Does anyone else think that the word "accommodation" has too many letters? I do.
It seems like I've spent the last two or three weeks on the internet trying to find places for us to stay in the next several months. Before we left the States, we had our first three months taken care of: our two apartments here in Prague (which have been almost entirely wonderful) and an apartment in Dresden for most of the month of April. That apartment has three bedrooms and one bathroom, so it will be our first experience (but not the last!) with just one bathroom for the eight of us. I think we might have to schedule showers/baths and the boys will have to start taking short showers! (They claim to know how to do this, but I don't have much proof.) I'll be accessing all my childhood memories from the years before my dad finished the addition on the house when I was 12, when we had one bathroom for the same number of people, if you don't count the baby at the time (Ally).
Anyway, as of today, I've found places for May through early November, except for one weekend in May and a week in August. (More about that later.) Yay! It's a huge relief. I'm not the kind of person who enjoys haggling over price, but that's what it takes to find affordable places for us to stay. I'm really glad I get to do it through email and not in person or over the phone. I would hate that. Of course, when I say "haggle," I don't really mean that. There's no back-and-forth negotiation. I find places on vacation rental sites like vrbo.com and Holiday Lettings that will fit (or almost fit) our family and then scan for the less expensive ones. They must have internet access and be accessible via public transportation. Then I write email to the owners or managers and propose a lengthy stay and ask if they would consider letting us stay for a certain amount of money. The amount is usually significantly lower than their per day or per week rent would add up to, but sometimes it works, often enough that I've been able to find places within our budget. (It seems to work best if I'm dealing directly with the owner or someone who manages the property and not a property management company.) It's taken a lot of time, and this time around has been more stressful than last time, because the UK is pretty expensive and because I've been trying to book during the high season, when everyone's traveling and demand is much greater. I feel pretty blessed that we were able to find places that are (presumably) going to work for us.
So, here's where we'll be!
On May 1st, we'll take the train from Dresden to Berlin and stay in a hostel/hotel near the main train station for a few nights, and then we'll fly from Berlin to Liverpool, England. There we have a house a short bus ride from the city that has four bedrooms and one bathroom. And it's less than two miles from the LDS church! I "walked" there via Google Streetview the other day. We'll be there through the beginning of June, except for one weekend right in the middle of May, when we'll have to vacate the premises for a previous booking of the house. I'm not sure where we'll go yet, but I'm thinking of Haworth, where the Brontës grew up. Wouldn't that be great?
From the beginning of June through the end of July, we'll be in a village called Pocklington, about 15 miles from York, England. It's on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds, which is apparently a great place to go walking. (I hope to know a lot more about England and its geography after we live there for a while.) We'll be right in town, in a 200-year-old building that used to be a pub and brewery.
The first week or so of August, we'll take a trip to London, where we will just have to spend some money, I guess. Jon said he'd feel bad if we never went to London and that we shouldn't be penny wise and pound foolish, which is a pretty appropriate phrase when we're talking about actual British Pounds! I haven't yet found our lodgings for our week there, but that's next. At the end of that time, we will send Zed back home to Utah, where he'll be attending BYU in Provo in the Fall. (I can't believe we're going to have our first-born child leave the nest while we're itinerants in Europe!) And we'll head back to Prague, for a solid three months this time. Jon and I actually got to see the apartment we'll have before we paid the deposit. It is smaller than what we have now (smaller than everything we've found so far, but we'll have five kids instead of six), but it's right in the city and will let us have a totally different experience of living in Prague. It's in New Town, where "new" means newer than Old Town: it was established in 1348 by King Charles IV. Just down the street from us is Novoměstská Radnice (the New Town Hall), where the first defenestration of Prague took place in the 15th century, and Karlovo Náměstí (Charles Square), a good-sized park in between some busy streets, stores, and businesses.
The owners/managers of every one of these apartments/houses have been really wonderful and helpful. The manager of the Prague apartment is an Englishman who's lived here for 20 years. He has a Harley-Davidson and travels a lot. He's married to a Czech woman and both of them are delightful -- funny and friendly and interesting. Right now they are riding a motorcycle through Vietnam. The owners of the Liverpool and Pocklington houses have been friendly and enthusiastic through email, which is just how our landlord here was before we arrived. I like dealing with such good people.
Now, where should we go from early November?