– 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.

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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.

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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/

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

 

12th December: WHIP-MA-WHOP-MA-GATE

The WHIP-MA-WHOP-MA-GATE is the smallest street in York. It is just a length of raised pavement between St Crux church and a small road junction and intersects The Pavement and The Stonebow.

The origin of the name is quite unclear. Apparently it derives from a phrase “Whitnourwhatnourgate” which would mean “What a Street!”.
When I went to York on Wednesday, 26th October for the first time, I even got to see the street. At first I just took a picture of the street sign because of its name, but later on I found out the real meaning of this sign.

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WHIP-MA-WHOP-MA-GATE or “Whitnourwhatnourgate”, Yorks smallest street

Since the youngest of Andrews daughters studies at the University of York, we used the opportunity and went to visit her.
Because I’ve never been there before, they walked me through the York City Centre. Due to time limitations I wasn’t able to go inside some sights, but at least I’ve been there and were able to see the York Minster and a bit of the old historic city.

York is just like Lincoln a very historic city. The walled city is the county town of Yorkshire and is located in the north of the county.
In 71 AD it’s been found by the Romans as Eboracum. It became and still is the capital of the northern ecclesiastical province of the Church of England.

The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York is the largest Minster in Northern Europe. Not only is it the seat of the archbishop of York, but also the second highest office of the Church of England and the mother Church Diocese of York.
The name ‘Minster’ was attributed to describe the typical architecture of the Anglo-Saxon period and is still used as honorific title now.

From the minster we walked through some of the shopping streets of York. Some of the streets were proof of how old the city is, as the streets were narrow and the houses were old-looking and sometimes really small.

Funniest thing was a bible hung in the doorway of a shop. But most of all I enjoyed walking through the local Käthe Wohlfahrt shop, since it was a piece of home in the foreign country. It reminded me so much of the Christmas market at home. Even though it was quite funny to see what they think is typical german, it was so different from what it is really like. But the shop was really sweet and you definitely got a Christmassy feeling in the small shop with all its nooks and crannies full of Christmas decorations and ornaments.

Walking through the streets we passed another historic part of York: Bettys Café Tea Rooms. After the founder Frederick Belmont went on RMS Queen Mary’s maiden voyage in 1936, he was inspired by the ships layout and employed the designers to turn a dilapidated furniture store into an elegant Café. A few years later the Café on St Helen’s Square became even more famous. After World War II broke out ‘Bettys Bar’ in the basement of the Café became the favourite haunt of 1000s of airmen stationed around York, the ‘Bomber Boys’.
Inside the Café is ‘Bettys Mirror’ on display to tribute the airmen, who engraved their signatures with a diamond pen.

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Bettys Café Tea Rooms on St Helen’s Square in York

After we’ve seen most of the city Center we tried to find a place to eat, since Ruth had to be back at university quite early to visit a concert there.
When we found a place to eat at 6pm we all had a nice and big burger before we brought Ruth back and went on our way home.

Just a week later, on the 2nd Novemeber, we went back to York again. This time Hannah and Julie’s mum came with us, since Ruth had a university performance we went to see.
The music department of the University of York has regularly performances. One of these is the yearly practical project.

This years project was “A portrait of the Artist” to celebrate the centenary of the publication of James Joyce’s novel ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’.
With texts and songs of his work it celebrates Joyce’s life and also reflects the political tensions of the period of the Easter Rising of 1916.

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The shows flyer

The show started at 7.30pm at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall. Since it was the opening night, they even had a live stream on YouTube, where you can still watch the show:

The show was a mixture of music and theatre and was very interesting to see. But I have to admit that for me it was quite hard to understand, since the acoustic wasn’t always the best and some students didn’t spoke clear enough or even tried to imitate the Irish accent.

Even though I didn’t understand everything, I still got what it was about and my trip to Ireland earlier this year helped a lot to understand things, as I had a basic knowledge of the Irish history. And I still was able to see what a great performance the music department put on and I really enjoyed to see it.

When the show was over, we waited for Ruth to come out and then went for a quick drink to a local pub to celebrate her debut on the university stage and to have a nice ending to a nice evening.
Since we left quite late that day to travel to York, I didn’t get to see much of York that time around. But that was no problem at all, since I’ve already been to York the week before.

When I’ve got the time I’ll definitely have to travel to York again and then take a good look inside the York Minster and maybe go and see some other of the historic places.

See you then, York!
Vicky! Xx

7th December: Enjoy every moment!

Before I left my ex host family, I tried to spent as much time as possible out of the house, especially on the weekends. The last weekend with them wasn’t an exception.
Since I were moving out on Wednesday 19th October, the 14th was my last Friday in North Finchley. I hadn’t found my new family yet and therefore decided to just go out with my friends one last time to say ‘goodbye’, because I didn’t know if I’ll be coming back to the north of London.

So Amelie and I made a reservation for a table in a nice italian restaurant in North Finchley called Il Tocco D’Artista, where we then met at 8pm.
Because I always order a pizza, I decided to for once order pasta instead. It was really delicious with scampis on top, even though there could’ve been more scampis.

In my eyes a lot of the charm of the restaurant is due to one person: Giovanni. He’s an italian guy, who also lived in Germany for a while and now lives here in England. He is really funny and outgoing and just knows how to charme his customers. Since he lived in Germany, he can speak a bit of german. We obviously took advantage of that and talked a bit german with him, but sooner rather than later changed back to english, because his german is a bit rusty.

We were all in a really good mood and even started singing quite loudly, to the annoyance of other people in the restaurant, but it was fine. We were soon joined by Benedetta and Enrico from our language school. Since it got quite late and the people from D’Artista wanted to close, we decided to go to a local pub for a drink, before we all head home. When we then arrived in front of the pub, we were reminded that a lot of pubs in England still close quite early, because they wouldn’t let us in anymore.

By then it was already after midnight and we all were quite tired so we decided to all go home. We all were home around 1am, time to sleep.

The next morning I stayed in bed until 12pm and then got up and ready to leave the house at 1pm. Farina, Amelie, Marieke and I decided to spend the Saturday afternoon in Camden Town to visit the Camden Market. We arrived at 1.30pm and walked from the Tube Station to the Market itself.

When we were at the market we just went inside and looked around. There are really nice things to see and a lot handcrafted or vintage things. It’s really charming in there, but obviously a tourist trap. Sometimes you would actually get a good deal and sometimes you just have to accept the tourism prices and pay a bit more than necessary.

It’s really hard to say where at the market you’re at, because it’s full of nooks and you see something and go there to explore it further and suddenly you’re in a new part of the market. Luckily Farina knew her way around Camden Market and could lead us to all the good places.
After we went through the Stables Market, we bought dutch pancakes as a lunch snack at one of the overpriced snack trolleys.

Next stop was a store called Cyberdog, which is a weird but fancy store. Everything in there is neon and clothes that are not neon have lightning effects. But you can buy everything shrill and dazzling in there. All in all its a store who sells futuristic fashion, clubwear, rave and urban fashion and all the accessories you need.

After Cyberdog we went to the Camden Food Market. One food stall is next to the other and you can try food from all around the world. There are so many different things that we had a really hard time to decide where to buy something. Especially for “Hipsta-eater”, people who try all the new weird food things coming up, this is the place to be. But also people like me, who prefer things they already know, have a lot to choose from.

Since Marieke had to go back home, it was just Amelie, Farina and I, who had to find something to eat. After 30 minutes we finally managed to all find something and even find a place to sit (very rare at Camden Market). When everything was eaten up, we took a last stroll around Camden Market, but this time preferably in a  covered part of the Market since it started to rain.

With it getting later and later and the rain getting worse, we finally decided to head home after a long day. Around 7.20pm I was finally back home and just relaxed for the rest of the night.

I still hadn’t started packing my things on Sunday. While the other girls went to an Au Pair meeting, I said I would stay home, because I have to pack. But I’m a master of procrastination so I always found better things to do. Instead of packing I then went out to the High Street to meet a potentially new host mum. She invited me to a Cafe Latte and a croissant to Caffè Nero where we talked a bit to get to know each other.

Even though she and her daughter sounded lovely, I was quite hesitant to say yes. She then offered me a trial week, which means I would move in with her on Wednesday and stay for the week, work for her and see how it goes, but still be allowed to talk to other families. If I like it and she likes me, we would then just agree to me staying permanently. I was really motivated when I got home, because I finally knew that I most likely have a place to stay after Wednesday. Needless to say that it didn’t turned out like this. Sadly she changed her mind on Monday, but I can understand that it wouldn’t have been good for the daughter to get used to someone who might leave again.

Anyway, when I was back home I put my procrastination skills to use again and did everything else instead of packing. Seems like I have to do that on Monday and Tuesday then.
I actually managed to pack all my stuff just in the two days time, even though I had to work and it really was a pain, but my mum helped me on the phone and I’m still thankful for that!

Tomorrow I’ll tell you how I managed to move around London until I had a proper place to stay.
Have a good day!

Love,
Vicky! Xx

5th December: Welcome to my Palace

Being in London with the name Viktoria Elisabeth, there is just one place for me to visit: Buckingham Palace!

So Amelie and I went to see Buckingham Palace on the fine Sunday afternoon of the 18th September. Since the sister of my host mum came to visit with her family the day before, I stayed home until they left, so I can spend a bit more time with her daughters.
At 1pm they then left and I got ready so I could take the replacement bus, because they once again were working on the rail track.
Due to traffic it took 45 minutes to get to Archway, so I then could take the tube to Victoria Station at 2.15pm. At 2.40pm I arrived and met Amelie, who went to the city a few hours before me. Together we walked to the Buckingham Palace Ticket shop and bought tickets for the next available tour at 4pm.

Because we had to wait for a bit, we went to the front of the Palace and took our obligatory pictures from the Buckingham Palace and the Queen Victoria Memorial.
With more time to spare, we went through some of the souvenir shops close to Buckingham Palace until it was finally time to que up to enter the Palace.
But before we were finally able to go in, we had to go through a security check.

Inside they offered us free audio guides, which we obviously took. We then finally could start our tour. Because we both had an audio guide to listen to, we didn’t really talk much, but rather enjoy the view. Sadly you’re not allowed to take pictures inside the palace.

Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of Kings and Queens of Great Britain since Queen Victoria was the first to move in, in July 1837.
It has 775 rooms, including 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, 98 bathrooms and a chapel, postoffice and cinema.
After Queen Victoria moved in she built the 4th wing of the palace and thereby created the quadrangle. The forecourt, where the Changing of the Guard takes place, has been formed in 1911.

Amelie and I choose to visit the Palace on this certain date, because we also wanted to see a special exhibition which was held inside the palace from the 23rd July till the 2nd October 2016. Celebrating the Queen’s 90th Birthday, the Royal Collection Trust opened three exhibitions this year. Under the name of ‘Fashioning A Reign: 90 Years of Style from the Queen’s Wardrobe’ they showcased clothes, the Queen once had worn, in three different locations.

The exhibition was really impressive, because they presented clothes from every decade of her life. But the eye catcher surely were the Queen’s Wedding dress and her Coronation dress. One dress was more beautiful than the other. Both dresses had nice and very detailed beading and don’t get me started on the matching veils.

The only disadvantage of the exhibition was that we lost quite a lot time there. At 5.30pm they closed the exhibition and rushed us out of there, but told us that the Palace also will close in just 30 minutes time. So we then had to quickly walk trough the remaining rooms, which was quite sad because these were the State Rooms and therefore the most interesting ones, including the red themed Throne Room.

Luckily we finished our tour just at 6pm when the palace closed its doors. But we still could stay a bit in the Buckingham Palace Gardens and go through the Souvenir shop, where I purchased a nice bookmark.
To exit the Palace Grounds you have to walk through the Garden. On the way out you can get a stamp on your ticket, which you had to sign first. With this you ask them to treat your ticket purchase as a donation so they can claim Gift Aid tax relief on ones payment. In return they turn your ticket in a 1-year pass, which gives you 12 months’ complimentary admission to the Palace.

We then finally left the Palace Grounds and went to the Tube Station to drive home, where we arrived at 8.20pm. On our way there we went past The Bomber Command Memorial. It was unveiled by the Queen on 28th June in 2012.
The Bomber Command was formed in 1936 in played a critical role from the beginning of World War 2. All the 125.000 men were volunteers from all parts of the Commonwealth and Great Britain and nearly half of them lost their lives. Also the majority of them were still in their late teens.
“The fighters are our salvation but the bombers alone provide the means of victory.”
This quote by Winston Churchill is engraved on the left side wall of the Memorial. On the right side is the dedication of the Memorial inscripted:
“This Memorial is dedicated to the 55.373 airmen from the United Kingdom, British Commonwealth and Allied nations who served in RAF Bomber Command and lost their lives over the course of the Second World War.”
In the middle is the Sculpture of seven Statues representing the Bomber Command aircrew, consisting of the Navigator, Flight Engineer, Mid-Upper Gunner, Pilot, Bomb Aimer, Rear Gunner and Wireless Operator (from left to right).
Behind them, above the columns is the Message of reconciliation inscripted:
“This Memorial also commemorates those of all nations who lost their lives in the bombing of 1939-1945”

A few weeks and more friends later, I once again went out to do a bit of sightseeing. But first I went to Parsons Green, a part of Fulham, to visit a potentially new host family. They asked me to come by at 1pm for 30 minutes, but I then stayed a bit longer and only went back to the Station at 2.20pm. Even though I really liked the family, they turned me down two days later.
Not knowing any of that yet, I went motivated to Hyde Park to join my friends who had met a bit earlier. Together we went 30 minutes through the nice Hyde Park, past some nice art works, to the Peter Pan Statue. When we arrived there it started to drizzle and when we arrived at The Italian Gardens, it was full on raining, so we took shelter and waited for the rain to pass.

After we could finally move on, we went to a McDonald’s for a lunch break. Since we were close to the Paddington Station we decided to go there to see if we can find the Paddington Bear Statue.
Afterwards we went back to Hyde Park and walked all the way to Speakers Corner, the famous place where everyone can held a speech. There were even a few people holding a speach, but we didn’t listen to any of them.

Because it was already quite late, we left Hyde Park on this corner and went past the Marble Arch on Oxford Street.
Built in 1828 it was the main entrance to Buckingham Palace. Since it was too narrow for  the Queen’s coach, it had to be removed to its current location in 1851. It was then used as a police station until 1950.
Because it was once a Royal Gateway, it’s officially illegal to pass through the Marble Arch when you’re not part of the Royal Family or Royal Guards. But we did anyway.

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Marble Arch, the Royal Gateway

On Oxford Street we walked down to the other end and took the Tube at Tottenham Court Road Station so we all were back home at 7.45pm.

Hope you liked todays post and come back tomorrow for another part of the Christmas special.

Her Majesty
Queen Viktoria Elisabeth! Xx

4th December: Overcrowding Starbucks

Happy 2nd Advent everyone!
And I’m back with another part of the 24 days to christmas countdown!

Again we’re going back in time to the 11th September. The good thing in being with an agency is that they try to bring as many Au Pairs together as possible. In order to do this, they arrange several Au Pair meet ups over the year. The first one for me was on that Sunday. They invited us all to come to the Starbucks on the New Oxford Street.

Since the meeting started at 11.30am, Amelie and I met at the Tube station at 10am. Due to Network Rail track work between High Barnet and Archway we had to take a bus replacement service to Archway and take the tube from there to Tottenham Court Road.
Luckily we arrived not only on time, but even a few minutes early.
Since the agency is located in Kent, none of them could come to actually organise the whole thing. Instead Barbara, who’s been an Au Pair for the agency years ago and ever since lives in London, came to manage everything. We were already 30 people at 11.20am and more and more were coming. It was quite hard to find a place for everyone, so we squeezed together and some even sat on the floor.

In the end we were over 50 people, I’d say. Because we were taking over the whole place, some customers even left. When nearly everyone was there everyone had to introduce themself. This was quite a hard task, because we were so many people and therefore you couldn’t hear everyone. During the introductions we noticed that more than half of the Au Pairs are from Germany, which made quite hard for us to find Au Pairs who are not german.
I don’t have a problem with german Au Pairs, but I came here to improve my english and it’s not a big help when I know I can speak german with them.
Luckily I had a girl from Sweden and one from the Netherlands in my group, when we had to form smaller groups to get to know each other better.

After a short Q&A we decided to leave Starbucks and go on Oxford street. Mainly to get out of the overcrowded Cafe. Outside we took a quick Selfie of our group, since there was a competition to win a voucher for the best group Selfie of the meeting.
We then went down Oxford Street to Bond Street to bring one of the girls to her tube and then we splitted shortly after.
Even though we had a great time and we made a Whatsapp group, we don’t really are in contact with each other any more. I don’t know about the others, but I just write from time to time with two of the girls, but sadly I haven’t seen them again.

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Needless to say that Esmeralda won with this picture! 🙂

Since my group splitted, I reached out to Amelie again and asked her what she was up to. Apparently she stayed with her group at Starbucks, so I went back there and got to know another group of Au Pairs. Sadly they all live on the outskirts of London, but they are quite the fun group anyway. Because we’re all from Germany we obviously talked german the whole time. Soon we noticed that two of the girls have quite a similar accent as mine and we started talking more and more with accent.

Around 3pm we then left Starbucks to go to Primark and after that to Forbidden Planet, which is a merchandise store for fantasy worlds and all the comic universals.
From there we went back to the Oxford Street and went to several small shops to then end up at McDonald’s for a small snack before we all went on our way home.

The next meeting I went to was two weeks later. On Sunday morning, the 25th September the big BAPAA Au Pair Welcome Event took place from 11am to 1.30pm for all London-based Au Pairs at the International Students House, London W1. There has been another time frame the same day for Au Pairs from all the other Locations. This meeting is quite different from the others, since it’s not only for Au Pairs from the Smartaupairs agency, but for all Au Pairs whose agency belongs to the BAPAA Association.
To be on time, Amelie and I took the Tube at 10.20am. At Finchley Central Station Marieke then joined us. Around 10.50am we arrived at Great Portland Street Station and had to walk to the location.

After we showed our tickets we entered the venue and had to put on some name tags. The room was divided by balloons in the different areas of London and we had to gather around the balloon representing our area. When everyone had arrived Tuuli, the head of my agency, welcomed everyone and officially started the event. Our first task was to get to know new people from our area and exchange numbers or Facebook profiles. We were also asked to take Selfies for yet another challenge. After the time run up on this task we had to move around in the room and find even more people to talk to.
The beginning part was really good, because you actually got to know people from your area. Of course it’s nice to get to know people from different places, too. But in reality you won’t really keep in contact or at least won’t meet each other again.
The trick with the second task was that even though you looked at the balloon and thought okay that’s reasonable close to where I live, the people there also had moved and suddenly you were talking to someone from the complete opposite of London from where you live.

The only good thing was I got to know a girl who already changed her family and we talked about her problems and what it was like, so she actually encouraged me to talk to the agency and see if I can change.
After this second task there was a small snack break where they dished Pizza and everyone could take a slice. I took the chance and asked Chloe from Smartaupairs, if we can have a chat and then talked to her about the problems with my family I was facing and told her that the Au Pair before me had some similar problems. When we came to talk about changing the family I asked her how it would work and she kindly explained the whole ordeal to me. But she also pointed out that I have to keep in mind that changing always has the risk that you may not find a new family within the two weeks notice.
Still this conversation helped me a lot, because I finally knew what I would have to expect and therefore could try to decide what to do now.

Shortly after the nice conversation the program went on and they opened the photo booth, where we could take group pictures with fun props. In the end we played people bingo. We all had a bingo plan on our program and then had to find another person in the room who for example has coloured hair, has blue eyes, is in London for over a month already and other things. Obviously you’re not allowed to list someone more than once.

After the nice game of bingo I got to know a guy named Jonas and his good friend Lisa. Jonas and I were chatting with each other when a group of girls asked us to photobomb their picture they were taking at the still open photo booth.

Soon the whole party was finished and we all went out to take picture in front of the venue and then were free to go. Since Jonas, Lisa and I all wanted to go in the same direction, we decided to take a bus together to Westminster Abbey.
I really like them, especially because they’re as crazy as I can be at times and even though we just knew each other for a few minutes, it felt like we know each other at least for a year already.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to see each other again for now, but we still write with each other now and then and both always asked how my search was going and Lisa even tried to bring me in contact with a potentially family.

I enjoyed both the meetup very much and I found new friends there too. Especially the big welcome party was really nice, because you not only get to know Au Pairs from your own agency, but from all the agencies who belong to the BAPAA Association. It’s also nice to get to know people from your agency to finally put a face to a name.
And even if you won’t find a lot of friends there, it always is a lot of fun and you can just enjoy the time together with all the other Au Pairs.

Thanks to Amelie and Marieke we still found other Au Pairs who joined our group permanently and belong now to my closest friends here.

Thanks to Smartaupairs for organising all the “small” Au Pair meetings and to the BAPAA Association for organising such a lovely welcome party for all the Au Pairs in England.

Vicky! Xx

2nd December: Finally back to School!!

Hey guys, sorry it’s already this late, but I haven’t had the chance to post any time sooner today.
In this post I’m going to tell you all about my time at a local language school. Starting with my enrollment to some of the lessons. Not only wanted my host family for me to go to a language school, but I also wanted to go to one to get the Cambridge Language Certificate in the end.

On the 3rd August, just on my third day here, my host mum brought me to a Language school in Finchley Central, which is just two Tube Stations or a 25-30 minutes walk from where I lived. Since the school was still on summer break, I just could do my interview so they can estimate my level and tell me in what class I could take part in.
For the interview I had to do a small test where I just had to choose between four words which one is the right to but in a gap in a text. After the gap text I had to write a 50 word story about either London or my hometown (I obviously choose Trier) and then I had a little chat with one of the teachers there. Apparently I was really good and just got one word wrong. They said that I would need to attend the Advanced Level classes, but I would need to come in September to start and then I could also do my trial lesson first.

When September finally came around, Amelie and I went to Language School on Monday morning, but they sent me back because the Advanced Class wouldn’t start until Wednesday so I would need to come back two days later.
So on Wednesday, 14th September, we went back to the Language school and did our free trial lesson. Because school just started, they haven’t figured out who would teach the class yet so we had a substitute teacher named Thomas. He was a really fun guy and we had a good lesson.
Amelie had to go to another class so she wasn’t part of my class, but there were three other girls. Giulia and Benedetta, both italians and Au Pairs too, who were already a definite part of the class and Rosa, a brazilian who also was there for her trial lesson.
After the lesson I decided that I want to enroll in this school, but because I wasn’t sure on how many weeks I would have to do they offered me a mock exam for Friday.

On Friday I then went back to the college and did my mock exam. Because I want to try to get at least the Level C1 Certificate, I had to do the CAE (Cambridge Advanced Exam). The Exam is subdivided in four different parts: 1. Reading and Use of English; 2. Writing; 3. Listening; 4. Speaking.
The first part is again subdivided into 8 different parts, where you would have to fill in some words, find a different version of a word or just answer questions to a text. One of the hardest ist the gapped text, where a text is divided into paragraphs and some paragraphs have been taken out of the text and you have to fit them back in, in the right order. But the hardest really is to finish all the tasks in just 90 minutes!
The second part consists of two different texts you have to write. The first is compulsory and mostly just an essay. For the second text you can choose between three different writing tasks. This could be a proposal, a report, a letter or a review. Again you have to finish the task within 90 minutes and make sure you don’t have more or less than 220-260 words.
The third part is the listening. Here you have to listen to conversations and choose the right answer, complete sentences and multiple matching, where you have to complete two tasks at one. For this task you’ve got 40 minutes but that isn’t a problem, since this part is led by a CD. The problem here is more the listening part itself.
Luckily I haven’t had to do the fourth part, but even if I would’ve done it, it wouldn’t have been a problem at all.

Before I could do the mock exam I had to enroll at the school, so they could make sure that I’m actually staying with them, before they put all the work in. The enrollment fee is £25 and I’ve paid a £5 deposition. I couldn’t pay for the whole course already, because it depends on how many weeks you’re doing.

The following Wednesday Amelie and I went back to language school. She also took a test on Friday and was able to move a class up and was now part of my class. We now also had a teacher from this school: Emma. She also was the one who interviewed me in August and organised the whole mock exam thing for me.
After class she told me my test results: 70%! You need 60% to pass the test and because I’m also taking lessons, Emma told me that I can even try to get the higher Level C2. For this I would have to take the CPE (Cambridge-Proficiency-Exam), but she thinks that I could actually manage it. On my request on how many weeks I should do, she said that 2 days a week for 6 weeks in total would be absolutely fine.
Luckily my grandfather said he would help me pay for it, because Language schools in England are really expensive and I would never be able to pay for it with the money I earn by working as an Au Pair.

So from then on, Amelie and I walked all the way from North Finchley to the Language school every Wednesday and Friday morning from 9.30am to 12.45pm. After around two weeks Giulia left London to go back to Italy and therefore also left the class. But before she could leave Enrico, also from Italy, joined our class.

I really loved going to language school. Not only did we learn a lot there, but I also found good friends there. Even Emma, our teacher became in a way a friend of us. She would always listen to the problems we were facing at the moment and would try to give us an advice. Because of that it sometimes felt like a support-group for Au Pairs, but we still would connect it to learning english. Talking about our problems helps us to get more fluently and confident in talking and she would always correct us, so we still would learn something.

This class, which really was more like a group of friends, helped me a lot in deciding if I change the family or not. They wouldn’t tell me what to do, but their reactions to the things I’ve told them, made it clear for me that it definitely is not a normal behaviour.
But they not only helped me in making the decision, but one girl especially (apart from Amelie, because we are friends even outside of the classroom) helped me out after I left my family and had nowhere to go. Even though she was an Au Pair herself, she offered me to stay with her for one night.

Sometimes the school has a test day. That means that every class has to write a test, so they can see if we’re improving and for the lower classes if someone can even move up a class. Before I left I we had one of those test days and it was just annoying. In a way the test was nothing more than a mock exam. But we didn’t really want to write a test so we could convince Emma to at least do the writing part in the next lesson.

In my last week with the family, Amelie and I’s friend Kathi joined our class at the language school. This time it wasn’t Emma who was teaching us, but a guy named Tony. Because he looks a bit like Voldemort, we gave him Voldemort as a nickname, but never told him so. He thinks his nickname could be Dumbledore, because he is the head of the teachers and sometimes is referred to being the headmaster. Tony is actually a really funny guy and his lessons are also really good. But his lessons are a lot different to Emma’s. Even though he jokes with us, his whole demeanour is more serious and in a way he is more challenging than Emma is.

During his lesson he would dictate us some phrases and we had to write them down as we heard them or what we thought he said. This was funny, annoying and frustrating at the same time. Annoying and frustrating mostly because we just wouldn’t get it right. But it was all the same so funny, because of the things some of us understood. One time Tony dictated the phrase “I don’t find them easy” and Enrico understood “I don’t find a museum”, which was so funny at that moment.

After this lesson I signed up for a few weeks break. Not only because I was between families, but also because my exam would be in December the earliest. Right at the beginning I decided I would do 4 weeks of language school now and then would do the last 2 weeks just before my exam, so I’m well prepared.

When I first took the break I planned to be back in the last two weeks of November to do the CPE (C2) on the 1st December, but I now decided that I’ll wait until January and do the CAE (C1) then instead.

I decided to do the CAE (C1) instead of the CPE (C2), because you automatically get the C2 Certificate when you get 80% or more in the CAE.
On the Wednesday I had to leave my family I went to the language school to meet Benedetta there and we all did another mock exam where I got 80% without the speaking part, so I would definitely get the C2 Certificate. But even when if it will go wrong during the final exam, I would still have the C1 Certificate, while I would have nothing if I wouldn’t pass the CPE.

So now I’m on break until January, but I want to go back to the language school one or two times to do another round of mock exams and maybe finally even do the speaking part of the exam.

However I have to say that this school is really good and the staff tries his best to help you as much as they can. They even helped me during the time where I had’t found my family yet and are cooperative with whatever problem you have.
Sadly my working hours never allowed me to take part in any of their programs, but just so you know, the school has regularly events scheduled. If it’s a sightseeing trip on a boat, a Halloween party or just ice skating at Alexander Palace. They really try to form a community and to bring their students into contact.

I’ve really missed going to school while I was away and I still do! It’s not only learning. It really is coming together for a few hours of fun and leaving with a better knowledge of the language we have to speak on a daily basis now.

At the end I just want to include a thank you to Emma and the Nacel English School London!maxresdefault

nacel English School London

See you tomorrow (or for most of you later today)

Love,
Vicky! Xx