Having an electric car in London

An electric car and charging point
Photo by Department for Communities and Local Government (mine is blue too)

A few months ago our car broke down as we were leaving a car dealership after a test drive. The car had served us well for over a year, but it was old enough that it needed costly repairs all the time — and this was just one repair too many for us. We had been looking into a replacement for a while (several test drives and spreadsheets were involved in this process) but were suddenly prompted to make a decision within a matter of days.

Over that weekend, we concluded that only one car was right for us: an all-electric Nissan Leaf. Even though we have no way to charge the car at home, London is well-catered for public charging stations, which were mostly free at the time (and are still pretty cheap today). And the 155-mile range is enough for us, as we drive mostly within London, with the odd trip to the airport.

With the help of Carwow, we got an amazing deal on a lease, and we embarked in our electric adventure. Over half a year later, people ask me whether we’re still happy with the car, and the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

There’s been some moments of stress, like when the in-built GPS system took me to the middle of rural England instead of the motorway service station that I needed to charge (we only use Google Maps now), or when it was a choice between having the heating on or freezing but managing all the way to the next charging station. But then there’s those times when we’re sitting in traffic in central London, having paid zero congestion charge, and knowing we’re not wasting a ton of petrol.

I don’t think we’ll get a petrol-run car any time soon, or ever again. The lease will be up in a couple of years, so we just have to wait a see, but from what I hear in the industry news, the options should be even better by then, which is very exciting.


Coming home

On a Swirling Descend over City of London...
Photo by Reji

I think I’ve mentioned this before: I find it interesting that coming back to London after a trip feels so much like coming home.

It’s true that my house and my work are in London, but I have only lived here for 8 years. I was born in Russia; I lived in Panama and grew up in the north of Portugal; I lived in the south of Portugal for 8 years; I lived in Belfast for 18 months.

All this moving makes it hard to answer the question of where I’m from. I’m not Russian; if I say I’m from Portugal that leaves out my Panamanian side — and I don’t live there anyway —; but I’m not from London. Or am I?

I’m writing this as I sit on a plane from Bucharest, where I was working for the past week. Knowing that soon I will be landing in London fills me with a sense of joy that I don’t remember feeling of any other place. Or maybe I’ve just forgotten it.

Travel Work

Millennium Bridge


This is the view from my commute. I walk across the Millennium Bridge twice a day, four days a week. Sometimes the sun is shining; many times the rain is falling, hard. Lately, on my way back home, it’s been dark. But the view is always stunning, and it never gets old.

Kids Travel

Our ‘new’ cargo bike

Our new cargo bike
Photo by me

It now feels like we’ve had it forever, but it was only two or three weeks ago that I decided to search on Gumtree for second-hand cargo bikes. I did find one, so Nicklas, Rafael and I went to check it out all the way down in Clapham the following day. We bought it, Nicklas brought it home the day after, and now we have a cargo bike.

It’s probably not the best time of year to fully enjoy it, but Nicklas and Rafael have been out in it almost every day. Rafael seems to enjoy it just as much as he does the normal bike — we’ve got a little comfy baby seat for him. He can be warm and cosy with blankets, and we can carry as many bags as we need to as well — even the stroller. Last week my mum, Rafael and I all sat on the wooden seats and Nicklas took us to dinner here in Leyton! (It’s not really the comfiest of seats though.)

We’ve ordered a rain tent so that Rafael can be even warmer and cosier, despite the weather outside.


Having a car

Marylebone Road Rush Hour
Photo by Garry Knight

I never thought I’d have a car in London. The public transport network is good enough that you can get pretty much anywhere you need to, and the expenses that come with having a car (maintenance, insurance, parking) don’t appeal to me. I didn’t even want a car when Rafael was born: he came home from hospital in his buggy, on the bus.

But there were some annoyances: we missed a GP appointment once because we were so late getting ready to leave the house, trips to IKEA took forever with getting there by public transport and then either having to pay for a taxi to get us back home or carrying all our shop on the bus, and visits to the hospital always meant paying and waiting for taxis. No fun.

It all changed last Christmas: a friend lent us his car while he was travelling over the holidays. I realised how much you can do at the weekend when you’re not taking buses everywhere. We didn’t have to choose just one thing to do: we could go out for lunch, do the grocery shop and pick up a Christmas tree. All on the same day! What a novel concept that was to me.

Then out friend didn’t want his car back (thank you!), so now we do own a car. And we’re quite pleased about it.

Kids Travel

Bikes and babies

Rafael and Nicklas on the bike
Photo by me

My son is now over 9 months old, even by his corrected age, so naturally my husband was itching to take him out on his bike. The first bike seat we tried didn’t work out: he seems to fall asleep the minute they start riding and the seat didn’t have a headrest, so now we’ve purchased a more nap-appropriate seat (pictured).

He’ll be starting nursery at the end of August and the journey there will most likely be on his dad’s bike, both ways, so I might as well get used to them being on the road, with all the trucks, buses, cars, angry drivers.

I find this pretty scary.

Kids Travel


Photo by esther wieringa

Yesterday I wanted to go into town with my son, but, as many times before, the thought of having to ask for help to carry his buggy up and down countless stairs in the Tube put a cloud over my plans.

We could have taken a bus, but that would nearly triple our travel time. So I had a look on Transport for London to see if there was a way of getting to Piccadilly, avoiding stairs (escalators were fine) and not spending 3 hours travelling. I found their Avoiding stairs Tube guide PDF (PDF), which, albeit cumbersome to decipher, was very helpful in letting me figure out a way:

  1. Bus up to Walthamstow Central from Leyton
  2. Tube down Victoria line to Green Park
  3. Walk around, eat, shop
  4. Return from Warren Street to Walthamstow Central again
  5. Walk back home (about 30 mins walking), as buses start to get busy by mid-afternoon

This has happened so many times: I get excited about going for a walk about town with my baby and then think of the stairs. Often I just go anyway and count on the helpfulness of strangers, but I don’t like it: I want to be able to manage by myself.

Over the last few months I’ve found places we can go without much trouble (read: lots of stairs) but somehow I feel it should be easier.

Living Travel


Photo by me

I have lived at three different addresses since I moved to London. In all three occasions, the nearest Underground station was on the Piccadilly line, each time a little further north than the previous. Three years later, I finally went to the northernmost end of the line.

It seemed like a lovely place, Cockfosters and its surroundings (I could see it since the trains run overground from Southgate). The station is nice too, still keeping a vintage feel. Here’s a quote from “What’s in a name?”, by Cyril M. Harris, a book I have about the names of London’s Underground stations:

“It is suggested that this [a house] was the residence of the chief forester (or cock forester), hence this rather unusual name which, until the arrival of the tube, was sometimes spelt as two words. Prior to the station’s opening the name of Trent Park was considered, but it opened as Cockfosters on 31 July 1933.”

Mood Travel

Victoria Line

Photo by Barbara Piancastelli

One word: nightmare.

You may be really early for work. It doesn’t matter. It will always find a way of making you late: a faulty train, problems on the tracks, signal failure, person under the train, you name it.

I have always tried to face the Tube with a smile, but trust me when I say this line will challenge you any chance it gets.

Some of the things I’ll do: read the newspaper or a magazine, listen to music or an audiobook, read a book, write a post in my notebook (such as this one), play a game on my phone. And smile. Even if it’s just to yourself. There are so many worse things in life.

Miscellaneous Travel

Back home

Photo by anthlockton

Since I went to university — almost 10 years ago — and moved out of my parents’ house, it’s been hard for me to qualify a certain place in the world as “home”.

I was born in Russia, my father is from Panama (where I’ve also lived), my mum is from Portugal, I lived for 13 years in a small town near Porto, then 8 years in the Algarve, then London. I have a sentimental attachment to many places and none at the same time.

But the more I come back to London after a trip, the more it feels like home, more than any of the other places I’ve lived in.