Challenge of the day: Find our way to Hackney Post Office.
Our first morning in London: We topped up our Oyster cards in the machine at Pimlico tube station. We did require the assistance of the very helpful staff who informed us that the machines don’t take £50 notes. We wondered why the machine was furiously spitting the money back at us !
We headed off on our first tube ride to Victoria Station, where we had toast and coffee at Billy's Café. Then we jumped back on the tube and headed to Hackney which required changing at Liverpool Street and hopping onto the Overground system (yes, you can use your Oyster card on the Overground too). This is a particularly important excursion... we have to collect our BRP (biometric) identity cards from Hackey Post Office within 10 days of our arrival, which validates our visas and activates our right to stay here for five years. This is one of those tasks that I don't want to delay.
Still working out the scale of our maps and distances between stations, we had a fair hike from the station to the post office because we alighted a few stops too early. But it was an enjoyable walk... hey, we're in London!
Another important errand was checked off today as well... the Vodafone shop just happened to be across the road from the post office. Sonny set us both up on prepaid plans, only £20 per month bundles with loads of data which is actually what we need because calling Sydney requires FaceTime, i-message and Skype which, although free, require plenty of data.
We had lunch hiding from the rain in Pret-a-Manger off Regent Street, and we bought our first brolly for £6.99.
Thursday 3rd August
Today we enjoyed the open space and green trees of Highbury Fields on our way to have afternoon tea with long lost cousins, then dinner at the Marquis of Westminster.
Friday 4th August
Challenge of the day: Twofold - (1) transfer ourselves and our luggage to Henley; and (2) deal with finding out that if we don't secure fulltime, permanent jobs within the next couple of weeks, we will have to pay 6 months rent in advance. That rules out temp work and part-time jobs. This changes the goal posts. Yikes!
Getting to Henley was fairly straight forward... (1) book a taxi to Paddington Station (2) find a train that isn't too crowded to get on... might take a few goes of running along the platform dragging 3 bags each and trying to squeeze into a doorway with 15 people crowded in and blocking the entrance, then, having failed, wheeling the luggage back to another platform to try again (3) flag a taxi from Reading to Henley, and bobs your uncle. Suddenly we were in the insanely pretty town of Henley, ready to relax for a week.