– 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/

22nd December: Countdown to Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Vicky! Xx

20th December: 23 632 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Vicky! Xx

5th December: Welcome to my Palace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Marble Arch, the Royal Gateway

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

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

Her Majesty
Queen Viktoria Elisabeth! Xx