The official start date is February 1st, but there was a clear need to make my way out there a little before that: it would take some time to secure housing, and I also wanted to drop by the department to get some other things set up. It also is going to take more than one trip to port all of my belongings over anyway. So I planned a one-week "advance visit" shortly before the real move at the end of the month - just long enough to exchange my things and get some rest. The imminent move date pushed this trip right up against my return from FC - and as a result, less than 24 hours after returning to Copenhagen after my long absence, I was on a plane again to head over to the UK.
This visit was made a lot easier by the fact that one of my old graduate school friends (from Berkeley) now lives in Manchester, not too far from the airport. While not exactly within easy commuting distance of Liverpool (90 minutes or so), this provided a convenient location to temporarily store the things I was moving over to the UK plus a place to stay on the days I didn't need to be in Liverpool all day (which is to say all days except Thursday through Saturday, when I was most actively looking for housing.)
Looking for a place to live is a difficult process and has been the source of quite a bit of apprehension for me at various times in my life, including the present one. With AAS, FC, and innumerable other distractions lately I hadn't done any advance planning. Fortunately, the process turned out to be not too difficult this time around: there are a couple of pretty sophisticated mapping-based commercial websites in the UK that handle apartment listings, by default most places are pre-furnished, and the cost side of the equation was almost not an issue at all. Living in a succession of expensive cities has solidified the expectation in my mind that living alone in a decent apartment anywhere outside a remote suburb will cost $1000 in monthly rent as an absolute minimum, with $1500 being much more realistic. While the comparison is a bit distorted by the exchange rate at the moment, I was pleased to find out that in Liverpool that range can secure just about anything on the market, anywhere in the city, even for two-bedroom places. So it was pretty clear that finding something acceptable would not be difficult.
The biggest challenge was in securing appointments: since I had showed up with no advance planning had only 3 business days available to me, I was trying to make appointments on the fly as soon as possible, and although my hope was to start looking at places effectively immediately on Thursday, in general I was only able to arrange viewings for Friday or Saturday (or was only given vague "we'll call you back" promises.) So the start was slow.
In a bit of a repeat of my experience when I moved down to Pasadena, I had one near "miss". The second apartment I viewed on Friday was fantastic: well within the price range, two bedrooms, less than 5 minutes' walk from work and from downtown, and on a cornder of the building with lots of windows and light. Unfortunately, I hesitated to make any committment until I'd seen a couple other places and (of course) somebody else wanted it. On Saturday I decided not to repeat that mistake: I saw a place that was almost as good (similar location, only 1br but way under my price point, great kitchen and windows). Not wanting to be stuck returning to Copenhagen without a place secured should the same thing recur, I jumped on it immediately and put in an application to rent. It is apparently a slow process to be "approved" for a rental by renting agencies in the UK and I may not have that confirmed for a few more days, but claws-crossed I should have a space secured just in time for my real move a week from today. It is unfortunately just 1 bedroom, so it won't be quite as ideal a friend-hosting platform as I'd been hoping - but it's close to all the hotels, and is only a 6-month contract: when summer rolls around I can look into finding something a little nicer and more permanent if I choose.
There were a few other things to take care of as well. I acquired my residence permit, set up a banking account, and dropped by the department on both Friday and Monday for much of the day. I met with my PhD student for the first time in person since she began her project and got the keys to my new office, and also had a couple of other research chats with others in the department.
In the course of my apartment-searching I also got to see somewhat more of the city than before, finding out that there is a "trendy" district with a lot of cool bars and restaurants and shops only about five minutes from where I expect to be living. So at least for the moment I'm feeling pretty good about the move!
With that largely taken care of on by Saturday, I was free to relax a bit on Sunday, and my Manchester hosts and I took the train out to the countryside to go for a walk (one could hardly call it a hike) around the area. Despite some early light snow and near-freezing temperatures it was not a bad day to be outside and the bucolic farms and lakes (while not exactly on the same tier as the mountains I grew up hiking) were a nice backdrop, making for a calming experience after a busy weekend.
I flew back to Copenhagen today, the mission (hopefully) accomplished. I'll be here until Tuesday - wrapping up life as a postdoc and concluding my time in Denmark.