Our seventh day in New Zealand was spent waiting around at Queenstown airport for flights to start going again (everything was delayed due to morning fog) then picking up a hire car at Auckland airport and driving to my uncle’s place in Rotorua. Once there, we met my three-year old cousin and spent the evening eating takeaway curry and drinking wine/beer. I have no photos or interesting tales from that day, so we’ll skip straight to day 8 when my uncle had booked for us to go to Hobbiton. He had chosen a fairly early tour so that it would hopefully be less busy so we headed off straight after breakfast. I don’t remember our tour guides name, but he was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. You could tell he had found his dream job and was absolutely in his element. Did you know that there are two versions of some of the hobbit holes – a “human” sized one and a smaller one. The people playing hobbits were filmed in front of the larger/human-sized one so that they looked the right size for it while the actors playing humans were filmed in front of the smaller ones to make them look too big for the little doorway. Obvious when you think about it, but it had never occurred to me before.
Anyway, I’m sure what you’re actually here for is photos. The place is truly stunning and the little hobbit doors are incredibly cute and colourful. I think everyone can agree on that, whether they’re into The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit or not
Because most of the hobbit holes were only filmed from the outside, there were only a few that actually had an inside, and even those only went back a tiny bit. The scenes inside hobbit holes were, of course, filmed in studios.
Those of you who were hoping to see a photo of me in a hobbit hole are out of luck😉 The only photos that were taken involve other people. Jan doesn’t want to be on my blog and there’s no way I’m sharing a photo of a three year old for the entire Internet to see! Have some more hobbit holes and scenery instead😉
I love how there are so many flowers everywhere. They obviously put a lot of work into the upkeep Did you notice the bumblebee in amongst the last gallery? I couldn’t resist taking his photo when I saw him buzzing around outside one of the hobbit holes. I love bees! (Not wasps though, nasty vindictive creatures!)
Our entrance fee included a visit to the Green Dragon complete with a drink. I chose the red ale wile Jan went for a stout. There was also a ginger ale for children and non-alcohol drinkers. My cousin didn’t like hers so we all tried it and proclaimed it very tasty. You could also buy food. I’m not sure how you would find the time to eat it though! It wasn’t long before we were being shepherded back to the bus…
I actually thought that Hobbiton was very well done. It could so easily have been horribly commercialised, but it wasn’t particularly (well, other than only being allowed to go in with an official tour which isn’t really cheap!). I’m quite glad they didn’t go the route of having the tour guides dress as hobbits, with other people in costume buzzing around and some kind of “hobbit experience” that would make the whole thing feel a bit like a theme park! Instead we got a lovely walk in the sunshine, a tour guide who gave the impression of just wanted to talk about something he loves, and even my little cousin seemed to enjoy herself despite having no idea what was going on (she liked that everything was three-year-old sized). Overall, I think Hobbiton was worth it… although it’s possible I might think differently if I had been the one to pay for it😉
I wanted to post this yesterday, on actual link-up day (the first Thursday of the month), but Jan had taken over the computer to upload his photos, so in place of Friday letters I bring you my “doings” from March… even though you all already know it was all about New Zealand!
Reading: I bought (or rather had Jan buy me) Friday On My Mind by Nicci French from Zurich airport and read that while waiting for our flight to New Zealand. It was good! (I also read a book on the way back, but it was April by that time so I won’t include it).
Watching: On the flight to Dubai I watched The Rescuers Downunder – a sequel to The Rescuers. It seemed appropriate😉 (although it’s set in Australia, not New Zealand). It was very cute, of course. Then I watched something called The Gift, which was weird. On the Dubai-Auckland flight I watched Toy Story 3, which I had somehow never seen! Before New Zealand, we started watching Mr Robot, which I bought Jan for his birthday. Two episodes in, it seems good – but intense. It’s difficult to cross stitch while watching because I miss stuff.
Drinking: Many New Zealand beers! Also wine – we did a wine tour.
Visiting: My uncle in Rotorua. I met my three year old cousin for the first time, and she’s just the cutest!
Travelling: To New Zealand, obviously, but before that we did a day trip to Lausanne.
I can’t even remember what I was doing pre-New Zealand so I’m going to stop here.
What have you been doing recently?
Check out the link up to see how everyone else spent March!
p.s. I don’t know what’s wrong with my formatting? I swear I entered spaces between each item…
As you may or may not remember, I went to England at the beginning of January. The reason for the trip was my sister’s 30th birthday! It’s not every day your younger sister turns 30, so I decided to give her a special gift. I had a photo of her dog as a puppy converted to a cross stitch pattern and then stitched it for her. I started it last June and finished it literally on her birthday, 7th January 2016! Stupidly, I forgot to take a photo of the finished article, so I only have one of my sister and her boyfriend holding it after I gave it to her. I’ve cropped the photo so you can’t see the people in it (which is a shame because the smiles of joy say it all!). So, I present to you, Loki:
This is the biggest project I’ve ever done (over 1000 stitches, mostly in shades of gray!) and I’m extremely proud of it. My sister’s reaction was exactly what I had hoped for – I actually have a video of her literally jumping up and down with joy!
By the way, the extra fifth hand holding the bottom corner is my brother’s… neither of them has an extra arm! (Pity… I’m sure we all wish we did at times!)
We had visitors over New Year who left on 2nd January, but now things are sloooowly starting to get back to normal (for a few days at least!) and I’ve found time to catch up on a little bit of my blog reading. I also have a number of posts still to write before I can start looking forward to what’s to come in 2016. For now, though, here’s my traditional recap of the year that’s just been…
We already knew that we were moving to Switzerland (although hardly anybody else did), so after our original plan to spend New Year in Iceland fell through due to the flights being so expensive, we decided to start the year in our new country. Midnight found us clinking mini sparking wine bottles on the banks of the Zürisee (Lake Zurich) before the offficial fireworks were set off at quarter past the hour.
I then returned to work, where I informed my boss that I would be moving to Switzerland. Thankfully, I ended up not having to quit because I was offered a telecommuting contract instead. Phew! I was then able to tell my colleagues, and finally announce the news on my blog. The rest of January was fairly uneventful, although we did begin the process of preparing for the move – responding to a few ads for flats in Basel and writing a cancellation letter for my Bahncard 100.
This month was mainly taking up with flat hunting – reading ads, emailing people, phoning people and travelling down to Basel to look at flats. It was a very busy and frustrating time! We did manage to have a look round Basel zoo on one of those trips though.
In March, we finally actually found a flat! It was the 24th one we had looked at (out of 25) and was also the one with the most expensive rent, but it was also our favourite and to be honest by that time we’d given up being concerned about money. We just wanted somewhere to live! We signed the contract on Friday the 13th… not so unlucky for some! We then began the process of packing our entire lives into boxes ready for the removal men to pick up.
At the end of the month, we had a leaving party, for which I made Toblerone cheesecake (yay, something crossed off my 35 before 35 list!), the removal men took away all the boxes and most of our furniture – leaving me to spend a month in a flat that contained a bed, a coffee table and two folding chairs – and Jan moved to Basel ready to start work.
Jan started his new job on 1 April and also got Internet set up in the new place so I could actually start working from home once I moved. In the meantime, I sorted out the remaining things that still needed doing back in Karlsruhe, including cancelling the Internet there and cleaning all the things! For Easter, I took a trip down to Basel to help Jan with some of the unpacking and furniture arranging. We also took a walk in the woods near our new home, where we spotted what I think was a mouse.
On the 26 April, I finally moved to Switzerland, but before that we did a beer tour of Karlsruhe with some friends. A fitting way to say goodbye to the place I had lived in for longer than any other!
This month saw me exploring my new home, in between unpacking more boxes and getting used to working from home every day! I also started the process of applying for my Swiss residency permit (including multiple trips to the Gemeindeverwaltung!) and joined in with Foodie Penpals for the first time.
June saw us exploring Basel some more, as well as taking part in a traditional walk around the boundary of our own small town. We also took a trip to Fribourg (also called Freiburg, but not the one in Germany) and I actually received my residence permit (Aufenthaltsbewilligung). Yay! I then wrote a post on how to move to Switzerland with a partner you’re not married to (just thought I’d throw that in there in case it’s useful to anyone). June always seems to be the month with all the long weekends, and 2015 was no exception, so we took advantage of that fact and went to Luzern and Mount Pilatus for the day. The top was mostly in the clouds, but it was still pretty great (but cold!).
Jan’s mum and her partner came to see us for a day since they were on holiday close by. It turned out to be the hottest day of the year and it was waaay to warm to walk around much, but we showed them a bit of Basel. At the end of the month, I flew to England alone to attend my cousin’s wedding. It was a very brief visit, but it was lovely to see so many family members in one place!
Long term readers may remember that August is my birthday month. It turns out it’s also Switzerland’s – they celebrate their national holiday (Bundesfeiertag) on 1st August. So this month started with fireworks and Swiss flags.
I spent my own birthday working, but we did go out for delicious Thai food in the evening. Later in the month, we took a trip to a butterfly house (where we saw real live toucans!) and some friends came down from Karlsruhe to belatedly celebrate my birthday with me. The day they were here, all of Basel’s towers had an open day so we went up the one that’s closest to where we live, Spalentor.
A friend came all the way from Luxembourg at the beginning of the month to watch the Lion King musical with us, and we also visited the Tinguely Museum with her. We finally managed to buy a proper ceiling light for my “office” – useful as the days were starting to get shorter! And I started my Christmas stitching to make sure it would get done in time. We also visited Karlsruhe to see Jan’s former choir perform at an annual festival.
Finally, a holiday! My first since I took a week off to move in April. We flew to England on 1st October so we could go out for a meal with my brother on the 2nd for his 25th birthday! We also attended three World Cup rugby matches, saw the “Wave” sculpture in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, visited Manchester and Alnwick (which I haven’t actually posted about yet!) and met up with many friends and family – all over the course of a mere 10 days! Having returned to Switzerland, we briefly relaxed before taking a trip to Germany on Halloween for the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival.
A lot of cross stitching happened this month! Apart from that, we went to Engelberg-Titlis for a day (blog post to follow!), took a trip to Karlsruhe for my friend’s flat warming party and, at the end of the month, went to Colmar for the day to visit the Christmas markets.
I barely managed to blog in December thanks to all the Christmas card stitching I was doing! We also briefly went to Karlsruhe to watch Jan’s former choir perform, returning immediately after the concert because Jan was also singing with a choir that evening! The next day, two of my colleague’s came down to Basel to visit the Christmas market and the following weekend we went to Bern where we visited the Christmas markets and looked around the town (blog post to follow). This means I’ve now completed the “visit 5 Christmas markets” item from my 35 before 35 challenge!
Christmas was spent with Jan’s dad and his partner, before we headed up to his mum’s for a few days on the 26th. While we were there, we spent an afternoon in Göttingen and for the first time I actually managed to take photos there! (That’s another post that will follow). We returned to Switzerland on the evening of the 28th, leaving us two days to get everything sorted ready for our friends arriving on the 31st. We all ate raclette together (when in Switzerland…) before heading into town to watch the fireworks over the Rhine… and thus, for the first time since we’ve been together, Jan and I actually finished the year in the same country that we started it in!
Overall, 2015 was a year of big changes and we spent most of it getting used to our new home and, in my case, a new way of working. We also managed to see quite a bit of our new country, which was nice. Tomorrow, we leave for England for a few days, where we will be helping my sister celebrate her 30th birthday, and after that I’m looking forward to relaxing for a bit and getting back into a routine before we start thinking about what 2016 might bring!
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.
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!
My cousin got married this weekend at Bearwood College in Wokingham, so I had a (literally) flying visit back to England: flew out on Friday morning, attended the wedding on Saturday and flew back yesterday afternoon. It was worth it though – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many members of my mum’s side of the family in one place! In fact, the last time I saw some of my cousins some of the other cousins weren’t even born! (That includes the bride, who I hadn’t seen in at least 12 years and unfortunately didn’t really see at the wedding either, other than to say congratulations as we left the room the ceremony was held in. She had a baby a few weeks ago and by the time I went looking for her she’d already taken him home).
I can’t post any pictures of people because I don’t like to do that without permission, but I can show you few of the venue and the decorations. The location was amazing! We even saw a deer when we first arrived and were waiting outside for things to start happening! Unfortunately my camera ended up on a wrong setting and most of my photos turned out blurry or too dark, but a few are vaguely okay.
Here’s Bambi, plus a shot of the hall (yes, there are people on that one but I think they’re far enough for it to be okay).
The groom’s mum made the cake! I was amazed – it looked so professional. And she also made the chocolate lollies that each person had at their place at the table.
Instead of a number, each of the tables had the name of a place that holds some significance for the bride and groom. Ours was Bruges, which I presume is just somewhere they’ve been on holiday. The most important tables were Slough, which is where they met, and Windsor Great Park, where the groom proposed.
The food was delicious! Pork belly with Bramley apple sauce and chorizo to start, followed by steak with hand-cut chips and then Tart au Citron for dessert. The vegetarian’s obviously got something different, but I don’t remember what that was.
We continued partying until around 11:30, took a taxi back, then headed to the bar at the hotel for a night cap as it was my mum’s birthday the next day and she wanted to stay up until midnight. It was a really nice wedding, the bride looked beautiful (I’m sure I won’t look anywhere near that amazing less than 2 months after giving birth!) and it was amazing to see so many members of my family. It had been four years since the last big family gathering. Hopefully this time it won’t be as long before I see them all again!
For the past two years, I’ve done a kind of month-by-month recap at the end of the year as I way to remind myself of everything I’ve done that year – where I’ve been and what I’ve achieved. Here’s this year’s version. I’m keeping photos small for this post so as not to overwhelm. Clicking on them should make them bigger.
We started the year on a high note watching the fireworks display in Madeira, which just happened to be on my 35 before 35 list. Woo hoo! I also counted that as my January trip for the take 12 trips challenge. And that was pretty much it for events in January. It was the first month of my English colleague’s maternity leave, and while my German colleagues complained of having very little to do, I was utterly swamped!
On 5th February, Jan and I celebrated our ten-year anniversary, which is quite frankly terrifying! A decade! What? How? And soon we’ll be celebrating 11 years. I just can’t get my head around it. We didn’t do anything on the actual day as Jan had a paper to finish, but a few days later we went for a (rather disappointing) Italian meal.
A week, later, I received a phone call from England with the news that my grandpa was seriously ill in hospital and wasn’t expected to last much longer (abdominal cancer). Thanks to my boss being lovely, I managed to get a week off at short notice and fly to England to be with him one last time. As it turned out, he survived for longer than the mere days or weeks that had been predicted, but I’m glad I saw him before he went really down hill so I was able to actually speak to him and have him know who I was.
At the end of the month, I took a spontaneous day trip to Bruchsal (the next larger town to the North of Karlsruhe) so that my trip for February wouldn’t have to be watching my grandpa die! It isn’t the most exciting town, but I did manage to see a few pretty things.
Jan’s birthday is the 1st of March, and this year I made him chocolate cupcakes to take to work. I’m informed they went down well.
Also in March, my grandpa was moved to another hospital (coincidentally the one where my mum works as a nurse – my grandma had to give her permission for my mum to work with him!).
17th March is, of course, St. Patrick’s Day. Our favourite Irish pub did a full Irish breakfast the day before and on actual St. Patrick’s Day (a Monday) there was a party at the pub with live music. This year I was actually clever enough to take the day after St. Patrick’s Day off work so I could party all night!
March was another ridiculously busy month at work and involved lost of overtime, but I still managed to fit in my monthly trip. I went to the Gutenberg market in Karlsruhe for it. The next day, Jan and I took a trip to Colmar in France which is gorgeous!
April was Easter month, which meant a much-needed long weekend. Yay! Jan, K and I took a trip to Amnévile zoo. It was K’s first time there, but for Jan and I it was the second. The falconry display is amazing! On the way home from the zoo, K introduced us to Welcome to Night Vale, and we both instantly became big fans.
Also, Jan and I looked after some friends’ pet birds over Easter weekend and succeeded in not killing them. Achievement of the year!😉 At the end of the month, I took a trip to Heidelberg to meet up with some fellow English speakers in Germany. It was a great day out! Hopefully we’ll be having a winter meet up in January.
May 2014 will forever be known as the month my grandpa died. When the phone rang before I’d even left for work in the morning, I knew immediately what it was going to be, and I was correct. Again, my boss allowed me to spontaneously take time off (only 2 days this time) so I was able to go home for the funeral.
Also in May, I published my 1,000th post on this here little bloggy! Unbelievable! At the end of the month, another public holiday meant a long weekend, so Jan and I took a trip to Konstanz for a couple of days.
In June, we went to see a charity concert in Karlsruhe featuring Fish of Marillion fame, among others. We also went to the Hoepfner Burgfest (a beer festival at Hoepfner – a local brewery) and almost melted! It was hot. In the middle of the month, I attended a seminar in Mainz for work and managed to snap some shots of the pretty old town area.
For our anniversary, I had bought Jan tickets to see Pearl Jam in Vienna, and in June it was finally time for our trip there. Since the concert was on a Wednesday, we decided to go for the entire week. Last time we were in Vienna was for New Year and it was freezing, so it was a treat to be there when the weather was nice! We also popped across to Bratislava for a day trip.
My little brother came to visit us in July and we went to lots of places… Strasbourg, Basel, the Black Forest and Frankfurt. Not bad for a week! I also made crumpets while he was visiting, based on a recipe that my dad’s cousin gave me.
My birthday month… in which I turned 31! I didn’t do much for it though – worked all day then headed to the Irish pub for curry and a few drinks that night. I was working the next day as well so we didn’t stay out too long.
At the end of the month, Jan had to go to a conference in Taiwan, so we decided that he would take holiday and stay out there for an extra week, and that I would join him for that week. I had never had Taiwan on my radar, but I’m so glad we went! It was amazing and beautiful and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Also, Jan keeps telling people it’s like “China for beginners”, so if you want to go to China but aren’t quite brave enough for something that’s so different to the West, try Taiwan first. I just wish we could have stayed for more than a week, but I was short on holiday after all the time spent in England.
5th September marked 8 years since I moved to Germany, which came as a bit of a shock to me once I realised it! I accidently marked the occasion by heading to a cocktail bar I’d never visted befoe with Jan and K.
Travel-wise, we didn’t do a great deal – I think we needed to recharge our batteries after the insanity of June, July and August! But we did manage to go the wine festival in Bad Dürkheim again and also fitted in a day trip to Weinheim so that I could complete my take 12 trips challenge.
I spent most of this month trying to figure out exactly why my stomach was hurting practically every time I ate (culminating in a gastroscopy in the middle of the month). On a day when I was feeling okay, I managed to go to a new café in Karlsruhe and sample some delicious scones. We then went there again later in the month for breakfast. So much deliciousness!
The fact that my 12 trips challenge was over didn’t stop me from travelling! Jan, K and I took a day trip to Bad Bergzabern one warm Sunday then we spent Halloween in Paris watching a live show of Welcome to Night Vale. So amazing!
November was also the month of my annual Christmas dinner for friends. Usually I don’t have it so early but all other dates were taken!
On the final Saturday of the month, Jan and I took part in a culinary tour of Karlsruhe, which could have included more information but did not disappoint in terms of the food!
That brings us to this month, which is currently still in progress. I’m sure I don’t really need to remind you of what I’ve been up to over the past few weeks seeing as they’ve only just happened😉 But this is supposed to be a reminder for my future self, so I will quickly mention a few things. December is, of course, the month of Christmas markets here in Germany and we kicked things off in style by visiting one at a castle! The following weekend, it was off to Speyer for their Christmas market.
Other than that, December has as usual been a whirlwind of gift buying, gift wrapping and queueing for hours at the post office to send said gifts. This year, I’ve also had the added stress of trying to get Christmas cards cross stitched and sent on time. I’m not sure what I was thinking there, but I’m starting to make the things in about March next year!
We were planning on heading to Jan’s mum’s on Saturday for Christmas, but after he failed to organise things in time, it turned out his dad is away from 23-29 December and his mum informed us that she has a full house, we decided to spend Christmas at home. We’ll be heading up North on boxing day instead then after a few days with Jan’s family, we’ll take the train from there straight to Zurich for New Year (the original plan of Iceland was vetoed because it was too expensive, then Bruges fell through because we left it too late and there were no more reasonably priced hotel rooms available…)
This has been a bit of a rollercoaster year to be honest… or maybe more like a yo-yo? It’s definitely had its ups… but there have been a few downs as well. Obviously losing my grandpa was devastating and will forever cast a shadow over 2014, but visiting Taiwan was absolutely amazing! I also feel like Jan and I have grown closer again this year, which is obviously good. On the other hand, I had no idea just how much extra work was going to result from my colleague being away for an entire year! I can’t wait for February when her baby turns one and she comes back to work! Next year is mostly definitely going to bring changes it with it, and I’m both nervous and incredibly excited to see where life is going to take me next. Here’s to a fabulous 2015, for me and also for you, dear readers.