Tag Archives: london

commuter challenge

My love of pies and pints is no secret, but with an upcoming wedding I’m not sure I want to see those pies reflected in my wedding photos.  After spending a few weeks helping Alex carbo-load for the London Marathon, I have decided it’s about time to work on a somewhat more healthy lifestyle. Thus the Commuter Challenge was born!


Back in University my friend Erin saved enough money biking to school instead of taking the bus to buy a seasons pass to Whistler! With that in mind I’ve set the challenge of running home from work as much as possible. I would try to run to work – but the shower facilities in our office are abysmal, and I would not want to put my co-workers through my “au natural” for 8 hours. 

Running home from work is 5.3km and takes less time than taking the bus. So I’m saving time/money and losing pounds. Not a bad trade off? The only hard part has been the getting used to running everyday.  While training for the Brighton half and spring 10k races I strictly ran every other day and let my muscles rest and repair.  

On day 3 of the Commuter Challenge my legs feel like tree trunks and it’s hard to put on a smile when running past Hummingbird Bakery for the third time without stopping.

Lately I’ve been thinking how far the 1.35 saved will go in Croatia while we’re there in May. According to Pintprice.com that will get me a pint of lager while sitting on the beaches of Hvar. Perfect motivation.

west end shows

This weekend our friends visiting from Vancouver treated us to a night out at the Cambridge Theatre to see Matilda The Musical.

Who didn’t love Matilda growing up?

She was sassy, read books and could stand up to the meanest of headmasters. 

The musical does not disappoint the lovers of Roald Dahl’s book – it’s equal parts silly and dark, with the true spirit of kids coming through in every scene. The actors from the first song hold the audience captivated with a great story and crazy song and dance numbers.

Matilda was one of the best shows I’ve seen in London and miles ahead of other theatre adaptations (like Shrek…). GO SEE IT! 

living in London Part 2: Housing

Here’s the second part of my living in London blog series. Housing in London

Part 1: Cost of Living
Part 2: Housing 
Part 3: Actually, for real, like totally doing it

Finding housing in London is difficult because it is so dependent on when you are looking.  The vacancy rate is quite low (my google search didn’t reveal any definitive numbers, but I think it’s between 5-10%) but the nature of residents in London is that they are always moving in and out. This creates a market where great places pop up and are gone within days. 

Finding a Flat

In my experiences there are two ways to find a place to live in London. Three if you count begging your friend who already lives there for some temporary floor space.

1. Gumtree and Spare Room
Gumtree works like Craigslist in North America. It’s mostly free to post room vacancies and beyond a few premium ads, it’s free to view them. Most of the housing options on Gumtree are for rooms in shared accommodation or short term sublets directly through landlords. It’s perfect for those coming to London with unknown futures and don’t want to commit to a 12 month lease when they might not even find a job.  Plus beyond the (often many) negatives of shared accommodation, it’s a great way to meet people. Some of my greatest London friends I met in the first house share I lived in, of course they all left London in the months after I arrived (no one is in London permanently!)  

Spare Room is better in so many ways. The people looking for flatmates are usually a bit more professional and older and my friends who have used it have had much better experiences than on Gumtree. It’s usually worth paying for the early bird access too if you really want to find a good place.

Most flatshare accommodations will have you come for an interview or mingle with the current housemates and from there it is basically a popularity contest to see who gets the room.  I’ve heard of people bringing beer (good idea but then were considered to much of a try-hard) to others bragging about how popular they are and how many friends they could bring to great parties this house could have. My suggestion is to just be yourself and take as much time to interview your potential housemates as they do you. Living together isn’t a sprint (or a sweet house party) it’s a marathon and you need to know if they are cool when you leave your breakfast teaspoon on the counter all day. 

Be ready to put up first/last months rent as a deposit, and make sure to discuss payment options. Are bills included in the rent? Who buys the TP and laundry detergent? Is there a cleaner who comes in weekly to keep the communal areas conflict mess free?

One major pro to this type of accommodation is the price. House shares can make it affordable to live in the most central of locations (I have a friend who lives in SW1!) Most are well under £1000 a month and include everything.

2. Letting Agencies

Letting agencies and Employment (temp) agencies are a necessary evil in London. That being said I’ve had great experiences with both – Thank you Spring Personnel – and would suggest that people engage with them but also be aware of their underlying motives (hint: it’s not your happiness).

Letting agencies have a billion high street locations with very pretty pictures in the windows of available properties. You can also search around on the internet to find something in your price range.  Rents are quoted in weeks rather than months, so remember to multiply that by 52 and divide by 12 to get an idea of your monthly rent rather than just X4.  Most places in Central-ish London will cost you at least £250/week – I’ve seen some in the £100s but… you’d have to look very hard to find a diamond in that rough. If you approach an agency they’ll register you and then get you out seeing properties as soon as possible. You usually have a designated agent who will meet you at the properties (some will even drive you around if you have a whole afternoon booked with them) and let you in to see the place. 

After you’ve seen a few places (in our case we saw just 1 and wanted it) the Agent will press you on making an offer – which they will take to the landlord for approval.  A lot of places are listed at their highest price, and if you can sign a longer lease many will accept a lower price of rent.  You can also put a break clause in your offer so after a few months or a year both parties can have the option to break the lease. 

Most of this is pretty standard rental stuff around the world – but it’s helpful to know that demand in London is high for good properties so if you want a place you may have to take some risks.  

Letting agencies get a % of the rent and a bunch of fees from the tenants and landlord – so it is in their best interest to get things tied up fast. Don’t be rushed by what seems like urgent paperwork and make sure to be sure your butt is covered. The fees when you move in are usually add up to around £200, and you’ll also be paying another £100 or so if/when you move out. It’s important to keep these things in mind when you are budgeting your move(s). 

IMO the best part of dealing with letting agencies is that you get a direct line to a property manager 24 hours a day.  We are letting through one of the biggest agencies in London (the world actually) and when things have gone wrong in our flat we could call someone to get it fixed right away(ish). The landlords usually have insurance through the agencies so fixes can be made right away and in a sense, the tenants are taken care of since they are also customers of the agency. Anyone who has dealt with a difficult landlord knows what a pain it can be to get even the smallest problems fixed – having someone at the agency do all the nitty-gritty work for you helps.  The agency will also help you contact the landlord if you want reimbursements for the problems.


One is not better than the other – I have friends who have gone through both and had nightmare/dream situations.  When you are first arriving it can seem daunting to commit to a longer lease, but it may work out cheaper in the end?

Furnished v. Unfurnished

If you are like me and loathe moving because of one time when you had to literally throw your mattress off the balcony, furnished accommodations are the way to go. Especially when dealing with letting agencies (they make sure the furniture is up to standard). It’s the easy way to move around the world without the weight of a van load of furniture weighing you down. In London there are tons of furnished accommodations and they aren’t that much more expensive than unfurnished (plus no one ever works in the cost of Ikea-build-frustration to those £30 Billy Bookcases). You will have to do a check in where every teaspoon is counted by the agency, but it is in your interest as well so you aren’t charged for things you didn’t damage.  

So don’t fret when you move to London with only a 17lbs suitcase (thank you redic airline excess baggage fees) you will find a place to sleep and a Primark for cheap throw pillows to add a small touch of your own.


Winter flowers

Taking ideas from Pinterest and growing tabletop green onions

The first round of our office bake off has a London 2012 theme

(that’s my Olympic Torch cake!) 


Took advantage of the last of the cold weather to skate on the outdoor rink at Broadgate Circus

A couple of Pieminister’s moo pies for Valentines Day dinner

We finally bought a blender! Mmmmm smoothies

We got invited to a night at the British Museum hosted by UBS & Greyson Perry

Greyson Perry

living in London Part 1: Cost of Living

I have been thinking about writing this post for a long time.  I wanted it to be a part of a larger post about how to actually move to London, but that is a massive can of worms to open and best dealt with in a few blog posts. 

Part 1: Cost of Living
Part 2: Housing
Part 3: Actually, for real, like totally, doing it
Part 4: some sort of summary I haven’t thought of yet 

About a million and a half people have asked me how on earth can one can afford to live in London. I’m not saying it is easy, and everyone’s situation is different, but if it helps here are my observations:

If you are going to live in London you have to live in pounds. You have to commit to spending (and hopefully making) pounds. When I first moved here I set up a ratio that I was happy with and used that as a budget rather than actual amounts.

Money left over after rent:Food
Money left over after rent and food:Travel
Money left over after rent and food and travel:Clothes (duh) 

Also most people think the pound is something like 3:1 – it’s not. The financial crash happened over here too and is actually still happening in a pretty bad way. The pound is now worth $1.60 (Canadian dollars duh) so let’s get that straight.  

Coming from a place like Vancouver where a lot of people spent upwards of 60-70% of their salary on rent, I wasn’t at all shocked about the prices of property in London. I was actually positively surprised when I saw that the salaries for my positions were much higher than in Vancouver (more companies, more opportunities, higher salaries most of the time). So my cost of living ratio was actually looking better in London!

The #1 winge I hear about the cost of living in London is the high rent anywhere central near the city. For me this is simple – I’d rather pay more to live close and walk or bus to the places I go on a daily basis. Yes, rent is less in places like Wimbledon or [insert other places far outside London I don’t know about because I live in Central London] but you will spend a lot on train & tube fares and waste precious hours (and hours and hours) of your day waiting for trains that never come and are overcrowded. 

So, is it worth saving £400/month on rent when you have to spend an extra £200 on transport and commute 3 hours a day? Plus on weekends you always have to catch the last train home or face a £75 cab ride…

It’s a lifestyle choice and remember the cheapest rent option isn’t always so.

Going out is a mandatory part of life in London. So yes, your cost of living will have to include regular purchases of rounds at the pub and tickets to shows. Rather than avoid them keep an eye out for deals on Time Out, Groupon UK and Last Minute.  You probably aren’t going to get any deals for the pubs, but if you are a girl you will have rounds bought for you more often than you have to buy them… so there’s that.

From Kate to Duchess of Cambridge. Enough said.