Reinstating Friday letters

I haven’t done this in a while for various reasons – spontaneous trip to England, nothing to say, being too busy to post… but now I think it’s time to reinstate Friday letters!

Eye'm watching you...

Dear Deutsche Bahn. I really don’t appreciate you suddenly reversing the order of my train after I’ve been taking it for nearly 5 years! Now, instead of going straight into  carriage and taking a seat, I have to walk through half the train to find one that’s free. And when I arrive at my destination, I’m so far down the train that I have to walk half the length of the platform to reach the stairs – previously, the door I got out of was right next to them so I could go straight down and out of the train station. It may seem trivial to you, but it’s greatly annoying to me. Not cool, DB, not cool.

Dear weather. So, you’ve been beautiful all week while I was working, and now the forecast for tomorrow is cloudy with a chance of rain. I was planning on taking my March trip for the 12 trips challenge, but I’m not sure I’ll bother now. Thanks so much, weather gods!

Dear Sunday morning. I’m very much looking forward to you. Full Irish breakfast at the pub? Yes please!

Dear work. I would much rather be busy than have nothing to do, but I would appreciate it if next week could be just a little less full! The last few days have been crazy.

Dear tea. Once again, you have been my saviour this week. I ♥ tea!

Dear readers. Have a fabulous weekend… and I hope the weather where you are is better than ours is forecast to be!

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29 December 2013: The adventure begins

We decided to fly to Madeira from Zurich because it was cheaper than either of the airports close to us… I’m talking roughly €200 per person cheaper even after buying train tickets to get to Zurich! Unfortunately, that also meant a 3 hour train ride to get to the airport… and the flight out was at noon. So we reserved seats on the 5:50 a.m. train and I dragged myself out of bed ridiculously early to have my shower. It was so early that I couldn’t even bring myself to eat breakfast… too tired. We then left for the train station with plenty of time to spare. So far, so good! On arriving at the station, we dicovered that our train apparantly did not exist. No listing for it on the main departures board, and no train on the screen on our platform. It was listed on the printed timetables though and we had been sold the tickets at the train station, so we knew there should have been a train! Of course, the service desk was closed… but we went there with another family who had tickets for the same train and eventually managed to get the person behind the desk to open up for us (after he pointed at his watch a few times. Yes, we know it’s too early… but we can’t hang around til 9 a.m. when you finally decide to open for business!). The service desk person told us there appeared to be a delayed train arriving at that platform in a few minutes, but under a different number, so back we went to find no train. With only two minutes before the alternative connection Jan had found left, we decided not to risk it and headed off to catch a regional train. Just as the new train pulled out, we saw a train arrive on our original platform, and the family who had been with us running to get on through the only door that had actually been opened. Typical! But if we hadn’t gone for the regional train, we would probably have missed both…

Karlsruhe train station, not at 5:30 a.m.!
Karlsruhe train station, not at 5:30 a.m.!

We then settled down for an even longer than planned journey through Germany and part of Switzerland, following an entirely different route. We were supposed to go via Basel, but the new connections took us to Singen with the Schwarzwaldbahn, then to Schaffhausen and finally to Zurich Aiport with one change in Zurich Oerlikon. Phew! The conductor on the Schwarzwaldbahn had no problem with us staying on his train, but remarked that he had no idea what the Swiss colleagues would do, so on arrival in Singen Jan called the Deutsche Bahn hotline to ask what to do. We were told to find someone in Schaffhausen who would write on our ticket, so in Schaffhausen we headed to the service desk (it as late enough for that one to be open!) to find out our options. It turned out to be surprisingly easy… the Swiss train service person said “Oh, you need a “change of route ticket” (I don’t remember the German word)” and printed out two tickets for the new train which contained the sentence “Statt Hauptfahrausweis” (Instead of main ticket). We were then told to show both our original tickets and the new ones then sent on our way, no fuss and nothing extra to pay. Well done, Schweizerische Bundesbahn! You beat the Germans on that occasion, at least. After that, we were at the airport fairly quickly, where we dropped off our suitcase and made it through security quickly and easily. Stage one, complete! We then boarded our first plane, a Swiss Airways flight headed for Lisbon.

We had a roughly four-hour layover at Lisbon airport, so after looking around all the shops what else was I to do but indulge in some pastéis de nata, Portuguese custard tart. Lady of the Cakes assures me the ones at the airport aren’t that good, but I was pleasantly surprised by how nice mine was. I expected to find it horribly sweet, but it actually wasn’t… and because it was still slightly warm, I wasn’t subjected to the texture and taste of cold custard, which I detest!

Luckily our onward flight to Madeira was on time (Lisbon airport is one of the better ones I’ve been too, but I definitely didn’t need any more time there!) and everything went smoothly, so we landed in Madeira as planned, collected our suitcase and picked up or rental car ready for the drive to the hotel. Despite the slightly annoying beginning, we had made it! And as for our time in Madeira… you’ll just have to come back tomorrow to start reading about that!

~ I am counting Madeira as my January 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge, even though part of the holiday was actually in December! ~

Friday letters

I can’t believe it’s Friday again! This week seems to have both dragged and flown by. Dragged because I had so much work and all of it was on the same looooong translation. It gets a little repetetive after a while. But the time also seems to have flown by thanks to the same translation – I lost about four hours last week due to server issues so I’ve spent most of the week panicking that there was no way I could the translation done in time. So that was fun. (In case anyone’s wondering, I did actually get the translation done, but it took me about 8 hours longer than it was supposed to.) As you can probably guess, the weekend is very welcome this week…

A happy post box
A happy post box (Photo: shaggy359)

Dear sleep. I hope you’ll be around this weekend – you and I have some serious catching up to do!

Dear boyfriend. Thank you for being so supportive of my healthy eating thing… and helping me log the calories when I couldn’t do the maths myself! (41% of 250 expressed as a decimal anyone? It’s beyond my capabilities!)

Dear England. This time next week I’ll be preparing to leave for the airport and catch a flight to you. Very, very excited (especially about the christening)!

Dear Deutsche Bahn. Air conditioning is all well and good, but does it really have to be freezing on my train in the morning? I know it’s hot outside, but that doesn’t mean it has to be like winter inside!

Dear readers. Please could you all sign this petition against the closure of the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences at Salford University. Salford is one of the few UK universities that offers a Bachelor’s in translation, and too many institutions have already closed their language departments. The petition still needs 400 signatures, otherwise I wouldn’t ask you…

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The upper end of “normal”

*This is the post I had actually planned to write today… the one from this morning was just an added bonus, hence the two posts in a day thing*

The observant among you have probably noticed that I don’t live in the same town where I work. Every day, I get up at 6 a.m. so I can take the (stupidly early) train to work. At first, I bought monthly tickets, but that got annoying after a while so as soon as I passed my probation period, I ordered the BahnCard 100 from Deutsche Bahn.

Deutsch: BahnCard 100
The BahnCard 100 (Photo: Wikipedia)

There are three versions of the BahnCard – BahnCard 25 gets you 25% off train tickets, BahnCard 50 gets you 50% and the BahnCrad 100… well, can you guess what that one does? Correct! It allows me to travel on any train within Germany for no extra charge. The card itself costs a small fortune, of course, but it comes with CityPlus, which allows me to use opublic transport within any town that participate in the scheme. As both Karlsruhe and the town I work in have CityPlus, with my BahnCard I’m covered for the trams as well. After working out that buying three monthly tickets (for the train and both tram networks) I would only be spending €15 less than the monthly price of the BahnCard 100, my choice was clear.

The other thing that comes with BahnCard 100 is a bonus scheme. It used to be automatic, but recently they’ve changed it so you have to opt in. Non-BahnCard holders can join the scheme as well – they just have to order a separate bonus card. Basically every euro you spend (either purchasing a BahnCard itself or travel tickets) equates to one point for the bonus system. And once you get enough points, you can go to the Bahn website and exchange them for things. There are various “prizes” (for want of a better word) available – everything from train tickets and reservations to wine gift sets and iPads.

Elbling wine
Mmm, wine! (Photo: Wikipedia)

A few weeks ago, I received a letter telling me some of my points were about to expire, so I decided it was time to claim a prize. I went on the Bahn website, looked through all the options, and eventually decided to order myself a set of scales – the kind that promise to analyse your body as well as weighing you. They duly arrived on Saturday (when I was not home!) and the neighbour who had taken them for me brought them round on Monday night. Being a man, and therefore a sucker for anything with buttons, Jan wanted to set them up for me immediately. So into the scales went my age, height and the amount of exercise I do, and onto the scales I stepped.

Percent Symbols - Best Percentage Growth or In...
(Photo: SalFalko)

My weight was pretty much what I’d been expecting (and no, I’m not telling you what it is!), so no surprises there, although I would like to get it down a bit. Then came the fat analysis part. Body fat proportion: 30%, said the scales. jan, who was holding the little booklet looked that up. “It says you’re normal,” he reported. “20% to 32% is the normal range for women in your age group.” I went and had a look. He was right… 30% is normal… but the upper end of normal. I’m only 2% away from the “Overwieght” category… just like my waist to height ratio puts me at only 0.02 away from being overweight. Eeep!

I’ve said it before, I know, but this time I really do need to get serious about shifting some belly fat! So far, I still look pretty good in most of my clothes, but seeing that I’m only 2% away from an unhealthly proportion of body fat actually kind of scared me, so I want to put a stop to the weight gain before I actually am fat! I’ve been doing quite well on the exercise front recently, so now all I need to do is ditch the junk food (would now be a good time to admit that I treated myself to a Magnum after work two days in a row? What can I say… I was hot!), pay closer attention to my portion sizes and make a real effort to cook nice, healthy meals containing actual vegetables!

diet ecard

Coincidentally, while I was planning this post, The Pink Rachael introduced her new weekly series, Weigh-in Wednesdays, so from now on I shall be linking up with that. I’m hoping to get at least a centimetre or two shifted before I go to England and have to appear at a christening in – gasp – a pretty frock!

The return of Friday letters

I have to briefly interrupt the Ireland so that I can bring back Friday letters. What? No, I can’t wait alll the way til next week 😉

07-07-07-02 Pretty pink postbox
Pretty pink postbox (Photo credit: MyAngelG)

Dear self. Well done on managing to do some exercise every day this week. Now you just have to keep it up for another three! Oh, and give up the junk food…

Dear weekend. I am sooo glad to see you! It’s been a long and tiring week. I hope I get a chance to catch up on some sleep in between all our plans!

Dear Ireland. I miss you already! Definitely hope to be back some day…

Dear Germany. So, we got sun today (after it having rained since Monday) and on Sunday more good weather is forecast, but tomorrow when I have a daytrip planned you’re sending yet more rain? Thanks for that…

Dear Deutsche Bahn. I have to admit, I love your bonus program! Some new scales (for weighing me, not kitchen scales) are winging their way towards me even as I type thanks to the points I collected by purchasing your BahnCard!

Dear England. We booked our flights last night, so I shall see you in three weeks for T’s christening!

That’s all from me. Have a great weekend everyone! More Friday letters next week (and tomorrow, even more from Ireland. I hope you’re not sick of hearing about our holiday yet…)

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An unexpected day at home

Hello! You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged for a few days (or not…). I was far too busy this weekend to get on the computer! Live music, watching England get absolutely stuffed at rugby in an utterly embarassing performance, cocktails, a full Irish breakfast at the pub for St. Patrick’s Day, watching Newcastle undeservedly lose at football, night out for St. Patrick’s Day…

Canceled
Photo credit: Daniel*1977

This morning, I got up expecting life to return to normal after my unusually full weekend. Before leaving the house, I quickly checked the Internet to see whether my train was on time. “Warning,” said the Deutsche Bahn website. “Due to strikes, trains in Baden-Württemberg may be subject to delays or cancellations.” My train, it transpired, was delayed by 110 minutes (Deutsche Bahn don’t seem to believe in hours…). And the next train I could have taken was cancelled. The regional trains were apparantly running as normal though. So I sat back down for a bit before heading out to catch a regional train.

I arrived on the platform to find that the train was not already there. This is unusual – it leaves 10 minutes after my usual train but is normally already sitting there 5 or 10 minutes before mine even arrives. Today, there was no sign of it although the information board mentioned nothing about I delay. I waited, along with a number of other people, but the train never came. Then we noticed another train with the same destination sitting on a different platform. So off we went to platform 5. The train driver was standing looking out of the window, so we asked him whether his train would be going to where we wanted to be. “Yes, at some point,” he replied. It was 5 minutes to 8 at this point, and he informed us that his train was actually the 6:55 one but he hadn’t been given permission to leave yet, so he’d been sitting there for two hours waiting for something to happen. A few people got into the train anyway, but I chose to head home and spend theday working from there. Luckily I have the option to connect to work remotely!

I later read that the strikes were supposed to be from 6 a.m. til 8 a.m., so if I’d hung around I may still have made it into work at some point. But by that stage all the fast trains were already delayed by two hours or more and the regional train that I would have ended up taking is the slowest of them all, so it would have taken over an hour for me to reach work even once the driver was finally allowed to set off! Working from home definitely still sounds like the better option! Hopefully tomorrow I’ll actually be able to make it into the office…

Friday letters

Friday has been a long time coming this week. Between my colleague being ill – making overtime necessary to complete her work as well as my own – and the snow, which Deutsche Bahn cannot cope with at all, the days have been incredibly long. I’m definitely hoping to find some time to relax this weekend! But first I’m going out tonight to eat Italian food and enjoy some live music. And before that, it’s Friday letters time…

: Gate House: Mailbox and hedge
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Dear weather. Actually, no. I don’t even have the words to express what I want to say to you – at least not politely. I’ve managed not to swear on my blog up to now, and I won’t give you the satisfaction of being the first thing I swear at!

Dear exercise DVD. I know I promised to get back to you this week, but that was before overtime and delayed trains conspired against me. I will try to be better next week (notice how I’m not promising anything…)

Dear St. Patrick’s Day. I’ts kind of annoying that you’re on a Sunday, but I shall be celebrating you anyway. Irish pub, here I come! (Dressed in green, of course).

Dear boyfriend. After losing you to Turkey for over a week (during which you ended up ill1), I thought you might get to stay home for a while, but within two days of being back at work, you were sent to Munich for a project meeting! Am I the only one that finds this unfair? Can’t wait to have you back tonight.

Dear birthday. You are now a few days less than 5 months away and I still haven’t arranged anything whatsoever for you. I’m seriously considering returning to my original plan – stay in bed and pretend you’re not happening. Unless someone decides to take pity on me and do the organising on my behalf…

Must go now. I promised to pick my friend up at the tram stop in 5 minutes (good job it’s basically outside my house!). Happy Friday everyone.

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