Cheers!

Just a quick note to say we made it! We are finally all together again and happily settling into our new home…

I love our new flat. It has beautiful wood floors, lots of built-in bookshelves and french doors that open out into a quiet garden. There's a second, private garden across the street, so our entire block is green and tranquil - even though the city around us is alive and busy and hot.

As I type this, our building's caretaker, Josie, is watering all the flowers in our back garden. I’ve never lived in a building with a caretaker before and find her presence to be so comforting. I mean, she's a caretaker! Yeah, I know I'm probably romanticizing the whole notion. But she waters plants, accepts packages for us and is there if when one of our children gets locked inside a bathroom (guess which kid. yep. you guessed right). And when our garbage needs taking out, I put it in a secret compartment in the kitchen and it magically disappears by morning. I love her.

So we are slowly-- slooooooowly -- settling in... Dan reminds me to pace myself. That the girls need to have FUN, not just be productive. (but isn't being productive also fun?) Yesterday we went to the Princess Diana Playground in Hyde Park. Later this week we will check out the zoo at Regents Park, go to Sasha's first soccer practice and see Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.

Other highlights from the first few days in London:

Dan took us out to his favorite French bistro.... where everyone knew his name and was surprised he was not alone. :)

We have an evening ritual of taking a walk /unicycle ride around our square...

And great news! I have a new phone number! (the old one still works until mid-August). It only took two trips to the Apple store and approximately 14 hours on the phone with AT&T. But I have a new phone number. (btw, if there is a hell, AT&T processes their paperwork.)

More soon!

I like the spirit of this great London which I feel around me. - Charlotte Bronte

London Rentals: 4 Websites

On The Market - Sort by Map

Looking for rental properties in London? Here are the four websites I use. The first two seem to duplicate each other, but occasionally one will offer a unique listing. Knight Frank has as many short lets as long lets (but the listings are clearly labeled).

Tip: sign up for email alerts to be notified when new properties come on the market in your price range and location.

On the Market

Prime Location

Zoopla

Knight Frank

p.s. Thanks to my friends F and J for telling me about these websites! I'd been stuck on Foxtons for way too long.

p.p.s. Am I missing any other great sites? Leave them below!

London: Schools for Expats

London School Sketch

If you're moving to London with your family, the first item on your To Do List will be to freak out about find schools for the kids. As you will soon learn, it's never too early to start applying. If you find out you're moving to London on Monday morning, start researching schools that same day. Almost everyone has a horror story about exams, applications, fees and waitlists. But don't worry! It's not always as bad as it sounds - at least it wasn't for us. Here's how I organized our search:

1) English schools

We ruled out English schools early on in our process for a few reasons. First, we were really keen on a French/bilingual school. Second, one of our daughters would have transferred in at Year 6 - the year when students prepare for and take the exams that dictate which secondary school they will get into. Many say that Year 6 can be a difficult year of test taking and we thought it might make for a rocky transition. That being said, I've since learned about some pretty amazing English day schools.

Oh! I should mention this: When Brits say public school, they mean independent, fee-based schools (what we call private schools here in the US). I have no idea why they do this, but it seems intentionally confusing. Here are a few links if you decide to go the English school route:

2) International Schools

These are schools that cater to expats and/or international students.  The American School of London, in particular, has a good reputation. We took a tour and were impressed with a lot of what they offer. Ultimately, we wanted a bilingual program so we went in a different direction.

If you decide to go the international school route, I highly recommend applying early and taking a tour or the school (when school is in session). You will learn a great deal about the school's philosophy and personality. Here are some international schools in London to get you started:

3) French Schools

They say London is France's sixth largest city - so it's no surprise that the Lycée in South Kensington has been over-subscribed for years. New French schools are FINALLY opening and/or expanding to fill the demand. Nonetheless, you should do your research and apply early and often. (Also- check the OFSTED reports. Some schools may be growing too fast.)

Primary Schools (end at Grade 5):

Primary/Secondary/Lycées:

P.S. Whatever you decide - apply early! And apply to a few backups!

P.P.S. For what's it worth, our top choice (and we got in!) was L'école Internationale Franco-Anglaise. My #2 choice probably would've been Ecole Jeannine Manuel.

London Scouting Trip

A few weeks ago, we took the kids on scouting trip to London in preparation for our upcoming move - and wow! What a great trip! If I had any hesitation about moving to London (I didn’t), this trip won me over. Our main priorities for the week were to visit potential schools and check out some neighborhoods…. But we also left plenty of time to visit with friends and explore the city!

The biggest news of all is... we found a school for the girls!  L'école Internationale Franco-Anglaise is a bilingual school (french/english) in the center of London in a neighborhood called Marylebone. The school’s philosophy is similar to the girls current school, so it felt like a good fit. We took a tour of the school and LOVED it. Dan and I were impressed by the friendly staff, the bilingual curriculum and the arts & music programs. The girls loved: iPads for everyone, recess at Regents Park, and field trips to Belgium!

We also spent a lot of time exploring neighborhoods and looking at different houses. We found so many charming neighborhoods we’d be happy to call home. Hopefully we’ll find something close to the school…? Marylebone, maybe?

Both girls are super active and passionate about their respective sports. So we made time to look for a new ballet studio and soccer team. I didn't expect to nail this down - but we had great luck! Sophia fell in love with Central Ballet School (and got in!) and Sasha tried out for Kinja FC - and made the team! I'm so proud of them both for putting themselves out there and just going for it!

But the real highlight of the week was the warm welcome we received from our friends and family. I feel so lucky to have them in my life! We haven't even moved yet and I feel like these families have our back.

We’re moving to London!

we're moving to London!

Yes! Years of hard work (Dan) and dreaming/scheming (me) have finally paid off! We are moving to London at the end of the school year!

I’m so proud of Dan and his new job - it seems like a perfect fit for him. He gets all weird and embarrassed when I brag about him, so I’ll just say this: his new job is very cool. Challenging and stressful, no doubt - but cool. I’m very proud of him. :) He will move to London in May - the girls and I will join him towards the end of June.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. Believe it our not, we’ve already sold our house. (The market here is cray cray!) Next week we're headed to London on a scouting trip. We’re going to visit our top choice schools and a few key neighborhoods. We've been to London before, but it will be so fun to visit with the intention to move! Details to follow...

No big surprise - today's links are all about London:

My (ever-changing) moving checklist.

10 Romantic Comedies set in London.

800 years of english history in 20 day trips.

That's not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What our English Says About Us

The Londoner on pinterest.

Best apps for London.

20 London bloggers

And thankfully, dogs don’t need to be quarantined anymore!