December 2019 recap

Hello friends. It is the first Thursday of the month, of the year… of the decade. Wow! I have some 2020 goals to tell you about, but before I do that I want to draw a line under last year – starting with telling you what I did in December.

I’m linking up with the wonderful Kristen, of course.

whats new with you

Days out and socialising

We don’t do much travelling in December, so I’m lumping a few things in together. On the 7th we went to Baden-Baden to meet up with my friend and her boyfriend and to go to the Christmas market. None of us had been to the Christmas market there before and it turns out it’s a nice one. And it’s always nice to catch up with friends. The same friends then came to us to celebrate New Year. They arrived in the afternoon of the 31st and we played board games together before indulging in some delicious raclette. We then went into town to watch the fireworks, which start at 12:30 a.m. here, so technically that part belongs in January’s recap.

Baden-Baden Weihnachtsmarkt

In between those things, I met up with a pen pal from New Zealand who happened to be in Basel for one day only. I showed her, her husband and their sons around Basel a bit, which of course also included a visit to the Christmas market. It was nice to put a face/voice to the person behind the letter.

Basel Christmas market

On 20th December, my last day of work for the year, I finished slightly early I went to Zurich to meet Jan after work. I wanted to see the lights on the Landesmuseum (which Lyndsay had posted a photo of on Instagram). We decided we didn’t want to join the very long queue though, so instead we walked down the Christmas market in front of the opera. By the time we got there it was raining heavily, but I found myself some food and we huddled under a crowded shelter while I ate it. Jan wasn’t hungry and neither of us felt like drinking Glühwein in a downpour so we gave up and took a tram back to the train station. So much for celebrating no more work – I might as well have stayed home and cleaned!

The next day was a friend’s birthday (Jan’s friend really, from one of his choirs). She celebrated at Klara, which is a cool place with a bar and various different food stands. That day was photo an hour, but I haven’t written my post for that yet so stay tuned for that one!

Apart from that (and going to England), the only travelling I did was on the days I had to go into the office, which doesn’t really count. One of those occasions was for my work Christmas meal though, so that was nice at least. I stayed the night in a hotel and worked in the office the next day.

England and Christmas

After all the crap that went on this year, I decided I wanted to spend Christmas in England for once… especially since this could be the last time Jan can actually travel there easily! Since we had the birthday party on the 21st, we flew on the 22nd. As always, there were a lot of people to meet. On the 23rd, we went to Morpeth in the morning, where we met up with my mum for breakfast. I also saw the Tree of Light. For a small fee (the money goes to charity) you can write a message to hang on the tree. My grandma hung three messages on it – one for my grandpa, one for my step-mum, and one for our boys.

Morpeth Tree of Light

We then decided to drive around for a bit before it was time to meet my friend and her sons to exchange gifts. We had a walk along Blyth beach before driving up to Tynemouth for a brief glimpse of the priory. Then it was time to meet my friend and exchange Christmas gifts. Her eldest son is my godson so I needed to remind him what I look like 😉 It had been nearly two and a half years since I last saw them. In the evening we headed to Newcastle to meet up with another friend and his girlfriend. I can’t even remember the last time I saw him, but I know I had never met his girlfriend and they’ve been together two years! Crazy how time goes by. We met for food at a place called Nudo, which was delicious. I had the most amazing fried dumplings.

Tynemouth castle and priory
Tynemouth Castle and Priory

 

Christmas Eve was actually a relatively free day. We got to sleep in for a bit, then we had to pick up a package from Jan’s sister that had arrived the day before. We then joined my dad for a brief drink – he was meeting up with my former brother-in-law, who I hadn’t seen for about 10 years, give or take, came home for dinner and just chilled in the evening. I think maybe we watched some documentary.

Christmas day started with presents, of course. My dad gave me a book I had asked for, Jan got my board games and my friend gave me some beautiful Christmas tree decorations with the boys’ names carved on them. They will definitely be going on our tree the next time we have one! Christmas dinner was the usual feast – turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets, both mashed and roast potatoes, bread pudding and various vegetables. Afterwards my dad, his partner and my brother went to visit her family while we drove to my mum’s to spend some time with her and my brother. More gifts were exchanged, of course. One of mine was Lush bath bombs, so now half the clothes that were in the suitcase smell like Lush! The evening was spent back at my dad’s playing Cards Against Humanity.

Boxing Day, or Saint Stephen’s Day if you prefer, was more of the same… presents and way too much food. We went over to my grandma’s in the morning for gift-giving followed by lunch. We were joined there by my sister and brother-in-law as well as a friend of my grandma’s.

Boxing day lunch
“Light lunch” grandma style – there was also soup and a giant chocolate and pear trifle

Later we met my mum and brother in the pub before walking up to their place for more drinks and some snacks. It was a lovely chilled afternoon/evening. My dad picked us up, along with my sister and brother-in-law (and their dog) at around 10 p.m. as we were all staying at his place that night. I gave my brother-in-law an Only Connect (TV quiz show) book for Christmas and we had a go at some of the puzzles before heading to bed. We actually did reasonably well!

On the 27th, we had arranged to meet with yet another friend and her husband. We went for lunch at a pub called The Snowy Owl… you can see Christmas consisted mainly of eating! They got married last year (we went to the wedding), bought a house this year and she is also pregnant so obviously they’ve had an exciting time and had a lot to talk about. The pub was having an issue with the gas so the food took a long time to arrive, but once it did it was pretty good. Back at my dad’s, I went through some of my boxes of books that were still there (I was looking for a locked-room mystery for Erin’s challenge and ended up also taking a few more), then we packed the suitcases and walked up to a local pub with my uncle, sister, brother-in-law and the dog. My brother joined us there as well as some friends of the family. It was another nice evening catching up with people. My dad came later and, since he can’t really drink at the moment, acted as designated driver for various people. Once we got home, we basically went straight to bed since we needed to be at the airport by 10 a.m. the next day. And that was Christmas. Not too much rushing around, but still lots of catching with family and friends and no time to dwell on the fact that this should have been our twins’ first Christmas.

Craft stuff/cross stitch

Obviously all my December crafting involved Christmas. I cross stitched many designs and then made them up into cards. Here are a couple of my favourites:

Miscellaneous/general life stuff

Obviously the majority of December was festivities, but there are a couple of other things to mention as well.

– At the beginning of the month, I had an appointment for another hysteroscopy. Unfortunately the doctor ended up not being able to carry it out – apparently my cervix was in a weird position, then once she figured that out there was too much resistance and she didn’t want to force it and end up doing more harm than good. So after 4 or 5 attempts she gave up and I have to try again this cycle. That means at least another month until we can do another embryo transfer, but hopefully once the hysteroscopy and associated cyst removal is done our chances of the transfer actually working will be increased.

– My dad was declared cancer free the week before Christmas, and his hip pain is also slowly improving. Hopefully that marks the beginning of the end of my family’s run of bad luck! That will most likely be the last time I mention what’s happening with my family on here, since as I said last month I find it unfair to write about other people on my blog.

That’s it, I think. I will post a round-up of what I read this month on Show Us Your Books day, but I can tell you now that it isn’t as many books as usual – partly because I was busy, but also because I was mostly reading It and that book is long!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, surrounded by the people you love the most, and have entered the new decade refreshed and ready to face whatever life has to throw at you (preferably more good things than bad, and only minor bad things!). Don’t forget to check out the link up, say hi to Kristen and see what’s new with everyone else.

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 café 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 Рa French cocktail made with a measure of cr̬me de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped up with white wine (Kir Royal uses champagne) Рand, 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 Trümmelbachfälle – 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!

Alnwick and its gardens

Waaay back in October, while we were in England, we spontaneously decided to visit Alnwick one sunny afternoon. It was too nice to be indoors, so we skipped the castle and purchased tickets for the gardens instead. Being October, a lot of the flowers were already on their way out, but I still managed to take many, many pictures! There was a kind of treasure hunt for children which seemed to involve finding all the different fairy tales and nursery rhymes that were referenced throughout the gardens, and I took great delight in spotting fairy tale items as well, even though I didn’t have a sheet to fill in.

Alnwick itself is a pretty little town, and is home to the amazing second hand bookshop Barter Books, the place where the “Keep Calm and Carry On” slogan was first (re)discovered. It’s housed within the old Alnwick train station, with the bookshelves where the tracks used to be and space to sit and read in what used to be the waiting room. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit Barter Books that day, but if you ever find yourself in Alnwick you definitely should!

Before driving to Newcastle, where we were due to meet a friend for dinner, we of course had to stop on the Lion Bridge to grab a few shots of Alnwick Castle – which some of my may recognise from a certain film about a wizard with a lightning shaped scar… (others may know it from Blackadder).

Alnwick is one of my favourite places and I’m glad we got to have a stroll around the town and its gardens last time I was home!

Travel Monkey

Travel Theme: Ancient

Ailsa’s travel theme for this week is Ancient, and what could be more ancient than basically all of Rome? Here’s the Forum:

Foro Romano
Foro Romano

From Ancient Rome to Ancient Roman… here’s one of my absolute favourite Roman sites in the UK, Vindolanda.

Vindolanda

Just south of Hadrian’s Wall, Vindolanda Roman fort is best known for the discovery of the Vindolanda tablets – the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain. Excavations are still going on at Vindolanda, so if you go there at the right time of year you might get to see some real archaeologists at work!

Staying in the UK,  here are the ruins of Mitford Castle in Northumberland, which dates from the end of the 11th century. Jan actually took this photo and I love it. It could easily be a professional postcard!

Mitford Castle

You can’t actually go up to Mitford Castle any more (the above photo was taken from a car window) because it’s considered dangerous. The ruins aren’t exactly stable! Apparantly the farms have no problem letting their sheep roam around in there though…

To finish with, here’s Kells Priory,  one of the largest and most impressive medieval monuments in Ireland. It’s featured on the blog before, but I love it so I need to include it again for those who missed it previously!

Kells Priory 1

Got any ancient photos you want to share? The travel theme is still open until the end of tomorrow! Check out Ailsa’s blog post for more details, and to see the other entries… there are lots of way better photographers than me out there!

Hexham Abbey

Every year, my family goes to the Queen’s Hall theatre in Hexham to watch a performance by the travelling theatre company Oddsocks. Usually we go in the evening, but this year my dad bought tickets for the afternoon matinee – presumably because of my brother (who is now 7). Before the performance, we met up with family friends who also always go to the performance for Sunday lunch. It was the first time Jan had actually seen Hexham in the light! Between the meal and the theatre, there was a little time to spare, so my grandparents suggested taking a walk to Hexham Abbey. There has been a church on the site of Hexham Abbey since approximately the year 674, but the current building dates from Norman times (1170-1250). Since the dissolution of the monastries in 1537, the Abbey has been the parish church of Hexham. The Eastern part of the Abbey was destroyed when the monastry was dissolved and rebuilt in 1860. Here are some photos:

The abbey from the outside
The abbey from the outside

Below the abbey, there is a crypt with relics from the original Wilfred’s Benedictine Abbey built in the 7th century. It’s only open twice a day, so we couldn’t go down but I have been down there before when I visited Hexham Abbey with school.

~Please note that I am now in Madeira for New Year and am again unable to reply to comments. Feel free to leave one though, and I will respond as soon as I can!~

Who Am I?

This post was inspired by Charlotte at Sherbet and Sparkles. Recently, she wrote a blog post based around the question “Who am I?” and asked all her readers to get involved too. I’ve actually had quite a few new followers on the blog recently, so I thought this was an appropriate time to finally respond to her request.

So, hello! I’m Beverley, a 30-year-old English girl who is currently living in south-west Germany. Karlsruhe, to be exact. Most Germans should have heard of it because it’s home to both the German constitutional court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) and the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof). The latter is the highest court for all matters relating to criminal and private law, so Karlsruhe is mentioned on the news a lot. I share a flat with my boyfriend, who I will have been in a relationship with for 10 years in February 2014!

The botanic gardens in Karlsruhe
The botanic gardens in Karlsruhe

As an army brat, the question “where are you from?” is not an easy one to answer. Do I say the place I was born, even though I always hated it and never felt like I belonged, even while living there? Should I say the town my parents are from, despite the fact that I’ve never lived there? Or is “home” the place my dad moved to once he got out of the army, and where I also moved to when I was 13? Usually, I tell people I’m from Northumberland without specifying a town – I tend to get away with it because most people couldn’t even locate the county on a map, never mind name any individual towns! My parents are both from Morpeth, where my remaining grandparents still live, and that’s been the most constant place in my life. We went there for at least one holiday every year. Both my parents now live back in Northumberland, although neither of them actually moved back to their home town simply because it’s too expensive!

Stepping stones crossing the River Wansbeck in Morpeth
Stepping stones crossing the River Wansbeck in Morpeth

As you probably know by now, after graduating from university I moved to Austria for 10 months. I still have a slight obsession with all things Austrian! In 2006, I moved back to Karlsruhe and as of September 2012, Karlsruhe is officially the place I’ve lived in longest in one stretch ever! Technically I lived in my birth town for more years in total because we were posted there twice, but Karlsruhe is catching up… if you count my year abroad, I’ve actually spent 8 years in Karlsruhe now.

Snowy Feldkirch, December 2006
Snowy Feldkirch, December 2006

I have one sister, with whom I share two parents, and two half brothers who are not related to each other. My younger half brother, my dad’s son, was born a few days before I moved back to Karlsruhe. He’s 23 years younger than me!

I used to be a natural red head, but based on the photos above, you’re probably thinking I’m a brunette. Here’s a photo of me from the days before I was allowed to dye my hair. See… red! Well, reddish anyway…

Me, aged 3 or 4, with my grandma's dog
Me, aged 3 or 4, with my grandma’s dog

What else can I say? I work at a translation company, which is usually interesting but can get stressful. You won’t read too much about my job on the blog because I’m not sure how much I can say without getting into trouble. I certainly know better than to name any of our customers 😉

My biggest love is reading and I dream of having my own library some day, like the ones you see in old houses and castles. My other big passion is travel – I get restless if I have to stay in one place for too long. So far, regular day trips and holidays have been enough to keep me from getting entirely sick of Karlsruhe but I’m not sure whether I’ll live here for the rest of my life…

So that’s me! I hope I haven’t repeated too much of my blog’s about me page. If there’s anything else you want to know, just ask and I’ll see about answering 😉 Now it’s your turn… tell me about yourself!

Travel theme: Stone

This week, the travel theme on Where’s My Backpack is stone, which gave me the perfect opportunity to showcase one of the most famous stone structures in my home county…. Hadrian’s Wall. Here are some photos of the wall and the surrounding countryside:

Hadrian’s wall was a 73-mile long Roman defensive structure built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. Construction probably started some time in AD 122 and the wall was completed within a period of six years. Sections of the wall still exist along the route, although some of the stone was removed and used as building material at various points and to the west of the River Irthing the wall was made of turf, which is now long gone. The Hadrian’s Wall Footpath follows the line of the wall from Wallsend in Tyne and Wear to Bowness-on-Solway in North-West Cumbria… a route of 84 miles. There is also a Hadrian’s Wall bus service that stops at the main sights along the wall, including various Roman forts.

To join in with this week’s travel theme, check out Ailsa’s blog post.

If the BBC says it it must be true… right?

I was reading the news last night on the BBC website. I like to do that occasionally to find out what’s going on back home. So I clicked my way through to the “Tyne” section and came across the headline “Beach closed in pollution scare”. This was followed by the words “A popular Northumberland beach has been closed to the public after a mysterious oily substance was discovered”
Popular beach? Northumberland? Where might that be? I wondered. Cresswell maybe, or Alnwick. Intrigued I clicked on the headline and read the first sentence of the article: “Council officials called in Environment Agency experts after tennis ball size globules of a viscous black substance appeared on Cambois beach on Thursday” Cambois beach. Cambois?? Popular?? What? SInce when? Ok, people walk their dogs there, but that’s only because the people in Cambois have nowhere else to walk their dogs. We’re talking about a village that doesn’t even have a corner shop for goodness sake. The standng joke about Cambois beach is “if you go in the water you’ll come out green with extra limbs”. That’s what the local people think of Cambois beach. And as for pollution scares. Well… when was Cambois beach not polluted? It’s been full of coal dust for years! Huh! So much for the BBC. Next they’ll be telling me Stakeford is a popular tourist resort.

I then read an article about a Chinese couple who were murdered in Newcastle. Apparantly police suspect they may have been involved in various scams. Possible motive forthe murder perhaps? The plot thickens, as the saying goes. The article then goes on to say “the body of a cat, which had been drowned and hidden in a washing bowl underneath the bathroom sink, was probably killed by the couple’s murderer, said police”. So after killing the Chinese couple, the murderers then went on to drown the body of a cat? Wow, talk about overkill!

Do you think the BBC have proofreaders??

Hello and welcome…

Well, well. My first blog in this new place.
I used to blog over at msn spaces, but after they changed it to windows live spaces it first stopped working entirely on Firefox then when it came back it still didn’t work properly, at which point I became extremely annoyed and stopped bothering. But it seems I just can’t keep away from the world of blogging, so I’ve decided to try out something new. Whether wordpress will annoy me any less than spaces remains to be seen…

I suppose as it’s the first post I should tell you who I am.
The name is Bev(erley) and I’m from a small town in Northumberland, England (I wasn’t actually born in Northumberland, but both of my parents are from there and it’s probably the place I lived in for longest – squaddie brat!) After studying German at university I spent a year teaching English in Austria (think mountains and singing nuns, not kangeroos… you’d be amazed at how many people mis-read that word!). In September 2006 I moved to Germany to be closer to my boyfriend, who I met on the year abroad we had to do as part of our university course, and I’ve been here ever since. I’m in the 10th month of a 1 year internship at a translation firm and desperately trying to find a job for when my internship finishes. I’m also studying part time for my Master’s in Translation, via distance learning but not at the OU – unfortunately they don’t offer a translation course. I have done a creative writing course through the OU and found them much better organised than the uni I’m actually studying at.
That’s pretty much all there is to me. I’m not very interesting, so if you came here looking to be entertained I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong blog!