the subject of a later post). We are about a five minute walk from the Angel Tube station, and the girls will have approximately a 30 minute commute, door-to-door, via the Underground.

Our flat is a canal house, meaning it backs on to Regent's Canal. It's best described as an attached townhouse, and as both Anne and Rosie have described, is rather tall and narrow. It is four separate levels, with one half level (think Being John Malkovich, without the lift). Here's a description of it (we promise to post pictures as soon as we're here for a long enough stretch during the daylight):
  • level 1: What people in the States would call the "garden level," it contains the kitchen, small sitting area, dining room, and a den, which we're using as a bedroom for Rosie. The dining room/sitting area opens out on a lovely brick patio - it's amazing how the plants are so green, even though it's freezing here and it snowed today - that backs onto the canal.
  • level 2: This is the entry level, with a living room and attached parlor, and a bathroom.
  • level 3: an office, where I'll hopefully get a lot of my work done, and a bedroom with bunk beds and a sleep sofa, currently occupied by Lena
  • level 4: the master bedroom
There are three baths: one in Rosie's room (yes, the teenager gets her own bathroom, which is probably best for everyone), one on level 1, and one on level 2.5. When we have guests, Rosie's room becomes the guest room, and she'll share the other bedroom with her sister.

What this all means is that we are getting a ton of exercise going up and down the stairs, even before we've left the house and done all the walking we'll be doing around the city. For colleagues of mine at Penn State, the trip from our bedroom to the kitchen is like walking up or down the Rackley stairs from our offices to the ground level. We know we have to be more organized about remembering to bring things up and down to reduce the number of trips, and I know we'll get there, but for now we feel like we're on a continuous, as Anne put it, "Stairmaster." The other thing this means is that it's a flight and a half from our bedroom to the closest bathroom. Anne's also commented that she'll be drinking a lot less tea at night, which is certainly in my plans also.

Having said this, the house is quite charming. The owners, who I mentioned in an earlier post are from New York, have furnished the house with what must be literally hundreds of antique games, pictures, and food-related advertisements - both from the UK and US. Anne immediately fell in love with it, as it reminds her so much of her parents' house (her mom was an antiques dealer, for those of you who didn't have the pleasure of meeting her before she passed away five years ago). It's quite comfortable and very well appointed for what is primarily used as a rental. But the owners do use it a fair amount, and it certainly does have a "very lived-in" feel to it. It also has plenty of amenities to make our stay that much more convenient and enjoyable, including broadband access and wireless, a dishwasher, washer/dryer, etc. It's also quite clear that the owners enjoy cooking, because even though the kitchen is smallish - a bit bigger than a NYC galley-type kitchen, - it is well stocked and very comfortable and easy to use.

As I mentioned earlier, I'll describe our neighborhood more in a post within the next few days. We're still exploring, and I want to get to know it a bit before describing it here.

N.B. -- for those of you waiting with bated breath for a post about higher education policy issues (both here and back at home), hang in there. It will be a bit until we get ourselves settled in before I can turn my attention to that subject. But I promise I will get there, so please be patient.

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