2016 was, without a doubt, one of the best years I have had in a long time. While there are always ups and downs to any year, I have a lot of wonderful memories that I will carry with me from last year. Filled with many “firsts,” and a few travels, I’d like to share my highlights with you as we move in to 2017!
WE ARE HOMEOWNERS!
When I moved to London in 2014, there was a lot of to dos – one of which was to find a home to live in. After I got a job in 2015, we started the search for our perfect flat. We looked into both renting and buying and in the end, buying made the most sense for us. But it wasn’t without many a struggle – we really grappled with finding a lender that would give us a mortgage because I am American. I hadn’t lived in the country long enough and was a liability to the banks. After almost a year-long process, a lot of heartache and stress, we were about to give up and rent, when low and behold we miraculously found a lender that would help us with our mortgage. In January 2016, we officially became homeowners and it was the best way to start the year off! We celebrated with a bottle of champagne and pizza in OUR flat the first day we picked up the keys and it’s a memory I’ll cherish forever.
FINDING OUR DREAM WEDDING VENUE
We had decided pretty early on in our engagement that we weren’t in a rush to have our wedding straight away. We wanted to take our time, get settled in London and then begin planning for our wedding. We had started looking for wedding venues in 2015 and looked all over London, but didn’t find anything that we really fell in love with. When we were visiting family on the Isle of Wight during Easter, I wanted to have a look at Osborne House, formerly Queen Victoria’s summer retreat, as we had driven past it every time we were on the island. From the moment we stepped forth inside, I knew it was the one. Beauty, history, grandeur, an impeccable view of the ocean, gardens, etc – it truly has it all. I was relieved that the search for the perfect venue was over and we could begin slowly planning. Roll on August!
One of my highlights of 2016 was travelling to Paris for the very first time over my birthday in August. Ciaran surprised me with a trip to this beautiful city I had always dreamed of going to. I didn’t think I could fall in love with a city as much as I love London, until I went to Paris. It is the most beautiful city in the world and every area is more picturesque than the next. We were blessed with fantastic weather and enjoyed a lot of crepes, wines and beers next to the river. We were only there for a short weekend, but we packed a lot in. You can have a read about all that we got up to in my American Gal’s Guide to Paris. I already can’t wait to go back – hopefully this year we can make a trip!
MY MOM AND SISTER VISITING LONDON FOR THE FIRST TIME
My mom and sister jumped across the pond for the first time in August 2016 and it was the best trip. I loved having them in London and playing tourist for the week. We went all over the place – from all the tourist spots in London like Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London – to Cambridge, Windsor, Hampton Court Palace and the Isle of Wight – there was never a dull moment and they got to see tons of England whilst they were visiting. It was so special having them here and sharing parts of my new life with them. It was really exciting to show them my flat and take them to a few of our favourite restaurants too.
FARMER, BUTCHER, CHEF – A TRIP TO THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE
In November, we escaped crazy London and spent a weekend in the countryside at the Good Wood Hotel. While we were there, we were invited to try the incredible Farmer, Butcher, Chef restaurant. It was one of the best restaurants I went to in 2016. Farmer, Butcher Chef was inspired by the relationship between farmer Tim Hassell, butcher John Hearn and chef Darron Bunn, The trio work together to create a diverse menu that showcases the best meat in terms of flavour and quality. Goodwood has been farmed by the family for more than three hundred years and is one of the only self-sustaining organic farms in Europe, which enables the farmer to produce the best tasting beef, pork and lamb. Everything from the farmhouse interior decor to the food itself was impeccable. I would gladly go back in a heartbeat. A future trip to the countryside we are considering is the Rimington Caravan Park in the Ribble Valley.
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
I am from Kansas, USA, in the heartland of America, right in the middle – for those of you that are curious. It was my first time back since I moved more than 2 years ago and to be honest it was a mix of emotions being back! I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel once I got there – would I want to stay there permanently or be ready to come back to London? Lots of questions and uncertainty swirled in my head before I left. When I finally got there (it’s not as easy as clicking your red heels together), I was genuinely happy to just see my mom and sister.
It was so comforting being back at my mom’s house for a week, see some great friends, eat some amazing food, drink my favourite beer, visit my college town, and relax. What I discovered during my trip there was that while I love Kansas and the comforts of being back in the US, I am truly content with my life in London. I am the happiest I have been in a really long time and wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was an amazing trip and while it was hard to leave my mom (that never gets easier), it was wonderful coming back home to London to my fiancé and friends.
GROWING MY BLOG
I have been writing Blonde Across the Pond for a few years now, but I really worked hard to post some great content and make it grow in 2016. I am no expert in the blogosphere by any means, but I learned a lot in 2016 and I fell in love with writing this blog. It became a really great stress reliever for me and a welcome distraction from the pressures of my day job. I am so grateful for the opportunities that have come along from this labor of love and I want to continue to apply what I learned last year to grow Blonde Across the Pond more in 2017. A big thank you to everyone who follows along and supports me! I hope that it’s a helpful guide to anybody visiting London, expats and Londoners alike. If there is something you wish to see more of on my blog, I’d really appreciate the feedback.
HERE’S TO 2017
Wishing everyone a very happy and healthy 2017! I hope it’s the best year yet. We are kicking off our year with a trip to Prague next weekend for Ciaran’s birthday and it’s our wedding year – lots to look forward to. The best is yet to come! What are you most looking forward to in 2017? Cheers!