I am new to your boards, and will soon be living in your area (hopefully).
My husband and I are moving to London from New York City and have spent the last week trying to narrow down the areas where we'd like to look for property. I love borough but your property is so expensive! I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that between now and August, when we move, we will find something affordable with good location and adequate space! London's property market suddenly has us debating about renting. Renting is starting to look like a palatable option!
My question to all of you is, do most of you own cars? In New York City, a car is both unecessary and sometimes just a huge inconvenience. But I've learned this week that your tube stops aren't as close together, and your shops don't stay open as late as New York's do. I work long hours and often need to buy things on the way home, running out of milk or toilet paper or wanting fresh herbs for dinner is a daily occurrence for me. The area around London Bridge tube stop didn't look like it had a large Tesco's or Sainsbury. Is there one? Did I miss it? Or do you all drive to another area?
Do you have favorite pubs and restaurants that you can recommend? Locations of a dry cleaners? Shoe mender?
I feel quite lost but excited to be moving here, my husband is British but never even visited borough the last time he lived in London, he says its developed a lot.
Hi Akiko - I currently live across the Thames in E1 but will be moving to SE1 next month. My observations (having spent some time in NYC) are that we are more dependant on our cars, particularly for shopping. I use my car every day for travelling to work in South London and going to the supermarket.
However!! This weekend I left the car at home and spent 4 or 5 hours walking around SE1 - from Waterloo in the West to Shad Thames in the East, and London Bridge in the North to the New Kent Road in the South. The verdict? Well there are some quite unsavoury areas sure, but on the whole there are plenty of places to shop and eat, and a variety of forms of transport.
Don't just think about the tube, there's the Thames Clipper waterbus service and the new RV1 bus service that runs along the length of the South Bank. Living in Borough you'll be at the centre of SE1 but you are right that there is no major supermarket in the area. There are small convenience stores for last minute items. For car-less shopping consider Tesco or Sainsbury's on-line. I have used both and they work well.
As for renting versus buying - get that mortgage organised! SE1 is a very good buy. Even though prices appear high they are not when compared to other boroughs. As the regeneration programmes start to show marked improvements you will be glad of your investment.
I've never learnt to drive because you really don't need a car in London. The public transport is excellent, despite what people say. If you lived in the country for the first 19 years of your life like I did, you'd realise how excellent it is. OK, so it goes wrong from time to time, and it's crowded and there are delays, but on the whole it is pretty damn good.
I'd recommend that you don't buy a car when you get here and see how you get on. As for late night shopping, there are plenty of convenience stores that are open late so you should be fine.
I left the W. Village a year ago to marry my English husband so hopefully my advice will have some relevance. We do have a car and it is very useful I think. We use it for big food shopping expeditions and weekend getaways. Street parking isn't a problem since you can get a resident permit for a reasonable fee but then again, our car has been broken into three times in about 10 months, with smashed windows to replace, etc.
Regarding areas to live in - I'd suggest doing lots of research to find a place that meets your needs. Meaning that there are VERY FEW areas of London that are anything like New York. I had no idea how very different it would be. I went from having amazing inexpensive restaurants, bars, shopping and art galleries at my doorstep to having little but fried chicken places, ugly old pubs and betting shops.
Borough is fairly nice and well located. I live in Kennington, which is basically ok but the restaurants and shops are somewhat lacking.
I've lived here since April 2000 in Bankside, Southwark on the River Thames -and opposite to St Paul's-right next door to the Tate Modern and I love it! I'm originally from the north-Manchester to be precise.I've also lived abroad-Holland- and understand how daunting it can be to live in a new country.
I do have a car and street parking permits are available ( with temporary permits for visitors with cars) No problems to date with vandalism but I think that is thanks to the cameras trained on the Tate Modern Art Gallery on the same street! My partner never had access to a car before I arrived and he had no problem with public transport at all.Use black Cabs at night though ( a bit like your Yellow taxis but a lot roomier. ) Avoid the mini-cabs.Over priced and some are not even legitimate taxis. No insurance etc!
I use my car to shop down the Old Kent road at Tescos but if you find somewhere to buy or rent on the new RV1 bus route you can also shop in St Katherine Dock at Safeways.Directly on the river on either Bankside or the South Bank shopping is not well catered for but a short walk will take you to The Cut(Southwark Tube Station) where there are several 24-7's for fresh vegetables etc.There is alsways the Shad Thames area-lots of shops.restaurants and bars there with accomodation to rent and buy.Then there is the 1,000 year old Borough Market at London Bridge which is open every Friday and Saturday to the public ( it is a wholesale vegetable market the rest of the week) I defy you to find better, fresher vegetables, meat produce,cheese, herbs,oils -oh I could go on!-anywhere else in the vicinity! A Gourmet's heaven!
On Bankside there is the world's largest Modern Art Gallery -The Tate Modern as mentioned before, Vinopolis-the museum of wine and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre to satisfy some of your cultural needs. Eating out there is plenty of opportunities walking along the river from Tower Bridge back to Bankside. Numerous excellent restaurants and Public Houses with good food and drinks.My local is The Founders Arms where there are a couple of very creative chefs and their culinary creations could qualify as gourmet at times-especially if you try the specials for the day!
Go under Blackfriars Bridge and you are on South Bank. Starting with the OXO Tower for restaurants,bars and speacialist shops including a hairdressers you then come to St Gabriels Wharf- more shops,bars restaurants.On to the National Theatre,British Film Institute for films new and old.There is also a book fair held under the bridge.On to the Royal Festival Hall for great concerts including free events and Commuter Jazz on Friday at 5.30-Free! Excellent restuarant called the People's Palace-fantastic view while you dine! Behind there is the Imax Cinema.By the way this is all on the RV1 Bus route which eventually goes straight to Covent Garden / Soho for more restaurants, cinemas and shops galore! On to County Hall with the now famous London Eye,Dali Universe-an exhibtion of the artist's work. Restaurants here too and then to Waterloo Bridge-beat that particular view from the bridge if you can!!! A panoramic view of London from East to West or West to East if you look the other way! Been to NY and done Brooklyn Bridge-Sorry!This wins for me and still thrills me after two years.
Re dry cleaners-I use one on the other side of Blackfriars Bridge just at the Tube station entrance.More expensive than you are used to in NY -so my American friends say / bemoan! There is some more around London Bridge I believe and on Borough High Steet. More Pubs,bars restaurants and shopsthere.
So as you can gather I love where I am and hope you will learn to love London and all it's wonders too!.
Dr Samuel Johnson ( who used to drink at the Anchor Pub' on Bankside! ) said "A man who is tired of London is tired of life" Need I say more!
Just to add that you dont really need a car round here, I live near the tate and use tesco online for all the bulky stuff and get fresh from borough market (nr London Bridge).
A car is just a waste of money if you live in town, there are plenty of cabs and you can always rent one if you need one.
You certainly don't need a car for travel in London from SE1 - we normally walk to the West End for shopping/restaurants (although there are a few excellent restaurants in SE1) and the buses and tubes are good. However if you intend to travel outside London a car is essential - either hire a car or if you intend getting out more than once a month find a place to live with its own secure car parking - they do exist.