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

 

New Year – New Friends?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Walking around Winter Wonderland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Vicky!! Xx

19th December: Teletubbies, Barbie and Co.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18th December: Little Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

13th December: Off the beaten track…

It’s been a month since I’ve been in Lincolnshire and so far I only told you about Lincoln and York, but these weren’t the only places they took me to see.
As they live in a small village in Lincolnshire, they’re surrounded by small villages and towns. And since they’re not as big as Lincoln or York, I just write about different locations in one post.

It started on Monday, 24th October, when Julie and Ruth brought me to Brigg, a small Market Town in North Lincolnshire, just a few minutes drive away. They wanted to show me the Steel Rooms, which is a Café, art Gallery and gift shop all in one. Since we were only there at 4.30pm the café was already closing and we went to Costa instead.
The town is so small that nearly every shop closes around 5pm.
Luckily the Costa Coffee Shop was opened way longer so we could sit and enjoy a coffee and a cake or cupcake.

 

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My nice Gingerbread Cupcake

After the coffee we went back home. But a week later I was back again. Because Hannah tidied her room at home, she decided to give away loads of things she doesn’t need anymore. On Wednesday morning, 2nd November, we went to the Oxfam Charity shops to drop the things off. I especially liked the Oxfam Bookshop, where I then bought a nice book.
When we finished dropping things off, we had to get some things we needed.
I even bought two birthday cards for a very good friend of mine and my cousin, which I then posted a few days later.
Around lunchtime, after we had a nice coffee break in the Steel Rooms, we went back home and that were the two times I went to Brigg already. Since it’s so small there is not that much to do.

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Two birthday cards – Happy Birthday!

On the 4th November Julie went with Hannah and me to Gainsborough. The town is located in the West Lindsey district of Lincolnshire and the next town to where they live.
Julie is a very good artist who just got into an exhibition a few days before and since Hannah couldn’t go and see the exhibition, she took us to her studio to show us the drawings that were going to be exhibited.

After admiring her work we went to Marshall’s Yard, which is a shopping complex of 32 Stores, a café and a health club in a 19th century ironworks setting.
The boiler manufacturer Marshall, Sons & Co. has been founded by William Marshall in 1848 and the manufacturing base was then located in Gainsborough. After the manufacture closed in the 1980s, they rebuild it into the shopping center, which then opened during Easter 2007. An old steam crane from the engineering works still reminds of that time and builds a nice entrance to the heritage.

In Marshall’s Yard we did what it was built for: shopping. But nothing special, just one or two birthday presents for some of their extended family and groceries and then drove back home.

Since it was Bonfire Night on the 5th November, Andrew took me to see a Bonfire and a Firework display in Scawby on Sunday, 6th November.
Bonfire Night, or also known as Guy Fawkes Night or Guy Fawkes Day is an annual commemoration of the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in Great Britain.
On the 5th November 1605 the Gunpowder Plot placed explosives beneath the House of Lords. Guy Fawkes was a member of the plot and has been arrested while guarding the explosives.
Since King James I survived the people celebrated by lighting bonfires around London. This tradition has changed and by the 20th century Guy Fawkes Day became a social commemoration, which lacks much of its original focus. Especially because nowadays it’s just large organised events, centred on a bonfire and extravagant firework displays.
Such as the Bonfire Night celebration we went to.

With the 11th November my last weekend in the countryside had started. And what better way to start it than with a nice walk with Julie and their dog Alfie trough the fields. It has been getting colder and colder with every day, but I never thought I would be without a family for so long, so I didn’t pack my winter coat. Therefore I had to freeze a little bit.
That night we went to a pub for the Pizza night. The pub has a pizza night from time to time and that night was one time.

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The perfect weather for a nice walk in the fields

After another short weekend with Andrews family, I then left on Monday to go back to the big City. I really enjoyed the time in the countryside, since it was like a nice vacation from all the trouble and busyness London is about. Even though I missed out on a few events in London, I needed the time there to get recharged and be ready for the big city again.

So, if you get the chance to spend a bit of time in the countryside, then just enjoy it!
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