August 2019 recap

Hello my lovely readers! I am not impressed that August is over already. This year is definitely going too fast. It’s the ninth month of the year and I feel like I have literally nothing to show for 2019! Aaah. We’re going to see John Cleese tonight and then I’ve taken tomorrow off since it was supposed to be a going into the office day and there’s no way I’m taking a 7 a.m. train after a late night. Buuuut I’m supposed to be recapping August, so enough of that. I’m linking up with the amazing Kristen, of course (if you don’t know who she is then all I can say is why not?).

whats new with you

Sticking with the same format as last month and grouping things into headings.

Travel/day trips

We started out the month by going out for the day on 1st August – which was Swiss national day. I caused some confusion last month by saying I had taken the day off, so I’ll clear that up now. Yes, Switzerland does get a holiday on 1st August, but I work in Germany (or mostly from home, but my employer is in Germany) so it’s not a holiday for me. I get German Reunification Day instead, which is in October. Anyway, to celebrate Switzerland’s birthday we… went to France? Obviously. We chose Eguisheim, which is a really cute little village in Alsace. Since it was a weekday and not a holiday in France, it wasn’t too crowded – not sure what it’s like on weekends or peak summer holiday season. After wandering around the village for a while, we sat and had a drink and a snack then drove up to some castle ruins above the village. It was a good day.

Two days later, it was the weekend and we had arranged to meet a friend and her boyfriend in Freiburg. She lives in Karlsruhe so it’s technically not halfway (it’s a lot closer to us!) but since Freiburg is always worth a visit and they had never actually been that’s the place we decided on. We strolled around the city, had lunch, climbed a hill and a tower to get a view of the the city and then had ice cream. We hadn’t seen each other since December so it was nice to catch up.

Freiburg

Two weeks later we headed to Karlsruhe. For those who don’t know, that’s where we lived in Germany before we moved to Switzerland. We had plans to meet some friends (plus their friends) who were visiting from California on the Sunday, so we decided to go up a day early and see whether anyone else was around. It was all arranged at slightly short notice so quite a few people were busy or away (I mean, August is summer holiday time for most people), but a few people were around. We met up with two friends, one of whom came with his wife and their son (who was exactly 12 weeks old that day – they got married a short time before the baby was born). Later, we happened to bump into two other friends at a tram stop, and they had their two children with them… the second, who we didn’t know about, was born in December. Another person we were supposed to meet up with but who ended up not having time had got married the weekend before. A while ago tagged in a meme that went something like “All my friends are getting married and having babies. I read over 100 books last year!” and it has never felt more accurate than during that weekend in Karlsruhe (never mind the fact that I had actually been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for around a year at the time I was tagged!). Anyway… we managed to visit two of my favourite places in Karlsruhe: Sukie’s Cake Shop (which I wrote about when it first opened) and Soul, which is where I celebrated my 30th birthday. It was also the Schlosslichtspiele that weekend – a festival of light involving projections on the castle – so we briefly stopped by that.

Schlosslichtspiele2019

The next day, we drove to OttenhĂśfen in the Black Forest to meet our friends to go hiking. I also got to meet their daughter for the first time (Jan had seen her when he visited them in California in November). She’s 18 months and so cute. We had a delicious lunch and a nice hike – at least until the heavens opened and we all got drenched. But the rain stopped again shortly before the end of the hike and then there was cake so it was all good.

Renovation stuff

I know I promised I wasn’t going to talk about this again, but the final radiator that was missing turned up on my birthday. I was tempted to ask them to put a bow on it for me. LOL. Someone then came a week later to add some kind of stop to the dining room window, and I took the opportunity to point out that one of the (new!) blinds had stopped working. Apparently we’re not the only ones who’ve encountered that problem. He write it down so hopefully someone will come and fix it. But that really is it done now. We’re expecting to receive the information about the rent increase at any time…

Birthday

I briefly mentioned it above so I suppose I’d better get it over with. I turned 36 on 13th August. I can’t say I was really looking forward to my birthday this year – when I turned 35, I was expecting to be the mother of twins by my next birthday, and once we started trying again I hoped I would at least be pregnant again by now (given we had our first IUI after the loss in December I don’t feel like I was being too optimistic. I mean, the fertility treatments clearly worked once before!). It ended up being an okay day though. I got way more gifts and cards than I expected, and although I was working for most of the day I did get to finish early and spend some time reading, then Jan took me out for a delicious meal. So I can’t really complain. Hopefully next year will be an entirely different birthday.

Reading

It was the bonus round of Erin’s challenge so I was mostly concentrating on that. I ended up reading a couple of books that took me days to finish so I didn’t get through as many as usual. I did, however, manage to read Wundersmith, which I loved just as much as I was expecting. If you want to know more about what I read in August, you’ll have to wait for Show Us Your Books on Tuesday.

Cross-stitch and crafty stuff

I had quite a bit going on in August. I had stitched half of a pattern for my friend’s son whose birthday is in August, so I had to get that finished, made up into a card and posted. Then my brother turned 13 on 1st September, so obviously his card had to be made and sent before the end of the month. Plus Post Pals announced that they are holding an auction to send the kids and their families glamping next year and I promised to contribute a few cross-stitched cards. I also had my godson’s birthday card to stitch (his birthday isn’t until the 13th but I needed to post his presents as packages can take a while to arrive). Just like every month, some Post Pals and their siblings had birthdays in August and at the beginning of September. I’ve mostly been sending shop-bought cards recently (no time!) but in August I hand-made cards for two Post Pals siblings. Phew. This month I am finally starting to stitch my Christmas cards and I will also be making Halloween cards for Post Pals, so that will keep me busy for a while!

 

Visitors

As you will have seen if you read my photo an hour post, Jan’s mum and her partner came to see us for the day. Every year they have a holiday at Lake Constance and we always try to meet up with them. This time they wanted to see our renovations, of course. Then we went into town and had food and drinks. They’ve been to Basel before so we didn’t need to show them around and it was too hot to do much walking anyway so we just had a nice, relaxing day.

Miscellaneous/general other stuff

In infertility news… I had to have a hysteroscopy, which is when they insert a camera in the uterus. They told me to take a painkiller an hour beforehand but it still hurt. Do not recommend. (I mean, if you need one I obviously recommend that you go ahead and have it done, but be prepared for pain.) The doctor found some scar tissue (probably caused when I had to have a curettage after losing the boys) and a cyst in the lining, so she removed those which will hopefully mean an embryo is now in with a chance of implanting. Fingers crossed!

This past weekend (which I am aware was only half in August) Jan was away and instead of sorting out the million and one things that needed doing, I decided to reorganise my books. Because of course. I’m still not fully happy with it… specifically with some of the shelves on the right-hand bookcase. But it will do for now. Most of my to-read books are now at the bottom left – both rows of the second shelf up and the ones at the front of the very bottom shelf. Yes, I have problems… (also no idea how they’re going to fit on the other shelves once I’ve read them!)

bookcases

Other than that work has been both busy and far too quiet at different times (obviously). During the last week of the month, whoever of my colleagues and former colleagues/interns, etc. can make it go out for a meal and this time I managed to be in the office on the right day – usually I don’t make it since I’m there on the first Friday of the month and two weeks in a row would be a bit much, but tomorrow I have the day off so I rearranged things a bit. It was nice to be able to join again, even though I had to rush off before everyone else to avoid getting back to Basel even later.

Jan had to work late a lot in August and also had choir rehearsals/meetings on some other evenings, so I was home alone for dinner a few times. As a result, I’ve done a terrible job of eating vegetables this month – I really must stop just shoving something in the oven when I’m eating alone! But thanks to the heat I haven’t done too badly at drinking enough water. I also managed to write I think two penpal letters this month… one was a reply to a letter I received in around February, which pretty much sums up how I’m doing with all my relationships this year. Pen pals, real-life friends, people online… I don’t discriminate – I’m an equally bad friend to everyone this year. Sorry (and not “not sorry”. I really am sorry – although apparently not enough to have a word with myself and start being a better friend?) That’s all I can think of. Probably a good thing… this post is already long enough 😉

I hope you all had a great August! Check out the link up to see what else has been happening recently in blog land.

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2018 travels

I seem to have neglected my travel posts in 2018… by which I mean I think I wrote about maybe two of our trips? We didn’t have a proper holiday (well, Jan did – 10 days travelling to Vienna, Sofia, Belgrade and Istanbul with his choir), but we did manage a few days out and weekends away. So before I entirely forget what we actually did this last year (almost forgot!), I thought I would write a round-up post of all our travels…

We started the year in Geneva, where we got very wet watching the New Year’s fireworks! We had arrived there on 29th December (I think) and left in the evening on 1st January. There was a festival of lights happening, which was nice, and we had a lovely walk around the lake, where we saw a woodpecker (which I didn’t manage to photograph), several robins and lots of different duck species, but overall I wasn’t that impressed with Geneva. It seemed dirty and despite not being particularly huge felt kind of like a large city, with lots of traffic going right through the centre. I much prefer Basel, as provincial as some may find it!

One Saturday in February we decided to head to Aarau, since it’s close by and we had never been. We discovered a cute little town where the undersides of the roof eaves are beautifully painted.

It was freezing and when it started to rain we were pleased to find an open cafĂŠ where we could have a hot drink and some Flammkuchen.

Later in February, we headed to Dijon for a weekend. The Sunday happened to be photo an hour day, so miraculously I actually posted about part of that trip! Dijon is quite a charming city but a lot of the old buildings could use some renovation. Best known for its mustard, the Dijon region is also the home of Kir – a French cocktail made with a measure of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped up with white wine (Kir Royal uses champagne) – and, being in Burgundy, Boeuf Bourguignon and Coq au Vin. Those two dishes are what Jan and I ate on the evening we spent there and both were delicious.

We didn’t actually go anywhere in March… or at least I didn’t – Jan left for his trip at the end of the month. But on Easter Monday, which fell on 2nd April in 2018, I took a tram to the nearby town of Aesch and walked up to some castle ruins above the town. It was a cloudy day, but I still had a great view of Basel from the top.

At the end of the month, when Jan was back, we decided to go up to St Chrischona. Once again, it happened to be a photo an hour day, so I actually have a post about our walk!

At the beginning of May, we drove down to just outside Munich for my cousin’s confirmation. On the way, we stopped for lunch in Bregenz, Austria and the day after the confirmation we went to Partnach Gorge near Garmisch-Patenkirchen with my uncle who lives near Munich plus my aunt and uncle who came over from England for the confirmation.

We also did the 24 stops walk in May, which is a sculpture path between Switzerland and Germany.

Basel 24 stops
One of the 24 Stops sculptures

On 26th May, Jan got a car and we drove to the TrĂźmmelbachfälle – a group of ten glacier-fed mountains inside a mountain. On the way back we stopped in Spiez to see it in the light, since the last time we were there it had been night time.

At the very end of May, we flew to England for a few days because we had been invited to a wedding on 2nd June. On the last day of May, we went out for the day with my mum and brother, first taking a walk around the lake at Druridge Bay, before stopping in Warkworth for lunch and finally visiting the beach at Amble. I my have lived abroad for most of my adult life, but I will always have a special place in my heart for Northumberland’s breathtaking beauty.

Later in the month, we took a day trip to Wasserfallen, where we took a cable car up a mountain, walked around and saw some people returning from llama trekking. No photos from there because I appear not to have them on the computer! Then on the weekend of 30th June/1st July, we had a mini-break on Lake Lucerne. We stayed in Vitznau, directly on the lake, and the next day took the cable car from Vitznau up to the Wissifluh – part of Rigi – before driving down to Stans to head up the Stanserhorn. On both mountains, we saw lots of butterflies.

I was actually pregnant at that point but had no idea.
The following weekend, we spontaneously decided to drive to the French-speaking part of Switzerland, specifically to St Ursanne, then later headed on to Neuchâtel where we ate dinner.

August was my birthday month but didn’t involve any travel for me – although Jan had a rehearsal weekend with his choir. But in September my mum, her friend and my brother came to visit and on one of the days we went to Mount Rigi and Lucerne for the day with our visitors. We got cheap deal day tickets and took ordinary trains, cogwheel trains and a boat. It was a long day but really nice. (Those last two sentences are copied directly from the draft post of my September recap, which was all written and just waiting for me to add photos. I never ended up posting it because the day before it would have gone up was the day I lost the twins and the post included pregnancy talk).

We didn’t do much travelling in October, for obvious reasons, but eight days after I was released from hospital we went to France, first stopping in the fortified town of Neuf-Brisach and then visiting Riquewihr, which was absolutely gorgeous but also absolutely packed full of tourists. Although I was still slightly weak from lack of iron, it was a much needed day out.

in November we wanted to get away from it all and went to Yverdon les Bains for a weekend. We ate delicious food, walked a lot and toured the castle. Back in Basel, after a meeting at the town council with the person responsible for bereavement, we got a car and drove part-way up a mountain then walked the Geissflue circular route. It was a beautiful day and the autumn colours were stunning!

At the end of November, while Jan was in the US, my mum and sister visited and we took a brief trip to Freiburg im Breisgau to see the Christmas market.

December was an incredibly busy month between Jan’s choir concerts and Christmas, but we did manage one day trip… on Boxing Day we drove to Murten – a small medieval town near Fribourg. It was cloudy and cold but we still had a walk around the town and along part of the wall before heading into a pub for some food.

And that concludes 2018’s travels. Despite all the ups and downs of the year, we actually managed to fit quite a lot in. There was only one month without any travel at all! We spent New Year at home this time, but I am hoping to kick off this year’s travels with a trip out to somewhere tomorrow. And beyond that? We have no plans as yet, but I am hoping for a proper holiday in 2019. Stay tuned!

A Photo an Hour: 17 February 2018

Saturday was February’s photo an hour date. I didn’t take part on Twitter because I was in France for most of the day and didn’t want to buy a data package, but I did take photos ready for uploading to a blog post. I had actually forgotten about it until Jan said “don’t forget to take a photo every hour”… at 20 past 11! By then I had missed just over two hours worth of photos! So I decided to wait 10 minutes and make it a photos at half past day, rather than on the hour. As a result, getting up and breakfast are missing and my “day” starts shortly after checking out of the hotel.

11:30 a.m. Just left our hotel in Dijon. The red phonebox (with no phone in it) is a meeting point for tour buses.

12:30 p.m. Rainy Dijon. We had just bought tickets from the Tourist Information office to climb the tower you see in this photo.

1:30 p.m. After a tea/coffee break, we’re back out walking in the rain.

2:30 p.m. Our tower tickets were for 2 p.m. At this stage we were at the bottom of the tower waiting for the guide to open the door and let us out.

3:30 p.m. At the museum of Fine Arts, formerly the Ducal Palace.

4:30 p.m. Another museum! This time The Museum of Burgundian Life.

5:30 p.m. All museumed out, we headed to a nearby bar.

6:30 p.m. Still at the bar. There were lots of these drawings on the wall.

7:30 p.m. After collecting the suitcase from the hotel, we picked up some food for the train journey home.

8:30 p.m. On the train reading Anna Karenina.

9:30 p.m. Back in Basel and on the train home – Dijon is only just under 1.5 hours away!

10:30 p.m. So happy to be all snuggly in my PJs!

That was the last photo I took – I did read for a little afterwards, but I was snuggled up with the lights out long before it would have been time to take the next photo.

As always, Photo an Hour was hosted by Louisa and Jane.
What did you get up to on Saturday?

35 before 35: Champagne in Champagne

Champagne

WordPress congratulated me on my anniversary this morning… apparently this blog has existed for a whole nine years today! So even though I didn’t intend to blog, I didn’t feel like I could let such a momentous occasion pass without a post. And what better way to celebrate than with champagne (albeit champagne that has already been drunk).

Whit Monday is a public holiday in Germany and Switzerland (or at least the parts that are relevant to us), which meant a long weekend. We didn’t want to let it go to waste, so with the Champagne region a mere four and a half hours’ drive from here, I decided it was time to check something else off my 35 before 35 list.

We were staying in Reims, but after arriving there on Saturday evening we decided to spend some time exploring other place and save Reims itself for the next day. First of all, we drove to a village called Avizes, where there’s a champagne company that one of Jan’s colleagues recommended (the one in the photo at the top of this post). Unfortunately they had already closed for the weekend so we couldn’t book a tour. We stopped in a little park just outside the village where even the landscaping featured champagne!

The next stop was Epernay… home of the (apparently) world-famous “Champagne street”. All the big names have headquarters there.

As you can see, it had started to rain by this point, so we were glad to head off and find some food (and actual champagne to drink!). We each chose the evening three course meal. Jan was driving, so he drank some delicious apricot juice, but I chose the version of the meal that came with three types of champagne. Sadly I don’t remember what they were, except that the first one did come from where it says on the glass. How’s that for a wine list though!

After breakfast the next day, we headed into Reims for a look around. I’m going to tell you about that in a separate post though, since there was no champagne drinking involved and this post is for the 35 before 35 item 😉 Instead let’s skip ahead to that afternoon, when we had a G. H. Mumm cellar tour booked.

We saw some of the barrels they originally used, each with the name of the village the grapes came from, learned about the villages where Mumm grow their grapes, saw all the different sizes of champagne bottle that exist (Mumm only has about 4 of them available!) and visited the museum.

Obviously the tour ended with a glass of champagne!

And that’s item 34 crossed off my list: Drink Champagne in Champagne.

 

Huningue and the Rheinuferweg

One grey day at the end of May, Jan and I were bored. I suggested that we could take a tram to the border and walk across the Three Countries Bridge to see what’s in Huningue. The answer is not much! But it’s a cute little town.I actually ended up going there again with my mum and brother so they could say they’d been in three countries in one day (and also get a glass of wine for cheaper than in Switzerland…)

There’s a white water rafting/kayaking place in Huningue and there turned out to be a competition going on that day with participants from all over France, so that’s what those photos are all about.

We ended up walking back to Basel along the Rheinuferweg – Rhine waterfront path – which connects St. Johanns Park in Basel with Huningue in France. At the moment the part on the French side is only open on weekends while they finish renovating the area that used to be a sewage treatment plant, but as of 2017 it’s supposed to be open during the week as well. Part of the path is the Dreyland Dichterweg, or Three Countires Poet Path, which involves various boards containing poems by poets from the region – in French, German and Swiss German. The total length of the path is only 550m and part of it goes alongside the industrial area, but it’s still quite nice to walk along by the river. I hardly took any photos, but here are the ones I did take:

The first bridge you see up there is the DreirosenbrĂźcke, literally Three Roses Bridge, but don’t be fooled by the pretty name… there’s nothing pretty about that area! The white bridge on photo two is the Three Countries Bridge with Huningue (France) on the left and Weil am Rhein (Germany) on the right. The final photo is the evidence that we actually walked across the border 😉

If you’re in Basel and want to walk along the path there are two options take a tram (8) or bus (36) to KleinhĂźningeranlage and, from there, walk across the bridge into Weil am Rhein (or take the 8 all the way into Weil am Rhein if you prefer), cross the DreiländerbrĂźcke into Hunigue and turn left to walk along the Rhine. Keep walking until you reach Basel. Alternatively, take a tram (8, 11) to JohanniterbrĂźcke and start walking along the river towards the DreirosenbrĂźcke. Go under that bridge and just carry on walking until you reach the DreiländerbrĂźcke. From there, you can cross the bridge back to Germany and take a tram back to Basel. Not a bad little afternoon out!

Colmar Christmas market(s)

This has been a weekend of Christmas markets! Although, actually, it was far too warm to be standing around drinking mulled wine. No wonder I’m not ready for Christmas… the weather’s telling me it’s still no later than September!

Our first Christmas market of the weekend was Colmar, which is only about 45-50 minutes away from Basel by train. Perfect for a day trip. There are, in fact, five markets in Colmar! Although one of those is just the normal indoor market with a few Christmassy stalls in addition to the normal ones that are there anyway, so it doesn’t really count as a Christmas market for me. One disappointing thing was a distinct lack of interesting food items – it took us ages to find anything we were even vaguely interested in. But Colmar is a beautiful town, and it looks even more magical all dressed up in its Christmas decorations. We were mostly there during the day, so I hardly got any photos with the lights switched on, but there are a few near the end. This will mainly be a post of images since there isn’t much to say beyond “We looked at stalls, drank mulled and managed to buy a few Christmas presents”. Also, the drinks came in horrible plastic glasses so I didn’t even get my usual souvenir cup!

The first thing we saw on arriving in Colmar was this, outside the train station:

Yay, signs of Christmas already! Also, note the blue sky… most of the afternoon was slightly cloudy, but it was more like late September than the last weekend in November!

On our walk into town, we found a children’s roller coaster and, beside it, this:

DSCN4425

It’s a “carousel bar” and it was actually rotating! There are no words.

Finally, we reached the first part of the actual Christmas market and grabbed our first mulled wine, or “hot wine” as the French say.

DSCN4429

Wine in hand, we wandered on through the streets in search of the other markets, admiring the pretty buildings decked out in all their finery along the way.

Various bits of the market also had random animals. They were in all different parts of town and didn’t seem to be meant for petting, so I’m not sure what the point was…

Some more photos of the town and markets. I love all the brightly coloured buildings!

We finally decided on something to eat… some kind of bread thing with cheese on top and… Escargot! Yes, we decided to be brave and try eating snails! After all, nothing could be worse than the oyster omelet in Taiwan…

It turned out the snails didn’t taste of anything much… they were a bit rubbery and that was it. We also ordered a second, “normal” slice of bread in “Alsace” style, with onions, bacon bits and Munster cheese. That one basically tasted like burnt cheese on toast. Oh well, at least they weren’t expensive. I can’t say I particularly “liked” snails, but at least they didn’t make me gag and almost throw up (looking at you, oyster slime!).

Finally, it started getting dark and I could see all the pretty lights!

I wasn’t sure what time the last train home was, but I knew when we were in Mulhouse the last one left at 9ish, and Colmar is before that, so we decided to take a train home at 7 p.m. to be safe. The markets close at 8 anyway so we couldn’t really have stayed much longer…

So, in conclusion, the Colmar Christmas markets are worth a visit and there are some lovely home-made items in the special crafts bit, bit I would recommend popping into a restaurant to eat (or bringing your own food!). The town itself is fairytale like at any time of year, and even more so when it’s all sparkly and Christmassy.

The Christmas markets in Colmar are on until 31st December 2015. During the week, they close at 7 p.m. and on weekends (Fri/Sat/Sun) at 8 p.m.

I’m linking this up to Monday Escapes with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey. Click the button for more travel tales to brighten up your Monday.

Packing my Suitcase

Paris on my mind

Inspired by this post the lovely Katyboo, today I wanted to write something positive about Paris to counteract the awful images we’ve been seeing all weekend. A sort of projecting of light into the darkness, if you will. Luckily, it turns out that, although I blogged about where we ate, the Welcome to Night Vale live show we saw and an amazing bar, I never actually got round to sharing the other photos from our stay.

Much like this autumn has been, the end of October/beginning of November was unseasonably warm in 2014, and we were able to enjoy lunch outside and a stroll around some of the sights of Paris. We didn’t have much time, but that didn’t matter. It was a lovely two days spent with my boyfriend and a good friend. Paris will never be my favourite place (sorry, but no big city will ever take that honour – I’m more of a small, quaint places kind of girl), but I have good memories from the times I’ve been there. And that’s something no terrorist will ever be able to take away from me.

Here are a few photos from last year’s Paris trip:

My thoughts are with the people of Paris, and also of all those other countries that are experiencing acts of terrorism and war every single day, but rarely receive as much news coverage as Friday’s attacks did.

I’m linking up with Monday Escapes again this week. I think we could all use an escape from sadness and hate right now.

Packing my Suitcase