Travel

I know a little place…

When a friend asked for recommendations for places to eat and things to do in a number of European countries recently I realised that I had been to almost all of the places on his list. So, rather than keep my opinions confined to a small group of people on facebook, I figured it would be worth writing an entire blog post – here goes.

In general I love just being in a new city and the old towns are fascinating. I like to seek out local museums rather than the big ones (although some of the bigger ones are worthwhile) and I also like to go to a local supermarket to see what kinda stuff the locals buy and eat.

Impression Amsterdam 1_photo used on flyer

Amsterdam
Rijksmuseum, definitely worth seeing. If you are pressed for time, just go in and look at the Milk Maid and the Night Watch.
Tour the canals, takes you around to most places and is very good value
Amsterdam museum, I do love a local city museum and this one is lovely
The Museum of Bags and Purses has a fascinating collection and was a gem of a find for me

It’s been too long for me to be able to offer reliable eatery recommendations, but in general you’ll be getting things like Stroopwafels, Profertjes and the like. You can have fairy bread in the morning and it’s considered breakfast. Tea does not come with milk unless you ask specifically for it. Mind the trams, they’re on the wrong side of the road for a Melbournian and it can be quite disconcerting. Also, bikes have right of way over pedestrians.

Antwerp.Belgium

Antwerp
– The world heritage listed Cathedral of Our Lady is stunning, make sure you hear the bells they are probably the prettiest I’ve ever heard.
– It’s also pretty cool if you can see some of the ships on the river, just a short hop from the central old city. Think Yarra with a cruise liner running down the middle.
– The Meir is the main shopping street and has some gorgeous buildings
– The castle, Hat Steen, on the river is a maritime museum, but in front of it is a statue to one of the giants who used to guard the river.
– You can do a tour of the sewers, I never got around to it – they suggest you take wellies.
– Antwerp means “throw hand” and you can see in front of the Town Hall a statue depicting the throwing of a giant’s hand into the river by the hero Brabo.
– The Irish Times on the Grote Markt is a lovely pub.
– Central Station is quite possibly one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world, and if you have more than a couple of days in Antwerp is a good place to get a train out to Bruge
Rubenshuis is worth a look, aside from being Rubens’ House it is a fine example of the homes from Antwerp’s height
Sir Anthony Van Dyke is a really lovely restaurant in a 15th century street, the chef gave up his michelin stars when people started killing themselves over them and has made the restaurant cheaper and more intimate as a result, fabulous food and the most romantic atmosphere but you do have to book. At the very least, walk down the street cos it’s gorgeous
Popoff has amazing desserts
Zuidterras is a lovely restaurant with a view of the river
– Belgium claims to be the home of the French Fry and the acknowledged home of them in Antwerp is Frituur N°1 – locals have them with mayonaise.
River Kwai is a lovely thai restaurant, nice ambience
De Vagant would have to be my favourite bar in the world so far. They serve over 200 different gins. There’s a restaurant upstairs, but I like to just order a few different fruit flavoured gins and the cheese and salami board. Once you’ve found a few gins you like, the shop over the road is where you can buy

In general, waffles taste best from Antwerp IMHO, you can get them everywhere but some of the cafes are supposed to be better than others (my favourite appears to be closed boo), you’ll also find muscles are big as are snails (yum!). I haven’t been here in a few years but I’ve no reason to believe that any of the restaurants have diminished.

Frankfurt

Frankfurt
– the Römerberg is lovely and is the home to the old town house
– the Opera House is also very pretty
– the Natural History Museum is worth a look. They have a male dingo on display, Christian got very excited that he was able to say “as dry as a dead dingo’s donger”
– definitely stop by the Kleinmarkthalle an undercover market. YOu can get some eats there

I tend to pass through Frankfurt more than I stop as it’s on the way to Christian’s family in Fulda. I did see a great Botticelli exhibition in the art gallery a couple of years back.

2013-05-23 16.30.11-1

Munich
– a half day trip to Pfaffenhoefen is in order if you like to knit
– the English Garden is just a big park, unless you have plenty of time I wouldn’t place it high on the list however I would go to the southern tip of the English Garden at Prinzregentenstrasse where you’ll see scores of people leaning over a bridge to cheer on surfers on an artificially created wave in the Eisbach.
– watch the Glockenspiel at Marienplatz
– climb to the top of St Peter’s Church for amazing views
– a tour of the Residenz is worth doing, it’s a beautiful building (and features in the most recent Three Musketeers movie)
– Viktualienmarkt is the market area and is a must
– Have a meal at the Hofbräuhaus, it’s a must-do
– for something a bit posh, Dallmayr is like the Harrods food hall of Munich
– Schuhbeck is the big-wig chef in Munich, he has a restaurant – I’ve eaten at some circus/restaurant thing which he did and the food was amazing. You’ll also see spice shops by him which have some great combinations.
– Vapiano is a good solid Italien which you’ll find in a number of cities on the mainland, good for when the German zoo-on-a-plate approach gets too much
Augustiner Beer Hall does awesome Weisswurst which is a veal sausage served with pretzels and sweet mustard and which must be ordered before noon. (peel the skin off the sausage). Generally served with beer, if you don’t want to drink that early order the Apfelsaftschorle. This is one of my highlights when I visit Munich.
Weisses Brauhaus is a great place for lunch and near Marienplatz. It’s a very typical traditional German eatery, much like the Augustiner
– There’s also BMW World which I’ve never been to

Munich is the centre of the stereotypical Germany you see on postcards. Most of the rest of Germany resents that, but it’s a great fun place to be. Most of the restaurants will do an English menu and you’ll see a lot of pork.

edinburgh_-_calton_hill_nov_12_0

Edinburgh
– the Scotch Malt Society has a fabulous restaurant but you need to know a member in order to get in. Luckily you do.
– Holyrood Palace is definitely a must do – as is the walk up to the Castle from there.
– Starbucks on Princes Street has amazing views of the castle
– avoid the Grassmarket for restaurants, they tend to be high priced
– the Caley Sample room does gorgeous food, as does it’s sister the Cambridge Bar (burgers)
– Rosslyn Chapel is a good distance by bus but worth the trek
– The Sheep’s Heid Inn is one that Mary Queen of Scots stopped at
– St Gile’s Church has a great history
– Do a tour of the city that takes you into the underground bits, spooky but very interesting

Definitely one of those cases of too much to choose from here!

I’m going to come back to this post and update it as I remember new places to go to…

Travel

The Big Adventure aka Spot the Difference

So there we are at Frankfurt am Main HBF – the main railway station in Frankfurt. We’ve just had a quick bite to eat and it’s time to head to our train. I’m largely in the dark as Christian is chatting to his parents in German, and while I can follow the gist of the conversation the details elude me. I’ve learnt not to worry about that and generally go with the flow.

But there’s a Haagen-Daaz stand and boy I could kill for an ice-cream right now. So, with Christian telling me to be quick cos the train is going to leave soon I dash to the shop, grab my Belgian chocolate scoop in wafer cone and race back to the platform. The sign says this train is going to Fulda, it’s platform 7 – which is the platform we generally catch the train to Fulda from, but there’s no sign of Christian nor of his parents.

Remembering that they tend to go towards the front of the train I race along beside, checking the carriages – I can’t see them at all. I go up and back before I hear the announcement that the train is about to leave – there’s nothing for it, I jump on board and pull out my phone. Roaming charges be damned! As the train doors close I call Christian and he finally picks up – he’s waiting outside the train on the platform he says. But the train is leaving! I say. No it’s not. Yes it is!

I’m on the wrong train. I’ve no ticket, no identification – Christian has my bags. All I have is my iphone and some change. We agree that I’ll get off at the first stop and try to explain things to the ticket inspector if he comes around. I can then meet them on the later train at Hanau towards the front of the train. So I wander up towards the front of the train and sit in the first class area (why not?) while I wait to be confronted by a ticket inspector. By the time I reach Hanau, none have turned up, so I jump off the train.

A quick scan of the timetable to confirm that the next train to Fulda will indeed be waiting at this platform, a 10 minute wait in the cold and I’m reunited with the others.

Apparently I should have realised that the train we normally catch is not the ICE but the bog-standard train (takes longer but is cheaper and is therefore better). Honestly I was just worried about the leaving now thing and getting left behind!

Travel

German Holiday

Had an absolutely lovely long weekend in Fulda, Germany. I left work at lunchtime and headed to the airport where I met up with Christian who had flown in from Edinburgh. We then grabbed a flight out to Frankfurt. Sounds rather silly, but it was actually cheaper to do this than for Christian to fly out directly from Edinburgh, plus we got the added bonus of an extra few hours together which is pretty precious at the moment.

At Frankfurt airport Inge and Helmut were there to greet us, so lovely to see them again 🙂 It was then off to Vapiano for dinner, I was quite chuffed with myself for remembering the address of the place too. Vapiano is a great concept – a pizza/pasta/salad place where you get a card on your way in and then head to the appropriate counter. They then make the food up for you on the spot and swipe your card – and it’s gorgeous food. Pasta is all freshly handmade and the pizzas are lovely – Christian always gets one with parma ham, figs and honey. Their coffee is good, being Illy. The only thing they don’t do well is the desserts. The first Vapiano I went to was in Antwerp. Since then I’ve visited them in Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich. I know they’re in London and Brisbane too – so get yourself there! I digress…

Friday was a day of shopping and setting up the fabulous canteen in Helmut’s school for the party on Saturday night. We spent a good two hours getting it all organised and it looked fabulous. Inge had organised sheets of thick red paper, with rose-print serviettes, candles and vases on the tables. The vases would be filled with white tulips. With the red walls of the room and the bright green chairs it all went together very well. Later that night as we were waiting for Julia and Florian to arrive it started to snow. About 4 inches of it in two hours. I knew it had been cold!

The party itself on Saturday night was lovely. Inge and Helmut had gathered 70 of their friends and they introduced every one of the guests to the crowd with anecdotes of how they had met or with stories about them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a large crowd of people so attentive for such a long time! Christian was translating where he could, but I’m getting better at understanding and a couple of the stories I understood pretty much in their entirety. We had a lovely buffet dinner (no sauerkraut) and the band played some great tracks (mainly in English). At the end of the night I drove us home….

Yes, I drove on the wrong side of the road. Granted it was 3am so the streets were pretty much deserted, however, the road was covered in ice which I’ve never driven on before and I had to make two trips – one to take Christian’s grandmother home and then the trip to take Christian, Flo and Juli home. The adrenaline was pumping pretty hard by the time I pulled up into the driveway but noone was hurt and no scratches on the car so I’d say a resounding success there.

Sunday was spent relaxing and Monday afternoon came around far too quickly. We were soon on the flights back to Dublin having had a wonderful weekend and a great celebration. Hope we can get back soon!