Berlin Phil and more (long overdue…)

20.01.13

Guten Tag!

Sorry for this super delayed post, this will be one of a few coming out this week to catch everyone up!

But for now, the blog you’ve all been waiting for- what DID Becky do in Berlin?! Well it’s finally here: My (first) Berlin Adventure!

I left for Berlin on Saturday, December 8th at 12pm on the Berlin Linien Bus. This double decker bus travels between Hamburg and Berlin about six times a day. The journey takes 3 hours and since the bus wasn’t very busy, I stretched out and had a lovely nap for those 3 hours. There was a lot of snow in Hamburg so most of the journey offered views such as this one:

Views from the bus to Berlin.

Views from the bus to Berlin.

I arrived at the Ostbahnhof in Berlin at 3:30pm and headed into the station to find a subway to Alexanderplatz. It only took me 10min and two laps to find it so that wasn’t so bad. Alexanderplatz is a large public square in Berlin easily found by the TV Tower. There was a huge Christmas market there with a mini amusement park- Ferris wheel and all! No one seemed to have any safety concerns regarding the snow since all the rides were still going- I guess we’re just wimpy in B.C. when we shut down our amusement parks for the winter season. I wandered around the market for a short while trying to get my bearings and came across an unusual busking group.

Alexanderplatz

Alexanderplatz

An interesting busking ensemble. Haven't seen this in Victoria...yet.

An interesting busking ensemble. Haven’t seen this in Victoria…yet.

I eventually found my hostel, called Citystay. I booked this hostel on recommendation from Elisabeth, a lady who is friends with my mom and lives in Berlin. Her apartment was right around the corner from this hostel and we met up twice during my trip so it was very convenient! The girl at the front desk spoke English until she found out I was an au pair living in Hamburg and then spoke to me only in German since she decided I should practice. I had a private room which consisted of a bed and chair, very small, but it didn’t matter seeing as I didn’t spend much time there. I headed out to explore, heading down Karl-Liebniechts Straße towards the Brandenberg Gate (Brandenderger Tor in German). On my way I passed Museum Island which holds the DDR Museum among others and a handful of Christmas markets.

Berliner Dom, a large cathedral.

Berliner Dom, a large cathedral on Museum Island.

The Altes Museum on Museum Island.

The Altes Museum on Museum Island.

It was very cold and snowy outside so I stopped at a market to buy some gloves. On my way I passed a crowd of people looking overhead so I looked too. There was Santa Claus sitting in a sleigh with a full display of plastic reindeer ahead of him. The entire scene was balanced on a track overhead and was apparently going to make its way across the market but after 5 mins of waiting I was just too cold. I’ll never know if he made it.

From there I continued down the main street which then turns into the famous Unter der Linden Straße. Here there is a centre walkway in the road that is lined with trees all lit up with white Christmas lights. It was very beautiful and peaceful walking along in the snow.

Unter den Linden Street on my way to the Brandenberg Gate.

Unter den Linden Street on my way to the Brandenberg Gate.

Finally at the end of Unter den Linden I reached the Brandenberg Gate. The gate was blocked slightly from view by a massive Christmas tree right in front of it. Luckily for me there was a large swarm of tourists all hoping to get their picture taken so it was easy for me to do a picture exchange:

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I walked through the gate and on the other side there was a very interesting sign explaining the original purpose of the gate and all the significant events it had seen through the past. The Tiergarten begins here on the west side of the gate so I crossed the street and began walking. I soon reached the Reichstag (parliament) building- what an impressive sight! I didn’t have time to go in so I just walked around to the field in front to get a good view and take a picture. Again I was approached by some other tourists and asked to take a photo so I was able to get one as well:

It is dark but that really is me...

It is dark but that really is me…

Thoroughly chilled I headed back to my hostel, met up with Elisabeth (my mom’s friend) then headed to the Philharmonie for my first Berlin Philharmonic concert.

The Philharmonie was easy enough to find- I took the bus to Potsdamer Platz and walked 5 minutes from there. I was very excited to see the hall when I turned the corner.

One of the buildings in Postdamer Platz on my way to the Philharmonie.

One of the buildings in Postdamer Platz on my way to the Philharmonie.

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I found my way to the coat check and dropped my stuff off, then headed in to find my seat. I had purchased a seat behind the orchestra in the centre in the hopes that I would have a good view of the trumpeters and the rest of the brass. Although it wasn’t right behind (those tickets were around 100 euros), I still had a fairly good view and could see the conductor, Christian Thielemann, really well.

The view from my seat behind the stage! Such a cool hall.

The view from my seat behind the stage! Such a cool hall.

I was there 15min before the concert started so I had time to read through a bit of the programme (I remembered 2 euros to buy a programme this time) and listen to the double basses warm up. On the Verdi opera excerpts concert program was Macbeth, Othello and Don Carlos.

The double basses warming up.

The double basses warming up.

As is a trend with all concerts in Germany there was no talking or introduction. There is a preconcert talk 45min before every show but otherwise the conductor doesn’t say anything, no one comes out to introduce the orchestra and (thankfully) you don’t have to hear a list of all the concert sponsors. The conductor just walks out and starts the performance. And what a show it was! I have already seen many videos of the Berlin Philharmonic performing live through their Digital Concert Hall. This is an online subscription you can buy which gives you access to an archive of all the concerts they have ever recorded live, archives of older Berlin performances with famous conductors such as Claudio Abbado and the opportunity to live stream a concert all the way in Canada. That being said, seeing this fantastic orchestra live in person was amazing. Every musician in the orchestra is aware of who is most important at all times. Christian Thielemann was a fountain of energy for the entire two hours, never allowing the orchestra a moments rest. He actually stopped conducting with his hand at one point and just held the orchestra intently with his eyes. Every few seconds he would make a facial expression or turn his gaze to the next section that was coming in. Despite the lack of movement the orchestra was so responsive! There was one point where the concert master (violin) had a solo and although the entire string section was playing I had no trouble at all hearing him. It was as if someone had simply turned down the volume on the rest of the orchestra- that is very hard to do!

And of course the brass was nothing short of amazing. The entire section from the tuba to the horns were completely in sync with each other. The musicians often exchanged looks and smiled as they fed off of each other’s enthusiasm. Gabor Tarkövi was playing principal trumpet for this concert and he is a very active player with his body movements. His shoulders would bounce with the music and his head was always moving around. The hall has fantastic acoustics so although I was behind the orchestra I had no problems hearing everyone. The entire brass section began and ended everything together and they gave off such a warm, round sound. Nothing was too harsh or brilliant and everything was always well blended. I really felt like the entire brass section was playing into the sound of the tuba (Alexander von Puttkamer). I hope that one day I get to experience what it’s like to play with musicians as talented as these people!

Alex von Puttkamer (tuba) playing a Cimbasso.

Alex von Puttkamer (tuba) playing a Cimbasso.

The two hours really flew by and I loved every minute of it. I didn’t know these pieces very well before attending the concert but the orchestra had so much fun performing them I want to get to know them better. The orchestra also played a short encore at the end with lots of big brass parts which was awesome. At the end of the concert I got my coat from the lobby and discovered the Berlin Philharmonic gift shop- a musician’s dream store. It has every CD the Berlin Phil has ever produced as well as books on conducting, performing, biographies etc. and an entire section on ensembles of the Philharmonic. This is where I found a CD of trumpet concertos from Gabor Tarkövi and a CD called “On the Road” with duets from Gabor Tarkövi and the other principal trumpet of the Berlin Philharmonic, Tamas Velenczei. If I had more time I’m sure I would have left with more than two CDs.

After the concert I headed back to my hostel through the snowy streets of Berlin. It only took about 20-25min to walk and I walked passed the Bradenberger Tor again. I don’t think I could get tired of seeing this impressive gate.

After a (thankfully) uneventful sleep in my hostel I headed to Elisabeth’s for breakfast. We ate a true German breakfast- bread, cheese, sausage, eggs, tea, marmalade, honey, tea and orange juice. I had a wonderful time talking to Elisabeth about her experiences in Berlin. She’s lived there for 40 years in the same apartment so she was there in East Berlin before the wall fell. We talked about life for her as a TV journalist and then a receptionist and the differences between now and then. Nowadays Elisabeth does lots of apartment exchanges where she lends her apartment to people visiting Berlin and uses their apartments abroad. This is how she met my mom when she did an exchange with a friend of my mom’s. What a neat way to spend your retirement!

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From Elisabeth’s I headed on the bus back to the Philharmonie for the Berlin Philharmonic Brass and Organ concert. The seating for this concert was open so I arrived 45min early in time to get a good seat and listen to the pre-concert talk. Although the brass ensemble was the reason I bought tickets for this concert, the organist starring in the performance was also fantastic. Her name is Iveta Apkalna, from Latvia, and she was really fun to watch since she can move her feet so quickly across the pedals. The first piece she performed was by a composer named Naji Hakim called Prelude, Aria and Gigue. During the applause after the piece she motioned to the audience and Naji Hakim stood up right behind me to take a bow. Iveta Apkalna also played another one of Hakim’s compositions as an encore which was a study for the pedals so she only played with her feet. It was so impressive!

Berlin Philharmonic Brass; L-R: Tamas Velenczei, Gabor Tarkövi, Martin Kretzer, Georg Hilser, Guillaume Jehl, Sarah Willis, Alexander von Puttkamer, Stefan Schulz, Olaf Ott (blury), Thomas Leyendecker, Jesper Busk Sørensen and Christhard Gössling.

Berlin Philharmonic Brass; L-R: Tamas Velenczei, Gabor Tarkövi, Martin Kretzer, Georg Hilser, Guillaume Jehl, Sarah Willis, Alexander von Puttkamer, Stefan Schulz, Olaf Ott (blury), Thomas Leyendecker, Jesper Busk Sørensen and Christhard Gössling.

It was incredible to see Gabor Tarkövi and Tamas Velenczei (principal trumpets) playing live and up so close- I could see just how easy they make trumpet playing seem! The ensemble played many “call and answer” pieces so I was able to hear each of the trumpeters play one right after another. It was such a great experience.

I had a smooth journey back to Hamburg and found that it had snowed in Hamburg just as much as it had snowed in Berlin:

The front yard of my house in Hamburg.

The front yard of my house in Hamburg.

The back yard.

The back yard.

Since this trip I went back to Berlin again for another four days with my cousin Katharine and her boyfriend Tom so I’ll be writing another post about that soon, along with my plans for the future. Until then,

Tchüss!

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Goodbye Hamburg

16.12.12

Guten Tag!

Although I have many events to catch you up on there is some important news I need to share first – I have decided to leave my job as an au pair.

I have been in Hamburg for two months working as an au pair and I have learned so much since arriving here. Not only am I almost fluent in German but I also know so much more about German culture. I’ve learned how to cook German dishes, prepare food for a party of forty 16-year-olds and, maybe most importantly, how to properly fry a sausage! I have also experienced what it is like to eat your hot meal for lunch and only bread and cheese for dinner (I’m not sure if I like it, but I know what it’s like). In addition to food I’ve learned about the importance of Christmas in Germany. This is a very different experience from Canada with much more focus on religious themes and less focus on commercial concepts. There are no less than 3 different manger scenes on display in this house and one Santa Claus. Just one! Around town you are more likely to see angels and candles than reindeer and snowmen. The way Angelika describes it is “romantic” and I think she’s right. The feel at the Christmas markets isn’t one of “shop-till-you-drop” but rather “enjoy some wine and if you see a gift, buy it!” (I’ll talk more about Christmas markets in my next blog). I also encountered a German side to all current events, the most interesting of which were the ones happening in North America. During the presidential election in November I learned that 95% of Germany was for Obama, a trend that could be seen across the rest of Europe. The family here was so confused as to why Romney would receive any votes at all. In addition to politics, I learned about soccer and can now name 9/16 teams in the Bundesliga- 9 more than I could when I came here!

The most valuable lesson I have learned is the German attitude towards music. I can’t explain how wonderful it is to know that music plays such an important role in German culture. Everyone you pass on the street can play piano and most often another instrument as well. Many parents are the accompanists for their children and lots of children are active in competitions and concerts all year round. The competitions in Germany are competitive and very difficult to enter, an unbelievable concept when compared to the Performing Arts Festival in BC where I was one of two trumpeters competing to attend provincials! Classical orchestra concerts are well attended (by people of ALL ages) and the conversations at intermission actually involve some discussion over the performance. When I attended concerts and returned home to the family here they wanted to know who was playing, who the conductor was and what they performed. When I asked the kids what they wanted to do in university not one of them said they wanted to become a professional musician and yet they all practice for hours a day. Mario said, “Well of course I will play violin for my whole life.” It is common knowledge that music will be present in everyone’s lives without one word over its value or importance in comparison to other subjects. What a refreshing attitude! I am so inspired to improve my playing so that I might be able to catch up to all the other trumpet players who have been so diligently practicing all these years- I’ve got a ways to go.

So, if I’ve learned all this why am I leaving? Being an au pair just isn’t the right fit for what I want to be doing. I always say I came to Germany for two reasons: first, to become fluent in German and second, to play trumpet. Although this job is perfect for the first goal I am not satisfying the second one nearly as much as I want to. I have a reasonable amount of time to practice but I really want to be involved in some ensembles, I want to find a good teacher and I want to attend more concerts. It is very hard to focus on music even when I’m practicing at home because in this house I will always be an employee and there is always more to be done. However, what a great opportunity it has been for me to become completely involved in everything German! I wouldn’t have been able to learn the language this quickly if I hadn’t been here. Not to mention how great the kids are, I’m going to miss playing ping pong with Rico and soccer with Sandro!

Now of course comes the question, what are you going to do now? I can tell you in all honesty that I’m really not sure. Short term I am going to Holland on Friday to spend Christmas with my aunts, uncles and cousins. My Aunt Imelda who lives in Liverpool has offered for me to stay with her family as long as I like so that is one option. I know that I want to continue to learn German so I hope that I can find another opportunity in Germany for the long term! I’m going to do some research over the holidays of teachers I want to study with and see if I can make some connections. If for some reason you’re reading this and you know a trumpeter in Germany- let me know! (no, I don’t count) But for now I am just excited for what the future holds, whatever that may be.

I think that is enough about that. I do have many many more things to talk about in terms of what I have been doing for the last 3 weeks so another blog post will be coming shortly with pictures. Stay tuned for my blog about Berlin- it was incredible!

Tchüss!

P.S. If you have my address in Wohltorf and were planning on sending me mail- Don’t do it!

Becky Poppins the Au Pair

16.11.12

Guten Tag Patient Blog Readers!

My sincere apologies for this long awaited blog post. I hope I still have readers after the long pause, I was only trying to build suspense!

As you all know I am now settled into my new home in Hamburg. I actually live in a small town 25km east of downtown Hamburg called Wohltorf but it only takes 20min by train to get from my house to the city centre. The house I’m staying in is huge with a massive front and back yard and a large garden around the edge.

The front of my new home in Wohltorf.

The view of the backyard from the upstairs balcony.

The back of the house. That’s a soccer goal in the front of the photo just to prove they really do like soccer!

Behind the house is a creek with a little bridge in the forest where I can go for walks and it is so beautiful right now with all the different coloured leaves.

Here’s the creek behind the house, it only takes 3min to walk here- I’m so lucky!

Another creek photo. When I go for runs I always end here so I can stretch by the water, it’s very nice.

A small sample of my running route.

The area around Wohltorf is a combination of little neighbourhoods and farms which was surprising the first time I went for a run. It takes a lot longer to get around a field then a regular city block. That being said it was very peaceful!

The family I am living with has four boys aged 9-16. The father, Stefan, is the chief of a hospital in Reinbek (the next city over) and the mother, Angelika, is a cardiologist for a private practice in Hamburg. I don’t see Stefan during the week as he starts early and works late but I do see him on weekends. Angelika only works one or two mornings a week while the kids are at school so otherwise we spend most of the afternoons together. The kids all go to school from 7:30am -1:30/2:30pm (depending on the classes that day) so after I’ve cleaned up from breakfast I have the mornings to myself. This is perfect seeing as the hardest part about practicing trumpet in the mornings is waking up early. I go upstairs for breakfast at 7:30am and after I tidy up the kids rooms it’s only 8:30am! Luckily everyone in the family is very musical so my trumpet playing is a welcome addition to the household (who would have ever thought that was possible?!).

Florian, the oldest boy, is 16 and is currently applying to Oxford for math and computer science. He plays the piano and the oboe at a very high level and is performing a Beethoven piano concerto with his school orchestra next year. Florian and Mario, 14, both attended boarding school in England last year and are consequently fluent in English. Bonus for me! Mario plays violin and so does Sandro, aged 11. Sandro is just starting to learn English in school so his level of English is about equivalent to my level of German. This means when we speak together he’ll try and speak English, I’ll try and speak German and we meet somewhere in the middle. Just today he was excited because he knew the English word for “spelling” and I didn’t know the German word- it’s like an ongoing competition. The littlest guy, Rico, is aged 9 and plays cello (it’s about the same size as him). He hasn’t started learning English in school but Angelika bought some easy English exercise books so when we have spare time we work on these together. I also try and work in an English word or two when we’re playing games together so he now knows how to say “It’s a tie”, “first point,” and “Yahtzee!” Ok so that last one doesn’t really count because it is the same in German.

Rico my 9 year old friend!

Mario and Florian play in a youth orchestra together and they had a concert this past Sunday so I got to experience the main hall downtown Hamburg. It is so beautiful! The concert was really great as well, the orchestra played Symphony No.6 by Anton Bruckner and the trumpets were so loud. In Germany they play rotary valve trumpets which have quite a different sound from regular trumpets so it was very interesting to hear that live in concert. Here’s the hall:

The Laisezhalle in Hamburg.

The entrance into the lobby.

The whole family loves soccer (them and the rest of Europe) and when I told them we played hockey in Canada they asked, “ice hockey?” Then I got to tell them all about living in Ontario and making an ice rink in the back yard when I was a kid. I think I almost have them convinced to try it here…although it might be a little hard to use for soccer. The Bundesliga, the German soccer league, has soccer games starting Friday night and they continue through to Sunday evening so we spend a chunk of the weekend watching soccer. HSV (Hamburg) is the whole family’s favourite team except for Mario. Mario is a Werder Bremen supporter because when he and Florian were younger he wanted to support the opposite team from Florian. I have brothers, I understand his reasoning.

In addition to helping clean up from breakfast my tasks as an au pair also include laundry, mild supervision (“Kids you still doing your homework?” “Yes” “Great”) and making lunch. Cooking here has been a bit of an adventure just because it is hard to get comfortable in someone else’s kitchen. That being said I’ve been here for 4 weeks and can now make a variety of German dishes including Spätzel (noodles), schnitzel and of course Wurst (sausage)! My evenings are free after dinner except on Monday and Wednesday when I have my German language course. Angelika signed me up for this course because in addition to learning the language it is a great way to meet other au pairs in the area. In Wohltorf there are two other au pairs, one from Ukraine and the other from Russia, so the three of us take the train to class together. The class is two levels higher than the one I finished in Freiburg but since there are only 6 people in the class it is very relaxed!

The weekends I have to myself as well apart from a bit of cleaning on Saturday mornings. I bought a monthly train pass for November so I can go into Hamburg every weekend, which I try and do. This past weekend I went in on Saturday afternoon and hung out down by the harbour all day. It was so lovely! First I walked through the main downtown area to take some pictures:

The Binnenalster- this is the smaller part of the two main lakes downtown Hamburg. In the other part, called the Alster, there are always sail boats puttering around and runners and cyclists along the shore.

This is on the way to the Rathaus and the white building is a restaurant- can’t wait to try it out when it’s warmer.

The Rathaus (city hall)

Old buildings downtown.

There are views like this all over downtown Hamburg, it’s so pretty. Lots of little canals and bridges scattered throughout.

The harbour authority building-very impressive with lots of fancy gold writing.

Statue at the foot of the bridge next to the harbour authority offices.

There are lots of streets throughout the city that look like this one- long red brick buildings and cobblestone.

This is one of my favourite shots from my Saturday downtown.

I walked along the water for a few hours stopping at a bakery for a sandwich then another bakery for a coffee and another bakery for a snack. Good thing there are so many bakeries in Germany! Here are some pictures of the harbour:

Huanghai Pioneer

Hafen City around noon on Saturday.

The beginning of the very long shipyard in the harbour.

The Elbphilharmonie- this is the brand new concert hall which the NDR Philharmoniker and the other main orchestras in Hamburg will use. It’s been a few years in the making and all though it looks finished, it’s not opening until 2016! It has a few apartments, a small hotel and numerous rehearsal spaces.

A nice stranger took pity on me while I was trying to take a picture of myself and offered to help- I really am in Hamburg!

Dock 10.

The shipyard is huge and goes on forever, it’s called Blohm + Voss.

More ships! Ok, you get the point.

I got tired of walking after a few hours so I had a touristy moment and went on an hour long boat tour. The tour took us along the ship yard next to all the huge carrier ships from around the world.

Although the tour was of course in German most of it was talking about how large the ships were or how much they cost and I’m great at numbers so it was still worth it. Unfortunately my camera died 5min into the tour so this is the only picture I have:

This is the inside of the boat I took- I had a beer during the tour, it was great!

Hamburg so far has been a great experience but I am also excited to do a bit of traveling around the area. I have my eye on some concerts in Berlin the first weekend in December and I’ll be heading to Holland for Christmas. I can’t wait! Until my next blog,

Tchüss!

Lederhosen and Scotch Eggs

20.10.12

Guten Tag!

I made it to Hamburg safe and sound having only embarrassed myself slightly on the train carrying  my 50lb+ duffle bag, my triple trumpet case and my backpack. I probably would have been able to spare that embarrassment if I had thought to reserve a seat for my 6 hour train ride from Freiburg to Hamburg, but you live and learn.

I had a wonderful two weeks of traveling but I am glad to be settled in one place at last. Our vacation started on Tuesday, Oct. 2nd when Anna and I hopped on a bus from Freiburg to Munich. We arrived in Munich in the afternoon and went straight to our hotel to drop off our stuff.

My bed in our hotel/hostel in Munich. It was really comfy but it was just a little bit too short. As you can see, there was no option for me to hang my feet off the bed so I ended up sleeping of sort of an angle. Still way better than Anna’s floor so I wasn’t complaining.

We decided to wait for Oktoberfest until the following day so we could have a whole day for the fest, so we headed back downtown to do some sightseeing. Turns out you don’t have to be in Oktoberfest grounds to see dirndls and lederhosen! Every other person downtown was wearing one or the other.

Matching lederhosen.

This guy had the hat, shoes and socks to go with the outfit- so great!

Anna and I visited Marienplatz (an outdoor market), a few churches and saw the famous figurines under the cuckoo clock dance in the New Town Hall tower.

Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall). At the top of the highest tower is the cuckoo clock with the figurines underneath.

The back of the Neues Rathaus from a courtyard inside.

This is a statue in the middle of the Marienplatz Marketplace. It seemed so unlikely that a lady with a broom and a bucket would get a statue. Turns out she was an actress and a comedian from the early 1900’s. Her name is Ida Schumacher.

Me in front of a very ornate alter in the Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Ghost).

So Munich has a Hunting Museum! We didn’t go in but there was a statue in front. It was probably the best part anyway…

They had a Ferrari store in Munich- this picture is for my brothers.

Wednesday we headed to Oktoberfest and found ourselves a place in the Löwenbräu beer tent – right next to the brass band! The band and the people at our table kept us amused for 2 hours but that was enough for us. I’m glad we went but I was ready for England.

I’m not sure if you can tell but the tent was massive. It was really more of an arena that happened to be a tent.

Me and my stein! Although I didn’t have a dirndl I attempted to be festive with my braids.

Anna and I flew into Manchester the next day and took a train to Formby, where my Aunt Imelda and Uncle Don live, arriving just in time for Indian dinner! Friday we spent the day exploring downtown Liverpool which really means we spent 2 hours at a pub and visited the Anti-Slavery Museum. Still great though!

Some cool ship-shaped buildings downtown Liverpool.

More ship-shaped buildings.

Albert Dock where we visited the Anti-Slavery Museum. This is also where the Beatles Museum, Tate Liverpool and the Liverpool Museum are located.

I spent Saturday and Sunday hanging out with my cousins, going bowling and walking on the beach while Anna took the train to Oxford. On Sunday the whole gang went to Manchester to hangout with Grandpa and my brother Simon, his wife Shannon and their kids James (5) and Keira (3). Simon and his family had just arrived that morning from Halifax and were pretty tired so we just spent a few hours in the hotel having coffee and catching up.

My oldest brother Simon and my cousin Martin.

Dropping off my Grandpa at St. Joseph’s in Manchester.
Grandpa, Will, Martin, Uncle Don, me, Uncle David.

Grandpa, Will, Martin, Uncle Don, Aunt Imelda, Uncle David. We were so impressed that Grandpa smiled for these photos. It’s a rare occasion.

One highlight of my trip was going to see my cousin Martin play in a pub with his band. They play at a lot of weddings so there was lots of dancing music, including a very impressive version of Bootylicious sung by their male vocalist.

On Monday I headed to Manchester to spend two days there with Simon and Shannon. We covered the Museum of Science and Industry, the Imperial War Museum (such a great museum), visited Grandpa, and visited Auntie Eileen in Raino! It was busy but a lot of fun with the kids.

The Summers family on a bridge crossing over the Erie Basin on our way to the Imperial War Museum. Simon, Keira, Shannon and James.

Photo shoot of my 5 year old nephew James on the train to Raino.

My sister-in-law Shannon and my 3 year old niece Keira.

All of us with Auntie Eileen in Raino.

On Wednesday everyone headed to London. I phrase it this way because I ended up on a different train than Simon and the family. The train 40min later was £50 cheaper and due to delays (caused by a fatality but no specifics were given…) we arrived at exactly the same time anyway! We eventually did part ways so I could meet Anna and check into my hostel  called The Walrus (the name may have had influence on our choice). The next three days in London were very busy. Anna and I visited the Tate Modern, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Camden Lock Market, Queen Mary’s Gardens, the Natural History Museum, National Portrait Gallery and Skoobs (awesome used book store).

The back of St. Paul’s Cathedral. We didn’t end up going inside because it was a bit expensive, as is everything in London…

Statue outside St. Paul’s.

Sculptures from inside the Greek portion of the Natural History Museum. There’s a big debate right now over these statues- Greece wants them back.

More statues! For some reason a large portion of these are headless. It’s kind of eerie actually.

Anna and I found a tea house with comfy seats and lots of sunshine coming through the big skylight in Camden. Anna finally got to eat her scone with cream and jam.

The food portion of the Camden Lock Market. For seats they have the bodies of scooters all lined up in a row facing the water!

Queen Mary’s Garden. I’m holding a hot chocolate because I dressed a little light for the wind.

The first evening Anna and I took Shannon out for some drinks at the Maple Leaf (yes we went to a Canadian bar in London) and a huge pub called the Porterhouse Brewing Company. The second night I babysat so Simon and Shannon could go out for dinner while Anna went to see a show. The last night Simon and I went out with my cousin Tom who lives and works in London. We had a great time! First we went to a wine bar, then a pub called the Ship and Shovell (Simon loved the ships all over the walls) and then to a piano bar. The piano bar was awesome because it had a more relaxed feel than a bar with a DJ or a live band but the piano player was still performing pop tunes and other popular songs. However, my favourite part of the evening was my introduction to scotched eggs. At the Ship and Shovell Simon and I decided to order food so he went up and asked if the kitchen was still open. The girl said they could do scotched eggs so Simon ordered some. This is what we got:

Scotch Eggs are hard boiled eggs in a shell of breaded sausage. They look like big tater tots before you bite into them so you expect them to be hot. Despite the surprise, Simon is still very happy with his Scotch Eggs (and beer). At the Ship and Shovell pub, London.

Once we figured out what scotch eggs were, they were actually pretty good!

On Saturday Anna and I said good bye to England (and English) and flew back to Freiburg. I spent the night on Anna’s floor for the last time and on Sunday I hopped on a train to Hamburg.

My job as an au pair is wonderful so far and I am really happy. But there’s lots to be said about that so I’ll give you a break and start a new post. Thanks for reading!

Tchüss!