Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Some fantastic tatties

Don't worry, Tatties is Scottish-speak for potatoes. And even though the British aren't particularly known for their culinary skills, they did get one thing right - the Baked potato
The British baked potato phenomenon is so much more than getting a baked potato and filling with the usual sour cream, bacon, cheese, etc. that you might find in the US or Germany. No, where you find a baked potato, you find a variety of unique fillings of anything from grilled veggies to my favorite - cheese, onion, and pineapple. There are couscous fillings, coleslaw fillings, sweet fillings, and savory. Pretty much anything you never realized you could put in a potato but suddenly can't imagine life without. 
So where exactly can you find these delicious treats in Edinburgh? Well, basically all over. But, lucky for you, I know where the BEST (and no, this is not subjective, it is completely and 100% irrefutable truth) baked potato shop is in Edinburgh. 
Easily enough, it's name is "The Baked Potato Shop" and it's located conveniently right off the royal mile near North Bridge. Right across from the Starbucks there is a little side street, and you should be able to see the little red awning from the Royal Mile. And the best part - it's a vegan potato shop, so you can feel like you're being really healthy/environmentally friendly when you partake in the deliciousness. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

If you only have one day in Edinburgh...

well, first of all, if you only have one day in Edinburgh, that was the absolute worst planning on your part. 

Edinburgh is basically my favorite city... ever. It might have something to do with the good friends and great times I always have there. But the city itself is just amazing. Between the castle, picturesque old city, great shopping possibilities, unique and adorable shops, and great selection of pubs, it's pretty much got everything. I could keep going, but I think you get my point. 

As it turned out, Andrea ended up only having one full day in Edinburgh, so I wanted to make sure she got to see exactly why I love that city so much. So here are some of the highlights we hit for those of you planning a trip to Edinburgh (as all of you should be!)

The Castle
The Castle is one of my favorite parts of this city. It just looks so stereotypically castle-like. And you know me, I love when things fit stereotypes! It is kind of expensive to get into the castle/ I've been in once, and I would say that it's definitely not a waste of money, but you can also easily enjoy the castle from the outside. Rumor has it the castle was the main inspirations for Hogwarts - totally believable as it is very well known that JK Rowling wrote the first three books while living in Edinburgh. 

The Royal Mile
The famous street that runs through the middle of the old city, from Holyrood (the royal residence) up to the castle. I pretty much live on the Royal mile when I'm in Edinburgh. There is always so much going on and so much to see. Andrea and I did the New Europe walking tour in Edinburgh (the same one I did in Amsterdam). As usual, it was amazing and focused a lot on the Royal Mile and around the old city. This is a must do if you find yourself in Edinburgh. 

The Old City
Don't forget to get off the beaten path while in the old city. The Royal Mile is definitely amazing, but there is so much more to see. Don't miss taking a peak down all the side streets to see just what kind of awesomeness is hiding there. 

The National Museum
This museum on the Royal Mile is home to all kinds of history from Edinburgh, Scotland and Great Britain. It is also home to Dolly the first cloned sheep (stuffed and mounted on a rotating pedestal, of course). And, my favorite part, you can go up to the roof of the museum of a fantastic view of the city. 

Baked Potatoes
I won't give too much away now - these babies are so good they're getting their own post - but if you find yourself in Edinburgh, definitely stop for a baked potato with all kinds of magical toppings. Like my favorite seen here: Cheese, onion and pineapple! 

Calton Hill
At the end of Princes Street sits Calton hill. Atop Calton hill you can find the Shame of Edinburgh (a giant, unfinished Greek monument) as well as a great view of the city on side all the way out to the sea on the other. 

There is so much more to do and see in Edinburgh: Shopping on Princes Street, hiking up Arthur's Seat, or visit Holyrood Palace, to name a few. These are just a handful of the must sees that Andrea and I could fit in on our one day together. For the time we had, I'd say we did pretty well. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

double decker

I have a love/hate relationship with British buses. On the one hand, they're double decker buses, and that's just awesome! I go up to the top and sit at the very front just like a little kid every time
On the other hand, they seem to have a mind of their own. Here are a couple things to be wary of when taking the bus in Edinburgh (or anywhere on the whole island, actually): 

  1. you have to wave them down at the bus stop. Just because you're standing at the stop doesn't mean the bus will actually stop. I figured that out the first time my bus drove right past me without a care in the world. So when you see your bus coming, stick your hand out or jump in the road or something to make yourself seen.
  2. Know where you're getting off. In German buses, even if they don't stop at every stop, they'll always announce the next stop to give you the chance to press the button signaling you want to exit. British buses just drive. They give no sign of where you are or how many stops you've even passed. You just have to know. I do a lot of guessing and hoping and accidentally getting off the bus a couple stops early.
And a completely related and relevant note, the more I'm in the UK, the more all the Harry Potter details make sense. But I totally don't pretend I'm on the Knight Bus every time I flag down a double decker and enjoy the ride from the top.... no way

Friday, January 27, 2012

an unexpected stop

Our visit to Newcastle was supposed to be a 2 hour stay. And our only plans included getting from the port to the train station, with a quick run down to the Tyne river to see the famous Newcastle bridges. And for the first 90 minutes, that's exactly what happened. 

Of course, as you know, our time in Newcastle didn't end there. We found ourselves suddenly in a city neither of us had ever visited, with plenty of time to explore everything had to offer. However, between all our travels from the day before, a less than good night's sleep on the rocky sea, and the stress and panic of canceled trains, our day in Newcastle ended up looking more like this.
but don't worry, we did make it out for dinner and a little bit of that famous Newcastle night life. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

the day no trains went to Scotland

I've done a lot of traveling in my day (in case that wasn't already apparent). And through it all, the worst complication I've encountered in it all has been some minor delays that never really affected the rest of the trip. I'm the first to admit that I've had some very good luck when I travel. 

On our way to Scotland though, my luck changed. 
If you'll remember, our ferry route went from Amsterdam to Newcastle. Which meant a train from Dortmund to Amsterdam and a train from Newcastle to Glasgow. Now, after 18 months of living in Germany, I've developed what I like to call Deutsche Bahn Syndrome - the belief that all modes of transportation will be delayed or canceled causing you to miss a connection of any normal connection time. Because of my DBS, I tend to over estimate the amount of time needed while connecting (hence us ending up in Amsterdam 3 hours before our Ferry) So with our ferry scheduled to arrive in Newcastle 9am, I booked our train for 11:45am.

Little did I know, it wouldn't matter in the end.

How could Andrea and I know that while we were enjoying a relaxed breakfast at the Newcastle train station, the winds of chance were blowing our plans right off track. 

And with that sentence, I win the pun award of the year! 

See, the winds were so bad in Scotland that day that roads were closed, northbound travel was discouraged and every train within and going to Scotland was canceled. Get it? Get it?! Winds, blown off the track?! I crack myself up.
When we saw the initial notice that our train was canceled, my natural DBS response kicked in and I knew to talk to the officials before panicking. Of course after being told, and I quote, "no trains are traveling to Scotland today," the panic set in. 

We quickly sought refuge in the neighboring Starbucks, where we could free wifi our way to a solution. and It didn't take too long for us to realize our best option might just be camping out in Newcastle for the night. 

Later that night, from the comfort of our Newcastle hotel, we found out the winds got up to 102mph (164km/h) that day. I was my first real travel crisis, and I have to say Andrea and I survived it pretty well. And even though we had to cut Glasgow from the itinerary, we eventually did make it up to Scotland! 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cheers... really?

On the aforementioned ferry ride, various activities were offered aboard. So when we booked our trip, Andrea and I decided sign up for the beer tasting for a little on-board enjoyment. 

Now, the fact that we only paid about 5 pounds a person for the beer tasting, I should have been prepared for what was going to come next...

Why yes, that middle glass does say Budweiser. And no, it's not the slightly exotic, questionable better tasting Czech Budweiser. It's your standard, pee-colored, tasteless American version

I might have mentioned before that I was a bit of a beer snob, so I couldn't help but turn my nose up and give a pretentious snort at  it (but don't worry, I still drank it). 

We should have gone with the wine tasting. My standards, when it comes to wine, stipulate that anything costing less than 2€ is automatically delicious

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Fievel/Mayflower dichotomy.

At one point on our ferry ride across the North Sea, Andrea I were laying down in the cabin giving our sea-legs some rest, when the following conversation occurred: 

Andrea: I was just thinking, if it's this bad on a boat in 2012, I wonder how bad it was on ships like the Mayflower...

Me: I was just thinking about how journey must have been for Fievel! 

True story. I then spent the rest of the journey singing this song...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rock the boat

To get to Scotland, Andrea and I were feeling a little creative. Instead of those boring old planes, trains, and automobiles that everyone else takes to get places, we decided to go by boat
We got a lot of questions about why we decided to go by ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle. Our main reason was simply to get out of Germany a day earlier. We originally wanted to head up to Scotland for new years, but the people we wanted to visit there were not going to be around until a couple days later. I knew at the point we'd have been in Germany for over 2 weeks and an overnight ferry might be a good solution. 
In the end, I thought the ferry was a really fun alternative to flying if you have some extra time to kill. So for those of you also considering the benefits of seafaring, I've put together a pros and cons list of ferry travel.
  • It's fun to be on a boat
  • There are no luggage restrictions
  • It's cost effective considering you're essentially getting travel and a hotel for the same price as a plane ticket
  • There are no restrictions as to what you can bring on board (if you want to, say, bring lots of liquids).
  • Your ears don't pop
  • You don't have to turn off your electronics at the beginning and end of the journey
  • You can shower before arriving at your destination
  • You don't have to climb over angry people or use scary public restrooms just to go to the bathroom
  • You're on a boat!
  • It feels like your drunk 24/7 when you try to walk down the hall of a rocking boat.
  • The passport/customs people are a lot nicer
  • You can tell all your friends you went on a cruise
  • If you get bad weather like us, the boat rocks like mad
  • Everything is about 5x times as expensive on board (but this can easily be avoided by bringing all your own food/drink on board, as there are no restrictions)
  • The toilet is located inside the shower 
  • It's not super convenient if you do not have an easily accessible port of departure
  • You might get bored if your travel companion has a history of motion sickness and refuses to take drugs despite a career of dealing them.
  • Public transportation to/from ports isn't as standard as to/from airports
  • It's significantly slower than flying
  • You're more likely to hit an iceberg a la Titanic than with any other mode of transportation
So as you can see, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. I enjoyed our ferry ride and I definitely want to give it another go, now that I know how it works (e.g. bring all my own food and drink and a travel buddy that doesn't get seasick).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A good layover

On our way to Scotland, Andrea and I had a layover in Amsterdam. I've only been to Amsterdam once before, and, as you might remember, it was also just for a layover. 
We took the train from Dortmund to Amsterdam (only 3 hours and 20€, I will be going again!) and had about 3 hours before our next departure. Unfortunately, we didn't have time for the tour that I did last time, so I did the best I could to recreate the tour myself. 
It consisted mostly of "I think we went this way"s and "this looks familiar"s and "this was important but I can't remember why"s. But we still got to see a lot of the city and enjoy a couple beers.
At one point, while walking along the canals, we found ourselves surrounded by a chinese parade of loud drumming and a big dragon people puppet (to be clear). It basically turned into dueling dragons ending with a 20 foot string of firecrackers going off in the middle of the street (loudest thing ever, btw). We still have no idea what on earth that was for, and it definitely wasn't official as there were some very angry drivers who couldn't get around it for about 20 minutes. 
Amsterdam was just as lovely as my last layover, and I hope to get out there for an actual visit at some point! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

twins or strangers?

Andrea and I are only 11 months apart in age, so for one month out of the year we are twins, and I think that makes people assume that we'll actually look like twins. Of course, when I warn people that I look nothing like her (or anyone in my family, for that matter), they tend to think I'm just exaggerating. But when Andrea came to visit, everyone got to see first hand. 

When people finally see us together, I always get one of two reactions: "you guys are sisters?!?!" or "well, you have the same chin." Seriously, we've been told the chin thing on more than one occasion. I didn't even know chins had very distinguishable characteristics. 

So here are some of our best shots from Andrea's visit. What do you think? Total strangers or clearly twins? Or maybe we just have the same chin... 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

on the ice

When Andrea and I went down to Cologne for the day, we saw all the normal sites: The Cathedral, the Altstadt, the Rhine, the locks on the Rhine, etc. But we also got to take part in a seasonal offering of the city.

During the Christmas season and into January, Cologne sets up an ice rink outside in the Heuermarkt. So for the probably 3rd time in my life, I slipped on some ice skates and headed for the ice.

My last memory of ice skating was in 2008 in Switzerland. I just remember falling a lot and never feeling like I had control of anything my feet did. So with that in mind, I was pretty terrified when we got on the rink.  But I'm proud to say that after 20 minutes or so of clutching on to the side as we made our laps around the rink, I eventually was able to make a full lap at a time without grabbing the side for security. It's the little things in life.

Actually, neither one of us ever fell over the entire hour or so we were on the ice! I'm pretty proud of us! And not to brag, but after that hour of practice, I think I might be ready for the 2014 olympics, watch out Russia!

Friday, January 13, 2012

one in, one out.

I know the Christmas decorations have come down and I've promised lots of exciting stories from my trip to Scotland. But I just can't move on without one last Christmas market story. 

During Andrea's first week we went on a Christmas market marathon. Six markets in five days and I think I found my limit (trust me, I never realized I'd reach it!). One particular market, though, presented a very unique opportunity. 

The Münster Weihnachtsmarkt is actually 5 little markets spread out around the city center. And the night before we went to Münster we received a tip to head to the Kiepenkerl Markt and ask for "ein drin, ein draußen," which literally means "one in, one out."

Before I continue, you should know that sometimes I encounter things that live so up to absurd American stereotypes of Germany (singing along to David Hasselhoff over breakfast, ordering a beer before 1pm, things like that) that I just can't help but chuckle. This moment was one of them.

"One in, one out" is a shot - so what could possibly be so stereotypically German? Oh you know, just mini sausages hanging out of the shot. Well, one sausage in the shot and one out, to be exact (get it?!). So here's the drill: you eat one würstchen (sausage), drink the liquor, then finish it up with the other würstchen. 

What enhanced the experience even more was the the man at the stand. When I asked him to take a picture of Andrea and I with our sausage shots, he insisted he photograph the entire experience. So, thanks to the "ein drin, ein draußen" stand man, here is our first sausage shot experience. I hope the pictures help strengthen everyone's ridiculously inaccurate stereotypes of Germany!


*Lawlz, that smile! 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...