Take 12 Trips: A Roundup

A little over a year ago, I decided to join in with a challenge inviting bloggers to take one trip every month for 12 months. If you’ve been paying close attention to my blog for the past year, you may have noticed that my trip to Weinheim in September was, in fact, my 12th trip! (Don’t worry, I don’t expect anyone to actually have noticed 😉 ). This fact seemed to call for some kind of roundup/recap of my 12 months of trip taking, just to bring things to a nice neat conclusion… or something like that.

October 2013

Triberg waterfallI started the challenge with a day trip to Triberg im Schwarzwald in October 2013. I had actually taken this trip shortly before learning about Take 12 Trips and decided to make it my first one rather than waiting until the following month to get started. In Clare’s original post inviting people to join the challenge, she told us to “Do anything – trip big, or trip tiny”. The point was to go somewhere new, perhaps even somewhere local that you’d been meaning to try out but never had. So a visit to somewhere in the Black Forest, which is basically on my doorstep, seemed like a fitting first trip.

November 2013

November 2013 saw me returning to Feldkirch in Austria for the first time since I lived there in 2005/2006. It was nice to see the place again, and also lovely to pay a visit to some friends from when I lived there and meet their baby son! After Feldkirch, we spent a night in Garmisch-Patenkirchen (famous for skiing!), then on the way back we stopped at Schloss Neuschwanstein (the famous fairy-tale castle in Bavaria) and in Augsburg. Not bad for a single long weekend!

December 2013

Fire show 1I live in Germany, so obviously my December trip had to be to a Christmas market! I chose a local one, the Mediaeval Christmas market in Durlach, which is a district of Karlsruhe. The market includes a fire show (pictured above) and, aside from the usual Glühwein (mulled wine), hot mead is also on offer. At the end of the month, I went home to England for Christmas, but I don’t count that as a real trip 😉

January 2014

Part of my January 2014 trip was actually in December – Jan and I went to Madeira for New Year! I absolutely loved this trip and would go back in a heartbeat – Madeira is beautiful! And it was nice to actually spend New Year somewhere warm for a change.

February 2014

A figure on the gate post
A figure on the gate post

As the end of February approached with no trip planned (and me not wanting my February “trip” to be the week I spent in England by my dying grandpa’s bedside), I spontaneously decided to take a train to Bruchsal. I had been to the castle before, but never into the town and it was about time that was remedied! Sadly, it turned out that Bruchsal as a town isn’t all that interesting. I found a few pretty buildings, but after only 45 minutes I found myself at the castle with nowhere else to go. I also discovered that day that I find day trips by myself pretty boring (although who knows, maybe I would have fared better in a more interesting town?). Oh well, onwards and upwards as they say!

March 2014

Gutenbergplatz

In March 2014, I finally did something I’ve been meaning to for about 4 years – visited the Saturday market on Gutenbergplatz in Karlsruhe. Thanks Take 12 Trips for the inspiration! I also went to Colmar, France in March, although I didn’t write a post about it til April.

April 2014

Amneville zooApril saw Jan, K and I on a day trip to Amnéville Zoo in France. It was the second visit for Jan and I, and it was just as amazing as the first time. The falconry display especially is well worth the three hour drive!

Also in April (although not counted towards the challenge), I went to my first ever bloggers’ meetup when I joined some fellow Germany-based bloggers in Heidelberg.

May 2014

Playmobil paintingIn May, I managed to persuade Jan to come with me to the Historisches Museum der Pfalz in Speyer to see an exhibition celebrating 40 years of Playmobil. What can I say… at heart, I’m a 5 year old 😉 The exhibition was overrun with kids, of course, but I enjoyed it anyway. And the rest of the museum was interesting too!

Roughly a week later I was in England for a funeral (not the best trip!) then at the end of the month Jan and I had a mini-break in Konstanz, since it was a long weekend.

June 2014

For our ten-year anniversary(!) I had bought Jan tickets to see Pear Jam in Vienna, so that’s where our June trip took us. Apart from the concert, we visited the National Library, my favourite part being the Globe Museum, I ate Marillenknödel, crossing off another item on my 35 before 35 list, and we visited the UN headquarters then went to the Donauinselfest, a huge free music festival! We also took a day trip to Bratislava in Slovakia. My favourite thing there was the blue church, pictured above.

July 2014

Basel RhineIn July, my brother came to stay with us for a week. The trip I officially counted for the challenge was to Basel, but we also visited Strasbourg, the Black Forest and Frankfurt. Phew! I was exhausted by the time he went home!

August 2014

TaiwanI’m sure by now all of you know where I went for my August trip – I’ve bored you with enough posts on it 😉 Yes, it was Taiwan! My first visit to Asia was amazing! We saw so many fantastic sights, ate some great food (and also some truly awful stuff *cough* oyster omelette *cough*). Taiwan is a fascinating and beautiful country and I would recommend anyone to go.

September 2014

WeinheimIt would have been nice to finish the challenge with Taiwan, but alas I still had one more trip to go! Finishing the challenge with another day trip within the local area provided some nice symmetry though. This time we headed in the other direction to Weinheim, which is in the Odenwald rather than the Black Forest. It was a beautiful autumn day and the perfect way to finish my 12 trips!

Earlier in September, I also spent the day in Bad Dürkheim at the Wurstmarkt, the world’s biggest wine festival, making it another multi-trip month.

Altogether, that makes 12 (plus) trips, seven countries (count them!) and a million memories! Thank you Clare for coming up with this challenge!

So, what now?

Just because my 12 trips are over doesn’t mean I’m going to stop travelling any time soon! In October 2014, I was in Bad Bergzabern (post to follow) and then spent Halloween Paris for a Night Vale live show, and I’m hoping that this month and next month will involve one or two Christmas markets. Then there’s the annual New Year’s trip that Jan and I always take (no destination confirmed yet). As for next year, so far only a trip to England in October for the Rugby World Cup is planned, but I’m sure there will be other opportunities to travel before then. There probably won’t be any big trips until the end of the year, but a few day trips will definitely be on the cards! Stay tuned…

Advertisements

Wine tasting at Blandy’s and Madeira miscellany

This is my final post about Madeira, so I’ll start off by telling you about Blandy’s Wine Lodge and then finish with some miscellaneous stuff about Madeira that hasn’t been covered in any previous posts…

Old Blandy’s Wine Lodge is located in the centre of Funchal. Acquired in 1840 by Charles Ridpath Blandy, the old wine lodge remains an integral part of the process, and until relatively recently some wine was actually still produced there (they do the actual crushing of the grapes part up in the mountains nowadays, or so our guide told us). These days, it’s mainly used as a place for barrels of wine to mature and age, before being transferred to giant barrels for storage before bottling. These means that, while you don’t actually get to see Madeira wine being made, the premises are not there purely for tourism purposes… as evidenced by the wonderful smell of Madeira wine in the rooms where the barrels are being matured!

There are several tours available, and we chose the Premium one, which cost €5.50 per person and included a tasting at the end. I have to admit, I preferred this tour to the one we took of the Old Jameson’s Distillery in Dublin, which really was purely for tourists and seemed to be more of a marketing exercise than a tour that was actually designed to give any information! Naturally our tour guide in Madeira wouldn’t have told us that any wine other than Blandy’s is the best 😉 but at least the entire tour wasn’t a huge advertisement for Blandy’s! We were actually given some quite interesting information about grape types and the different temperatures and barrels that are needed to produce the different types of Madeira wine. It’s just a shame I barely remember any of it! At the end of the tour, we were given some time to look around the mini museum section before heading on to the most important bit… wine tasting! We were given two Madeira wines to taste… one was Malmsey, a sweet Madeira wine made from Malvasia grapes. If I remmeber correctly, Malvasia grapes are the only one of the four grape varieties used to produce Madeira wine that are actually native to the island. Sadly, I don’t remember what the other wine we tried was, but it was a dry variety. Both were very tasty, though.

Madeira Miscellany

A few more observations from our trip to Madeira that didn’t seem to fit in anywhere else. 🙂

There are dogs EVERYWHERE! I never did manage to decide whether they were all strays or some actually belonged to people. We saw at least 15 dogs just running around loose, with no owners to be seen… including two that hung around outside our hotel! We discovered at some point that one of them was called Bobby, but I have no idea whether they belonged to the hotel or had just been hanging around so long that the staff decided to name them. Either way, I’m assuming that if they were dangerous the hotel staff wouldn’t tolerate them? I still didn’t want to touch them though, and when one of them decided to follow me while I was carrying food, I did feel a bit nervous! He didn’t do anything though, and eventually seemed to realise I wasn’t going to give him anything. In the time we were there, I spotted three dogs wandering around with collars on (two in Funchal and one in Santana) – so presumably they belonged to someone – but said owners were nowhere to be seen. We also spied three dogs being walked with actual leads! Here are some of the (presumably stray) dogs we saw – the first and last photos are of the hotel dogs, while the middle one shows a dog in Monte.

On the first day, after looking around Funchal, we drove up to Cabo Girão. The most unusual thing about this cliff is that, looking down, you can see cultivated land at the foot of it. Until relatively recently, the only way for farmers to reach this land was by boat… a cable car was installed in 2003 to provide an easier way for them to reach their crops. Brochures and the Madeira website claim that Cabo Girão is the highest cliff in Europe (and second highest in the world), but Wikipedia says it’s not. Regardless, it provides a nice view – especially with the glass viewing platform that juts out over the water! If you’re scared of heights, I wouldn’t recommend  looking down…

I haven’t mentioned much about what we ate in Madeira (other than the bread and soup in Funchal on the first day) because Jan tends to tease me if I take too many photos of food, but I need to tell you about the Espetada… or meat on a skewer! This traditional Madeiran kebab-type dish is delicious! The meat is marinated, then cooked in an open fire. Traditionally the meat was threaded onto a bayleaf stick, but we had to make do with plain old metal skewers 😛

Also, have another picture of some of the garlic bread. I love how this photo turned out! If I had a food blog, this would so be my cover photo!

Yum, yum!
Yum, yum!

Finally, I want to finish my Madeira series with a photo taken from the aeroplane shortly after take off. This was shortly before the evil turbulence got hold of us (so bad that I actually felt like we might be blown out of the sky, and the pilots changed their plans slightly and got permission to fly at a lower altitude than originally intended!). The sheer beauty of the sunrise above the clouds made for a fitting end to a wonderful holiday.

Leaving Madeira... very early in the morning!
Leaving Madeira… very early in the morning!

And that’s it… the end of our trip. Now I believe it’s about time I started thinking about where to go next! Any suggestions?

~ I am counting Madeira as my January 2014 trip in the Take 12 Trips challenge, even though we started the holiday in December ~

Monte, Madeira

Monte is a suburb of Funchal, located in the mountains up above it. During our holiday, we actually went up there twice… once by car up the incredibly steep hills! I’m talkig so steep that I actually found myself wondering whether the car was actually going to make it… visions of us sliding back down the hill definitely entered my mind once our twice! The second time, we went up by cable car and back down in a wicker toboggan…

The view from the cable car station in Monte
The view from the cable car station in Monte

Monte houses two main attractions, the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte church, where Emperor Charles I of Austria, the last rule of the Austro-Hungarian empire is buried, and the tropical garden. Obviosuly I took lots of pictures of plants in the tropical garden, but I shall try not to bore you with too many of them 😉

From the tropical gardens, we could see people going down the mountain the famous Monte wicker toboggans. Of course we wanted a go, too even though it’s really expensive! Here’s what they look like… and yes, that is an actual road with actual cars on it! I actually bought our official photo (they had a guy taking photos halfway down), which I know is a total tourist con, but it’s not like I could take a photo of us myself and I wanted the souvenir! I would show you the photo, but Jan wouldn’t like me plastering his photo all over the Internet…

I've blurred out the tourists' faces to avoid getting in trouble...
I’ve blurred out the tourists’ faces to avoid getting in trouble…

The toboggan takes you down 2km, to the suburb of Livramento. Once there, you can either take a taxi the rest of the way down (there are loads hanging around), or walk as we did. If you choose to walk, you get to go down a street with some beautiful flowers! Literally everyone was stopping to take photos there…

Our ticket to the tropical gardens also included a free taster glass of Madeira wine at the cafe, and Jan also decided to sample some Madeira honey cake (I had an icecream to cool down, but I did try his cake and can confirm that it was delicious). This set us up nicely for our next stop… after wicker tobogganing it down, we had a tour of Blandy’s Wine Lodge complete with Madeira wine tasting booked… but you’ll have to come back tomorrow to hear a bit about that. This post is long enough!

Madeira wine

35 Before 35: Madeira New Year’s Fireworks

Number 16 on my 35 Before 35 list is to spend New Year in Madeira and watch the fireworks display (which got the Guniess World Record for world’s biggest in 2006). Since I did, in fact, spend New Year 2013/14 in Madeira, it’s probably fairly obvious that I also saw the fireworks 😉 But I thought I’d provide some evidence anyway…

You probably can’t really tell from those photos, but we actually managed to get an excellent spot! There was much less of a crowd than we had expected, and we were able to find a space next to the harbour wall right in front of one of the places where the fireworks were being set off from! (They were being ignited at three or four places simultaneously).  It was flippin’ loud down there, I can tell you! These next photos will hopefully make it a bit clearer how close we actually were:

They’re a bit blurry, but hopefully you can see that we had a clear view of the fireworks actually emerging from the explosive thingies!
It wasn’t the longest display we’ve seen (the one in Brussels takes that title – I actually thought those ones would never stop!), but a lot of fireworks were set off in a short time. One member of staff at the hotel told us 17 tonnes of fireworks were set off in 8 minutes! I don’t even have words for a number that big…

So, that’s another item crossed off the list and I’m pleased to say it was 100% worth it! If you’re ever given the opportunity to spend New Year in Madeira, my advice would be to take it (as long as you’re not afraid of fireworks, of course…). And for any of you who’ve ever spent New Year in a German-speaking country, I’m sure you’ll be very pleased to know that no fireworks were thrown! A few people had their own to set off, but they sensibly pointed them up at the sky, where they belong 🙂

Madeira fireworks

Funchal door art

Walking around the Zona Velha, or Old Town in Funchal, you will notice that many of the doors feature art work of various kinds – mostly paintings, but some other forms of art as well. These works are part of the  Projecto artE pORtas abErtas, or ArT of opEN doors project, a scheme that aims to “open” the doors of Funchal to art… and give new life to old, dilapidated doors, often of abandoned and forgotten buildings. Here is just a small selection of the photos Jan and I took of those decorative doors.

Obviously I couldn’t possible resist taking a photo of the following door… colourful artwork and one of my favourite things combined!

Boooooks!
Boooooks!

Here are some of my favourites. For a few, I took close up photos of the various details because a photo of the entire door just didn’t do it justice.

Have you ever been to Funchal? Which is your favourite painted door?

Look up, Look down: Madeira

I’m right in the middle of my Madeira posts, and I didn’t want to abandon the tales of my trip for look up, look down. Fortunately, I did manage to take some photos looking both up and down in Madeira, so I can take part in the challenge and still continue telling you about my holiday.

The first photo was taken from Eira do Serrado, a viewing point just beside our hotel. The town/village thing you can see surrounded by all the mountains is Curral Das Freiras, Valley of the Nuns.

Curral das Freiras viewed from Eira do Serrado
Curral das Freiras viewed from Eira do Serrado

My second photo shows some of the fabulous flora that is abundant on the island. It was taken in the tropical garden in Monte… I just love the way the red looks against the blue of the sky!

Madeira flowers

And finally another photo of the chilli stand that I posted some pictures of yesterday. This shot was taken from the lower level of the market, looking up at the stand.

Funchal market

Have a photo that would be perfect for the theme Look Up, Look Down? Check out Travel With Intent’s blog post to join in and see all the other entries!

Funchal, Madeira

After breakfast on our first day in Madeira, we drove down to Funchal – the capital city – to see what it had to offer. The photos in this post will be a mixture of ones from that first day and ones from later trips into Funchal.

On the first day, we just wanted to have a look around. With no particular destination in mind, we found somewhere to park the car then just went for a wander. We found the cathedral, and beside it a mini Christmas market complete with a Madeiran village section, where people in costume were displaying traditional crafts and cooking over log fires.

It was odd seeing the place decorated with things like snowmen when the temperatures were around 15-17°C all week! There were some pretty lights though, including some made to look like the Strelitzia or Bird of Paradise flowers that were planted everywhere. There were also loads of cute little lizards all over the place… anywhere there was a wall, there was a lizard!

It was nice to be beside the sea again, and smell the salt in the air. That’s something I really miss in Karlsruhe!

We went for a walk in one of the local parks (there are many!) and I found a rainbow in a fountain.

After walking around for a while on the first day, we decided we were hungry so we headed back to the traditional Madeiran huts to grab a bowl of soup and some of the local bread. Bolo do Caco is a round, flat bread (similar to a Stottie in the North-East of England). It’s baked on a flat stone slab called a Caco – Bolo do Caco literally means bread cooked on the Caco (actually, Bolo is technically the Portuguese word for cake). At the Madeira Story Centre we read that the bread was originally baked on large pieces of roof tile – caco de telha – which is where the name Caco for the stone slab comes from. The bread is traditionally served smothered in a garlic and herb butter – not all that healthy, but absolutely delicious!

After eating our soup on that first day, we headed back to the car before the time we had paid for ran out. But on the way, we stopped by the Mercado do Lavradores (Worker’s Market) for a quick look. You might want to look away now if you don’t like dead fish 😉

I think that’s enough for one post! Tomorrow I shall share some pictures of the artwork on the doors of the old town. I think they deserve a post of their own 🙂

~ I am including Madeira as my January 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge, even though part of the holiday actually took place in December ~