New Year – New Friends?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Walking around Winter Wonderland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Vicky!! Xx

24th December: Merry Christmas everyone! – UPDATED!

Merry Christmas!

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

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

See you after Christmas.
Love,
Vicky! Xx

UPDATE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Vicky! Xx

17th December: Surprise! Surprise!

There is nothing better than going back for a weekend to see your family once again.
So I started to plan a short weekend trip back home. After I’ve been away for nearly 4 1/2 months already, it was about time. You may wonder why I didn’t just go home over christmas, but rather just for a short weekend before. That’s because I never planned to go back home for Christmas. My plans just recently changed, as I don’t have a place to go over Christmas.

With Friday 9th December the day I’ve waited so impatiently for had finally arrived. The best thing about the plan was that just a few people knew about them and my mother and sister weren’t a part of them. Therefore I was even more excited and hoped that everything will work out and it will be a big surprise.

At 6.50pm my flight was leaving at Stansted Airport. Since the Airport is up in the northern outskirts of London and I’m living in South-West London by now, I had to go on a long journey through London. Luckily I only had to work in the morning and my host mum could give me the afternoon off, as her mum was there to visit. At 3.30pm I left the house and started at Parsons Green Tube Station. After I changed to the Victoria Line at Victoria Station, I arrived at the Stansted Express Station at Tottenham Hale Station just an hour later.

Just a few minutes later the Stansted Express arrived an I started the 40 minutes drive to Stansted Airport. At the beginning the Train was so full there was no place to sit, but after the first stopover a few people left and I could sit down.
When I arrived at the airport I went to the Back-Drop since I brought my suitcase with me to carry all the Christmas presents I’ve bought.

After I went through the Security Check I still had a bit time to spare and went to buy myself a dinner. The most expensive dinner in my life!
When it was 6pm I got on my way to the Gate which felt like it’s at the complete other end of the airport. At 6.25pm I was already in the airplane and we could depart right on time. I’m happy that everything went so smoothly.

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Boarding the Plane…

But that soon changed when we arrived at Luxembourg Airport at 9.05pm (GER- Time). After 15 long minutes I finally could leave the airplane. It took so long, because I was seated in the last row and had to wait until everyone else had left the airplane. Entering the airport I had to queue up behind everyone else who just arrived from London, since we had to go through border control. As Luxembourg Airport is a small airport they only have three counter and I had to wait for another 20 minutes.

At 9.45pm I finally could leave the airport and meet Max in the parking lot, who would bring me home.
Max had told my mum that he would come around later that night, because he had to bring her something. So when we got there we left my suitcase in the car to avoid unnecessary sounds who would give us away. Max went first and I waited at the lower level until he was inside the flat. After he announced a surprise I also entered the flat to be greeted with wide eyes full of surprise!

My mum and sister were so shocked, they needed a few seconds to comprehend what was going on and after that there was no stopping anymore. My sister wouldn’t stop crying and wouldn’t let go of my either. After a few minutes everything quieted down a bit and I could finally explain everything.

Max soon left again to give us a bit of time together and to let me settle in. Later that night, when everyone was in bed, my mum went back into my room. She wanted to check if I’m still there, because she was afraid that everything was just a dream.

The next day we all had breakfast together and got ready to go to the city. But before we could leave I went to my grandparents flat (the one beneath our flat) to say hello to them too. I’ve never seen my grandmother this speechless. She also had problems coming to term with the fact that I’m back in Trier for a weekend.

Around 11.30am we finally went to the city. When we arrived in the city with the Park and Ride Service, we first went to see the Christmas Market. Normally I don’t really like going over the christmas market, since it’s always too crowded and there are the same booths every year. But this year it was different.
Christmas Markets aren’t that popular in England and therefore you can’t really see one. So I wanted to go and see the one in Trier, because otherwise I would miss out on something that is just a Christmas tradition for me.

From the Christmas Market I dragged my family to the Porta Nigra where the Trier Christmas Tree is located and convinced them to take a nice family picture. I wanted to have a more recent picture for my room in London.

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My lovely family reunited 🙂

Afterwards we went to the shopping center where I visited a good friend of mine. Because she had to work we just had time for a quick chat.
Outside of the store I then met my best friend. I was really looking forward to seeing her again as I’ve missed her so much! Together we went to the store were I had worked two Christmases ago and I bought a nice little Birthday present for my host mum.

Around 3.30pm I had to say goodbye to Wanda and we went home. Because I was invited to a christmas party that night I had to get ready soon after we came home.
I hoped to surprise someone else that night at the christmas party, but when I arrived at 6pm he already knew that I was coming. I still would like to know how he knew I was coming, but he just won’t tell me.

Since we had such a good time, we stayed until 1.30am, when we were asked to leave. As the others got hungry again they wanted to go to a kebab house. I then tagged along as my neighbour was with them and I rather walk home with him later, than all on my own.
I made the right decision, because he decided to call us a taxi to get home.
At 2.30am I was finally at home and could go to sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a long day again.

On Sunday morning I slept a bit longer and started the day slowly.
Since it was my last day with my family and my mum already bought the Christmas Tree, I took the chance and we all decorated the tree together.
When we finished my grandparents came to visit us and my grandfather and I sorted out my flight tickets so I could come home over Christmas.

As I’ve mentioned above I originally didn’t plan on coming home, but rather stay in England to celebrate an English Christmas. But my host family is going to be in the Netherlands for Christmas and our family friends have no room, as all of their children are coming home.
Since I just got the news on Friday before I left, I talked with my family about my options. My grandfather then directly offered to fly me home, which was the best solution.

Around 5pm I went to my neighbour and played a bit with his daughters that I’d missed so much. After an hour I had to say goodbye and go back home, because dinner was ready and I still needed to pack my suitcase.
After a nice Raclette for dinner my mum helped me to pack everything – actually she packed everything and I just told her what has to go in the suitcase…
Thank you Mummy! ☺️
At 7.30pm Max came to get time, as he would be the one to bring me back to the airport.

An hour later I was already at the Gate waiting for boarding to start. Even though everything went smoothly and the pilot announced that we may leave earlier, we started at the original time at 9.50pm. This flight was really good, especially because I had a seat in the first row next to the window and therefore freedom of leg movement and a nice view!

It seems like the flight went by in a flash, as we arrived at 9.50pm (UK – Time) in London, instead of the estimated arrival time at 10.15pm. This time I was one of the first to leave the plane and the border control was also quicker, since it’s all technical there and they have so many counters. At 10.10pm I had my suitcase and 5 minutes later I was in the bus.
Sadly the Stansted Express wasn’t operating that Sunday and I had to take the Rail Replacement Bus instead. That would mean that the journey home will take even longer. But once again luck was on my side and we arrived at Liverpool Street Station at 11.15pm already.

From there I started the last leg of my Journey home. I took the Central Line to Notting Hill Gate, where I then got the last District Line of the day. I don’t want to think about what I would’ve done if I would’ve been too late. Everything worked out perfectly and I arrived at 12.15pm at home.
But I wasn’t finished yet. I had to carry my suitcase all the way up to the 2nd floor. Because that alone would have been too easy, I had to walk past the children and the parents without waking them up, as they were already asleep.
At 12.30pm I was finally in bed and could sleep, as I had to get up at 6.45am the next morning.

I want to thank Max for making this weekend possible for me! Not only did he drove me home and back to the airport, but he actually paid for everything!
Even though I’m soon back in Trier, this weekend was really nice and I’m grateful that you gave me the opportunity to do this.
And the biggest thank you for helping me to surprise my family like this!
I owe you! 💙

Love,
Vicky! Xx

14th December: On the move again

When you’ve read the ‘On the move’- Post, you should know what todays post is about.
The last post finished off, when I arrived in Lincolnshire. This time I’m going to tell you all about my journey back and all the moving around in London until I finally settled.

After I arrived in Lincolnshire on the 22nd October and spent 3 weeks there, it was time for me to leave again. On the 14th November I packed all my things and went on my trip back to London. Around 12.50pm it was time to say goodbye to Andrews family so he could bring me to the bus stop, where we arrived at 1.15pm, 15 minutes too early.

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Travelling back to London with “light” luggage

At 1.30pm it was time to say goodbye to Andrew too and get on the bus. It was weird to say goodbye to him, after I’ve lived with his family for such a long time, but it was time for me to go back to my life as an Au Pair.
Around 2.55pm we arrived at the East Midlands Parkway Station. Since I got a MegaBus+ ticket back to London, I once again had to take Bus and Train, but this time the other way around.

Because the bus wasn’t supposed to arrive until 3.20pm, we had to wait for quite a while and take the Train at 3.45pm. After waiting I was finally on the last leg of the journey – or not. When I arrived at the East Midlands Train Station in St. Pancras Station at 5.20pm, I had to walk to King’s Cross Station to take the Piccadilly Line up to Oakwood. On my way to the Tube Station I couldn’t help but take a picture from the place outside of the station. I’m finally back in London!

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Finally back in busy London!

Sadly I arrived during the busiest hours in London and not only was the Tube too full, but I also had to pay the more expensive price for the tube, as I was travelling during the peak time. Luckily there was a nice guy in the tube who helped me with my suitcase and helped me get on the tube.

At the Oakwood Tube Station my temporary host parents came to collect me. As I couldn’t stay with my new host family before the 29th November, I looked for a ‘gap family’ for the time being. Luckily I was able to find a family who decided to host me until I could move to my new family. After they picked me up at 6pm, they brought me home and showed me a few things in the house and I got to know their little girl, I was helping to look after.

The time with the gap family was quite good, but I was happy that my new family was a different one, as I can’t imagine living there for a whole year. Nonetheless I’m grateful that they took me in and even paid me for looking after their daughter.

However on the 29th November it was time for me to say goodbye to them too and get on my way to my hopefully last stop. After I finished packing everything, my host father brought me to the Tube Station and at 10.01am I could start the 1 hour journey to my new family. First I had to take the Piccadilly line from Oakwood to Earl’s Court (47 minutes) and then change to the District Line to Wimbledon. Because I  was loaded with different bags and my suitcase, I had to take two different lifts to get to the right platform.

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On the way

The second part of the Journey was just a 5 minute ride and I then had to walk to my new family’s house, where I arrived at 11.15am. After my host mother showed me around, she gave me some time to get settled. Since I didn’t have all my stuff, I was soon finished and talked to her about the plans for the week so I know when I could visit Amelie to get all my things.

Just two days later, on the 1st December, I was able to go and visit Amelie. When I left here at 11am, I took my empty suitcase with me, so I could pack it later with a few of my things. At 12.05pm I arrived at the Woodside Park Tube Station and then had to walk another 15 minutes to Amelie’s place. When I was finally there I started to unpack the big box I’d stored there and repacked everything in my and Amelie’s suitcase that she lent me. Thank god I was able to get everything inside the two suitcases and my little backpack.

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My two best Buddys

At 1.45pm I was ready to go and Amelie walked with me to the Tube Station so everyone just had to carry one suitcase, but it still took us 30 minutes instead of the normal 15 minutes. When we arrived we had to say goodbye and I had to get on the Tube on my own with the two suitcases. The Journey home was quite interesting and exhausting. Both Embankment Station and my final Tube Station don’t have any lifts so I had to carry the suitcases from one platform to another and when I arrived at Parson’s Green Station I had to carry them down to the Stations exit. Luckily a man helped me at Embankment Station to get from one platform to another, but at Parson’s Green no one stopped in their rush to help me.

Fortunately my host mum was able to collect me from the Tube Station so I didn’t had to walk home, but sadly I still had to carry them up to my room, which wasn’t all too easy.
After I unpacked everything the following days, I had to bring Amelie her suitcase back and collect my box I left with her. So I once again got on my way back to North Finchley. On Wednesday, 7th December, I arrived at Woodside Park Station around 12.50pm. Since Amelie had language school that day, I waited for her at the Tube Station and we then walked together to her place. We quickly swapped suitcase for box and I went back to the Station again.

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Look who’s sitting next to me!

If you saw a girl walking over Oxford Street with a big empty box under her arm, chances are that you saw me. Because I had to buy one more Christmas present, I stopped at Tottenham Court Road and went on Oxford Street to buy everything I need and since I walked by a Lloyds bank, I went inside to change my accounts address. No matter where I went, people looked weirdly at me and especially the cashiers asked questions or just commented my nice box. But when I said that I’m moving in London they all just had a look of sympathy on their face.

Around 3pm I was finally finished and could take the Tube home.
That was all my moving around and hopefully I won’t have to do the whole ordeal once more. It has been quite exhausting and I’m happy that I now got all my things back.

The weird girl walking around London with suitcases and empty boxes! 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

9th December: Uphill and Downhill

Lincoln is the county Town of Lincolnshire and a cathedral city. The first Iron Age settlement developed into the roman town of Lindum Colonia and from there to the city of today.

After I’ve arrived the day before, Andrew and I went to Lincoln on Sunday, 23th October, so he can show me the historic city.
There is a lot to see in Lincoln, including the English gothic Cathedral, the Bishop’s Palace and the Medieval Castle.

When we arrived at 11am, we first went to see the Lincoln Cathedral, otherwise also known as the “Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lincoln”.
The Cathedral first has been completed in 1092, but had to be rebuilt two times after a fire and then after an earthquake in 1185. With each rebuilding it had been enlarged to the East and after the last rebuilding the crossing tower was with his 160m the highest in the world for about 238 years (1311-1549). But the Central spire collapsed in 1549 and hasn’t been rebuilt.

With the Cathedral being the seat of the Anglican bishop, the diocese Lincoln is the largest in England.
In the late 12th Century the Bishop’s Palace has been built by Hugh of Lincoln and was used as the administrative Center.
The East Hall of the Palace ranged over a vaulted under-croft and is because of that the earliest surviving example of roofed domestic halls. The Chapel range and Entrance Tower were built by Bishop William of Alnwisk, when he modernised the place in the 1430s.
Sadly we couldn’t see as much of it anymore since it has been sacked by royalist troops in the civil war of 1648.

I still enjoyed walking through the ruins of the Palace. Andrew even bought an entrance ticket for me so I could actually see everything and learn about it from the audio guide. The best thing was the view over the downhill part of Lincoln from the Garden.
In the Palace’s Garden is a nice vineyard, which was a present of Lincolns twin town Neustadt an der Weinstraße in Germany. Since Neustadt is Germany’s largest wine-making municipality, it was obvius for them to give Lincoln 300 vine plants for the 900th anniversary of Lincoln Cathedral in 1972.

After we’ve seen everything of the Bishop’s Palace, Andrew showed me a narrow pedestrian street called Steep Hill. Because Lincoln is located in a gap in the Lincoln Cliff, it is unofficially divided into two zones: “Uphill” and “Downhill”. Uphill is the northern part of the city, which is on top of the cliff, 72.8 metres above sea level and consists of the historical quarter with the Cathedral, Castle and Bishop’s Place. Downhill is Lincolns city Center and lies in the gap. Steep hill is the street that connects both parts together and passes through an archway named “Stonebow”.

Because of the gradient of the Hill (14% at its steepest point), there are no cars allowed. Not only wouldn’t they be able to drive up, but the street is too narrow for them too.
The shops down steep hill are all local Shops and tea rooms who offer a break from the hard ascend.
When we came to the steepest bit of the street, we turned around and walked back to the Bail (the Cathedral Quarter). From there we went to see the Castle.

Built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, the Norman Castle is quite an unusual castle with his two mattes, it is just one out of two in the whole country.
The Castle is still in use today. The 1845 built ivy-clad building at the eastern end of the Castle was built as the Assize Courts and is still used nowadays as Lincolns Crown Courts.

In 1847 a Victorian gaol was built and used until the inmates were transferred to the new gaol in the eastern outskirts of Lincoln in 1878 and then unused until the Lincolnshire archives were moved there. The gaol was a three storey stone building, which was connected to the 1787 built Governor’s House through a single storey prison Chapel. The Victorian gaol was designed for the “separate system”, just like the Kilmainhan Gaol in Dublin (see this post: Going to Jail)

Most of the Castle is open for the public as a Museum. It is even possible to walk around the immense Norman Walls, which offer a panoramic view over the Castle grounds and Lincoln. On the Castle Grounds is a board with a miniature version of the Castle and a timeline of the Castles history:

1068William the Conqueror builds a castle at Lincoln as part of his strategy to subdue the Region.
1141Battle of Lincoln, ‘The Joust’: King Stephen is taken prisoner here during the upheaval of civil war.
1215Magna Carta is publicly Road out at the Sheriff’s court at Lincoln Castle.
1217‘Battle of Lincoln Fair’: King Henry III’s army defeats the Rebel barons and their French allies.
1217King Henry III issues the Charter of the Forest and sends a copy to Lincoln Cathedral.
1644English Civil War: Parliamentarians capture the castle held by Royalists.
1788A new and improved Georgian gaol is built to imprison debtors and criminals in the castle.
1848-1878The Victorian Prison, designed for the ‘separate system’ of solitary confinement, functions for 30 years.
1884A new era: Lincoln Castle opens its gates to visitors to enjoy the grounds and the Castle.

Another historical part of the Castle is the Magna Carta Libertatum, or “the great Charter of the Liberties”. Sealed by King John and the Barons at Rannymede in 1215, it was supposed to make peace between the unpopular King and the rebel Barons. But soon after it was annulled by Pope Innocent III, because both parties didn’t follow the rules.
These included protection of church rights, protection for Barons from illegal imprisonment and limitations on feudal payments to the crown.

Because the Lincoln Bishop Hugh of Wells was one of the signatories, the Magna Carta could survive for hundreds of years in the Lincoln Cathedral. With this original being only one out of four surviving, it is now displayed in the Castle Museum.
But we didn’t went inside the Castle, didn’t walked around the wall, nor did we went to see the Magna Carta. Instead we just walked through the castle grounds and then back to the car. Next stop was the groceries store and then we drove back home to a relaxing day in front of the TV.

The next Time I went to Lincoln, I went with Julie. Around 3pm on Friday, 28th October, we got on our way to Lincoln. When we arrived we sauntered down the Steep Hill, passed through the Stonebow until we were on the Lincoln shopping street at 4.30pm
After another 30 minutes we decided to separate for a bit and I went to Paperchase. Because I really like the store and try to see everything they have, it didn’t surprise me that I actually spent another 30 minutes in there.

When we met again at 5.30pm, we stopped at Starbucks for a quick coffee break and then walked all the way back. Which is easier said than done. Completely out of breath, we reached the top 15 minutes later.
After a short detour to the Cathedral to take in the view by night, we were back at the car at 6pm and finally got on our way home, thanks to the Steep Hill, it was an exhausting day.

The third and last time I went I Lincoln was also my last weekend in Lincolnshire.
On Saturday, 12th November, Andrew, Julie, Ruth (their youngest daughter) and I went to Lincoln, to buy Birthday presents for Ruth. When we arrived around 12.15pm Andrew parked the car further down, so we wouldn’t need to walk the Steep Hill up and down.

While the others were trying to get all the presents, I was able to walk around the shopping street on my own. After a stop at Paperchase and Waterstones, I went back to meet the others and accompanied Andrew in buying a secret birthday present.
After we accomplished this task we all met up again and went back to the car to then drive to the supermarket to go groceries shoppen.
Around 4pm we finally were back home and I started to bake a pre-birthday cake for Ruth, which then was the dessert for after dinner.

The nice thing about Lincoln is that it reminds me of my hometown quite a bit. With all the old buildings and narrow streets. It definitely has its charm and I look forward to going there again some day.

See you tomorrow for the 10th post of my 24 Days to Christmas Series!

Love,
Vicky! Xx

8th December: On the move 

When it was about time to leave my host family, I started a journey into the unknown. So far I hadn’t found a new family and I could only stay in London for a number of days. Even though I already found great friends who offered me their couch or spare bed, they too had to work (as an Aupair) or I was taking over their living room. But first things first.

After I packed all my things on Monday and Tuesday and brought most of my things to a friend’s house, I just had my suitcase and backpack left. On Wednesday I finished packing my last few items and cleaned my room one last time before my host mum was back at 9am and then brought me to the Tube Station.
From there I took the tube to Finchley Central, which is just a short 5 minutes journey and then walked from the Station to the language school. When I arrived at the school I had to carry my suitcase up to the office, where I could leave it until school finished.

Since my class was doing another mock exam I joined in, even though I already took on my break. After we all finished I went home with Benedetta. Because I still had to carry my suitcase with me it took us way longer than it normally would. When we finally arrived, she showed me her room and prepared lunch: nice, Italian pasta!
After lunch we had to collect the boy she’s looking after from school. Luckily he could have a friend over for a playdate and was therefore entertained and we could just sit next to them and chat for a bit.

Later that day, when the friend had left and his parents were back, Benedetta and I decided to head out for dinner. So we left the house around 8pm and walked along the High Road to see if we can find somewhere nice to eat. In the end we ended up all the way in North Finchley at Il Tocco D’Artista again.
Because we both weren’t that hungry, we decided to just share a Pizza. While we were eating Enrico showed up to join us. Since we knew we had to get up quite early the next morning, we soon headed home again and went to sleep at 11.30pm – finally.

Luckily Benedetta let me sleep for a little bit longer, while she got up to get the boy ready for school. I soon joined her downstairs and we then brought him to school together.

Around 10am we walked with my suitcase in tow to the High Road and went to a Café called Tintico, where we then stayed for over two hours. Next we went to the language school where Enrico just started his lunch break and went with him to Tesco. He then went back to the school to eat and Benedetta also decided to go home to eat. So I decided to start walking to North Finchley where I had to catch the bus to the next location. But I then met Emma in front of the language school and quickly decided to do the listening part of the mock exam from the day before.

At 2pm, I was finished and finally got on my way to North Finchley.
When I arrived I went to Aldi to buy myself something for lunch and then took the bus to Wood Green, where I then had to change to another bus to the area where Blessing lives.
Around 3.30pm I finally arrived at Blessings place and could relax for a bit. But I also played with her two still quite young children. Even though her daughter is quite shy around new people, she was already comfortable enough to be picked up by me the same evening.

After dinner I talked to a longtime friend of my german family called Andrew, to make plans for me to go stay with him and his family until I found something new. Since he doesn’t live in London, but in Lincolnshire I had to travel there either by bus or train. So I planned to book a ticket the next day, because it already was too late.

I was so tired that I went to bed quite early that day, just to be awake shortly after 8am the next morning. The good thing was that I didn’t need to do anything that day so I just stayed in bed the whole day or watched some television with her children. I even did a nap in the afternoon between 3.15-4.45pm.
At 5pm Blessing was back from work and we finally booked my bus ticket to Lincolnshire.
After Nando’s for dinner we all went to bed early again. Especially me, because I had to get up early the next morning in order for me to catch my bus.

The easiest and cheapest way for me to travel was to use a MegaBus+. This means that the first part of the journey is done by train (+) and the second part by bus (MegaBus).
My train was due to leave at 9.15am on Saturday morning, the 22th October, at St. Pancras Station.
So I had to get up at 7am to leave the house at 8am. Luckily there was a bus to Wood Green just arriving when I came to the bus stop. In Wood Green I took the Piccadilly Line to King’s Cross/St. Pancras, where I arrived at 8.45am at King’s Cross Station. From there I had to walk to the East Midlands Train Platform in St. Pancras Station and get my ticket from one of the staff members for East Midlands Train.

At 9am we were asked to board the train so we can leave at 9.15am on time.
When we arrived at East Midlands Parkway Station at 10.40am, we had 10 minutes to go outside of the Station to change for the MegaBus.
We again could leave on time and were on our way to Scunthorpe at 10.50am. Because everything went so smoothly, we arrived 3 minutes earlier in Scunthorpe, instead of the planned 12.20pm. After Andrew had picked me up, we drove directly to Sheffield, where one of his sisters would celebrate her Wedding anniversary.

When we arrived in Sheffield, we first went to pick up Hannah, his oldest daughter, from her MegaBus arriving point and then drove to his sisters place.
The party was really nice and I was happy to finally meet this sister and her family, since I got to meet his other sister back in 2011, when they both came to Trier to visit us.
I enjoyed to listen to all their stories, especially about my grandparents, who back in the days started this long friendship with Andrews parents.

But it all had to come to an end and we left around 7.30pm to bring Hannah back to the train station and then drove home ourselves. I was so happy to finally be able to rest a bit and sleep in “my own room” again. It obviously isn’t my own room, but I didn’t had to share it with anyone and it wasn’t the living room either. (Thank you Beccy for letting me sleep in your room!)

These few days were really stressful and I was quite happy to calm down and settle for at least a week. That’s what I thought. I never thought that I would actually stay there for nearly a month. Even though I’m very thankful and really glad that they took me in, I also feel quite sorry that I had to bother them for such a long time!

I can’t say thank you often enough, so here is another one: THANK YOU!

Love,
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

Going to Jail

After the eventful sunday in Dublin, the Monday started much more relaxed.

At 10.30 am my host family, the boy’s cousin and I left home to drive to Kilmainham Gaol, where we arrived at 11.15 am. My host mother had booked a guided tour in advance, because they are always booked out for tours on the same day.

Our guided Tour was supposed to start at 11.30 am, so we walked around and read a bit of information about the building.

They startet building it in 1786 and it was opened in 1796 to replace the earlier prison.
The prisons before were usually disorderly places. All prisoners were held together and the conditions were unhealthy. After the prison reform movement (1727-1790) everything changed. Therefor Kilmainham Gaol has single cells and facilities for hygiene and health.

We also learned that the prison nowadays symbolises the tradition of militant and constitutional nationalism from the Rebellion of 1798 to the Irish Civil War of 1922-1923.
Not only the leaders of the Rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867 and 1916 were detained and some of them even executed, but also all the political prisoners were held in Kilmainham Gaol. The first political prisoner was Henry Joy McCracken.
However, as a county gaol, the political prisoners weren’t the only ones. Kilmainham Gaol held thousands of ordinary men, women and children.
It was also used to house those prisoners, who were sentenced to be sent to Australia. From 1800-1850 over 4000 prisoners were transported to Australia via Kilmainham Gaol.

As the time had arrived we started the tour. The first stop was the small Chapel. In there, they showed us a short slide show while the tour guide said some things.
For example did he told us that one of the leader of the Easter Rising, Joseph Plunkett married Grade Gifford in this Chapel the night before he was executed.

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The Chapel of Kilmainham Gaol

The next part of the tour was the West Wing where we could see all the prison cells.
This part of the prison is quite dark and cold, you wouldn’t want to live here. But they had a big problem with overcrowding from 1800-1860, because many people committed crimes to gain entry to the gaol in hope to get food on a regular basis. With the overcrowding there were now up to five prisoners in a cell which was built for only one. Problems such as diseases and poor health and hygiene started to rise and that there was no full separation between adults and children or between the genders.
We were also told that there were a lot of children held in Kilmainham Gaol. The youngest has been only 11 years of age. Children who had to stay longer than two weeks even got school lessons.

Afterwards we went to see the prison cell of Charles Stewart Parnell. Because he was a rather rich prisoner, he had his own room which he was allowed to furnish and keep his own possessions. He was also allowed to interact freely with any visitor.

We then finally went to the East Wing. When I first entered it I was gobsmacked. The Room was so big and bright.
I said to my host father that I think the room looks awesome. He looked at me with a funny expression and said that it’s not supposed to look awesome, it’s a prison after all. But that’s the thing, it looks nothing like a prison.

The East Wing was built in 1861 and opened a year later. It reflects the very different ideas of the Victorian age. They believed that the prison architecture is crucial to reform the inmates.
The use of light was deliberate to inspire the inmates to turn better. The form, called Panopticon, allows the observation of all the 96 cells from one central viewing point.
Underneath are four cellar-level isolation cells, which were used for dark and solitary confinement. After the new East Wing was built only the male prisoners moved there, the female had to stay in the dark and cold cells in the West Wing.
The East Wing will still be used today, not as a prison, but as a concert/theatre hall, to use the great acoustic you have in there.

After the East Wing we went back outside to the activity yards. All inmates were allocated one hour of outdoor activity per day.
But they were separated for their exercises. The ones waiting for their transportation to Australia or for their execution shared a yard and the ones who has been sent to prison temporary, occupied the other one. The women were in a smaller yard nearby. The children were also nearby, but had their own separated small yard.

Going through a gate in the wall, we went to the probably cruelest place on the grounds of Kilmainham Gaol: the Stonebreakers’ Yard.

After 1910 Kilmainham gaol was closed as a prison to save money and were given to the military, the british army. So after the 1916 Easter Rising the british army opened it for hundreds of men and women, who were part of the rebellion.
The leaders of the Rising were sentenced to death and 14 men were executed by a firing squad in the Stonebreakers’ Yard of Kilmainham Gaol between the 3rd and the 12th of May 1916. Seven of them were signatories of the proclamation. In the yard are two crosses, a name plate and the Irish flag to commemorate those who have been executed here.

During the War of Independence (1919-1921) the british government used the prison to hold members of the Irish Republican Army captured.
When the Civil War started in June 1922 Kilmainham Gaol was taken over by the Free State Army who detained and sentenced male and female political Republican prisoners. The Civil War ended in May 1923, but the last prisoner was not released until 1924.
Kilmainham Gaol was officially closed in 1924 to never be opened again as a prison by the Minister of Justice of the Irish Free State.

From the Stonebreakers’ Yard we went back inside through the main entrance. Above the door are five monstrous interwoven shapes. They have been called dragons, demons, serpents and a hydra. They should represent the five worst crimes: murder, rape, theft, treason and piracy.

The tour then ended and we took a look at the exhibition.
In 1960 the Restoration Committee was established and they restored Kilmainham Gaol so it could be reopened as a museum for the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 1966. It was opened by Eamon de Valera, at that time the president of Ireland (1959-1973), but also the last prisoner of Kilmainham Gaol.
In the exhibition they showed the process of the restoration, but also artefacts of the time of the Easter Rising and the times before and after that event.

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One of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic showcased in the Exhibition of Kilmainham Gaol

Around 12.30pm we left Kilmainham Gaol and went to a café/bistro across the street to have a little snack to satisfy our stomachs until we could stuff them with lunch at Nando’s one hour later. After Nando’s we went back home where I played with N. outside until D. and her husband (B.) asked me if I want to come with them to the beach to take Trixie for a walk.

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My first Nando’s lunch!

At the beach B. and Trixie took the lead while D. and I followed, deep in conversation. The beach is really nice! Especially because it’s so close to the city centre.

When we came back at 5.30pm we had to get ready, because we would all go out for dinner at 6.15pm.
We once again drove to the beach, but this time a different part, as we went to Howth Harbour.
Some of us went for a walk through the harbour, while the others waited for our table.

We had dinner at Crabby Jo’s. After a bowl of spicy buffalo wings as a starter, I had Gambas Tempura & Chips for my main course. For dessert we had a 99.

After dinner the ‘children’ went for another walk. This time we actually went into the sea. Because it was low tide we could easily walk quite a distance through the now empty sea.

We were back home at 10pm and the boys went straight next door to D.’s house to sleep.
My host parents and I stayed downstairs in the living room with the grandparents for a bit. On the TV was a show on called ‘Rose of Tralee‘ which is a very famous irish TV show. But I’d learn much more about it the following days, when we actually went to Tralee.

That was my second day in Ireland!
Only four days left! 😦

Vicky xx