My top 5 destinations to return to

After leaving a comment on a similar post at On The Luce, I was asked to take part in the Booked.netTop Destinations to Go There promotion. The idea is to write a post about my top 5 destinations that I would return to, complete with pictures and then nominate five bloggers to do the same. Once 100 entries have been written, all the posts will be entered in a competition to win an iPhone 6.

I have a huge list of places I want to visit, and it’s growing all the time! But who doesn’t dream of going back to a place they’ve been before? Whether it’s an old, familiar place that you visit often and where returning is almost like coming home, or somewhere you’ve only been to once but that left such an impression that you long to return and do more exploring? Here are my top 5, not really in chronological order because that would be too difficult!

Edinburgh, Scotland

As a child, I used to go to Edinburgh specifically to visit the zoo (Newcastle doesn’t have one). As an adult, I’ve been three times, and still there is more to explore. I haven’t even climbed Arthur’s Seat yet! The beautiful architecture, the pubs, the friendliness of Scots, its proximity to the sea (which I miss so much in landlocked Karlsruhe!) all combine to make Edinburgh one of my favourite places on Earth! And the castle is pretty impressive too 😉

Edinburgh castle
Edinburgh castle

Austria

It’s probably cheating to choose an entire country rather than a city, but Austria is only a small country after all 😉 I lived in Vorarlberg for almost a year, so obviously that area has a special place in my heart, but I will always get excited about a trip to Austria, no matter what the specific destination. Innsbruck is gorgeous, Vienna has so much to offer and I adore Salzburg with its narrow, winding streets and views of mountains!

How could I not want to see this view again?
How could I not want to see this view again?

Stockholm, Sweden

I went to Stockholm in the summer of 2012 and instantly fell in love with the place! Despite having a population of 905,184, it felt so open and spacious… probably because of all the water. Admittedly some areas were crowded, but finding a quite place to sit down or have a nice walk was simply a matter of switching islands. With so many museums, palaces, parks and other attractions, I imagine it would take me a very long time to get bored! And the temperature in summer is perfect for me, with my pale skin and tendency to wilt like a flower as soon as it gets above 28 °C!

So beautiful and peaceful
So beautiful and peaceful

Berlin, Germany

Despite living in Germany since 2006, it was 2013 before I finally made my to the capital! I had been once before with my grandparents, but it was just one brief stop on a tour of Europe and all I remembered seeing was Checkpoint Charlie. This time was different! We walked a lot, visited hundreds of historical sites, including the Stasi prison at Hohenschönhausen, admired the East Side Gallery, ate delicious food (including the obvious Currywurst) and left with the feeling that we hadn’t experienced even a small fraction of what Germany’s capital has to offer. I mean, they have an entire island just for museums… of which we visited precisely one! I definitely need to go back some time and remedy this situation!

Museum island
Museum island

Ireland

Again nominating an entire country rather than a specific place, but with so much on offer how could I possibly narrow it down? I’ve been to Dublin a few times, and while it’s always good I’ve seen most of what I wanted to see there, but there are plenty of places I do want to see again. The time we spent in Galway wasn’t nearly enough and I would love to go back there, but I also want to explore more of the area around Killarney and the Dingle Peninsular, actually make it to the North-East of the country and take a trip or two to the various islands.

How could anyone resist something this green?
How could anyone resist something this green?

And that would be five. What do you think of my choices?
Now I’m supposed to nominate five fellow bloggers to take up the challenge. I pick Charlotte Steggz, Amanda from Rhyme and Ribbons, Alex at Speaking Denglisch, Simone aka Lady of the Cakes and Elaine from I Used to Be Indecisive.

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Buying British food abroad

Food stash

I am a firm believer that if you choose to live in another country you should also make an effort to adapt. People who spend all their time complaining about how different everything is to back home annoy me! And I love trying all the local foods and drinks. But that doesn’t mean you have to abandon your roots completely! There are plenty of things I miss from home, and most of them are edible! My local Irish pub is celebrating its 5th birthday tonight, so of course I will be going along – both for the live music and to indulge in some yummy food that reminds me of home. Arranging my night at the Irish pub got me thinking about the other methods I have for getting my British food fix… and so the idea for this post was born. Quite a few of the things below are specific to Germany, simply because that’s where I live, but there a few that will be useful to anyone looking for British foods.

  • The most obvious place to look is an English shop. Many cities have them and some are better than others. My nearest one is The Piccadilly English Shop in Heidelberg, and it comes in useful when I make an English Christmas dinner for all my friends every year! I don’t go as much now it’s moved from opposite the train station (so convenient!), but whenever I’m in Heidelberg I’ll pop in for a look. It’s pretty small (the old premises were much bigger), but they usually have a reasonable selection of foods, and they will also order things in for you on request.People in Sweden… while on holidays in Stockholm I spotted an English shop in Södermalm. We had gone to the Söderhallarna to buy food for a picnic and I spotted the English shop upstairs. Sadly, the person I was with wouldn’t let me go in, but from what I could see it looked quite big!
  • 250 gram jar of Bovril
    Photo credit: Wikipedia

    If you’re in Germany, Karstadt’s food department is good for British (and other international) foods. Unlike America, Mexico and Asia, Britain doesn’t get its own special section, but with some searching you can find familiar foods. There’s mint sauce among the chutneys, Heinz baked beans with the tinned vegetables (but be warned… they’re not cheap), Cathedral City Cheddar with the other pre-packaged cheeses, Bovril and Marmite on a shelf of sauces and an entire shelf of Kettle Chips and Tyrell’s crisps! My Karstadt also sells various jams/marmelades from the UK and a few British ales, but I’ve yet to spot any malt vinegar.

  • Another Germany-specific one. If you’re looking for international foods and you have a Scheck-In Center near you, it’s definitely worth taking a look! Scheck-In is where I go for anything that I can’t find elsewhere – not just British foods, but things like vanilla extract and turkey mince! Some of the British foods available at my local Scheck-In include Cadbury’s chocolate, Heinz tomato soup, Cathedral City Cheddar, sliced Double Gloucester cheese and baked beans. Again, there is no “British” section, so you’ll have to go around the shop trying to spot things.
  • One for Austria. When I lived there, Billa sold both Heinz baked beans and a reasonably-priced own brand that was actualy quite good – not just a couple of beans in a lot of liquid like most cheap ones and the sauces tastes pretty authentic. They also sell (or did then) corned beef – although I may be the only person in the world who’s interested in that 😉
  • The English Shop, Cologne. I know I had English shops as my first item, but I’m including the Cologne one separately because they deliver! I’ve never even been to their actual shop (I’m just assuming they have one?) but have ordered from them a few times. Deliveries within Germany cost €4.99 and are usually fairly quick. They will also deliver internationally, but it will cost you! They have all the common brands – Walkers, McVities, Heinz, Baxters… but only tinned/dry foods – nothing that needs to be chilled. Click the name of the shop to go to their website.
  • British Corner Shop. Another online one. I’ve never ordered from there, but I’m seriously considering it despite the high delivery cost! The actual company is located in the UK, but they will deliver worldwide and they even do chilled foods. How, you ask? Here’s the text from their bacon page:  If you are an expat who is craving a spot of British bacon, then British Corner Shop has the answer to your prayers: we are able to ship chilled bacon direct to your door within 48-72 hours using our special chilled shipping boxes – problem solved! Also, they sell medicinesgain, click the shop name to go to their website.
  • Another Germany one… it might seem a bit odd, but Asia shops are a good place to find British foods. I buy PG Tips teabags from one, in huge boxes, and there’s another in Karlsruhe that sells Colman’s English mustard (only the powder though) and Bird’s custard!
  • *Update*: Now that I’m living in Switzerland, I would like to add a new place to my list, specifically for Basel. The bookshop Bider and Tanner has a whole range of British foods upstairs in the English book section – from chocolate bars and Walker’s crisps to breakfast cereals and jars of mamelade and even tins of Heinz cream of chicken soup!

Where do you go when you want food from home? And has anyone actually tried to order from the British Corner Shop website? Let me know in the comments!

Travel theme: Through

Another week, another travel theme.
When I saw that Ailsa had chosen “Through” for this week, I immediately thought of a photo that would be just perfect. All I had to do was find it… and here it is:

Stockholm

It was taken in Stockholm, looking through the fork in a tree trunk towards the water and the buildings on the island beyond.

Looking at my other photos, I discovered some more taken with a “through” perspective. I’ve posted the next one before, but it’s very fitting. It was taken from the Hohensalzburg fortress, looking through a window at the city below.

Hohensalzburg

Next up, a photo from my home country. It was taken in Alnwick, Northumberland looking through one of the cross-shaped gaps on the Lion Bridge towards the castle.

Alnwick Castle

Some of you may recognise the castle. It has featured in various films and TV series, including Harry Potter and Blackadder.
More from England, this time Dover. This was taken standing on the cliffs looking through some trees.

Dover

And finally, one from Ireland. This is Dunguaire Castle, viewed through the window of a ruined cottage just opposite it. It would have been a much better picture if the stupid car hadn’t been in the way!

Dunguaire Castle

I could have posted more photos – apparantly I like taking shots of things through other things – but I think that’s enough.

To join in yourself and see how other people have interpreted the theme, check out Ailsa’s blog post.

Travel theme: Multi-coloured

Another fun travel theme from Ailsa this week… multi-coloured. There are so many photos I could have used for this that I didn’t know where to start, but eventually I managed to narrow it down to the following few. A very Germany-centred travel theme this one, with only two shots taken elsewhere…

My first photo is from Dublin. We spotted this pre-school down by the river and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of it. It looks so cheerful!

Dublin preschool

This colourful bear is just one of many you can find dotted around Berlin:

Berlin bear

I love rows of buildings painted in different colours and almost always take photos of them when we visit somewhere. These ones are in Würzburg.

Würzburg

Staying in Germany, but switching towns… I’ve posted this colourful lantern on the blog before but it fits so well with the theme that I wanted to include it here. I spotted it in Heidelberg when my sister came to visit.

My next photo was taken in Sweden – this colourful Dala horse stands outside the City Hall in Stockholm.

Dala horse

And finally, I would like to end my post the same way Ailsa started hers… with a rainbow. I didn’t have to travel very for for this photo… it was taken right here in Karlsruhe, next to the train station.

rainbow

To see how other people have interpreted the theme (including some much more impressive photos of rainbows!) and to join in yourself, check out Ailsa’s blog post.

My 2012

I have seen a few blog posts reviewing 2012 and since the last few days haven’t exactly been filled with exciting things to blog about (all I’ve done is purchase and wrap gifts for the first few birthdays of the year – I have my sister’s, dad’s, grandma’s and two friend’s birthdays all in January – it’s like Christmas present shopping all over again!) I thought I would do one too. Because I have no mind of my own imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So here is my 2012 in a nutshell.

January

I started the year in Salzburg, Austria, which made me very happy. I think Austria may be my favourite country ever (sorry Germany!). It was sleeting on New Year’s Eve but we stood on a hillside and watched the fireworks anyway:

Salzburg fireworks
Salzburg fireworks

The rest of January was pretty uneventful. I finally completed a birth announcement cross stitch intended for the baby of a good friend – right in time as it turned out. The baby came two weeks later! Right at the end of the month there was some bad news – Barney, my family’s Yorkshre Terrier, had been ill for a while and on 30 January I received a message from my sister telling me mum had had to have him put down that morning. RIP little fellow. We still miss you!

Barney in 2009
Barney in 2009

February

February saw Jan and I celebrating 8 years together along with the birth of my friend’s baby boy he missed out on being a Valentine’s baby by one day, much to his mother’s relief!
At the end of the month I finally managed to visit my friend in the Netherlands – a mere 2 and a half years after she moved there! She has since returned to her home country (America) so it was about time we visited! We saw Delft (where she was living), Leiden and the Hague.

Delft from above
Delft from above

March

Jan had his birthday on 1st March, but we didn’t celebrate due to him being ill. On St. Patrick’s Day, Jan was away but I went to the Irish pub with some friends. Then work sent me to Göttingen for a seminar. Other than that, I don’t think anything happened that month.

April

In April, I finally paid off the overdraft on my English bank account – a relic from my student days. Easter fell in April last year and on the Saturday Jan and I took a trip to Würzburg.

Würzburg, River Main
Würzburg, River Main

A few days later our relationship hit probably its lowest point, with me telling Jan that if things didn’t start improving I would move out at the end of the year.  I was encouraged to have a little hope though as Jan actually listened to me and seemed to be able to see my point of view. As you may have noticed, the end of the year has now been and gone and I’m still here. We still don’t have the perfect relationship (but honestly who does?), but things have improved.

May

1 May is always a public holiday in Germany – it’s not moved the the nearest Monday like in England – so in 2012 it was a Tuesday. I went to the theatre with some colleagues to see an English play. The advantage of working with translators is that they’re always willing to watch things in English! This was followed by two more public holidays: Ascension Day on 17 May and Pentecost Monday on 28 May.
Jan was away with work for most of the month, first in Munich then in America, so I was left to entertain myself  On Pentecost Monday (or Whit Monday if you prefer) I went to the annual Hoepfner Burgfest –  a beer festival at a local brewery – and, through a complete coincidence, met someone who has since become my friend. Not bad for someone who really doesn’t make friends easily!

June

In June I had visitors! Two of my housemates from when I was at uni came to see me. We caught up on what’s been going on in each other’s lives for the past seven years(!!) and I got to show them around my adopted home town.

Karlsruhe Marktplatz
Karlsruhe Marktplatz

For the rest of the month I watched a lot of football (European Cup!) and worked way too much, resulting in me feeling the need to get out of Karlsruhe for the day. So Jan drove me to the beautiful Calw, birth place of Hermann Hesse.

July

July brought another round of visitors – my sister and her boyfriend came so we could watch cars speeding round in circles at Hockenheim. Oh alright, there’s more to Formula 1 than that, but not much 😉 We also went to Heidelberg, saw Maximo Park at Das Fest and took a trip to Europapark, a theme park about an hour and a half from here which I had never been to! Guests are good for something, it seems 😉

Rollercoaster at Europapark
Rollercoaster at Europapark

August

August was my birthday month – the last one in which my age will have a 2 at the beginning. This year I’ll be turning 30 (help!!). I insisted on going out for cake, but other than that we didn’t do a great deal because we had to leave for Stockholm early the next morning. I adored Stockholm, but I’m not sure I could live there all year round – I hear it gets stupidly cold in winter! I could definitely have a summer residence there though.

Stockholm
Stockholm

September

September brought with it a personal record for me as I realised it had been six whole years since I moved back to Karlsruhe. This also marked the month in which Jan actually started letting me know when he wasn’t going to make it home in time for dinner. About a month later this then became texting me at a reasonable time to say he was on his way – meaning we’ve actually been able to eat together for the past few months! A genuine breakthrough in our relationship (and part of the reason I did end up deciding to stay).

Towards the end of the month we went to England, the first time in over a year that I had been back! I spent my time seeing family, eating way too much and also got to meet three of the babies that various friends had given birth to in 2012. Also it rained a lot. The stereotype would say that this is normal in the UK, but believe me this amount of rain was far from normal!

York. The footpath along the river is completely under water.
York. The footpath along the river is completely under water.

October

In October I joined in with the Friday’s letters linkup for the very first time, went to see the wonderful Tina Dico in concert and, of course, celebrated Halloween. I went as a bat in a homemade costume.

November

All Saints Day (1 November) was yet another public holiday in my part of Germany, so I took 2 November off work, giving me a four day weekend to start the month with. Hurrah! We took advantage of the bridge day to go to Schwäbisch Hall. I then came down with the evil cold from hell, spent most of the rest of my four-day weekend in bed and even ended up working from home later that week because I just could not stop coughing. So much for November! I did manage to go to a Wise Guys concert on 17 November, but I wasn’t fully over my cold until a few days after that. I always went to Mosbach to see a friend perform with her choir and got slightly overexcited about Primark opening in Karlsruhe.

Primark fox scarf
Primark fox scarf

December

I won’t go into too much detail about the final month of 2012 seeing as it’s only just happened and I’m sure you can all remember exactly what it consisted of. If I were to sum up December in just a few words I think I would have to say Glühwein, baking, gift wrapping and way too much time spent at the post office!

The year ended the same way as it began – with fireworks. This time they were in Luxembourg, the second new country I visited in 2012 after Sweden.

Fireworks in Luxembourg
Fireworks in Luxembourg

2012 had its low points, but overall it wasn’t such a bad year. I made a new friend, travelled a lot more than I had expected and was able to spend time with people who I hadn’t seen for a very long time. Put in context like this, I can actually see that I had a pretty amazing year. Now let’s see what 2013 brings!

Stockholm

Now that it’s been a month and 2 days since we flew to Stockholm, I think it’s about time I actually got round to posting about it. I know, I know – I’m a terrible blogger. Anyway…

The first, and most important, thing to say about Stockholm is I LOVED IT! I loved the buildings, the food (although I did draw the line at pickled herrings for breakfast… just eeew!), the fact that there was so much water everywhere – which I know is obvious seeing as the city of Stockholm is made up of a group of islands (14 to be precise), but I miss water sooo much living in Karlsruhe. The weather was fabulous too, with temperatures between 20 and 24°C (err, Google says 68 – 75°F) all week at a time when it got up to 40°C (104°F) in Karlsruhe. I would literally have DIED!!!! 24°C is much more my kind of temperature. It only rained twice, and both times it had stopped within a couple of hours and we were able to hide inside until it had passed, so that was okay.

Some highlights of our trip:

We were there with another couple because Jan was taking part in an A Capella festival with someone he’s in a choir with (I spent most of the week hanging round with the other guy’s wife), but on the first day the workshop hadn’t started yet so we were able to spend some time together. We went to Skansen, which is the first open air museum in Sweden and was recommended to me by a Swedish friend. The founder (someone called Artur Hazelius) basically bought loads of different buildings from around Sweden, took them apart and rebuilt them at Skansen, so everything you see there is authentic. There is also a zoo bit, with reindeer, wolves, bears, etc. The place is HUGE!! We had bought some food before heading to Skansen, and the first thing K wanted to do was eat, so we walked for what felt like miles to get to the picnic area (missing out on looking at loads of cool stuff on the way! And I really wanted to go into the acquarium!). While we were walking we noticed that there were loads of squirrels about, and they were all coming really close to people – hoping for food I presume. At the picnic area we saw even more of them, including one that was being given food by a group of teenagers at another table. And that’s how we discovered that squirrels like Nutella! The teenagers had given one a slice of bread spread with it and the squirrel was ignoring the bread and licking off the Nutella. Sooo cute! Here he is, nibbling away at his hazelnut-chocolate spread:

squirrel

He came up to our table as well, hoping for a few crumbs, but K scared him away when he tried to get on the table so I never managed to get a close up picture. He never came back to the picnic area after that either 😦 There were also birds that kept flying up trying to get a few crumbs of food, including the biggest magpies I’ve ever seen! At least they looked just like magpies, only huge. Are there any other black and white birds that look exactly like magpies, only bigger? If there are I don’t know them.

After eating we decided to split up as I wanted to go to the zoo part and K didn’t, so Jan and I managed to get some time on our own. I got to see reindeer and also real Swedish moose – albeit in captivity.

Sweden
Later we met up again and went back into town for food. I ate köttbullar, clearly a must when in Sweden.

The next day the two boys had to register for the festival, so we all went across to the island it was being held on. We walked along the waterfront taking photos of boats, found a citadel and then went for lunch, after which the guys had their first workshop and us two girls went off on our own. We walked around, took photos and had tea in a wonderful little tea salon right next to a German church (those Germans get everywhere! 😉 ).

The Vasa museum was another highlight – very interesting and we had a really cool guide. He told us all about the carvings on the ship – apparantly King Gustav II (the one who had it built) was known as the Lion of the North, which is why the ship had a lion carved on the front. The lion is holding a corn sheaf – called “vase” in Swedish, which is a similar word to Vasa, as in the House of Vasa aka the dynasty that King Gustav was part of, and which the war shop was anmed after. Well I thought it was interesting anyway! Here’s a photo of the ship, or part of it anyway. It’s too big to get the whole thing in one photo.

Vasa
Other things we did included a tour of the royal palace, where we also saw the changing of the guard (pretty impressive), a boat tour called “Stockholm: Under the Bridges”, which I really enjoyed (I love boats!) and also a visit to an amazing foodhall in a place called Söderhallarna, which is a fabulous indoor market thing on Sodermalm (south island).There was all manner of amazing looking food there. I also spotted an English shop on the top floor but K wouldn’t let me have a look in. *Sigh*.

On our final day in Sweden, the music festival had finished, so all four of us went out for the day together. We got up ridiculously early and went to get a ferry to one of the islands of the Stockholm archipelago. The island we went to was called Gällnö and it has something like 40 permanent residents! There is a little shop and café, but when we were there both were closed (although the sign on the shop claimed it was open?!). We went for a walk around the island, saw loads of butterflies that even stayed still for long enough to be photographed and found a little red rowing boat, which we went out in, but other than that we mostly just sat in the sun and enjoyed the peace and quiet. It’s amazing that such a beautiful, remote place is so close to a capital city (which Stockholm is, even though it didn’t feel like one!).

 

Pretty butterfly resting on some flowers
Pretty butterfly resting on some flowers

DSCN1471

So there you have it. I would love to return to Stockholm and see all the things I missed out on – inlcuding Gröna Lund (Sweden’t oldest amusement park) and Junibacken – a museum dedicated to Swedish literature, in particular Astrif Lindgren. Or, as I kept saying every time I spotted the building across the water, “Pippi’s in there!!”.

And that is all from me. If You’ve actually managed to read this far I commend you! Now go visit Stockholm and see for yourself how great it is. There’s no way my words (or terrible photography/random snapshots) could ever do it justice!.