Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


Guess the Christmas cross stitch 2015

I promised you a new game of “guess what I’m stitching”, so here’s round one. Those of you who have played before know what to do, for the rest of you it’s incredibly simple: I show you a photo of the progress I’ve made so far with a cross stitch picture and you tell me what it looks like/what you think it’s going to be. Your only clue is that it will eventually be turned into a Christmas card. Here’s your first image:

Cross stitchAnd now, in the words of the wonderful Roy Walker, just say what you see!

I’ll leave this up for a few days for you to guess on before I upload the next photo. Good luck!


Olten Street Food Festival

I’ve mentioned the Olten Street Food Festival on my blog before because it happened to take place on June’s photo an hour day. However, I also meant to write a full post dedicated to the festival and Olten, and that hasn’t happened yet. There’s another Monday Escapes linkup happening today, so it seemed like a good opportunity.

Olten is only about half an hour from Basel by regional or inter-city train (faster by ICE – express train – but more expensive), but it’s already in another canton, namely Solothurn, and some of its surrounding towns are in another one again – Aargau. The town, which has a population of roughly 17,300, is located on the River Aare.

The food festival was taking place in Kirchgasse and Baslerstrasse. On the way there, we admired the streets of the old town.

Before deciding what to eat, we had a walk around the festival to see what was on offer. It wasn’t particularly large, but there was still quite a range of foods! Quite a lot of Indian stands, but also Japanese, Argentinian and Italian, just to give a few examples. And, of course, there was raclette!

Finally, we decided to start with something “local” – there was a stand offering tiny burgers (just the right size to be able to fit more food in afterwards!) and proudly proclaiming that the beef was from happy, Swiss cows.

The choice was a good one – the burgers were delicious! Tasty beef and yummy melted Swiss cheese.
Next up was a Columbian/Venzeuelan speciality – Arepas, corn bread with various fillings! Jan chose a vegetarian one with black beans and cheese while I went for chicken, which also came with cheese. It tasted a bit like the enchilada fillings you get in Mexican restaurants, but less spicy. Very tasty though! We had to wait a while for our order to be finished, so while I queued and Jan fetched drinks, the camera came back out ;-)

As you might have noticed from the photos, it was a bit of a weird weather day. One minute it was bright sunshine, like in the photos above, the next it was cold and chucking it down, only to clear up again and become far too hot for rain coats 10 minutes later!

From one South-American cuisine to the next… we were getting quite full by this point, but we decided we still had time for a little Coxhina from a small Brazilian stand. This time, Jan chose chicken and I went for beef. Jan’s was delicious and mine had a nice flavour but unfortunately was still slightly cold inside. The filling was precooked though (they just reheated them at the stand), so I ate it anyway.

CoxinhaAt that point, Jan decided he would like a coffee and I remembered seeing a sign for Turkish coffee at the entrance to the festival, so we headed to the Turkish stand. I chose a homemade lemonade, as I’m not a fan of Turkish coffee. The stall owner tried really hard to get us to also take one of his pastries, so we chose a pistachio-filled one to share.

The lemonade was lovely and refreshing and the pastry was not too sweet.
Having done enough eating for the day, we decided to have a walk around the rest of Olten while we were there. The old ton area is pretty but fairly small. Outside the old town, the buildings aren’t quite as nice, but the entire town is surrounded by mountains and greenness – a description that could apply to anywhere in Switzerland really ;-)

Once we were back at the river, we were also almost back at the train station. With no room inside for more food, we decided to take the next train home. All in all, it was a lovely afternoon out and after reading so many other bloggers’ accounts of food festivals I was happy to finally get one of my own to try! There are more street food festivals planned by the same company for Lucerne (7-9 August 2015) and Berne (14-15 August 2015) and I’ve just read about another one in Solothurn (the city that gives the canton its name), which is taking place on 29 and 30 Augzst 2015, so hopefully I’ll make it to another one this summer!

Have you been to a street food festival? What would you have chosen to eat if you’d been in Olten with us? Let me know in the comments! And if you’ve got a travel tale for Monday Escapes, click the button below.

My Travel Monkey


Le Dernier Bar Avant La Fin du Monde, Paris

One of the girls we met at the Night Vale event told us about this bar, and as soon as she did we knew we had to go! Those of you who understand French may have already realised why. For those who don’t, Le dernier Bar avant la Fin du Monde means “the last bar at the end of the world” and it’s exactly what it sounds like! Inside the bar, you can find various items relating to popular geek culture. For instance, on entering we were directed to go to the “second basement” because the upper floors were full. Arriving in the second basement, the first thing we saw was this:

Le Dernier Bar Avant La Fin du Monde

There was also a door made to look like the entrance to the TARDIS (I didn’t take a photo of that) – and the inside was indeed bigger than the outside made it look ;-)
Here are some more random photos, some by me and some by Jan:

The bar is a cocktail bar, and also has a few interesting shots. There were four of us (me, Jan, K and the girl from Night Vale), so we decided to go for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles round of shots. I chose red which – as I’m sure you all know – is Raphael. Not because he’s my favourite turtle, but because that’s my favourite colour. And yes, they serve a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster cocktail. I didn’t try it because it’s a gin cocktail and I’m not into gin, but they also had one called 42 which contains violet and tastes like an alcoholic version of Parma Violets, except much, much nicer. (UK readers will know what I’m talking about).

The cocktails are fairly expensive, but no more so than other places in Paris, and personally I liked every one I had (I wasn’t too keen on one of Jan’s, but I knew I wouldn’t be just from the ingredients!). We were advised to eat beforehand because the food apparently isn’t all that great, although it is amusingly named. For example there was a lemon tart called Pac-Man (I wonder whether it was also shaped accordingly?) and an assortment of tapas going by the name Inigo Montoya. Just reading through the menu and seeing what we recognised was a lot of fun! According to Jan, there is also a video game in the urinal, but obviously I wouldn’t know anything about that…

If you ever find yourself in Paris and you’re into video games, anime, science fiction or basically anything that be considered in some way geeky, I recommend visiting this bar… and be sure to check out every room. There’s a lot to see! I didn’t recognise every reference, but that really doesn’t matter :-)

Le Dernier Bar Avant La Fin du Monde is located at 19 avenue Victoria. The nearest Metro station is Châtelet.


The Snail Mail Collective: Being Thankful

November was actually the second time that I took part in the Snail Mail Collective with the The Nectar Collective and Lost in Travels Blog. Sadly, I never actually received my package from the October collective… but I had so much fun chatting to my partner and collecting things to send her that I decided to do it again anywhere. My partner was for November Judith, an American currently living in Japan, where she works teaching English. You  really and check out her blog, Like Some Cat from Japan, where she posts about life in Japan, teaching English and her travels in Asia, among other things. Judith is lovely so get on over there and say hi!

Yesterday, I got a little card to say I had something waiting for me at the post office, so I stopped by there after work today and found my Snail Mail Collective gift waiting for me. Hooray! November’s theme was “What are you (the sender) thankful for”, and this is what Judith sent me:

Snail Mail

That is a face mask, some Pcky (Japan’s most popular snack, writes Judith), a pretty, hand-decorated envelope, hot yuzu drink (a kind of citrus fruit), decorative masking tape and bath soak. Inside the envelope, there was a sweet letter explaining all my gifts (in Japan’s long, cold winters, Judith is thankful for anything that will heklp stay warm!) plus this postcard:


Sign up for December’s Snail Mail Collective closes TOMORROW and it’s the last ever one, so if you fancy joining in get yourself over there now and put your name down. The theme for December is travel. Here’s the link:


Rain and elephants in Trier

Trier 1

I first read about the Elephant Parade on Travel With Intent’s blog, when she posted photos of them as her entry for Ailsa’s multi-coloured photo theme. The elephants were on a tour of the UK and she had managed to catch up with them in Manchester. She mentioned that there were also parades in Luxembourg/Trier and in Southern California this year, and I knew immediately that I wanted to go and see them in Trier if they were still there. A quick check of the Internet confirmed that I had until 18 October 2013 to visit them, and so our trip was arranged.

Trier blue elephant

We woke up yesterday to rain in Karlsruhe and a weather forecast that confirmed we could expect the same of Trier, but we weren’t going to let a little water put us off! So we picked up the car and were on our way. Going was pretty good until we got right outside Trier and ended up stuck in a huge traffic jam. The minutes ticked by, and we eventually decided that we would take the next turn off, into a kind of retail centre, and see whether we could park there. It turned out we could, so we left the car and walked the rest of the way into town… finally reaching the Porta Negri about half an hour after we had arranged to meet my friend (who lives in Luxembourg) there!

The Porta Negri

The Porta Negri

There was a bit of a culinary market happening on the square beside the gate, selling new wine among other things, so our first stop was to grab some food. It’s a long drive from Karlsruhe to Trier (about 2 hours and 15 minutes… plus the time stuck in traffic trying to get in to the town!) and we were hungry. One pork steak with bread later, I was ready to explore. And we were immediately rewarded with our first few elephants.


A golden elephant

A golden elephant

This colourful elephant looked so sad...

This colourful elephant looked so sad…

Next stop was the Trier cathedral, which was huge! It almost seemed bigger on the inside than the outside…

Up to this point, it had been very dull and grey, but not actually raining. When we came out of the cathedral, it had started to drizzle a bit, but that wasn’t going to put me off exploring further! We put up our hoods and moved on. Here’s one of Jan’s favoruite elephants:

Trier elephant 3

The elephants were, understandably, very popular with children, and it was often difficult to take a photo without any small people getting in the shot! Which is why a lot of my photos ended up looking something like this…

Sorry I cut off your feet, Mr Roman Elephant....

Sorry I cut off your feet, Mr Roman Elephant….

Trier lays claim to being the oldest city in Germany (along with Worms, which would have us believe it takes that honour!), and there were certainly a lot of old buildings in the centre of town. Here are a few:

All the elephants in the parade could also be bought – quite a few had signs on saying they were already sold – the money going to the charity that the parade aims to raise awareness off. Where would one put a giant elephant sculpture, I wonder? There was also a shop selling smaller replicas of the elephants and other elephant products, such as keyrings and T-shirts. Jan bought me a small, plain black elephant (even the very smallest of the themed ones would have cost €35! It may be for charity but I’m not insane!). I loved this Obamafant that was on display outside the shop:


After walking around for around 3 hours, we went to meet D – a friend of my friend – who lives in Trier, for a coffee. My legs were very glad to have a seat for while, I can tell you! We drank and chatted for quite a while, then D said he still needed to go shopping and run some other errands, so we headed back out. It had started to rain properly by this time, but Jan wanted to find the Mosel (river) so we went for another walk. The river was quite a bit further from the main part of town than I had expected and the buildings along the river side weren’t particularly nice, which surprised me, but have some photos anyway.

The River Mosel and the Römerbrücke (Roman Bridge)

The River Mosel and the Römerbrücke (Roman Bridge)

Down by the river

Down by the river

I also spied some cute graffiti down by the river, which I couldn’t resist taking a photo of:



After our detour to the river, we headed back into town to eat at the only restaurant my friend had been to in Trier. It’s called Kartofeel Kiste, meaning potato crate… can you guess what they specialise in? I decided on one of the few things that seemed to be a local speciality – or at least have the town’s name in its title – Trierer Gefüllte – huge balls of potatoes filled with meat and cooked in a creamy cheese sauce. Not exactly diet friendly but delicious!

Once we’d eaten, it was time for us to head back to the car and my friend to head back to the train station. Despite the weather, it had been a very nice day! Although I have to admit, Trier wasn’t quite as nice as I’d been imagining after having it recommended by so many people! It certainly has history though and is definitely worth a visit (even when the elephants aren’t there…)

Update from August 2014: I’ve decided to add this post to the Travel edition of the Young Germany Expat Bloggers hop. You can see the other entries here.


Bierbörse Karlsruhe


On the weekend just gone, the Bierbörse came to Karlsruhe. Bier, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, means beer and Börse usually refers to the stock exchange but in this case means something more like market. Basically, it’s a beer festival… but you can erase all thoughts of Oktoberfest style happenings from your head now. There are no Mass glasses here, no tents and the beers are not served by well-endowed ladies in Dirndls. Instead, Bierbörse is more of a celebration of international beers, featuring more than 400 beers from around the world.

This stand was selling English beers

This stand was selling English beers

Some beers are only available in bottles, while others are on tap and can be purchased either in full size glasses or in a special trial-sized glass – the proBIERglas, as the signs proclaimed (probieren means to try, so a probierglas would be a trial or sample glass… and how could they possibly miss the opportunity for a play on words with Bier?). For the full-sized glasses, you pay a deposit (known as Pfand), which you get back when you return the glass. The small glasses are yours to keep (whether you want to or not!). This year, I was clever and remembered to bring some of the many sample glasses we’ve still got at home with me.



The Bierböse used to take place on a small patch of grass beside the castle, but it’s grown since then and is now held behind the castle in the Schlossgarten proper. Nice and central and in pretty surroundings. What more could you want?

The tower of the castle

The tower of the castle

A lot of the stands are literally just wooden structures with awnings over the top, but there are some more imaginative ones – like a windmill and a pirate ship (the ship photo is actually from the 2012 Bierbörse, but it was in the exact some position this year).

Bierbörse 4

Bierbörse 2012

This year, I tried a German cherry beer by a brewer that I no longer remember, a chocolate beer (Young’s Double Chocolate Stout), which was disappointing, a strawberry wheat beer by the Belgian brewery Floris (makers of Delirium Tremens for any beer experts out there!) and another Belgian beer, this time a raspberry one by Grimmbergen. And I tried a few sips of Jan’s beers as well, including an Austrian beer which he got so I could keep the glass (he remembered that I liked the glass when we had a beer by the same brewery in Berlin this year).

The Bierbörse has taken place in 14 cities so far this year, with one more to go (Osterode am Harz – if you’re in that area, get yourselves along) and will be back again next year, starting with a visit to Hückeswagen in Nordrhein-Westfalen (about 40 km from Cologne) from 2–4 May 2014.

And next weekend I’m off to a wine festival! You’ll be able to read all about that here in roughly a week’s time.


My bee-day party

Yesterday was an interesting day. First, I left my purse at home and only realised when I was sitting on the train ready to go to work. Luckily I was able to get back off the train just before the doors closed, then I power walked home, got my purse and took a tram back to the station in time for the 8 o’clock train… all within 24 minutes. Miraculously, I actually got a seat on the second train… I tend to avoid that one because I always end up standing in the corridor, which is not what I want that early in the morning. Then, after work, I arrived at the train station ready to go home only to find police on my platform and the Bahn personnel telling everyone to go away. I headed back up to the departures boards to wait for them to announce where my train would be arriving and decided to treat myself to a Magnum while I waited. To get to the new platform, I had to pass the steps leading up to my original platform, which I saw were now taped off with Deutsche Bahn employees standing at the bottom stopping anyone from getting up there. As soon as I got home, I googled to try and find out what was going on, but the Internet had no information. Nothing in the news this morning either… curious!

But that’s not really what I want to talk about today…
What I do want to do is finally tell you about my birthday party! But first, some background.

I like bees, and one of my nicknames used to be Bee (for the first letter of my name, but written out), so a few years ago, I mentioned to Jan that one day I would like to have a “bee-day” party. The idea was that I would get people to dress in either black, yellow or black and yellow (black and yellow stripes would, of course, be perfect), decorate the flat with bees and have bee-themed food and drinks. I then didn’t have a birthday party for a couple of years for various reasons (last year I went to Sweden the day after my birthday, for example) and kind of forgot about the idea… until I found bee glasses at Claire’s in Dublin. I bought them, saying “these would be perfect if I ever do decide to have a bee-day party!”, then found myself explaining my idea to the friends who were travelling with me.

Bee glasses

Bee glasses

Fast forward to my 30th birthday… Jan’s gift to me was a dress with bees all over it. He made me try it on straight away to make sure it fit, then said he would like me to wear it at my birthday party that weekend. I had originally planned to wear a dress my mum bought me, but was easily persuaded to go for the bee dress instead (did I mention I like bees?!)

The Saturday after my birthday was the day of my party. We had arranged to have it at a relatively new bar/café called Soul, which does interesting cocktails and excellent food, including delicious homemade ice cream and excellent mozzerella Maultaschen in garlic butter. If you live in Karlsruhe, you should, check it out! We had the room from 7 pm, so Jan and I went a little early along with a friend who was staying at mine that night (it’s difficult for her to get back to where she lives late at night). We arranged the few last-minute details, then settled down outside with a portion of ice cream each. Then, at just before seven, Jan went off to see whether anyone was coming yet (the plan being to move inside when people started arriving so they would find us).

He was gone for quite a while, and my friend and I had started to joke that he’d run off leaving us to pay the bill, then he turned up with the group of friens I go to the quiz with. All of them (including Jan now) were wearing yellow and black striped T-shirts and my friend K (I really need to think of better pseudonyms for people…) was carrying a cake. This cake:

bee cake

How adorable is that? Underneath the icing is chocolate Guinness cake… which is delicious! Don’t let the Guinness put you off – it really does taste good! They also had bee-themed gifts… despite the fact that I had already received my gifts from them on my actual birthday (a Tina Dico CD and a bunch of flowers, in case anyone’s wondering). I got some honey, a bee-shaped ballon and this:

My pillow pal

My pillow pal

I’ve named him Johnny Bee (geddit?).

Jan had arranged with the bar owner that he would pay for everyone’s first cocktail plus crostini for everyone, and I had asked for everyone to be given a glass of Prosecco when they came in so we could do the glass-clinking thing. The crostini were really good – at least the tomato-mozzerella and the red pesto ones were. I didn’t try the others (the toppings contained things I don’t like) but they seemed to go down well… they disappeared quickly enough anyway! The cocktails were tasty too, and as far as I can tell everyone had a good time. I know I did!

Thank you to my amazing friends and boyfriend for arranging it all! ♥♥

And now I have to go cross stitch… my friend most inconsiderately went and gave birth and I’m not finished yet ;-)


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