– 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/

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

 

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

24th December: Merry Christmas everyone! – UPDATED!

Merry Christmas!

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

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

See you after Christmas.
Love,
Vicky! Xx

UPDATE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Vicky! Xx

22nd December: Countdown to Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Vicky! Xx

21st December: Starting all over

Today is all about my new family. I’ve mentioned them a few times now, but I never really wrote about them and my time with them.

As I was getting more and more desperate to find a new family, I decided to make an account on Aupairworld.com. Every one can sign up for free and can start to look for a host family or host families can look for an Au Pair.
I got in contact with several families, but never found the one I thought would be the right one for me. At the beginning of November I finally got into contact with a family I was quite sure could be a good match. On the 4th November I had the first chat with my future host mum and just a day later I talked to my future host father too. As we were all quite happy and confident that we’re a good match, we decided that I would be their new Au Pair.

But as good as the family was, there was also a problem. I wouldn’t be able to start with them until the end of November, which means another three weeks without a family. I was now for two weeks with Andrew and his family already and knew I couldn’t stay with them for another three weeks. Nonetheless I said yes and started looking for a gap family.
After another week I went back to London to stay with a gap family.

On the 21st November I went to see my new host mother for the first time. I arrived shortly after 12pm and had a nice little chat with her. A few minutes before 1pm we went to pick up the youngest from school. It was the first time I got to see one of the boys I would start looking after in just a weeks time.
Back at home we sat down with a little snack and  I tried to solve a Baymax Puzzle with him. At 2.15pm they had to go, so I left too.

A week later it was finally time to start all over again, by moving in with my new host family. As Is was supposed to be there at 11am, I left around 10am in Oakwood. When I arrived with bag and baggage, I was showed to my room before we sat down for a little snack. Again we had to pick up the youngest from school around 1pm. This time we walked to his school and went groceries shopping on our way back.
Later we went to pick up the middle boy.

Meeting him was so different to meeting the boys of my first host family. You can tell that he’s british as he introduced himself with a posh ‘Hello, my name is V.’. Then he came around to me and hugged me, looked up at me and said with a fond smile ‘You’re nice!’.
I was so amazed at how affectionate he was so already, especially because he just met me.
When we came back he showed me around the house and to his room.

Normally I don’t need to cook, however if my host mum is too late and needs me to cover for her, she would ask me to help out. As she had to bring the oldest one to an afternoon thing, she asked me to cook while she is dropping him off. When they both came back we all had dinner together. After dinner it was time for the boys bath and then bedtime.
Around 8pm I was finished for the day.

The next morning I started at 7am again. In the morning time I would prepare breakfast and make sure that all the boys had eaten before they would get dressed. At 8.30am the latest the mum would leave with them for drop off. That morning I went with her to get to know the boys schools, so I could help out with the school run if needed. At first we would drop off V. at his school and then would drive to H.’s (the oldest) school. Last but not least we went to L.’s (the youngest) school.

Back at home I had some free time until 3pm when L. and H. were both back from school. When the mum had to leave to pick up V., I was alone with them and at first a bit over challenged, but that feeling was soon gone and I knew what to do.
The next day was quite similar to the other two, except that V. and L. had swimming in the afternoon and my host mum showed me how that’s done.
Friday just changed a bit as I had to pick up L. on my own, so I know how it’s done and could do it the following weeks.

On Monday morning, after the school run, my host mum and I sat down together to talk about the week’s schedule. My normal working hours are every morning from 7-9am and then from 3.15-7.30pm again. Wednesday and Thursday are the only exceptions, as I would have to start working at 1pm already to pick up L. and spent some time with him.
But of course all these hours include some flexibility, which is normal, as no week is like the other.

My schedule for the week included to pick up V. from school at 4.30pm, but I had to take L. with me in the baggy. Although the Tuesday was just a normal one, the week changed on Wednesday as my host mum’s mother would arrive in London to stay for a few days. Because she wanted to spent some time with her grandchildren, I was free until 4pm and then just had to pick up V., while the grandma stayed with H.

On Thursday I was free until 3pm and then had to bring H. his backpack to his school, as he would spent the afternoon with his social worker. When I was back I was free again, while the mum and grandma went to the swimming pool with V. and L. for their swimming lessons. Around 5.45pm H. was back and we had some bonding time together until the others were back.
As the grown ups wanted to go out that night, I was asked to babysit. This includes reading a story to the boys and making sure that they had all their medications and then just being available if they wake up during the night.

Friday must have been the most relaxing day, as I only had to work during the morning hours and then was off for the rest of the day. Since I was traveling back to Germany for a weekend and my host mum had her mother there to help, she said it would be fine and I could take an earlier train to the airport.

The last week was quite hard. I was back in London at 12.30am in the night from sunday to monday and had to be back at work at 7am the next morning. Needless to say that I was quite tired and spent my free time in the morning catching up with sleep. The day was just a normal day, but I was asked to babysit in the evening. The same for Tuesday and Wednesday. For Tuesday I was also asked if I can start at 1pm again instead of 3.15pm.
On Wednesday I had to bring L. to school and then was off till 3.15pm, because I had the early start the day before. Originally I was asked to babysit that night again, but didn’t need to as my host father stayed home.

On Thursday everything changed again. As Christmas was just around the corner, the schools of the two youngest had already started their christmas break. Therefore it was only H. who needed to get ready for school in the morning. After a small break of two hours I was back at work at 11am. From 2-4pm I took the two younger ones to the park to power them out a bit and when we came back they had to get ready for swimming already. Again the mum would do the swimming and I would have to wait for H. to be brought home by his social worker.

Friday morning was quite similar to Thursday and H. was the only one who had to get ready for school again. As they would leave for their holiday directly after school was over, I was asked to work in the morning instead of the evening.
At 11.30am I once I again took the two younger ones to the park to tire them out a bit, so it would be easier to sit down in the car for a while. When we came back at 1.15pm I got them ready for the car and after H. was picked up and the last things loaded into the car, they left for their holiday.

After I’ve spent three weeks with the family I can say that so far it was the right decision. Thanks to my experience with the previous family it was easier to understand if the new family will work out or not. But as everything that I didn’t like with the old family was completely different with the new, I’m pretty sure that I’m with the right family now.

Lastly I can only say that, no matter how hard it was to get there, I’m not regretting anything because it’s part of my year and the experiences I had to make.
Now I can really enjoy my time in London!

Vicky! Xx

20th December: 23 632 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Vicky! Xx