When I told C I wanted to live in Issaquah on The Thames he gave me that raised eyebrow, tucked chin look that says, "You've got to be kidding." If you live in Seattle you know that living in Issaquah is akin to banishing yourself from the Kingdom of Hip and Cool. It's a gastronomical wasteland, and you'd best be prepared for a 50 minute commute to the city. But what my friend J in Issaquah has that I don't is a small village of children that swarm daily on her street, good primary and secondary public schools, biking, skiing and hiking trails practically out her back door, and a reasonable, rather than outrageous, mortgage payment.
After spending hours on-line pouring over the housing options in greater London, it was clear we were either going to all share a 1 bedroom, 3rd floor walk-up and our visitors could sleep in the "reception room" or we'd have to live a bit further out. Because C has a 7 minute commute downhill to his current office, he wasn't keen to sign up for a long commute to his new office in central London. I was struggling with the thought of us having to compromise, not an easy task for us first-borns. How were we to find my suburban heaven and his short commute?
Enter: Hipstaburbia. I came across the term reading the New York Times Magazine. The gist of it goes that we've come full circle from the original flight from the inner city to the suburbs. That now since all the money is in the revitalized, buzzy urban core, all us middle class Gen X-ers having babies will have to re-create what we had in the city out in the burbs because we can no longer afford a city mortgage. This is exactly what I needed in England.
The Brits have this fantastic map on-line that lights up all the neighborhoods and towns that fall within your desired commute time. What's disheartening is that so many of the neighborhoods south of the river Thames, where the rents are significantly lower, have ridiculously long commute times (infrastructure really favors those tony places on the north side). However, there was this complete outlier in the northwest, a considerable distance outside the ring road (inside being greater, ie. expensive, London), a town called St. Albans. It didn't take me long, based on the "What's On in St. Albans" to decide that this was THE place, under 30 minutes to the city, music and theater, kid activities, and on the edge of countryside. Best of all, we could afford a 3 bedroom house with a small patch of grass for less than a zillion pounds per month.
So St. Albans appears to be everything we are looking for. I suppose any place is what you make of it. Just as I love Seattle one day and loathe it the next, I expect our town will be a mixed bag. But it felt good the few days we were there. C's eyes lit up when he stumbled across this. And check out this calendar of events that I'll be able to walk to!
Now I can't claim that this town is full of tattooed former loft dwellers. If anything, it lacks the trendy, edgy vibe you get in the city and it's probably more conservative and white than we'd like. But it suits that in-between place of not city, not country but close enough to both to fill any interest. I'm excited. I hope we'll be happy here. I'm sure we'll be happy here. Come over for a visit!