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

20th December: 23 632 steps

Welcome back to post 20 of my 24 Days to Christmas! Only four days left, can you believe it? Todays post is an addition to yesterdays post.
As I said yesterday, I went on Sunday (20th November) and Monday to central London.
The decision to go on Monday was partly because my new host mother asked me if I could come and visit them before I would move in the week after.So I got on my way from Oakwood to Parsons Green to be at their home for 12pm. At 2.15pm I left again and decided to walk to Kensington.

I only had enough money to pay for one more Tube Journey, so I decided walk the 3.8km to Kensington. In South Kensington are three of London’s most famous museums: The Natural History Museum, The Science Museum and The Victoria and Albert Museum. Luckily nearly every museum has a free entry policy and you can just go and visit them.
I decided I would go to the Victoria & Albert Museum, as it has my name in it.

At 3pm I arrived at the Museum and started my tour through it.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, in short V&A, is the world’s largest Museum of decorative Arts & Design. It holds a collection of over 4.5 million objects, which cover 2000 years of art from all over the world.
The V&A was founded in 1852, a year after the Great Exhibition. The same year it was moved to its present location and was named South Kensington Museum.
In 1899 Queen Victoria set the foundation stone for the grand façade and the main entrance. It was really important to her and her husband, as they cherished the idea to make art available to all, the original reason why the museum was established.
Therefore they also changed the name to Victoria and Albert Museum.

The museum is really big and I haven’t had a plan where to go so I just went any way and would see where I end up. After 10 minutes I stumbled across the for me most mesmerising part of the museum: a plaster cast of Michelangelo’s David!
This cast from 1556, is one of many replicas and was a gift to the Queen Victoria from the Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany in 1857. While the original David was made from one block of marble arch, this one was made up of several hundred pieces and is reinforced with metal rods. Michelangelo’s David was built between 1501 to 1504 and is placed in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, since 1873.

This cast is placed in the Cast Court on the ground level of the V&A. From there I went through the sections of European Sculptures from 1300-1600 and Medieval & Renaissance 1350-1600.
Next was the Britain from 1500-1760 exhibiton on Level 2. I mostly just walked through the exhibitions and just took pictures when something really interested me. It’s really nice that you not only get free entry to the museum, but you’re also allowed to take pictures everywhere. Except for the Jewellery exhibition on Level 3. The William & Judith Bollinger Gallery holds all kinds of jewellery, even some tiaras.

The Theatre & Performance exhibition is on the same level as the Jewellery one. For me it was the most interesting exhibition and I really liked learning something about all kinds of Theatres and seeing some of the costumes from musicals or musicians.

The last Exhibition I went to see, was the Silver exhibition, also on Level 3. As the Museum closes at 5.30pm the Whiteley Galleries were already closed when I came there, but a nice lady let me in for a quick look around.

When I had to leave I haven’t seen nearly half of the exhibitions and I would have to come back a few more times. But for the day I had to do something else.
As it was 5.30pm and the peak time of the underground had already started, I had to stay in central London until the peak time was over.
So I started google maps and went on my way to Piccadilly Circus. While I was walking I spotted Harrods and just decided to give it a go.

Harrods once opened as a small grocery store and is nowadays one of the largest department stores in the world. When Henry Charles Harrod established the store in 1849, he had only two employees. Hard to believe how far the store had come from then.
Harrods has a total of 330 departments on 7 floors and under their motto ‘Omnia, Omnibus, Ubique’ (Everyone, Everything, Everywhere) they promise they can sell anything you want.
Next to all the glorious things you can buy there, Harrods also impresses with its extravagant decorations and designs, like the Egyptian Hall.

Harrods is so big that you can actually get lost in there. Every time I’m in there I’m lost and don’t know where to go to find the things I’m looking for, or more dramatically my way back out. Last time the cashier asked me if I would need help to go somewhere else, but couldn’t tell me the way outside herself.
After I visited the Christmas department and one of the many clothes departments, I found my way back out at 6.20pm.

As it was still too early for the tube, I decided to walk again. My destination was still Piccadilly Circus, but as I came across Hyde Park I changed my plans once again.
From the 18th November 2016 till the 2nd January 2017 the Winter Wonderland, a festive theme park, is in Hyde Park. This year they’re celebrating their 10 year anniversary, as the first Wonderland started in 2007. Next to the main attractions it holds London’s largest German-style Christmas Market and over 100 spectacular festive rides and attractions.
The entry to the Wonderland is free, but you would have to buy tickets for the main attractions in advance. They consists of an ice rink, the magical (ice-) kingdom, nutcracker on ice, bar ice, Zippos Christmas circus, cirque Berserk, the scooty Christmas show and the giant observation wheel.
To celebrate the anniversary they even have the Munich Looping as an attraction. The Munich Looping is the world’s largest transportable roller coaster, which is also a part of Munich’s Oktoberfest.

I just walked through the Winter Wonderland to see what it’s about and to take some quick pictures. Hopefully I can go back there before it’s over.
After just 15 minutes I was on the other side and left the Theme Park. As it was finally after 7pm and the peak time was over I decided to take the Tube at Marble Arch Station and go home. At 8.15pm I was finally at home, after I’ve walked 23 632 steps and a total of 16.1km.

Even though I was quite tired after this long day, I was also happy that I managed to see so much! Especially in the V&A. It is so much better to visit the museums during the week, as they’re free of tourists.

Love,
Vicky! Xx

19th December: Teletubbies, Barbie and Co.

On my first weekend back in London, I finally wanted to go back to the City Center. But my tight budget wouldn’t let me go there too often. So I had to plan the outings carefully, as I wanted to do as much as possible so it was worth the money. Since my host family was gone from Thursday to Tuesday, I choose Sunday and Monday to go to Central London.

Around 9.30am on Sunday, 20th November I went to the Tube in order for me to arrive at Piccadilly Circus at 10.15am. Shortly before I had to get off the Tube, some musicians entered and played ‘Hit the Road Jack!’ for us. Normally I’ve seen things like this just on YouTube and seeing something like this live, just showed me once more that I’m back in the wonderful city called London.

From Piccadilly Circus I walked to Regents Street, where the big Hamleys Christmas Toy Parade would take part for the second time.
To ensure that everyone is safe, Regents street had turned traffic free for the whole day. The Parade would start at 10.30am so I went down Regents street until I found a good spot.
Originally I planned to see the parade with my friends, but they arrived later and then it was already so crowded that we just decide to meet up afterwards.
Around 10.50am the parade finally arrived at my location and I could enjoy being thrown back in time as I saw some of my Childhood TV characters come to life.

But apart from some classics like Barbie, Teletubbies and Elmo, there were a few new ones I’m a bit too old for. The once I liked the most were Characters of the Sylvanian Families. When I was younger some Friends of my Grandparents would give them playhouses of this brand for their grandchildren. I always loved these dolls houses and had to stop my grandfather earlier this year when he wanted to throw them away.

Sadly the parade was over after just 30 minutes, but that’s still long enough when you think about how much preparation they had to put into this.
Since the parade was over I tried to meet the girls. As it was still too crowded and everyone tried to leave there was no way to get through. At 11.50am we finally got together and went to a diner called Five Guys, where they enjoyed their lunch. After another 30 minutes we decided to walk to Oxford Street to visit the Disney Store.

When we were finished there it was already 2pm and Kathi had to head home. Amelie, Marieke and I then walked to Leicester Square, as they wanted to see the new Lego Store. Around 2.40pm we arrived there to see that we would have to queue up for at least an hour to get in. So we then changed our minds and after Farina joined us we decided to visit the M&M Store, which is also at Leicester Square, instead.

While the others stayed inside until 3.30pm, I went back outside a bit earlier as I was already finished. The store is quite big and you can buy any kind of merchandise, but also every flavour of M&M that exists.
However the best thing are the life-sized M&M statues. Every colour has their own statue in their own area. As that’s not enough there is a M&M version of the Beatles Abbey Road pedestrian crossing.

After the M&M store we went to see the Christmas Market on Leicester Square. It is a nice and quite small market and you can tell that it’s supposed to be like a typical german Christmas market. If you didn’t thought it at first, you would definitely think so after you saw the food stall.
They had Germany’s finest Bratwurst and Krakauer. And they actually advertised it like this on their menu board themselves.
But I have to say that, even though they have some similar things to the Christmas market at home, you could just tell that it’s not an original german market.

Because we were already in the area, we went to Chinatown. The main street of Chinatown is the Gerrard Street and it’s in the heart of London’s Chinese Community. When the first chinese people came in the 18th century, they already settled in this area.
Several Street Signs in Chinatown are actually written in Mandarin, the chinese language.
As we were visiting one Chinese shop after another we made our way through Chinatown to slowly go to Covent Garden. After we left Chinatown behind we walked through the Streets of London until we came across a Waterstones Bookshop.

While the others were still looking around I was ready to go again, but the next stop would be Covent Garden for them to have dinner. As I didn’t had the money to go and have dinner with them, so I decided to say goodbye and go my own way. At 5pm I was on my own again and first went to go see Trafalgar Square again. I was too early for the Christmas lights, so after a short picture I turned around again and walked back to Piccadilly Circus. I even went back to Regents Street, but as it was already quite late, they had started to take down all the tents and stalls.
At 6pm I finally got on my way home to have dinner and a relaxed evening.

I know it’s a rather short post, but I’ve been on tour all day, as I’m now finally back in Germany for the Holidays!
See you tomorrow,
Vicky! Xx

18th December: Little Germany

Sorry guys that I’m always posting so late the last few days, but as it’s getting closer to Christmas I’m quite busy and always on the way.
Todays post is about the weekend when the Christmas season really started. On Saturday the 26th November, a day before the first advent, I went to the Christmas Market of the German School here in London.

One of my family’s Christmas tradition is that we would go to the Christmas Market of the Waldorf Schule Trier. As it was on the same Saturday and I wasn’t able to go there, I went to the english alternative.
Even though the market was at the German School and not the London Steiner School (the Waldorf School in London), it was just like the one at home.

The German School London or in german Deutsche Schule London and in short DSL, was established in 1971 and is now one of the 140 German Schools abroad. The school has been founded by the Federal Republic of Germany and the local association to promote the German culture and language in foreign countries. Since 2010 the school has a bilingual system so the students can choose between the qualifications of the German Abitur and the International Baccalaureate.

Since the school is in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, I had to go on a long journey from Oakwood in North London to South-West London. As the market would start at 1pm, I got on my way around 11.45am. First I took the Piccadilly Line from Oakwood to Earl’s Court where I then changed to the District Line to Richmond, where I arrived around 1.20pm. For the last part of the journey I had to take the Bus 65 to the School, where I finally arrived at 1.45pm.

When I first entered the School I was a bit overwhelmed. It’s just weird to find a place in London where everybody around you speaks German. I often use german to get away from some flyer distributer in London, but that only works because it’s a foreign language here. Of course you then feel weird when suddenly everyone around you speaks german and the official language becomes a foreign language. But it was also quite refreshing to be able to go around and just talk german again.

While I was exploring the school grounds I stopped for a nice freshly made Nutella Crêpe. Walking around I also went upstairs to the first floor, but the corridors were locked as the whole thing took place on the ground floor and outside. Since it got later and I always have a bratwurst at the christmas market at home, I had one there too.

I got to know about the school through one of my ex teachers, as she once was a teacher at this school too. When I was looking at all the different booths, I even started a conversation with a mother. The funny thing is that she actually knows this teacher, because she was the class teacher of her son. We talked for a bit and she told me about the school and the life as a German in England. It was really interesting and informative.

At 4pm the Market was over and I got on my way back. As my friends were in central London I didn’t went all the way back to Oakwood just yet, but to Piccadilly Circus instead. Around 5pm I arrived there and then started a cat and mouse game with them. They would send me their location and shortly before I arrived there, they had already moved on and were at a new location. On Oxford Street I finally caught up with them. As most of the group had to leave it was only Amelie, her friend from Germany and I left.

After a bit of time Amelie had to bring her friend to her meeting point, as she had to travel back to germany that night. I stayed on Oxford Street and went shopping for a while. Around 7.30pm Amelie was back and we went to Caffé Nero to sit down and chat a bit. She was invited to join some of her friends for a birthday party later that night and I was allowed to tag along.

When we met the first one of the girls, we went shopping for a bit and soon met the birthday girl and her sister. Together we went looking for a nice pub to celebrate a bit. Around 11.15pm Amelie, Selina and I went on our way home and the Birthday girl and her sister stayed a bit longer. I would have liked to stay too, but I had a long journey again and the Piccadilly Line wasn’t a Night Tube yet. At 12.15am I was finally at home and a few minutes later in bed.

It has been a long day, but I’m happy that I went all the way to the German School! It was nice being there and to discover this German community. During the time there you could easily forget that you’re in England and not in Germany.

Hopefully I’ll be able to visit them again,
Vicky! Xx

 

 

 

17th December: Surprise! Surprise!

There is nothing better than going back for a weekend to see your family once again.
So I started to plan a short weekend trip back home. After I’ve been away for nearly 4 1/2 months already, it was about time. You may wonder why I didn’t just go home over christmas, but rather just for a short weekend before. That’s because I never planned to go back home for Christmas. My plans just recently changed, as I don’t have a place to go over Christmas.

With Friday 9th December the day I’ve waited so impatiently for had finally arrived. The best thing about the plan was that just a few people knew about them and my mother and sister weren’t a part of them. Therefore I was even more excited and hoped that everything will work out and it will be a big surprise.

At 6.50pm my flight was leaving at Stansted Airport. Since the Airport is up in the northern outskirts of London and I’m living in South-West London by now, I had to go on a long journey through London. Luckily I only had to work in the morning and my host mum could give me the afternoon off, as her mum was there to visit. At 3.30pm I left the house and started at Parsons Green Tube Station. After I changed to the Victoria Line at Victoria Station, I arrived at the Stansted Express Station at Tottenham Hale Station just an hour later.

Just a few minutes later the Stansted Express arrived an I started the 40 minutes drive to Stansted Airport. At the beginning the Train was so full there was no place to sit, but after the first stopover a few people left and I could sit down.
When I arrived at the airport I went to the Back-Drop since I brought my suitcase with me to carry all the Christmas presents I’ve bought.

After I went through the Security Check I still had a bit time to spare and went to buy myself a dinner. The most expensive dinner in my life!
When it was 6pm I got on my way to the Gate which felt like it’s at the complete other end of the airport. At 6.25pm I was already in the airplane and we could depart right on time. I’m happy that everything went so smoothly.

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Boarding the Plane…

But that soon changed when we arrived at Luxembourg Airport at 9.05pm (GER- Time). After 15 long minutes I finally could leave the airplane. It took so long, because I was seated in the last row and had to wait until everyone else had left the airplane. Entering the airport I had to queue up behind everyone else who just arrived from London, since we had to go through border control. As Luxembourg Airport is a small airport they only have three counter and I had to wait for another 20 minutes.

At 9.45pm I finally could leave the airport and meet Max in the parking lot, who would bring me home.
Max had told my mum that he would come around later that night, because he had to bring her something. So when we got there we left my suitcase in the car to avoid unnecessary sounds who would give us away. Max went first and I waited at the lower level until he was inside the flat. After he announced a surprise I also entered the flat to be greeted with wide eyes full of surprise!

My mum and sister were so shocked, they needed a few seconds to comprehend what was going on and after that there was no stopping anymore. My sister wouldn’t stop crying and wouldn’t let go of my either. After a few minutes everything quieted down a bit and I could finally explain everything.

Max soon left again to give us a bit of time together and to let me settle in. Later that night, when everyone was in bed, my mum went back into my room. She wanted to check if I’m still there, because she was afraid that everything was just a dream.

The next day we all had breakfast together and got ready to go to the city. But before we could leave I went to my grandparents flat (the one beneath our flat) to say hello to them too. I’ve never seen my grandmother this speechless. She also had problems coming to term with the fact that I’m back in Trier for a weekend.

Around 11.30am we finally went to the city. When we arrived in the city with the Park and Ride Service, we first went to see the Christmas Market. Normally I don’t really like going over the christmas market, since it’s always too crowded and there are the same booths every year. But this year it was different.
Christmas Markets aren’t that popular in England and therefore you can’t really see one. So I wanted to go and see the one in Trier, because otherwise I would miss out on something that is just a Christmas tradition for me.

From the Christmas Market I dragged my family to the Porta Nigra where the Trier Christmas Tree is located and convinced them to take a nice family picture. I wanted to have a more recent picture for my room in London.

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My lovely family reunited 🙂

Afterwards we went to the shopping center where I visited a good friend of mine. Because she had to work we just had time for a quick chat.
Outside of the store I then met my best friend. I was really looking forward to seeing her again as I’ve missed her so much! Together we went to the store were I had worked two Christmases ago and I bought a nice little Birthday present for my host mum.

Around 3.30pm I had to say goodbye to Wanda and we went home. Because I was invited to a christmas party that night I had to get ready soon after we came home.
I hoped to surprise someone else that night at the christmas party, but when I arrived at 6pm he already knew that I was coming. I still would like to know how he knew I was coming, but he just won’t tell me.

Since we had such a good time, we stayed until 1.30am, when we were asked to leave. As the others got hungry again they wanted to go to a kebab house. I then tagged along as my neighbour was with them and I rather walk home with him later, than all on my own.
I made the right decision, because he decided to call us a taxi to get home.
At 2.30am I was finally at home and could go to sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a long day again.

On Sunday morning I slept a bit longer and started the day slowly.
Since it was my last day with my family and my mum already bought the Christmas Tree, I took the chance and we all decorated the tree together.
When we finished my grandparents came to visit us and my grandfather and I sorted out my flight tickets so I could come home over Christmas.

As I’ve mentioned above I originally didn’t plan on coming home, but rather stay in England to celebrate an English Christmas. But my host family is going to be in the Netherlands for Christmas and our family friends have no room, as all of their children are coming home.
Since I just got the news on Friday before I left, I talked with my family about my options. My grandfather then directly offered to fly me home, which was the best solution.

Around 5pm I went to my neighbour and played a bit with his daughters that I’d missed so much. After an hour I had to say goodbye and go back home, because dinner was ready and I still needed to pack my suitcase.
After a nice Raclette for dinner my mum helped me to pack everything – actually she packed everything and I just told her what has to go in the suitcase…
Thank you Mummy! ☺️
At 7.30pm Max came to get time, as he would be the one to bring me back to the airport.

An hour later I was already at the Gate waiting for boarding to start. Even though everything went smoothly and the pilot announced that we may leave earlier, we started at the original time at 9.50pm. This flight was really good, especially because I had a seat in the first row next to the window and therefore freedom of leg movement and a nice view!

It seems like the flight went by in a flash, as we arrived at 9.50pm (UK – Time) in London, instead of the estimated arrival time at 10.15pm. This time I was one of the first to leave the plane and the border control was also quicker, since it’s all technical there and they have so many counters. At 10.10pm I had my suitcase and 5 minutes later I was in the bus.
Sadly the Stansted Express wasn’t operating that Sunday and I had to take the Rail Replacement Bus instead. That would mean that the journey home will take even longer. But once again luck was on my side and we arrived at Liverpool Street Station at 11.15pm already.

From there I started the last leg of my Journey home. I took the Central Line to Notting Hill Gate, where I then got the last District Line of the day. I don’t want to think about what I would’ve done if I would’ve been too late. Everything worked out perfectly and I arrived at 12.15pm at home.
But I wasn’t finished yet. I had to carry my suitcase all the way up to the 2nd floor. Because that alone would have been too easy, I had to walk past the children and the parents without waking them up, as they were already asleep.
At 12.30pm I was finally in bed and could sleep, as I had to get up at 6.45am the next morning.

I want to thank Max for making this weekend possible for me! Not only did he drove me home and back to the airport, but he actually paid for everything!
Even though I’m soon back in Trier, this weekend was really nice and I’m grateful that you gave me the opportunity to do this.
And the biggest thank you for helping me to surprise my family like this!
I owe you! 💙

Love,
Vicky! Xx