Confuzzledom

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Spalentor, Basel

A couple of weekends ago, I had some friends from Karlsruhe visiting so we could celebrate my birthday and also have a mini flat-warming type thing. A couple of days before, I just happened to see on a Basel meetup group that on that very Saturday there was a “Tag des offenen Turme”, Day of Open Towers. In other words, the remaining towers of Basel’s old city walls were opening up for one day only (usually you can only look at them from the outside). Four towers in all were opening up, but that seemed like a bit much for one afternoon, so I decided it made most sense to aim for just one. I chose Spalentor because it’s the prettiest looking (from the outside, in my opinion) and also the closest to where we live. Also, it’s practically in the town centre so we could walk on to some other tourist sites after viewing the tower.

Spalentor

Spalentor

The week before had been cloudy and not all that warm, so I was relieved to see Saturday dawning with bright sunshine. Climbing a tower only to see clouds isn’t much fun!
Inside the tower, there were various interesting items of furniture on each level and also a fascinating little room!

Finally we reached the top and were able to look out over the roofs of Basel and the very pretty street that the tower/gate is located in.

Most of what we could see from the top of the tower wasn’t actually all that interesting so those are the only photos I took from up there. But it was interesting to actually go inside the tower that we’d driven past so many times while flat hunting. And I still think the outside is very pretty.

It seems the Tag der Stadttore (Day of the open city gates), to give it its official name, is an annual event, so maybe next year I’ll get to see the inside of another tower!

I’m linking this post up to Monday Escapes with My Travel Monkey and Packing My Suitcase. Click the button to find out more!

My Travel Monkey


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The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award…. times 2!

I was first nominated for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award way back in 2013… you can read my answers here. Then Lolo, aka California Globetrotter nominated me again back at the beginning of August. I’ve been meaning to answer her questions ever since, but spectacularly failed to find time for it. Now that Becster has also nominated me, I thought it was about time I actually did the tag! Apologies in advance… this will be a long one as I’m answering ten questions from each of those bloggers. Feel free to skip this post and wait for a shorter one.

SisterhoodFirst of all, thank you to both bloggers. As always, I am honoured that you thought of me (even even though answering questions is haaaard /end whine). I will start with Lolo’s questions since she tagged me first. Hers are all travel related, which is nice.

  1. When did you realise you were a travel addict?
    I think it was probably when I was a child. I have a memory of going to visit my grandparents. We were living in Northern Ireland at the time, which puts me at between 5 and 7 years old. We travelled by ferry and I remember thinking it was the coolest thing ever and hoping I would get to go on many more ferries in my life. Even though we were “only” going to stay with my grandparents, I’m pretty sure that was the moment I caught the travel bug.
  2. Where will you never, ever travel to again?
    Hmm, I don’t think there is anywhere really. I’m not really that keen on Paris, but things keep coming up there (brother wanting to celebrate his 21st birthday there, it being the closest Night Vale live show to us…) so I’ll never say never!
  3. What was the most thrill-inducing activity you have ever done while travelling?
    I can’t actually think of anything. Sorry guys, I guess I’m boring! Hmm, maybe tobogganing down the road in Madeira counts?
  4. Have you ever had a terrible travel companion to the point you couldn’t wait for the trip to be over?
    I actually haven’t! Some of our companions in Ireland kind of annoyed me at times, but I successfully ignored them and made sure I fit in everything I wanted to do, so I still had an amazing trip.
  5. Where is one place you keep going back and visiting over an over again?
    I’m going  to say Northumberland doesn’t count since I mostly go there to visit family! Bizarrely, I think the place I’ve been most often is Paris with 4 trips! Most of those just happened that way though (see above), so it’s not like I just loooove Paris so much I have to keep going there. I mean, I like Paris but there are places I like a lot better! One place I would visit over and over again is Austria, but various parts of the country rather than one specific place (although I have been to Vienna twice).

    Marktgasse in Feldkirch, Austria

    Marktgasse in Feldkirch, Austria

  6. What advice could you give to newbie travel bloggers?
    Well, I’m not actually a travel blogger so I’m not sure any advice I give would be any good. I’ll just give some advice that isn’t specific to travel blogging… just be yourself! Find your own voice and don’t try to imitate big bloggers in the hope of achieving their level of popularity quickly. I will never have a “big” blog, but I will also never get tired of blogging because I’m actually doing it in a way I enjoy and not trying to do the “right” thing to achieve success.
  7. Is there something you always have to do in every city you visit?
    Try the local food! I always like to get away from the touristy areas and walk down random side streets to hopefully find out where the locals choose to eat. This often means a lot of pointing and gesticulating, but the experience is much more authentic than in a restaurant where the menu consists of pictures of the dishes ;-)
  8. Where was the first place you visited overseas?
    Rhodes, Greece aged 11. I loved it!
  9. If you could live in any country right now, where would you live?
    Can I be boring and say the one I’m in? I haven’t even been living in Switzerland for 6 months yet so I still have so much to explore!
  10. If you could go back in time, which time period would you love to travel the world in?
    As a woman, I actually quite enjoy the fact that I get to travel the world now! While there obviously are places where it’s not really safe/desirable to be a woman travelling (especially alone!), for the most part things are pretty good these days. However, I do think it could have been interesting to travel the world when Captain Cook was on his voyages of discovery. Interesting but not very comfortable… so maybe I’ll stick with my own time after all ;-)

Thank you Lolo for those interesting questions! And now on to Becster’s…

  1. What’s your favourite film/movie
    Oooh, so many good ones! I don’t think I can pick just one, so I’m going with two… A League of Their Own and Clue (if you haven’t see the latter, please go and find it right now. It’s seriously one of the funniest films ever!!)
  2. If you could visit anywhere for a day, where would you go?
    One day is such a short time, and there are so many places I want to visit. But I think this time I’m going to choose Iceland. I’m desperate to see the Northern Lights!
  3. Are you a cat or dog person?
    Dog, definitely. I don’t have anything against cats, but in a pet I want a someone who is always pleased to see me. Also, the idea of cleaning out cat litter trays makes me feel ill. I’d much rather pick up dog poo somewhere outside my house!

    Not my dog, sadly...

    Not my dog, sadly…

  4. Do you watch any soaps?
    No. I watched Hollyoaks for a while as a teenager, but I don’t really watch much TV at all these days.
  5. Favourite snack to binge on?
    Chocolate! And Switzerland is a dangerous place for chocolate lovers…
  6. Most hated chore to have to do?
    Ironing! 100%. I’m actually scared of burning myself on the iron (because I’m a weirdo) so all ironing at my place is done by Jan. Of the chores I actually do, I hate washing dishes the most. I love the fact that we now have a dishwasher!
  7. Do you eat your fruit and veggies?
    I try to :-) Vegetables I’m actually quite good with, but fruit seems to go bad too quickly for me.
  8. 50 Shades of Gray – yay or nay?
    I’ve never actually read it, but from what I’ve heard, apart from the storyline being awful I’d end up throwing it across the room a few pages in because the writing itself is so terrible!
  9. What do you normally eat for breakfast?
    I don’t always eat breakfast (if you’re reading… sorry mam!), but when I do it’s usually toast. Lately I’ve been enjoying it with Ovomaltine spread.
  10. Tea or coffee?
    Definitely tea! I do drink coffee, but not often, and at home I almost always drink tea.

    It's always a good time for a cuppa!

    It’s always a good time for a cuppa!

And that’s the end of that! I’m supposed to nominate ten other people now, but the only people I can think of are ones I’ve nominated for similar awards a dozen times, so here are my six nominations. That’s almost ten, right? ;-)

Kezzie
Courtney from Welcome to Germerica
Beth from Ami in Schwabenland
Zoe from Where’s Zoe now?
Briony from Fear of the Reaper
Charlotte

And now I have to try and think of interesting questions to ask you (this part is also hard!).

  1. Why did you start your blog?
  2. What is the best food you’ve ever tried while travelling?
  3. If you could have a second home where would it be and why?
  4. If you were a ghost, which place would you haunt?
  5. Have you ever planned a trip just because a book/film was set there?
  6. What is your favourite item in your home?
  7. What is your favourite pancake topping/filling (depending on how you make your pancakes :-))
  8. Which song title best represents your life right now?
  9. Which of your blog posts has the most views?
  10. What is a book you’ve been meaning to read for a while but keep putting off?

To my nominees: I apologise if you’ve done this before or just hate tags! You don’t actually have to do it….
To everyone else: the people I’ve nominated have a fab blogs and you should really check them out. Also, sorry if I’ve bored you ;-)


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Friday letters

Good morning! I have been the wooooorst blogger this week. Even more so than previous weeks, which you would have thought was impossible. I just can’t be bothered to switch from one computer to the other immediately after work (and I’m not supposed to use the work laptop for personal stuff). Plus, now I’m home all the time, I feel like I no longer have any excuse to not stay at least kind of on top of the housework. So yeah, blogging kind of falls by the wayside. And now I have plans for almost every weekend between now and the end of October, which is good but leaves me with almost no time for other stuff (blogging, reading, cross stitching…). But enough of that, on with Friday letters.

Mailbox

Dear September. I see you, waiting to pounce. How did you get here so quickly? I’m not ready!!

Dear Goodreads/Amazon. I want all the books, and it’s your fault! Well, yours and my addiction’s. But it’s you that adds fuel to the fire.

Dear “baby” brother. Not such a baby anymore! Hope you enjoy your 9th(!!) birthday on Tuesday.

Dear Basel. A street festival tonight and then a beer festival tomorrow (plus the jazz festival we attended last Friday evening). You spoil us with all your events! There definitely was not this much going on in Karlsruhe…

Dear England. Five weeks until I see you again! *Note to self: Get flights booked soon!*

Dear Lion King musical. I am excited to see you next weekend! Hope the tickets arrive soon…

Dear Tea. I’m glad our plan to see The Lion King worked out at such short notice. Can’t wait to see you and show you my new home!

Right, that’s all I have time for now. I have a tonne of work to do today. Have a great weekend, everyone!


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Literary Ladies Summer Book Challenge – Month 2

Hi all! Wow, I haven’t written a blog post since Monday! Poor bloggy. Today’s is going to be a short one, too, as we have our first overnight visitors since the move coming later and I have a tonne of things to get done before that. And my lunch break is already half over (thanks to that pesky actually having to eat thing!). But it’s check-in day for the Literary Ladies Summer Book Challenge, so I wanted to at least get a quick post in.

Last month I managed to read a whole two books, and I’m afraid I can’t say I’ve done any better this month! In fact, it was another two-book month, at least as far as the challenge goes:

  • Read a novel with a kickass female character. The Third Day, The Frost by John Marsden. This is the third book in the Tomorrow series, and if Ellie and her friends aren’t kickass then I don’t know who is! Also, forget about John Green, it’s John Marsden everyone needs to be raving about!
  • Read a suspenseful book – a mystery, a thriller, a book about revenge. Without You by Saskia Sarginson. The blurb says “In a captivating blend of mystery, thriller and emotional family drama, Without You will leave you unsettled, even as it touches your heart”. Well, I can’t say I found it particularly thrilling, but there is a mystery and the story should have been thrilling, in theory, so it counts. The category didn’t say whether it had to be a particularly good thriller…

I have actually read other books since the last check in, but either they were too short to count even if I had been able to shoehorn them into a category or I just couldn’t see a way to fit them in. Here are some of my other recent reads:

  • The Twins, also by Saskia Sarginson and much better than Without You!
  • Anything But Typical by Nora Baskin Raleigh – excellent story told from the perspective of an autistic boy (and too short to count for the challenge at only 195 pages)
  • The Improbable Cat by Allan Ahlberg  – weird, in future I’ll stick to his books for younger children
  • A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz – an interesting take on fairy tales (Hansel and Gretel star in other Grimm tales), but I was annoyed by all the comments to the reader. Just shut up and get on with the story already! Also, very gory/violent so I’d be careful which kids you give this one too!

I am currently reading Zorgamazoo, which will definitely be my one-word title book for the challenge, but didn’t finish in time for the check in. I’m only two chapters in so far but it’s already excellent!


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Kerzers Papiliorama

Today’s entry for Monday Escapes actually was an escape… from the rain! We had originally considered maybe going hiking at the weekend, but Jan had a cold and didn’t really think he was up for it. With the weather forecasters predicting rain, rain and more rain, hiking was off anyway, so on Sunday we decided to take a trip to Kerzers Papiliorama (Saturday involved a spontaneous trip to Mulhouse, but I’ll tell you about that some other time).

Those of you who speak even a tiny bit of French will probably have already guessed what our day involved: Papillon = butterfly! yes, it’s a butterfly house (just outside the town of Kerzers in region Fribourg, in case you were wondering about the rest). But it’s not just a butterfly house – our first stop was in the nocternal area, where we saw very active porcupines (I don’t think I’ve ever seen one doing anything but just lie around before!), owl monkeys and sloths – no photos were allowed in that bit so I have none for you. Just inside the entrance there was an enclosure with Goeldi’s marmosets and birds (photos below this paragraph) and outside there was a petting zoo. Also, there was a jungle trail, which I’ll get to later.

Obviously, the main thing we had come for was the butterflies, so after going through the nocturnal area and watching the marmosets being fed, it was off to butterfly land! Isn’t there some quote about butterflies being flowers with wings? Something like that. It’s a pretty accurate description, anyway. And even though a lot of the butterflies wouldn’t stay still for long enough to allow photos, I did manage to get a few good ones. Here you are:

By the way, I uploaded all the photos in this post straight from my memory card without bothering to edit, because I’m lazy like that. I did at least filter out the horribly blurry ones though. Here, have more butterflies:

I wish I’d taken a photo of the information board now because I can no longer remember the names of most of the species (except the owl butterfly!) and googling doesn’t actually help. Oh well, have another photo just because I thought this was a really cool/unusual perspective:

Butterfly front view

Butterfly front view

OK, now I’ve overloaded you with photos of butterflies, let’s move on to the jungle trail. The Papiliorama supports/helped set up a nature reserve in Belize, and the junge trail is an exact replica of said nature reserve in small. There are a few animals in enclosures in there and then birds flying around loose (and also lizards roaming around loose, but we didn’t see any – just a sign saying “stair-climbing iguanas have right of way”). The absolute best thing about the nature trail though…. toucans!! Just flying around freely – one was sitting on the fence near where we came in, and he was so close that I could have reached out and stroked him. Obviously I wouldn’t because I don’t fancy having my fingers bitten off, but still SO COOL! I love toucans!! Here, have a few photos from the jungle trail, i.e. mainly photos of TOUCANS!!

In case you hadn’t noticed, I love toucans!! This love stems almost entirely from a book I had as a kid called “Two Can, Toucan” which basically tells the story of how the toucan got his colouful beak by spilling two cans of paint all over himself. Because obviously (I am sooo buying that book for my future kids by the way).

There was also a little bat cave in the jungle trail area. The sign outside said “no flash photography”, but non-flash photography is basically impossible, so this is the best I could do:

Bats

Bats

Yeah, pretty pointless. Never mind! (I also took a video but I think that might be a bit much for this post…)

Once we were done with the jungle trail, we headed outside to the petting zoo. It was feeding time for the ducks and pigs, and a bunch of goats were following the person doing the feeding everywhere trying to get some, then eating the duck food right out of the water. It was pretty amusing to watch. Also, they had some very pretty chickens – Appenzell something or others (sorry, I’m terrible at this being informative business!). Here, the final batch of photos:

Oh my gosh, so many goat photos! I do apologise (and that’s not even all of them. I don’t know. I have no excuse…).

We got a RailAway special deal, which give us 20% off our rail fare if we bought the entrance ticket and rail tickets together from SBB. From Basel to Kerzers Papiliorama (it has its own stop) took us just under 2 hours, with one change in Bern. We arrived at around 1 p.m. and took the 4:50 p.m. train home, so we managed to spend quite a bit of time there. Obviously being a rainy Sunday there were a lot of children around, but the place was big/spead out enough that we didn’t feel as though we were constantly falling over small people. So, to sum up, I can recommend! The entrance fee for adults is CHF 18 (sorry, I didn’t check the children’s price).

This has been a ridiculously long blog post for Monday Escapes with My Travel Monkey and Packing my Suitcase, except this time if you want to link up you have to do so on Mummy Travels as one of the usual hosts is away.

Phew, I really don’t know how to make a long story short, do I?

Packing my Suitcase


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35 Before 35: Progress report 4

Wow, my blogging has been really sporadic recently, hasn’t it? It’s not that I don’t want to blog, I just don’t seem to have anything to talk about. Also if you’re on blogspot (and use the blogspot comments form) I apologise if I haven’t commented on your blog for a while – I am reading but when I try to comment from my work laptop it just disappears into thin air when I press post. I assume it has to do with the (ridiculously high) security settings for the Internet browser…

Anyway, today seemed like a good day to post another progress report for my 35 before 35, seeing as I now have precisely 3 years to complete the challenge (why yes, that was a not-very-well veiled reference to the fact that today is my birthday). I haven’t actually done much towards it recently, what with moving countries and everything, but I can at least cross a few things off. My last progress all the way back in October 2014! You can read it here, if you’re interested. And here’s what I’ve done since then:

Number 9: Make cheesecake

I made a Toblerone cheesecake for my leaving party. It was delicious!

Toblerone cheesecake

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

I had read 17 books in German last time I updated, and now I’m up to a whole 20! I read Die Nacht des Zorns (original French title: L’armée furieuse) by Fred Vargas (thank you to the winter reading challenge for that one!), Liebesfluch by  Beatrix Gurian (also read for the winter reading challenge), MUH! by David Safir (a Christmas present) and Apfelrosenzeit by Anneke Mohn.

Number 21: Read all the books from the BBC Big Read that I hadn’t before starting this challenge

I was up to 9 last time I updated (plus a few I’d started but hadn’t finished). Now I’m on 13, so that’s 4 read for this category, too. I haven’t finished any of the ones I was working on before though. The one’s I’ve read since October are The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde, The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (for the summer reading challenge), Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafón (highly recommend by the way – I LOVED this one!)

Number 24. Go to 5 different Christmas markets (other than Karlsruhe and Durlach)

I hadn’t been to any Christmas markets the last time I updated, so this is a new category! In December 2014, I went to the Christmas market at Burg Hohenzollern and the one in Speyer (those are links. Click them.).

Burg Hohenzollern

Number 31. Watch 35 films I’ve never seen before.

I was up to 16 last time, and now I’m on 18. Since October, I’ve watched Birdman (weird!) and Rush (really good).

Number 35: The KVV beer tour (drink a beer in all the breweries local to Karlsruhe that can be reached by tram/S-Bahn)

I did this right before I left Karlsruhe, in April. I’m glad I had it on my list because it was an amazing day out! Read about it here.

Wow, that’s actually quite a lot! It seems I did more than I thought I had – which I suppose is the advantage of leaving 10 months between updates ;-)

Bring on the next three years!


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Foodie penpals July reveal

I am a terrible blogger and forgot to get my foodie penpals post ready for the big reveal on the last day of July. Oops. In my defence, I received my parcel relatively late in the month and I had a wedding to attend. In the UK. Those are my excuses and I’m sticking to them! Anyway, my foodie penpals this month were both in UK. I sent a parcel to the lovely Selina and received one from Kate (I would provide links if they had blogs…). Here’s what I got from Kate:

Foodie package

What? You can’t see everything? Here – I took the items out of the box for you!

Foodie parcel

I have to confess, I very cheekily requested the beef Hula Hoops. I love beef Hula Hoops! (Also Flamin’ Hot Monster Munch, Skips, Bacon Fries, Mini Cheddars and Wotsits, just in case anyone was thinking of sending me a care package ;-) ).

This month I actually managed to restrain myself for long enough to take individual photos of some of the items, so here’s what I received in detail:

Foodie penpals

Baking stuff, specifically mini loaf cases, chocolate honeycomb decoratey type stuff and cardamom pods. I’ve never used a cardamom pod for anything in my life! Research shall have to be done…

Foodie penpals

Yummy sweet treats! Fruit crumble sweeties, treacle tart flavour chocolate and raspberry flavoured pieces of dried coconut. SO TASTY!

Foodie penpals

Beefy stuffs! The aforementioned Hula Hoops and some sweet/sour/spicy flavoured beef jerky. Kate is a vegetarian but she sent me meat. How nice is that?! The beef jerky was yummy.

Foodie penpals

Smoked chilli flavoured mayonnaise. I haven’t tried this yet – it’s sitting in my fridge waiting for an opportunity. What does one serve spicy mayonnaise with?

And that was this month’s package. Yes, I took my photos on the floor. So what?

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, here’s what I sent to Selina:

Foodie penpalsSwitzerland in an envelope, so to speak.

The matches for August came out today, so if you haven’t already I’m afraid you’re too late to sign up for this month, but you can sign up right now to take part in September. To read the rules and sign up go here. (This is the European version, for those of you in the US/Canada, the original Foodie Penpals on The Lean Green Bean is here.)

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