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

 

 

 

 

13th December: Off the beaten track…

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

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

 

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My nice Gingerbread Cupcake

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

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Two birthday cards – Happy Birthday!

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

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

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

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

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

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The perfect weather for a nice walk in the fields

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

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

11th December: Lasting Memories – II

Welcome back to the second post of my crazy weekend. After I told you about the parts with Max in yesterdays post, I will tell you today about my time with Mäthi and Anne.
Since Max had an accident on Friday, I couldn’t meet Mäthi and Anne on Friday.

On Saturday, 24th September I went to see Max, but the visiting hours wouldn’t start until 2pm so I made plans with Mäthi and Anne instead.
Around 11.15am I took the Tube to London Bridge Station and walked from there to the Tower of London.

My way lead me over the London Bridge which is quite young, despite the fact that on this place the first ever bridge over the Thames was once built. This was replaced and later pulled down by a Danish prince in a battle in 1014. This historic event is kept in memory by the children rhyme ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’. In medieval times the fifth and most famous London Bridge was built. It lasted for 600 years and is the longest inhabited Bridge in Europe. In 1841 this Bridge had to be replaced and Rennie’s London Bridge was built. This Bridge was sold to an American in 1968 and rebuilt in Arizona, USA. On 17th March 1973 Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the 7th Bridge, which is still there today.

As I arrived at the Tower of London at 11.45am, I had to wait for a few minutes and took a look around the Tower. The complex of 21 Towers was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 as the new palace. Since 1100 it was used as a prison and is now a museum where the priceless Crown Jewels are displayed.

When Mäthi, Anne and I finally met I was so excited and first hugged them for a minute! After being separated for nearly 2 months, I was more than happy to finally have my best friend back!
We then went on our way to the Tower Bridge. Since they had a double booking on their tickets for the Tower Bridge they had a spare one which I could use. We first started in the North Tower and were brought up by a lift. From there we came to the Walkways where you walk from one Tower to the other. The Walkways are 42m above the river and 60m long. In 1910 the Walkways were closed to be reopened in 1982 for the Tower Bridge exhibition which you can still see.

From up there you have a wonderful view over London.While we walked down the western Walkway we could see 30 St. Mary Axe, which is also called The Gherkin, the Cheese Grater and the Walkie Talkie on the North side of the Thames. On the South side of the Thames we were able to spot the Shard, the tallest building in Western Europe, and the London City Hall, which is directly next to the South Tower of the Bridge. The City Hall is the working place of the Mayor of London and offers a nice view over London from its viewing platform on the top.

When we arrived at the South Tower we walked down the East Walkway. The most special thing about the Walkways is not the view to the side, but rather the one you get when you look down. Thanks to glass floor in the Walkways you are able to look down on the Bridge and see all the cars and red London buses crossing over the Bridge.

Back in the South Tower we walked through the exhibition on the top and lower level. In the exhibition they showed a film on how the bridge was built and all interesting facts about it. The Bridge is 244m long and constructions started in 1886. After eight years the Tower Bridge was finally finished and was opened on 30th June 1894. Back then it was the largest and most sophisticated bascule Bridge. In 1952 a double-decker bus was just crossing the Bridge when suddenly the north bascule started to rise. The bus then dropped the 6ft gab onto the south bascule, which was slower to lift.
From the lower level we took a lift down to the ground level again.

The last stop of our trip to the Tower Bridge was the Engine Rooms. Because they are at the south bank of the Bridge, we had to leave the Tower and walk the short walk to the Engine Rooms. Inside was an exhibition about the Engines that lift the bascules every time a ship has to pass trough. The bascules are operated by hydraulic and when the Bridge was first constructed they used steam to power the pumping engines. This power is stored in six accumulators to be available at any time. Nowadays the bascules are still operated by hydraulic, but instead of steam they rather use oil and electricity.
Seeing the Engines was really impressive, because they’re so big.

At 1.30pm we finished our tour through the Tower Bridge and walked back to London Bridge were we then said goodbye until later.

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London Bridge

Read here what I’ve done in the time between then and later, when we met again.
After I was finished in Notting Hill, I took the Tube at Notting Hill Gate to get to King’s Cross/St. Pancras Station, where I would meet Mäthi and Anne again.
Since it took me quite a while, they already went to Pizza Express to start their dinner. When I arrived there at 10pm I just had a starter and we talked about our plans for the next day. We decided that we want to go on the London Eye together and booked the tickets there and then online.

At 11pm we went on our way home and while they just had to walk for a few minutes, I had a one hour journey again. When I arrived home at 12am, I was surprised to see a small package for me and obviously opened it immediately. The package was from my host fathers’ mother from Ireland. She remembered that I tried to get some Aran knitting patterns for my mum, but couldn’t find any, so she send me three patterns with a short note. I’m really thankful that she went out of her way to get the patterns for my mum and send them to me!

Because I had already other plans for Sunday morning and went back to the hospital to see Max, I only met Mäthi and Anne in the evening.
As we planned to visit the London Eye we agreed to meet at the Eye around 6.30pm. Since we had bought the tickets the night before we could just enter to watch the film about the London Eye, before we would go on the London Eye itself.

As we had the Flexi Fast Track Tickets, we were allowed to show up at any time during the day and when we were there, we could skip the main part of the queue. Thanks to this combo ticket we were able to enter the London Eye just 5 minutes after the sunset had started. It’s the perfect time to be on there, since you get to see everything while it’s still bright enough. But then you get all the nice colours of the sun setting and in the end London by night.

The London Eye is the tallest ferris or observation wheel in Europe and was originally built to celebrate the new Millennium and was formerly opened on 31st December 1999, by Prime Minister Tony Blair. It is 135m high and has 32 capsules, which each holds 25 people. The number of the capsules is no coincidence but is on purpose as they each represent one of London’s boroughs. When the wheel gets going it doesn’t stop for the people to get on (only for disabled or elderly people), since it’s only moving 26cm per second.

Each rotation takes 30 minutes and therefore we were finished with the nice experience around 7.25pm. Because we all were hungry and hadn’t had dinner yet, we decided to walk to Leicester Square to find somewhere to eat.
When we arrived at 8pm, we chose a nice pizzeria and enjoyed the last two hours together.
At 10pm we had to say goodbye, since they were flying back to Germany the next day.
We went to the Leicester Square Tube Station, where I then ended my weekend, which had started so dramatically at exactly the same spot.

Even though it was only a short weekend and I couldn’t do as much with them as I hoped I could, I still enjoyed my time with them.
But the most important thing is that they came to visit me and I got to see them again!
Thank you for visiting and I hope you had a great time!

Looking forward to see the next visitors,
Vicky! Xx

7th December: Enjoy every moment!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Vicky! Xx

5th December: Welcome to my Palace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Marble Arch, the Royal Gateway

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

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

Her Majesty
Queen Viktoria Elisabeth! Xx

3rd December: Life is better with Friends :)

Day three and the third post for my own little advent calendar.
Today’s post is for all those, who have been spending so much time with me here. Who would go sightseeing with me or just shopping. Who would spend their free time with me, so we would have company. In one word: my Friends!

The most important thing as an Au Pair is to make friends quite fast, otherwise you’ll be stuck alone and you won’t ever see someone else as your family. Even if you have the best family an Au Pair can wish for, we all need a bit of space and need to spend our free time with other people.

I had to learn this the hard way, since I didn’t make a lot of friends during my first few weeks, I soon felt really lonely and got more and more frustrated. Especially when the first problems with my ex family started.
I was so happy that I then found Maja. Even though we haven’t seen each other since the 4th September, we still keep in contact and she offered me a place to stay for one night when I had to move out, too. I really miss her and now that I’m settled in we have to arrange to see each other again. But apart from not seeing each other, we still kept in contact. We’re not writing on a daily basis, but we would talk on the phone sometimes and when we write again, it’s just like we are continuing a conversation from the previous day.

But she’s not my only friend. When I came back from Ireland I got to know Amelie, because our families are friends with each other. She is the one I spent the most time with and she also was a really big help during my re-matching time. I owe her big time for keeping more than half of my stuff in her room and putting up with her host mum who was getting more annoyed by it day by day.
But not only for keeping my stuff, also for being there for me and listening and giving me advice whenever it was needed. And mostly for putting up with me, I know I can be a pain in the a** sometimes… ;D

On the 4th September Maja came to visit me and Amelie in North Finchley. After we showed her our not so impressing High Street, we took the bus 134 to Muswell Hill and arrived there after a 30 minutes drive. In Muswell Hill we were supposed to meet a girl named Jana, who I’ve got to know over Facebook even before I came to London. We tried to meet for quite while and never got the time to, so finally we could meet.
While I brought Amelie and Maja, she brought two girls who live next door to her. There was another girl who no one of us knew before, since she just arrived two days ago. While everyone else was from Germany, she was from Sweden. The last in the group was the only girl who’s not an Au Pair and lives in a different part of London.
After we all met at 3pm, we went to a café and just sat together, talking and trying to get to know each other. At 5pm we then decided that we should move again and went first to a nice second-hand shop and then to a pub called O’Neill’s, which belongs to an irish pub chain.
Around 5.45pm Amelie and I decided to head home. Maja had already left and the others wanted to stay a bit longer.
Even though all the girls are really nice, I just kept a bit of contact with Jana, which really is a shame, because they were all really nice!

After this nice meeting Amelie and I tried to make more friends and even went to an Au Pair meet up on Oxford Street. There is only the problem that all the other Au Pairs were from all over London and it can be quite hard to keep in contact with people who are not living close to you.

So we tried using an App called “Excuses to meet”, where you would give excuses why you should meet and then the app will show you people with the same excuses around you. This app has a big Au Pair community and is even promoted by our agency.
On Thursday, 22nd September, I made arrangements to meet another Au Pair in Finchley Central at 11.30am. I knew that two other Au Pairs are joining us, but it was a nice surprise to see Amelie there. Marieke, a dutch Au Pair, organised the whole thing and Anna, a polish Au Pair, was the fourth Au Pair joining us. We went to Costa and just chatted the time away. At 2pm Amelie and I then decided it’s time walk back home.
This meeting went a lot better and we actually stayed in contact. Sadly we haven’t seen Anna much after, because most of our get together are in Finchley or North Finchley and it’s too much of a hassle for her to get there.

On the 25th September we had a big welcome party for the Au Pairs in London. We even made more friends there and Amelie and Marieke made plans with them for after the event, while I already had other plans.
So I didn’t knew the girls when they invited me to come with them to the British Museum on the 1st October. Originally I didn’t want to go out that day, because I had to babysit from 5pm onward, but they convinced me and so I met them at Woodside Park Station the same day.
Amelie, Farina, Kathi and I took the tube from there and at Finchley Central Station Marieke joined us. While Farina lives closer to a different tube station, Kathi lived more or less a 5 minute walk away from my family.
When we arrived at Tottenham Court Road we walked to the Museum and got in quite fast. But inside were so many people, that we went around the Museum for a bit, but soon gave up and left in order to find a place to eat something. After a short snack, Amelie and I went back to the tube station and went back home. Because it was already 4.20pm when we went on the tube, I really had to hurry up to walk home from the station and arrived just 2 minutes too late.

The next day we made plans to see each other again. Since the other girls went to a party the night before and came home quite late we arranged to see each other at 2.30pm in front of the Sainsbury on the High Road. Sadly Farina stayed home, but we were joined by Lenka instead. After we bought a few things for a picnic, we went to Friary Park, close to my family’s house.
That day was the day I planned to tell my host family the two weeks notice and therefore I was quite nervous. So I enjoyed the picnic even more because it was a good distraction from what was to come later that day.
At 5.30pm we decided to get a move on and went back home. Amelie walked with me until we arrived at my house and had to say goodbye. By then I was a nervous wreck and I’m still very grateful for her trying to calm me down and to encourage me.
Even though it was a good idea, it didn’t help at all. But at one point I had to put an end to my perfect task of procrastination and finally talk to the family.
This meeting with my friends at the park helped me a lot to ease my mind that day and also reminded me that no matter what happens with the family, I have a bunch of good friends behind me who would always try their best to help me the best they can.

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Let’s have a picnic!

After I told the family I would leave, I tried to spent as much time as possible outside the house on the weekends. On the 8th October we then made plans to go to Brent Cross, a big shopping center in the North of London. We just asked in our, now very big, Whatsapp Group of Au Pairs around our area, who wants to join us.
In the end it was just Amelie, Kathi and I who took the bus at 1pm at Tally Ho Corner and went on our way there. Because of problems with an oyster card it took us a bit longer then usually and we finally arrived at 2.15pm. After we strolled around for a bit, we met with another Au Pair from the group we haven’t met yet; Ellinor.
We just went through all the shops we wanted to see and finally I was able to visit a Hollister shop and even bought my first piece of Hollister there.
Because I once again had to babysit, we went home at 4.30pm. But not without a small lunch snack from the Food Court of the Center. For the way home we used the tube, which was way easier and cost the same.

Even though I made a lot more friends during my time here, Amelie, Marieke, Farina and Kathi are the ones I’ve spent most of my time with. But not only did they spent time with me, they also helped me a lot during my rematch time. Kathi lend me her hand luggage suitcase so I could leave it with my things at Amelie’s place and Farina always told me about families who are looking for an Au Pair.

You always need friends in your life, but even more so when you’re away from all your other friends and your family. The question is just how you can see who is your friend and who is just an acquaintance. For me it was clear when I had to change and they all tried to help me. I see myself quite lucky that I’ve found friends like these here! Hopefully we’ll be able to stay in contact, now that I’m living on the other side of central London.

Thank you guys! I don’t know what I would have done without you!

Vicky! Xx

 

Where has the time gone…?

Hey guys, I’m finally back with a normal Blog post. The last five Blog posts were all about my time in Ireland. But since we’ve been to Ireland from the 20th to 27th of August, I’ve been back here in London for three weeks now and it’s been nearly two month since I started my year. I can tell you, time flies!

But first of all I want to try to catch up with all that has happened the last few weeks.

You already know that we came back on Saturday, 27th August. On Sunday, 28th August I had my usual day off and since I’ve missed out on a whole week here in London I made plans to meet Maja again, the one Au Pair I went to see in Brixton the Thursday before we left for Ireland.

At 2.45pm I took the Tube to Warren Street, where I then met Maja. Together we walked down Tottenham Court Road until we came upon Oxford Street. We then just strolled around Oxford Street and went in a few shops, but never actually bought something. Until we came across a new pop up store, where we were able to buy clothes of good quality to a bargain price.

Later that day we sat down in a small Caffé Nero and started to plan the next day. At 6.45pm we said goodbye for the day, knowing that we’re going to see each other again the following day, and went home.

Since Monday, 29th August was a bank holiday here in England, I had another day off. At 11am I went to catch the tube, because Maja and I wanted to visit the Notting Hill Carnival.
At my tube station I first met Amelie. She is an Au Pair, too and lives on the other side of the Tube station, thus in the same part of London. Since our host families know each other, our host moms made us come in contact. Maja and I asked her to accompany us, so she would get to know some Au Pairs here.

At 11.30am Amelie and I left Woodside Park and drove to Euston, where we met Maja and took the tube to Notting Hill Gate. When we left the Tube station we were already in the middle of the Carnival, but decided to go further into Notting Hill. After we bought us each a flower crown we found ourselves a spot on the sidewalk of Westbourne Grove, where we watched two parts of the Notting Hill Carnival Parade.
The Parade reminds of the original Carnival in Rio. There is lots of music, colourful and fancy dresses and everyone is dancing.

After we saw the short part of the Parade we went to get something to eat and then went on. The food at the Carnival is really good. There are lots of booths which offer grilled corn cobs and lots of different grilled meats. Other booths offer a big variety of cocktails, fruit punches and other drinks.
Even though the alcohol consumption reminded me of a german carnival, we stayed completely sober.

We walked down the complete Portobello Road and went back to where we bought our lunch earlier that day. After we were stuck in the big crowds more than one time we decided to go back to the Tube station via a side street.

The Notting Hill Carnival is not that bad, there is lots of music and the people there are all in such a good mood. But the only thing is that there are just too many people. If anything would happen, there would be no chance for the police to keep control of the situation.
After I went there I have to say that it’s nice to go there to have seen it once, but I wouldn’t go there a second time.

The next few days were really nice. Since N. has been off devices, we actually had the chance to bond. Not only could I show him how to do Origami, but he also started drawing a lot and we baked some Rocky Roads together.

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N. and my Rocky Road masterpieces!

On Wednesday I received the first letter of my pen pal from Trier. It was really nice to read those few lines from home. Because I had some free hours that day I decided to answer her directly and send a birthday postcard to my mum’s best friend (Happy belated Birthday! 🎉).

Since Amelie’s Au pair girl and N. had been in the same class up until this year, because S. changed the school, we organised a playdate for Friday. We met at 11am and went to the park near our home, where the kids played a bit tennis. When we were back at the house at 12.30pm, Amelie and I started to prepare lunch: Pancakes, or rather Crêpes, while S. and N. tried to do some Origami.
After Lunch Amelie and S. went back home and N. and I drew a bit for the rest of the day.

Normally I’m off work on the weekends, but my host parents asked me to babysit on saturday night, so I had only half the day off. Therefore I just spent some time with Amelie on the High Road of North Finchley and we went down to Finchley Central.
On our way to Finchley Central we visited the Victoria Park, which is a really nice park.
When I was back home the boys and I had a nice self made Pizza for dinner.

On Sunday Maja came to North Finchley to see where Amelie and I live. After we showed her our rather small High Road, we took the bus and drove to Muswell Hill. We arranged to meet other Au Pairs here, since Muswell Hill is in the middle between North Finchley and Crouch End, where the other girls live.
It all started with a small group, but in the end we were eight girls. Because of this rather large group we decided to just sit down in a Café and talk a bit to get to know each other. Even though we were seven german girls we had to speak english so the one swedish girl was able to understand us.
At 5.30pm Amelie and I went back home and left the other girls to mingle for a bit longer.

The next week started with a rather relaxed monday, because both boys could stay at home the whole day. But on Tuesday the chaos began. N. had to be at Rugby practice for 9.45am till 3pm, while S. was free until he had to go to a school event at 4pm.
Wednesday got even more confusing, not for N. but for S. It started with a birthday party at 11am, from there he went to school for training and I had collect him there at 5pm and bring him directly to his tennis practice. N.’s plan for the day was quite easy since he had Rugby from 9.45am to 3pm again. But mixing them both together was very interesting and gave me a preview on how it’s going to be as soon as the boys start school again.

With Thursday the day has finally arrived. The boys are back to school. To make it easier for me, my host mother stayed home from work the first two mornings to show me everything.

I have to be downstairs around 6.45-6.50am every morning to prepare breakfast. At 7.40am we would leave the house and I drop off the boys at their now different schools, because S. starts senior school this year. I then drive back home and have free time until I have collect the boys again. Although I should do my part of the house work during these few hours so I can concentrate on the boys when they’re back from school.

Not only  did the boys had their first school day on Thursday but I had to mind them in the evening, too. The good thing is that they’re quite old already so I just have to sent them to bed and watch that they turn off their lights and that’s it. The only downside is that they are allowed to stay up later now, so I get to bed later, too.

In return for working late on Thursday night I got more free time on friday and the complete afternoon and evening off. I just had to bring S. to school, since N. had to be there an hour earlier. When I came back I ironed quickly and were off till 3.30pm when I had to collect N. and his friend. But again my host mum drove to show me a few things around the school. Back at home I was free and could do what I want.

On Saturday I met Amelie again and after she spent a bit of time at my home we catched a bus to Muswell Hill again. Since we didn’t really had the time to explore the shops there last Sunday we wanted to come back. I showed her my two favourite shops there: Art for Art’s Sake and Oliver Bonas. We then went to a Oxfam Bookstore, where we were able to buy some really good books for a few pounds only. After a small lunch break we took another bus to drive to High Barnet.

Normally High Barnet is just two more stops with the Northern Line from our Tube Station, but the Northern Line didn’t work between High Barnet and Archway on Saturday and Sunday.
In High Barnet we went along the High Road and visited a lot of Secondhand shops. They are really great to get books for less money. The last shop we went into was a sweets store which had a big range of baking supplies.

At 6.20pm I took the bus back home, while Amelie met another Au Pair. I would have liked to stay with them, but at 7pm that night the Last Night of the Proms started at the Royal Albert Hall and I wanted to watch the live TV coverage. With 15 minutes to show begin I was even able to cook a pizza for the perfect TV night. The live TV broadcast in Germany only covered the second part of the Proms. But I then called my mum and we commented the Proms watching it from two different countries.

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Watching the Last Night of the Proms

On Sunday, 11th September, we had a small Au Pair meet up from the smartaupairs agency. It started at 11.30am in the Starbucks on Oxford Street. At 11.20am we were already 29 people and there were more and more coming. In the end we must have been over 40 people and we blocked nearly the whole second floor. After everyone introduced himself we got together into smaller groups where we tried to get to know each other a bit better. My group consisted of four german girls (me included) and one from Netherlands and Sweden each. We went down Oxford Street to Bond Station from there we separated and everyone went their own way, but before we exchanged numbers so we could stay in contact and meet again.

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I feel quite happy that I got to meet those really nice girls!

I went back to Starbucks, because Amelie was still there with a group of german girls. We stayed there for a bit more and talked about the places we come from in Germany and it turned out that one of the girls just lives in the neighbour city of Trier. At 3pm we went on Oxford Street and visited several stores. Afterwards we went to McDonald’s for a small dinner and at 7.45pm I was back home.
It was really nice to meet so many Au Pairs and get the chance to exchange numbers to stay in contact. Hopefully we can see each other again.

I’ll tell you about the following week in my next post.
Thank you for reading and following my blog so far.

See you next time

Vicky xx

There are only two kinds of people in the world, the Irish and those who wish they were! 🍀

Okay folks, let’s face it…After my week in Ireland I got to know the Irish people a bit and I wish I could be a bit Irish. No matter what, they always seem to have their fun and are so friendly, welcoming people.

But before we went back to London we had another stop planned. So we left Tralee at 10am on Friday morning to drive to Kilkenny. After we had arrived we went for a small lunch and then my family and I went separate ways until 5.30pm. They went to visit part of their family, while I got free time to once again explore the city as every tourist would.

So at 2.20pm I started my way and tried to find the Tourist Information Office first so I would get access to a city map. The Kilkenny Tourist Information Office is really nice, not only do they provide a lot of free information about Kilkenny, but also about Ireland in general.
After I found two really good Guide Maps about Kilkenny, I sat down and planned a route through the city so I could see as much as possible in the short time.

The Tourist Information Office is inside the Shee Alms House on Rose Inn Street. It was founded in 1582 by Sir Richard Shee and is one of the few remaining Tudor Alms houses in Ireland. Their purpose was to take care of the poor providing bed and board of work. Since 1978 it is in possession of the Kilkenny Corporation.

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The Tourist Information Office inside Shee Alms House

From the Rose Inn Street I turned on the High Street, where I went to see the Bookcentre, the Sweater shop and the Market Cross Shopping Centre. Opposite the Shopping centre is the Tholsel Town Hall. After its construction in 1761 it served as custom house, guildhall, courthouse and is now the seat of the local government and tax collection. Its name comes from the old English words ‘toll‘ (tax) and ‘sael‘ (hall). Especially busking musicians and street art exhibitor favor this place.

I then turned onto Jame’s Street to visit St Mary’s Cathedral, which was built between 1843 and 1857 by William Deane Butler based on the design of Gloucester Cathedral. The 186-feet cut-limestone structure has not only a massive Gothic façade, but also an Italian marble high altar, relics of St Cosmos and St Damien and Benzoni’s statue of Our Lady to show off.

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St Mary’s Cathedral

The next stop should have been the Black Abbey, but I get lost on my way there. When I ended up on the Dean Street I had to walk back over a small bridge to come to The Black Abbey. It features a tower and some magnificent windows dating back from its original structure. In 1225 Sir William Marshall (Earl of Pembroke) founded the Abbey for the Dominican Friars, in the mid 19th century it became a place of public worship.

Following the small Abbey Street I came to stand in front of the Black Freren Gate (also known as Black Friar’s Gate) and it is the sole existing relic of the entrance gates to the medieval city’s Hightown.

After I’ve seen the Gate and the Abbey I went back the same way on to Dean Street again. On Dean Street are two small ways leading to St. Canice’s Cathedral and the Round Tower. The 9th century tower can be climbed and offers the best view of the city. The Cathedral was built in the 13th century on a christian worship site of the 6th century led by St Canice.

Being at the northern end of the town I went on Parliament Street, which leads back into the town centre. On Parliament Street is the Rothe House, a 17th century merchant’s townhouse. Built in 1594 by John Rothe it consists of three houses with courtyards.

Getting back to the town centre Parliament Street splits into two Streets: the High Street and St.Kieran Street. As I’ve been on the High Street already I choose St. Kieran Street, but went back on to High Street through the dark and narrow walkway ‘Butter Slip‘. With its arched entry and stone steps it is the most picturesque of Kilkenny’s narrow medieval corridors. Built in 1616 it once was a market location for the butter vendor stalls.

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The Butter Slip

At the end of the High Street I turned back onto Rose Inn Street, went over the John’s Bridge and followed Patrick Street to St. John’s Priory. The ruin was built in the 13th century by the Augustinians. Under the rule of Henry VIII in the mid 15th century it was handed over to the state and the Augustinians, who remained there until then, had to leave.

By then we had already 4pm and I had only 1,5 hours left, so I decided to go back to the other side of the River Nore and finally visit Kilkenny Castle. At the end of John’s Bridge I turned onto Kilkenny Way, which leads onto the Canal walk and to steps up to the Castle Grounds. The Kilkenny Castle Grounds are quite big and with the big patches of grass it is the perfect relaxing and picnic area in Kilkenny. Especially on a warm and sunny day you can find a lot of people sitting there and enjoying the nature and sun.

Walking around the Castle I came to the Castle Garden in front of the Castle. The Garden looks really nice and neat and gives the Castle the Castle-flare. The Kilkenny Castle itself was built in the 12th century for William Marshall and remodeled in Victorian times. It was the principal seat of the Butler family, Marquesses and Dukes of Ormond.

Across the Street of the Main Entrance to Kilkenny Castle is the Kilkenny Castle Yard and the National Craft Gallery. Being the stables of the castle, the unique complex of stone buildings in a courtyard setting was built in 1790. Since 1960’s it houses a centre of creativity and design. Ireland’s leading centre for contemporary craft and design is also placed in the buildings of Kilkenny Castle Yard. It’s the National Craft Gallery, which was established in 2000 by the Crafts Council of Ireland.

As it was already 5.15pm the family picked me up outside of Kilkenny Castle and we then went to an airbnb between New Cross and Rosslare for the last night in Ireland. The airbnb was actually a nice cottage which had a lot of rooms so everyone got their own room.
On our way there we tried to find a restaurant or something were we could pick up some food in New Ross. The only thing we found was a Lidl so we just bought some frozen Pizza we could bake at the cottage.
Knowing that we have to get up quite early the next morning I decided not to go to bed too late.

The next morning we tried to leave at 7am, because we had to be in Rosslare for the ferry at 8am and the ferry would leave at 9am. This time it left on time. While we were on the ferry we first ate breakfast and after that just relaxed for a bit.

At 11.30am I just needed to take a walk. I knew that I would be sitting in the car again soon enough, so better walk around as long as you can. So I went outside on the top deck where they actually have a walking route ‘Take The Salt Air‘. You just need to follow the directional arrows around the deck. 4 of those laps are 1 km and 6 laps are 1 mile. At first I wanted to just walk 1 km, but as I finished the 4 laps I just decided to do more and soon I walked one mile around the deck in 15 minutes. For some laps I chose to walk quite fast, other times I just walked quite slowly and breathed in the sea air.

After I finished the sixth lap I decided to walk one more really slowly and enjoy the fresh air and the nice few. I then stopped at a good viewing point, face held into the sun, just standing there for another 15 minutes until I went back to the others.

At 12.30 we had arrived at Fishguard Port in Wales. When we were off the ferry we finally made our way back home to London. We stopped once for a small toilet and lunch break and then went off again, so we arrived London at 6pm. After we emptied the car and put everything away I was finally off for the rest of the weekend.

Ireland was really nice and I definitely want to go back there, but I was also quite happy to be back in London where I have my room again. I was also looking forward to having a break of the family. They are really nice and I’m really thankful that they invited me to come with them, but after spending one week cramped together we all needed some space.

Thanks to writing the blog I could relive all the nice things I was able to do in Ireland.  But hopefully I can go back there one day. Even though I was able to fit in a lot of sightseeing stuff in the small time I’ve only been there, I missed out on a lot of things.

Sadly, Ireland is over. I had lots of fun being in Ireland and later on writing about it. But We’ve been back for 3 weeks now and lots of stuff had happened during that time, too. I’ll tell you all about it next time.

Goodbye Ireland! 😢🍀

Vicky xx

Für alle Trierer, ich habe die irische Variante der Bimmelbahn in Kilkenny gefunden!!!

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The irish version of Triers Bimmelbahn

The Rose of Tralee

After two wonderful days in Dublin, we had to say good bye.

I really loved the time in Dublin. Not only because of Kevin, but also because the family really welcomed me in their home.
It was quite hard to say goodbye. D. even got a small present for me.
But saying good bye to Trixie was the hardest. I really fell in love with her and I was told that she also trusted me easily. Normally she would take longer to feel at ease with someone new, but she stayed with me just after one day already. It could have also been because I rubbed her without a break. But let’s just pretend it was because she’s half german and I’m german! 😉

At 11am we hit the road to TraleeCo. Kerry. My host mother (Sh.) is from Kerry and her father lives in Tralee.
At 1pm we stopped for lunch in Adare.
After lunch we went for a small walk through Adare and the park. It is a nice small town and is quite famous for their cottages with the thatched roofs.

Around 3pm we got going again and finally arrived at 4.15pm at the house of my host mothers father. I then had time till 6.30pm to walk around for a bit or just relax in my room. But at 6.30pm we went to Sh.’s sister in law for dinner. She is married to Sh.’s oldest brother, but he was in italy during that time.
Dinner was really nice, but I was quite happy when we were back at 10.15pm so I could finally go to sleep.

The next morning started nice and slowly. At 12.15pm we went to collect the boys cousin and then drove to the beach. They played around at the beach and waited till the others would arrive. Sh. brother has triplets, one boy and two girls. We only picked up the boy, since the girls were at a friend’s house. So at around 1.30pm the girls arrived with their mother.

The Magherabeg beach in Castlegregory is really nice. They even got two attraction booth, which offered canoe, paddle boat and trampolines on the water.  To keep the boys and girls occupied, the parents booked first paddleboat and then a water trampoline for them. When they came back we had a nice picnic at the beach.

Afterwards we left the beach and the boys went with their cousins. My host parents and I went back home, where we arrived around 5pm. Once again I had time to relax until we had dinner at 7pm. This time everyone came to the grandfather’s house to enjoy dinner.

At 9.45pm my day ended.

Thursday morning started quite late again. After breakfast and a short briefing of the area I started my way to the Tralee Town Center at 12pm.
Even though Tralee is really small, I actually managed to get lost, but you can always ask for the way and they will be glad to help you. At 12.30pm I finally found my way into the town center.

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Welcome to Tralee – Streetsign

The biggest attraction there must be Penny’s (Irish version of Primark), no just kidding. But really the town is so much smaller than Oxford, but got a bigger Primark/Penny’s. But they’ve also got a Vero Moda (the first one I’ve been into since I left Germany) and a United Colours of Bennetton Store.
After I checked out the shopping qualities of Tralee, I stopped at Costa’s for a little Coffee break.

At 5pm I finally started the tourism part of the day and went to the Tralee Town Park. A must see for every park lover. The park is, compared to the town quite big and has a few attractions inside. There is, for example the Siamsa Tíre, which is a folklore theatre.
The Ashe Memorial Hall, which houses the Kerry County Museum and the Tourist Office, is at the end of Denny Street and is surrounded by the park.

Until the Tralee Urban District Council purchased the park in 1922 it was part of the private estate of the Denny family. In 1986 the Rose Garden was developed and now contains over 600 rose bushes of different varieties. The most noteworthy must be the Rose of Tralee, a hybrid tea rose developed by Sam McGready of Portadown, Co. Armagh and was presented in 1965. Some of the roses were presented as gifts to the park. Among those are the Goldstein roses, presented to Tralee by its German partner town of Frankfurt-Höchst in 2012. Other varieties include Samaritan presented by the Irish Samaritans, Diana Princess of Wales and the modern floribunda rose: Rhapsody in Blue.

In the middle of the Rose Garden is a life-size bronze sculpture of the poet and composer William Pembroke Mulchinock and his sweetheart, Mary O’Connor, the original Rose of Tralee. William is presenting Mary with a rose as a sign of his everlasting Love for her. The Sculpture was sculpted by the famous Irish sculptor Jeanne Rynhart (other works include Molly Malone, Dublin and Annie Moore on Ellis Island, NY) and the figures were cast by Séamus Connolly at his foundry in Kilbaha, Co. Clare.

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The Rose of Tralee sculpture in the Rose Garden

To mark the Golden Jubilee of the festival the sculpture was unveiled in 2009. In 2013 the glass Rose Wall of Honour was designed and erected by Tralee Town Council to salute all those honoured on this wall as Rose Finalists and all those who have worked tirelessly over the years in Tralee, Ireland and overseas to make the festival the international success that it has become since 1959. It was officially unveiled on the 15th of August to contribute to the Gathering 2013 celebrations.

The Festival itself has its very own history. It is based on the song The Rose of Tralee, composed by William Pembroke Mulchinock (1820-64), who fell in love with the beautiful Mary O’Connor. Because of the difference in social class, their relationship was discouraged by Williams family and he was sent to India. When he returned some years later he found that Mary had died. He was heart-broken and expressed his love for her in the song The Rose of Tralee.

It all started with the Tralee Carnival of 1958, which also included the selection of a Carnival Queen. A group of local business people were inspired and organised a new and expanded version of the Carnival based on the Mulchinock ballad. Based on personality rather than good looks, young women of Kerry and later Irish heritage would be selected as the International Rose of Tralee for that year and would become an ambassador for Tralee, County Kerry and Ireland.

The opening Rose of Tralee International Festival in 1959 was a resounding success with Alice O’Sullivan from Dublin becoming the first Rose. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Rose Centres were established in Ireland, Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Centres in Europe, the Middle East and Far East were later added, wherever Irish people had settled. There are currently over 70 Rose of Tralee Centres worldwide. Through this annual celebration, the Rose of Tralee International Festival continues to connect the Global Irish Community at home and abroad.

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The official ‘Rose of Tralee’ sign

In 1967 the Rose Selection was broadcasted on live television for the first time by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) from a stage erected outside the Ashe Memorial Hall in Denny Street. Later on it took place in the Rose Dome – a large tent – to accommodate the growing numbers wishing to attend the selection event. The Dome will be set up every year just for the festival. The Rose selection is one of the most watched live entertainment events on Irish television.

The selection of the winning Rose is the centerpiece of the 5 day festival. It will take place each year in mid August with parades, concerts, free street entertainment, horse and greyhound racing, air shows, firework displays, children’s amusements and Fossett’s Circus. With so much going on it remains Ireland’s main festival, attracting thousands of visitors each year. You can find all the news about the Roses, their Escorts and the Festival Timetable on the website, here.

This years Rose of Tralee International Festival took place from the 17th to 23rd of August. So our first night in Tralee was the last night of the Festival. Not only did it end with the selection of the Rose of Tralee, but also with a firework display. The fun fair, which was on a place near the park, stayed for a bit longer and I was able to see it while I was in the Town Center two days after the end of the Festival.

The Rose Garden is really nice and has more sculptures than only the Rose of Tralee sculpture. But the Rose Garden is not the only Garden inside the park. There is also the Garden of the Senses right next to the Rose Garden. It was designed to appeal to the five senses and was inspired by Soroptimist International Tralee and District in 2000. There are four sculptures to represent a sense:

  1. Sight: Standing Stone
    The Stone is aligned with Queen Scotia’s Glen on Sliabb Mis Mountain and looks back to a mythical time when the Milesians defeated the great Tuatha de Danann and Scotia’s son Amergin named the island ‘Eire’.

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    First Sense – Sight: Standing Stone

  2. Taste: Gauldron of the Dagda
    In ancient Ireland. The Dagda (the Great God) possessed one of the four treasures of the Tuatha de Danann, a vessel of endless beauty ‘from which none returned unfulfilled’. This sculpture features a drinking fountain.

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    Second Sense – Taste: Gauldron of the Dagda

  3. Touch: Henge
    A modern, rhythmic and tactile response in stone to an important neolithic settlement site discovered at Ballycarty, outside Tralee in June 1996.

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    Third Sense – Touch: Henge

  4. Sound: Horns of Clogherclemin
    A hoard of bronze age horns was found in a bog at Clogherclemin, Tralee in 1875. This interactive sculpture pays tribute to the craftsmanship of the ancient Irish.

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Fourth Sense – Sound: Horns of Clogherclemin

After I went through the Garden of the Senses and the Rose Garden, I went through the Park itself and left it through the main entrance to come back on Denny Street. From there I made my way back home at 5.45pm.

Because my host parents went out for dinner and the boys stayed at their cousins house, I was all on my own and used the free time to pack all my stuff.

The next day we would drive to the last stop and then would start the trip back home.
The time in Tralee was really nice, too. But you just can’t compare it to Dublin. Even though it has its own charme.

Only one day left in Ireland.

Vicky xx