May 2019 recap

Hello my lovelies. Today I’m here to talk about May. Not Theresa May – I have no desire to discuss her or any of the mess that is currently politics in Britain. No, I mean the month of May… and specifically what I got up to in it.

Of course I am linking up with the lovely Kristen for What’s New With You.

whats new with you

In a way, it was a month of two halves. For the first two weeks, we were living on an actual building site while our bathrooms and kitchen were being replaced. That meant our flat had no shower, no toilets and nowhere to cook. We were provided with a portable toilet and a small electric hob, and there was a temporary shower set up downstairs in the drying room. For those who missed it, a couple of photos of what the place looked like, including one of the sink that was installed in the stairwell so we could at least attempt to wash dishes:

During the week, I rented a desk in a co-working space and at night we ate out. Spending as little time as possible at home made things bearable, but it was still a relief when the time came for us to go on holiday! Since we were flying from Zurich airport relatively early in the morning, we decided to go to Zurich the night before (well, Jan just stayed there since it’s where he worked) and sleep in a hotel. I am so glad we did! It meant a night in a dust-free room, a proper shower and a slightly later/less stressful start – we would have had to take a train from Basel at around 6 a.m.!

And then it was off to Ronda, Spain to meet family and friends. We had two full days and an afternoon there with my sister and brother-in-law, sister’s best friend and her boyfriend, my brother, my mum and my mum’s friend. My mum, her friend, Jan, my brother and I all stayed in a lovely apartment while the others were just down the road.

Everyone else left early on the Tuesday morning, but we had decided we wanted to have more than an extended weekend away, so we had booked an apartment in Cádiz for the next two nights. On the way there, we stopped off for a day on Gibraltar. The town is so bizarre – looking at it, you could be on any high street in the UK – there’s Debenhams, Next, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins, multiple fish and chip shops. I even spied my bank (Natwest). The post boxes and phone booths are red and even the bins resembled those I know from Newcastle. But the buildings and trees are all wrong – I’ve never seen purple blossoms in the middle of a British town!

After wandering through the town, we of course took the cable car up the mountain, because what else do you do on Gibraltar? It was amazing being right up close to the monkeys – but also kind of terrifying. Especially when two of them started shouting at each other and it seemed like a fight was about to happen. We were already heading back to the cable car at that point and needless to say we didn’t hang around near those particular apes for long!

We then drove on to Cádiz, arriving around 6 o’clock in the evening, spent the next day there and finally headed to Lisbon via Evora. After two days in Lisbon and a very brief stop in Sintra on our final morning, it was time to fly home. Back in Basel, we stopped for dinner before doing anything else since we had no idea what the state of our flat was going to be…

As it turns out, it was almost finished. We had toilets that actually flushed and a working kitchen (although we waited until after the final inspection to actually use it). I still had another week off work so on the Monday I walked into town very early in the morning so the flat would be free for them to get on with whatever last minute things needed doing. I bought breakfast, which I ate in the park, then went to a café called Unternehmen Mitte where they let you just sit without having to purchase anything. There, I finished the book I had started reading on the flight home. So that killed about 2 hours. I had a wander round town, bought and ate some lunch, then ended up in a bookshop where I was very naughty and bought two books. I then read one of those books sitting at the train station – the only other place I could think of where you can sit for ages without being moved on! My initial idea had been to go back to the park where I had breakfast, but every seat was taken by people on their lunch breaks. Book finished, I went and treated myself to coffee and cake in the restaurant of a department store. Finally, at 4 p.m. I started walking home, arriving to find that the builders had already left. Tuesday was inspection day, so I trailed the construction manager and his assistant as they made a list of all the small things that still needed to be done – cracks to paint over, holes to be filled. I also got official permission to fill the fridge and start putting things back in the kitchen, so that’s what I spent the rest of the week doing. Plus cleaning every single thing. Construction dust gets everywhere! I’ve never hoovered so much in my life Thursday was a public holiday, so on that day I actually had Jan to help. And the new washing machine (in our actual flat!) got used a lot. As did the tumbler dryer, which I am aware is incredibly bad for the environment but with the drying room still out of commission (that’s where the temporary shower resides) and a friend staying over on Saturday, which meant the spare room bedding needed to be freed from dust, we didn’t have much of a choice. You can’t dry sheets and quilt covers on a clothes horse!

Okay, this is already long so just quickly. During those first two weeks when everything was going on, we obviously didn’t want to spend too much time in our dusty, dusty flat, so on 1st May – a public holiday – we went to Porrentruy, which is cute but not that exciting. Then on the 4th the builders needed access on a Saturday (at 8 a.m. – no lie in for us!) so we headed to Lenzburg because it was raining and there was a castle that would allow us to be inside. The following Saturday, Jan had a concert in the evening so we ate lunch in town and did some shopping before he had to leave (and I then followed an hour later to attend said concert).

Lenzburg
Lenzburg Castle

As for yearly goals… I didn’t really keep track of my vegetable intake, but we ate at Markthalle and vegetarian restaurant a lot so I think I got my five portions most days… at least until we went on holiday. Lots of cheese and meat boards were consumed there. I definitely managed to drink enough water for the entire month, which I’m proud of. And I finally actually finished a non-fiction book. I mean, I only want to read ten this year and we’re already nearly halfway through. No big deal…

I think that just about sums up my May. The rest of the time I worked (from a co-working space) and attempted to keep the living room and bedroom free from the worst of the dust – a Sisyphean task if there ever was one! My next post will be my choices for round 11 of Erin’s book challenge, which starts on 1st July. May wasn’t my best reading month (although I managed 9 books, so also not my worst ever) so I am hoping to get lots of reading done over the summer months.

Okay, enough. I seem to have gone back to that old rambling format that I was trying to get away from and I’m sure you’re bored of me by now. Go check out the link up because Kristen is awesome and should be shown all the love. And tell me in the comments what you’ve been up to lately.

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Unintentionally imitating art

As you will know if you read my last post, we recently came back from holiday. The final few days of our trip were spent in Lisbon, Portugal. Since we were travelling to hot countries, I had obviously taken summer clothes with me, but it wasn’t until I was actually walking around Lisbon that I realised the dress I had put on that day had a pattern that would have been perfect for one of the beautiful tiles that adorn many Portuguese houses. So, for your viewing pleasure, here is a selection of photos of Portuguese tiles and me blending in so well you’d think I’d done it on purpose…

(I was wearing blue and that seems to be the most popular colour, but not all the tiles in the photos below are blue.)

Lisbon

I’m not really sure how to end this post so uhh, just I guess that’s all folks?

Have a lovely day/week/evening/whatever.

Photo an hour in Ronda (19 May 2019)

¡Hola, mis amigos! Last Sunday was photo an hour day, and it just happened to fall on the first full day of my holiday. We were in Ronda, Spain, where we met up with my sister and brother-in-law, my sister’s best friend and her boyfriend, my brother, my mum and a friend of my mum’s. Let’s see what I got up to that day, shall we?

8:30 a.m. Awake but not getting up yet, so here’s the view from my bed.

9:30 a.m. Now out of bed and having a cuppa.

10:30 a.m. Dressed and waiting for the others to be ready to leave.

11:30 a.m. Admiring the view… the day’s plan being to walk down into the gorge.

12:30 p.m. The start of the journey down.

1:30 p.m. We found water! Hurrah.

2:30 p.m. Back at the top and hitting a bar for some much needed refreshments.

3:30 p.m. Crossing the bridge, and looking down into the gorge.

4:30 p.m. We stopped for lunch… and I also had a beer.

5:30 p.m. Wandering through a rose garden.

6:30 p.m. Back at the apartment to chill for a while… how beautiful is that ceiling?

7:30 p.m. A glass of vino before heading back out.

We went out for dinner after that and I completely forgot to take any more photos, so that’s your lot. Maybe I will remember to post more photos of Ronda at some point, but I wouldn’t hold your breath considering I still haven’t posted must of the ones from our trip around Britain two years ago…

As always, Photo an Hour was hosted by Jane and Louisa. The next one will be on Saturday, 15 June. Make a note of it now if you want to join in!

Recent doings #21

Once again it’s that time of the month where I tell you all about what went on the one before. For August, it’s going to be a very holiday-filled one, because the first two weeks of the month were uninteresting and honestly I can’t really remember most of what I did, other than trying to cram in packing in the evenings leading up to our going away and wondering why I didn’t take the Friday off for precisely that purpose…

Anyway, let’s get to it.

whats-new

Reading. I read six books in August – or technically read 5 and finished reading one. Four were for Erin‘s reading challenge. I will tell you about all of them on Tuesday.

Listening to. Welcome to Night Vale! I actually took the audio book on holiday with me but we thought the hire car didn’t have a CD player so we listened to episodes of the podcast. Then, with only a few days left, I discovered a CD player hiding in the glove compartment. What?! So we’ve now made it through the first seven CDs and we’re nearly caught up on the podcast!

Watching. Something my dad had recorded about restoring old buildings. Before our holiday I’m not sure I watched anything…

Eating. I don’t remember what I ate before we went away. Probably lots of ice cream. On holiday I ate all the British foods I could cram in, although surprisingly no Monster Munch. Actually, very few crisps – just some Hula Hoops. I’m awful at food photography, but here’s a venison sausage with black pudding mash. Yes, it’s Bambi. And it was delicious.

venison sausage

Drinking. Cider in a multitude of flavours – the rhubarb one was nicest. I also treated myself to a can of Dandelion and Burdock and some point.

Buying. While we were on holiday I pretty much only bought food so I’m trying to think back to what I bought before that. Umm, a few books for the bonus round of the reading challenge and a T-shirt for my holiday are all I can think of.

Celebrating. My friend’s 30th birthday. She turned 30 at the beginning of the month, but had her celebration together with her mum over the August bank holiday weekend. Oh, and my birthday as well (I genuinely almost forgot about that!)

Travelling. To Britain, but you know that already 😉 We also travelled to Überlingen on Lake Constance to see Jan’s mum and her partner and did some driving around in Switzerland for my birthday.

Meeting. Fellow blogger Kezzie and her husband, who happened to be in Northumberland at the same time as us. They are both lovely, lovely people.

Admiring. Puppies! So many puppies… some literally puppies (but all dogs are puppies, right?). I swear every dog owner in England was visiting the same places we were. I even got to pet a few (dogs, not owners!).

Cross stitching. Birthday cards for my godson, another friend’s son and my little brother, as well as many, many PostPals children, plus a new baby card for a friend. I feel like every time I blink someone either gives birth or announces a pregnancy.

rocket card

As usual, I am linking up with Kristin and Gretch.

Have you been doing anything interesting recently?

Holiday!

It feels like forever since I last had any proper time off, but now it’s finally my turn for a holiday! Tonight we fly to Gatwick, from whence we shall be travelling around Britain (well, mainly England really). I haven’t scheduled any posts and I won’t be posting while I’m away either, so this place will be devoid of activity for a while. Try to be good while I’m away 😉 See you in September!

Lake Lucerne
Photo of Lake Lucerne from above for no particular reason…

Friday letters

Good morning! I hope you’re all well and that those of you who haven’t guessed already are busily wracking your brains for guess the Christmas cross stitch round 3! I’ve been suffering from a horrible cold all week. It started on Sunday with a bit of a sore throat, on Monday I didn’t feel any worse, which gave me hope that a sore throat was the worst I was going to get. Then on Tuesday I had to actually go into work for various meetings, which involved two hours on a freezing train. Why must Deutsche Bahn turn the air conditioning up so much?! I’m sure that didn’t help matters at all, because by the time it came to the journey home swallowing really hurt and I could not get warm at all! I went to bed with a cup of Lemsip and woke up feeling so terrible that if I was still actually going into the office regularly I would have called in sick. But since my “office” is only a few metres from the bedroom and my colleague was already off sick (for the second week), I wrapped up warm and powered through with the help of ALL the hot drinks and several packets of tissues (I could not stop sneezing!). It seemed to work as yesterday I wasn’t sneezing as much and my throat was back to being more scratchy than sore. How today will go remains to be seen, but I’m consoling myself with the fact that it’s almost the weekend and then I only have to work Monday and after that I’m on holiday – finally! Apart from one day for my cousin’s wedding, I haven’t had any time off since April, when I took a week to move! This cold just better have gone by the time I have to get on a plane… Anyway… sorry to ramble on so much. I know you’re only here for the letters 😉

Mail boxDear cold. I was serious with what I said up there. I fly on Thursday and you had better be gone by then! My ears hurt enough on planes without a half blocked-half runny nose getting involved in matters!

Dear British food. I am coming to eat you, oh yes I am!! Proper chips, pies, decent bacon, pasties and yummy crisps… get in my belly!

Dear godson (and your mum). It’s been far too long! I can’t wait to see you.

Dear October. I’m actually not going to complain that you’ve arrived far too quickly (even though you have) because with you comes holiday!

Dear rugby matches we’re attending. Please be as exciting as the South Africa vs Japan match. We want some action! (For reference, that’s the three that are taking place in Newcastle. Now get on it, rugby Gods).

Right, that’s all from me for today. Keep placing your guesses on this week’s cross stitch post and I’ll get the next picture up for you soon. In the meantime, have a fantastic weekend!

Initial thoughts on Taiwan

I still have a couple of posts to write on my brother’s visit, but again uploading the photos to WordPress is taking forever, so I’m skipping forward to a general post on my impressions of Taiwan. Obviously I will also be writing detailed posts on our trip with lots of pictures, but this is a start at least. This trip allowed me to complete another item of my 35 Before 35 challenge. Number 29 on the list is “Visit a continent I’ve never been to before”, and I had previously never been to Asia. Thanks, Taiwan! I am also counting this as my August 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge… so it’s a double whammy 😉 Now here are some first impressions/thoughts:

    • Do not drink on the Metro!! (In Taipei at least). You can carry drinks with you, but don’t even think about consuming them. This rule is taken very seriously! We were told off for this within hours of my arrival. Also, on escalators you stand on the right and let people pass on the left. Again, they are very serious about this and apparantly perfect strangers will shout at you for standing on the left (I did not experience this, but Jan says he did)
    • My reaction to bubble tea
      My reaction to bubble tea

      Bubble tea is weird! It was okay at first, but after a while the “bubbles” just became too much. What is that weird chewy stuff anyway? Also, the one we bought had small white things floating in it, each with a black spot in the middle (a seed, I suppose?). They looked like something I usually find in soup, but there they were in my drink. Weird! They tasted of nothing but had a soft/mushy texture. We christened them frog’s spawn.

    • It’s surprisingly difficult to get by with English in Taiwan. Most people speak a few words (hello, please, sorry and maybe a few numbers), but very few are fluent. An smartphone app or dictionary come in very useful! Jan had two – one that you could use to scan Chinese symbols and it would give you the English translation and one where you drew the symbol yourself – useful when the other one couldn’t read what you were pointing it at, because it was unclear or handwritten, for example. Also, before he left Jan had a Chinese colleague write him a sentence saying “I’m allergic to peanuts. Please tell me if there’s anything here I can’t eat”. If possible, I would highly recommend doing something like that if you’re allergic to anything.
No way was I going to eat one of these guys!
No way was I going to eat one of these guys!
  • I am happy to try most things, but just wasn’t brave enough for all the food I saw on offer, like whole squids on a stick (I’m not a fan of squid at the best of times!) and duck’s heads… complete with beak. How does one even eat a duck’s head? And what is there to actually eat? Surely all the good stuff is in the body? Also, oyster omelette is possibly the worst thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. Never again!
  • Drivers in Taiwan are crazy! If a light has only just turned red, it seems to be taken as a suggestion rather than an order. Some busy crossings have police standing at them holding sticks to wave traffic on… despite the existence of a light that’s in perfect working order?! And as for the people on scooters… I’m convinced they have a death wish! They’ll squeeze themselves into the tiniest gaps in traffic… some of them even with their small children perched in front of them on the scooter! Madness!
  • I was amazed by the amount of milk/dairy products the Taiwanese consume. I’d always thought Asians were basically lactose intolerant and rarely used dairy products (with the exception of India, of course). In Taiwan, milk tea is incredibly popular… and by that I mean tea made with milk instead of whatr, not just black tea with a drop of milk. At the hotels, I also saw a lot of Asians drinking milk with breakfast.
  • The temples are beautiful. And everyone is so tolerant. We stopped at one small, local temple near our hotel in Taipei to see what was going on (a celebration of Buddha’s birthday, it turned out). One man explained to us how the temple worked, gave us some incense and told us what to do. Then, when we asked whether it was okay to take a photo of the inside (don’t want to be disrespectful), he insisted on taking a photo of the two of us in front of it. His English wasn’t brilliant, but he was able to make himself understood and he was so, so friendly.
  • On a similar note, the Taiwanese are incredibly polite, to the extent that it’s almost embarrassing. They will thank you profusely for every tiny little thing, and one person even bowed his way out of the hotel room after showing me how everything worked. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond…
  • Sun Moon Lake may be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, and the views of the Pacific along the east coast of the island are stunning! Taroko Gorge is also incredibly impressive. I’m told Alishan national park is also amazing, so I can see I need to go back and experience even more of the amazing sights nature has to offer.

That’s enough for now, I think. More details will follow in individual posts about the places we visited.