Posts Tagged With: Travel

Seven Sweet Days in Mallorca

The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears or the sea.

– Isak Dinesen

Another year, another holiday. And this year, it actually happened, unlike last year’s trip to Vienna that had to be cancelled for health reasons. Although this year came dangerously close to the same when my mom came down with another one of her dramatically mysterious fits of bad health. Her doctor meant to write her off sick again but then things took a turn for the better and we flew anyway. Which was only a semi-good idea – but I’m getting ahead of myself.

This trip took us to Mallorca, again – and to that sweet little hotel in Portocolom, again.

We were facing a ridiculously early 6:30 flight and as usual, I vowed to go to bed early, sleep a few hours, then get up in the middle of the night. Well, that didn’t work out so well and I had to make do with a meagre three hours of sleep before I had to drive us to the airport. Luckily, good things like holidays make it easy to be excited and bubbly anyway. It puzzled me to find that everything was open at five in the morning because for our flight to London in January, we’d found the whole airport asleep and that had been an hour later. So, I could have splurged with proper breakfast but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat before getting on a plane, and so I stuck to a bottle of water as usual.

The thing with Mallorca is, the island I’ve come to see and love has nothing to do with its reputation. That reputation comes from exactly two locations, El Arenal and Magaluf. I’ve never been to either but when you’re flying there, you’re bound to share the plane with a bunch of people who are going there for a few days of party and drinking. And when we were flying, it was two days before Father’s Day, a time which a lot of people use for a short trip to Mallorca and engage in heavy partying. So when it was time for boarding, we stood behind a group of young men, each equipped with a sixpack (and not the good kind) and weird attire suggesting what exactly was in store for them. While we waited, the already opened the first cans and I made sure to leave a huge gap between us and them to avoid an early morning beer shower. Behind us was a family with two crying toddlers and yep, instant holiday feeling!

After a rough flight, we finally touched down in Palma de Mallorca and from there, things went a lot more smoothly. This time, the transfer to our hotel took a lot longer and while we were getting a bit impatient, it was also nice because the route the coach took was one we hadn’t explored before, along the south coast which has so many gorgeous little bays and beaches.

Once we’d arrived at the hotel, we found that we’d been assigned a room on the fifth floor again, with a balcony facing the same side as last time but further down the floor and closer to the water, so our view was even better than last time. The first time I stepped out onto the balcony and saw my beloved lighthouse again, I almost cried.

(There’s actually a petition going on to save the lighthouse from being handed over to a private owner and turned into a hotel. The petition is in Spanish but if you’d still like to help by signing it, you can do so here.)

After we’d unpacked, we went down to the pool bar to enjoy our first cappucino and a Spanish omelette. I’d meant to wait until we could go to the restaurant for dinner but since I hadn’t eaten anything yet, it was just too tempting. After a few blissful hours spent enjoying the view from our balcony, we raided the buffet for dinner – and then my mom came down with yet more bad health escapades. She was sick pretty much all night and neither of us got any sleep, so the next day started with both of us tired and grumpy.

We’re the most stubborn people I know, though, and after a fantastic breakfast including eggs and yoghurt and fresh fruit (for me) and dry toast and herbal tea (for my mom), we picked up our rental car and headed out to Palma for some shopping. Since I’d had quite a lot on my list I wanted to look for and potentially buy, I’d asked if we could do that first. I’m really not good with keeping ahead of my budget, so it’s best to make bigger purchases right away. But let’s just say that shopping in Palma isn’t something you should do when you’re lacking sleep and dealing with a pounding headache.

First of all, just because your rental has great GPS navigation, you know where you’re going and you’re definitely in the right lane for a U-turn does not mean the Mallorquin drivers won’t honk at you anyway. Loudly. And a lot. And all of them at once. I invented a bunch of new swear words that I’m really quite proud of. Then there’s the fact that in a town that’s really old and has a lot of narrow streets and little space for all the tourists and locals to park their cars, underground parking sounds like a brilliant idea. But when your rental runs on Diesel and reacts completely differently than your own car and you have to drive it up a steep slope, stop and start again half way up and meet traffic lights on top that only know red and ‘I’m blinking because I want you to know that you may or may not be hit by traffic and die a painful death, good luck, muahahaha!’…well, that’s just the kind of adventure I can do without!

And all of that turned out to be for nothing. Beforehand, I had been told to check out the bigger, better, all over magnificent and heavenly Sephora on Avenida de Alexandre Roselló. After that kind of description, I was looking for a huge place, possibly one that I could see sparkling in the sunshine from afar. First I couldn’t find the street and had to ask a very amused taxi driver for help who asked if I really wanted him to drive us 150m ahead where I’d find it. Facepalm! Then we walked back and forth, even asked people, but no one knew what we were talking about. Finally, I decided that it was better to abort our mission and change our plans for the day before we killed each other or innocent people. So we went back to our car and drove back to Portocolom where we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the view across the bay from a bar by the marina. They also served the best vanilla ice cream I ever had – and also the best smoothies. So the day was taking a turn for the better. Still, we barely even made it to dinner later before we crashed, finally catching up on sleep, a lot of it. With hindsight, I’m mad I let my mom’s poor health ruin things for us so much. I could have just told her that we should change our plans according to it. If we had knowingly made it a rest day, I wouldn’t even minded. I like just sitting in the sun, reading and enjoying the view. I think what made it so bad was that it wasn’t originally meant to be a rest day but if we’d been more spontaneous about it, we could have enjoyed it more anyway.

My mom asked if I wanted to go to Palma again the next day but I definitely wanted to do some sightseeing and definitely wasn’t in the mood for the busy life in Palma again. So we went to Valldemossa instead. It still is one of my favourite places on the island, although I absolutely dread the drive up there. The views are amazing but I can do without the fear of dying halfway up the mountain. But Valldemossa is so worth it all! Since it had taken us over an hour to get up there, our first stop was a little bar where we enjoyed a cold drink and a much needed restroom. It isn’t the most beautiful place since it’s right by the street but I still love it because when you sit there, you can enjoy the positive atmosphere of the place. Valldemossa attracts tourists who are interested in the monastery but also people looking for unique clothes, art or gifts and groups of cyclists. If you want to see pure happiness, look at the face of someone who cycled all the way up to Valldemossa – even if it’s just the pure happiness of having survived the hardest torture of their life!

Then we walked around the town a little bit, ventured in and out of shops and admired the beautiful old houses. Even if you’re not really looking to buy anything, the shops in Valldemossa are a must. Near the main street, there are a lot of tourist shops that you can but don’t really have to visit but when you walk further towards the monastery, there are a lot of small art and second hand shops, places that sell unique things. It’s such a change of pace from what we’re usually used to, all the chain stores and international brands.

This time we didn’t buy tickets for the monastery because we had already seen it last time. It’s interesting but once you’ve seen it, there isn’t really much to discover (for us). But we stopped for lunch in one of the little tapas bars in the square outside the entrance. My mom had proper food but I just had some bread with aioli and then a slice of caramel pudding with cream. Caramel-anything is a huge thing on Mallorca and I’d wanted to try the pudding for ages. It was…well, good. What they mean by ‘caramel’ is a lot more bitter than I’m used to and cream is often a tasteless, semi-liquid affair. But it was alright. I wasn’t really hungry anyway, just curious.

After lunch, we walked down the Carrer de Jovellanos, at the end of which you get a spectacular view of the mountains and the valley below. There were also more cafés and bars around but we were still full and not up for another stop. Still, I popped into a little art shop which sold gorgeous paintings. I would have loved to buy one but was afraid I wouldn’t get it home safely, so I opted for buying a bunch of postcards of similar designs. Always good to stock up on cards for my Postcrossing adventures. The artist was really sweet and even let me take one for free as a gift. On our way back to the car, I fell in love with it, the most beautiful bag I’d ever laid eyes on. It was in a small boutique selling unique designer pieces and I was disheartened when I saw the price of ‘my’ bag. After much debating with myself, I decided that no, I just couldn’t justify paying so much for a bag. But oh, it was so beautiful. The main part has a world map design, the front pocket is shaped and designed like an airmail envelope and the whole bag has little travel and snail mail details like an airplane charm. Sigh. Reluctantly, I walked away with a tear in my eye.

When we made it back to the car, we pondered what we should do with the rest of the day. It was already well into the afternoon but we would have had time for another stop. Since it was nearby and sounded like a nice place in our tourist guide, we decided to take the short drive to Deià. It’s supposed to be another small town, similar to Valldemossa but even more attractive for artists. But when we got there, parking seemed impossible. There are several smaller parking lots along the main road but the rest of the town stretches up and down the mountain, either with no chance to turn away from the main road at all or so steep that I didn’t dare drive there. It did seem really beautiful, though, even just the small glimpse we got at it, and we vowed to come back another time, earlier in the day. I’m not sure I’d ever want to stay in a hotel in the Serra Tramuntana because my little heart just loves the ocean too much. I want to see it from the window or at least the breakfast room or somewhere else in the hotel every morning. But the little mountain towns and villages are so charming and beautiful, I can’t help coming back there anyway.

Since we couldn’t get out of the car in Deià and it was getting too late for another stop, we drove back to Portocolom but stopped in the bar by the marina again, this time only for a cold drink and a view over the beloved marina. In fact, we stopped by that bar almost every day, not because our hotel isn’t nice but you just can’t beat the view from the marina.

For our third day, we decided to give Palma another shot. After having more rest and in a much better mood, braving the busy streets there was a lot less stressful. After having asked Auntie Google about that wondrous Sephora again, I also knew that we had indeed been in the correct street but it wasn’t a store but inside El Corte Inglés, a department store. We had planned to park elsewhere but the Gods meant for us to park in the underground parking of doom again and I really wasn’t up for looking for another space for hours. The good news was that it was just a few steps from El Corte Inglés – and that’s where I learned that Spanish retail people are either sinister or insane or both. The store had a special discount week going on where you got a discount card on which you’d get a credit of 20% of your last purchase to spend on your next purchase. So you wander from counter to counter and tell yourself you really shouldn’t buy anything but oh, you still have that XX Euros from your last purchase, so it really won’t be so bad! You can do this ad nauseum, all day everyday until either they cut and burn your credit card or someone comes to take you to the madhouse.

What follows would probably be described as a ‘shopping haul’ by all the beauty and fashion bloggers out there. I prefer to refer to it as my ‘Vacation Shopping Walk of Shame 2015’

The first thing I bought was a lipstick from MAC in the shade Violetta. After I had bought a violet lipstick from Kiko a while ago, just to test how the violet – purple theme works with me and loving it, I had meant to buy a brighter, more pigmented one. I didn’t even know MAC had a shade like that and what’s even more amazing is that my mom found it. She’s the brown eyeshadow, brown lashes type. And yet, she instantly picked it up and told me to buy it since I’d been looking for one. So I did! It’s a gorgeous shade and I like it on myself a lot but I don’t think I’m in a place where I can wear extra-ordinary shades like that everyday, so it’s a ‘special occasion’ thing for me.

Next, I traipsed over to the Sephora counter – and my heart was crushed because, what’s special about it? I’ll never know. Contrary to the actual Sephora store, they did have Urban Decay, yeah, but only the Naked 2 and 3 and the Basic Nakeds. Otherwise, they had a lot of Benefit and store brand products and a couple palettes from Too Faced. I was disappointed but I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t bought a lot anyway. My loot was a Matte Eye palette from Too Face (who can resist a palette that has an eyeshadow called Chinchilla?), two store brand nail polishes, a store brand eyeliner and a bunch of my beloved shower puffs. I’m really chuffed with the palette so far. The little tutorial sheet gives you ideas for smokey eye looks for different occasions but you can just as well mix the highly pigmented colours with other shades. The nail polish is great as usual, I love the brushes and they work really well for me. The eyeliner is okay, nothing amazing but I needed a new one and this works as well as most others. And the shower puffs are just my Holy Grail of showering. You get them anywhere, from any brand, in any price range, but Sephora’s are my favourite by far.

All over, I spent abour 65 Euros with Sephora and after that I wanted to get the hell out. But on my way to the door, I saw IT. Agent Provocateur! If you know me, you know that I lost my heart to Maitresse, their amazing perfume, and that I had my heart broken, ripped from my chest and stamped on when I couldn’t find it anywhere after using the last drops of it. At the store, they only had their new fragrances, Fatale and Fatale Pink. When I stopped at the counter, though, an elderly retail woman caught me looking and what followed was a funny conversation based on the fact that she spoke neither German nor English and I don’t speak Spanish / Mallorquin: “You like?” “Oh yes, it smells great. Do you have other fragrances by AP?” “Yes, yes.” “I was looking for Maitresse.” “Oh, yes.” “Do you have it?” “Yes, yes.” “Oh, where?” “In England!” I think she meant that they import the brand from England. But they didn’t have it (I think). Either way, Fatale Pink smells very similar and I kept sniffing it. And of course, I now had so much credit on my discount card that I basically had 50% off the price of the small bottle. So yeah, what can I say? I’m weak, so home with me it went.

But I swear, after the woman had handed me my discount card back with the remark that I now had 8 Euros from that purchase on the card again, I all but ran from that treacherous place!

Now feeling blissfully content and happily carrying my bags around, I dragged my mom further into the city center. We walking along the narrow shopping streets and tried to filter out cheap tourist stores to discover the many gems to be found among them, small places selling unique things. Surprisingly, I didn’t buy anything more but my mom purchased a new bag. Halfway along the way to the cathedreal, we stopped at the Placa Mayor, a grand square with many bars and restaurants for a snack and a cool drink. We made the mistake to stop at the first tapas bar we saw which happened to be between the large columns at one end of the square, and completely in the shade. It was quite windy, too, so our tapas (mini omelettes and cheese with olive oil) were enjoyed in a hurry because we wanted to get back into the warm sunshine. We could have done worse, though, because there are also many fast food places in the square, including a Burger King and a place selling “ham cones”, a very Mallorquin / Spanish thing I’ve never seen anywhere else before. Basically, they’re cardboard cones like the ones you can buy Dutch fries in, but they’re filled with little pieces of Serrano ham. Even though I find the ham quite tasty, eating it like fries or popcorn seems strange to me and I rather didn’t try it.

Then we walked on, looking at more shops here and there, slowly making our way towards the cathedral. We didn’t go there all the way, though, because we had no plans to go inside. The cathedral isn’t all that stunning when you’re coming from inside the city and I had learned beforehand that the square in front of it, which also faces the harbour, isn’t accessible due to maintanence works anyway. So we only walked to the Carrer de Palau Reial and then walked back, picking up some ice cream from Iceberg on the way. I had my doubts before trying it but goat’s cheese and honey was one of the best ice cream flavours I’ve ever tried.

On our way back, we took a slightly different route, checking out more of the cute little streets of Palma until we reached Palca d’Espanya and picked up our car from the Underground Parking of Doom again. Result of that day: Spent a lot of money but not nearly as much as I thought I would and had allowed myself to? Check! Fell in love again with Palma? Check! Got stuffed on a lot of yummy food? Check! Success!

The next day took us to Sollèr. We’d also been there before but out first visit had been cut shot, as we’d wanted to catch the tram to Port de Sollèr. This time we meant to spend more time there. When we arrived, there was a farmer’s market going on and the streets and the town square were packed with people. Some of the market stands were lame, selling cheap electronics and fake merchandise. But there were also nice and interesting ones that sold traditional clothing and food. We didn’t buy anything but it was interesting to see and the atmosphere was so nice, with all the locals standing around in groups and catching up with each other. What wasn’t so nice were the constant heart attacks when the tram that crosses the town square threatened to run someone over who just wouldn’t get that leaving the tracks would be a good idea, like right now!

Sadly we couldn’t enter Sant Bartomeu once more, so instead we crossed the square and walked down Carrer de sa Lluna. Again there were shops selling local specialties but we didn’t buy anything, save for some art postcards. The street was just as crowded as the market but it was good to be among locals for a change as opposed to the many tourists we’d encountered so far. Even though I’d lacked the lust for shopping all day, when we walked back to the car, I batted my eyelashes at my mom and asked if she’d mind going back to Valldemossa for a moment. And of course, she instantly guessed my plan: Pick up what I will forever refer to as the most wonderful bag I ever owned.

On our way back to Portocolom, I kept glancing at the paper bag containing my lovely purchase in the backseat. You know your money was well spent when it fills you with that much satisfaction.

For our last day with a car we had planned to drive along the south coast and then up the east coast and stop along the way wherever something caught our interest. First we drove to Colònia de Sant Jordi where we enjoyed the view and walked along the port for a little bit. The sea is so beautiful there! But the town itself didn’t seem all that fun. Next we’d meant to stop in Campos but the place seemed dead and dull, so we drove on and quickly made it to Portocristo. Now, that’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen on Mallorca. The bay makes for a stunning view and the water is so blue there, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t photoshopped even when you’re looking at it with your own eyes. We found a little bar that was set into the hill and from where we had an amazing view while we enjoyed a cold drink. Some stairs led down to the beach from there and I so wanted to descend them. But I wasn’t wearing the right shoes to walk in the sand and had no towel or anything else to get rid of the sand if I had gone barefoot, so I refrained. I definitely want to go back there and spend a day at the beach next time, though.

When we left Portocristo, I could already see that my mom wasn’t feeling well once again. So with a heavy heart, I suggested we go back to the hotel. When we reached Portocolom, though, we decided to make the short trip to the other side of the bay to pay a visit to the lighthouse. My oh my, the area is amazing! So many really pretty homes along that part of Portocolom – and so quiet and nice. We even found the only small strip of beach around there, but it didn’t seem very inviting. Seems like it’s mostly used by locals to have little family barbecues. When we reached the lighthouse we were disappointed to find we couldn’t go near it because the gate to it was locked. Not knowing what else to do, we just took some pictures and then turned around and drove back to the hotel.

The next day was a pool day and also our last day there. I’m proud to announce I did nothing but sleep, read and enjoy the last hours in Portocolom. Sadly, it was too cool to spend the whole day by the pool, so half of it was spent on the balcony and in the room to warm up a bit.

I’m really sad that the time to say our goodbyes came so soon again. This time I could have done with another week there at least. But given my mom’s condition – which had improved enough for the flight home to be smooth – I was also glad to get back home. And what do you know, one day after we got home, she was all peachy and fine.

…and now for some visual pleasures:

Categories: Wanderlust | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Another Piece of My Heart Lost

If you’re a perceptive person and glanced at the little Instagram feed waaaaay down on the bottom of my blog, you may have noticed that the past few days saw me feeding my IG account with a bunch of sightseeing pictures from London. Only just over a month since my last visit to this beautiful, beautiful city, I went back, this time to conquer the place with Mel.

Uhm...anyone alive?

Uhm…anyone alive?

After catching an insane 7 AM flight from Weeze to Stansted, we found an almost empty arrivals area and a slightly busier shopping area where we had to kill some time and enjoy a quick breakfast of sandwiches before catching out airport shuttle into the city. At this point I was already pretty convinced that I must have the face of a terrorist or a drug smuggler because at every passport control, it took a lot of glancing back and forth between my passport, their screen and my face and I was already preparing myself for a chat with a grumpy official. In the end, though, they always waved me through anyway. “No, officer, I’m not on any drugs, I’m just running on three hours of sleep!”

The airport shuttle was…a surprise. We’d watched all the huge modern coaches from National Express and Terravision come and go and I was already looking forward to an hour of napping in a comfortable seat when our Easybus shuttle arrived. I have no idea where they took the name Easybus from because the thing was pretty much an empty coke can on wheels, driven by a grumpy guy who seemed to trust that everyone would enjoy a little fearing for their life first thing after arriving in London. With hindsight, it was hilarious.

Heh.

Heh.

The shuttle dropped us off at Old Street from where we could catch the Northern Line straight down to our hotel in Clapham. Clapham is an area I had never been to before but I found it quite agreeable. There’s nothing exciting to do or see there and it’s really just one of the many cute little parts of London that are mostly residential but have a High Street to serve people’s everyday needs. But it was cute, with a large green common area and rather well kept town houses, so our hotel’s location could have been way worse. The first day, we had to walk quite a distance because the hotel’s information had said that it was right between two tube stations and it didn’t matter which one we got off on. The next day we found out that ‘right between’ means one is a 10 minute walk away, the other just around the corner. But at least we got to see a little of Clapham that way (and found that it had a café with a clever Game of Thrones reference.  Heh.). And being able to catch the Northern Line also is a good thing because it’s so easy to get somewhere with it. The hotel also seemed quite okay when we arrived, even though they wanted £4 just for storing our luggage. But it was either that or drag the suitcases around all day.

Come on, it's mandatory!

Come on, it’s mandatory!

After dropping our luggage off, we were faced with the decision of what to do first and guess what? We ended up at Starbucks! But not without saying hello to Piccadilly Circus. What is it about that place? You always hear about people running into celebrities there and even ‘mortal’ locals often happen to go to that place. I can’t imagine Parisians just randomly visiting the Eiffel Tower or New Yorkers to hang out by Lady Liberty’s feet but Londoners really seem to like Piccadilly Circus. Not like I could blame them, of course. It really is a magical place, even though I miss all the really cool stores they used to have there. (Read: I miss being able to buy records just anywhere in London without relying on HMV on Oxford Street!)

Please notice the gorgeous blue sky!

Please notice the gorgeous blue sky!

Starbucks served us well, even though it’s safe to say we both felt tired and exhausted from the early flight all day. Since Mel had made plans with a friend to catch up, we told her we’d meet her at the British Museum, so we were headed there next. The thing with museums is that I have mixed feelings about them. Art is a wonky subject because I can’t get into everything but then there are pieces that capture me so much I can sit and stare at them for ages. With historical stuff, I can never get excited about huge displays of many tiny bits and pieces but I love large pieces and statue that make me imagine what they looked like originally, where they used to be before and what it must have been like there. So the British Museum is perfect for me. Their Egyptian, Roman and Greek exhibitions have so many remarkable things to offer and I feel like they’re doing such a great job at creating just the right atmosphere for every piece. For example in many of

Word!

Word!

the Egyptian rooms, the lights are dimmed a little, the walls are a little darker and they often created an atmosphere that made you feel like you were walking straight into a tomb. And the Roman and Greek parts were often really light and airy. I just love visiting this museum, even though its architecture is a little more modern and not quite as stunning as the Natural History museum. Mel’s friend joined us halfway into our visit and we explored the Asian exhibition and a few other parts together before finishing our visit in the library (cue me fangirling!). Sadly, the doors to the large reading room were closed but nonetheless, the library is stunning! What I wouldn’t give to spend a day there reading. The only thing I don’t like is that there aren’t any books on the shelves anymore. I get that it would just be too much work to take care of it all and people can’t go up on the galleries anyway, so it isn’t like anyone ever gets to appreciate what’s on the shelves anyway but I don’t know. An empty library feels a little like a dead body.

I don’t even remember if we had any more plans for that day but we ended up having what was supposed to be a quick dinner but got extended to a long dinner and drinks and chat session. Which was just as well, as far as I’m concerned. By that time my feet hurt and I was ready to curl up under the table and go to sleep. We talked about music a lot (well, for the most part I listened because, despite not being interested in some of the bands they talked about, I just love listening to people talk about their favorite music because it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside to know people still appreciate it) and when we made it back to Oxford Street for some shopping at HMV, I bought two albums on impulse. The Third Three Years by Frank Turner which has live recordings from one of his shows in Wembley (because nothing ever beats Frank Turner live shows!) and Get Hurt by The Gaslight Anthem. Admittedly, no new discoveries but I finally caught up with some of my favorites.

After saying goodbye to our company, we made it back to our hotel for a somewhat early night in. For me it is always strange sharing a room with people for the first time. No matter how well you know someone, your evening and morning rituals are always something they haven’t seen yet. But I believe Mel and I made the best of the tiny space we had in our room. And tiny it was. But somewhat clean and the bed was alright-ish, so it was okay.

London has a beautiful love affair with modern ceilings like this.

The next day started with the usual question: What do we do first? We decided to go to King’s Cross first to feed our little Potterhead needs. Upon arriving at Platform 9 3/4, we were a little disheartened to find they made people queue up and pose in front of a professional photographer and everyone else. The good thing is you don’t have to get a professional photo done but can also just let your friend take a picture. So that’s what we did. Or Mel did, anyway. I still get a little breathless imagining myself posing in front of a bunch of strangers. It’s stupid and I kinda regret not doing it but there’s always next time and now that I know what it’s like, I can begin giving myself pep talks two months in advance. We also visited the Platform 9 3/4 store and splurged a little. I bought a ticket for the Hogwarts Express, writing paper and a card holder which came in handy for my several credit and ID cards, so I didn’t have to carry my huge wallet around all the time. When we left, I figured I should have bought postcards but when I told my mom about the whole experience, she said she wants to see it, too, so I suppose I’ll be back in November anyway. King’s Cross itself was a surprise for me because I thought it wouldn’t be so modern. Other than that, it was just a typical train station, I suppose. It also brought us the scariest moment of the whole trip, though. When we were in the HP store, there was an announcement asking all passengers and visitors to leave the station immediately. Suddenly, there was police around everywhere and no one knew what was up. I have to say, though, Londoners are quite hardcore about these things, especially after the whole Charlie Hebdo panic. Everyone was just randomly standing around, some people just went to get a snack and others even refused to interrupt what they were doing. We walked around the station in search of a Starbucks or some other place where we could wait and then go back in later but by the time we had walked around to the other end, people were already walking into the station again. We followed carefully, halfway expecting to get kicked out again but nope. In general, I’d say my anxiety over the whole terrorism affair is pretty bad right now and I had been a little nervous about going to such a popular place as London, so I didn’t really need this kind of shock, but I’m glad it ended up being nothing.

In front of Sherlock's door with my Harry Potter bag - does that scream NERD or what?

In front of Sherlock’s door with my Harry Potter bag – does that scream NERD or what?

Our next step took is straight to Baker Street to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum. I don’t know how often Mel apologized for ‘Sherlockizing’ this trip and I don’t know how often I told her it’s okay but it was often. We did a lot of Sherlock-related things and I didn’t mind in the slightest. First of all, it did introduce me to ‘new’ things about London I hadn’t seen and hadn’t done or even known about before. And then – as with the music talk – I just like seeing people get excited about the things they like. And I’m sure she’ll hate me for saying this but Mel is quite adorable when it is about something she’s truly excited about.

We ended our visit with mandatory pictures of ourselves posing in front of Sherlock’s front door. I was surprised to find there was no long queue outside because posing for pictures is completely free and I figured even a lot of passersby would stop to do so.

I’m nowhere near a Sherlockian but even I found some of the things they sold in the shop enticing. We didn’t buy anything, though, safe for the ticket to enter the museum. ‘Museum’ is a strange word here because it felt more like visiting someone’s home. 221b Baker Street doesn’t only look like a random town house from the outside, it also looks and feels that way from the inside, complete with cute wallpapers and creaking floor boards. The first two floors were awesome in the way that they looked like Sherlock was about to return any minute now. The last two were still cozy but they’d set up scenes from the books, using mannequins with often creepy faces and I didn’t like that as much. But the rest of the house I wanted to make my own. Even though my own rooms are so high and airy, I love small and cozy rooms, which a lot of British homes offer, and 221b Baker Street isn’t an exception to that. And the fireplaces! Oh dear!

 

Hay's Galleria - Our not so little shelter from the cold

Hay’s Galleria – Our not so little shelter from the cold

I don’t remember if it was our original plan or whether we made spontaneous adjustments but next we found ourselves at London Bridge from where we had a stunning view towards Tower Bridge. We decided to take a stroll along the Thames down towards Tower Bridge and passed Hay’s Galleria on the way. That’s another thing about London I love so much: You can just start walking somewhere and on the way you’ll pass many gorgeous little things you didn’t even know where there. According to the description, the Galleria used to be a wharf in former times but nowadays it’s something like a huge courtyard in which you’ll find bars, cafe´s and restaurants and also a few stalls selling crafts. We had a coffee at Starbucks and marvelled at the fact that we were sitting outside but somewhat sheltered, so it was unbearably cold.

Be still my heart!

Be still my heart!

Feeling refreshed, we pushed on towards Tower Bridge, but not without stopping to take a bunch of selfies in front of it. We were in good company, though, as a Spanish (?) travel group posed for a bunch of action group photos. Who could blame them (or us), though, since the bridge was simply stunning with the lights on and surrounded by all the other lights along the river. I can also proudly announce that after nearly five years, Mel and I managed to take our first real picture (well, pictures) together. And with Tower Bridge as our background, too. It feels like we’ve been waiting for this perfect opportunity.

Spooky trees in front of the Tower

Spooky trees in front of the Tower

We crossed the bridge, again feeling stunned by how huge and gorgeous and impressive it is up close, and found ourselves in front of the Tower. By then, it was too dark for any proper sightseeing. Or least to take proper pictures, as the seeing certainly wasn’t a problem with all the many lights around, making the whole city seem even more magical than it usually does. But since we’re little tourists at heart, we decided to put an end to the sightseeing for the night and went back to Oxford Street for some shopping.

Once there, our first stop was House of Fraser where I finally bought Mel her Christmas present. I’d given her a voucher for a Naked Basics Palette from Urban Decay since I didn’t just want to buy one and find she didn’t like the colors as much. It turned out to be a good decision because she wasn’t so excited about either of the Basics but lost her heart to the Naked 2 instead. So we bought that. I’m glad to finally welcome her to the world of Naked Addicts. Heh.

Next we went to Waterstones and the usual thing happened: I drag someone to a bookstore intending to BUY ALL THE BOOKS! but then end up not really able to find anything or get excited about anything and making an alibi purchase but my company buying something despite not even planning to do so. I’m also sorry to report that Mel’s purchase of Tinder was infinitely cooler than my simply continuing the I Heart series by buying the next instalment, I Heart Vegas. We ended the night with a visit to the Waterstones café downstairs where I had a delicious White Hot Chocolate and she had the grossest bottle of cola either of us had ever tasted.

The next early morning found us starting to hate our hotel a little bit because the fire alarm went off at four in the morning, and again several times between seven and eight. When Mel asked about it later, they said it was because of the construction workers they had around to refurbish and renovate the hotel but that they’d leave at six that night and it would be fine. Tired and still somewhat disgruntled but soothed by this news, we went out on our next adventure.

This time, our way led us to our next Sherlockian point on our to-do list, the Sherlock Exhibition at the Museum of London. Compared to the Sherlock Museum it was quite the culture shock because the whole museum, including the exhibition, was so very modern. All white, shiny walls, flat screens and audio effects. For me personally, the exhibition was very interesting because it focused largely on London during Sherlock (or Doyle’s) time, showing all pictures from the time, explaining a lot about the infrastructure and means of transport. But I suppose for real fans of the books, author and screenplays, it must be quite disappointing because it touches so many aspects but never really reaches much depth with anything. The museum itself wasn’t all that fantastic, either. The only absolutely cool thing was the Victorian Way, an area where they reconstructed what an old shopping district might have looked like (in a clean indoors kind of way, at least). It wasn’t amazing but I guess in a city that has so many museums, one has to be the lame one.

After leaving the museum, we walked down to St. Paul’s. Up until then we’d been so lucky with the weather, all blue skies and a kind of sunny cold. But that day was grey and dull and even a bit rainy and I’m afraid it pressed down on my mood a little bit. Nevertheless, we walked around the church and took some pictures but refrained from going inside because the entrance fee they’re asking for these days is just rude. And either way, the outside is already stunning enough for me.

I'm gonna love you and squeeze you and call you George!

I’m gonna love you and squeeze you and call you George!

The next step took us to the National History Museum where both of us had a fangirlgasm. Mel because of the architecture and I because of the little guy you see on the left. It was my third time visiting this museum and believe it or not, I had always forgotten to go look for a raccoon! Eek!  He’s a little faded and old and doesn’t look too friendly but I still wanted to take him home. I fear a couple of Asian kids thought I’d lost it because I snapped about a dozen pictures from all angles, and only of this little fella. Well, excuuuuuse me, I’m having a moment here!

Since stuffed animals and hordes of French school kids weren’t exactly to our liking that evening, we made it our of the museum after dragging me away from the critter and then…I flew. Yup, I flew down the entrance stairs, luckily only the last step, twisted my toe and ended right on my knees. I just crouched there and mumbled something like “OMG, oh please, oh no!”, feeling like the biggest tool. Luckily there was hardly anyone around, only a woman and her kid who probably thought that the chubby woman on her knees wasn’t just clumsy but also possessed of some kind of demon. A stronger character than me would have found this hilarious because even while I was falling I thought that, hm, this is kind of a slo-mo action here. Kudos to Mel who either pretended not to notice or left me the dignity of pretending I wasn’t sniffling and hobbling around all teary-eyed while nursing my bruised ego which was the only thing that took away a serious injury. Given my weight and the angle of the fall, I already saw myself in hospital with knee caps resembling crushed crisps. I also felt phantom blood trickling down my leg all the time even though I knew it couldn’t be bleeding because not even my jeans were sticking to my knees. Back in the hotel later, I found the left one a bit swollen and bruised quite colorfully and the right showing almost no sign of the accident. By now, the left is almost black (the first time I get to know why they call it ‘black and blue’!) but walking barely hurts anymore, so I guess I’ll get around seeing a doctor this time.

Despite the fall, I bit my lip and went through the rest on our list. To be honest, since I was with someone so much fitter and more in shape than me, I had already been struggling with keeping up all the time. During most of our trip I felt a bit like Samwell Tarly on his way beyond the Wall. But hey, even he had his pride and so did I! And that’s a good thing because so much good came out of that. First of all we got to do and see a lot more than if I had listened to my body’s complaining and taken a million breaks all day. Then I could just file it under exercise. And finally, apart from losing another piece of my heart to London, I also left over two kilos there. So really, the sore muscles and aching joints were so worth it.

Hello Gorgeous!

Anyway, after my free fall performance, we finally visited Big Ben to say hello. But again, it was too dark for proper pictures, so we walked to Trafalgar Square and down Northumberland Avenue, where Mel had another Sherlockgasm over the Sherlock Holmes pub. We considered going in for a snack but found nothing tasty and vegetarian on the menu and were a little too cheap to go in just for a coke. So we pushed on and had dinner from Subway before retiring to our hotel for a super early night in because we had to get up again at two in the morning. Early flights will be the death of me.

Again, to our horror, the fire alarm went off thirty minutes after we got to our room. And again, we got a different excuse. After Mel gave them a piece of her mind, though, all was quiet and we could sleep for a while, an hour in my case.

The trip back to the airport was straight from a horror movie because we had to catch two night buses but the stop for one of them had been shown in the wrong place on the map and by the time we found the right now, we had missed the last bus. With only twenty minutes left until we had to get to our airport shuttle, we finally decided to take a cab. An excellent decision because the cabby was the nicest old-ish guy I’ve ever met. He was so calm and sweet and helped us find the right place so calmly even though we must have confused the crap out of him. Thanks to his efforts, we made it just in time. Well, we did but our shuttle didn’t. It just wouldn’t come and when the next one on the schedule arrived, I halfway expected them to tell us there was no space for us. But again, we were lucky and had a super nice driver who instantly apologized and knew there’d been a problem with the previous shuttle, so we were finally on our way to the airport where, again, we arrived only just in time for the gate to open. Apparently, luck was on our side! But can I just say: Stansted, WTF? Your departure area is more of a mall than any of our actual malls! A MAC Store? Really? I was so glad London had left me broke and out of time or I would have found death of shopping right there.

So yeah, after a surprisingly short flight (two pages read, a quick nap and ta-da, we’ve arrived!), we landed back in cold and nasty Germany where we were greeted with a round of ice-scratching and by a bunch of insane drivers on the highway. But alas, it was a very, very, very fun trip that had its little hiccups and accidents but for the most part was so good, showed me another side of London and also happened to be my very first trip with a very dear friend.

So this tale of our little adventure has to end but let me finish with our first picture together (well, one of them!) that I rambled about previously…

Categories: Uncategorized, Wanderlust | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Books & Food & Rock ‘N’ Roll

Last weekend I took a little timeout from the pile of crap that 2014 has presented me with so far and drove to Frankfurt to meet a friend of mine and spend the weekend doing what we do. Which is so to say shop, listen to music, eat, visit the book fair and get tattooed.

I left work early on Friday and had to take an unplanned quick stop at home because – what a coincidence! – my mom had been admitted to hospital again on Thursday. This time it’s another hospital and it’s more of a ‘better safe than sorry’ thing and she’s feeling fine. But it was still bad timing because she was meant to take care of my cats. I had to get home and clean my place a little bit before I left, so my neighbor, who had kindly agreed to be the cat sitter, wouldn’t die of a shock.

The drive to Frankfurt went surprisingly well. I gotta say I love taking roadtrips by myself. I also like taking them with (the right) people but driving by myself has its own perks. No quarreling over who gets to choose the next song. No multiple stops at every other rest stop because someone always has to pee, needs a snack and plainly wants to stretch their legs. And you get lots of thinking and planning to do in your mind. One of these days I’m probably trying to set up Siri so I can make notes while driving. I had so many good ideas for this project I’m working on but it’s hard to remember them all. I also got a lot of really, really bad singing done. I never sing along to music with people around – don’t ask me why! – but when I’m alone in the car, I give it my all, no kidding. Anyway, surprisingly, I only got stuck in traffic once, for about thirty minutes, the rest went so smoothly, I arrived early enough to freshen up at the hotel. The hotel wasn’t anything special, but nice and clean and I loved the design of everything. A lot of blue and beige and a modern design. The only thing that left us puzzled was the sink that was right in the room instead of in the bathroom. Admittedly, there was already little space in there anyway but still!

The first thing we did on Friday night was head to a tattoo appointment we’d scheduled to get our shared tattoo. It’s half friendship tattoo, half John Green appreciation and I love it. “Okay?” – “Okay.” is something that Hazel Grace and Augustus say on the phone continuously. It’s their thing, a way to reassure and comfort each other. It’s one of the things that screamed ‘friendship’ to me about this book, so it was only right that my oldest friend and I got those, especially since we’re both so in love with John Green’s writing. I got it on my lower arm, just below the elbow. In the picture, mine’s below, the one with the question mark. So far it’s the most painful tattoo I got, even my foot and the spine area were easier to handle. Maybe I’m getting more sensitive with age, I don’t know. I also bled a lot more than my friend. Body, WTF u doin’? Anyway, we got it done at a very cute studio by a very nice and lovely little lady. She had pictures of her work all over the place, as tattoo artists do, and she does a lot of Tim Burton stuff, too. I wanted her to ink me all over!

After we got our ink done, it was time for food. I know it isn’t smart but I never like to eat before a tattoo appointment. I mean, I drink sugary stuff, so low blood sugar won’t be an issue but I don’t like a full stomach while I’m supposed to sit still. So I was ravenous. We ended up at the cutest burger joint I’ve ever seen. It’s called Bully’s Burgers or something like that and their mascot is a little French bulldog. They have pictures of it in different poses and memes all over the place. So adorable! It’s also tiny and we were lucky to get the last table. They pretty much offer only burgers in different variations. I had a Spanish burger with chorizo and ordered sweet potato fries and guacamole dip on the side. The burger was alright, though I wasn’t crazy about the chorizo but the fries were amazing. I kept eating even when I was full.

The next day was dedicated to shopping, shopping and shopping with a side of excessive eating. We drove into town where we’d been told we’d find a place that sells Urban Decay (which, shockingly, we weren’t able to buy in Germany yet). When we got there, though, we were told that we were one week too early. Noooo! So, we had to compensate this shock by spending our cash elsewhere. We raided Primark and then moved on to H&M. It sounds stupid because you can find H&M anywhere but the one in Frankfurt is the only one that also has a Home department. I spent way too much money there but who can pass up a shower curtain with little skulls on them? Or a pillow case with a circus monkey on it? Right?

Otherwise, the city center didn’t really have a lot to offer, so we moved on to the Skyline Plaza, a mall that apparently had a great view of the skyline. This proved to be only half true because it was way too central to over a full view but the roof garden was still great. They had little patches of green up there and also a restaurant with a terrace. Overall, I can’t say that I was disappointed with it. The weather sucked a bit but the sky scrapers still looked pretty cool against the background of the huge clouds.

The mall itself was less spectacular. You got the usual chain stores, some fast food places, nothing surprising. Except that Zara also had a Home store there. I bought two glasses with skulls on them but otherwise found the stuff there too expensive for what it had to offer. Most of the things I bought in that mall, I could have found here as well. Shopping was still fun because I got to do it with a good friend and because it’s always more fun when you do it on a day off and with nothing else on your schedule but I had hoped to find more interesting shops in a big city like that.

Originally, we had planned to go see a movie but then the waiter in the rooftop restaurant messed up our order, so dinner took ages and we couldn’t really agree on anything we wanted to see or hadn’t seen yet, so we went back to the hotel after dinner. My friend showed me the road movie she and her friend took of their last vacation and we just caught up with each other’s lives over a good old round of crappy television. Not exactly a ‘party hard’ kind of night but we had a long day ahead of us on Sunday, so getting some sleep wasn’t such a bad idea.

The next day, we went to the book fair. What a disappointment! I’d been there two years ago and it was pretty cool. This year, we bored ourselves through the fair with nothing to do and nothing to see. None of our favorite authors were there and even though we’d planned to just let it surprise us, we ended up never even finding our way to anything that was going on. The map of the place wasn’t clear on anything and it was so crowded that we were just pushed around all the time. Last time I went, it was a Saturday and less crowded, probably because you can only buy books on the Sunday. This time around, it was like the whole country had decided to come to the fair. And they all brought their tiny kids or came in elaborate cosplay costumes that were great to look at but let’s face it, a huge ball gown or some kind of warrior costume with huge spikes all over the place aren’t really ideal to move smoothly through the masses. Not to mention that every few steps, someone showed up in a really cool costumes and people would stop in the middle of everywhere to take a picture. It’s shocking, I know, but I ended up not buying a single book. I simply couldn’t concentrate for long enough to really read a single sentence, let alone decide if it sounded interesting enough for me to buy the book. So I just took a lot of notes about books I may want to read eventually. The only thing I took away from the fair was a postcard that I felt summed up the weekend quite nicely.

When we left the fair – and paid half a lung for parking – it was time for my friend to get to the train station. We arrived with enough time to have a quick snack together. Again, the waiter forgot my order – boo! – but eventually, it arrived anyway. I had lovely apple strudel with cream. Gotta treat yourself, right? I really haven’t made smart food choices this weekend but considering that I didn’t eat much but walked a lot, it was still okay. And the strudel was so worth it. So, so worth it. I mean, come on, it had marzipan in it. Marzipan! Plus, I went to get a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks for the way home and they didn’t have any. It was the first Starbucks I’ve seen that had pumpkins all over the place and pretty much forced you to order a damn PSL…and they didn’t have any left. What the…?! I’d say food-wise, I wasn’t really lucky in Frankfurt.

Overall, it was a good weekend. Not ideal and some things went wrong or were a little disappointing. But I got to see my friend again, we got to catch up, there was new ink involved, we did some satisfying shopping…and the food was great, once it actually got to me. And since I didn’t get to go to Vienna, at least I got to see Frankfurt this year. That’s a little something at least.

 

Categories: Bookworm, Foody, Wanderlust | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Positivity

I’ve recently joined another fitness challenge on MFP. For some reason, this is working so much better and keeps me going so much more than anything I’ve tried before. It is a Harry Potter-related challenge run by a member who really put a lot of thought into it. The basic idea is that the participants get divided into the four houses of Hogwarts (I’m in Ravenclaw, hooray!) and earn house points for losing weight or completing exercise, food or trivia challenges. It’s in its third week now and it’s so much fun. I’ve lost a kilo through it and have pushed myself to do more and try new things at the gym.

Of course, it helps that since my vacation, I’ve had so much more energy. Normally I go through huge ups and downs. It’s like going up and down the Alps. Either I’m throbbing with energy or I can’t get out of bed. It’s as much of a physical thing as it is emotional. So far, I haven’t been people to blame it on anything specifically – hormones, thyroid, Hashimoto’s, mental instabilities, I have no idea. It doesn’t seem to come and go regularly enough to be blamed on anything. That also means I can never really see it coming and just need to make use of any amount of energy as much as I can. But now, for about two weeks, I’ve been feeling great. It’s not just about having the energy to work out. It’s also the positivity I am feeling. Normally I have a bit of a pessimistic view at life. But at the moment, I can’t help but feel better about everything, like somehow I know it is all gonna be fine eventually. I got into a bit of an argument with my boss yesterday and yes, it made me really angry and consider my options of switching jobs soon. But usually things like that would have depressed me greatly and drained all my energy. This time I bitched and moaned for a few hours, then went to the gym and sweated it out. This morning I went to work feeling perfectly fine again. It’s nice and weird at the same time. I’m going to the gym again tomorrow and I’m a little scared. Yesterday, I walked my first two miles at a pretty crisp pace (for me) on the treadmill and today, my whole body is so sore. I’ve also been using more weights for the strength workout and my shoulder hurts like whoa. I just hope it’s the good kind of pain. Would be so me to mess myself up so early on.

Of course, I’ve also made some nice plans to look forward to. Over my four weeks of vacation, I didn’t manage to go away but booked two mini vacations for later this year. In September, my mom and I were planning to go to Mallorca again. But we could only get one week off together and in that one week, prices for flights and hotel rates were ridiculous. So we thought back and forth for a while, considered other destinations for a week in the sun – and then ended up booking a trip to Vienna instead. We’re flying down on September 6th and I can’t wait. I’ve been to Vienna twice and never really got to see much even though it was absolutely stunning. My mom used to go there a few times as a kid and has basically been fangirling about it to me forever. We said we’d go there together for years and years and now it is finally happening and I’ll finally get to see Schloss Schönbrunn and the Tiergarten.

Then in October I’ll be visiting the book fair in Frankfurt with a friend. It was a really spontaneous decision. We were talking randomly and somehow got to talk about the fair. Fast forward to an hour later and we had booked a hotel room and made plans for a whole weekend in Frankfurt, including some shopping and nice dinners to catch up. Not only am I excited about the fair but also about seeing her again. She’s been one of my besties for years but we haven’t seen each other in over a year because we live so far apart.

Those aren’t exactly big holidays but I couldn’t be more excited right now. And of course, I have something big and expensive lined up for next year. But after I’ve been announcing that I want to go to California “next year” for the past three or four years, I feel it’s bad luck to be spilling the beans too early.

Categories: Bookworm, Me Myself and I, Wanderlust, Weight Loss | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lazy Sunday

Spent the day....

Spent the day….

The good thing about terrible days like yesterday is they’re usually followed by good days like today. Days when I remember what’s important and what isn’t and get to spend quality time doing something for me, and just me. Well, and the cats.

The only positive thing that happened yesterday was that I spent almost two hours at the (almost empty) gym, burning some good calories. So this morning, I slept in and then had a wonderful, huge, decadent brunch including rolls and scrambled eggs. I rarely even have proper breakfast, so this isn’t a regular thing, but today I just felt like it. So good! I also bought some white chocolate-flavored cream cheese yesterday that I almost bathed in today. So much for healthy eating. I think I’ll settle for eating less rather than sticking to lettuce. :p

Except for some laundry, I then proceeded to do…nothing all day. I cuddled up in bed or on the couch with the cats and read and watched TV. Nothing

...with my besties!

…with my besties!

more. For a brief moment, I considered going out but then didn’t know where to. The weather wasn’t nice enough for a walk and I didn’t want to go to Starbucks or some other café and just be annoyed by people.

Also, I think I’m gonna try harder to save money and go on vacation more often. The only good thing my aunt told me about yesterday were the vacations she and her boyfriend went on in the last couple years (Israel! <3) and it really encouraged my wanderlust a lot. Then today, I was thumbing through a leaflet with holiday offers I picked up at the supermarket yesterday and was smitten by the part about Dubai. There are so many places I’d love to see one day and I’m not gonna live forever and doubt I’ll end up rich enough to just afford it like that one day, so I better save up and treat myself to something nice.

Categories: Feline Companions, Me Myself and I, Wanderlust | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Goodbye 2013! My Year in Review

We talked about 2013 on a forum I frequent the other day and when I wrote my short recap, I came to the conclusion that 2013 pretty much just was for me. It had its ups, it had its downs. I’m not sure I’ll look back on it as a year that was all that special on a personal level.

But even though, or maybe because, it was so unspecial, I’d like to focus on it in a bit of a detailed view. It’s good to look back on things and learn from them, appreciate them and just remember them. This also led to the first time ever that I jotted down notes before writing a blog post. I’m pretty sure what I’ve written in this blog in over a year now is a dead giveaway for how unfocused my blogging usually is. I sit down and write and to be honest, most of the time I have no idea where I’m going until I’m done. But when I decided I was gonna write a recap of my 2013, I quickly came to the realization that reviewing a whole year just isn’t gonna work without notes. Without thinking long and hard, I couldn’t tell you what I had for lunch today, so remembering the past not-quite-365 days without a reminder here and there would be close to impossible.

In the process of taking my notes, I quickly started putting them into categories. Originally, this was just meant to help me organize my thoughts but then I figured it was a good way to do this. So here’s my year…

Personal Highlights

  • AFI: I wrote about this long and hard already, but my favorite band released a new record this year, after four long years of absence. It is hard for me to write about this on a platform like this blog because I’m aware how this comes off with other people. The majority of people have fond memories of being a fan of a band – when they were 14. They can’t fathom what it’s like when that kind of love for (an) artist(s) remains. With most people that gets replaced by other things that become important to them over the years and just like with other values that we are taught are ‘publicly acceptable’, we come to feel like ‘the odd one out’ when we feel differently. I’m not ashamed of how I feel about AFI, I’m just afraid of not doing how important they are to me and on what level justice by not finding the right words. I don’t want people to think this is a silly thing, just because I fail to explain it properly. For now, though, let it suffice to say that I’ve missed being an active fan of this band. And by active I mean actually having something new to deal with, having a word to spreads, having a tour to hope and plan for. The latter still hasn’t happened but I’m confident that it’ll happen in ’14. As an album, ‘Burials’ hit me on a very emotional level. The hurt and anger and emotional stress of this album is so raw and familiar to me that I think it would have caught me off guard either way, whether it is by AFI or another artist. For weeks, I built myself a home inside those songs and lived there quite comfortably. Which is exactly what I’ve always known and needed from this band. Which explains quite perfectly why they’re such an important part of my life.
  • Friendships: 2013 Has been quite the nice little rollercoaster ride for me when it came to friendships. I got a lot closer with one friend who is especially important to me because we have so much in common and are so very alike in aspects that matter. So far, there was this invisible wall between us that drove us apart whenever we started opening up, as if we were afraid to do just that. At some point, after a lot of fights and drama, this wall disappeared and we grew so much closer which is a nice, if even a little scary, feeling. With all of my anxiety and trust issues, I still feel the urge to run every now and again but I can even tell her about that without feeling like she thinks I’m crazy. Then another friend came back into my life at a time when I least expected it, catching me off guard and leaving me to contemplate things all over again. Now, after several months have passed, I’m confident that letting her in again was a good decision. It’s still a bit tender, like a new tattoo and I think it’s still a matter of trial and error with finding the right dosage of each other but at the moment, it feels right, like we’re doing the right thing. What I didn’t like was how it threw me into yet more drama with people who I feel have no say in what I do with my life and who don’t even know me. On the kindergarten frame of mind level, they still think in social groups and all you can do is choose not to play their games. But that doesn’t mean they won’t try to still drag you down. I know that it’s partly my own fault for allowing them to do that and for letting it get to me but sometimes I can’t help it. Especially when some people are so obsessed with getting at me that they cannot even let it go, even when I choose not to comment on or reply to anything they say or do. The third friendship that is giving me a bit of a headache is also my oldest friendship. A girl who’s been nothing but kind to me in over ten years. Almost 15, I think? We used to be so close but over the past couple years, I feel we’ve drifted apart. And I’m not completely innocent, I know that. It’s just really hard to face this huge and important talk I know we’re supposed to have about it all eventually. It’s actually one of my goals for the next year to try and save this friendship or maybe move it to a new level, if need be. The last one that deserves to be mentioned here is a girl I met through my weight loss journey. We’re not so close, yet, that I’d see her as a part of my inner circle but we’re in such a similar position with where we are with our weight loss and what we’re struggling with that our conversations get increasingly personal and it’s nice to share that with someone who truly understands.
  • Mallorca: After I don’t know how many years, I finally had a proper holiday again! I’ve blogged about this more than is healthy already and I’n still missing the last part which I may add later just for closure, so I’m not gonna go on and on about it. Let me just say how good it was to get out, change the scenery for a bit, enjoy the sun and think of nothing but which sights I wanna see tomorrow for a while.

Things I Learned / Achieved

  • I’ve finally accepted and come clean about my own anxiety. It shows in many ways but mostly, my social anxiety is really, really bad. I go through good phases when it doesn’t bother me at all and life seems easy to me but the bad times are never far away. I’ve told my closest friends about it, so they know I’m not being unnecessarily difficult. Which doesn’t mean I get to hide behind it and be reckless, but I hope it’ll help them understand how my mind works sometimes. It’s also something that I know fessing up to was just the first step of. I’ll have to work on it and constantly push myself to my own limits so hopefully, I’ll get better at dealing with it, even though I don’t dare hope this will ever leave me.
  • One of the best things I’ve done today was changing my doctor. In Germany, everyone has a regular practitioner that you go to for check-ups and temporary illnesses like a flu and who you will also go to for a recommendation of professionals regarding more difficult or permanent things. My old one was just really not very helpful and supportive and I’m so glad I switched because even though I’ve only seen my new doc twice, she’s already helped me a lot and made me feel much better about myself and my health issues.
  • The other good thing, though I’ve not been doing so well in the past few weeks, was changing my gym. It’s a much more professional place and gives me the opportunity to follow a much more personal and custom plan. Unlike my old gym, it makes me feel like I’m not alone, like there is someone who will listen to what I want to achieve and help me get there. When you’re a born lazybutt like me and someone puts you into a gym, you just feel overwhelmed. Where do I start? What do I do? How do I use all those machines? What courses are right? At my old gym, though people there were nice, I just felt alone with my quest and like everything they had to offer was made to suit everyone. Which just doesn’t help. I have to lose a significant amount of weight, the next person may be skinny and wanting to gain a lot of muscle. So we have different needs but the gym wasn’t really prepared to offer help with that. So I already feel better knowing that what I do when I go there is the right thing for me.
  • I took up writing again. Nothing major but when Secret Santa time came around, not only did I finish the actual story for that but also one for a friend and it reignited the spark I’d been missing for so long. Since then, I’ve had a million different ideas and hope to go through with at least some of them, rather than adding another few dozen unfinished pieces to the long list on my hard drive.

Books

  • The Land of Stories 1 & 2 by Chris Colfer: I’ve been a fan of the TV Series Glee for a while but never knew that Chris Colfer had written a book, or two by now. So I stumbled upon the first book by accident when I found a thread on a book community in which someone offered her copy as a wandering book. I signed up and had to wait for quite a long time. So long, actually, that I had considered buying it instead. But then it arrived and I read it and loved it so much that I immediately pre-ordered part two which I also got to read this year. I recently learned that Chris is working on part three and this got me so inexplicably excited! Fairytale adaptions are one of my weaknesses and he does it so well!
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: For some reason, TFIOS was almost the last book by John Green I got to read after falling in love with this author. Even though it is his most well known and popular publication so far. I think I was a little afraid of my own expectations. It is, after all, a YA book about a girl who has cancer. You find way too many books about The Big C on YA literature shelves and one day I hope to explore why that is so. Most of them are amazing but you know what they say, ‘too much of a good thing…’. So I was a little hesitant. But TFIOS really is as amazing as they all say. And more. I am 31 and I have a teeny weeny crush on Augustus Waters. There, I said it!
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: This was probably my big surprise this year when it came to books. I bought this as part of an Amazon special in which you could buy three English paperback titles for 10 €. Most of the titles on offer didn’t seem very appealing to me as they were a lot of romance or sequels to books I hadn’t read. But I already had The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Map of Time in my basket and needed a third book and then I saw Ready Player One and remembered having read a good review about it somewhere. The plot seemed vaguely interesting, so I put it in my basket. It ended up being the first I read of the three and even though I was so suspicious about it, it turned out being one of my favorite reads this year. It was nerdy, clever, sweet at some point and set in a really, really detailed future world that you could imagine to exist a couple hundred years from now. Even though I’m nowhere near as obsessed with virtual worlds as the characters in this book, I can understand where the author is coming from. It’s so easy to lose yourself in online games and identify with your avatar in one way or another and Ernest Cline simply took it a step further, creating a wonderful ‘What If…’ scenario.
  • Authors: I discovered two new authors this year whose work really impressed me. One is Linda Castillo whose Kate Burkholder series I started with early this year. Right now, the fourth book is waiting to be read by me. It is set on the edges of an Amish community and besides the tension and suspense her stories offer, I like learning about these people and their traditions without it being boring in any way. With Neil Gaiman, I’m a little late to the party. Whenever I mention how much I enjoyed reading Neverwhere, everyone just rolls their eyes at me. Apparently, the whole world has been a fan for years. I’ve enjoyed this book so much that I made it a plan for ’14 to read more of his work.

Movies

  • Despicable Me 2: If you know me, you know I’m slightly obsessed with the Minions. I have posters, figurines, apps…whatever I can get my hands on and can actually use in some way. The first movie was probably one of my all-time favorites and I was looking forward to the sequel like other people are looking forward to their wedding days. For months, we had posters outside the cinema near the mall and every single time I saw them, I’d squeal. When the time finally came, sadly, I only made it to the cinema twice, not a million times like I’d planned. But it was glorious. Amazing. My God, how I enjoyed this movie! And I didn’t even particularly care for the plot, though it was enjoyable. I can’t wait for the Minions movie!
  • The Hunger Games – Catching Fire: I’ve read the books, I’ve cried, I’ve been tempted to throw my Kindle at the wall. So I have to watch the movies, too. And how brilliant they are! Catching Fire was so close to what I imagined things to look like while reading the book, I spent most of the time in the cinema convinced that I had already seen the movie. Which was impossible, I’d hardly even seen trailers. But it really came so close. I loved every second of it and can’t wait for the next part.
  • Now You See Me: This was my big surprise this year. I love Amy Adams, so one night when my friend and I found ourselves on the steps of a local theater, spontaneously in the mood to see a movie, I instantly voted for this one. But at the time I didn’t expect more than a bit of mild entertainment. But this movie was so, so good, really smart and had more strengths than just the magic tricks / special effects.

Goals 2014

  • Lose weight: I don’t remember a time in my life when this wasn’t part of the plan. Instead of making it a goal to be a skinny supermodel by the end of the year, though, I’m just not gonna set a specific goal but just promise myself that I’ll do my best to achieve as much as I can.
  • Be more organized: Again, this is a rather vague thing that involves more than just tidying up more or keeping the paperwork at home in line. It also includes small things like taking notes at work, using post-its for actual reminders rather than just doodling, remembering distant friends’ birthdays and sending cards out in time, taking two minutes to remove my makeup at night, not constantly forgetting to brush my hair, clear the dishes right after meals, and so on. If I get better at this, it’ll be easier for me to deal with everyday life in the long run because I know things are just running automatically and I don’t have to stress myself out so much over the smallest things.
  • Stay calm / Relax more:  I tend to freak out at the smallest cause because I’m just so annoyed with things in my life right now. It doesn’t make things easier and it doesn’t help and the only thing I achieve with it is make myself feel worse, so I need to find a way to stay calm and not act like a crazy ghetto bitch.
  • Rekindle friendships: There’s one particular close friend I already mentioned earlier who I’d like to become closer with again because I really miss her friendship. We’ve drifted apart a lot and I know we’ll never fully be on the same emotional level and share so many interests again but that doesn’t mean we can’t make this work. And then there are a few other people who I’ve never really been close with before but we were on casual terms, checking in with each other every other day and that’s gone down the drain over the years, as well. I’d like to get back to having that extended circle of friends again and let them know I’m here if they need me.
  • Save Money: I’ve really lost my way here. I went from having almost 1.000 € in my savings account + another 150 € in my piggy bank to have almost nothing left. And with the prospect of a possible AFI tour soon, I really need to get my act together. I’ve done well this month already by putting aside almost 100 € again and I hope to stay on this track. Also I want to stop abusing my credit card for spontaneous purchases whenever I don’t have the cash, so I can use it for the tour as well.
  • Go veggie: I want to give the vegetarian diet another go. I thought I may start by challenging myself to stick to a veggie diet for a week, if that goes well, extend it to two weeks, and so on. If I fail, I’ll start again. In the past few weeks, I’ve already explored several veggie lunch alternatives I could rely on at work. There’s a bakery / lunch restaurant that has freshly cooked pasta dishes every day and most of them are vegetarian. And there are a bunch of different supermarkets nearby that offer different kinds of salads or other vegetarian dishes. So even if I forget to pack lunch, I’d have good alternatives.
  • Cook more: This goes along with the goal above because it’s certainly easier to stick to a certain diet when you’re prepared. But it’s also easier to lose weight and be healthy when you eat homemade food that you know the actual ingredients of and that you can alter according to your own likes or dislikes.
  • Laugh more, cry less: Sort of explains itself, really.

Challenges 2014

  • Lose weight: This is not one big challenge as such but rather one I plan to take baby steps with as before. Right now, I’m still on the first step that’s listed on my Challenges page which is to lose 2.2kg by mid-January. Since I’m still lacking a working scale, I have no reliable result but hope to be on the right track.
  • Goodreads Challenge: As every year, I’m gonna take part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge again and since I’ve struggled to reach my goal of 50 this year, I won’t up it and set it to 50 again. This time, I’ll put the widget on my Challenges page as well as soon as Goodreads lets you do that.

So, that’s all, folks!

I hope everyone has a great NYE, a lot of fun, whether you’re partying or staying home. I know I’m ready for 2014 to arrive.

Ready for 2014!

Ready for 2014!

Be safe and see you on the other side!

Categories: Bookworm, Foody, Me Myself and I, Movies, Weight Loss, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holiday Spirits

Over a month has passed. Things have happened.

First of all, there was my birthday which brought forth a week of celebrations and events. Most of which I was just tagging along for. They brought fun, new people, new things, some drama and the chance to leave my own four walls for a change. And also a new age next to my name, of course. Being 30+ wasn’t well received by me and I don’t think I’ll ever get over the fact that I’m an adult. On my actual birthday, I went to a concert. It wasn’t “my” band but it was a concert. In a tiny club. The kind of gig I went to in my 20’s. And it was fun but my back reminded me of not only my age but also my weight. By the end of the night, I’m pretty sure some people were slightly disconcerted by the positions I took on to make it stop feeling uncomfortable. Sorry!

Moving on before I feel like a granny…

After the birthday shenanigans (this word makes me feel even more like a granny!), it was back to work and for some reason, I found it really hard to get back into the routine of it. I spent two weeks sleep-walking and used every single free minute to nap, even falling asleep at my desk a few times. I was starting to worry that something was seriously wrong but then I got the results from some of my blood tests. Apparently, my former doctor was a bit of an idiot because she said that my thyroid was totally fine and nothing needed to be done. That wasn’t so long ago. Well, now I’m glad my new doc insisted we test it all again when I switched because she said the values were still much, much too low. So we upped my dosage and hope that’s enough. She also asked me straight away if I hadn’t noticed anything, wasn’t feeling tired. I told her I was, very much so. She said it’s common with a low thyroid function like that. Go figure! I’d asked my former doc about it and she said fatigue never had anything to do with the thyroid. I’m so glad I finally got my act together and switched. I feel so safe and comfortable with the new doc! Not only is she really sweet and actually listens to what I say, I also feel like she actually remembers my case and knows what she’s doing. I may talk to her about the waves of depression I still encounter somewhat regularly. But I don’t know yet…

Anyway, so after two weeks of work, it was finally back to London again!

Still feeling tired, I hadn’t made many plans. I spent almost the entire ride asleep and felt like I’d been hit by a truck when we arrived, so Saturday turned out to be Shopping Day as I had no energy to come up with any interest in sightseeing.

I’m not gonna recap every single shop we went to any everything I stuffed my face with but there are two culinary things I absolutely have to mention:

Decadent Godiva White Chocolate Strawberries

Decadent Godiva White Chocolate Strawberries

One would be the most delicious and most decadent strawberries I’ve ever had. We saw them on display at Godiva on Regent Street. They had them dipped in white or dark chocolate and their sight was enough to make my mouth water. I figured they’d be a bit pricey, Godiva and all, but we didn’t even ask for a price before we bought them. Well, turns out they were 10 GBP for about six or seven strawberries. Oops! My mom also bought some delicious dark chocolates for herself and paid 6 GBP for five. But shockingly, I’ll have to stay they were so worth it! Maybe because it’s Winter and it’s rare you get delicious strawberries. Or maybe my taste buds just wanted to love them because they were so expensive. I don’t care, because…yum!

The other thing was another really good Italian restaurant that we found in a little street just off Regent Street. What I love about London is you can be right in the center, surrounded by people and chain stores, but then you turn a corner and you’re almost by yourself and you find the cutest little stores and restaurants. Just like this one. I think it was called Bella Italia or something equally cheesy. It was tiny, a bit shabby, had rude staff but it won me over immediately because it had the most delicious veggie risotto with green asparagus. So, so delicious, possibly the best Italian food I’ve ever had. Sadly, I couldn’t even finish it because the amount of food they serve you is huge. I’d meant to try their homemade desserts, too, but nope!

For the rest, I’m gonna be one of those bloggers and present you my shopping loot. But beware, most of it is very girly…

London Loot!

London Loot!

1. – 4. Books! The annual Waterstones loot is pretty small this year. I ‘parked’ my mom in the café in the basement and meant to spend hours browsing shelves. But then I kind of lost myself and needed to pee and also wanted a drink really badly, so I figured four books would do. I got The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro, Black Roses by Jane Thynne, The Mammoth Book of True Hauntings by Peter Haining and Shit My Dad Says by Justin Halpern. Only when I took this picture did I notice that all my purchases were very ‘red’, judging by the cover, the first two even looking very much alike. I don’t know what that says about me. Ha! The one by Justin Halpern was the only one I really had on a mental checklist because I’ve been hunting for it for a while and only found a German hardcover version. I’ve heard so many good things about it and can’t wait to start it.

5. Duets by Frank Sinatra. Actually, my mom bought this but she gave it to me to import to my iTunes library, too. I’d heard about this album before we left and when I saw it in HMV, I pointed it out to my mom and she instantly bought it. True fact: I love swing music a lot and this one’s so good!

6. AFI – The Lowdown. I have no idea why I bought this other than…frustration?! I’d meant to buy Knife Fight, the movie Davey Havok has an appearance in, but couldn’t find it in any HMV or elsewhere. Apparently, the UK didn’t get it, either. Then I thought I’d browse the shelves for some good old AFI, hoping I may find a single, EP, vinyl or something else I don’t have, yet because it is UK only or something. But there was nothing. And then I saw this thing. I don’t know if these kind of CD’s are a UK thing but I’ve never seen them elsewhere. Usually they consist of two or more discs that have some random person telling the band’s story and then some interviews that you’ve heard a million times before. They also come with all kinds of cheap, low quality bonus stuff like posters, stickers or whatever. I knew it wouldn’t be something I’d ever listen to. But now I have another item that says AFI sitting on my shelf. And it was only 7 GBP or something, so it’s alright.

Urban Decay DIY Palette w/ Maui Wowie and Loaded

Urban Decay DIY Palette w/ Maui Wowie and Loaded

7. Ah, one of my highlights of every London trip! A visit to House of Fraser, particularly their Urban Decay counter. UD is one of the brands that are really effing hard to get in Germany, even online. So every year, I look forward to treating myself to one or two of their goodies. This year I’d meant to check out the Naked 3 palette but they didn’t have it, yet. Then I looked around and found about a million things I wanted to buy. And finally, I ended up in front of their DIY palettes. The empty cases alone are so pretty already! And UD eye shadows are just amazing, really highly pigmented and good quality. So I like that I can buy them without having singles rolling around my makeup shelf now. I bought a case and two shadows for now (at 14 GBP each, I figured I shouldn’t buy one for all four slots yet…), Maui Wowie and Loaded. There were so many shades I loved but I went with two that I could actually use together for some looks. They were a little hard to get out of their cases and move into the palette but once they’re in, it’s easy to remove and replace them if you have to. Seeing as I didn’t really do much since London, I didn’t get to use them yet. But I still stare at them and secretly fall in love a bit more each time.

8. Ciaté Caviar Manicure. Our hotel was in Wimbledon. When we got out of the tube station and wanted to change for a train, we learned the train platform was closed, so we had to go outside and look for a bus. On our way to the bus stop, we found that Wimbledon High Street actually offers a loooot of nice shops, too, including a TK Maxx. I can never resist a TK Maxx. For a Shopaholic like me, it’s like a wonder bag. You never know what you find inside. I fell in love with about ten different bags and other things but stayed strong and didn’t pick anything up. Until I got to the cosmetics section. As usual, it was full of a lot of skin care products, soap, etc. In short: Things I don’t get excited about. But then I came across a display that had a lot of nail polishes. Including this one. I’d heard about Ciaté and especially this Caviar Manicure before but it’s just way too expensive for me to buy and experiment with. But they sold it for 7 GBP so I picked one of them up. They had three different ones and I got the Tutti Frutti one which came with a baby pink polish and sort of rainbow colored pearls. I didn’t have the patience to experiment with it, yet, but it looks easy enough.

9. Deco wet bubble balls-whateverness. What looks like a little bag of weed in the picture actually is something that I hope to be really fun. On our way to Waterstones, we came across a small Christmas fair that was organized by a church. It was so much cuter, better and more seasonal than any of the big Christmas fairs we have in Germany or the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Basically just a dozen stalls selling handmade crafts and seasonal goods. One of those stalls didn’t really fit in because it was guy who only had a display with these bags and a bowl with little bubble balls in them. The bowl had a sign that said ‘Touch Me’ and when I did, I squeaked because the little bubble balls were wet and felt a little creepy under the touch. Sort of like the bubbles in Bubble Tea. The guy explained that you just add water to the tiny crumbles in the bag and they grow into those bigger bubbles and then you can use them as decoration, for example in a vase. I haven’t used them yet because the space where I usually have some flowers is occupied by the Christmas tree right now but if I remember, I’ll take a picture once they’re set up. I got them in black and I hope it’s gonna look pretty cool with white or pink flowers.

Hooty!

Hooty!

10. HOOTY! The other thing I couldn’t resist buying in TK Maxx. It’s just one of those plush animals that you can heat up in the microwave. I get terrible period cramps, especially in Winter and I also like to take a warm water bottle or something similar to bed with me when it’s cold, so Hooty had to come home with me. Plus, he smells of lavender! He was only 7 GBP, too, so who could resist that price and those eyes?

Not pictured: Maitresse Eau de Perfume by Agent Provocateur. I bought Flash by Jimmy Choo a few months ago and I love its scent but I get allergic reactions wherever I spray it. So I needed a replacement, and fast. I was looking around the duty free shop on the ferry and couldn’t really find anything. I tried all the different scents by Agent Provocateur but wasn’t impressed, then moved on and looked at other stuff. Somehow, I ended up sniffing the little paper strip with Maitresse on it again and again and fell in love with its scent. It seemed like one of those perfumes to me that doesn’t overwhelm people, isn’t too sweet or too heavy and I thought it’d be really subtle. Well, since then two people have asked me about it and kept sniffing me, so I guess subtle doesn’t quite cut it. Ha! But the reactions were completely positive, so no complaints from me. I think it may just be one of my favorite perfumes I’ve bought over the years.

So…that’s it! Sorry, no cool London photos or anything. Just visual proof of my shopping addiction!

Categories: Me Myself and I, Wanderlust | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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