Betsy Loves, Culture, Food, Travel

Berlin days – poor but sexy

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And so on to our final day in Berlin. Remember when I talked about queueing to get tickets to climb the Reichstag’s dome? Well, this was the result! I’m so pleased we made the effort because although part of the glass panels were frosted over (it really was bloody freezing!) the views were great and the structure itself was interesting.
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So this is the inside, and at the base of the cone is a glass ceiling that shows the main debating chamber underneath. Pretty cool.IMG_9621

I love how smooth the curves lookIMG_9622

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Please excuse the red lipstick around rather than on my lips! Apparently I was being cack-handed with my application.IMG_9631

You can see the glass ceiling hereIMG_9633

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Basically I just thought this was a cool car. And I definitely cropped the picture so you don’t see another Caffe Einstein behind! So much for being a unique restaurant find…IMG_9638

Checkpoint Charlie in all its ‘glory’. I hadn’t realised how fake it was until Francesca, our guide from the first day, disparaged it thoroughly. Apparently, when the actual checkpoint became defunct, the locals didn’t want to be reminded of it, so it was destroyed, but then the tourists started coming but there was nothing for them to look at. And this happened time and time again. So eventually, some enterprising sausage set up a ‘new’ checkpoint, complete with concrete filled sandbags, actors in uniform and red velvet ropes…

You can get your passport stamped to East Germany here, but, if you do, you could get it revoked as technically your passports are the property of your country and there’s no such thing as East Germany anymore. You might as well plonk a Hello Kitty sticker in there for good measure.IMG_9639

This isn’t Charlie. Just an FYI. IMG_9643

I thought this was great graffiti, and so different from the scrawls on the Wall yesterday; later, we were told that commissioned graffiti (which I presume this is) is sort of considered to be a sellout/damaging the genre, but I still think it’s beautiful. IMG_9644

And I loved this too, which was painted on the opposite wall.

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So this is Curry 36. Why were we here? Because we’d read in several places that it sold the best currywurst in Berlin. Well, we couldn’t miss that so we trekked pretty far out of our way (it would’ve been easier if parts of the U-Bahn weren’t shut!), and prepared to queue. It’s so popular that people have to wait for ages, but, luckily, the best kebab in Berlin is right next door so it’s become a bit of a ‘thing’ to grab a beer, and get either your currywurst or kebab and then chomp on that and chill with your mates while you wait in the queue to get one of the other!IMG_9645

Well, when we got there, there wasn’t a queue for Curry 36, but there was a HUGE queue for the kebab and we hadn’t left much time, so it was just the currywurst for us. I can’t say I noticed a great difference from the one Mr T had the day before – slightly curried hotdog sausage, coated in curry powder and curry sauce. It was still tasty though.IMG_9647 
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Mr T tries to recreate the iconic Ampelmann

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So, for the last part of our day, we decided (in light of the excellent tour we’d hopped on on Friday) to do another tour with the same company; this time, the alternative Berlin tour. What does this tour encompass, you ask? Well, basically we were told this was the tour you do to get under Berlin’s skin. Other tours are great for history and culture and so on, but this one, this is the one that makes you want to stay for years…IMG_9653

Our first stop was to show us the way East Berlin looked just after the Wall came down. This little alleyway runs along the back of Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt. What is that? Well, I don’t know exactly as we didn’t go in, but Otto Weidt (and I’m paraphrasing the guide here) did for blind people what Schindler did for Jewish people.

In essence, blind people were considered a drain on Nazis society, so they risked euthanasia, but Otto employed them in this factory, thus proving their usefulness. So, all in all, he was a pretty straight up guy, and that’s why this building is Listed, which means the alleyway behind also has to be preserved. Got that?

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I found it really impressive, and a bit of a time capsule. Yes, there was the ubiquitous graffiti, somehow, here, it fit right in, and here’s why: before the Wall came down, East Germany didn’t have the money to repair all the damage from the War so for years, they remained bombed out shells.

Then the Wall came down, and suddenly there were all these vacant buildings ripe for the taking and they appealed to all the artists, hippies, musicians and so on. A huge squatting community sprung up, and an artist group lived in this alleyway. So, in a sense, the artists took ownership of the alley, hence the graffiti fitting in.IMG_9657

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El Bocho is a famous graffiti artist, and the CCTV camera is topical in Berlin right now: in the UK, we are caught on camera hundreds of times a day, but it’s not like that in Germany, at least, not yet. Recently more cameras were put up in the capital, and people have been protesting about that. And the speech bubble? A decade ago, the mayor – Klaus Wowereit – claimed that ‘Berlin was poor, but sexy’. It went down a storm with the Berliners.

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Then we headed to Raw Tempel – basically the site of loads of huge railway warehouses left vacant after the unification of Germany. So who took over? Gigantic nightclubs, and artist communes, and squats, and markets, and skate parks, and you name it!IMG_9666

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As we left Raw Tempel, we walked over this bridge, which had been a main divide between East and West; today it marks that power struggle with a constant game of ‘rock paper scissors’ played out between two illuminated hands.IMG_9672

For our final evening, I dragged Mr T back Fassbender and Rausch and their chocolate restaurant. Of course!IMG_9673

And yes, it tasted even better than it looked!

And that’s all folks. Hope you’ve enjoyed a little insight into Berlin; we did!

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Betsy Loves, Culture, Food, Travel

Berlin days – fine art to street art

IMG_9495I loved all the graffiti around the city. I have no idea what this means so Mr T laughed at me for taking the photo but pffft, whatever!
IMG_9497There are loads of museums in Berlin (about 190 apparently!) but we were on holiday so we didn’t want to spend ALL our time in them. The one that I really wanted to visit was the Neues Museum, which had an amazing Egyptian Museum with the famous sculpture of Nefertiti. We got to the museum early and decided on a little photoshoot in the columns…
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IMG_9502 Attempt no. 2IMG_9547 Success!IMG_9553 When we got into the museum, we decided we needed some refreshment first so we headed to the cafe. Mr T went for a gigantic slab of German cheesecake, which, coupled with his white hot chocolate caused him to look a little green around the gills. I, on the other hand, a sugar connoisseur, mastered my (regular) hot chocolate and cherry cake with ease and aplomb. IMG_9557We don’t actually have many picture from the Museum, and the main thing I wanted to see – Nefertiti – you can’t take pictures of anyway, but let me assure you, if you’re interested in that type of thing, it was really beautiful; and it’s an unusual sculpture in that, yes, she is beautiful, but she also has wrinkles around her eyes and strained tendons in her neck; this is an ageing and possibly stressed woman, and it’s fascinating to see that reflected beautifully in art. 

Anyway, back to my incredible pose above. I’m not sure it needs any explaining, but I’d like to draw attention to my posture. Cracking. IMG_9558Ok, so we’d heard about currywurst. Apparently currywurst and Berlin go hand in hand. For the uninitiated it’s essentially a curried hot dog liberally dusted in curry powder and then slathered in curry sauce (which is actually a sort of BBQ sauce and isn’t that spicy at all). It’s definitely not fancy food or sophisticated, and I’m not sure it’s lust-worthy but it certainly filled a nice spot on a cold January morning.

As you can see from below, it was Mr T who first ventured to taste this delicacy.
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Another time when I don’t have a picture for you, sorry, but in between stuffing our faces with currywurst and burger, we went to the Palace of Tears. Right next to the Friedrichstrasse train station, it’s a very unassuming modern(ish) looking building and we almost missed it if it hadn’t been for the group of school kids hanging around outside.

Basically, this was the main crossing between East and West Berlin as it was the train station between the two, and as farewells were so dramatic and people tried desperately to get across, they created this building as another ‘remove’ from the actual train station while a small corridor connected them to the station only if they’d passed through customs successfully.

Today it’s a small museum and very interesting. One of the best exhibits was a film reel which showed the same events covered by both the East and West media and they were so different; startlingly different. Another fascinating part was an interview with a former customs officer explaining how they were taught to examine travellers – there were about 15 different parts of the ear to check, and then the eyebrow and so on…IMG_9571Another Collins recommendation now. This time for the best burger in Berlin at Burgermeister. When she told me about the place, I mistakenly thought it was a proper restaurant we were going to so I was a bit confused when we got off the U-Bahn (the Berlin equivalent of the Tube which is cheap and efficient so thumbs up!) and saw this.

At first I thought it was just a takeaway version of the ‘real’ restaurant, but we soon realised it was at the right address so we sort of inched closer and closer while we tried to get our bearings.

IMG_9562After erroneously trying to enter the kitchen, we found our way into the little glass enclosure bit. As you can see, it’s completely covered in stickers, and while it’s not the cosiest place, it’s enough to protect you from the elements so we placed our orders and had a drink while we waited.

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IMG_9566Doesn’t this look like the best burger in Berlin? Yes? It was. It really was. It was so juicy and flavoursome. Ommm nom. To be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed with the cheese fries that we got to go alongside, but hey, I still helped eat them all!

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IMG_9570 I reckon it’ll be heaving in the evenings and especially in summer. And if you think it looks like a public toilet, that’s because it was, but I’d still go back. And it was cheap too. Hallelujah!IMG_9573This is the East Side Gallery. Don’t confuse it with a traditional gallery: it’s all outside so wrap up warm! I have conflicting feelings about it to be honest. Mr T was really looking forward to it (can’t you tell in this picture?…) but was a little disappointed. Basically, when the Wall came down, people were literally tearing it down and suddenly people realised maybe they should preserve some history so they kept this 1.5km stretch and commissioned artists from all over the world to paint it, but only on the East side, not the West (the West had been liberal before, while if you’d even approached the East side you could have been arrested).

All in all, that’s a pretty cool idea, and some really iconic images were created. So all of that happened back in the early 90s. And then luckily for us, about five years or so, the same artists were commissioned to repaint their work to keep it fresh, but, as you might be able to see in this picture (and certainly in the others) the whole Wall is covered in non-commissioned graffiti, and mostly, it’s naff, crap and detracts from the art.IMG_9574Some people argue that the unauthorised graffiti is freedom of expression, which is important considering the strict controls that had been in place, but personally, I felt that it spoiled some great art (call me a prude). 

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IMG_9580I think the girl is unauthorised, and the signatures clearly are, but while the former looks ok, I hate the latter. Ugh!

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IMG_9584So this is one of the most famous painted parts of the Wall. And fortunately people seem to have left it mostly alone, but even then, some idiots (and yes, I do mean idiots) have scrawled love hearts over it. To me, it’s vandalism. As we were walking along the Wall, a taxi drew up and a young guy jumped out with two others, and while the taxi driver sat there laughing, the first guy was photographed by his mates scribbling all over that section. 

As Mr T said, I can understand wanting to leave your mark, and Berlin is, after all, considered a graffiti mecca, but for me, it’s still a no-no.

Graffiti aside, I love this photo of us! Inadvertently we even got the glasses right!IMG_9586

IMG_9588Mr T was very proud of this set up…

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IMG_9592This was the western back of the Wall, and with all this ‘free’ space to scrawl your name, I thought the ‘official’ side should have been protected more. But enough of my ranting!

IMG_9595So, this is us standing on East and West Berlin, which was cool, but the reason there’s a gap in the Wall right here? O2 built a huge arena to the right of Mr T, and to the left of me there’s the River Spree, and the O2 wanted its big name stars to be able to dock their boats on the river and get straight to the arena without there being a big pesky wall in the way. So they asked the German government to move part of it, and THEY DID!!! Insane. 

IMG_9598This is the TV tower in Alexanderplatz. It’s quite tall, and was built by the East Berliners as close to the Wall as they could to prove to the West how superior their engineering and architectural skills were. A few years later they had to secretly smuggle in some Swedish engineers to fix the subsidence…Awkward.

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We knew we wanted to revisit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews as we’d only had time to see the monument above ground and not the museum beneath the day before. I’m still glad that we did, but I’m not posting (nor did I take) any photos as it was brutal, as, arguably it should have been.

As Mr T said, it was a memorial to the ‘murdered Jews’ so there weren’t too many happy endings. At one point, I had to take myself off into a corner and have a little cry and compose myself. Part of me felt ashamed to be visibly upset; who am I to cry when I’ve lived such a privileged life, but there was no way I couldn’t be affected, and I wasn’t the only one. So yes, it was tough, but yes, I’m glad we went and I do recommend it.

After we’d finished in there, we hopped over to the Reichstag.IMG_9603The Reichstag, or the government building. Very heavily damaged in the War, Hitler never stepped foot in it when he was in power – the Nazis had set fire to it (allegedly) and blamed the Communists. You can’t see it very well in this but there’s a huge glass dome behind called the Bundestag, and if you book in advance you can climb it. Fortunately for us, they also reserve some tickets for unorganised folks if you queue for half an hour or so in the ticket office over the road.

IMG_9604I was desperate to see the Gate at night as I thought it would be really impressive and I wasn’t wrong!

IMG_9610A very casual Mr T pose.

IMG_9612From avantgarde fancy food the night before to some very traditional German fare at Lutter & Wegner. Known for making the best schnitzel in Berlin, it’s all white tablecloths, fine crockery and dark panelled interior, and like Tausend, not cheap, but also like Tausend, worth it.

We had sparkling strawberry cocktails to start, and then shared the legendary schnitzel (which came with a warm potato salad) and slow roasted duck with red cabbage and some delicious dumpling thingies. Ugh, they were both so good. And afterwards, apple strudel with vanilla sauce. Holy hell, that was amazing too!

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IMG_9614We didn’t want to go back to Bar Newton just because we knew it was there and we’d liked it the night before, so searching through the guidebook again, we found Windhorst, and geez was I glad I did. A jazz bar, they were playing records that night, and while Mr T had a beer (very good he assured me but boring as far as I was concerned), I had the most amazing mandarin cocktail. Seriously, it was one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had; exquisite! I was gutted when we tried to go back the next night and it was shut.

IMG_9616One of our better photos together!

Tomorrow I’ll be bringing you more graffiti and more food.

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Berlin days – underground bunkers to underground bars

IMG_9404First stop – Caffe Einstein. I’d read about this in my guidebook (I always do my research like a good little geek…), so we were pleased to find it on the way to walking down to the Brandenburg Gate for the start of our tour. I tucked into a gorgeous creamy hot chocolate, and we shared some classic German beetroot soup which had some yummy horseradish dumplings. We were feeling really smug at not only locating the cafe and eating German food; when we realised it’s actually a chain of cafes the next day, we continued to pretend we’d experienced some authentic cuisine and left it at that.

IMG_9405The Germans love Einstein. And why the devil not?

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IMG_9406This was actually pretty tasty; I promise.

IMG_9407Brandenburg Gate! It was really impressive, and we were so lucky with the weather. It might look a bit grey (I blame my crappy iPhone photos) but it was actually quite bright and the previous few weeks had been drizzly and horrid. So hurray for bright greyness!!! Like a lot of Berlin, the Gate was badly damaged in the war, but you can’t tell unless you properly look. To the left is the American embassy, and to the right the French, which had lots of candles and flowers laid in front for Charlie Hebdo. And just along from the American embassy is Hotel Adlon. The name might not mean anything to you (me neither!), but apparently it’s where Michael Jackson dangled Blanket out of the window. Remember? I guess I sort of recognised the windows (not really) so I haven’t bored you with a photo.

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IMG_9412Gate Selfie!

IMG_9414Gate Selfie #2. In the background you can sort of see the Tiergarten, which is the biggest park, and a sort of tent thing to the right of that which was the start of Berlin Fashion Week. Which we missed. Gah!

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This was at the Memorial for the Murdered Jews. It’s a stone’s throw from the Gate, and by this point, we’d hopped on to our free walking tour which was led by a great German girl called Francesca. At first, her English was so good that Mr T was put out because he thought we had an English guide, but she soon ‘came out’ as a local girl. Anyway, she led us through the Gate, littering the walk to the Memorial with plenty of interesting tidbits.

The Memorial was only opened a few years ago, and it’s been pretty controversial. Why? Because it’s very modern for a start. Six million jews were murdered and there are only 2000 and something concrete blocks, but you couldn’t possibly have a real amount; in fact, you couldn’t even fit all the names on the blocks (we only know about four million of them anyway). We were told it was ok to sit on the blocks, but not ok to walk or stand on them (we saw people doing both) as well as lying down to pose. I was not a fan of that.

I think it’s a really beautiful memorial if I’m honest. There are lots of theories about the way it looks, but no conclusive one. Francesca explained a few: no single block is the same as another so they represent everyone; a whole tour group can disappear in the blocks in a matter of seconds so it shows how easy it is to extinguish many of us; it’s not easy to walk side by side so we all walk alone. Whatever you think, it’s interesting. Below the Memorial is a museum but we didn’t have time so we earmarked it for the next day.IMG_9428
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IMG_9440This is Hitler’s Bunker. Sort of. It’s actually my feet (getting tired already!) standing on the spot above his bunker, except the bunker was destroyed by the government and now there’s a car park. I absolutely understood the reasoning for destroying the bunker (as the site of Hitler’s suicide, they didn’t want to create a rallying point for Neo-Nazis) but, at the same time, I also wish it still existed as it would have been fascinating.

Don’t judge me, but when Francesca confirmed that Hitler had definitely died there it surprised me. I still had in my head that there was a chance that his remains hadn’t been conclusively identified, and then I love a good conspiracy theory even if it does involve Nazis living in South America. I said don’t judge! Anyway, apparently it is conclusive. So there. She mentioned the movie Downfall as a great insight into his last days, so Mr T and I added it to our list of movies to watch when we got back.IMG_9441

These are some of the flats overlooking the bunker, and are apparently very Eastern European! The next spot on our tour was a very big, very grey, very severe looking building that was classic Nazis architecture. Very few Nazis buildings were left after the war; either they were destroyed during or after, but the Stazi were big fans of the whole Nazis aesthetic so they kept this one. Again, no photo as it wasn’t really very spectacular, or, more to the point, it was rather grim but if you really want to see it, check out Valkyrie!

I was curious that there weren’t any swastikas around (again, please don’t judge my ignorance) but there’s a severe penalty for showing the sign anywhere in Germany, and another case where they don’t want to encourage fanatics. 
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And now, The Topography of Terror (another fun name, I know), which is a museum about the Nazis and the SS, built over the former site of their main interrogation building. It also has a big strip of the Berlin Wall running alongside it. It was quite exciting to see this in situ, and I was torn between thinking it was smaller than I thought (I had something Gaza Strip-esque in my mind) and also being a lot taller when you stand right next to it and look up.

Again, Francesca hit us up with some facts – the initial wall went up overnight – literally. So one day you could live in East Berlin and visit your parents in the West, and the next day, you couldn’t. People were left stranded, and in some cases, had to make one of the toughest decisions of their lives. There wasn’t one single wall, but several inner and one outer, and in between the East and West there was the ‘death strip’. Not an official name, but at places there were strips of sand raked every evening so that all the footprints could be checked for escape attempts, and it was all booby trapped with some really disgusting things. It was sickening to hear about really, and I had had no idea.
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I think I preferred this stretch of the wall – plain and mostly unadulterated – to the painted sections of the East Side Gallery (which you’ll see later). I understand wanting to take ownership of the wall, hence the art work, but it wasn’t a pretty construction (physically or politically) and sometimes it pays to be reminded of that. IMG_9459
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This is the Ampelmann. I didn’t know about his popularity before our trip. I’m still not entirely sure what it’s all about, but there were shops everywhere selling the little green and red men!IMG_9461
Mr T was absolutely thrilled to tuck into his first slice of apfel kuchen (apple cake). Everywhere we went you could see great slabs of it, and it was always amazing.IMG_9462
Where the Wall was taken down, these stepping stones were put in place. You’d think they’d make a somewhat nice walk, but the entirety of the Berlin Wall covers several hundred kilometres so maybe not!IMG_9470
This was a really remarkable memorial set in the square, outside the main university, where the Nazis book burnings took place. Thousands of books were burned, and this white room with empty shelves would hold exactly the number of burned books. It was very impressive to look at, and chilled me as I remembered a quote along the lines of, ‘once people start burning books, people themselves will follow shortly’. I was just telling Mr T about this when Francesca pointed out the plaque below, which was a little to the side, which is that quote. That definitely gave me a chill. IMG_9471
I’ll give you all a second to change the pace – the tour has finished, and Mr T and I decided to get some drinks from one of the bars nearby that the guidebook had mentioned. We were headed for Bar Newton in particular, so named for the giant photos taken by Helmut Newton displayed inside; the same Helmut Newton who is known for his nudes…IMG_9475
Trust me, that is Mr T’s awkward face!IMG_9479

And these are our ‘we’re cool enough to hang out in a bar with giant naked ladies’ faces
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It’s art, ok?IMG_9483

A pretty epic Mai Tai.IMG_9484

This is at Fassbender and Rausch, which is a famous chocolate shop with its flagship shop on the edge of The Gendarmenmarkt (meant to be the most beautiful square in all of Berlin). We drooled over the cakes and vowed to come back later (we had bookings at another restaurant for dinner…)IMG_9485

A chocolate Berlin Wall. Obvs.IMG_9487

And this is a solid chocolate Brandenburg Gate; although Francesca did warn us it had been there for as long as she had been in Berlin (at least more than a decade!) so maybe not that tempting after all.IMG_9490

And now for our evening meal. We have the lovely Collins to thank for this. When I was asking about recommendations, she suggested Cantina at Bar Tausend. Like the organised person I was, I checked out the meal online, thought it looked good and made a reservation. The food, said the website, was a fusion of Fine Asian and Ibero-American (niche), but hey, Mr T and I both love tapas and sushi so we were in!

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We were lucky that we spotted a group of people waiting outside this iron door under the main railway bridge, otherwise we’d have been two confused puppies. The door swung open, and lo and behold, inside was Tausend. A gentleman with circular framed glasses checked us in, and we were led to our table. We were in the first sitting of the evening, and had a lovely female maitre d’ who talked us through the menu.

I have to admit, I gulped a bit at the prices but hey, we were on holiday. First of all I went for an Eden cocktail which was a thing of beauty and deliciousness – a sort of cucumber vodka, elderflower and apple concoction – and Mr T went for ‘the sweetest cocktail in the world’ (his words), but he seemed to devour it fast enough! It was quite dark inside so you’ll have to excuse the grainy pics!IMG_9491

First of all we shared the tenderest chicken skewers, and then for the mains we had black cod with garlic rice and a platter of sashimi. The food was immense. Honest to god, immense. I’ve never had black cod before, but I gather it’s a bit of a delicacy and it didn’t disappoint. And while the squid sashimi slid down in a less than pleasant way (bleurgh), the rest was very tasty! A few more cocktails, and then the creme catalan for me and some chocolate and pineapple fancy thing for Mr T and we were done. Yes, it’s not cheap, but it was a fabulous experience and I definitely recommend it.

 And so ended our first day in Berlin. Watch this space for days two and three!

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Berlin days

This Friday, Mr T is taking me to Berlin for a few days. Yay! Now, I’m a big planner, so between the two of us, we already have an (hour by hour!) itinerary sorted for Friday and Saturday; no joke. I think we’ve covered all the basic highlights – The Bradenberg Gate, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Checkpoint Charlie, Gendarmenmarkt, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, East Side Gallery, Museum Island – plus a few bars and restaurants picked out (Curry 36 for some legendary currywurst…), but I figured you guys, you lovely people, might be able to suggest some of your own personal recommendations.

So, please, are there any places, bars, restaurants, museums, galleries, and shops that we shouldn’t miss? I’m all ears! Thanks in advance.

And hopefully, you’ll have a little travel blog to look forward to next week sometime. You lucky sausages (or should that be bratwurst?).

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City guide – Wakefield

Now Wakefield might not sound like the sexiest place to live, there’s more to see and do than you expect. One of the guys – Stu – from work, has given me his city guide. Enjoy!

Favourite bar – Eddies

Favourite restaurant – Bella Roma

Favourite pub – The Hop

Favourite pub – Newmillerdam

Unmissable – The Hepworth Museum and Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Places to avoid – The chav-infested bus station (!) and the rip-off car parks

Best time to visit – During the summer

Best way to get around – the free bus!

Best shop – the shopping is rubbish; it’s all Pound Shops. Go to Leeds

Further afield – Nostell Priory

So there you have it, ladies and gents – a short, sweet and honest guide to Wakefield.

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Dubs

I’m baaaaaack. Sorry for the radio silence, lovelies, but I’ve been on my jollies – this time, with the divine Miss S in Dubai, of all places. It’s never been on my globetrotting hit list, but I can’t resist a city where my nearest and dearest reside.

It’s such a curious place. It’s both exactly what you imagine – big, brash, bold, with high-rise buildings towering above you, the world’s biggest shopping malls, visible wealth everywhere, and a ‘live young, die fast, and leave a good looking corpse’ mentality – and yet, I really liked it. There’s something to be said for waking up every day and almost guaranteeing it’s going to be sunny. As Miss S said, ‘it’s life changing’. It really is.

The Arrival

Obligatory aeroplane shot

Obligatory aeroplane shot

The Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) as my taxi zipped past

The Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) as my taxi zipped past

 

Day One – A beach at The Palm, and dinner at the Jumeirah Beach Residence

Day One - the private hotel beach at Riva on the Palm. You can see the 'Sail' hotel (Burj al Arabe) in the background

Day One – the private hotel beach at Riva on the Palm. You can see the ‘Sail’ hotel (Burj al Arabe) in the background

The view from Miss S' balcony...

The view from Miss S’ balcony…

As a The Big Bang Theory fan, this was a momentous occasion

As a The Big Bang Theory fan, this was a momentous occasion

The beautiful and very modern (Miss S calls this area 'California') fountains at the Jumeirah Beach Residence

The beautiful and very modern (Miss S calls this area ‘California’) fountains at the Jumeirah Beach Residence

 

Day Two – Breakfast in the Desert, and a Boat Party

Day Two - leaving the city for breakfast in the desert

Day Two – leaving the city for breakfast in the desert

All the high-rises that I expected

All the high-rises that I expected

And then came the sand!

And then came the sand!

Relaxing (but bloody hot!) sand. This was post getting Miss S' tiny Kia Piccanto stuck in the sand, digging the wheels out, and flagging down a 4X4 with a handy South African family in to help push us back on to the road...

Relaxing (but bloody hot!) sand. This was post getting Miss S’ tiny Kia Piccanto stuck in the sand, digging the wheels out, and flagging down a 4X4 with a handy South African family in to help push us back on to the road…

Miss S herself

Miss S herself

Beautiful

Beautiful

The adventurer

The adventurer

That's me, well, my feet, in the desert

That’s me, well, my feet, in the desert

I love a good pan'

I love a good pan’

The classic shot

The classic shot

From the desert to the ocean - a boat party

From the desert to the ocean – a boat party, and the Burj Al Arabe from a different angle

What a view! And our resting place for the day.

What a view! And our resting place for the day.

Fellow sundowners

Fellow sundowners

A very big boat - the Sheik's wife's apparently...

A very big boat – the Sheik’s wife’s apparently…

Speeding home

Speeding home

A bit wonky and blurred, but that's the Atlantis Hotel you can see very faintly on the horizon

A bit wonky and blurred, but that’s the Atlantis Hotel you can see very faintly on the horizon

A very happy pair

A very happy pair

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This was our boat.

This was our boat.

It was so hot that the lens kept steaming up!

It was so hot that the lens kept steaming up!

 

Day Three – A trip to Fujuirah with wild camels and Snoopy Island

Day Three - sunset from Miss S' flat, and an early start to drive to another Emirate state - Fuijerah

Day Three – sunrise from Miss S’ flat, and an early start to drive to another Emirate state – Fujuirah

Wild camel!

Wild camel!

A gorgeous mosque

A gorgeous mosque

Today's backdrop

Today’s backdrop

Today's main attraction - Snoopy Island - imagine Snoopy lying down on the top of his kennel - see his feet, belly and nose!

Today’s main attraction – Snoopy Island – imagine Snoopy lying down on the top of his kennel – see his feet, belly and nose!

Snoopy

Snoopy

 

Day Four – My Birthday!!! Swim and sunbathe, Dubai Mall, Dubai Aquarium, and dinner at The Oberoi

Day four - AND MY BIRTHDAY! What better way to start than a swim and sunbathe at Miss S' private pool and sun deck? This is the view!

Day four – AND MY BIRTHDAY! What better way to start than a swim and sunbathe at Miss S’ private pool and sun deck? This is the view, obvs!…

The Burj Khalifa in daylight, and all its glory

The Burj Khalifa in daylight, and all its glory

The legendary fountains, also the tallest in the world

The legendary fountains, also the tallest in the world

Dubai Mall - the biggest in the world - this shot was a teeny tiny corner. It was very weird seeing M&Co and Waitrose

Dubai Mall – the biggest in the world – this shot was a teeny tiny corner. It was very weird seeing M&Co and Waitrose

The Aquarium in the Mall. Spanning three levels with tiger sharks and manta rays

The Aquarium in the Mall. Spanning three levels with tiger sharks and manta rays

Ray!

Ray!

Ray again!

Ray again!

Ray again again! Can you tell I like rays?

Ray again again! Can you tell I like rays?

In the underwater tunnel

In the underwater tunnel

Casual shark selfie

Casual shark selfie

Back at the underwater zoo part of the Aquarium, and I found my spirit fish

Back at the underwater zoo part of the Aquarium, and I found my spirit fish

The air-conditioned luxurious 'souk' in the Mall

The air-conditioned luxurious ‘souk’ in the Mall

Some bloody great jewels. All real!

Some bloody great jewels. All real!

Whirling dervish

Whirling dervish

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The Shoe District...

The Shoe District…

My birthday cake to myself

My birthday cake to myself

The 'waterfall'

The ‘waterfall’

Home time, and Miss S greeted me with carrot cake. Lush

Home time, and Miss S greeted me with carrot cake. Lush

My birthday dinner at The Oberoi

My birthday dinner at The Oberoi

Miss S surprising me with a sparkler and a rousing version of 'Happy Birthday'. Ignore the glowing antlers I seem to have acquired...

Miss S surprising me with a sparkler and a rousing version of ‘Happy Birthday’. Ignore the glowing antlers I seem to have acquired…

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Birthday drinks to finish the night off

Birthday drinks to finish the night off

 

Day Five – Jumeirah Mosque, The Creek, the souqs and Al Fahidi

Day five - and a visit to Jumeirah Mosque. I met up with the girlfriend of the son of some of my parents' friends (got that?), and we hopped on the tour. Less of a tour, and more of a talk, it was fascinating

Day five – and a visit to Jumeirah Mosque. I met up with the girlfriend of the son of some of my parents’ friends (got that?), and we hopped on the tour. Less of a tour, and more of a talk, it was fascinating

Coverng up, and looking like E.T.

Coverng up, and looking like E.T.

Inside

Inside

Our 'tour' guide

Our ‘tour’ guide

On to the Creek - the oldest part of Dubai

On to the Creek – the oldest part of Dubai

We grabbed an abra to get from one side of the Creek to the other

We grabbed an abra to get from one side of the Creek to the other

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The Spice Souk!

The Spice Souk!

Those preserved lemons smelled divine. I treated Brother James to a pack

Those preserved lemons smelled divine. I treated Brother James to a pack

The Gold Souk!

The Gold Souk!

Gold, gold, and gold!

Gold, gold, and gold!

Another agra ride back across the Creek

Another abra ride back across the Creek

And another selfie!

And another selfie!

Where old and new Dubai collide

Where old and new Dubai collide

Dubai museum

Dubai museum

Al Fahidi - the actual oldest part of Dubai

Al Fahidi – the actual oldest part of Dubai

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Day Six – The Top of the Burj, and the Madinat Jumeirah

Day six - the sunrise before the top of the Burj

Day six – the sunrise before the top of the Burj

Not a brilliant shot, but surrounded by skyscrapers once more

Not a brilliant shot, but surrounded by skyscrapers once more

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The metro - clean, cheap, fast, air conditioned and reliable

The metro – clean, cheap, fast, air conditioned and reliable

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Right at the base

Right at the base

At the top!

At the top!

There I am, looking like a numpty!

There I am, looking like a numpty!

Out to sea

Out to sea

The Madinat Jumeirah for my final night.

The Madinat Jumeirah for my final night.

The 'Sail' in the background

The ‘Sail’ in the background

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Goodbye Dubai!

Goodbye Dubai!

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Culture, Travel

Caves, Coldstones Cut and Colton Abbey (well, Bolton Abbey really…)

A while ago Momma and Mr P won some free tickets to the caves at Stump Cross, but as they’d already been, they offered them to me and Mr T. They also mentioned that there was a big sculpture just nearby that was worth a look too (The Coldstones Cut), and while we were over that way, I thought we’d try to make it to Bolton Abbey and maybe even treat ourselves to something tasty at The Devonshire Arms while we were at it.

Off we toddled this Saturday and we had a great day. The caverns are definitely worth a visit (and it’s not pricey either). It has a little cafe with plenty of homemade cakes (Mr T scoffed the biggest cheese scone) and a gift shop; both of which seem as if time has forgotten them, but they are terribly charming. After a hot chocolate and flapjack for me, and the ginormous scone and a cuppa for Mr T, we were ready to don our hard hats and descend into the depths…

Descending into the depths

Descending into the depths

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He looked so serious! (And also really cute in his jumper printed with brass instruments…)

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Does anyone else think this looks like a boob? I had to take a photo. Obviously.

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I made the erroneous assumption that this would feel really slimy, but Mr T just pointed out it was the mineral deposits. Didn’t I feel silly?!…

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Sorry this is a bit blurry, but I loved the way it looked so much!

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A ‘fairy’ palace created by the owners. This little kitsch addition might give you some idea of how quaint and adorable the whole attraction is!

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No idea who this chap is. It’s not Harrison Ford*

*Star Wars reference

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It wasn’t very clear so the views weren’t as amazing as they should have been, but the sculpture was still fairly impressive, and it’s free, so no complaints from us

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Really odd single yellow lines

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See?! How cool is the jumper?

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Finally managed to wear in my Gazelles. Yessssss

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Only 49km from York 🙂

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Still looking a bit grey, but it’s such lovely countryside. We saw two brides pottering (well, gliding) around with husbands and photographers in tow.

Bolton Abbey, here we go!

Bolton Abbey, here we go!

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There’s something about old stone coffins that fascinate me. I promise I’m not crazy morbid.

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Getting stuck behind a horde of American tourists

Getting stuck behind a horde of American tourists

Another feet shot

Another feet shot

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Awwwww

Awwwww

And now for some refreshment so we popped over to The Devonshire Arms where I had that incredible Afternoon Tea a few weeks ago

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