Today I visited WinterWonderland at London’s Hyde Park. I caught the tube into Hyde Park where we met Emily’s cousins, Michael (17), Charlie (15) and parents Liz and Richard. We started our frosty day at the Ice Skating Rink where my balance and co-ordination were put to the test. The ice rink was magnificent; it was a large circular shape and in the centre there was a live band that performed whilst you skated. My skills at first were very rusty but after numerous laps of the ring I felt more comfortable going faster… that was until Emily and Michael started a snowball fight. Making the snowball was quite simple as all it required was going to the edge of the rink and picking up the excess snow. The hard part was trying to act innocent as you skated around the rink carrying a snowball in your hand. All in all I very much enjoyed ice skating. Next after a little exploring of the wonderland we entered the Magical Ice Kingdom, inside the -20⁰ (or at least that’s what it felt like) building was an amazing display of ice sculptures. There were animals, people and even a castle that included an ice slide. Following exiting the freezing Ice Kingdom into the now somewhat pleasant English weather we made our way through the amusement/ride section. The interesting thing was that all of rides were snow and winter themed unlike the rides found in Aus. Michael, Emily and I braved our safety and went on the ‘Power Tower’ a very, VERY tall rotating ride that had a spectacular view of the park. After enjoying dinner at a nearby Pizza Hut we watched an amazing circus performance. It included a contortionist, fire twirlers, a motorbike show and a number of other awesome acts. Overall I highly enjoyed my day at WinterWonderland, it is definitely a wonderful experience I will never forget!
Christmas in England is very different. For starters it is freezing, although this is also a bonus as you can wear an awesome Christmas Jumper like I did. Another difference is the build-up on the 24th, I watched a Christmas Pantomime (a musical production) with my host family and some of their friends. The show was enjoyable, afterwards we drove to St Luke’s Church and attended the ritual known as Christingle. Christingle involved a short service where everybody receives a symbolic decorated orange and candle (I have put a photo below). I departed the Church with my host family and went home, after finishing wrapping my presents we left for a family friends house. We arrived at James house after a quick drive, Emily and I went upstairs and hung out with the other teenagers whilst the parents stayed downstairs. The final part of Christmas Eve was Midnight Mass, although I am not highly religious the Church was beautiful as it was lit entirely by candles. I was very tired after the service concluded, I went straight to bed. I awoke a couple hours later a little tired, together with my host family we all opened our presents. My host sisters definitely liked their Australian Hoodies, and my host parents liked their Australian Cap and T-shirt.
After putting our presents away my host family started preparing for Christmas Dinner (a significant meal at 2 or 3pm), the dinner was very delicious. I enjoyed the Yorkshire Pudding (which is an English side dish made from batter consisting of eggs, flour, and milk). Not spending Christmas with my family was definitely difficult although my host family made me feel very welcome. My Australian family was unable to Skype as they were in remote Ski Lanka, this made things tougher as I felt a little lonely not speaking or seeing my family on Christmas. Overall I highly enjoyed Christmas in England (even the cold weather) and I apologize if this post is a little confusing talking about two families. J I will update soon on my future endeavours.
The last day of school was concluded at 11am after watching the Year 12 and 13 Pantomimes (a Christmas performance), immediately after school my host sister and I were picked up and we started the drive to Centreparcs. Our accommodation was in a villa surrounded by trees and bushes, I shared a bedroom with my host sister. On Friday night after enjoying an Indian dinner we played a game of bowling (I came 3rd). On Saturday we spent the day enjoying the Subtropical Swimming Paradise which is a large indoor/outdoor heated centre with multiple pools, slides and spas. On Sunday morning we enjoyed a high ropes course which includes a large 300m zip line over the lake. On the drive home on Monday we stopped at LongLeat Safari Park which was the first drive through safari park outside Africa, there were over 500 animals and the the park is situated in the grounds of Longleat House, an English stately home that is the current home of the 7th Marquess of Bath. After driving through the enclosures we explored the grounds and went in the largest hedge maze in the UK.
This weekend I travelled with my host family to Liverpool, a 4 hour train ride in first class delivered us to Central Liverpool. We visited The Cavern Club, which is the venue where the Beatles UK popularity started. Later after a little shopping we went to the Bars and Melody Concert (a band from Britain’s Got Talent). The concert was held in an amazing venue with a large domed roof, my little host sister Lucy was a big fan and even got to meet the band before the concert. We arrived home very tired at 1am due to road works. I have put some photos from the trip below.
Today I watched a Dance Recital at the local dance school where my host sister does ballet and tap. The show was interesting to watch as I don’t know much about dancing. After the show we caught a train to Alexandra Palace or Ally Pally (the local nickname). Once we hiked up the long hill we arrived at a family friends 10th Birthday. The party was fun, a highlight for me was the photo booth. After the party we caught the train back home and had dinner.
The photos from the photo booth
Today I visited the Imperial War Museum in London, the trip was organised by the school for all girls studying history. The main focus of the day was the study World War 2 (WW2), we started with a brief introduction by a very knowledgeable lady who explained the history around the holocaust and WW2. The next 2 hours were spent at the holocaust exhibition. The images, stories, videos and displays were very moving and also quite shocking. When walking through the exhibition I found myself very saddened by the history. Seeing the rows of shoes of the deceased Jews was something that I will never forget. Knowing that those shoes belonged and were once worn by the 6 million people that were killed, seeing the shoes turned the number into something more realistic, it allowed me to comprehend the vast impacts. After exiting the exhibition I found myself in need of solitude, just to think and reflect about the things I had seen. The class after the exhibition were very quiet, similar to me, we then ate lunch and spent a short amount of time in the WW2 exhibition. This was followed by a long 2 hour drive home through the London peak hour traffic.
The Jingle Bell Ball is an annual Christmas music festival hosted by the radio station Capital. I was lucky enough to visit this year with my host family! I went on Saturday night and saw many famous performances from One Republic, Union J, Olly Murs, Ella Henderson, Take That and many more. The concert was held in the O2 Arena, also known as the Millennium Dome – it holds 20,000 people! After catching a tube to the arena and catching some snaps outside we entered the dome, inside the dome there were restaurants and many shops (the concert arena only takes up 40% of the dome!). Inside the arena the music was pumping and the sight of seats and people was never-ending, it was shocking as I had never seen such a large group of people in one area. Overall the concert was amazing and definitely something I will remember forever! I am also very grateful to my host family for organising the experience.
Today I had my first day of school at Enfield Country School. After struggling to fit my thermals under my jeans and realising that I had forgotten a beanie, I signed into the school office and put on my ‘Visitors’ Lanyard. My host sister Emily then introduced me to my form class, everyone was so welcoming and friendly. The structure of the school day was very different to mine in Australia, each lesson was 1 and 10 minutes (only 4 lessons during the day). There was two 20 min breaks and one 55 minute break for lunch. During lunch you eat in the hall and can choose to have a school ‘dinner’ (a hot cooked buffet) or ‘tuck’ which is little snacks such as pizza or cake. During my second lesson in French I didn’t understand very much, although I did have fun convincing the girl next to me that I ride a kangaroo to school and then she asked me what language we speak in Australia. A lot of people were interested about life in Australia, they asked a lot of questions about school, the weather and about Brisbane.
The school day finishes at 3.20pm, the exit from the school goes through a graveyard (some of the graves are from people that lived before Australia existed!). After school Emily and I walked into Enfield Town (the local shopping precinct), I purchased a sim card with £10 credit. After shopping, we caught a 5 minute double decker bus ride and walked home. By the time we get home around 4 pm the sky was almost dark, the days are very short in winter.
I will update you soon on my future endeavours!
After just under 30 hours spent flying and at airports I arrived at Heathrow airport bright and early at 6am. As the 15 or so of us exited boarder control we were greeted with the Australia flag held by our host families. As each Venturer left with their new family for the next 2 months a sense of excitement and nervousness was in the air. The commute home on the M25 (Major Highway that circles London) was filled with traffic that we waited in for 40minutes, however I quite enjoyed chatting with the family and enjoying the view of endless green rolling hills.
After arriving home I had a tour around the house and found my room in the loft. The loft is awesome - it is the stereotypical attic conversion, it has the slanted walls and high roof. My family were so welcoming and kind, in my room they had printed and framed a family photo and had left a stuffed Koloa on my desk. After a quick nap, the family and I drove to a local restaurant called Toby Carvery to celebrate Caroline’s (host mum) belated birthday. Although the outside weather was freezing, inside amongst the tinsel and Christmas trees we sat next to the fireplace and enjoyed a nice buffet roast selection.
Time to get to bed - hopefully this jetlag won’t last long.