Sunday, 26 February 2012

Dublin – The First Time Round

29We left Cologne in the morning on the 10 December, We flew via London and had a 6hr wait at the airport. Why 6 hours? Well flying via Gatwick to Dublin was the MUCH cheaper option then flying direct. There was also the option of flying via Poland, but that only gave us 3 hrs to transfer, which didn’t leave much time to collect all our stuff and recheck-in (it was with different airline carriers). Given last winter, where flights were cancelled/delayed it also gave us a more time to catch the second flight if there were any delays this year .Of course if any flights were cancelled there wasn’t much we could have done, except arrive late at our next destination (that’s also why we made sure there were a few days either side of our tours to allow for late arrival due to missed flights Smile) – of course it turned out that winter was VERY mild this year, the complete opposite of last year, but I suppose better safe then sorry!

Anyway, we arrived in Dublin with enough time to collect our luggage and catch the FREE1 (woohoo!) shuttle bus to our accommodation for the night. We checked in and dragged our heavy suitcases up the stairs (Ok, well really only mine was heavy – I had a 19.5/20kg suitcase Surprised smile). Here we met Angie, a lovely America, who it turns out was doing the same tour as us! That night we had a light, and cheap dinner, which we cooked at the hostel, and then off to bed.
The next morning we went in search of a self service laundromat, being a Sunday, however, nothing was open until like 12 o’clock… and we had planned to do a walking tour that started at 11am. So we gave up on that endeavour and headed to the meeting spot. Before we got there we walked to the Jameson distillery – which was also closed. Dublin is a really sleepy city on Weekend mornings, not surprising really since it is the home of Guiness! The walking tour was over 3 hours long and took as around town and along the river.

Dubh Linn (Dark Pond) Gardens - which doubles as a helipad

What the snake looks like from above (the black circle)
Dublin Castle from two different angles 

The Ha'Penny Bridge - named for the toll pedestrians had to pay

The River Liffey

The Monument of Light, more commonly know as The Dublin Spire, erected to commemorate the millenium (only three years late in 2003) with a statue of O'Connell in front. The spire has many nicknames, which you can check out here. From that link it looks like Dubliners like to nickname things :P

St Stephen's Green statues

910After the tour we went to the National Museum of Ireland, which had ‘bogmen’ on display, and then for dinner had fish and chips as Dublin’s oldest ‘chipper’ It was a cold night, and the fish and chip shop didn’t have any seating, so we ended up eating it standing up, using a retaining wall for a bit of shelter from the wind. We then went for a walk to get some pictures of the Christmas lights at night – The Irish seemed to enjoy Christmas decorating, it was a bit OTT to be honest. By the end of the day we had done a LOT of walking, and I for one was glad to get back to the hostel to rest, ready for the start of our first tour the next morning.
(We never did get around to getting our washing done before we left on tour, by the way)

I just noticed the traffic lights in picture - How cool would it have been if I got the different colours of the tree AND the lights?!

Stree decorations Dublin Style

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Cologne (Yes AGAIN) with MUM

After months of planning Mum finally arrived in London on the 7th December and made her way 
from Heathrow to Ashtead, where I picked her up and gave her some dinner. After dinner mum, J, R (J’s new carer) and I all packed into the car to drive to our accommodation for the night. Thanks to J for ‘driving’ us  Smile We were meant to be staying at the Gatwick Whitehouse Hotel, but they ended up transferring us to a place called the Lawn. It wasn’t too bad, and would be the last private room/bathroom we would have for a while! The next morning we had an early transfer to the airport, ready for an 8am flight to 
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Cologne (for the 3rd time since August! Although to be fair the second time was only a transfer at the airport Smile with tongue out)

xmas new years 2011 2012 009
Sorry this is skew-whiff, I 'straightened'
it, and then cropped, but the crop didn't
straightened it like I was hoping, and
I was too lazy to try something else :P

After arriving in Cologne mum and I went to the chocolate museum and climbed all those stairs to the top of the cathedral. We also went for a bit of a walk along the Rhein. That night we met up with Kati and Patrick, who took as to their favourite Christmas Market. I got mum to try Gluhwein, which was just as good as I remembered from the last time I was in Cologne at Christmas time (Xmas ‘03 – EIGHT years ago!!) My main aim

in visiting Cologne (other then to visit Kati with mum) was to get another ‘Kolner Dom Weinachtsmarkt’ Mug. I had one from 2003, and wanted a new one!

Intricate mosaics

De ja vu?? (sorry it's sideways)

I need to get down there! (where my mug is!!)
Some sort of... nativity?!?.. scene in the cathedral

On the 9th Dec we decided to catch the train out to Bonn, which is about 30mins away…
well it would have been, if we could get the train straight there. There were a problem with the line, so we could only go half way, and then had to catch a bus. So, of course it took longer then it should have, but it wasn’t too bad. In Bonn mum found a cream cheese filled brezel (German for pretzel) – it was sooo tasty!! We went to Beethovenhaus, the house where Beethoven was born, and explored/tried some more food at some more Christmas Markets (I do love the Xmas markets Smile). In fact most of our cologne trip, no our whole holiday, was a food tour! 

Outside Beethovenhaus

Dampfnudel - yum!!
That night we met up with Andrea and Rolf (friends of Kati), and one of their friend’s, who
took us to another Xmas Market. Here we tried just about every German food imaginable, courtesy of Andrea and Rolf (thank you very much! Smile), including eierpunsch. It was kind of like drinking hot, thin, alcoholic custard, very nice. Even mum liked it and she hadn’t even been keen to try it, because she doesn’t like eggnog (one of the reasons I get annoyed when ppl won’t try food, because they ‘think’ they won’t like it – how do you know if you won’t even try it!) Needless to say we were VERY full after that.

xmas new years 2011 2012 033
Gingerbread - mmm
xmas new years 2011 2012 034
I was trying to get a pic of the moon... damn
trees were in the way, but this looks kinda
cool too... right?!
xmas new years 2011 2012 031
At about 9.45 I still hadn’t gotten my Cologne Cathedral mug, and the markets close at 10pm! So we rushed back to the cathedral and were looking for a place that was still open/selling mugs. I had to get it tonight as it was our last night in Cologne and we had an early flight back to London the next morning, so there would be no time to get one in the morning. Rolf thought we wanted some more alcohol and was looking for that, so in the meantime mum and I went off and simply bought an empty mug (you pay 5 euros total and then get 2.50 back when you return the mug, or can keep it). So, while it was last minute, I finally got my 2011 xmas mug Open-mouthed smileAs it was one of the few things on my ‘to do’ list before I came over here I was happy! (The other being Egypt, and that was my first holiday)

gluehweintasse-des-weihnachtsmarktes-a7 Please note, I didn’t take this pic. I got it off the internet…