Friday, 10 June 2016

Our first week in Madison

Wow, this blog post is long overdue but we seemed to have crammed so much into the past five weeks.

We moved from Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, UK to Middleton, Wisconsin, USA and here is how it went.

On Saturday 23rd April we kicked off our leaving celebrations by enjoying dinner at Pie Minister in Nottingham with my parents, brother and close family friends Anne & Don. Then it was off to our favourite bar in the UK - The Junkyard - for a night on the beers with many friends and family who stopped by. Thanks to: Mum, Dad, Andrew, Anne, Don, Ollie, Emily, Richard, Sammi, Ady, Helen,
Matt, Mike, James, Steve, Lesley, James, Anne, Neil, Andy, Louise, Clare, Andy, Pete, Nicola, Tom, Tara, Katrina and Craig for the send off.

Rather worse for beer, we were dropped off at home by friends Steve and Lesley for our last night in our house in the UK.

The next day -Sunday - we had a final visit from Steve and Lesley then chums Dave and Heather popped round with Nathan and then it was off to Manchester airport with Mum and Dad. We stopped at The Wagon and Horses in Stalybridge just outside Hyde for a rather splendid dinner before being dropped off at the hotel airport and goodbyes with mum and dad.

Our flight was American Airlines 55 from Manchester to Chicago O'Hare due to leave at 12:30 and we awoke on the Monday to a message from American letting us know we were delayed two hours so we had a rather more leisurely morning and made our way over to check-in. Whoops we were over our luggage allowance on both cases, so after a quick reorganisation just one case was over and we paid the $100 excess baggage fee.

We got air-side and had a drink and light bite before making our way to the gate, what a lovely surprise the flight was only at about 60% occupancy so was an easy boarding and we had our row of three seats to ourselves.

 The crew on the flight were excellent and a real credit to American Airlines. After a very smooth six hours we touched down at O'Hare and were quite quickly through customs and immigration and picking up our baggage before entering the terminal building and boarding the bus to Hertz to pick up our car.

After the lovely experience with American Airlines service the shenanigans with Hertz were rather a disappointment, we had booked a Toyota Corolla and they first tried to get us to upgrade to a Dodge Charger, then a Nissan Juke, before trying to fob us off with a Mazda 3, a lot smaller than a Corolla. We dug our heels in and after about an hour finally got what we had booked and paid for.

Apart from a dent on the passenger side the Corolla was a great car and we eventually held onto her for four weeks. Leaving O'Hare we entered the Freeway to Madison and realised that we were on the wrong road so ended up adding about 20 minutes to our journey by going via Milwaukee rather than Janesville. Arriving in Madison we soon found the American Inn off Odana and at 2130 local time - 0330 body-clock time - we crashed out in bed for the evening for our first nights sleep as non-immigrants!

Our first day in the USA and we had some stuff to sort out, first of all bank-accounts, so over to Chase on Old Sauk and High Point and we were soon the proud owners of a checking account and a savings account. Now time to find a bed, we looked in a couple of places before finding the perfect bed in Steinhafels which we paid for and arranged to have delivered to our apartment the next day, leaving our phone number just in case they had issues. We had a lovely lunch at Barriques in Middleton before checking out our local Costco for the bargains.

We then popped to pick up some essentials, namely bedding, but that is an entire other story that I no doubt shall relate one day! We made our way back to the Americinn ad were soon crashed out, only to be awoken several times by a party of unruly school children who were running up and down the corridors until the early hours of the morning.

Next, day, Wednesday our first task was to check out of the Americinn and pick up Social Security Numbers from the office on Odana before driving over to Deer Creek to get the keys to our new apartment. We had received an email from Steinhafels to say our bed would be delivered between 1400 and 1600 so we were all on schedule.

Only having a couple of suitcases it was quite easy to unpack here and I drove to a local sandwich shop to pick up us a 'Sub'. At about 15.45 we decided to call Steinhafels to enquire where the bed was - it was not coming the driver could not find us and had not wanted to make an international phone call to contact us - arse! We cancelled the bed and gave them a flea in the ear.

We drove over to Target, picked up a air-mattress, bedside lamp, two patio chairs and a patio table. The first night in our new home would basically be camping. That evening we ordered a mattress from Amazon for Friday delivery.

To console ourselves we had rather a lovely dinner at Hubbard Avenue Diner in Middleton before retiring to blow up the air-mattress.

Thursday morning and my first task was to pop into the office for a short daily team meeting and to introduce myself to the folks I shall be working with. I was back home just after 10 and Victoria and I were going out to buy furniture. Having checked their website but unable to place an order due to a UK credit card not being accepted for an on-line payment, Slumberland seemed very good place. We were soon selecting a new sofa, bedroom chair and console table for delivery at time unspecified and the prices in the store were much better than the on-line deals - bonus!

We also took the opportunity to check out some local supermarkets, both Wholefoods and Metro Market are very good, the latter especially has a great selection of British foods available.

A very nice chap came from Charter connected us to the internet, woot! Unfortunately they don't provide a wireless access point so we stopped at Best Buy and after seeing how much they charge, instead decided to go 'wired' for a few days and ordered one from Amazon.

That evening we walked into the centre of Middleton stopping at Capitol Brewery for a beer. It's great to sit on the terrace there and enjoy the live bands.

  On our way back we stopped at the delightful Hubbard Avenue Diner in Middleton for supper, the staff are great, the d├ęcor straight from the 1950s and the food and brews fantastic. As you can see Middleton is rather lovely.

Another surprisingly comfortable evening on the air-mattress and I again dropped by the office for the days team meeting and after we were out to do errands again. We badly needed supplies so went to Metro Market on the east side of town where we phoned our shipping company. Our furniture was due to arrive the coming Monday and we needed to ensure that all was running ok. Well, to cut a long and fraught story short they had lost our pallets, our furniture and belongings had done 5000 miles from the Uk and about 100 miles away in Janesville had gone missing. Arse! and Arse! again. After about an hours calling around it was located with the wrong tracking numbers and even better it would not be coming on Monday but tomorrow - Saturday. Also when we got home our new mattress had arrived from Amazon, things were really starting to come together.

That evening we ate at our local bar, World of Beers, yes my local is a proper brew-house with about 50 beers on tap and over 500 bottles of world beers to select from. They also do a rather splendid giant pretzel that we shared for supper with a kale salad.

Well Saturday came and our truck arrived promptly just before 1000, Work colleague and all round great guy Jeff arrived with his daughter Lily and we soon had it all inside. The bed was assembled and we had a proper place to kip for the evening.

Jeff and his wife Debra invited us for dinner that evening and we had a lovely time with some splendid food and drink discussing the differences between our UK existence and our USA existence that just a few days in the states had uncovered.

To be continued...

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