Edelweiss (Austria)

Hey everyone, hope you all had a great holiday! I was so not looking forward to going back to work but luckily, I haven’t gotten called in too many times. My holidays were really enjoyable! Just enough time to refresh myself for another six weeks of teaching. The first few days, I did a lot of baking and relaxing. On Sunday, my French family came to London for the week! They had rented an apartment for the week and had one extra bed, so I ended up staying with them until Christmas Eve! I went over Sunday night for dinner, and I got to see the kids another three years older (Alice was 12 but turned 13 on Christmas Eve, Antoine is 11, and Elsa is 7!). I’ve unfortunately forgotten most of my French, so it made it quite difficult to communicate with everyone, especially since the kids speak so much faster and use words that I don’t understand now haha it worked out cause Alice has really good English now (probably equivalent to my French) so she would speak to me in English and I’d speak back to her in French. It was good practice! On Monday, we went to the Natural History Museum first thing in the morning. After that, we went to Winter Wonderland and then we checked out m&m’s world. Elsa and Antoine were both sick, which kind of concerned me since I was sharing a room with Elsa and I didn’t want to get sick before going to Austria. We ended up taking both of them to the clinic (I was there to translate) and the doctor diagnosed them with a chest and throat infection and gave them antibiotics (which scared me even more)! Luckily, I didn’t end up getting sick but I was seriously contemplating spending the rest of the week at home. On Tuesday, Emmanuel stayed home with Antoine and then Anne, Alice, Elsa and I went shopping because Alice wanted to shop for her birthday. We only lasted until lunch and then we went to the National Portrait Gallery for awhile (not really my thing, but oh well). On Wednesday, we went to Camden market, which is a HUGE market that I’ve always wanted to go to. Unfortunately because the kids were sick, we weren’t able to spend too much time outside but it was neat to see nonetheless. After that, I had to go back home so Alice came with me and we made gingerbread cookie dough to bring back to the apartment so we could make cookies there. That night, Alice and I made cookies and then Elsa helped us decorate them the next morning. On Thursday, it was Christmas Eve and it was Alice’s birthday!

We tried to go to Tate Modern, which ended up being closed. Then we went to Covent Garden, which was SO busy! It started POURING rain (sideways) so we went back to the apartment to dry off (since we were all absolutely drenched – umbrellas don’t help in those situations). That’s how my iPod had died before so I was guarding my iPhone with my life this time! Once the rain stopped, we headed over to the Portobello Market and then went back to the apartment to spend some more time together before I went back home. It wasn’t too tough of a goodbye this time, since I knew I’d be going to France sometime in the next six months. I made my way back home and got back nearly at the same time as Jess (who was in Amsterdam for the week). We watched some Christmas movies before going to bed to wait for Santa to come. The next morning was a pretty lazy day on my end. Jess made an amazing Christmas dinner and we watched movies pretty much the entire day. Absolutely everything closes in London on Christmas Day, including public transport, so we pretty much had no choice but to stay at home. We even thought about going to the cinema but that was closed too.

The next morning, we started our journey to Austria! In London, we have an app that tells us what buses/trains to take in order to get somewhere, which usually comes in quite handy. Because all of the trains and most of the metros were closed on Boxing Day, we had no choice but to take a bus to the airport (which would double our travel time – taking two hours). This day, the app told us to go to a bus stop (by bus) and then take another bus directly to the airport. What it didn’t tell us was that we had to reserve spots on that second bus ahead of time, as well as pay extra for the ticket. So when we got to the bus stop, we waited and waited for this bus that never seemed to come. Finally, we figured out it was a van that would come every so often to pick people up. I looked it up online and figured out that it was completely booked up for the entire day. By that point, we were kind of freaking out but we found out that there was a coach bus that also goes directly to the airport. However, we’d have to take another bus to get to its station. The bus only came every hour on the hour and we got there at about 11:10 so we had to wait 50 minutes for the next one. However, if we caught that one, we’d get to the airport JUST in time to catch our flight at 2:30 (as the bus takes about an hour and a half). We booked our tickets online, which cost 15 pounds each and were non-refundable, and then we waited. At 12, the bus hadn’t come so we waited for awhile but then got extremely anxious when it still hadn’t come by 12:15. I tried to track down the bus online but the website couldn’t find the bus. So I had no choice but to call the company (and get charged 14 pence per minute, so dumb). I talked to one guy who tried to track the bus and put me on hold twice for over ten minutes each time. He said the bus wasn’t trackable, but he took my phone number and said he’d call me back when he figured out where it was. By that time, we were freaking out because even if the bus came, there was no way we’d make it to the airport on time. Taxi rides cost about 80-100 pounds so there was no way we’d be doing that. Luckily, there were two other guys at the stop who were waiting for the same bus so we decided to call an uber which ended up costing us ten pounds each! We still weren’t sure if we’d make it in time though, as the trip would take about 50 minutes. On the way there, the guy called me back and said they found the bus and it would arrive at 1:15 (an hour and fifteen minutes late – later than the next bus would be) and asked if that would work for us. I replied no, our flight leaves at 2:20 so we wouldn’t make it on time. Luckily, he refunded me (which now that I think about it, I never got any money back…) We made it to the airport about 40 minutes before our flight. Luckily, Gatwick is so organised so we were able to smoothly make it through security and we even had time to run and buy lunch to take with us on the plane. It was a stressful trip, but we made it! We got to Salzburg about two hours later and made our way to the hostel. We booked two beds in a six-bed female dorm but when we got there, we were surprised to see that the room was composed of two bunk beds and one queen-sized bed. The only spots available were one on the bunk bed and one on the other side of the queen-sized bed. How weird! Luckily, the other girls arrived later so she switched and Jess and I just shared the queen bed. Better than sleeping with a complete stranger! The next morning, I woke up extremely early to get tickets for the Sound of Music tour. It was a four-hour tour and it showed us the house and gazebo in the movie, as well as many different parts of the Do Re Mi song in Mirabelle Gardens, and then it also took us to Lake Wolfgang, and the church where they got married in the movie. It was a really good tour!

That day, I got to try my very first strudel, which was so good! Since the tour ended around 2pm, we still had a lot of time to explore afterwards. We went to Mozart’s birthplace and Mozart’s house, which were pretty neat! Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures, but they had a lot of his pianos and his violin, as well as a whole bunch of information about his family. We were able to buy a Salzburg card, which was awesome! It gave us free transport as well as free entrance into all of the museums and attractions. We also did a bit of shopping that evening, since the boxing week sales were so good! On Monday, we went to the Natural History Museum so that we could watch the shark feeding! It had some pretty good exhibits, as well as some really nice aquariums. After that, we made our way to the cable car ride, as it was included in our Salzburg card. It was somewhat scary but so worth it, and was really cool to see Salzburg from up above (an altitude of 1776m!). After making our way back down, we went to the Steigl museum, which was also included on our card (along with a Steigl mug and three 2-oz samples of beer!). I hardly made it through my beers before I was unable to breath and it was then that we realised that most of Austria’s restaurants have a smoking and a non-smoking section, and we had chosen the smoking section. After finishing our beer, we moved to the non-smoking section and we ordered dinner, which was SO GOOD! I know I can always count on breweries for having good food 🙂

On Tuesday, we caught a train to Vienna. That evening, we did a little more shopping and looking around. On Wednesday, we went to the Vienna zoo,

which was a pretty nice zoo, and it’s the oldest zoo in Europe (It opened in 1752)! You can tell that the animals are well taken care of and they seem pretty happy at this zoo, which was nice to see. They even had some of the old historical cages on display, which was so crazy to see, as it was such a small area for a bear or a lion. After that, we went to look at schonbrunn palace,

as it was right beside the zoo. It was absolutely huge! Vienna was much colder than Salzburg, so spending time outside was quite difficult. Especially since during the trip, my boot literally started breaking apart, seeping in water so my feet were permanently cold. After warming up in McDonald’s for awhile, we made our way to the Ferris wheel of Vienna, which was a crazy long line-up! We finally got our one turn around the Ferris wheel, and then spent a bit of time downtown. On Thursday, I decided to check out the cemeteries, since Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, and Schubert were all buried in Vienna. It was the coldest day so far and it was absolutely freezing! For the majority of the time, I couldn’t feel my feet at all. So both cemeteries were really short trips haha Beethoven’s

grave was gorgeous! I kind of feel bad cause he seems to have been forgotten about since most of the focus is usually on Mozart. After the cemeteries, I warmed up for a bit and then checked out the market before heading back to the hostel. In Vienna, they have a New Year’s Trail, which is basically 12 different stages along the streets of central Vienna, each providing its own genre of music – oldies, classical, dance music, etc. Because it was completely outside, I put on as many layers as I possibly could and then I made my way to Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, where they had a Philharmonic Orchestra performing. It was so nice to see! And every time a waltz was performed, the older couples in the crowd would start dancing. After an hour or so of that, I met up with Jess and we made our way to the DJ section, which was a huge dance party. We danced the night away (literally… For three or four hours). There wasn’t a countdown for New Years; everyone just started cheering when their phones turned to January 1st. We hung out for quite awhile and then went back to the hostel to get a bit of sleep before getting up and catching our train back to Salzburg. It was raining when we got to Salzburg, so my feet once again got cold and soaking wet, and when we got to the hostel at 2pm, we were disappointed to find out that reception was closed until 5pm. So we walked to the nearest McDonald’s to hang out for three hours before checking into the hostel and resting there for the rest of the night. We caught our flight back to London on Saturday morning, and the line-ups to check-in and to get through security were absolutely insane! Then they started boarding late, and people had to get on a bus to be moved to the plane, which was literally a 30-second walk away (which slowed down boarding even more). Our flight was only two hours but then it still took us 4.5 hours after arrival for us to get home! With our luck, the train happened to be cancelled that weekend so we had to catch a coach bus (which cost us 12 pounds each and took about 1.5 hours). Then we had to catch another two buses to get home once we got back into London, which took another 1.5 hours. We FINALLY got home at 4:30 and then used the evening to relax and unpack. Sunday was my catch-up day, where I did loads of laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning before going back to work on Monday.

Once again, we wouldn’t be guaranteed pay the first week since it was the week after a holiday. On Monday, neither of us got called in so I went shopping to buy some new (much-needed) boots. That night, there was a monthly Canadian Expat Wing Night in London, so Jess and I decided to go check it out for the first time. One guy brought a huge box of Timbits from home since he got back from Canada the previous day, which was a nice surprise! Most of the people were middle-aged, but I had a good conversation with the oldest guy there, who just had his 50-year reunion from graduating at McGill! So he told me stories from the 1940s and 50s, which was pretty cool. On Monday, I was also told that I’d have a job from Tuesday to Friday (thank goodness!), but it wasn’t at one of my favourite schools to work at. The kids don’t do much work and are quite disrespectful. The last time I was there, one of the classes were writing a test, and I happened to notice that one of the students had two tests in front of her. Then she “dropped something on the floor,” and as she went to pick it up, she gave one of the tests to the person behind her. So I went and asked for it and said he could hand it in as is; he seemed pretty upset. Then, as the girl was still “looking for what she dropped,” the guy beside her swapped their tests so that when she got back up, she could fill out his test for him. I didn’t notice it until I went to collect tests, I asked for her test and it was in his hands. So I told them I’d be writing the three of them up for cheating and they’d have to rewrite the test. I still didn’t know the last guy’s name though, and he refused to give me his test cause then I’d know his name. Finally, at the end of class he gave me his test, but he had scratched out his name and wrote down someone’s name who was absent (so they’d end up getting trouble). I remembered the name and made a comment about how it was weird that this person wasn’t in class, and this guy kept getting more and more upset cause he’d keep trying to outsmart me and it wouldn’t work. Anyway, the following week was insane. The classroom was an absolute mess every day by the end of the day, kids would fight each other, and no one would work. Apparently, this class has already went through two science teachers since the beginning of the school year and the second one had given his notice of resignation that week, so they are currently in the process of finding a third teacher. My agent had told me that on Friday, he would let me know if the school would need me for another week, but once I found out that the teacher gave his notice, I wrote my agent and told him that I wouldn’t be coming back the next week. And good thing I did because this past week, I only ended up working a total of two days (one full day, and two half-days!). So I got quite a bit of (paid) time off, which was nice! Already counting down the weeks until my next holiday (four more weeks!). Last Thursday night, I met up with Helena (my friend whom I met in France, who was also an au pair there) and we went to the Billy Elliot musical. The kids in that production were SO talented, I couldn’t believe it! They could tap, do ballet, sing, act, and they didn’t look older than eight.
Anyway, yesterday we found out that the landlords weren’t going to renew our 6-month contract due to “decorating” or something. I wasn’t too surprised, and I had started looking for a new place before I even found that out. Unfortunately, it’s really difficult to find a place in London, and you usually have to pick a place on the day that it’s posted. Since our contract doesn’t end until the end of February, I’ll likely have to wait until about two weeks before we move out before I start looking for a place. And of course, looking for two bedrooms makes it that much more difficult! But hopefully it’ll all end up working out.
I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays as much as I did! Miss you all tons! Can’t believe it’s already been five months since I left.. Love always
Edelweiss – The Sound of Music

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