Jet Set Woah woah Woah

I’m so sorry that I’m once again 3 days late, but this time I actually have a good excuse: my mum was here to visit me. I think spending time with her is more important than some blog. #sorrynotsorry
After the last post got a bit too long, I decided to keep this one a bit shorter. Here is my 15 days post:

ONLY 15 DAYS LEFT!

Since I lived with my new host family, I got to travel a bit. Not only in my private time, but also for my job.
Early in January my host mother asked me if I could come with them on their skiing holiday to Switzerland. That I never learned how to ski was no problem at all, as I went with them to work and look after the children and not for my own pleasure.

On Friday, 10th February, the family got ready to leave for Switzerland. They went by car and had to leave a day before me so we would arrive on the same day. As they are 5 people the car was full and I had to go there by plane and train. After the family left around 1.45pm, I started packing my own stuff and went shopping, because I still needed some gloves. Luckily my was able to send me a package with my snow gear and some warmer clothes.

After a short night I had to get up shortly past 4am and get ready as my taxi was organised to arrive for 5.30am. Luckily I was ready on time and even had to wait ten minutes for the cab. As I had to go to Heathrow Airport, which is rather close to where I live, it only took us 30 minutes to get their and I arrived at 6am at the Airport. Another 30 minutes later I had checked in, been through security and found the gate.

As the flight was delayed and we couldn’t take off at 7.40am, we therefore landed at 10.50am instead of 10.15am at the Euro Airport in Basel. Normally this wouldn’t have been a problem, but I had to catch my train in Basel. Because the airport is not close to the train station, I first had to take a shuttle bus. Of course I missed the original shuttle bus, but luckily there was another one just ten minutes later.

The 11.15am shuttle bus arrived at 11.30am at the Basel train station, just 3 minutes before my train was supposed to leave. It wouldn’t have been a problem if I would’ve missed it, as there would’ve been another in an hour later, but I didn’t want to wait at the train station so I hurried to the platform. I even run down the escalator with my heavy suitcase to make it on the train just in time.

At 1.40pm the Intercity arrived in Landquart where I then had 7 minutes to change to the Regio Express to Klosters.
Klosters is a popular ski location in the Swiss canton Graubünden. It’s probably best known as the favourite ski resort of Charles Prince of Wales.
At 2.47pm I arrived safely in Klosters and was greeted by ice and snow, but luckily it wasn’t snowing. However it was still hard enough to steer the suitcase through the ice and snow on my way to a café.

The host family was two hours behind and therefore I had to wait for them. I found a really nice Café where I sat down and called a friend to have a little chat.
Around 4pm the family finally arrived as well and picked me up from the café. Together we then drove to the rental apartment where we would stay during the week.

After we unloaded the car and got everything settled, we got the boys ready for the snow and went outside in the garden. Luckily this Garden had a slight hill and we soon started to sled down the hill. This evening in the snow was especially fascinating for L, as it was his first time ever in the snow.
In the evening, when the boys were in bed, the parents went out for drinks with their friends leaving me to babysit. But I didn’t mind at all, as there is german TV in Switzerland and I could finally catch up with german tv. Sadly it was still as bad as it was before I left for England, so I soon switched to the English tv program.

The next morning started rather relaxed, except for V, because he had ski school already. After he was settled and in school, we all got ready and drove to the cable car station. H, L, the parents and me then took the cable car up to the slopes. We arrived at 12pm, just in time for V’s lunch break and together we walked up a mountain to a restaurant called Madrisa Hof.
After a quick lunch my host father brought V back to his school and the rest of us went back to the main area with the beginner slopes.

One of the slopes in this area is more like a hill and on its side are some sledges provided. L and I borrowed some and sled down the hill over and over again, while my host father got H settled on the skis.
At the bottom of this hill was a bouncy castle and after the boys were too tired for sledging, we all went to the bouncy castle to take a break until V was finished with school.
Afterwards we all got ready to leave and squeezed together in one cable car. Back down we got on our way home.

The evening was rather relaxing and the parents went out again. I went to bed earlier that day, as we all would have an early morning the next day.
However it wasn’t just early, but also hectic! V is the one that needs to be out of the house first, but we all went together to drop him off and then went to the cable car station.
Back up in the mountains it was L’s first day on skis.

As L and V both were entertained in their ski schools, only H and me were left. In order for the parents to be able to ski as well, I stayed with H on the beginner slopes. The day before we borrowed a bigger sledge from our friends and therefore H was kept busy going up and down the slopes. Around lunch time the parents came back and L and V were picked up from their ski schools.
After lunch V went back to his ski school and L and H had some more sledging and bouncy castle time. When V was finished with his skiing lesson, we all got on our way back home.
Back home I had an hour or two, time for myself before we had dinner and the evening routine started.

Even though it was just our third day, we already got into a routine the next morning. V was dropped off first and then we all got to the cable car to go up. After L was brought to his school, with the hope of less tears and more learning that day, H was once again left with me and the parents went skiing.
Because H showed me really good listening the day before, I had no problem with letting him go up and down the slopes on his sledge on his own. I sat on the sidelines with a good book and read the time away. Of course I always kept an eye on H, but he was absolutely fine and I think he really enjoyed to have some freedom for once.

For lunch time V and L got picked up from school and we enjoyed a snack together, before V went back to his lesson and H finally started his first lesson. It took so long for him to be able to have a lesson, because this school only has one special needs teacher and Tuesday afternoon was the first lesson that was free.
Now it was L‘s turn to be entertained by me. But once again I got quite lucky and L was so tired that he just slept for a while and afterwards we went to the bouncy castle.
When V and H were finished with their lessons we all would get ready to go home.

This Tuesday routine quickly became the routine for the whole week and every other day would go the same, except for one or two changes from now and then.
But the main events were always the same:
1. V gets dropped off at the ski school for his lesson.
2. The parents, H, L and I went to the cable car to make our way up to the slopes.
3. L starts his skiing lesson, the parents use the free time to ski a bit themselves and H sleds down a hill while I sit next to the slope reading a book.
4. V and L finish their ski lessons and we all have lunch together.
5. V goes back to his skiing lesson, while H starts his and L spends some time with me.
6. When H and V are finished with their lessons we all get ready to go home.

The evenings normally are also quite similar. Except for two days, when first my host family went with their friends to dinner at a restaurant. I was left at the apartment, because I should have a break from the boys. I took the time to walk through Klosters for a bit and then go back to watching TV.
No wonder that I celebrated Valentines Day completely on my own. But hey, I was in Switzerland, at least I had first class hot chocolate and Toblerone.

The following evening I was left behind once again, because my host family was invited to their friends for dinner. I was actually quite upset that they didn’t ask me to come along, especially because their friend actually invited me to come along. However in the end I’m just the nanny and not part of the family.

All week we were really lucky and had warm and sunny weather every day until Friday. On our last day my sunburn finally got a break when the clouds made all the mountains disappear and everything was painted in white again. The only downside was that it was rather uncomfortable to stay outside.

Even though I quite enjoyed the holidays, I was more than glad when I could say goodbye to the family and got on my way back to London.
As my host family had to leave before me, my host father dropped me off around 10.30am at the same café where he also picked me up a week ago and I waited until it was time to get the Regio Express back.

Around 11.15am I left the café for one last round through Klosters. I took this time to take a picture of the mountains with the fresh snow from the day before.
At 11.33am I took the Regio Express to Landquart, where I arrived at 12.15pm. I then had to wait until 12.49pm to take the ICE to Basel.
2 hours later, I arrived at 2.53pm in Basel and once again I had to hurry to the Shuttlebus, but this time to go back to the Euro Airport.

When I arrived at the Airport at 3.15pm I soon had to learn that my flight was affected by the industrial action and instead of British Airways, Privilege Style would bring me back to London. Because this change needed a bit preparation and the airports schedules had to rearranged, we only started boarding at 5.45pm, 30 minutes after the original lift off time.

At 6pm I was finally on the plane and couldn’t wait to get home. With 45 minutes delay we finally landed at 6.45pm (GMT) at London Heathrow Airport.
As we didn’t took off at the original time, our landing time at Heathrow was already over and after going in circles over London, we had to land at the Heathrow Cargo Airport. Therefore it was already 7.20pm when I finally was through border control, had my luggage and left the Airport. Just 4 minutes later I took the Piccadilly Line towards Central London. At Earl’s Court I changed to the District Line and it was 8.30 when I finally was back home.

I first unpacked my suitcase in the kitchen to then directly wash my laundry, go groceries shopping and finally to bed. I enjoyed the quiet house until 1.45pm on Sunday, 19th February, when my host family came back.

Four month later I got ready to join my host family once again on one of their trips. This time it was a short weekend trip to Belgium.
On Friday, 25th June, I had to leave the house at 7am in order to be at the Victoria Coach station on time. Even though I arrived at the Coaches at 7.30am, I had to realize that I actually was 30 minutes late.
By now I had made some experience with travelling by coach from the Victoria Coach Station. But so far I only travelled through England and never to Europe. Normally you have to be at the station 20 minutes before departure, but when you leave the country, you are requested to be there at least one hour before departure.

Luckily I wasn’t too late and was served at the border control straight away. After they checked my passport and printed me my tickets, I boarded the coach as one of the first.
At 8am we left Victoria Coach Station just on time and started our long journey to Bruges.
Around 10.30am we passed the first border control (british) and at 11am we were past the second border control (french) and on our way on the train.
The Train is a special train which is wide enough for cars to get on, but also high enough for busses. Unlike to a ferry, where you have to leave your vehicle, you stay in your vehicle for the time of the journey. However you are allowed to get out of the car/bus during the journey as long as you don’t walk between the cars.

The train goes through the Euro Tunnel. This Tunnel is underneath the Channel and completely dark. But that’s hard to tell anyway, as the train doesn’t have many windows. I easily felt trapped inside the bus, which is in the train. Therefore I was quite glad that we at least could leave the bus. Otherwise you would’ve been trapped in a box which is trapped in a box, which is trapped in a box. For everyone with claustrophobia a rather big problem.
At 11.50am (english time)/12.50pm (european time) we arrived in France and started the last bit of our journey to Bruges.

When we arrived in Bruges at 2.47pm, I quickly bought a train ticket and then got on the Train to Knokke. The train arrived at 3.20pm at my station in Duienbergen and I got off. As I had a rather bad headache and generally felt too tired to walk to the Apartment, I waited at the train station for my host mum to pick me up. An hour after I arrived she finally came to pick me up and brought me to the apartment to take a rest, while the others went to the beach.

At 6.30pm I woke up again and made my way to the beach to meet the others. After a bit of playtime for the children, we went back to the apartment to get changed and then go back to the beach for dinner.
Next to the restaurant was a playground and while the parents chatted and reconnected with their friends, me and two other Au Pairs were on childwatch duty.
Around 9.30pm we went with the children to buy ice creams, which was a rather interesting part, because there were 21 children in total.At 10.30pm we were finally back and the kids were sent to bed straight away.

The next morning I got lucky and had time to have a lie in. There weren’t enough rooms in the Apartment so I got to share my room with one of the boys (in separate beds obviously!!). I got lucky and had H as my room mate. H is the one who stays in bed the longest. Therefore it was no surprise that it was already 10am when the both of us woke up. We quickly got dressed and then joined the others for breakfast.

After breakfast we went to an indoor playground, because the weather was too bad to do anything outdoors. Around 12pm we arrived at the playground and stayed for 1 1/2 hours. When the weather cleared up, we even had the chance to go outside and play a bit with the go carts.

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Finally driving again! Even though I’m not quite big, I was too big for these cars…

Around 2pm we joined the other families for lunch. Afterwards the family went to an indoor tennis court to play some tennis with their friends. As I had another headache, I was able to go back to the Apartment where I took a nap until the family was back. In the evening we went to the apartment of one of their friends and the children and Au Pairs had Pizza. Around 7pm the host parents said goodbye, as they would meet their friends for dinner and I brought the boys to bed until I relaxed for the rest of the evening.

The next morning H and I once again had a lie in and joined the others for breakfast shortly past 10am. After breakfast I took V to the beach until we were joined by my host father and the other two boys around 11am. My host father then sent me back to the apartment so I could pack my things. At 11.30am my host mum and I were finished with packing and joined the others on the beach again.

Around 12.25pm my host mum brought me back to the train station, because my train left around 12.40pm. Luckily I had more than enough time to buy me a ticket before the train arrived. At 1pm I arrived in Bruges and after I bought myself something to drink, I went outside to the bus stop where I had to wait for 25 minutes until the bus arrived.

At 1.45pm the bus departed in Bruges and we drove straight to France. Even though we arrived at the french border control at 3.45pm, we couldn’t leave before 4pm. This time they not only checked our ID’s, but also our luggage and one girl of my group got held back for further investigations.
The british border control was a lot easier, as we only had to show our ID’s. Although I took a bit longer, because I had a little chat with my controller. When he checked my passport, he not only noticed my rather british name (Viktoria Elisabeth), but also that I was born in Trier. As chance would have it wasn’t he just familiar with the city as a tourist, but he actually lived and studied there. He even remembered the street he lived all those 30 years ago!

Between 4-5pm we were in the tunnel again and I got to know the guy, who was sat behind me, a bit better. On the last bit of our journey I suddenly was the one everyone around us would ask when we are going to arrive. I luckily got to know London quite well by now and were able to keep track. At 6.40pm, 10 minutes late, we finally arrived at Victoria Coach Station. Because the guy from behind had to get another bus to Birmingham and it was his first time in London, I kindly offered him that I will show him to the Department Station.

Around 7.30pm I finally got on my own way home, where I arrived at 8pm.
But the evening wasn’t over yet. As I would be travelling home on Tuesday, I started to pack my suitcase with all the things I wanted to bring home already. By 9pm I was finally finished and went to bed.

On Tuesday, 27th June, one day after I came back from Belgium, I went on yet another trip. This time’s destination was Trier, Germany.
As my flight was due to depart at 11.35am from London City Airport, I took the tube at 9.20am and arrived at 10.30am. Just 15 minutes later I already had checked in and went through security control.

At 11.20am we started boarding and 15 minutes later we took off. The flight was easy-going and we even landed 15 minutes early. Therefore it was no surprise that I arrived at my mum’s car by the time we originally were supposed to land.
The rest of the day I mainly spent with my family, although they finally treated me to one of the babycakes by the ‘Törtchen Manufaktur’. This shop opened sometime this year while I was in London and my mum and sister have been annoying me with constant pictures of the cakes they bought there.

The next morning was an early one as we had to get up at 5am. The only reason why I went home for such a short visit was an interview at a uni. Because the uni is around an hour drive away from my home town we wanted to make sure we’re on time for my interview and left around 7.30am.

I got invited for an interview at the HBK Saar, an arts uni where I applied for arts for teaching. The interview was at 9.15am and lasted only 15 minutes. After the interview I was already finished at the Uni and we went to the city centre to go a bit shopping.
On our way home I finally was able to drive again. My mum was quite hesitant at the beginning and I had to use the same strategy as my host children (be angry, ignore her and just sulk) to get her to let me drive.

In the afternoon I joined my mum for her weekly english lesson, where her ‘classmates’ got to ask me any question they wanted and I got to take part in their lesson.
Afterwards I took the time to meet my best friend again. Mäthi and I haven’t seen each other since September, when he came to visit me. Therefore we had a lot to talk about, but I’m glad to see that nothing has changed, except that we both grew up a bit more and are now facing new challenges in life.

On Thursday morning it was time for me to leave again. Luckily it wasn’t too hard saying goodbye this time, because we know that I’m going to be back in less than a month.
Even though I was rather early, I had to wait a long time until I could check in, as they had check in for several flights at the same desks.
But at 9.45am I finally made it through check in and security and had to wait for 5 minutes for border control.

Afterwards I had to wait another 50 minutes until we finally started. It was already 11.25am when I finally got on the tube to go back home.
As my normal working schedule includes me picking up L at 1pm on a Thursday, I had to hurry home. Even though I made it home for 12.30pm, I didn’t need to pick him up, as my host mum offered to take over to give me a little break. I was rather glad that she took over, because the last couple of days have been really exhausting.

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A pigeon got lost on the tube

Luckily I didn’t went through all the hassle of flying to Germany for a 15 minutes interview for nothing. On Friday, 30th June, my mum sent me a message that there is a letter from the uni: I GOT ACCEPTED!

Now I only need to worry about getting accepted for english and I’m all set for my future life!
Hopefully I’ll still be able to travel, because all these trips, as exhausting as they can be, really made me realize how much I love travelling.

Love,
Vicky! Xx

– bring forth May flowers.

As you may have noticed I’m three days late with my blog post, but this post has a lot information and it took me quite a while to write it all down. I hope you can forgive me and at least there is a new one in just three days time. But for now, time for a new countdown:

ONLY 20 DAYS LEFT!

In less than 3 weeks I’m going to be back home and finished with my year. It’s weird to think that I only have less than a month left.
Luckily I did a lot of sightseeing in May so I don’t need to fit all of it in this three weeks.
May started with a trip to visit friends outside of London, but I’m writing about the bigger trips in separate blog posts. However I’ll let you know when I skip a date to save it for another time.

On Saturday, 6th May, I met with Lea at 10am near Charing Cross Station. We then took the Tube to Lambeth North to visit the Garden Museum, but sadly it was still closed, even though the internet told us something different. Walking around Archbishop’s Park and past Lambeth Palace without finding the right entrance, we gave up and instead went to Southbank.
An announcement in Time Out London’s magazine really caught our eyes and we wanted to check it out:

Bosch’s Giant Dishwasher:
Stand under 2000 litres of recycled water and remain completely dry at Bosch’s giant dishwasher installation this weekend. It’s sure to cause serious envy for those who do the washing up by hand.’

It took us a bit of time until we found it, but it was quite funny. Like you can see in the pictures it was a box like installation. There was water falling from the ceiling and you could walk through. When you moved normally and not to hasty, the water would stop in that area you where walking. It’s quite a weird feeling to walk through as you don’t really expect it to stop but it does and you stay completely dry.

From the giant dishwasher we moved on and took the tube from Southwark to Tottenham Court Road to go to Primark for a short visit.
After we were finished at Primark and it was time for lunch, we searched for the closest Nando’s to enjoy a good lunch.
When we were finished with our lunch we were looking for something new to do and walked from Tottenham Court Road to Leicester Square and then to the National Portrait Gallery, which is around the corner of the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square.

Entering the National Portrait Gallery, we were greeted by a statue hanging from the ceiling which was quite familiar to me, as I just saw many more of the same statue as part of a big art installation on a beach the weekend before.
The first part of the Gallery were rather old portraits, but still quite interesting. However the further we went through the Gallery the newer the portraits got. Obviously there are also quite a few royal portraits and sculptures.

Within the modern portraits we found a portrait of British Olympic diver Tom Daley, HRH Prince Philipp Duke of Edinburgh, HM Queen Elizabeth II, Diana Princess of Wales, Dame Maggie Smith, HRH Catherine Duchess of Cambridge and Beatles’ Paul McCartney.

When we went back downstairs, we visited a separate exhibition room which shows the newest portrait the Gallery has: Ed Sheeran!
The portrait, which was made by Colin Davidson in 2016, is the first painted portrait of Ed Sheeran and shows him in a moment of quiet introspection. The artist commented on the drawing that ‘there is a youthful aspect to it but also something experienced beyond his years’.
I completely agree with Davidson and have to admit that this portrait is most likely my favourite in the whole Gallery.

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Ed Sheeran by Colin Davidson (2016)

After we were finished at the National Portrait Gallery, we went to the close by Covent Garden to enjoy a hot chocolate at the ‘Whittard of Chelsea Covent Garden Tea Bar’. This time I tried the Creme Brûlée hot Chocolate which was more than delicious.
Around 6.30pm I was back home to have a rest.

The next morning, 7th May, Lea and I met once again, but this time in South Kensington. This weekend was the summer festival of the Imperial College. They use it as a type of open house thing to inform people about what they do and also to give an insight in science.
Around 2pm we left the College and got on our way towards Kensington Palace. As it was no big detour we decided to walk past The Royal Albert Hall and The Albert Memorial.
When we arrived at Kensington Palace around 2.30pm we bought tickets and started our journey through the palace.

It started with the King’s staircase, which is quite pompous featuring an impressive painting on the ceiling. It was drawn by architect and artist William Kent in 1727 for King George I.
After the King’s staircase came the King’s Gallery and the Cupola Room. Both had interesting drawings and designs on the walls as well. King George II and Queen Caroline used Kensington rather for entertaining than for official business. The Cupola Room is the room where all the entertaining took place. The musician Händel often brought his troupe of Italian opera singers, who then sung operas at the Palace they just performed in London’s West End.

In the Queen’s Bedroom we learned how the House of Stuart came to an end. A year after Queen Anne’s son William had died, she had a stroke and died herself. She didn’t left an heir, which would’ve made James II’s son the new king, but the parliament prevented this by drawing up the Act of Succession after William’s death. This also made any other Catholic ineligible to claim the throne.
Parliament had to consider the claims of over fifty family members throughout Europe to finally choose Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and her heirs. With Sophia’s son King George I the time of the House of Stuart was over and the ‘Hanoverian’ dynasty began.

Kensington Palace was bought by King William and Queen Mary in the summer of 1689. The same year as they were crowned as joint monarchs, after arriving in England just the year before. They were invited by the Parliament in 1688 to take the throne in place of Catholic King James II, Mary’s father. William, ruler of Netherlands, and Mary arrived by sea at Torbay and were welcomed into the country. King James II and his family fled in the night to France. This event became known as the ‘Glorious Revolution’.
After this house in the green suburbs was bought, they command the royal architect Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild and extend it to the Palace we know today. The rooms upstairs were designed for Queen Mary to overlook her Gardens, which were designed in the Dutch style.

After we walked downstairs via the Queen’s Staircase, we queued up for the Diana exhibition. ‘Diana – Her Fashion Story’ shows various outfits Diana wore to track her evolution as a princess, trendsetter and humanitarian.
Diana, Princess of Wales combined the allure of royalty with the fascination of international celebrity and quickly learned how to craft her public image carefully.


“Whenever the Princess discussed her clothes with me, part of it was always, ‘What message will I be giving out if I wear this?’ For her, that became the real language of clothes.”
 – Jasper Conran, Fashion Designer

In the exhibition we could see a choice of clothes Diana once wore. Some designs on the wall proved that she often looked over the designs to make a comment on what to change or to let the designer know that she doesn’t like the design at all.

When we left Kensington Palace we also went for a walk through the Garden that was made for Queen Mary. This year the gardeners created a White Garden to mark 20 years since Diana’s death. Diana lived at Kensington Palace for 15 years and enjoyed the Garden, quite often she would even stop to talk to the gardeners.
After we spent the afternoon at Kensington Palace we got on our way back to South Kensington. Shortly past 5pm I got on my home after a long day out.

On Tuesday, 9th May, we were out again to visit Madame Tussaud’s. But I’m gonna write about this in an extra post.

The next time Lea and I met was on Sunday, 14th May. This time we met at Earl’s Court Station on the Westbound platform. The destination for the day was Richmond. When we arrived around 12.30pm we tried to find our way to Richmond Park. I said tried, because we got lost more than once on the way there and it took us around an hour to get there. But when we finally made it we were baffled. It’s truly an amazing place.
However the greatest thing about it is that’s so close to this big city. There is this big quiet place surrounded by a city full of live.  Even though I read about it, I was still quite surprised to see that the animals in the park are free to roam around and you can get so close to them.

After a lunch break and walking around the park for around 2 hours, we were so tired that we decided to head to Fulham to have a rest. Around 4pm we arrived in Fulham and I showed Lea the area where I live until Camilla was there to join us. Even though it was Camilla’s birthday, we just went for a drink at Caffé Nero, as she got her present on Tuesday already.
We had a fun time together and this afternoon really brought us closer.

The following week was full of new things as well. On Monday I first got in contact with a Fidget Spinner, only to find out later on that they’re the new must have and there is a big hype going around the whole world. On Tuesday, 16th May, Lea, Camilla and I met at St Paul’s Cathedral to visit the Museum of London. This time we were joined by another german girl called Jara.
Jara and Lea met up a few times and she kept Lea company every time I couldn’t. We arrived at the museum shortly to 11am and started our way through it.

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Fidget Spinner!

The Museum shows the history of London from the glorious and grisly past to its modern life today. On the journey through the Museum we learned about how the romans built the first city in the river Thames and we even where able to see parts of the ancient city wall that was built by the Romans over 2000 years ago. Especially for Lea and me this really was a reminder of our own city that was built by romans.
We also learned how London had to suffer through the Great Fire and the Great Plague in 1666.

The Olympic Games in 2012 are also widely featured in the Museum of London. In their collectives exhibition are quite a few items showcased. These range from sports clothes to medals. But the biggest part regarding Olympia 2012 is the room about the Cauldron and the Ceremonies.
The London 2012 Cauldron is  a representation of the extraordinary togetherness that the Games symbolise and was revealed at midnight on 27th July 2012. It is made up of 204 individually crafted copper pieces, each representing one of the competing nations. The copper pieces were designed to be on stems which rose up fitting the pace and choreography to come together as one. Each stem carried a fragment of the Olympic flame, only burning as one when they finally and perfectly nestled together.
During the closing ceremonies the cauldron unfold and released its copper elements. All of them had been inscribed with the name of a competing nation and they got to take their own copper piece back home.

However it was also quite interesting to walk through the reconstructed street from a Victorian London. Another interesting part leading us through the Museum was a time line that featured all the important facts happening in the world and in London throughout the years.

Timeline 1650 – 2010
A few of the world events, London firsts and milestones that have shaped the capital’s life over the last 360 years.

1652 – The Manchu Dynasty rules most of China
1666‘The Great Fire of London’ – Fire breaks out in Pudding Lane and devastates four fifths of the City of London.
1675 – The Royal Observatory – The Royal Observatory was founded, home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian Line.
1988‘The Glorious Revolution’ – King James II is overthrown and William of Orange and his wife Mary ascend the throne.
1708 – St Paul’s Cathedral – Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, St Paul’s is finally rebuilt after its destruction in the Great Fire.
– By 1714 there are more than 500 coffee houses in London. –
1733‘Flying Shuttle’ – John Kay, the inventor of the ‘Flying Shuttle’, patents a shuttle used for weaving woolen and linen cloth.
1759 – The first accurate Chronometer – John Harrison’s watch H4 solves the ‘longitude problem’, allowing sailors to navigate accurately at sea.
  – British rule in India begins. –
1774 – The Royal Society of Arts building – Robert Adam designs a building for the society that encourages the arts, manufactures and commerce.
1780‘The Gordon Riots’ – Violent anti-Catholic riots erupt across London. Prisons and the Bank of England are attacked.
1784‘London balloon flight’ – Vincenzo Lunardi launches the first hot-air balloon, carrying passengers from Moorfields.
1789‘Equiano’s autobiography’ – Olaudah Equiano campaigns to end the slave trade in his bestselling book, published in London.
 – The slave trade abolished throughout the British Empire –
1831 – The electic dynamo – The physicist Michael Faraday invents the dynamo, the first electrical generator.
1837 – Euston railway station – London’s first mainline station opens, the terminus of the London and Birmingham Railway.
1840 – The Penny Black stamp – The world’s first postage stamp, invented by Rowland Hill, is issued by the Post Office.
1848‘Mass Chartist demonstrations’ – Working-class men gather on Kennington Common hoping to gain the vote and secure political reform.
1851‘The Great Exhibition opens’ – A vast temporary glass building in Hyde Park displays products from all nations.
 – Russia, Britain and France at war –
1858‘The ‘Great Stink’’ – Failing drainage turns the River Thames into a deadly, stinking sewer.
1863 – The world’s first underground railway – On its opening day the Metropolitan line carries 30 000 passengers between Paddington and Farringdon.
1868 – St Pancras railway station opens – The Midland Railway opens a grand London passenger terminus on the Euston Road.
1878 – London’s first electric street lamps – The Thames Embankment becomes London’s first public area to be lit by electric power.
1688‘The Jack the Ripper murders’ The murder of prostitutes in the East End focuses attention on one of London’s poorest areas.
– New Zealand gives women the vote –
1894 – Tower Bridge completed – After eight years of construction Tower Bridge opens, creating a new London landmark.
1898 – First London escalator installed – Harrods store installs London’s first escalator. Nervous shoppers are offered smelling salts.
– By the 1890s one third of Londoners lived in poverty. –
1901‘The Death of Queen Victoria’ – After a 63 year reign Queen Victoria dies, aged 81. She is succeeded by her son Edward VII.
1906 – The luxury Ritz Hotel opens – César Ritz, Parisian hotelier and former manager of The Savoy, opens a luxury hotel in Piccadilly.
1908‘London Olympic Games’ – More than 3000 competitors from 21 nations compete in London’s first Olympic Games.
– World War I breaks out in Europe –
1918‘Votes for women secured’ – Eight million women over the age of 30 are given the vote in parliamentary elections.
1919 – Hammersmith Palais opens – An American-style luxury dance hall opens for business at Hammersmith.
1922 – First London radio station – The British Broadcasting Company begins regular radio broadcasts from Marconi House in the Strand.
1923 ‘Wembley Stadium opens’ – Bolton Wanderers beat West Ham United in the first FA Cup final to be held at the new Wembley Stadium.
1928 – The ‘Talkies’ come to London – Londoners see their first films with sound, including ‘The Jazz Singer’ at the Piccadilly Theatre.
  – The Wall Street Crash shakes economies around the world –
1933 – First automatic traffic lights – The new traffic controls are installed at Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly, London’s busiest road junctions.
1943 – Battersea Power Station opens – The completion of London’s giant power station gives the capital a striking new landmark.
  – By 1939 one fifth of the British population lived in London. –
1940‘London devastated by the Blitz’ in the second year of World War II Londoners endure 11 weeks of intensive aerial bombing.
1944 – Flying bombs fall on London – V1 ‘Doodlebug’ bombs descend on the capital with an ominous, whirring sound.
1945 – The end of World War II – Celebrations across the capital as Londoners welcome peace after six years of war.
  – India and Pakistan become independent nations –
1948‘The Olympic Games’ – The first post-war Olympic Games are held in London. 59 nations compete for medals.
  – By the 1950s women outnumber men in London offices. –
1951 – Royal Festival Hall opened – The Royal Festival Hall opens on 3 May 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain.
1952 – Commercial travel by jet – The world’s first commercial passenger jet flight takes off from Heathrow, bound for Cape Town.
1952‘Smog stifles London’ – Thousands die from respiratory diseases caused by air pollution in the Great Smog of 1952.
1956 – The first Routemaster bus – A new type of London bus, ‘The Routemaster’, enters service on London’s streets.
  – Yuri Gagarin, a Russian, is the first man in space –
1965 – The Post Office Tower – At 159 metres, the Post Office Tower (now called the B.T. Tower) becomes London’s tallest building.
1971 – D-Day: Decimalisation day – On 15th February 1971 the whole of Britain switches to a decimal currency system.
1973‘More IRA bomb campaigns’ – The Irish Republican Army steps up its bombing campaign. Explosions rock central London.
1982 – The Thames Barrier completed – The Thames Barrier gives London a state-of-the-art flood defence system. The cost is £500 million.
1985 – Mobile phone systems launch – Launch of ‘Callnet’ and Vodafone, Britain’s first mobile phone services. Early phones are costly.
  – The 1987 hurricane is London’s worst storm since 1703. –
1994‘Direct trains to Paris’ – The Channel Tunnel, also known as the ‘Chunnel’, links London and Paris by rail.
  – First pages appear on the World Wide Web –
2012‘London strikes Olympic gold’ – London hosts the best Olympic and Paralympic Games ever. Londoners celebrate.

Around 1.45pm we said goodbye and got on our way back home. But on Friday we met once again, just this time without Camilla as she had to work.
We met around 10.45am at Warwick Avenue to then walk to an area called Little Venice. Sadly the weather wasn’t so nice and therefore the experience wasn’t as nice as it could’ve been, but I’m still happy I saw this amazing part of London. From there we walked through Paddington Station to Hyde Park.

We first went to see the Italian Gardens with the Italian fountains, from there we walked towards the Peter Pan statue and then to Kensington Gardens. It’s quite hard to say when you’re in Hyde Park and when in Kensington Gardens, as there is no division between the two of them. However our next stop was the Serpentine Gallery which is part of Kensington Gardens.

In a 1930s tea pavilion the Serpentine Gallery is housed. It seeks out avant-Garde artworks of today and each year assign a notable architect with the construction of a temporary pavilion. After summer is over the pavilion is dismantled and sold to cover the expenses. A 5-10 minutes walk from the Serpentine Gallery is the Serpentine-Sackler Gallery. Attached to the building of the Serpentine-Sackler Gallery is a restaurant called the Magazine. The building of the restaurant was designed by the world-famous architect Zaha Hadid.

From the Serpentine-Sackler Gallery we walked to the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. Visitors of the Memorial Fountain are invited to sit on the side and paddle their hands and feet in the water, but a sign at the entrance kindly asks visitors to not walk on the Memorial or in the water.
As this is a Memorial and therefore a quiet place, the sign also remembers visitors to take their ball games and loud plays to different areas of the park.
The Memorial Fountain was constructed using Cornish Granite and expresses Diana’s spirit and love of children. ‘Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 6th July 2004’ is the inscription on one side of the fountain.

As it was already quite late and we all had to get back to work, we walked from the Memorial Fountain to South Kensington Station, where we all got our separate ways home after a quick lunch at Starbucks.

On Saturday, 20th May, we all met once again to visit the Tate Britain. Therefore we took the tube to Pimlico where we met around 12.45pm.
As the pictures at Tate Britain are sorted into a time line, we tried to follow this time line from the beginning to the end. On the way to the beginning we walked past a few modern objects hanging in the big halls of Tate Britain.

However the Gallery not only leads through the time with their displayed pictures, but also with a time line of the Gallery’s history:

1600-1750 – Early collectors, usually noble families, concentrate on Old Masters or commission family portraits by European artists active in Britain such as Anthony van Dyck.
1768 – Collecting British art, to represent the emerging national school, takes off after the founding of the Royal Academy of Arts and the establishment of its annual exhibitions, which become fashionable events.
1780s – The 3rd Earl of Egremont, patron of JMW Turner and many other British artists, forms a private gallery at his country property of Petworth House, Sussex (now managed by The National Trust).
1790s – Sir John Leicester creates galleries at Tabley, Cheshire, and Hill Street, Mayfair, the latter open to the public from 1806, including Turner’s Shipwreck.
1808 – The Department of Prints and Drawings is founded at The British Museum. Home of the national collection of prints and drawings, today it has over 30 000 drawings and watercolours by British artists as well as over one million British prints.
1823 – Sir John Leicester (now Lord De Tabley) offers to sell his collection to the nation for a Gallery of British Art. The government refuses and the collection is sold.
Turner, who envisages a posthumous Turner Gallery to ‘keep my pictures together’ and meanwhile maintains his own collection, buys back his Shipwreck.
1824 – The government buys the collection of John Julius Angerstein to found a gallery. Mainly Old Masters, it includes David Wilkie’s Village Holiday. Angerstein’s house, 100 Pall Mall, houses the new National Gallery until a dedicated building is constructed.
1827 – Sir George Beaumont presents pictures to the nation, including works by Thomas Gainsborough, Richard Wilson and David Walkie. These join the National Gallery in Pall Mall.
1838 – The National Gallery opens in Trafalgar Square, with the Royal Academy adjacent to it until 1868. It will collect Old Master and British paintings.
1840 – The sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey bequeaths a fund to collect modern British art. Administered by the Royal Academy, the fund buys its first work in 1877. It will be the main purchase grant for the Tate Gallery when it is established in 1897.
1847 – Robert Vernon gives 157 British pictures to the nation, including the first Turner to go on public display. For lack of space, most other pictures remain at his Pall Mall house or are shown at Marlborough House and the South Kensington Museum (known as the Victoria and Albert Museum).
1852 – Turner’s Sun Rising through Vapour and Dido Building Carthage; or the Rise of the Carthaginian Empire are hung in the National Gallery with two paintings by Claude Lorrain in accordance with the wished of Turner, who had died in 1851.
1854 – The Turner Bequest, including nearly 300 paintings, is accepted by the nation. Selections are shown at the South Kensington Museum until 1876.
1857 – John Sheepshanks presents 236 British pictures to the South Kensington Museum.
1876 – The National Gallery is enlarged, allowing the display of more Turner and Vernon bequest pictures.
The National Gallery occasionally buys modern British pictures, such as Pegwell Bay, Kenta Recollection of October 5th 1858 by William Dyce, The Derby Day by William Powell Frith and Ecce Ancilla Domini! (The Annunciation) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, but remains mainly an Old Master collection. It is increasingly short of space.
1889 – Henry Tate offers 60 modern British pictures to the nation. These are rejected but he offers to fund a new gallery to house them, causing national debate.
1897 – 21st July The National Gallrey of British Art (already popularly dubbed the ‘Tate Gallery’) opens on Millbank, on the site of a former prison. The Tate’s pictures, including Ophelia by John Everett Millais are hung and some British pictures are lent by the National Gallery, which retains overall control. The Tate will be steered towards ‘British modern art’ (artists born after 1790 or 1800) while the National Gallery retains ‘supreme glories’ of 18th century painting.
The artist GF Watts donates 18 paintings to the newly established Tate Gallery, later adding further paintings and a sculpture.
1903 – The Art Fund is launched, becoming Britain’s leading charity for the purchase of art for the nation’s collections. The first work acquired by the Tate with its support is James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s Nocturne: Blue and GoldOld Battersea Bridge, purchased in 1905.
1906 – Unfinished studio works by Turner, newly restored, are shown for the first time.
1910 – A new Turner wing, funded by the art dealer Joseph Duveen, opens.
The Contemporary Art Society is founded to promote modern art in public museums and galleries.
1915 – A Director and dedicated Trustees are appointed at the Tate Gallery, independent of the National Gallery, charged to collect historic British and modern foreign art.
1918 – The Tate’s Director forms a consortium to buy works by William Blake for public collections in Britain and the Empire. 20 illustrations to Dante’s Divine Comedy come to the Tate.
1919 – More than 200 British pictures are transferred from the National Gallery to the Tate.
1920 – The Tate is designated ‘The National Gallery, Millbank’.
1926 – Galleries devoted to modern art, foreign art and Sargent (featuring family portraits by the artist given by the art dealer Asher Wertheimer) are funded by Sir Joseph Duveen.
1927 – Duveen presents Stanley Spencer’s Resurrection, Cookham and funds Rex Whistler’s murals, Pursuit of Rare Meats, in the refreshment room.
1928 – A Thames flood damages many works, including works on paper from the Turner Bequest.
1932 – The name ‘Tate Gallery’ becomes official for the first time.
1934 – The British Council is established with official responsibility ‘for cultural and social relations between the United Kingdom and people of other lands’. It forms its own collection now totalling over 8000 works of British art.
1939 – More previously unseen Turners, found stored at the National Gallery, are shown.
1939 – 45 – During the war, the Tate Gallery is closed and suffers extensive bomb damage. But acquisitions continue, including, in 1945, John Martin’s apocalyptic triptych The Last Judgement.
1946 – The Tate receives its own purchase grant of £2000 from the government.
The Arts Council Collection is formed collecting works by modern British artists and continues to acquire work by emerging British artists, with over 7500 works.
1949 – The National Gallery contributes 19th century British pictures to the new Tate displays but also reclaims Hogarth’s Marriage a la Mode.
1955 – The Tate and National Galleries are separated by law, leading to further, limited transfers of pictures. In the following decades the Tate extends its remit, building a comprehensive collection of British art from 1545 to the present while the National shows selected highlights.
1958 – The Friends of the Tate Gallery (now Tate Members) is founded to support purchases for the collection, the first being Henry Moore’s sculpture King and Queen, acquired in 1959.
1970 – Alistar McAlpine (later Lord McAlpine of West Green) presents to Tate 60 recent sculptures by contemporary British artists.
1974 – The Yale Center for British Art opens in New Haven, USA, displaying Paul Mellon’s important collection of British art, gifted to Yale University in 1966.
1975 – The Tate’s emerging modern print collection is enhanced by gifts from Rose and Chris Prater, founders of Kelpra Studio, who give the Tate a copy of every print they have produced, and from The Curwen Studio.
1980 – The Tate acquires a group of works by British and foreign artists from EJ Power, a former Trustee.
The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) is established. Major works acquired by the Tate with its support include John Constable’s The Opening of Waterloo Bridge (‘Whitehall Stairs, June 18th, 1817’).
1982 – The Patrons of New Art is established to support acquisitions of contemporary art by artists of international repute. The Patrons’ Special Purchase Fund acquires work by younger artists, many previously unrepresented in the Tate collection.
1986 – The Patrons of British Art is formed to acquire British art from the 16th century to the present. Among works presented are paintings by William Blake, Spencer Gore, Thomas Lawrence and CRW Nevinson, ad sculptures by Thomas Woolner.
1987 – The Clore Gallery opens, bringing together the majority of the paintings and all the original works on paper from the Turner Bequest. The building is funded by Sir Charles Clore and designed by James Stirling.
1992 – The Heritage Lottery Fund is formed to distribute funds to cultural causes. It has since supported many major acquisitions, from the Oppé Collection of watercolours to sculpture by Jacob Epstein and drawings by Francis Bacon.
1996 – Janet Wolfson de Botton presents 60 contemporary works to the Tate.
With the assistance of the National Lottery through the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Tate acquires the collection of Paul Oppé, consisting of over 3000 watercolours and drawings by British artists.
2000 – Tate Modern opens at Bankside displaying international art from 1900. The Tate Gallery returns to its original role as the national gallery of British art. Renamed ‘Tate Britain’ it displays British art from 1545 to the present day.
2008 – Simon Sainsbury bequeaths a number of British and international works.
Anthony d’Offay makes the gift of ARTIST ROOMS, a collection of British and international contemporary art.

We got to see so many drawings of so many talented artists, but there were two paintings that really stood out to me. While the one picture was an amazing drawing of a fascinating landscape by John Martin (‘The Plains of Heaven’ 1851-1853), the other one, a drawing by John Singer Sargent, shows no other than Impressionist Claude Monet drawing one of his Masterpieces himself (‘Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a wood’ 1885).
Before we left, we took the chance to see an arts in movement performance. 8 artists ‘painted’ a picture by making movements and noises and bringing everything together one after another until they reached a big final.
It was quite interesting and definitely a type of art for me.

After this performance we were finished at Tate Britain and went back to the Tube Station. As the day was far from over we quickly had to decide what we could do next. Our new destination was Regent’s Park. Neither of us had been here before and we all thought it might be worth to take a look.
We had good weather and the sun would make an appearance from time to time which made the experience even better. The Park is full of green areas and flowerbeds with some fountains in between. Inside this already beautiful park is the Inner Circle and within this gated part of the Park are the Queen Mary’s Gardens.

The Queen Mary’s Gardens are by far the most beautiful free Gardens I’ve seen so far. This big Garden is separated into many different parts. We first went to the Rose Gardens. Here you can see many different kinds of roses and each kind has their one special name like ‘Remember Me’ or ‘Keep Smiling’. In the middle of the Rose Gardens is a big circular area with a flowerbed in the middle and different ones around it. In the outer circle are many benches were you can sit down and enjoy this natural beauty.

We decided to have a seat ourselves and indulge in our lunch snack. But clearly we didn’t thought about the animals and soon were attacked by a squirrel! Yes squirrel. These Rat like animals that everyone thinks so highly of because of their sweet and fluffy tail. You can tell that I was the one who had been attacked as I got over my adoration for those animals.

After our lunch has been so rudely interrupted, we moved on and soon came to a bridge to cross over a small pond that sits in the middle of the garden. We then followed the way along the pond and came to the Japanese Garden in Regent’s Park. This Garden had some similar features to the one I saw with Camilla, like the Waterfall or  a Japanese stone lantern. But the best part of this area is the small island that lies within the pond and is accessible from one side. By now Lea had unpacked her big camera and we started taking pictures for fun, but I’ve got to say, I quite like them!

After our photo session we tried to find our way back out of the Queen Mary’s Gardens and then also back out of Regent’s Park. We exited the Park close to Baker Street. As Sherlock Holmes supposedly used to live here, we decided to go by his old address and visited the Museums shop.

Following our trip to Tate Britain on Saturday, Lea and I met on Monday, 22nd May to visit Tate Modern. Even though I’ve been here before, I wanted to come back to take another look and especially because there were a few new artworks.

I once again fawned over Claude Monet’s Water-Lilies and a few of Marc Rothko’s works of art. An interesting new artwork is ‘Monochrome Till Receipt’ from 1999 by Ceal Floyer. When you first look at it you start thinking why a till receipt is exhibited in an art gallery. But after reading the information for it and taking another look, I finally understood what it is really about. This receipt is not just any receipt, but the artist draw a picture by buying only white things.

I was quite surprised though to see a work of art of one of my favourite artists in the world: Niki de Saint Phalle. Sadly it wasn’t one of her world-famous sculptures called ‘Nana’, but one of her older pieces. ‘Shooting Picture’ (1961) is one of her ‘tirages’. These pictures were prepared by filling polythene bags with paint and enclosing them within layers of plaster against a blackboard. To draw the picture she then shot at the painting and the picture started ‘bleeding’ with paint. This Shooting Picture in particular was not shot by Niki herself, but by the artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.
Of course I also got to enjoy some of Andy Warhol’s pictures as well and also the radio Tower ‘Babel’ by Cildo Meireles.

Behind the Tate Modern power station Building is the Switch House building. In this building are a few more exhibition rooms. One of these rooms features art with the topic city and a big rubber ‘carpet’ lies in the middle of the room. But this ‘carpet’ isn’t just a carpet, it’s a precisely detailed map of Beirut embossed into rubber made by Marwan Rechmaoui. Visitors are permitted to walk over the map and engage with the artist’s representation.

In another part of the building various sculptures and artworks are shown. One of those is ‘Spider’ (1994) by Louise Bourgeois. This large-scale bronze spider represents the spider as the strong mother: a protector, creator and repairer. This idea comes mainly from a poem the artist wrote for her mother in which she compares the mother to a spider. In a smaller room adjoin to this one, is another one of Louise Bourgeoise spiders. ‘Spider I’ (1995) is smaller than the first one and belongs to a series of spider sculptures.

The last thing we went to see was the London Skyline. In Switch House you can take a lift up to the 10th Floor. The 10th Floor is mostly open and you can walk around the house to take a look from every side on London’s beautiful Skyline.
However that was not the last I’ve done in May, on the last weekend we did two sightseeing days were we went from one attraction to the next and this post is already quite long so I’m going to spare that for a different time.

Thank you for reading and now that you got an idea on how much we’ve done in May, you might understand why it took me so long to write it (6180 words!).
Hope you enjoyed reading about our adventures, especially because there are sooo many more to come.

Love,
Vicky! Xx

– and April showers –

ONLY 25 DAYS LEFT

The April started with one of the best days I ever had here in London. And this is not a fools day joke. However, the event that made the 1st April the best day sounds just like an April fool.
Camilla and I decided to go to Time Out London’s Pillow Fight as part of the International Pillow Fight Day 2017.

Photo 01-04-2017, 12 48 35

Since Camilla and I both still had to buy a pillow for the pillow fight, we met at 12pm in Fulham to take the tube to Tottenham Cort Road together. After a quick trip to Primark we were both bought a simple pillow, we made our way to Kennington Park where the Pillow fight would take place.
At the beginning we were really curious and also afraid that it all might be a big April fools day prank, but after we saw more and more people coming out of the tube station with pillows we didn’t feel as foolish anymore.

We arrived at the park around 1.30pm and the fight was supposed to start at 2pm, which gave us more than enough time to prepare for the fight. We weren’t the only ones thinking that and therefore we quickly  were part of the crowd surrounding the ‘Pillowman’.
However the pillow fight didn’t just attracted people to attend, but also university students who came to interview us and other people for their studies or for small newspapers. But there were also some professional photographers, taking the chance to get some nice pictures.

 

 

One of these photographers was Claudio Saroldi. Camilla and I met him at the beginning of the Pillow fight and met him over and over again during the pillow fight. We used the opportunity and let him take pictures of us and helped him to get nice pictures of other people as well.
When the pillow fight was over, we stayed together and went to a local pub with him before we got the tube back home.
I’m happy to say that we’re still in contact with him, even though I haven’t seen him again, Camilla met him a few more times while being out.

 

 

The Monday and Tuesday following the pillow fight, all three boys had started their easter break already. Even though this would’ve meant for me more hours, it was actually quite alright, because V went to a school club and H was with his social worker. On Wednesday the family then left for their easter holidays in Holland.
During this time my sister came to visit me and we did a lot of sightseeing as it was her first time ever in London.

At the end of the easter break, when my sister had left, Camilla and I finally had the time to see each other again. Although we couldn’t do much, as most of the things were closed for the bank holidays. Therefore we just went to Holland Park and Kensington Palace on Easter Sunday, 16th April. At Holland Park we especially enjoyed the Japanese Garden.

This Garden, called ‘Kyoto Garden’ has been constructed for the Japanese Festival in 1991 by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the help of many Gardening companies in Kyoto. The Japanese Festival was to celebrate the centenary of the Japanese Society in Great Britain and therefore the Kyoto Garden was presented to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea as a gift to commemorate this long-lasting friendship.
On 17th September 1991 HRH The Prince of Wales and HIH The Crown Prince of Japan opened the Kyoto Garden.

 

 

On our way through Holland Park to the exit we walked past an amazing peacock that was sitting on a wall. However he didn’t has his tail raised into a fan, as he was just sitting there and there was no peafowl around to courtship.
From Holland Park we then made our way over to Kensington Palace and Kensington Gardens, where we especially enjoyed the view of the Palace Gardens.

 

 

The next day, Easter Monday, we went to see the Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill, but sadly the market itself was closed, only a few of the shops on Portobello Road were open. However we still got to see the beautiful and colourful houses that belong to Notting Hill.
When I was back home, my host father and H came back from Holland. H had to go back to school on Tuesday, while the other two didn’t start until Wednesday. Therefore it was only H who came back with is father and V and L would come back the following day with their mother.

 

 

In the evening I helped my host father a bit to get H to bed and then the next morning out of bed and ready for school. Since my host father had to go to work himself, I had to bring H to school with the scooters. When I came back from dropping H off, I just cleaned the kitchen and the toys and then had an hour break, before the mum and the other two came back. Once again I helped out a bit with looking after them and occupying them so the mum could unpack everything.

The April finished just how it started: really good!
Towards the end of the month, I was joined by a school friend I’ve been close with for the last couple of years. Lea decided to get some english experience before she starts her apprenticeship back at home. While she was still at home we’ve talked about it and I advised her to also become an Au Pair, as it basically is the cheapest way of staying here in London and improve your english.

On Saturday, 22nd April we saw each other again for the first time in 9 months!
As she hasn’t been in London for quite a while we decided to meet in central London and just walk around a bit to give her a feeling for this city. In a way we went the same route my ex host parents took me on my first weekend here in London. We went from Trafalgar Square down White Hall to Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. From there we walked along the Thames on the Southbank.

At Blackfriars National Rail Station we found one of those ‘Bubblewrap’ shops and bought a ‘Red Velvet Bubblewrap’. However these Bubblewraps they have are not even half as good as the originals, but I’ll tell you all about those another time.
Afterwards we crossed over the Thames on the Millennium Bridge and took a bus from St Paul’s Cathedral to Leicester Square where we then finally met with Camilla.

 

 

As Camilla and I got really close it was quite important for me that the two of them get along and luckily that was the case, so we now have this really nice triumvirate that is accompanied by others from now and then. But no one has managed to join our group permanently so far.
From Leicester Square we walked towards Piccadilly Circus, down Regent’s Street to Oxford Circus, with a short detour through Carnaby Street. At Oxford Circus we let Lea decide which way she wants to go and she decided to go down the west side of the Oxford Street towards Marble Arch. After a short break we took the tube from Marble Arch station back to Leicester Square where we visited ‘The Moon Under Water’ pub and had a big fat burger for dinner. Around 6.30pm it was time for us all to go home.

The next day Lea and I planned to go and see the London Marathon. However I first had to work again. On Sunday, 23rd April V’s big birthday party took place. Although the parents would take L with them, they couldn’t take H as the location is not suitable for him. Therefore I was asked to spent the morning with him. Just like last time, when I had to work on a weekend, we went to South Kensington again, but this time to visit the Science Museum instead of the Natural History Museum.

H really knows his way around the museum and just brought me from one playing area to another. At one point though one of the toys stopped working while H was playing with it and he therefore had a little meltdown. Even though I really had to fight myself through this situation, I managed to get him distracted until we were able to leave this area behind and go to a new one.
However this incident really shocked me and ever since I felt less confident on being on my own with H. But luckily recent events really helped me to overcome this anxiety and helped to make these few last weeks manageable.

We were back home at 1.30pm and I allowed him to watch a bit of TV until the others were back. Just 30 minutes later I was finally free to go to central London and see the last bits of the London Marathon.
The London Marathon is massive. Over 45 000 people started at the 37th Virgin Money London Marathon and the most amazing thing is that everyone takes part in this enormous run through the city.

The London Marathon is especially popular to raise awareness of charities and money for them. One way to do this is to dress up in all kinds of costumes. We really saw everything there, even a Jesus carrying a cross on his back.
But another way to raise awareness is to break a World Record. For over 10 years Guinness World Records have partnered with the London Marathon and give participants the chance to break a world record while running the Marathon.

 

 

While Lea and I were watching from the fountain in front of Buckingham Palace, we saw one man breaking one world record. Ben Bowles carried a 26kg tumble dryer on his back while running the Marathon and finished with 5 hours 58 minutes. Being two minutes faster than the previous one, he broke the world record and is now the fastest man running a marathon with a household suppliance on his back.

Photo 23-04-2017, 16 00 02

World Record: Ben Bowles with the 26kg tumble dryer

However the most curious thing of the day wasn’t the newlywed couple that ran the Marathon straight after saying ‘yes’, but the chinese bridal couple that suddenly appeared within the crowd and took pictures with the Marathon behind them.
I’ve heard about these kind of couples before, but never imagined them to be so crazy to actually choose the London Marathon as their perfect wedding picture background.
Apparently it is quite common for chinese people to marry in china and then later on, sometimes even a year or two later, travel to a famous city and get all dressed up in bridal gowns and take wedding pictures in front of the famous landmarks of the city. But funnily this wasn’t the first and last time I saw something like this.

After a while we didn’t want to watch any longer and walked along the running track to Westminster, where we took the tube to Oxford Circus. Even though it’s not too far from all the excitement from the London Marathon, you wouldn’t have guessed that it’s been on that day. We relished the rather quiet atmosphere here at Oxford Street/Tottenham Court Road, before we got on our way home.

 

 

Lea’s start here in London is also the start for me to finally do a lot of things. The following months are full with sightseeing tours and travel.
Especially May is full of a lot of new and exciting things. I’m really looking forward reliving them through my next blog post.
See you then…

Love,
Vicky! Xx

P.S.: Thanks a lot to my friend Claudio Saroldi who kindly let me use his pictures! Please check out his page, he’s done some amazing stuff!
http://www.claudiosaroldi.co.uk/

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