March winds –

Welcome back to another post in my countdown:

ONLY 30 DAYS LEFT!

Which means that there is only one month left! Today in one month I’ll be back home and my year is over and done with. It’s quite weird to think about it.
But I stop my ranting now and let you enjoy a recap of yet another month: March.

The month started with V’s birthday on Monday, 6th March. It’s my first birthday with the family and I was rather excited to see how they celebrate. The day started just like every morning and I went downstairs for 7am. V was so excited for his big day that he was awake and dressed already. But he still had to wait for everyone else to be ready and come downstairs.

Around 7.30am it was finally time for presents! He got a lot new toys and books. I also got him a present: iron-on beads.
After the presents we went to the kitchen to have breakfast. But before we could have breakfast there was something else more important: CAKE!
After V blew out the candles and made a wish, we had cake for breakfast. The cake was really great, but also too much for breakfast.

Around 8.45am the family had left the house and I had a bit of free time until around 12.45pm when I had to buy some groceries to bake birthday cupcakes for V. The Cupcakes were finished just in time when V and two of his friends came home for a birthday playdate. However while they came home, I was out to collect H from school.
As this day was rather stressful and a bit much for H, we went to the playground at Bishop’s park instead of going home.

Shortly before 5pm it was time for us to head home as well, as we had to leave soon again for H’s swimming lessons. A cupcake later we got on our way to swimming and were finally back home around 6.30pm. It was a rather long day for all of us and I was especially tired after being on the scooter the whole day. Even all the sugar from the cake and cupcake didn’t help.

The Saturday following V’s birthday it was my turn to celebrate my birthday! As it was on the weekend, I didn’t really celebrated my birthday with my host family. But therefore my mum came to visit me and I had one of the best birthdays I had so far. But you can read all about that weekend in my last post #KeepTheSecret.

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I love you MAMA!

In the week after my birthday, when my mum was already back home, my host mum asked me if I’d like to babysit for a friend of hers. Of course I said yes and left around 7pm to go to the other family. When I arrived there I finally noticed that it’s not any family, but the host family of my friend Charlotte.
It was a nice relaxing evening and I had no trouble whatsoever with the children.

As I haven’t met Charlotte since February, I wanted to find some more friends from my area. So I once again used Excuses to Meet. On the St Patrick’s Day weekend I met Camilla for the first time. On Sunday, 19th March the big St Patrick’s Day Parade went through London’s streets. We met around 1pm when the parade was already in full swing.
Because it was the first time we met, we spent most of the time chatting and getting to know each other better while watching the parade.

When the parade was over we went to Trafalgar Square where a big St Patrick’s Day party was going on. While we were listening to the live music and just enjoying ourselves, 3 drunken guys suddenly climbed on top of the fountain and the stage program had to be interrupted until the guys were back down and out of the fountain.
Around 6pm the concert was finished and we both decided to get on our way home. We definitely had a good time together and planned to meet again. Just three days later we did meet again for a hot chocolate in Fulham. After this second meeting it was quite clear that we get along really good, but none of us would’ve imagined how close we’ll grow in the next few moths.

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Hot Chocolate with Camilla at Caffé Nero in Fulham

This week was the beginning of something terrible. On Wednesday, 22nd March, was the first London terror attack. While the horrible incident took place, I was sitting in the living room, watching children TV without a care in the world. But this changed with this day and the shock I was in would only become worse with every other terror attack in the open and friendly England.

However the children didn’t knew what was going on and apart from the shock the rest of the week was just a normal week for us. On Thursday and Friday we got quite crafty. First I decorated an easter egg nest with H for his school ‘competition’ and the next day V and L tested the present my mum gave them: T-shirt spray colours. To get nice pictures on the t-shirts they had to put a pattern on it and then spray the colours over it. As the sprays were quite hard to push, both of them needed my help.
While the front was drying, we made some letter patterns ourselves so they can put their letter on their shirt.

On Saturday, 25th March I had to help out on a weekend for the first time. The parents had to attend a business thing from my host fathers work. While H was with his social worker, I had to look after V and L. When the parents and H had left, the boys and I got ready and made our way to South Kensington. Even though it was the first easter break weekend for private schools, we hoped that the museums are not too crowded because of the really good weather we had. Therefore we decided to visit the ‘Natural History Museum’.

We got on our way shortly past 11am and arrived around 11.45am. However we still had to que up as you always have to when visiting Natural History Museum. Luckily it was just a few minutes after 12pm when we finally got in.
As the boys are big dinosaurs fans, our main focus was on going to the dinosaur exhibition. On the way there we passed a lot of other interesting things, however the boys weren’t really interested in them and more or less just walked past them.
But before we went into the dinosaur part of the museum, we sat down to enjoy our lunch snack.

Finally it was time to visit the dinosaurs. When you come in, there is a big T-Rex which moves his head and roars. While V was very excited to see the T-Rex, L however was too scared and nearly started crying, so we quickly had to move on.
In the dinosaur wing of the museum you can see footprints, horns and skeletons. It is quite interesting to learn about the dinosaurs and get a feeling for how big they actually have been.

Once again the boys were a bit faster than me and rather pulled me through the whole exhibition while I tried to get a good look at all of the things. However it still took us 45mins to get through. Afterwards we went to see the Mammals Gallery with the big blue whale in the middle of the room.
On the way to the blue whale we walked past some other mammals that were quite interesting to see.

Around 1.20pm we left the Natural History Museum and got on the bus journey back home, where we arrived around 2.15pm. After a short break at home to get the scooters and a refill for the water bottles, we went to the park. Here the boys played together, while I had the chance to relax a bit.
At 4.20pm we were finally back home and the parents and H were back home around 5pm. When they were back I was finished with work, although I went back downstairs to have dinner with the family.

The last week in march was V and L’s first week of Easter break and I was asked to help out for a few hours on Tuesday morning and a few more hours here and there. However it wasn’t too much and the Tuesday hours were spent at Bishop’s park on the playground, where I had time to relax, soak up the sun and chat with another nanny.

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Soaking up the sun at Bishop’s Park playground

This week was a good finish for the month and I was more than excited to welcome another visit from home the next month.

April can start!

Love,
Vicky! Xx

 

#KeepTheSecret

This post is a special one for me, as it’s about one very special weekend. It’s been exactly 100 days since my mum came to visit me for the first time! But I didn’t choose today for this special post only because it’s been 100 days, but also because she’ll be back here for her second visit in 3 weeks time!
In addition to this countdown, there is also the countdown til I’m going home:

ONLY 35 DAYS LEFT!

My mum chose this weekend mostly because of one reason: MY BIRTHDAY!
With my birthday coming closer there was also the reality that I would spent it the first time in 21 years without my mother. Therefore we could easily decide on which weekend she should come to visit me.

My fun time with my mum started on Thursday, 9th March, when she arrived around 11am at the London City Airport. As my mum never learned to use the London Underground system, I went to pick her up from the airport.
Around 12.40pm we finally arrived at home and my mum had a bit time to get settled and have a rest.

After an hour we got on our way to South Kensington so I can show her a few of my favourite things of the Victoria & Albert Museum. When we arrived at 2pm I just had enough time to show her Michelangelo’s David, the 20th Century Design Collection and the Rapid Response Collecting. I sadly didn’t had time for more, as I had to go back to work. Leaving my mum with a Map of the V&A, instructions on how to get on a bus or to Harrods and went back home to pick up V.

While I was entertaining the boys, my mum first took a short break at the V&A Café and then went to explore the Museum a bit more. After an afternoon scone break she went on her way to Harrods, where she finished an hour later and got on the bus back to Fulham around 6.55pm. As the boys had dinner already and only H had to go to bath – the others had swimming and took a shower at the swimming pool already – my host mum told me that I can finish with work already and go to meet my mum.

At 7.15pm we met at Fulham Broadway to go groceries shopping and have dinner ourselves. Because it was our first day together again, we decided to treat ourselves to a doner kebab at a local ‘German’ kebab shop.
Around 9pm we were back home and got ready for the night, knowing that the next day is going to be rather exhausting.

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My first doner kebab in 2017!

On Friday morning I had to work my normal morning hours. But I also had to bring H to school, because my host mum had an appointment at L’s school and couldn’t bring him. It was already 9.20am when I came back and quickly set up the breakfast for my mum, so she could eat while I take a shower.

At 10.45am we finally got on our way to Buckingham Palace, where we arrived just 15 minutes before the Changing of the Guards should take place. While we tried to find a good position and then waited for the action to happen, we nearly missed it, because it was rather unspectacular. The Changing of the Guards at the Tower of London was way more impressive. However while we took some pictures at one of London’s most famous landmarks, a parade of guards on horses ridden past us.

From the Buckingham Palace we walked down The Mall and went through St James’s Park to the Tube Station of the same name. We then took the Tube to Bond Street, where we walked down the east side of Oxford Street. Stopping at a few shops we made our way towards Tottenham Court Road. On Tottenham Court Road towards Goodge Street Station is the big Paperchase flagshipstore, where I brought my mum next. I really love this shop and therefore I just had to show her the shop.

At 4.45pm we were finished there and took the Tube from Goodge Street to Covent Garden, where we had a tea and a hot chocolate at the ‘Whittard of Chelsea Covent Garden Tea Bar’.
This Tea Bar is ever since my go-to café in London city centre when I want to enjoy a nice british tea. The atmosphere and tea are just to die for and a must-do on your tourism to-do list.

Around 6.15pm we were too tired to do anything any more and took the Tube back to Fulham Broadway where we bought our dinner ingredients and then went back home to cook dinner and enjoy our evening.

On Saturday, 11th March, I woke up with just one thing on my mind: FINALLY 21!!!!
As it was my birthday we started the day slowly with a lie in and then a nice dragged out breakfast.
However, at 10.30am I couldn’t wait any longer and had to open my presents! Because my mum had to bring them all from Germany I didn’t had too many, but rather things I’ve asked for or things that I can ‘finish’ while I’m here.
Although the ‘biggest’ present was a 21 Charm for my Thomas Sabo Charm Club Bracelet, the biggest surprise was a self-made cake. As we didn’t knew if my mum could bake here at my host family, she prebaked my childhood birthday cake and brought it with her.
Thank you, Mummy, once again for going through the trouble of organising all this.

But I also want to thank my best friend once again, who got me one of the sweetest gifts and gave it to my mum to bring it to London for me. It wasn’t a big gift and nothing expensive, but it’s still priceless in its own way. The gift consisted of a few small things and these small things were symbols for something way bigger: OUR FRIENDSHIP. Each object is a reminder of memories we had together or just proof of how good we know each other.
This present was just the right thing, as it was a piece of her and our friendship and even though it made me miss her even more, it also brought her closer and made me miss her less. THANK YOU! xx

After opening all my presents and chatting with my best friend over the phone for over an hour – my mum was nearly falling asleep – it was already 12pm when we finally left the house and went for a walk to Fulham Palace.
Fulham Palace was built for the Bishops of London, who have held land here since Saxon days and used it as a summer residence from as long as the 11th/12th century. However the last Bishop to live in the palace left in 1973. The Old Deanery near St Paul’s Cathedral is the residence of the present Bishop of London.

The Fulham Palace’s architecture is a mixture of Tudor and Georgian architecture with a Victorian chapel. Even though you can visit the Palace for free, my mum and I weren’t able to go in because it was closed for a private event – most likely a wedding.
Therefore we just went for a stroll through the Palace grounds. Planted with new species of plants and trees, the Palaces gardens became rather famous as one of the world’s first and most significant botanical gardens during the 16th and 17th centuries. A portion of the Palace grounds have been hived off to make Bishop’s park, but the trees, a fine rose garden, a walled garden and a knot garden still are part of the Palace grounds.

We soon left the Palace grounds and instead walked through Bishop’s park a long the Thames. At the east end of Bishop’s park, next to Putney Bridge, is the All Saints Church. It’s a parish church worshipping in the catholic tradition.
The church you can see today has been designed by the architect Sir Arthur Blomfield and was built in 1880 after the old one was demolished because it was regularly flooded. However first written references to a church and parish priest date from the 13th century.
The new church was built of Kentish ragstone with Bath stone dressings, in the gothic perpendicular style. To avoid being flooded it was built 3 feet higher than the medieval church.

After a quick visit to the Church we got on our way back home to have a small lunch and get ready for our evening outing in London.
Because it was still too early for the evening program, we first went to the Somerset House to visit the Courtauld Gallery.
The world-famous art collection of the Courtauld Gallery stretches from the early Renaissance into the 20th century and is renowned especially for the collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, including masterpieces by Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin and the largest collection of Cézannes in the UK.

The first room is on the ground level and shows objects from the 13th-15th Century and is called ‘Medieval and Renaissance’. Here you can see a few Triptych that are quite typical for that time.
On the Mezzanine is the ‘Drawings Gallery’. The exhibitions here change from time to time. While we visited we were able to see the exhibition ‘Reading Drawings’.

Next was the first floor, where it started to get interesting. But not only the pictures were more than impressive, the rooms they were shown in, were impressive as well.
In the first room it continues with ‘Renaissance Europe’ from the 16th century.
When we came to the second room, we didn’t knew where to look at, the paintings or the ceiling. This room was formerly the Royal Academy Council and Assembly Room and now houses the 17th Century ‘Rubens and the Baroque’ exhibition.

The next room had paintings from the 18th Century, the ‘Enlightenment’ exhibition. The joint Ante-Room of the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries is the first of the three 19th Century rooms and shows the ‘Early Impressionism’ with paintings from Pissarro, Degas and Renoir.
The ‘Impressionism and Post-Impressionism’ exhibition in the next room shows the first picture of Manet and Gauguin of the Gallery.

The last room of the first floor mainly contains paintings by Van Gogh as part of the ‘Post-Impressionism’ exhibition. This room shows off another impressive ceiling. It was formerly known as the Ante-Room and Library of the Royal Academy.
The first room of the second floor shows the ‘Impressionist Landscapes’ by Van Gogh, Monet and many more.
The last rooms showed paintings of the 20th Century, concentrating on ‘French Painting 1905-20’, ‘German Expressionists’, ‘British Painting’ and ‘Modernism’.

Around 4pm we were finished at the gallery and got on the way to Leicester Square to go to the St Martin’s Theatre. Our evening plans were going to watch Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’ at the St Martin’s Theatre. But before we would enjoy the play we had dinner plans at 5pm with Kath and Beth, our friends from Leigh. Therefore we waited in the area at an Starbucks until it was time to meet. We decided to go to Prezzo, an italian restaurant which is between Trafalgar Square and the St Martin’s Theatre.

After a nice dinner and a stroll to Trafalgar Square, we got on our way to the Theatre, where we first took some pictures and selfies. Hannah, Andrews daughter and Kath’s niece is part of the play for the cast of 2016/2017. Therefore we all enjoyed taking pictures with her picture outside the Theatre.
At 7pm we made our way inside as the show would start at 7.30pm.

You may be used to me giving you all kind of information and I won’t stop with this now, but I CAN’T give you any information about the play. It is just part of the experience that you don’t know the end of the play when you see it and everyone who’s seen it has to promise to himself that they too will keep the secret! #KeepTheSecret

However I can tell you something about the history of the play. ‘The Mousetrap’ is not just any play, but it’s the longest running stage production in the world. After its first presentation on 25th November 1952 at the Ambassadors Theatre, it transferred on Monday 25th March 1974 to the larger St Martin’s Theatre next door without missing a performance.

On the 12th April 1958 ‘The Mousetrap’ became the world’s longest running production and sets a new world record with every performance. A board in the Theatre Foyer shows which performance you are attending. As the show has been on for 65 years now and been the longest running play for 58 years, it’s no surprise that the number of performances is now in excess of 26 500 performances.

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We saw the 26815th Performance on March 11 2017!

In 2002 they celebrated the Golden Anniversary and in 2012 the 60th Anniversary. For both Celebrations all surviving cast members came together to celebrate their success and to share their memories with each other. The cast of ‘The Mousetrap’ is changed every year and the eight new Cast members join ‘The Mousetrap Family’. With the eight current actors the total number of actors that have appeared at the London production of ‘The Mousetrap’ is brought up to 450 actors and 260 understudies.

This years cast is:
Kirsten Hazel Smith as Mollie Ralston
Tom Rooke as Giles Ralston
Simon Haines as Christopher Wren
Karen Archer as Mrs Boyle
Christopher Knott as Major Metcalf
Hannah Lee as Miss Casewell
Simon Roberts as Mr Paravicini
Jamie Hutchins as Detective-Sergeant Trotter

I can’t tell you more about ‘The Mousetrap’ other than to advise you to take the time and WATCH IT!

The Mousetrap

Mum, Beth, Kath and me (from left) at the St Martin’s Theatre!

After the show was over, we left the Theatre and went to the Stage Door to wait for Hannah to come out. While we waited for her, some of her colleagues left already and it was quite weird to see them so close after you’ve just seen them on stage.
When Hannah was finished we congratulated her on her good performance and went to have a drink together.

The day got better and better when Hannah took us to the private ‘The Ivy Club’. The Club is really fancy and quite expansive. I did feel a bit out of place, but I’m still super excited thinking that I had the chance to have a drink there. The utmost London experience.
We just chatted for a while and enjoyed the evening with our friends. It had been a long time since I’ve seen Hannah, Kath and Beth last autumn, but it’s been even longer for my mum as she hadn’t seen them for years.
However around 12am it was too late for any of us to stay up any longer and we got on our way home, where we arrived around 12.30am and went to bed straight away.

The next morning we stayed in bed longer than we’d normally do, but still managed to get out of the house at 10.30am to start Mum’s last day in London. The first stop was Camden Town where I just showed her around and my favourite spots there. But after just an hour we left again as it was too crowded for our liking and instead went to Covent Garden. Even though Covent Garden is normally quite crowded as well, it’s still better than Camden Town on a Sunday.

After our stroll around Leicester Square and Covent Garden, we once again went to Whittard for a tea and hot chocolate, but this time I also got a scone!
Around 4.30pm we got on our way back home. We were just too tired and we promised my host family that we would celebrate my birthday with them as well. When we came home my mum decorated my birthday cake and after a nice Happy Birthday song from everyone for me, I got my present from my host family and the boys got a little present from my mum.
When the cake was eaten and it was time for the boys to go up to bed, my mum and I also went up to my room to get ready for the night and pack her suitcase.

On Monday 13th March it was sadly time for my mum to go back home again. I was torn inside as I really missed my mum and was happy to have her here, but on the other hand I was more than happy to finally be able to sleep in my bed again and don’t have to share my room anymore. When you haven’t lived at home for more than 6 months and suddenly have to share your room with your mum is quite hard. However I’m already looking forward to having my mum here again and share my room with her once again.

After my normal morning hours we got ready to leave for the airport and left at 8.45am to be at the airport on time. Saying goodbye was hard, but at least I know it’s not a goodbye forever.

With this said…Mum, I’m looking forward to welcoming you here in London once again and to tire you out with a strict program to fit in as much as possible.
Looking back we didn’t do that much 😛

Love,
Vicky! Xx

HEAD CHOPPED OFF – EYYY!

And I’m back for the next Countdown:

ONLY 40 DAYS LEFT!

Every time I write another blog post I realise that another five days have passed by and the end is coming closer and closer.
Looking back to all the good times is just amazing and I really enjoy it. Therefore I’m gonna look back on my visit to the Tower of London today.

On Tuesday, 28th February Max and I went to see the Tower of London, as it was his last day in London and we haven’t done one major attraction yet.
The Tower is not only one of London’s oldest and most renowned monuments, but it’s also the best preserved fortress in all of Great Britain.

The complex of 21 Towers was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror and was originally used as a palace. Throughout the time it’s purpose changed from royal palace to astronomical observatory, an armoury, a treasury, a zoo, a prison and lastly the home of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

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One of the many instruments of torture

Apart from the Crown Jewels the Tower of London is probably most know for its seven ravens and for the ‘Beefeaters’. A legend says that the Tower and the British monarchy would fall, if the ravens were to ever leave the fortress. As they are formally known as the Guardians of the Tower, the ravens are considered part of the military. This means that they’re subject to the same rights, duties and punishments and therefore can be enlisted, promoted and discharged.
The ‘Yeoman Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London’ is the official name of the Beefeaters, the Tower’s ceremonial Guardians since the 16th century. Next to guarding the Tower of London, they also give free tours around the Tower.

As we arrived at the tower at 10.45am and the next tour started at 11am, we decided to wait for the next tour to take part. It proofed to be the right decision, because this one Yeoman Warder was especially good. He was downright funny and this special humour to him and always had a witty comeback ready.
The tour started with him telling us that he doesn’t want us to take pictures of him during the tour and therefore decided to give us a pose so we can take our picture at the beginning and then don’t feel the need to anymore.

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Let’s strike a pose! Our one time picture chance of a Yeoman Warder

The Tour started at the Byward Tower, where our tour guide first told us a bit of the Yeoman Warders. There are currently 36 men in the team. There are quite a few restrictions if you want to become a Yeoman Warder. You need to have:
– at least 22 years’ military service
– reached the rank of warrant officer
– been awarded the long service and good conduct medal
– be between 40 – 55 years old on appointment.

As they all live with their families there on the Tower grounds, it’s like a little village. Apart from their own church and their own park (Village Green), they even have their own pub – the Yeoman Warders’ Club. The Children live in the Casemates and they have their own ‘squire’ – the Resident Governor.

Nowadays they only wear their distinctive red uniforms on ceremonial occasions as they are with £6000 way too expansive for daily use. Instead they use the blue ‘undress’ uniform for their daily duties, which comes in four weights. This one was developed around 1856, when it was discovered that air pollution after the Industrial Revolution caused the red uniform to rot.

From the Byward Tower he lead us inside the fortress’ walls and to the Bell Tower. It was built in the 12th century and got its name from the curfew bell that has rung from it for at least 500 years.
The Tower was extremely secure and therefore really suitable for important prisoners.

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The Traitors’ Gate

The next stop was the Traitors’ Gate, the most notorious entrance of the Tower. Originally built for Edward I between 1275 – 1279, it was the new water gate called St Thomas’s Tower. But the name comes from the use as an entrance for all those ill-fated prisoners accused of treason.

It was here that the Yeoman Warder first said his catchphrase ‘HEADS CHOPPED OFF’ followed by an enthusiastic ‘EYYY!’. This made us crack up every time and put a smile back on our disgusted looking faces after he told us in detail how someone was executed. If you have a little idea about the history of the Tower and it’s prisoners you’ll know that he said this phrase quite a lot.

‘Gentle visitor pause awhile • where you stand death cut away the light of many days • here jewelled names were broken from the vivid thread of life • may they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage • under these restless skies’

This is the inscription on the execution site memorial at the Scaffold Site and the Tower Green where we went to next.
Tower Green once was an execution site where ten people were beheaded (HEAD CHOPPED OFF – EYYY!), three of them were english queens. Although all three executions didn’t took place in exactly the same spots, the special scaffolds and blocks that were prepared each time were always within a few yards of the others. Nowadays there is a memorial close to where the executions took place to commemorate the three queens, but also the other seven men and women that die on or near this spot.

The three beheaded queens were Anne Boleyn, early 30s – 2nd wife of Henry VIII; Catherine Howard, around 20 – 5th wife of Henry VIII and Lady Jane Grey, 16. While the first two have been accused of adultery and both may have not been guilty, Lady Jane Grey was only queen for 9 days and got caught in her father-in-law’s – Duke of Northumberland – failed military coup. Needless to say that she’s been killed innocent.

 

When we were finished at this site he started to prepare us for the next step of the tour: the Chapel Royal of St Peter and Vincula.
Just like most churches they ask the gents to take off their hats and everyone to switch off their phones. He even joked that the younger generations will survive if we’re not accessible through our phone for ten minutes.
He then told us about the little intelligence test they have, as there is a small step when you enter the church and even though he always warns the visitors, there is ever so often someone who still doesn’t pay attention and stumbles. He kindly offers to catch the women, but he does enjoy a good faceplant and therefore wouldn’t bother to come to the rescue of a guy.

Being prepared and all we went inside the Chapel which is locked off for the public and only accessible in company of a Yeoman Warder on one of their guided tours. Luckily we all proved that we are quite intelligent as no one of our group stumbled. When he told us that Queen Victoria did stumble on her entrance to the Chapel once he even looked at me and then congratulated us that we excelled the Queen on this task.
The modest looking Chapel still operates as a place of worship for the 150 or so people living within the Towers walls. It was here that this Yeoman Warder proudly told us that his soon to be firstborn child will be baptised in the chapels baptistery in just a few months time (probably happened by now..).

 

But apart from a place of worship, the chapel is also the last resting-place of most of the executed at the Tower or the nearby Tower Hill. Next to the aforementioned three queens, Rochford, Salisbury and Essex are also buried here. The two saints of the Roman Catholic Church, John Fisher and Thomas More, are also among the buried. Both of them were executed on Tower Hill, the latter was convicted of treason because he refused to acknowledge Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England and to take the Oath of Supremacy.

After a last few information and the chance for us to ask questions, he said his goodbye and wished us a nice visit to the Tower. The tour just lasted for an hour, but that was rather good as this hour was filled with information and it would’ve been too much otherwise.
I really enjoyed it, especially because our guide was very funny and good with his words. He would make a good teacher as he managed to shut all the loud children that were walking past us up with just one look. One time a few children were especially loud and wouldn’t quieten down so he told them to put their pointer finger to their mouth and curious what he’s up to they did it to then get told to keep it there. But it’s a wonderful way to get them quiet.

 

As no visit to the Tower is complete without seeing the breathtaking and world-famous collection of the Crown Jewels. The display ‘Crowns through History’ has the original crown jewels of many generations on show. Although you are able to stand just a few centimetres away and gaze on the most valuable collection of crowns, coronation regalia and jewels in the world, you are sadly not allowed to take any pictures.

The Coronation Regalia are the objects used at the coronation of a sovereign, which are made out of silver-gilt, which is silver covered with a thin layer of gold and are jewel-encrusted, however there are plenty solid gold objects as well. As the coronation is about recognition, anointing and investiture, therefore the regalia includes swords of state and ceremonial maces, orbs and sceptres and trumpets and tunics. For the anointing of the sovereign with holy oil they use a Coronation Spoon.
But apart from these things there are also items on display that are no longer in use.

Other than additions to the collection at various points, the collection was almost completely replaced after its destruction during the Commonwealth in the 17th century. As they were done with monarchy, the Parliament wanted to be done with the royal regalia as well and the crowns were ‘totally broken and defaced’. A new set of jewels were ordered by Charles II after the monarchy was restored in 1660. His jewels have been used at every coronation ever since, including the coronation for Queen Elizabeth II.
The Imperial State Crown was made for her coronation in 1953 and is the most modern object on view. It is the very same Crown the Queen wears every year at the State Opening of Parliament.

But the regalia wouldn’t be so impressive if it wouldn’t be for the stones. The largest top quality cut diamond in the world is the Cullinan I (First Star of Africa; 530 carats) and is placed in the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross. The Crown of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother is decorated with the Koh-i-noor diamond from India.
However the Imperial State Crown might be one of the most precious ones. Next to the legendary ‘Stuart Sapphire’ is the ‘Black Prince’s Ruby’ and ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Pearls’. These stones are accompanied by 2868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 5 rubies and 273 pearls.

As you can imagine security is rather important around these jewels and therefore there are soldiers in front of the tower and there are people inside the display room to keep an eye on everyone. These military Guards come from an operational unit of the Armed Forces that is currently employed on ceremonial duties. On this day the Irish Guards were on duty. Their Regiment was formed on 1st April 1900 by order of Queen Victoria. To avoid crowding and giving everyone the chance to have a good view on the jewels there is a roller conveyor on both sides of the showcases you just stand on and be rolled past the showcases.

After being dazzled by the jewels it was time to be brought back into reality and we went on the Wall Walk. While you literally walk on the wall, you can also go into 6 of the Towers that are included in the wall. Sometimes you have a small exhibition about the history of the tower and sometimes you can just enjoy an amazing view over London. As we just came out of the Waterloo Barracks and were close to the entrance to the North Wall Walk, we started over there to then do the East Wall Walk afterwards.

 

Around 12.55pm we were finished with the Wall Walks and luckily just ended in front of the Waterloo Barracks where the Changing of the Guards took place. If you want to see the changing of the guards at the Buckingham Palace and are disappointed because it’s so far away and you can’t really see it, you have to go to the Tower of London and you’ll get happy.
We not only got lucky to see the changing of the guards, but we also got the chance to admire one of the seven ravens who are just massive.

 

Our last stop of the day was the famous White Tower. The Tower was the first Tower of the now 21 Tower-complex. It is among the best preserved and most interesting 11th century buildings and has been a symbol of authority and nationhood.
The probably most important purpose of the Tower that required it to be a tower was to serve as a permanent reminder to the new Norman nobility and the native population of the king’s authority. The other two main functions were a fortress and the interiors were designed for the king’s occasional use and as the setting for governmental and ceremonial functions.

From the 14th – 19th century the main use of the White Tower was a military storehouse. From this function emerged the role as a museum of arms and armour today. Therefore it was rather boring, compared to the impressive display of the crown jewels in the Waterloo Barracks. But it was nice nonetheless to be a visitor in this old fortress and the origin of the Tower of London. With this Tower we decided to finish our visit to the Tower and get back on our way home.

 

I’m sorry for the delay and that it’s been six instead of five days since the last upload, but I had a rather busy weekend and didn’t manage to post on time. Hopefully I’ll be able to upload the next one on time again.

 

See you in 4 days!

Love,
Vicky! Xx

 

 

 

 

February – Chapter 2 of 12 – or in my case Chapter 7 of 12

Time is still flying and more days have passed. The countdown goes on:

ONLY 45 DAYS LEFT!

However are there not only just 45 Days left, but there are also just a few weekends left.
But these 45 Days are perfect to look back on what I’ve experienced so far and share all the adventures with you that I haven’t shared yet.

After January comes February and the February was just as eventful as the month before. It started with finishing my english School and taking my final exam just a few days later on the first Saturday of the month, the 4th February.
As the exam started rather early, I had to get out of the house early as well and started my journey to the exam school shortly past 8am.

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Learning and preparing for my Cambridge Advanced Exam

While my language school is in North London, the Exam was taking place in a language School in Wimbledon, which is 15 minutes on the Tube south to where I live. I got lucky to live in this area now, otherwise it would’ve taken me more than an hour to get there.
When I arrived at 8.30am I had to bring all my things in a different room and was only allowed to take something to write and to drink with me in the exam room. Our things were then locked in without access to it until after the written part of the Exam.

We first started with the ‘Use of English’ and ‘Reading’ part of the Exam. After the 1 1/2 hours, we had a little break where we could leave the Exam room for a little snack. After the 5-10 minute break we had to be back in and soon were able to start the ‘Writing’ part of the Exam. I didn’t like the options we had at all and tried my best to write something. However we are only allowed to write a certain amount of words and therefore I was finished rather early and had to wait another 20 minutes till the 1 1/2 hours we had for this task were over.

The last part of the written Exam was the ‘Listening’. This part is part of the written Exam because we have  to listen to a few recordings and then answer questions or fill in missing words on our question sheets. For this task you normally have around 45 minutes, but that really depends on the recording and how much time they give you to copy your answers from the sheet of notes to the question sheet.

When we finished this last part the written Exam was over and we had a longer break until the ‘Speaking’ Exam. While other people went to Wimbledon centre to buy some food, I came prepared and had some snacks with me and just waited at the other location for my exam time. Luckily I wasn’t the only one and soon found a nice guy who was also waiting there and we started to chat with each other. He was really nice and after I was finished with my Speaking Exam I waited for him to be finished to then take the Tube back home together.

Sadly I only had a few stations and therefore had to say goodbye rather early. After this rather stressful morning I thought I’ve owned myself a treat and made arrangements to meet with Charlotte to go to the Cinema to watch Sing! The Movie was great fun and we enjoyed singing along to all the good songs. When the movie was over it was still rather early and we decided to go for dinner to Nando’s.
After we finished our delicious dinner it was around 9pm, but we were both so tired that we decided to call it a night already.

The next day I planned on going to the big Au Pair meeting by the Facebook group Oh!Pairs. They were founded by ex-Au Pairs and their local friends years ago and take in every Au Pair, no matter if they have an agency or not. Together they organise meet ups in London and day trips to some other places. The meet-up started at 2pm and officially ended at 6pm and I left at 6.30pm because I was still too tired and still felt the leftovers of my cold from the weekend from three weeks ago.

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The big Oh!Pairs meeting in London’s Zoo Bar at Leicester Square

On Tuesday after my big exam I decided to go back to the language school for one last time to tell my teachers about the exam and to get my schools certificate that I indeed attended language school and graduated on a CPE Level. I really liked this school and the teachers there, so I decided I can’t come empty-handed and surprised them with a little chocolate treat as a goodbye gift.

After a small break I was back just in time to see the last two days of London Fashion Week. As the tickets for one of the shows are obviously too expensive, I was more than happy to learn that there is actually an open showhouse at Somerset House for free. The International Fashion Showcase 2017 presented by Mercedes-Benz was set under the theme Global / Local and showcased designs from all over the world. The exhibited designers weren’t world-famous ones, but it was still interesting to get a feeling for fashion from all over the world. However, I sometimes really had to ask myself who in the world would wear this!

At the end of February Max came to visit me again. Good thing is that this time nothing happened and we actually had the chance to enjoy our time together for the whole time of his stay. Although I had to work on one of the days, we still managed to do a lot.
Because I had to babysit on Saturday night he decided to take a flight to London on Saturday evening and we met directly on Sunday morning, 26th February. As we were a bit planless, we spontaneously decided to go to Camden Town. After walking around Camden for a little bit and giving Max a feeling of this particular part of London, we went back to central London and went for a shopping Spree on Oxford Street.

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Camden Market Hall

Later that day we went to his hotel for a little break and decided to eat dinner at the hotels pub as we were too lazy to go somewhere else. Around 10pm I took the Tube back home and went to bed straight away. But not without setting an alarm for 1.15am to be wide awake when the Oscars start. I woke up without any problems and managed to watch all of the Oscars with giving my eyes a little rest in every commercial break. As soon as the little mistake was discovered and the Oscar for the best movie was handed to the right cast, I went back to sleep for the last 2 hours that were left of my night.

Funnily I got out of bed better than I ever did. I actually felt full of energy and ready to start the day. After helping getting the boys ready, Max and I met again to originally visit the Tower of London, but then had to change the schedule, because the weather was too horrible. The alternative was then to visit the Science Museum which is also worth a visit. I especially liked that there are so many ‘hands on’ parts where you can really explore and learn. But also the ‘Flight’ and ‘Making the Modern World’ exhibitions interested me.

However the ‘Winton Gallery’ was my highlight of the whole visit. It was designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid and is part of the Mathematics exhibition which examines the fundamental role mathematicians have played in building the world we live in. Sadly it wasn’t the exhibition itself that got me so excited but just the plain Gallery.

After our visit to the Museum it was time for me to head home again, because I had to work and help collecting the boys. However on our way back home from L’s playdate it started to hail and we were caught in the middle of this horrible weather. I was more than glad to finally be back home and being able to change out of my wet clothes.
After we had dinner and the boys were on their way to bed I said goodbye and got on my way to meet Max in Fulham, where we then went to Nando’s for our last dinner together.

I’m gonna write a different time about Max’s last day here in London, as we went to see the Tower of London. But we had a great time together and I was glad when I said goodbye that afternoon that nothing happened this time and I for once could let him go back home without any ‘damages’…

The rest of the month was rather eventless. Although I’ve spent a lot of my time doing fun stuff with the boys that month. One Friday I’ve baked a cake with L. which was a lot of fun. And on another day H. and I built his marble run down the steps. This was so funny and brought them so much joy that we had to move it from the main stairs to the ones leading up to my room, as I’m the only one using them. However this marble run stayed for a whole week and I had to take a video of it to be able to fix it or better, built it all over again one day.

Even though the February is the shortest month we have, I still managed to put a lot of fun and activities in it.
See you in 5 days for the next countdown.

Love,
Vicky! Xx

P.S.: I’m heartbroken that I once again feel the need to put a small message at the end of one of my posts. But I’m even more heartbroken about the recent events here in London. Luckily I was nowhere close to London Bridge when the horrific event happened.
All my love goes out to the victims, their friends and family and everyone suffering from the aftermath of Saturday nights events.
I’m still shocked about what happened and hope that the end of this horrible time is near. STAY SAFE!
#LondonBridge #BoroughMarket #WeStandTogether

The Countdown starts…

Time really flies! And even more so now that I’m starting my final months here in London. The big Countdown starts today:

ONLY 50 DAYS LEFT!

I wanted to take this as an opportunity to start with my blog again. Because there is a lot of catching up to do, I want to try to upload one post every 5 Days to mark the Countdown until I come back to Germany. I’ll try to sort the posts into the last 5 months, but sometimes I’ll take a few days out to write about them more in detail.

In January the new year started rather relaxed, as the family and I have just been on holidays. All the saved up energy was then spent on school, because not only the boys had to get back to school, but me as well.
I didn’t start with lessons until later that month, but I went back to school on the 10th January in the morning to do a part of a mock exam and register for the Final Exam.

On Tuesday, 24th January I started my last two weeks of lessons before the exam. The following Thursdays and the Tuesday after I had to take part in the lessons. However I went back there for another day for a mock exam and stayed longer one day for a mock speaking exam.

Going to school took a lot of energy out of me as I had to go all the way from Southwest London to North London during traffic times. Therefore I had to leave the house around 8.15am to be at School around 9.30am. Luckily both the school and my host family helped me a lot and let me leave earlier or didn’t said anything when I’ve been a few minutes late.
Having to travel through London during the morning peak times really make you feel like a Londoner instead of a tourist.

 

But apart from starting with school again, I also had to start finding friends again. Living in the new area makes it quite impossible to keep in touch with my old friends here, especially because we just grew apart.
Luckily my host family could help me and my host mum set me up with the Au Pair of one of her friends.

Charlotte and I met for the first time on the 9th January for a nice coffee in the morning before we had to go back to work. Following that coffee meeting we decided to go to Harrod’s big January Sale on Sunday 16th January. Taking the bus there together, we met at 2pm and strolled around Harrods while chatting and getting to know each other.

Even though we planned to meet each other soon again, we didn’t managed to until later that month. Therefore I went back to the Victoria & Albert Museum on my own. I really wanted to see the Undressed exhibition about underwear and there was still so much of the Museum that I haven’t seen.
Early on Tuesday, 17th January, morning I got ready and left as soon as I was finished to be able to spent as much time as possible at the Museum.

This time I went to see the modern design departments, where I saw the Panton Chair, the Bookshelf by the Memphis Group and the Corbusier Lounger. I knew all three furniture designs back from school.
While being at the Museum I even had the chance to enjoy the architectural features of the building itself, especially the entrance.

The weekend after was the worst weekend so far. During the week H started to show the first signs of the flu and by Friday H, L, the parents and I all felt a bit sick as well. V was the only one of the boys who was still able to go to school. Luckily my host mum let me spent as much time in my bed as possible. But in the afternoon she had to leave to Holland for a get together weekend with her college friends and therefore left me and the boys alone until my host father was back from work.

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Struck by the flu!

As the boys all had a cold they were rather easy to handle, but my cold was getting worse as well and when I was finally finished for the day I had a little fever and went straight to bed. The next morning wasn’t any better and again I was quite lucky, because my host father let me stay in bed instead of asking for help. On Sunday I still wasn’t back to normal, but I could feel that I was getting better. On Monday my host mum gave me more hours off, as the boys stayed home as well and I needed to recover for my first day back at school on Tuesday.
Hopefully I can finish my year without another breakdown like this.

Not quite back to normal, but with the need to finally get out of the house again, I made plans with one of the male Au Pairs, Louis from my old agency. We both hadn’t seen Fantastic Beasts yet and decided to go see the movie together.
However the cinema didn’t start until 5pm, so we went to the Tate Modern before.

So Louis and I met around 12.30pm at Victoria Station and took the tube to Blackfriars together. From there we walked over the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern.
The Tate Modern Gallery houses a vast modern international collection from 1900 onwards. The house of the gallery was originally a power station and was built by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott after World War II. The building’s chimney is nearly 100 metres high and the Gallery has been extended by another building in form of a twisted pyramid designed by Herzog & de Meuron.

After visiting a few of the free exhibitions we went for a little lunch at Nando’s at London Bridge and then took the Tube to Leicester Square.
We made reservations to watch Fantastic Beasts and where to find them’ at the Odeon Studios. The Odeon Cinema on Leicester Square is the cinema where all the London movie premieres take place. But apart from the big cinema, they also have a few small studio rooms. These cinemas are really small and only fit around 20-30 people and the seats are all situated on the same level. But these studio rooms are still really good and give you a good cinematic experience.
When the movie was finished, we went for a small evening snack at Burger King and then both got on our ways home.

The next day it was the Chinese New Year. This was quite the opportunity for me and Charlotte to meet again. Therefore I headed to central london for around 3pm on Sunday, 29th January.
Together we walked through Soho and entered China Town, which was full of the typical chinese lanterns and other decorations.
Sadly the weather wasn’t on our side and the crowd was a bit too much, so we decided to go to the cinema instead.
This time we went to the Vue cinema on Leicester Square. As we both desperately wanted to see ‘La La Land’, we quickly decided on that movie and enjoyed the nice experience.

As soon as January has started it was finished again and February was there. But that’s another story, for another day.

Hope everyone had a nice January themselves and more snow than we had.

Love,
Vicky! Xx

 

How to get in…

Just one year ago I signed my Au Pair contract with my first Host Family. Because I feel like this is a special day for my year, I decided to write a post just for this day.
What topic would be more perfect than telling you how to become an Au Pair.

I know that a lot of my readers are Family and Friends. But there also quite a few curious people visiting my blog and hopefully this post can help someone to become an Au Pair as well.

The first question you have to ask yourself is, if you want to find a host family with the help and support of an agency, or if you’re alright on your one.
I wanted to be on the safe side and decided to get the help of an agency.

As it can be quite hard to find a verified agency (I wouldn’t recommend an unverified one!) I think it’s best to use an agency-finder on official websites.
For Germany I can recommend Guetegemeinschaft Au Pair as an agency-finder and rausvonzuhaus for general information. If you are from a different Country the International Au Pair Association may be helpful for you.

Soon I found the agency MultiKultur e.K. International Exchange Programs, which sparked my interest by the amount of different programs to go abroad. As my focus was mainly the Au Pair program, I checked what they could offer me. I really liked that you can choose between just the placement with a family through the agency and the option to keep them as a back-up and support throughout the year. Of course it is more expensive to keep them as a back-up then just being placed through the agency, but it will help you when you need to change families during the year.

The next step is to fill in an application form. When you apply at Multikultur you can choose how you want to do it. Next to the old-fashioned way of applying by post, you can apply on their online portal as well. The good thing with the online application is that you can do it step by step and don’t need to do it all in one day.

Next to a normal application form they also ask you for pictures – preferably nice pictures of you, your family and maybe with children you took care of – a letter for the host family to introduce yourself and most importantly references. Because they promise you only verified families, they also want to offer the families only verified Au Pairs. Apart from at least two childcare references, they also ask for a reference  of  character. With all these information they just want to make sure that you are suitable for the job of being an Au Pair.

After you’ve been accepted by the agency they bring you in contact with one of their english partner agencies. For me this partner agency was the british Au Pair agency smartaupairs.
Before they’ll set up your profile they ask for a chat with someone of their team to have the chance to talk to you and get a feeling for who you are and how good your english is. The 15 minutes chat will be scheduled in advance and takes place on Skype.
When they’ve got all the information they need, your profile will be set up and the search for a family can begin.

Smartaupairs works with “Family Matches”, which basically means that they match your main criteria with the families and then suggest you this family in your family matches section on your profile. You can then read through the Family’s letter for the Au Pair, see their pictures and compare their profiles. Just like you get a family suggestion, the same family get you suggested in their Au Pair suggestions.
As there is contact information provided, it’s up to you if you want to make the first step and send the family an email and show your interest.

It is always  good to make the first step, but there is no shame in waiting for the family to get in contact first. So after I had my first family suggestions I sent out a few emails to try to get into contact with the families and schedule a Skype chat with them.

The next few weeks were filled with Skype chats with potential host families. Some were during the day, some were in the evening. With some families I knew from the beginning that I wouldn’t be the right fit for them, with other families I would’ve liked to go further. In the end it was the 18th May last year, when I first talked to the woman who later on became my first host mother.

They seemed to like me and told me during our first chat that I’m currently on top of their list. This information was precious to me, as they were on top of mine as well and I was really hoping that I could start my journey with them. At the end of the chat we decided to have a second chat – which is always a good sign – so I could meet her husband and the boys.
The following Saturday we had our second chat where I met the boys for a few questions and also the host father. After it were just the both of us again we more or less decided that I’m going to start as their Au Pair for the 1st August 2016.

After this chat I was really excited! I finally found my family!
I sometimes felt really down, because it seems like there is no right family for me, they were already taken or even worse, would turn me down after a second call.
All in all it took me less than two weeks to find my family, which was mostly due to the timing. Most host families look for a new Au Pair in May/June/July, so they have enough time to organise everything before the Au Pair comes over.

Through my search I’ve been in constant contact with both agencies, who were always asking how my search was going, would contact a family for me if they didn’t respond and cleared out the families from my matches I wasn’t interested in.

When we settled on me being their Au Pair, we had to wait till Monday, 23rd May to tell the agency. After they’ve sent the contract to my host parents and they’d filled everything in, I got the contract myself and filled in my part and signed everything. With my host mother’s signature, my signature and the signature of someone of my german agency the contract was valid .
Once my flight was booked, we signed a travel contract that stated when I arrive and where and that the family will pick me up.

Last thing on my agenda before I could leave was the right insurance! Luckily the agency could help with that as well. They don’t have insurances, but they can tell you a good one: DR.WALTER
They are specialised in Au Pair and visits abroad in general, but especially for long-term visits.
Finally my year could start!

After the first few days the agency was already in contact with me to make sure I’m fine and everything is alright. These check ups happened regularly during my stay with the host family.
But the agency wasn’t just helping with the family, they also provided different ways of getting to know other Au Pairs and finding friends. Next to the Au Pair meet ups organised by the agency, we also had a facebook group to organise smaller Au Pair meetings and got a list with all the Au Pairs and where they live in London to help to find Au Pairs in your region.

Being an Au Pair can be quite risky! Since I’m here, I’ve heard really bad stories about how families treated their Au Pairs. Luckily I wasn’t treated too badly, but with the time I just noticed that this family wasn’t as fitting as I once thought.
If I wouldn’t have had my agency and with that the safety and help, I may would’ve never considered leaving my host family and start looking for a new one.

But as you may know I’ve decided to leave my first host family after 2 months. Because I was quite uncertain how this whole changing process works I took the chance at a big Au Pair meet up and spoke to a member of my english agency. Not only did they understood my situation, but they also helped by giving me advice on how to go on with the family.

They would start looking for a new family for me as soon as I ask them to, but before they start the search I had to give my host family a two weeks notice and tell them that I want to leave their family. However I would still have to stay with them for another two weeks to give them the chance to find a new Au Pair and to give me the chance to find a new host family.

As I gave my host mother the two weeks notice on a sunday, I called the agency straight away on Monday morning and asked them to start my search again. Part of this ‘quitting’ process was that they had a chat with me and with my host mother about my reasons for leaving, so they can decide if they want to find a new Au Pair for the family or a new family for me. After they decided that there was no problem with either one of us in general but we just didn’t work out together, they updated my profile and put it back online.

The task of finding a new family had begun. Depending on the time you want to change, it can be quite hard to find a new family. It seems like I didn’t choose the right time. Even though I still had quite a few family matches, there was no right fit for me.
After one week had passed I was positive that I was settled, however the family then decided to not choose me but a different Au Pair.
Therefore I kinda had to start my search all over again. As I had only one week left and time was running out, my german agency expanded the search and involved all of their other partner agencies here in England.

But there is one more option: AuPairWorld.
AuPairWorld is a webpage that connects Au Pairs and host families without an agency. It is free of charge for Au Pairs and families have to pay a rather small amount in order to get all access.

After filling in all of your information and writing a bit about yourself in your profile, you’re ready to start looking. Because there is no agency behind it and it’s as good as free, there are no checks on the families either. Therefore you can find all kind of families on there and you have to be a bit more careful on who you choose to get in contact with.
Another problem is that a lot of the families won’t respond quickly. I think I still have over 10 unread and unanswered messages to families in my AuPairWorld inbox.

You would think that you’ll find a new family quite soon when there are three or four agencies searching for you and you have a profile on the worlds biggest Au Pair platform. However I was still without a new family when I had to leave my old host family.
Luckily I had a place to stay and therefore I could keep looking while still in England. Other Au Pairs are not as lucky and have to go back to their country until they’ve found a new family.

While staying with friends I kept on talking to families from the agencies and from AuPairWorld. At the beginning of November, nearly a whole month since I’ve left the family, I finally found a new host family on AuPairWorld. The risks for the rest of my Au Pair year are going to be that there is no agency that could help me if there will ever be a problem. Knowing this risk I still decided to stay with this family, because I didn’t know when the agencies would find a ‘better’ family or if there’s even something better.

The main downside to he family not being an agency family is that I’m now no longer part of an agency either. While the english agency dropped me completely, I can still call the german agency for advice – which they will gladly give – and I could even ask them to find me another new family, if I would consider changing again (don’t worry, it won’t happen). However they can only give me a certificate of the time I’ve been with one of their host families and therefore just for the first 2 1/2 months of my year,

As I still had three weeks till I could start with my new family, I tried to find somewhere else to stay for the time being. I only needed a short-term host family, or how I like to call it a gap family. Finding a host family only for a short time like two weeks is quite hard and neither agencies nor AuPairWorld were really of help.
However there is a third way of finding a host family. When you’ve already been an Au Pair, you’re already part of all kinds of Facebook groups for Au Pairs. Most of these groups are not only for Au Pairs, but often for host families as well and some of them are just for finding a host family/Au Pair.

I posted in two different groups that I’m looking for a gap host family for just two weeks and no interest of staying longer, as I’ve already found my new family and just have to wait until I can start there.
I was really lucky to have found a family that was up for it. Even though I only got paid half as much as they should have paid me, I was just glad to get a bit of money again while staying for free in London.

It was a hard journey and looking back I sometimes have to ask myself if I always made the right choices. But I learned a lot through it all and no one can take these experiences ever away from me.

If you want to be an Au Pair you just have to decide for yourself if you want to be on the safe side, but my example is the best one to show you that there’s really no safe side. However I would always choose Multikultur again and probably wouldn’t use AuPairWorld again.

I hope this was of any help for someone who’s not quite sure how to approach this whole thing. If there are any questions, feel free to ask! I’m more than happy to share all my experiences with you and give you advice, as long as you want them.

Love,
Vicky Xx

Helpful links:
Guetegemeinschaft Au Pair (Verified Au PAir Agencies)
rausvonzuhaus (Programmes for visits abroad)
International Au Pair Association (International Verified Au Pair Agencies)
MultiKultur e.K. International Exchange Programs (Au Pair and Travel Agency)
smartaupairs (Au Pair Agency for UK and Australia)
DR.WALTER (Insurance Company especially for Au Pairs and long-term visits abroad)
AuPairWorld (Free Au Pair and Host Family platform)

On a last note: I really want to send all my love to Manchester today. I’ve been to the city just recently and it left me quite shocked to hear what happened. I feel sick thinking how someone could willingly do this and even more so when children are involved! I hope everyone recovers well and the missing children will find their way back home!
#PrayForManchester #MissingInManchester

 

New Year – New Friends?

I’m finally back! I never planned to once again take a break and especially not for over three month. However this year started rather soon and with it a lot of new things came along.
I met new friends, I finished my school and I started to do a bit more sightseeing. But first things first: my start in the new year.

Even though I went home to Germany for Christmas, I decided to celebrate New Years Eve in London. Therefore I had a flight booked to go back to London on 30th December 2016.
When I arrived at the Airport and went to the Check-In desk, I already noticed that there were quite a few people – definitely more than the usual 70 people or so that fit in the small Luxair airplanes to London City Airport. When it was finally my turn I learned why: Because of too much fog in London they had to shut down the London City Airport for the day. Luckily they didn’t cancelled my flight, but rather diverted it to another airport: Stansted Airport.

At the security check I met Trude, an old friend of my mum, who was travelling with the same plane to London to celebrate New Years Eve there. As we haven’t seen each other in a year or two, we used the chance and catched up while we were waiting at the gate for boarding.
After waiting for a long time, because the flight was delayed, I was finally inside the plane at 11.20am. When we started at 11.30am (German Time) we were already 50 minutes behind time. Then pilot told us that we were flying to Luton Airport instead of Stansted. The Flight itself was quite good, but it took ages until we were finally able to land, so it was already 11.50am (British Time).

At Luton Airport Trude and I got together again and tried to find a way to Central London. I was told that we have to organise the transport ourselves and can send in the receipt and ticket to the airline to get our money back.
But at the airport someone said that there will be an organised transport back to Central London, which got us quite confused. Through this confusion and the constant running around at the airport to solve the problem, we met H., a guy who was on the same plane and facing the same problems.

In the end we just bought a ticket for the ThamesLink train and took the bus from the Airport to the train station. When we arrived at the train station we were running around once again, until we found the right platform. On our way there we picked up Adrian and Daniel, who also were passengers on our flight. From there on we stayed together until the end of our journey to central London.

When we arrived at King’s Cross/St. Pancras Station around 1.50pm, we had to split up as everyone stayed in a different part of London. After I topped up my Oyster and helped H. to buy a ticket, I could finally move on and took the Tube at 2.20pm to Green Park. As there were construction works on my part of the Tube I had to get off there and finish my journey with the Bus 14. At 3.20pm I finally arrived back home after a long day and a long journey.

After this hassle I was so tired that I first lied down and relaxed for a bit, before I unpacked a few important things. On our way to Central London we all exchanged our phone numbers and organised a whatsapp group so we can organise meetings. Daniel, Adrian and I used this the same day to organise a meeting at the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, as we all wanted to do something more useful that day than just travelling.

Around 7.20pm we met near a Bavarian village in Winter Wonderland and then walked around to explore the area. Because it was really cold we only took a short break and sat down for a drink, but soon had to move again. Nearby was an open fire, where we tried to warm up, which didn’t really worked out. Therefore we decided to go back home shortly before 10pm already.

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Walking around Winter Wonderland

Back home I went directly to bed and enjoyed to sleep in the next morning. When I was finally awake I unpacked my luggage, did some laundry and just relaxed. As I never really had plans for New Years Eve, I was quite happy when Trude invited me for dinner. We arranged to meet each other around 7pm at Trafalgar Square. From there we went to find some place to eat and ended up at Il Padrino close to Leicester Square.

After dinner we went back to Trafalgar Square, as we decided to spent the beginning of the new year there. Even though it was only 10pm when we found our spot, there were already a lot of people trying to find the best spot. Just 30 minutes later the boys came too and we all waited together. At 11pm we celebrated the German New Year with hugs and best wishes, especially to our loved ones back home in Germany.

The closer the new year, all the more people arrived and it got really crowded. At one point it was nearly impossible to move. At 12am we once again wished everyone a Happy New Year and then enjoyed the Fireworks. We soon had to realise that we indeed hadn’t found the best spot, as the fireworks were fired behind a big building. Therefore we were only able to see the high ones and only half of it, but at least better than nothing. After just 15 minutes the fireworks were already finished and we decided to find our way to Piccadilly Circus in hope to find a place to celebrate a bit more.

At Piccadilly Circus we took a few pictures, but soon decided that there is not much to do and tried to find our way home. As we weren’t the only ones who wanted to go home, a lot of the Stations were closed or with special queueing systems prepared for the big crowds heading for the stations. The Piccadilly Circus Station was one of the closed ones, so we walked to Leicester Square where we had to que up until we were finally inside.
Around 2am we were finally back home and could go back to sleep.

For New Year it’s the same as for Christmas: every family has their own Traditions. For my family this means Raclette for dinner on New Years Eve and “Dinner for One” and “Ein Herz und eine Seele – Silvesterpunsch” (One Heart and one Soul – New Year’s Punch) on TV. But we also have a tradition for the New Year: “The New Year’s Concert” by the Vienna Philharmonic. Obviously I didn’t have Raclette for dinner, but at least I was able to follow the other traditions and therefore spent the morning of 1st January 2017 watching the New Year’s Concert.

Later that day I got ready to meet the others a last time before they had to go back home. At 1.30pm we met at Charing Cross to watch the London New Year’s Parade. Sadly we had misjudged the time and the Parade was already halfway through when we arrived. Because we had missed half of it anyway and it started to rain really badly, we quickly decided to change our plans and went to Covent Garden instead.

Completely drenched we arrived at Covent Garden and tried to dry a bit while walking around the Piazza. Around 2.30pm we decided to find a place to eat as we were all getting quite hungry. Our search brought us to Leicester Square where we stopped at a pub called “Moon Under Water”. Even though the pub was really crowded we were able to get a table and eat some really good burgers. I definitely liked the pub, as the food was really good and it’s not at all expensive. The only downside is that it’s always really crowded and it takes a lot of luck to find a free table.
When we were finished the boys and I decided to go back home, while Trude went on her way again exploring this big city.

The next morning started rather early for me, because my host family arrived back home at 9.15am. After a nice breakfast I helped a bit by occupying the children so the parents could unload the car. Later that day the family left to meet some friends and I decided to stroll around Parsons Green and Fulham for a bit. But I forgot that 2nd January was a substitute holiday for the 1st, as the New Year’s day was a Sunday this year. Therefore most of the shops were closed and I soon went back home again.
After helping my host parents to bath the boys and bring them to bed I went to bed too. This was the last day of my holidays. The next morning I had to start my normal work again, which was quite odd after two weeks off.

When I decided to go back to London for the New Year I never imagined I would celebrate it with people I met randomly on my way back to London. But that is fate and I have to say that it is quite an interesting story to tell. And who knows how 2017 would’ve started if we wouldn’t have met…?

I hope you guys had not only a good start, but also some nice month in the year 2017.
A BELATED HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Love,
Vicky!! Xx

24th December: Merry Christmas everyone! – UPDATED!

Merry Christmas!

I wish you all the best for Christmas!
Enjoy your celebrations, just like I do. Therefore I won’t write much more for today. Instead I’ll write the 24th post of 24 Days to Christmas after the Holidays.

We all should enjoy the time with our families and not think about any blogs these days.

See you after Christmas.
Love,
Vicky! Xx

UPDATE:

I’m sorry! I know I’ve said that I’ll update and write more about my Christmas after Christmas, but I never intended to take so long. At least a lot has been going on in the new year. I hope you’re ready for a few blog posts to bring you up to date!
First of all I’m writing about my Christmas, as this is the 24th post of my advent calendar.

Christmas is the one holiday that is not only different from country to country, but also from family to family.
Originally I planned to stay in England to celebrate an english christmas for once, but then I had to change my plans and went home shortly before Christmas.
I was really happy to be back home for once and not only for a short weekend, but for 10 days instead.

While the main Christmas party won’t start until the 25th in England, in Germany the main party starts already on the 24th. My family has some traditions for the holidays that I was quite happy that I’m not going to miss them this year either.
One of those traditions is to attend the Christmas Mass of our local church. When we come back my mum prepares the last bits of our dinner and we all eat together. Our Christmas dinner is another tradition. As long as I can remember we have had Fondue as our christmas dinner and I just love it!

After dinner and when everything is cleaned up, we make sure that all the presents are underneath the Christmas Tree and then get together in the living room.
While we take turns to unpack the presents to give everyone the time and attention for their presents, we have a André Rieu Christmas Concert on the TV to listen to.

The official part of our Christmas celebrations is over as soon as all the presents are opened. The next part of our christmas is the relaxing part, when we watch some Christmas classics together. No matter if “Weihnachten bei den Hoppenstedts” (Christmas with the Hoppenstedts) by Loriot or the Christmas episode (“Alle Jahre wieder”) of the TV show “Familie Heinz Becker” (Family Heinz Becker).

Sometimes we would go downstairs to my grandparents flat to wish them a merry christmas before we go to bed. Except for this year, as they were already in bed when we went downstairs.

As every family has their own traditions it’s important to have one day when everyone comes together. My family chose the 25th for a big get together at my grandparents.
Usually we first start with a small reception in the living room as soon as my uncle and his family are there. This year’s Christmas meal was a three-course menu, consisting of a nice chestnut soup for starters, duck breasts and red cabbage with other sides as the main course and lastly a nice dessert.

When everyone is finished we move back to the living room to slowly start the handing out of presents to the other family members that weren’t around the evening before. When every present is opened and we all had a go at the christmas cookies another day of our christmas celebrations is over.

The next day was more relaxing as we don’t have anything planned for the 26th. I always had the feeling that Christmas is already over but you just get another day off to relax and get back your energy after the exhausting days.
My sister and I would sometimes spent the day at my father’s, but this year we went to my mum’s best friend to have a nice get together with her and her daughters.
That day we finally cut the cake I baked especially for this years christmas.

Even though we followed all our Christmas Traditions this year, I thought it would be nice to change some things and brought some British Christmas Crackers back home with me. Back in London I noticed them as you were able to buy them in every single shop in so many different layouts and fillings. Therefore I just bought a simple pack of Christmas Crackers at Sainsbury’s and brought them back home with me.

In a way that’s how every years Christmas looks like with my family. The only thing that changes are the presents and the amount of arguments we have. Luckily we didn’t had any this year!

Let me know in the comments what traditions your family or country has!

Love,
Vicky! Xx

23rd December: Santa Clause is coming to Town

Santa Clause is coming to town… okay, not Santa, but the Coca Cola Truck was coming to town.

On my last day in London before Christmas I went to the Coca Cola London Eye to see the Coca Cola Truck in real life. Just like the years before, the truck went through the whole country to visit some of the bigger cities, just like London.
On the 18th December the truck came to London for the 4th and second last time. From 1-9pm they would stop at the London Eye so everyone can come and take pictures with the truck.

I took the chance of still being in London and went to see the truck. Around 4pm I took my place at the end of the queue. I had to spend a long time in the queue as we had to walk past the truck and back up until it was finally our turn to take a picture 1 1/2 hours later. While I was waiting I had nothing better to do and soon started a nice conversation with the people in front of me.

We noticed that a lot of pictures were taken with fake snow and hoped that we can also have the snow in our pictures. When it was finally our turn we asked if we can have the snow to be turned on, but they said it’s on a timer and they can’t turn it on as they have to wait for the timer.
The good thing was that we were given a free coke bottle while we were waiting. After I had my picture I waited until 5pm when a spectacular screening would take place at the Coca Cola Truck.

This year was the first year for such a screening. At first they showed a little animated video of the Christmas coke factory. Afterwards they showed a screen with a little Christmas letter where they would show Christmas wishes people had posted via #HolidaysAreComing on Twitter. Because I have a Twitter account myself, I decided to send a little Christmas wish, as you can see in the picture below. After I posted the wish, I had to wait for a bit until it was shown and I even started to think that the whole thing is not working. In the end I was proofed wrong as my message was shown on the screen more than once.

After I was finished at the Christmas truck I wanted to stroll around Southbank for a while, as there were a few Christmas markets. The first one was the Winter Festival at Southbank Centre. Even though there were some stalls with Christmas decorations, the majority were food stalls.

From there I went on along the Thames towards the London Tower Bridge. On my way there I passed by the Golden Hinde which is a replica of a Warship from 1577 – 1580. The captain of the ship, Sir Francis Drake is suspected that he was a pirate. But before I could see the Golden Hinde I was able to see Shakespeare´s Globe Theatre up front. It’s an almost perfect reconstruction of the playhouse from over 300 years ago, which was partly owned by William Shakespeare himself. This one was finished in 1987 and was built as close as possible to the original one.

Between the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge is another Warship, the HMS Belfast. It was part of the Invasion of France in 1944 in World War II. Since 1963 it is out of military service and is used as a museum about the Royal Navy nowadays.
Shortly past 7pm I arrived at the Tower Bridge where I enjoyed the beautiful night lights, while I was crossing over. From there I went to the Tower Hill Tube Station, next to the Tower of London where I ended my day and took the tube home.

With that my Christmas Time in London was over and I was ready to go back to Germany to celebrate the Holidays with my family.

Merry Christmas everyone and I hope you can enjoy the festive days with your family and loved ones, just like me!
Love,
Vicky! Xx

22nd December: Countdown to Christmas

As time was going by and Christmas just around the corner, I started getting ready for Christmas too. That would mean running through London to buy various presents. Since I knew that I would fly home for a weekend before Christmas, I tried to get everything beforehand so I could take it with me.

Therefore I travelled from Oakwood to Wood Green while I was still with the gap family, to buy the first Christmas presents at the Primark Store there. Two weeks later, when I was with my new family already, I took the bus to Marble Arch to walk down Oxford Street and buy even more presents.
The first stop was the Disney Store where I bought some Frozen Merchandise for my neighbour’s daughter. Next was a store called Paperchase.

I literally fell in love with this shop. Paperchase is a stationery store, which has his flagship store by Goodge Street and Tottenham Court Road. The flagship store is the biggest one in London and sells their assortment over four floors. Next to stationary things, like folders, notepads, pencils and erasers, they have a big range of cards, arts and craft supplies and a gift and home department. As it’s before Christmas, they have a big Christmas shop on their second floor.
Since I like to do a lot of arts and crafts I’m happy that I actually found a store where I can buy all the supplies I need in England. Another benefit of this flagship store is that they have workshops on the fourth floor where everyone can take part in.

That day I bought some London themed Christmas wrapping paper and some Christmas cards. On my way back to Oxford Street I went into Tiger’s to buy some special play dough. As I was finished on Oxford Street I took the tube to Knightsbridge to do some shopping at Harrods. When I first went to Harrods I saw a bauble (christmas tree ball) which was  designed with a Union Jack and had Harrods 2016 written on it. My plan was to buy one of those for my family’s Christmas tree. But I soon had to learn that these baubles had been sold out a few days later, so I had to look for an alternative idea.

Because I still had to work between the shopping I had to go out a few times to get everything. A day later I wanted to buy some hair dye for my sister’s Christmas present, but soon decided against it and had to rethink her present. Therefore I had to go back to Oxford Street. However I know she will be reading this before Christmas, I won´t tell you where I’ve bought it or what. 😉

After I ordered a contactless payment card I could take my shopping to a whole new level. So I planned another shopping trip to Oxford Street for the 14th December. Once again I went to Primark to buy pyjamas for my mum and some gloves. Because I love Paperchase so much I decided to go there again, even though I didn´t need anything. Last but not least I treated myself in Waterstones and bought the newest Harry Potter ‘Fantastic Beasts and where to find them’.

On Friday 16th December I went shopping in Fulham, my new neighbourhood. Here I bought mostly things to eat to take with me back home. I bought some porridge, as I learned to enjoy porridge for breakfast and because my mum sometimes prepares scones for breakfast I decided to buy some clotted cream too.

The next day I had to wait until my host father’s cousin arrived before I could finish my Christmas shopping. Shortly before 6pm I got on my way to Goodge Street to visit my favourite shop again. From there I walked all the way down to Leicester Square to visit an old traditional british sweets shop ‘Hardys’. After I’ve spend some money on sweets, I went to Trafalgar Square. I remembered that there are quite a few souvenir shops, where I was asked to buy a snow globe for someone in Germany.

Before I could go there I was distracted by Waterstones book shop where I bought myself the book ‘London by tube’ by Christopher Winn, which is a sightseeing book about London that is organised by tube stations.
At 8pm I took a bus from Trafalgar Square to Harrods where I bought the original English Breakfast Tea N° 14 for my mum’s best friend. As it only took me a few minutes I was able to take the next bus home without paying a second time. Thanks to the new mayor of London, who established the ‘Hopper fare’, you can get on a second bus within an hour without paying again.

Finally I got everything and could pack my things for my holidays at home.
Hopefully everyone loves their presents.

Love,
Vicky! Xx