27 Oct 2013

Hey Y'all!

I'm excited to announce that we are officially up-to-date! Yayyy! I can finally write in the first person! From here on out, I am going to continue to write my weekly updates and if something "blog-worthy" happens in between, I'll let you know. Make sure to start at the bottom/beginning and I'll meet you back here in five... or whatever! :) 
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Alright, so Week 4...
Monday and Tuesday were pretty low-key for us. James worked late in the office preparing for a big meeting and I've been working almost every day to get this blog up and running so there wasn't a lot going on.

Since we got TV and Internet, I have gotten really off a normal sleep cycle. I'm talking like going to bed at 3AM, waking up at noon, kinda stuff.  Well, I finally confessed to James about my night-time behavior so now I am working on going to bed and waking up at a reasonable hour. 

On Wednesday (my first day attempting at becoming human again), I decided to put the blog to rest and take the opportunity to go out and get some fresh air since it was a beautiful day in London. I walked up and down Upper Street and found a few lovely shops that I would to get to know better and I even stopped in to treat myself to a pint and some chips! I had made a decision to try to break-in these new flats that I had purchased in Charlotte and boy, was that a mistake. Luckily, I had thought ahead and packed an extra pair of ballerina flats just-in-case and I was able to avoid walking home barefoot.

James wanted to watch the Manchester United game so I met him at 'The Arc' for dinner. Nice pub, but they were having some technical difficulties that night so the fire alarm was constantly going off and their pizza oven had broken, so we might need to try it another time when shit isn't hitting the fan.

I successfully went to bed with James and woke up the next morning with James (you should be impressed, that's super early!). I was feeling refreshed and energized. With another beautiful day ahead of me I decided to make the most of it. I got ready and met James for lunch in St. Paul's and then headed out to explore West London.* 

I didn't have a plan or even a map for that matter, I was just winging it.  I took the tube to Notting Hill Gate and got out and started walking. I walked around Notting Hill meandering around Portobello Market. I walked to Kensington and strolled through Hyde Park and down Kensington High Street. I walked down to Chelsea and saw their amazing real estate (no wonder this is the Royal Borough!). In Chelsea, I walked around Kings Street and Fulham Road... it was nice to see some of the pub and restaurants that I've seen on TV here. 

I will definitely have to come back to these places with more of a plan because I know I missed so much since I was just walking in straight lines everywhere... I'm sure that one street over there was an amazing view or a boutique that I would die for, but we will have to save that for another day.

By the time that I got home, I was so beat, I could hardly stand up. I definitely over did it, but at least I was on track to wear myself out and continue on my goal to get back on a normal sleep cycle. It's amazing what you can do with an extra 5 hours to your day! Needless to say, James and I were out cold early that night!

Friday was just like our other Fridays; clean up the flat and wait for James to get home so we can spend some time together. James made a reservation at a restaurant in our area called, 'The Elk in the Woods.' It was wonderful! Cozy, yet cool atmosphere and great food--- we definitely want to take some friends here! After dinner, like clockwork, we ventured out for our night cap and continued catching up on the weeks' events. 

It was almost closing time so I headed to the restroom, when I got back, James was having some light conversation with the bouncer. I stood with him as he finished up the story and as we were about to leave, James introduced me as his wife and I reached out to shake his hand... SIDE-NOTE: I have always been praised for my sturdy handshake. It's one of the things that I always get compliments (from men) on when meeting new people. Well, this bouncer turns to James with a very surprised look on his face and says, "Your woman has quite a grip!" It's a random story, I know, but how funny is that?! I was kind of embarrassed, but honestly there is nothing attractive about a limp-wrist handshake!

James and I got home and we must have been feeling jazzed because we stayed up until 4:30AM talking to James' parents and FaceTiming with our good friends Jesse and Erika. It was so nice catching up on what's been going on with Winston and finding out about what's been going on in Charlotte. The late night was definitely worth the lazy Saturday that followed.

Saturday as promised, was lazy. Lunch, coffee, TV/Netflix (Grey's Anatomy: The Early Years-- so good!), dinner (Indian restaurant; 'Praveen') and more TV. 

...and here we are on SUNDAY! This week has been nice in the fact that we are both falling into our routines and I am starting to utilize my time properly. I can't believe that we have been here for one month already! It's going by so quickly; I only have 11 more months in this amazing city... I am determined to make the most out of my time here and see everything that I can. I think I am going to get a checklist of London Must-See's and check one off everyday...

A few updates! 
#1: We have a tenant moving into the Charlotte house on November 1. We are pleased that this process has gone smoothly and we hope that everything continues to stay on track with the property.
#2: We received this picture from James' parents of Winston from their Halloween Party this year... How cute is my little Hot Dog! xoxo
Halloween 2013

*I've been doing some research about the sub-regions/ Burroughs of London and apparently they are constantly changing, so I might not be using the correct terms. Just bear with me!


22 Oct 2013

Week three has been my favorite week thus far. Here’s why:

Reason #1: On Monday, October 14th I met my Aunt Julie and Cousin Cole in Central London to spend the day with them.  It was so nice to spend time with my family and get to talk about everything that has been going on (my aunt’s family has lived overseas for many years so they know the drill). While we were out, we got lunch at Five Guys (which is James’ favorite); god, it was sooo good! ‘MERICA!  We spent the day walking around Leicester Square and Convent Garden. I found a bunch of cute shops; one included a hat shop that I will definitely be revisiting called Laird London, perfect ball caps and fedoras. Right up my Alley.. Allie?

It was so nice to have the company; I felt so comfortable having them around, it almost felt as if I actually “belonged” here... We went back to the hotel for some down time before dinner and Julie and I were able to have some girl talk. Tea + Wine + Sweets= Lovely Conversation. Before we knew it, Cole was rounding us up for dinner and we were on our way to meet James at ‘Café Pacifico.’  Dinner was great but it went by too quickly and before I knew it we were saying our goodbyes… It was truly a perfect day and I hope to have many more in the future!

Reason #2: Tuesday, October 15th!  Tuesday, October 15th! Tuesday, October 15thThis was the day that I looked forward to since we have been here. INSTALL DAY!  Nothing could beat week three because week three was the week that I got TV, Internet and phone at the flat. With almost 3 weeks of reading and cleaning, I earned it. Luckily, the installation went on without a hitch and we are rolling in the deep (with wifi!) at Casa de Starnes. I am a very happy girl!

Reason #3: To snowball off of the overall greatness of the installation of our TV/Internet/Phone at our flat, this was the week I was able to talk to my sisters on the phone for the first time since we have been in London! We had so much to catch up on and it felt so good getting right back into the swing of things with them. My heart is full. xo
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So, the rest of the week was pretty quiet for me. Yes, there might be a correlation between my lack of activity and the TV installation at the flat, but I just need to get my fill since I was missing out for almost 3 weeks!

Friday night, we decided to stay in Islington. Apparently, there is no way to go dinner without a reservation around 7:00. NO WAY; every place we walked into was at least a 30 minute to an hour wait.  Since I hadn't eaten at all that day; that was not working for me. We finally got our name on the list for 'Wahaca' which is a Mexican tapas restaurant. We ate at a different one last week, so I knew it was money.  After eating a table full of food I was finally satisfied.  

We headed over to York for a night cap and to our surprise, we got some GOOD NEWS! We might have a potential tenant for the house! YAY! That would be awesome because paying a mortgage for a house that you’re not living in sucks.

The rest of the weekend was devoted to lounging since the weather was pretty blah. James and I had a "date night" at the flat that consisted of a steak dinner and two movies from netflix. It was nice to just relax! Sunday, as always, was James' work catch-up day so I took the day to also get caught up on some cleaning...

Overall, it was a great week! Got some good company, got some TV, got some good food, got some good news… I’ll take it!


Week Two--- We're getting pretty good at this! James' boss left for a two week tour on Friday so James was communicating with him almost exclusively via email which has it's pros and cons; it put a delay in James' response time between tasks but at least he had a slightly more flexible schedule with him gone... James has started getting into his grove at the office; each week he seems more confident. My week was low-key; I found a few local libraries, a park and a lovely neighborhood just down the road from us. I was doing a lot of walking in the area and just trying to get a good feel for where I am living.

On Thursday, I avoided the kitchen and made James take me to dinner at this tapas place that we pass every day. It's called 'The Angelic' and it's great. It has a cool crowd and good music so obviously I was sold. Seriously, I'm trying to convince James that we should eat there every day. 

(to read about the real Thursday, click here). 

Friday was a good day. I had an afternoon appointment at Barclay's bank to get my name put on the bank account and James was able to take me out for drinks afterwards (double score!). I had contacted a friend of a friend that I found out was in London and he was able to meet up with us after work. We had drinks at Jamie Oliver's 'Barbacoa' and then moved on to dinner in Soho at 'Pho' a Vietnamese restaurant. Both were fun atmospheres and we were ready to party. We went to a small piano bar at the Charing Cross Theater and what we thought would be "just a couple drinks" turned into an all night event with wine, beer, tequila shots and champagne  Needless to say we were pretty broken the next morning and the rest of the weekend was basically ruined, but hey! I think it was worth it. It was really nice to see a familiar face and actually be able to converse with someone other than myself. 

The next morning, James and I peeled ourselves out of bed to managed to go and get some hangover food. We ate at the infamous 'Nandos' chain and it was daaaa bombbb! (Sorry, Jess!)

The rest of the weekend was spent by me in bed reading and by James, working in and out of the office. I have read three books in two weeks and now I am on my fourth. I think this makes me an intellect...


21 Oct 2013

Monday, September 30th was James' first day on the job so he was up and out pretty early that morning (and every day since, for that matter). He only had one week of training with the previous advisor, so this would be one long week of indoctrination. James was submerging himself into this position, networking and trying to learn everything that he could. It's pretty amazing the magnitude of this position, he has met 3 out of the 4 top ranking people in the company and even had meals with some of them... This has definitely been a change for James. He is used to being “on his game” at work and here, well, it’s going to take a little bit of adjusting. I know that he will rock it, eventually; he just needs to get his footing!

My first week, although not as important, was none-the-less, nerve-racking. My first week as a home-maker---I better not mess this up, or I might not be given the opportunity again! I spent my first week roaming the streets (cough, cough, getting lost), going to the market, cleaning the flat and making sure that dinner was ready when James got home from work. It was nice! I haven’t tried anything crazy in the kitchen, so I think that's why I'm not burnt out on it...

Once Friday afternoon came, I was definitely ready to have some quality time with James. I took some extra time and got myself ready (hair and makeup, whoop whoop!) and James and I went out for dinner at 'The Castle' and I even persuaded him to stay out late for a few extra drinks at 'York.'

Saturday we decided to head out to Picadilly Circus and explore Regent Street, Picadilly and Oxford Street. Let me say, I will NEVER do that again. They apparently named it ‘Cirrus’ for a reason. It was ridiculously crowded, like Black Thursday crowded; I almost had a panic attack. Luckily, it was not a wasted trip because James found an amazing suit at Ted Baker and I can’t wait to see it on him!

On the way home, we stopped by this great futbol pub that we found near our flat called “The Slug and Lettuce.” It will be our go-to place for games since we don’t have TV yet. It will be nice not to have to spend so much money just to get some visual stimulation… We are reading a lot. We went to the bookstore and picked up some more books. Only like 10 more days left of isolation.

Friday night :: York :: Picadilly Circus :: Slug and Lettuce


Our first weekend in London was one of settling in, exploring and making sure that James was prepared for work on Monday. We stayed pretty close to the flat for the first couple of days just getting familiar with the local flare. Friday and Saturday consisted of a lot of walking around and dining out. We walked 'Upper Street', which is packed full of boutique shops and restaurants, all the way up the the Arsenal Stadium and I even convinced James to take me to a movie, even though it ended up costing us close to $50.00 USD (!!!) for 2 tickets and a small popcorn.

The isolation from TV and Internet at the flat was pretty brutal; we ended up at 'The Castle' almost everyday for their free wifi. We did some research about cable and internet and they told us it would be about two weeks before we could get an installation...
 OMG! ARE YOU SERIOUS?! This was definitely one of the hardest things to adjust to but at least I brought an old book with me and that would have to suffice.

On Sunday, we decided to venture out and practice James' route to work. We got a tube map and headed out to St. Paul's. Without a hitch, we found his office and decided to walk around the area for a bit. We headed down towards the River Thames to walk around. There was a fun festival going on with vendors and shops. It was fun to walk around and try the street food but soon after we decided to head back to get ready for Monday morning.

It's so crazy to think that five years ago, James and I were walking around this exact same area with my sister when she was living here with her husband... Who would have known that five years later we would be switching places!
James and I in London 5 years ago!


We touched down in London around 8:00 AM. The flight went very smooth, but unfortunately due to my damn inner ear, I was sick.  Luckily we had a car pick us up at the airport because there is no way we could have manoeuvred seven huge bags on the tube. I slept the whole way into town and when I woke up, we were home! 

Still not feeling well, I continued to rest while James went out to explore the area. Once I was feeling better we went out to do some more exploring. We are in an area called Islington, which is considered to be North Central London. I was very pleased to find out that we have several grocery stores, fresh markets, shops, restaurants and pubs right outside our door! It’s wonderful! We spent the remainder of the day meandering around and we found ourselves at this adorable pub called “The Castle”, which has a friendly staff, good selection of beers and a lovely rooftop terrace.  
Our Flat & Castle Rooftop Terrace
We hung out there for a few drinks and then headed back to continue to unpack and settle in. It was definitely a low-key night for us, without any TV or Internet at the flat, we took advantage of the quiet and caught up on our sleep-- We definitely want to be fresh for our first weekend in London! 


The next six weeks were a blur. We had six weeks to figure out what we wanted our first year of marriage to look like and we were not taking it lightly. We had all the hard decisions to make: Do I stay or do I go? Do we keep the house or do we rent the house? How do you rent a house? Are we really not going to try to bring Winston anymore? Who's going to keep Winston? Do I tell my job early and try to stay with the company or do I quit with just two weeks notice? These were just a few of the questions we needed to answer… When I said blur, I meant BLURRRR.

Obviously, I decided to move with my husband to London. (Was there ever really a choice? I mean, come on!) We decided to buckle down and find/sign with a property management company to take over the house and fill with a tenant. We decided to leave our beloved dog in the States because the cost to fly him to London for just one year was just too high…(I will go into this topic deeper, but I can’t get into it now or I will never finish this post.)

At many times, I felt completely overwhelmed—as if there was absolutely no way that we could get done everything that we needed to get done—but somehow it all came together.

James and I basically worked all the way up until the end. My last day was Thursday, September 19th and James’ was Friday, September 20th. We were luckily enough to spend our last Saturday in Charlotte with all of our closest friends and family celebrating our “Going Away/Housewarming Party” (ironic, we know). Our parents stayed the weekend to help us clean and get the house in order. Let me just say, seriously, a HUGE thank you to our parents and friends that helped us with yard work, cleaning and packing. Thank you, a million!

Before we knew it, it was the Monday before our travel day (Wednesday) and we were packing up the Uhaul and saying our goodbyes. It was really, really hard to say goodbye to my dog. Even though I know he would be cared for, my life will truly not be the same without him.  He is the sweetest animal and he brings so much joy into my life, it just breaks my heart to even think back to that day. I am saved by the fact that no matter what, we will all be together in one years’ time and of course, he will love London!

As I stood with my mom waving goodbye to James’ parents and Winston and watching James as he drove away with our life packed into one 20ft truck, I realized, “this is happening.” There were obviously lots of tears and when my mom left to give me some privacy and run some errands, there was definitely a warm bath and a half bottle of red that helped me pull it together.

My mom and I basically had two whole, heavy stressful days of cleaning. I tell ya, that woman, can clean! I couldn't have done it without her, she was a huge help.

Tuesday night arrived and my dad drove back to see us off. Cheap Mexican and an early night’s sleep was all that any of us had enough energy for.

Ultimately, everything got done. The house looked amazing and we left it in better shape than we bought it; it felt good to hand the keys over. We spent the remainder of the day finishing up last minute errands, showering and repacking our suitcases.

At this point, all the stress and anxiety of the past six weeks had faded away and we were both in good spirits. WE ARE MOVING TO LONDON!!! I know that I was excited and eager to get to the airport, get that customary glass of wine and wash my hands of the responsibilities of the past. 

Getting on the airplane was surreal. I can't believe this is happening, I wonder where this adventure will take us? It is such a liberating feeling; getting on an airplane and leaving to start a new life. I'm glad that I have such an amazing partner to share this experience with. There are so many incredible people and memories back in Charlotte that will always keep us coming back, but I can’t help thinking that the best has yet to come!

Getting ready for take-off!


20 Oct 2013

James and I had only been back to work for a few days when we got the email.
"James, Interested in an opportunity to be the CEO’s assistant for 1 year assignment based in London? You would... etc, etc..."

James forwards the message to me with only one word in the body of the email. 

At this point, even though James called me to "talk" about this potential opportunity, he had already given consent for his name to be considered for this position. He referred to it as a "no brainer." We got off the phone and I immediately shrugged off all work responsibilities to start Googling “dog transportation to UK”, “Large dogs in London”, “Pet friendly real estate in London”, etc, etc...

The rest of the day was worthless and we reconvened at the house to talk about our new life in London, planning European vacations, and talking about our future British babies... Gotcha! Just kidding! We were high on the unknown, just daydreaming about what this opportunity means for our family. I mean just to be considered for a role like this is a huge honor and James definitely earned the right to at least be considered! This excitement lasted through the weekend and then things basically went back to normal.

It had been over a month since the initial excitement and we hadn't heard anything else... I was in full blown nesting mode (picking out the right shade of white can be a full time job in itself) and James was actively working on approximately 8 huge projects for the Charlotte office, so basically, life as usual.

James got a promotion! Hard work pays off! Woohoo! Let’s spend it on paint! 

We felt pretty good. Life was good. Got married, got this great new house, gonna fix it up real nice, gotta raise, gettin’ back into a routine, all the wedding craziness is over… BREATHE! We didn't feel bad that we hadn't heard anything back about the London position because things were good and they would only get better. Can’t win 'em all.

Congratulations, James! You've been shortlisted for the advisor role, and now you’ll interview with Director of HR.

We are like WHAT??! Are you serious? Talk about everything happening all at once!

James proceeded with a telephone interview with the Director of HR. He felt pretty good about it. A week or so went by and then he received an email stating that he was chosen to interview with the CEO of the company and this would be the last interview.

Totally shocked, this is at the point where James started to get nervous. This would be the biggest, most important interview that James could possibility do in his entire life and it would be, DUN DUN DUN- - - via FACETIME! James would Facetime with the CEO of his company and he would have to make it a memorable one.

I was of course terrified and anxious to get an update. I am glad that James had the brains to turn his cell phone completely off, because I am pretty sure I tried to call him during the middle of his interview.. STUPID! James called me and told me that the interview went well and that it would take approximately 10 days to make a decision. I think James’ interview was on a Thursday, so that gave us to the end of the following week to find out. Life went back to normal; nesting, loving on Winston, James working all day, every day.


Big fight in the Starnes house that morning. I can't remember the exact reason for our fight, but it was early and I was out for blood. We both went to work raw and irritated.

I started my day; turned on, tuned in, dropped out, etc. I got a call. Caller ID said that it was James. Normally on a day where we had been fighting, I would have just ignored it, but he must have caught me at a weak moment.

James started the conversation by apologizing and taking full responsibility for the fight this morning. (Lord knows how many times this man has taken responsibility for my own personal craziness.)

I listened in agreement and then he paused, and in a hushed tone he said, “Allie, I was chosen. I’m going to be the Executive Advisor to the CEO.”

Silence on the phone. Static in my brain our brains. “Oh my god, are you serious? Let me call you from my cell.” I went outside and talked to James briefly about what he knew, which was very little. We had no information except that this was happening and it was a big deal.


A LOT has happened to James and me in the past 10 months so I will start with a bit of that background. James and I met on a cruise coming back from the Bahamas in 2007 and from the first time we spoke, I knew I liked this guy. A bunch of people from school went on this cruise for Spring Break and it turned out that we actually knew a lot of the same people; we had just never met before. (to read how we first met, click here!) We started dating shortly after and before we knew it, we were like 5 years into this thing!
James and Allie: The Early Years!

Alright, so Flash Forward to Fall 2012.  At that point, James and I were living in an apartment in South Charlotte with our beloved English Mastiff ‘Sir Winston’ and I was in full-fledged marriage mode. ie: “Babe, I'm ready to get married", “When are we going to get married?”, “James, it’s been 5 years, what the hell?”, “Seriously, if this doesn't happen soon… etc, etc…  AT LAST! My time came and we got engaged! YAY! (Cue: smug face). November 17th, 2012, exactly one month before James' birthday!

First Family Photo

Okay, so this is where things start to get busy... Oh wait, I guess I forgot to mention that during the heat of my wedding craze, James was completing about 21 hours of graduate classes to finish his Master's degree that he started 5 years ago, on top of working his always-time-consuming job. 

Between November 2012 - June 2013 we: got engaged, planned a wedding, finished grad school, turned 30, bought a house, moved into our new house, changed jobs and got married. Whew! Not to mention a slew of showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties, vacations and everyday messes that comes with planning a wedding and working full-time, we were pretty exhausted and ready to come back from our amazing honeymoon and get back to normal…
Life in Charlotte xo


18 Oct 2013

Hey All!

Alright, well I'm trying to figure out how to begin so I guess I will just dive right in…  We have been in London for over three weeks now and we f-i-n-a-l-l-y got the flat connected to the internet, so I am going to try to get caught up. I will start with a few posts to get us up to speed.

#1: Where were we pre-London. (Charlotte)

#2: How we got to London. (Curve-ball)
#3: What we've been doing in London up-to-date. (London)

I hope you all enjoy reading how we got where we are today!


17 Oct 2013

Hey Everybody! 

Welcome to our blog! 
This is a place where we can share our adventures in London and our first year of marriage, while keeping up with our friends and family back in the States.  I hope to update the blog regularly with tales and snapshots of this beautiful city so that I can entice all of you to come visit and share in this amazing experience with me us! :)

We love and miss you all and we can't wait to see everyone across the pond at some point during the year!

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