Thursday - We flew into London Heathrow and had a hired car (rental car) drive us to our temporary housing in Derby. We were all tired and napped a little on the drive over but no one slept enough to freshen up. Our rental car was waiting for us so were off to downtown to sight see before the jet lag set in. (More on the rental car later.) We stayed downtown for a few hours and headed back to the apartment in the afternoon. Nothing special downtown - just exchanged US $ for Great Britian Pounds (GBP) and did a little window shopping for the kids. Sooooo painful to exchange US $ for GBP. Sooooooo painful. The kids first impression was that downtown was very similar to home - malls look the same, restaurants look the same, people look the same, the only difference is the accents. Very funny since that was my first impression as well.
Friday - Lori set her alarm for 10 AM which was a great idea as it woke us all up. I fell asleep at 5:30 PM Thursday night so I slept 16.5 hours and was still tired. A slight English adventure with the shower. The shower is actually a wall mounted unit (small enough to fit two units into a kid's school backpack) that has a start/stop button and two selector knobs. One knob is for water temperature with 1 - 10 settings and one knob is for water pressure setting with three settings; really low pressure, kinda low pressure, and low pressure. The adventure part was the power switch for the wall mounted unit. The "switch" is actually a pull cord outside of the shower. We should have tried it as we were warned by other Rolls people that lights and outlets have on/off switches over here, so I guess everything electric has an on/off switch. Lesson learned.
Friday's agenda was to visit Murray Park and set up a bank account - no need to discus the bank account as I don't want to put people to sleep. Murray Park is the school Karl was accepted into so we had a Friday tour scheduled. Short story is he likes the school and they appear to have some programs for him to join which is great. Once he has his uniform I will put his picture on the blog - I can't wait! School start for him on October 31 since this is the last week of the quarter and school is off next week for break. We did find out his appeal will be heard on November 15 so he will start the second quarter at Murray Park. Basically it looks like the kids will be off for two weeks but we haven't heard about Kalle's school yet. I will update everyone on the kids schools once they start.
The other fun part of Friday was driving. Seriously. We have a BMW 118d rental car as you can see below. I hit my head getting into the car, hit my knee on the steering wheel as I sit down, have to shift my body twice during sitting down before I am comfortable and my head rubs on the ceiling. But the car is SO MUCH FUN to drive. Lori told me that I shouldn't drive because she wasn't sure if I was covered on the insurance which was just a cheap ploy so she could drive it. Can you believe her? (She actually wasn't sure but did confirm on Monday that I am covered so watch out Derby!) As for the driving on the wrong side of the road it is not that bad. But driving is a two person job at first, one person monitors the sat nav (satelite navigation unit or GPS) and watches the road while the other person actually drives. I am not sure if it is the car or not but I actually look forward to driving over here. I guess we will see for sure when Lori's pool car is ready and we have to return the BMW. I am sure you will hear my broken hearted wailing across the pond. One thing that helps is the amount of traffic on the roads. The roads are always busy so you constantly see traffic which really helps. Plus we have an automatic so shifting is not an issue. We also have a no talking rule for the kids when we are driving - great idea Steve and Kuk!
Me sitting in the car. Our rental apartment is behind us. A decent apartment, two bedroom with a kitchenette. A little cozy but okay for now.
Saturday - More driving by Lori, I still can't believe her! We went up to Ikea to check out furniture as we have a furniture allotment to furnish our house. A nice trip with lunch at McDonald's. Karl loves McD's over here. Their burgers are thinner and dry (no dripping grease burger is definetely a plus but dry is a minus) and the fries are not salty. Plus the fries are missing the beef flavoring that they use in the US. I love US McD's fries, UK McD's fries are not good. Lori had a 1955 burger which was okay. The burger has lettuce, grilled onion, tomatoe, bacon, ketchup and smoky barbeque sauce. I guess it is called the 1955 burger because that is when Ray Kroc founded the corporation. A brief history lesson from Wikipedia - the restaurant concept was from Irish brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald who opened the first restaurant in San Bernardino, CA in 1940. Ray Kroc partnered with the McDonalds and eventually bought them out in order to make the franchise global. An interesting entry on Wikipedia for those interested in more details.
We also did laundry in the tiny washer/dryer unit for the first time. What a trip. It holds two pairs of pants and one shirt or one pair of pants and three shirts. We will definetely be using some of our furniture allotment money for a large washer and dryer. Plus we don't have the washer/dryer operation down yet. We sometimes wash loads twice because we can't open the door. We have also washed loads without the dryer cycle running. Still not sure why they don't always dry.
Food has been good so far. At the local Sainsbury's (grocery store) you can buy prepackaged food like pasta, meat, vegetables, etc. for a reasonable price that you throw into the oven or onto the stove to make a quick meal. The portions are sized well for the four of us and the food has tasted good so we have been pleasently surprised so far. I will follow up with more food pictures on later posts.
Kalle eating Birds cream puff. Kinda looks like she was rubbing it on her face and fingers before eating it.
Sunday - We Skyped with Jeff and the Stines for the first time, we have been Skyping with Bob and Lona also. Technology sure can be great. Any more Skypers out there? We would love to keep in touch with family and friends back home so let us know.
More shopping, this time at Best Buy - check out the BMW boot (trunk) full of TV's. It took three tries but we were able to fit a 32" TV, 46" TV and printer into the car. Lori and Kalle had to stay at the store but we did get them to the apartments. Priorities you know. This trip also marked Karl's first trip as co-pilot.
Not the tallest car but fun to drive.
We had a couple more slight English adventures on Sunday. First was the lights going out. Apparently when a bulb burns out it knocks out the whole lighting circuit so you have to change the bulb in order to turn the lights on. So off we go to get a bulb, return, replace the bulb, turn on the lights, and nothing. Another round of checking found a second broken filament bulb so off we go to get another bulb. We return, go to remove the bulb, and find out that there are two different bulb bases over here. One is the grooved base twist on/off style common in the US and the other is a smooth base with two pegs style that you push down then quarter turn to remove the bulb. We probably should have checked the base initially but we had another errand to run so we picked up the proper bulb, returned, turned it on, and nothing. At this point my small pocket of patience is empty so we were in the dark Sunday night and left a note for the apartment maintenance staff. Yes the staff did fix the lights and yes we did buy a plug in light on Monday in case this happens again.
The other adventure was a doozy. Remember our discussion above about only Lori driving the rental? Well, we are on our way to check out Costco Sunday afternoon and I am co-piloting and Lori is driving. We come to a T, I tell Lori to turn right. She says "here?", I said yes, and she turns right into oncoming traffic. She prompty drops the loudest F-bomb I have heard in 5 years and starts dodging traffic until she finds an off street. There is a vacuum of silence in the car for a couple of minutes until she finds a place to pull over and breathe again. I start laughing and Karl starts giggling uncontrollably. I think Kalle's poor ears were still in shock. We were warned that people (including kids) curse as part of normal conversation over here but I didn't expect Lori to pick up the habit so soon.
Near head on accidents - Lori (3), Jay (0). Just sayin'.
In the poor Lori category - now that I am retired and don't need to be respectable I am fashioning a different facial hair style each month. This month is the Chuck Liddell. Chuck is a retired MMA fighter for the non-MMA crowd. I will be taking suggestions so fire away. Lori is so excited for 70's Mutton Chop month. She is so lucky. Retirement is kinda fun so far.
We have also seen some funny and some cool cars over here so far.
A funny looking British Hillman Hunter. Not sure of the year. Or what KJ is doing.
An old Jag, very cool.
Same jag from rear.
An older model Mini. I think I could lift the rear of this car by myself.
Next post will be on Kalle's school and the house. Until then "Cheers" as they say over here.
Thanks for listening,