Tag Archives: travel

Christmas in Munich – Day 4: Egyptian Stuff and the Residenz

So here we are, departure day. Thanks to a combination of a later flight time and Munich’s excellent mass transit system, we managed to fit in a few sights before flying back to the UK.

One thing that really needs to be said is just how fantastic Munich is for art museums. It really is of the calibre and quality that you would expect of a capital city, which Munich was a century ago as the capital of Bavaria. So I guess that makes sense.

There is also Ludwig I, the first king of Bavaria, to thank for all these exhibits because his patronage. The size of the complex and the grand architectural design of the buildings are something to behold. Truly I could spend the best part of a week here and still not be done with the exhibits.

So, the first of the two places we visited was the Egyptian Museum (it has a more complex name, but this will do). It’s one of the newer museums, having been moved to this location a few years ago, and this really does show. For one thing, the entire layout of the museum feels remarkably modern with recent sculptures depicting how ancient Egyptians might have looked being mixed in with the ancient artefacts.

The most modern thing about this museum, however, is the audio guide. You see, this audio guide is a tablet containing pictures and audio snippets to give you more information about selected exhibits. This is done thanks to a metal strip on the floor that highlights the suggested walking path, which is not a perfect to do this but it really helps bring this museum to life.

I know from some reviews on TripAdvisor that a common complaint is that there isn’t a ‘big attraction’ in this museum. Whilst this may be true, there are still a large number of interesting things to be seen, including a silver sculpture of Horus and a golden face that was part of a sarcophagus.

Also of note is how this museum went into the encroachment of Christianity onto Egyptian art. It makes sense that this would happen as Christianity reached Egypt in the first century AD, but the idea of Bible stories being sculpted in an Egyptian style had never occurred to me.

The museum ends with a bit of an extra – some artwork from the ancient Middle East. The panels themselves were huge and, thanks to their proximity to a lot of Egyptian art, you could see how these figures might have been influenced. Especially the positioning  of the feet.

We left Munich’s museum district after this with thoughts of returning to see what on Earth a Glyptotek is. Our final destination being one that we should keep definitely have visited when we had more time to spend: the Munich Residence.

If I have my history correct, where Nymphenburg Palace was the summer residence of the electors of Bavaria the Residence was where they actually held court and would go about most of their business. The museum itself consists of a tour around the residence itself and an exhibition of the treasury – regrettably we only had time for the former.

Honestly, I think that there is more to the Munich Residence than Nymphenburg Palace. The only thing missing is the extensive gardens, which would tip the balance in favour of Nymphenburg should I visit again in spring or summer.

The first two rooms of the Residence alone are worth the price of entry (and the apparently obligatory free audio guide). The first room you come to contains a grotto, as was the fashion of the times. What gets me about this grotto is not only is it beautiful sight, but the outside of it is covered in painted shells. The patience required to complete such a work of art is beyond my scope.

The next room was the Antiquarium. It’s the one of the largest rooms in the building and boasts a square footage that could contain my apartment many times over. It was built to house the sculpture collection of the then Elector, but was later modified to become a banqueting hall of sorts. There’s no real way to truly capture this room, it’s one of those things that you just need to see in the flesh.

The rest of the rooms on the short version of the tour vary between your standard palace fare to some extremely lavish and beautiful galleries. It’s worth noting that a lot of this was destroyed in the bombings of World War II, including a court church that would have been spectacular back in the day.

It’s not only rooms on display in this part of the museum, but also the large collection of porcelain that was acquired by the residents of the residence. Originally these were all Japanese or Chinese imitating the Japanese style, but it was interesting to find out how the demand for these decreased thanks to the creation of Meissen porcelain in Germany. After seeing a lot of this on display in Linderhof it was good to learn some of the historical context.

Quick as a flash it was time for us to be headed back to the hotel to pick up the bags and make our way to the airport. Nothing new to add to any of my longer lists, but today was such a day of discovery that I felt keen to write about it.

So here we are at the end of this short break to Munich. I’m glad to have tomorrow off work as all this walking has pretty much destroyed my boots and I need to invest in a new pair. Also, I just like to have days off. Until the next trip away!

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Christmas in Munich – Day 3: Churches and Alte Pinakothek

So here we are already with the last full day in Munich. It’s amazing just how quickly the days go. With that in mind, there’s a lot to talk about so let’s get on it.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 689/751Food item: Schabziger

So, I managed to find some of this yesterday and figured that it would be good to try it as part of breakfast. As cheese goes it does look slightly off-putting as it is a pale green colour. This is because it is flavoured using blue fenugreek, so by virtue of colour addition this cheese becomes green.

On its own this cheese is dry and flaky, which speaks to this being it a cheese grated on top of things. It has a taste that is like a salty, herbal Swiss Parmesan. Nice in small amounts, but not something to chomp on. The web recommends mixing this with butter to have as a spread, and this is the far better option than just having it as it is. The butter tames the acid and helps add a bit of creaminess. It also helps to dilute some of the green colour of the cheese…

With breakfast taken care of, it was time to use and start abusing a group ticket for the public transport (seriously, this is great value compared to London) and went to the first stop of the day: the Asamkirche.

When I first saw this 15 years ago I found the Asamkirche to be incredibly overwhelming. I still have never seen any church that is as over-the-top as this one with its skulls, angel heads and figures of the grim reaper strewn around the place. Also, it’s hard to get to grips with the amount of gold leaf present in such a small space. To think that this was actually built by some rich brothers as a place to be buried. Just ridiculous amounts of money there.

From here we walked a few blocks until we reached the Viktualienmarkt: a sizeable daily food and crafts market that takes place around the corner from Marianplatz. One of the defining features of this market is that it happens in a square surrounding the Munich maypole.

You know me, I am a sucker for markets and want to see all the fresh produce on sale. It’s a real pity to stay in a hotel when there is so much nice looking food on offer. Still there’s one thing I couldn’t resist:

There’s no way that I could be here in Bavaria without having some Weisswurst and a pretzel. Finding this made me glad to have just tried out that cheese for breakfast. I know this sounds weirdly sexual, but I just love dipping the Weisswurst in the sweet mustard and sucking the meat out of the skin.

Anyway, from here we left the market and went to St Peter’s Church. This is one of the largest churches in the city and, whilst not as glamorous as the Asamkirche, is still an impressive building on the inside.

One part of the church caught my attention – the bejewelled skeleton of Saint Munditia. This is not the first time that I have come across one of these catacomb saints, but this is the first one I’ve seen whose placement wasn’t too far out of your field of vision when walking around the church. I have to admit that I really do not understand why you would dig up a skeleton in Italy and have is shipped to Munich in order to be put on display covered in jewels… then again I’m not am 18th century Catholic.

We had a quick break for coffee and poppyseed cheesecake (I had some Schwip Schwap, because I need as much Spezi as possible before I leave the country) is we could be fuelled up for our next stop…

The English Gardens. One of the largest urban parks in Europe and over three times the size of London’s Hyde Park. Considering the amount of snow that we traipsed through yesterday, it is incredible just quickly it can all just melt away.

We only spent a few hours here and we barely scratched the surface of these gardens. In all our walking we didn’t come across the Chinese tower or the Japanese teahouse or any of the interesting buildings that are mentioned on the Wikipedia page. If I ever come back to Munich then this is a place that needs revisiting and a proper explore.

By now our feet were aching, but we marched on to the final sight of the day: Alte Pinakothek. It’s an art gallery that focuses on ‘old art’, so anything that’s not classed a modern. Sadly this museum was under renovation so we only got to see about a quarter of the collection on display, but this was just enough for our now-aching feet to deal with.

Where the museum would usually cover artists from all across Western Europe, the rooms that were not under renovation were mainly Dutch artists, with some Spanish and German ones. Considering that the entry fee was only 4€ and this came with a free audio guide, this was still tremendous value for money.

On previous trips to art galleries in Rotterdam and Vienna, I have been seeing a lot of paintings by Rubens recently. With today’s visit I think I must have seen a substantial cross-section of his life’s work and, now, I am becoming a bit of a fan. The sheer variation in his pictures is astonishing as he goes form a contorted scene of the Last Judgement to an imagining of the scene when Seneca killed himself. So much talent.

It was also interesting to find out how the height of the rooms within this particular museum had been designed with a particular Rubens painting in mind. A painting that is one of the largest canvas painted at around 6 metres in height. As with all the other Rubens paintings on show this was excellent, but to think this dictated the height of ceilings in a museum wing is extraordinary.

The other artist that I saw that stuck out for me was Bartolomé Estéban Murillo with his posed and idealised paintings of street children. There is just something with these pictures that interest me, as does the fact that none of these are on display in his native Spain because only foreigners would buy them from him. Hopefully he was able to carve out a proper living for himself anyway.

Finally it was dinner time and, in stark contrast to the more refined surroundings of the previous day’s meal, we went to Augustiner-Keller for dinner. As with the Weisswurst from earlier in the day… when in Bavaria do as the Bavarians do. It’s a bit loud in the cellar (which is accessed via a long spiral staircase) but a lot of fun.

It was time to overdose on more sausages (again, this is Bavaria), drink a tankard of Spezi and share a starter plate containing local foods including brawn and the restaurant’s own version of obatzda. We were all stuffed by the end of the meal and proceeded to start walking this off with a final walk around the Christmas market in Marianplatz.

Today I brought my decoration count up to four with the purchase of a metal tree hanger of Santa on a steam train as well as a squirrel and a songbird made of something that I’m not currently able to name.

Tomorrow we leave for home, but we have enough time to at least get something done. At the moment I’m not sure what it is, but that’s a worry for tomorrow’s me.

Christmas in Munich – Day 2: Nymphenburg

Well, the snow that was falling last night just did not stop. We woke up in the morning to the sight of bright white streets covered in freshly fallen snow. I honestly cannot remember the last time I woke up to a winter wonderland, especially since I am staying in Lehel – which is one of the oldest suburbs of Munich.

So this was where the day started, a snow covered Munich with yet more snow falling slowly. Apparently this is a cold snap as this is not what you would expect in the first week of December… but this just helps to make everything feel that much more Christmassy.

Continuing yesterday’s theme of Germanic history, today our main attraction was Nymphenburg Palace. Not only is it the birthplace of Ludwig II but it was also the summer residence for the rulers of Bavaria since the late 1600s. So, as someone who enjoys absorbing history during holidays, a visit here was a no brainer.

When you arrive it is difficult to not be impressed by just how expansive Nymphenburg is – it really does put Buckingham Palace to shame. Then again I might be biased because I saw Nymphenburg completely covered in snow, which just helps to make anything feel a bit larger and more other-worldly.

Seeing how yesterday I was walking through Linderhof and Neuschwanstein, it would be expected that I would be a bit ‘palaced out’ or at least that most things in Nymphenburg would just pale in comparison. That is until you enter the Great Hall of Nymphenburg and you remember that since Ludwig grew up here, he would likely have derived at least some influence from his surroundings.

The Great Hall truly is stunning. A bit chilly because of the lack of heating, but artistically it is absolutely beautiful. It reminded me a bit of a Grand Hall that I saw during my visit to a palace in Tallinn, just on a far larger scale. It’s one of those rooms where pictures really do not do it justice, but there’s no harm in trying.

Walking around the many rooms of the palace with the audio guide playing reminded me just how little I know about European history. Especially German history, which must be extra complicated seeing how it was split into so many parts with their own rules for such a long time. I don’t think I am completely up to speed with how it worked for the rulers before Bavaria became a kingdom, so I guess that is some homework for me to do.

One of the rooms that has, weirdly, stayed with me was the Queen’s antechamber which has been decorated with the ‘Gallery of Beauties’ as commissioned by King Ludwig I. The idea of commissioning portraits of 36 beautiful women to be hung in your home sounds a bit creepy. More than that, it is a little bit creepy. However, it is also incredibly fascinating. All of the pictures are pretty chaste and many of them come with very interesting stories (especially those of Lola Montez and Jane Digby, the latter of the two being so interesting that I purchased a biography of her within a few hours of leaving the palace).

After the palace we had a wander through the gardens, which coincided with the snow becoming decidedly heavier. As weirdly magical as it was to be seeing these gardens covered in snow, there’s a part of me that would love to see the gardens in their full glory during the summer.

One benefit of being in the gardens in winter is that you can go for a long time without seeing anyone, so you can walk around and pretend that these gardens belong to you. We also managed to see a doe and fawn bound across the path and graze within the bare trees. That was a pretty cool moment.

We made our way back to the Munich a Central Station for lunch (because nowhere was open in Nymphenburg Palace… which feels like a wasted opportunity). This may sound a bit weird to any Germans reading this, but I am so jealous of the sandwich shops that you can find in German stations. In Britain it’s a bit of a tasteless baguette with some generic filling, here I had a leberkase, pickle and salad sandwich in a role that tasted of pretzels. If a sandwich place like this opened near where I worked, then I would be an incredibly regular patron.

The rest of the afternoon was spent looking around some of the larger shops and department stores in Munich. Just window shopping, for now, but it is always a treat to see how some of these larger stores are when you go to other countries. I tried to use this opportunity to track down the last German sausage on the food list, but nowhere had it. I guess that I’ll have to give up the ghost on finding Thuringer Leberwurst during this trip.

By the time we reached the Christmas Market near the Rathaus it was well past sunset and a choir had just started a half hour set. How Christmassy, right? It’s hard to not get in the spirit and find yourself buying a decoration. For my sins, I purchased an elk carved out of a tree branch. I really love this one because of how unique he is because of the wood itself.

Dinner was at a restaurant called Alter Hof where I found myself demolishing this plate of sausage and sauerkraut with a trusty glass of Spezi. I am not sure if I have mentioned Spezi before on this blog, but this is pretty much the only thing I drink when I find myself in either Germany or Austria. It’s a blend of cola and orange that just makes me incredibly happy.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 688/751Food item: Basler Leckerli

For dessert is a food item! I managed to find some of these being sold by a gingerbread stall in the main market. These are Swiss-style spice biscuits in the same family as gingerbread, but in these the ginger is in balance with, what tastes like, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. You also have the bitter, sweet and sour influences of the candied citrus peel. In terms of texture, this is more like a dense, sticky and slightly dry cake instead of a biscuit, which would make this like a spiced flapjack. Have to say that I may need to buy another pack of these to take home.

Tomorrow is set to be the warmest day of this break as we reach a maximum of 4 degrees. I’m expecting that all the snow will be gone by the time I wake up tomorrow, which will be a pity in a way but I’ll be happy to not have freezing cold toes and thighs.

Christmas in Munich – Day 1: Palaces of Ludwig

It’s been 13 years, but I’ve finally gone back to my roots and am spending some time in Germany. This will be my fourth time visiting as well as being my fourth time in Munich. Why Munich? Well it’s December and that means one thing: Christmas markets!

More on that later. We arrived late on a Saturday night which meant an early night because, on our first full day, we were doing a palace tour. Why am I mentioning this? Well, I had the weird pleasure of satisfying a goal of being the first person to walk onto a plane. I know it sounds bizarre, but seeing the plane completely empty with my being the first to board made me feel incredibly important.

List item: Be the first person to board a plane
Status: Completed

Anyway, onto more interesting things.


The older I get, the happier I am to do tours. As a bit of a control freak in my everyday life there is something soothing about having an entire day sorted for me. Of course this meant an early start (5:30 when adjusted to British time) so we could get onto the coach.

So there’s me bringing a bunch of things for entertainment for these long coach stretches and then I see it: snow. When we booked ourselves onto this tour of the palaces of Ludwig II, I really hoped there would be a bit of snow for the sake of pictures and atmosphere. I did not expect to be greeted with forests and mountains covered in a blanket of snow.

If seeing this from the coach window didn’t make me feel Christmassy enough, getting out at Linderhof, and feeling that first crunch of snow beneath my feet, was just something else. Then came the walk from the parking lot to the palace itself. Bright sunshine, glistening snow and a whole lot of crunching.

With this visit to Linderhof I have now visited the three palaces of King Ludwig II (the first I visited being Herrenchiemsee back in 1999). Interestingly, Linderhof is the only of his three palaces that ended up being completed and actually lived in by the king. Sadly the grotto and the fountain of Neptune were under restoration work, but we still had a tour inside.

Since no pictures are allowed to be taken I’m going to move on to our next stop after a few thoughts: I want a gilded peacock statue, this may be one of the most consistently ornate palaces I have ever seen and I don’t think I have ever seen so many vases in my life.

After Linderhof was a quick hop to the village of Oberammergau – most famous for their tradition of holding 6-hour long passion plays. It’s also well known for having buildings painted with Germanic frescoes and traditional woodcarvings.

It’s definitely a beautiful village to walk though, and that’s all we could really do. You see, today was the first Sunday in Aadvent… meaning that nothing was open except for cafes and restaurants. I mean there was a weird wood carving place open… but they were selling very offputting crafts of babies for €60 so I kinda want to leave it at that.

From Oberammergau it was time to head to the village of Hohenschwangau – the home of Neuschwanstein Castle. This is my second time here, but my first time inside the actual caste. At least I don’t think I went into the castle 16 years ago. I honestly cannot remember… so let’s just go with this being my first time.

 List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 73/100Sight: Schloss Neuschwanstein
Location: Hohenschwangau, Germany
Position: #159

The walk from the Hohenschwangau to Neuschwanstein should take around half an hour, but that doesn’t take into account just how often we stopped to take pictures. At this point we must have taken nearly 100 pictures of various views of the castle. Kinda wish I was kidding, but the castle is just that magnetic. Little wonder that it is one of the big inspirations for the castle in Disneyland.

As you get higher up the mountain, you also find yourself starting to peak above some of the tree line. With the entire landscape covered in snow, this view you get from near Neuschwanstein is just out of this world. Like something I can imagine Bob Ross painting, just with less mountains.

As with Linderhof there is no pictures allowed inside of Neuschwanstein itself. Considering the number of people that we were being herded around with this makes a lot of sense on the level of just getting people in and out. Still, it’s a pity I couldn’t get anything of the inside. Makes me wish that Google Glass had taken off and been more affordable. There’s so much in both of these castles that I didn’t really get the opportunity to completely digest – like the little grotto room in Neuschwanstein that seemed to make no sense other than being pretty.

The fact that there is so much in Neuschwanstein to see and yet it remains unfinished is absolutely mind-boggling. Then again, there was no way that Ludwig could complete this due to the extreme cost. Same with Herrenchiemsee, another of his unfinished palaces. To think that a man like Ludwig could be so out of touch with reality and had a high enough of a position to actually carry out his fantasies probably goes a long way to explain why few countries have a monarchy. Still, makes for some excellent landmarks.

This was the end of the tour and meant a two hour ride back to Munich. En route we caught a glimpse of a blood red supermoon and it started to snow. King Ludwig would have really been in his element tonight. I only wish I was sitting on the right side of the coach in order to capture this scene on film.

On our way back to the hotel we took out first proper browse through the Munich Christmas Market. Whilst it isn’t as large as the one in Vienna, this holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first one I ever visited.

The falling snow made the walk home so special that I was feeling giddy (or that might have been the hot chocolate). This isn’t the clumpy snow we get in the UK, but proper beautiful powder snow that crunches beneath your feet as you walk through the street.

I’m sure we’ll have a proper go at the market in the next few days when we are less tired from a long day being guided around. I’ve seen a few decorations that I want to purchase, but I’m going to just see where the days take me.

Going Dutch – Leaving Rotterdam

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Being married to a Dutchman means that any trip to the Netherlands has another purpose: visiting the in-laws. And so it was goodbye to Rotterdam with its individual architecture and amazing Markethal. I know I wasn’t really in Rotterdam for too long, but I have really grown fond of it.

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Breakfast was a bit of a haul from a sandwich store in Rotterdam Centraal (translated, I think the name of the shop means “bread sack”) and take the train over to Amersfoort where we would be picked up. Seems pretty straight forward until you are thrown off the train at Utrecht as there was a defective train on the line. Oh well. A bit of a sprint with luggage never hurt anyone.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 577/751

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Food item: Ubriaco

As I mentioned two posts ago – I bought a wedge of list cheese to be shared today with both the hub and mother-in-law. The cheese in question is called Ubriaco Al Prosecco. It is an Italian cheese that, as part of the ripening process, is soaked in a barrel of Prosecco – ergo the name which is Italian for “drunken”. As such it is recommended that you enjoy this cheese with a glass of Prosecco. Nah.

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Just smelling this cheese through the paper wrapping was something a bit different. It actually smelt of white wine (it probably smelt of Prosecco, but I am no sommelier). I have never known a cheese to smell like an actual type of wine. You can also taste the Prosecco in the cheese, which was stronger in some places than others. Texture-wise this cheese felt quite Dutch as it had an Edam like bounce to it. It went down well.

For dinner we did the finished off this trip in the most Dutch way possible: a visit to a pancake house. Seeing that we had a 1-year-old with us (how big my niece is getting, actually startling – feels only yesterday that she was a gurgling, albeit cute, meatloaf) it was a very family friendly place.

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You’d have thought that a lot of children being around would have distracted from the pancakes…but I got quite a way into my pancake before I remembered to take a picture. This was the Surinamer pancake, which had cheese, spicy chicken, leek, pineapple and sweet chilli sauce on it. It was pretty amazing. Hub had one with goats cheese, bacon, walnuts and rocket on it, again that was pretty good too (not as good as mine though).

Other family things happened afterwards that I don’t need to go into, but I am acutely aware that it is back to reality tomorrow with all its train engineering works and job interviews. So I’m going to just spend some time chilling to some GentleWhispering ASMR videos before heading to sleep around the in-laws.

This little sojourn to the Netherlands really did end too quickly. Like way too quickly. There’s no way that I want to return to regular life. Still, since I have been saving holiday up all year it’s a bit of an end-of-year blow out.

Next stop: Lisbon!

Going Dutch – Amsterdam

I am conflicted about the city of Amsterdam. There are times when I look at it and think that there are some very pretty parts and there are other times where it makes me feel so annoyed and anxious that I end up turning to my husband and say “this is a garbage city”.

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The last time I was here I was disappointed since this is one of “those” cities that people visit for a long weekend and it left I me a bit cold (literally, it was soon after New Years and I was bloody freezing).

This time… well it felt like the city remembered me and was just being mean. Lots of paths blocked because of tram works and garbage trucks, plenty of irate truckers and the occasional waft of cannabis.

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Maybe I was especially marry because I was hungry and hadn’t had breakfast yet. So we went to the Dutch version of Gregg’s (maybe just a bit more upmarket as my husband asserted when I voiced this in public) where I was reminded once again how the Dutch do sandwiches better.

The first port of call was the Anne Frank Huis. Or it would have been if we had looked up beforehand to see that you had to reserve a place online if you wanted to get in before 3:30.

Right so we walked off vowing to be back and made the 30 minute trek to the Museumplein so we could visit the Van Gogh Museum… where we were presented with a similar problem. Luckily, we could actually book ticket for this and just present it on our phones (top tip there).

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Whilst we waited for our slot in the Van Gogh Museum at 1 o’clock we decided to have a bit of a de-stress with some waffles. I cannot tell you how needed these waffles were and they did they job expertly.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 60/100Sight: Van Gogh Museum
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Position: #190

Finally we were able to get in somewhere! It’s interesting that this museum was included as part of the Lonely Planet travel list since it’s one of only three museums on the list devoted to a single artist (the other being the Teatre-Museu Dalí and Picasso Museum in Spain).

They were pretty vigilant here about no pictures being taken. I can understand why considering how people tend to take the piss when it comes to flash photography even if it has been expressly forbidden.

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The great thing about having so many works of one artist in one place is that it really gives you a greater understanding. For example, I had no idea that Van Gogh enjoyed Japanese art and did some paintings in a Japanese style. I was also unaware that he was only active for 10 years.

So yes, I went into the museum thinking that he was a bit overrated and I came out thinking that yes, someone as famous as him will always be overrated, but he was such a talent. I also understood, for the first time, why people regard his painting of Sunflowers so highly – it truly did light up the room.

After spending a good while at the Van Gogh museum we left to make our way back to the Anne Frank Huis…

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…but not before we had had a snack from Febo and their, almost magical, hot snack vending machines. How something like this hasn’t taken off in the UK I will never understand. If we had a chain of stores in London where I could get a hot snack from an automatiek machine for £1.50-£2 I would be there with bells on.

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On our way to the Anne Frank Huis I was finally able to let go of some of that anxiety/annoyance that had taken over me earlier in the morning. There are parts of Amsterdam that are legitimately beautiful. It just happens that these are not on the main routes (where the trams were being dug up and where garbage were making their rounds in the morning).

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 61/100Sight: Anne Frank Huis
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Position: #59

We needed that hot snack because a two hour queue at the Anne Frank Huis awaited us. Like with the Van Gogh museum they were very hot about no pictures being taken of the inside. What I can say, is that I am so glad that I chose to read the diary of Anne Frank before visiting this museum – it really gave me a sense of context as we walked through the annex.

When I was reading the book it made it easier to think of her and her family as fictional characters, but there was none of that here. The reality of the living conditions and what happened to them after they were discovered was just laid bare. Yes, in some ways this was rather harrowing, but it is hard not to leave there feeling humbled.

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Since it was 6:30 as we exited the Anne Frank house we also left hungry, so we made for an Indonesian restaurant called Aneka Rasa that we enjoyed the last time we were in Amsterdam nearly 3 years ago. Being November, the Christmas lights were up all over the city and, like a sucker, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of magic from them.

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Of course a visit to an Indonesian restaurant meant another rijsttafel. This one was better than the one we’d had earlier in the week – less options for the main, but it came with cake and ice cream at the end. I know that hub was very happy with the cake on offer.

So yes. Amsterdam, we may not have gotten off to the best start. Maybe we just need to be a bit nicer to each other, like we were towards the end of the day if we are going to make this thing work. Although you may need to talk to some of your cyclists. Too many of them are arseholes. Until next time, we’ll always have Jacques Brel.

Going Dutch – Kinderdijk

The reason that we picked Rotterdam as the base of operations for this part of our trip was its proximity to one of the Lonely Planet places of interest. Possibly the most Dutch thing I could ever do whilst in the Netherlands: visit the windmill complex at Kinderdijk.

Since we are here in November we are WAY off season. This means that there are fewer boat trips to the Kinderdijk from Rotterdam. Especially in the morning. So we grabbed a sandwich (I have been asked by the hub to point out that the Dutch are very good at making sandwiches) and made our way to the Kinderdijk by metro and the hourly bus.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 59/100Sight: Kinderdijk Windmills
Location: Kinderdijk, The Netherlands
Position: #445

I don’t know how my husband expected me to react to first seeing all the windmills at the Kinderdijk. I don’t think it was the somewhat excited child that I ended up being. I think I explained it by saying that this was the closest I would ever be to being in a Dutch fairytale. Weird eh?

When I say windmill complex, I mean there were an awful lot of windmills everywhere you look. Almost like that episode of Pushing Daisies where they visit the windmill park – just nowhere near as colourful. Still, we were able to actually go inside these ones – so I now have an even greater appreciation for my flat.

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The thing is, the weather today was the sort of weather you would expect in the Netherlands on a day in November. Patchy rain, a bit overcast and a chill in the air. Somehow, this felt like the perfect way to experience the waterways of the Kinderdijk. Also, it made for perfect weather for the all the ducks, geese and herons.

Since we were not here in the main tourist season the windmills were pretty much all at a standstill except for one (the oldest one where you could watch the mechanisms via a live camera feed) that was free to move if the wind blew. Luckily for us, the wind did a few times and we were able to see it spin. It was quieter than I expected. Not at all like the Windy Miller’s windmill in Camberwick Green.

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We walked for a long time along the canals and got to some windmills where people lived (one person even had some sheep) before making our way back to Rotterdam via a ferry and a water taxi. I know that hub really wanted to do this boat trip and I was more than happy to oblige… that is until the gentle rocking of the boat caused me to fall asleep. Fun while it lasted!

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Of course, seeing how we were gallivanting around windmills for most of the early afternoon, we forgot lunch again. A kroket and some chips with peanut sauce (seriously. people of the UK, we need to get peanut sauce right and I don’t mean that bland satay crap. We need proper peanut/satay sauce) soon put an end to those hunger pains.

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The rest of the day? A bit of a mix. We rode the tram to see the Euromast (an observation tower), but didn’t go up as 10€ each felt a bit steep. Then there was some shopping for Christmas presents, souvenirs and another visit to the Markthal where I found some cheese for the food list (to be consumed on a future date).

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Fast forward to dinner and we gravitated towards one of the highest rated restaurants in Rotterdam (at least according to TripAdvisor). It was a Vietnamese restaurant called Little V and, honestly, it was one of the best meals I have had in the last few years. Walking through the restaurant just left me feeling transported to a place that was not a cool evening in Rotterdam.

So tomorrow then. We’re going to be paying a visit to Amsterdam to take in some of the famous sites that we didn’t have time for the last time we were there. Should be fun!

Going Dutch – Rotterdam

When you tell someone that up you are going to go on a city break to Rotterdam there is a sizeable chance they will start thinking of that one song by The Beautiful South. I am still not sure if that song is ultimately insulting, but as of right now I am yet to find someone who is, as they put it, pickled.

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Rather, this is a really lovely place. After the disappointment of my first visit to Amsterdam this was an extremely welcome surprise. This won’t make much sense, then again what else is new, but this feels like if you cross a Toronto suburb with Copenhagen.

So basically a calm, lived in city with good history and interesting architecture. My husband is nodding as I pitch this to him, so I think this feeling is either mutual or it just makes sense.

Thanks to a rather nice flight from London City we were able make the most of our first afternoon here in Rotterdam.
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Our hotel was amazing. It’s called the CitizenM Rotterdam and it’s the most millennial hotel that I have ever encountered. Each room has an iPad that is used to control the room’s lights, curtains, thermostat, television and even colours of the lights in the bathroom. This hotel also has a cool sense of humour and I am very happy with this.

Anyway, enough room love. We decided to leisurely head for the Museum Park and this was where I started to enjoy the city. I think we were probably walking down some more middle class streets, but this just felt very calming. I think the falling autumn leaves may have made this feel ever so slightly magical.

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At the Museum Park hub led me to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen after we had a good nose around. There was something about the whale skeleton in the natural history museum that was calling me, but I digress.

I think that growing up in London and having visited places like the Uffizi and MoMA have given me ridiculously high expectations of what art I would see in a museum. Still, this was a really interesting visit for what is the 14th busiest museum in the Netherlands.

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On the unexpected side of things there were a few Picassos, a Warhol, two Kandinskys, some Monets and a Lichtenstein on display. Not major works by them, although I had seen one of the the Kandinsky paintings before, but still it’s interesting to see them in this setting.

Of course there were many a Dutch artist in this collection including a number of Van Gogh and Rembrandt paintings. Seeing how we are venturing to the Van Gogh museum in a few days I expect I am going to be seeing more famous things than what we’re on display here.

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Still, there were some paintings that I recognised and others that were possibly the most Dutch scenes ever put to canvas. There was also a rather interesting Fra Bartolommeo exhibition in the basement featuring many of his studies and sketches that were used to prepare for his paintings. Suddenly I find myself wishing to return to Florence so I can see his paintings in person and appreciate all the work that went into them.

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We left the museum as it closed and walked back to the hotel via the Markthal. It is as if someone had created a building and contents just for me. It’s like a food market, but everyday and in a glass building with a supermarket underneath and surrounded by restaurants. Apparently there are also flats in this building, I cannot think of a more perfect place to live… other than the completed mansion from Queen of Versailles.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 576/751
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Food item: Jambon D’Ardenne

In the supermarket underneath the Markthal we were able to procure a list food. Apparently is a this ham that you cannot find in the U.K. Is just in the supermarket here in Rotterdam. Not complaining, and it really did not break the bank at  nearly 2€.

When the packet opened I smelt a meat odour akin to joy. This is what ham is all about. A soft, smoked ham that helped give us hungry guys back our sanity (we had skipped lunch and that never bodes well).

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For dinner, hub said there was one dinner that he really wanted to do whilst we were over in the Netherlands. A Rijsttafel. If you haven’t heard of it don’t worry, I hadn’t until 3-4 years ago. Just think of it as a slightly epic set menu where you get to sample a wide range of Indonesian food.

Just look at this. Way too much food. I couldn’t finish my share of this, unlike hub who somehow finds space to pack all of it away. It’s a pity you can’t get proper Dutch satay sauce in the UK. I know that I could get a lot of this Rijsttafel in the UK, but not the proper satay sauce. So we always have to stock up on this.

So we have a night to sleep this off before we start on the main reason for coming to Rotterdam – the Kinderdijk windmills. Since this is November we are technically in off season, but I’m sure that won’t make too much difference other than the weather and less frequent waterbuses.

I🖤NY – Day 6: Leaving New York’s Never Easy

I think we can all agree that the last day of a holiday is a strange one. Since there is a train to catch, plane to check in to or a motorway to hit before traffic begins to snarl we always end up with one eye on the clock.

On this, our last day in New York, we had a pretty good chunk of the day to do some final moseying around below Central. Of course we had to start our day with our final diner breakfast (it would be rude not to) and that set us up until a Panda Express dinner at JFK airport.

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First off it was a return trip to Macy’s to take a final bask in their Christmas department. Truly this is so much better (and less sad) than some of the year-round Christmas stores we have been seeing around town. If you are in New York when Macy’s has their Christmas stuff out it really is worth the detour.

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The next port of call was 5th Avenue itself. It’s just one of those streets you need to walk down, sashay in and out of shops and take in the general feel. We would have popped into Saks to say hello but we spent way too long looking at all the books in Barnes & Noble.

Since we had the time and were in the general vicinity – there was one more place I wanted to visit:

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Okay don’t judge me too harshly, but how can you not gravitate towards a candy store with three floors? Exactly! That’s the charm of Dylan’s Candy Bar. With it’s sweet themed playlist (think ‘Sweet Escape’ by Gwen Stefani rather than ‘Sugar, Sugar’ by The Archies on repeat). If it was not for the fact that we had already bought sweets for work and our own personal supply of peanut butter M&Ms (R.I.P.) we would have spent more in here than just a present for our good friend.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 57/100 (repeat visit)
img_3780Sight: Times Square
Location: New York City, USA
Position: #208

Sadly this was it for our time. So after being separated on the subway for the second time (the doors closed between us because of how long it took four people with strollers to got off) we explored Time Square one final time and endured a 2 hour ride in an airport shuttle to JFK and then an overnight flight home.

So here I am back in the UK. Since I did not get a chance to sleep on the plane (thank you restless 18 month old and their parents who just let them make noises for the majority of the overnight flight as they slept) I already started planning some items for the itinerary once I am back in New York.

I’m thinking of going back to the Cloisters, taking in the view from the top of One World Trade Center, seeing art at the Frick Collection and maybe heading out to Coney Island for a ride on the Ferris Wheel to see if I can find where the Cloverfield monster crashed into the sea.

Do you have any ideas for something I need to do when I am next in New York? Please let me know in the comments.

Thanks again New York. It’s been great.

I🖤NY – Day 5: High Line and Michelin Stars

One thing that everyone should do when they come to New York is explore some of the neighbourhoods on foot. It’s really great to visit all the museums (and honestly I wish I could have fitted in the Cloisters museum… maybe next time), but sometimes you want to spend a day completely outdoors.

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It was a light breakfast of an everything bagel with cream cheese and peach Snapple before we made for the High Line. Now, this attraction was not open when I was last in New York. I missed it by a few months, but would have likely not heard of it anyway. Still, I was keen to visit this since this has become increasingly popular.

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This is something I cannot see happening in London. What you have on the High Line is a disused raised railway line that has been re-purposed into a nearly 2 mile long garden/walkway over the streets of Manhattan. At times it felt almost peaceful (not always since the High Line was spurred on a lot of property redevelopment), but this is a place where wildflowers can grow and you can actually hear birds singing above 26th Street.

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It also functions as a space for art. Some of them are a bit odd (think a concrete ball shaped like a watermelon hidden in the grass) and others were weird in a fun way (like this realistic sculpture of a sleepwalker in his underwear.

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When we descended back onto solid ground we walked through our first neighbourhood of the day: Greenwich Village aka the home of TV’s Friends. When you go through the village it becomes incredibly obvious that this is very much a lived in city. I made sure we walked down Bleecker because, you know, it’s one of those well known streets.

img_3761List Item: Eat in a Michelin starred restaurant
Progress: Completed

A bit of a diverted walking route later and we arrived at our destination for lunch. The idea of eating at Michelin starred restaurant was a very early thing to be included on my bucket list. It has taken a few years for me to get around to crossing this off because these restaurants are on the pricier side. Enter 15 East.

I am not going to say this was a cheap meal. Heavens no. We ended up having 9 pieces of sushi each (so 18 in total) and the bill came to almost exactly $100 for two people. For the experience and the sheer “hell yea I can be fancy” it was worth it. Also for the forced and restrained politeness from the server. She was very much looking down on us… and I don’t think it helped when I asked for a replacement ice water because the one she poured had a fly in it.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
img_3762Food item: Seki Aji

We started out with a sushi omakase (1 piece not pictured as it was eaten) and this chefs choice plate was absolutely gorgeous. Both the sweet prawn (whose tail cut my lip) and the citrus scallop were especially delicious. It was only after finishing these, and checking out the a la carte menu, that I realised that there was a list fish on this plate. Just a shame that I didn’t know until it was too late and was not able to note down anything.

Progress: 567/751img_3763Food item: Kanpachi and Arctic Char

Since the omakase didn’t fill us we ordered some more off of the a la carte menu. This meant we were able to cross two more fish off the list. The first we tried (the white one) was the kanpachi – a type of amberjack. It had a very subtle flavour and reminded me a bit of the kingfish that I had back in Hiroshima. The texture and freshness of the fish felt like the most important thing here.

The second one here was the Arctic char. It is a fatty salmon (fattiness makes sense seeing how it swims in arctic waters) that looked beautifully striped when sat on the plate. The fatty nature of the salmon gave this fish a richer taste than I am used to with salmon.

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The remaining daylight hours were spent wandering through Little Italy and Chinatown before being chased into the subway and lack to the hotel by a bout of rain that the Weather Channel didn’t predict. Honestly, There isn’t too much to write about this aside from my glee when hearing Italian Americans talking just like they do on TV.

The evening was, once again, spent at the UCB Theatre in Chelsea. This time it was a double bill of shows (about 20-30 minutes each I think) put on by members of the Upright Citizens Brigade. The first wasn’t all that, but the second half (a weird adult mash-up of Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues) had me in stitches.

I… actually cannot believe that this is my final evening in New York. After spending six months looking forward to being back here and it is over already. I guess I just need to plan my next New York trip.