Posts Tagged With: Trips

I Solemnly Swear That I Am Up to No Good

Happy Holidays! I hope whoever reads this is having a wonderful and peaceful time, no matter how and who you spend it with, whether you celebrate Christmas or whether “your” holidays happened already.

Anyway, as the year draws to an end, I find my calendar a lot fuller than it was all year round. I’ve had time off since Friday and, which I enjoyed very much, found myself spontaneously meeting friends for coffee and shopping. I’m not a very spontaneous person, usually, but whenever it happens, I realise how much it can improve your day if you add some nice company to it. Of course, it’s way easier when neither of us has to work that day.

Today, however, I and my mother got up way too early (a 7 AM rise is not how I usually spend my time off work!) and went on our way to Cologne. It’s about forty minutes from here and one of the biggest towns in our area, so going there the day before Christmas Eve is a completely new level of insanity. But we went for a good reason. We had tickets to see the Harry Potter Exhibition. Admittedly, it’s been on since October and will stay until March, so we didn’t have to go today. But when we talked about it, we quickly came to the conclusion that it was the only day we both had a day off together. So really, whatever, there are worse ways to spend the last days of the year, right?

We had tickets for 10:30 but arrived way too early. Luckily, there was a McDonald’s next door. We went with the plan to get breakfast but everything already smelled so oily and they didn’t have any baked goods that weren’t cake, so we only had some coffee. When we got to the Odysseum, we were still twenty minutes early but they already let us in.

The whole thing starts with what’s my personal horror, part show – part interaction, with an actress leading visitors through the Sorting Hat Procedure. It turned out very fun, though, even though I was glad that not everyone had to do it. My social anxiety would have been ablaze if I’d had to sit in front of a group of strangers. But the people who did it was fun and there was one older woman who was a total Harry Potter fangirl, it was adorable. She ended up in Hufflepuff, as she’d wanted. Between you and me, I’m pretty sure the Sorting Hat really listened to people’s wishes. 😉 Also, the actress seemed so much like a slightly older version of Hermione, it was almost creepy.

After that, we were led into a room with several screens that showed scenes from the movies and I’m pretty sure that everyone started thinking that it was lame, but right then one of the walls was pulled back and it felt like you were stepping right into Hogwarts, it was awesome!

After that, I felt like a kid in a candy store, except that I couldn’t eat – or touch – anything. I suppose you could walk through these rooms and feel like in a museum. Cool stuff, a lot to see, but no real connection. But if you look at the costumes and the little bits and pieces and really think about that they were worn and touched by the people you’ve seen on the screen hundreds of times, that they appeared right there in those movies that were such a big part of your life…that’s really impressive. I mean, Harry Potter is up there with other classics by now. Everyone knows it. There are small things, like the font of the logo, the melody of the intro…and you immediately think of Harry Potter, whether you really liked it or not. And then you’re standing in front of an outfit that is basically just clothes that could have been bought by anyone from the H&M around the corner but you know what it was worn in the very movie you only just watched a couple days ago – for the millionth time. And that’s just awesome! Oh god, I sound like such a fangirl, I’m sorry. I’m not even one of those people who’ll break into random fangirling at all times. I don’t have a lot of memorabilia from my favorite books or movies. But things like that really get me going. When they were showing the scenes from the movies and the theme started playing, I actually teared up. I felt like a total tool.

They showed a lot of the things you’d expect to see. Harry’s school and Quidditch uniforms, Ron’s hideous festive clothes, Hermione’s ball gown, the Deathly Hallows, the Horcruxes, that kind of thing. But also a lot of things you didn’t expect some you even only remembered when you saw them, like all the freaky things Luna possesses and wears, or the death statue from the graveyard scene. Most of the things were just exhibited and you weren’t allowed to touch them or even get too close, understandably so, but there were also some interactive parts like a “Quidditch field” or the mandrakes. My god, did I love those! They had set up a little field of mandrakes with signs urging you on to pull one up and yes, they actually screamed when you did it. Hur hur, that’s exactly right for Kathy! And another guy who was also very fascinated. My mom kept telling me not to do it (“Don’t! Don’t! DON’T!”) but there really was some magic possessing me, I swear.

What wasn’t so fascinating but equally hard to resist was the souvenir store. There was a lot of overpriced stuff, of course, that was mostly just merchandise that had nothing to do with the books or the movies at all. But they also had some really nice souvenirs like most of the magic wands (I so, so, so want Narcissa Malfoy’s!) or the Marauder’s Map. And I know mugs are some of the lamest pieces of merch ever but they had a really cute one that said “Dobby Is A Free Elf”. Aww! I don’t know how I did it but I went out of there without buying a single piece. Admittedly, the prices were crazy but that’s never stopped me before. I think I was mostly just overwhelmed by the possibilities. There was just so much.

The walk through the exhibition took about one and a half hours because we took our time, listening to the audio guide and remembering our favorite scenes. I suppose you could walk through it within thirty minutes or less if you just had a quick look but why would you do that if you paid so much money for the ticket?

Afterwards, we were both so tired but decided that, what the hell, we had come all the way to Cologne, so we could as well make the best of it. So we drove into town and parked by the lovely, lovely Heumarkt, a part of the old town. I’m not a Christmas fair kinda girl but the one there is so cute. They have these pretty wooden huts that are a lot more detailed than others and also add some cute decoration with Christmas gnomes. We were starving and cold, though, so we had dinner first. We wanted to eat at a more traditional place, like a brewery or a pub but none were open, so we ended up at Maredo, a steakhouse chain. The food was fine as usual but I’ve kind of gone off all these chains because there’s so much more to discover and they’re always the same. But the alternative would have been to eat something on the Christmas fair and it was so windy and nasty, we didn’t want to do that.

After lunch, we walked along the main shopping street. There were a lot of things I wanted to look for, my Agent Provocateur perfume, the Harry Potter books with the new covers (they had no books at the exhibition!), more clothes from H&M…but I found neither. My mom finally bought the perfume she’d been lusting after for two (!) years, probably because I guilt tripped her. I mean, I wanted to buy mine but couldn’t and she was about to pass up on yet another chance after complaining to me that she couldn’t find it previously? Not gonna happen! I ended up not buying much, only a couple things from the English Shop. It sells British foods, books and magazine and I was ecstatic to find they sell the Oat So Simple instant porridge pots. I could bathe in those! So I picked a few up, as well as a can of Diet Cherry Coke. Dear Coca-Cola, it’s totally time to start selling this here. A bit of a poor loot for a whole day in Cologne but probably for the best, so close to Christmas and another trip to London.

By the time we got back home, it was after five and I think it’s safe to say that it’s a miracle that I’m still up. The early rise, the excitement of the exhibition, the walk through town…I’m exhausted! But happy. It was a good day.

If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, I can only recommend visiting the exhibition. It seems pricey but it’s so worth it and I guarantee it will leave you with a smile on your face! What follows may seem like a lot of pictures but they’re only just a tiny part of all there is to see and it’s so much more impressive when you’re there in person. My phone camera couldn’t possibly capture the magic! Click here if you want to learn more about it and buy tickets for the exhibition.

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

The Magic Kingdom

I thought long and hard whether I was gonna blog about this year’s trip to London. Because, honestly, we didn’t do much. With my mom still being on the sick and slow side and me on the ‘OMG, OMG, OMG, she’s gonna pass out again!’ one, things were veeeerrrry slow. Also, the traffic was a lot worse than it has been in previous years and we got stuck a lot, so we weren’t actually in the West End before noon. Well, huh.

You guys know I love London. If a fairy appeared before me and said I could move to London but I would have to go now without goodbye, I would. But hands down, this year’s highlight wasn’t the city, it was the hotel. Normally, we stay in average business chain hotels, Holiday Inn Express, Ibis, that sort of thing. But this year, for some magical reason, we were booked into the amazing (!) Aloft London Excel. At first, we were doubtful. It’s way outside the city center and you actually have to switch from the tube to the DLR to get there. I have a love-hate relationship with the DLR, learning more towards hate. The last time I had to get on one of their trains, it only arrived once per hour and I almost missed the one I was supposed to take. Which was due to bad planning on my side, granted. But their stations are also pretty much deserted, you rarely find a staff member or a proper information desk or even just some stupid info board. This year, the line we needed had frequent service but due to some wrong information, we got off at the wrong station and, you got it, there was no one we could ask. I didn’t know London actually had areas where you wouldn’t pass a single soul for more than ten minutes but naturally, we found one. But anyway, the hotel was so worth it. It’s a hotel chain, too, sure but it didn’t have any of that average just-good-enough air. The outside was beautiful, with a shimmering front that looked a bit like a mermaid’s flipper, shimmering in different colors depending on light exposure. The lobby was so stylish, I felt underdressed. It had a lot of lounge areas, a huge bar and even cute little details like a sleep and water spot for dogs. And the rooms, oh my god, the rooms! If you’ve ever been inside a hotel room in London, you’ll know how tiny and cramped they can be, even with quite expensive hotels. Great Britain is a small country, London is a comparably small city and space is luxury, so you don’t really expect a ballroom when booking a hotel room. But the Aloft rooms are just that huge. We had a twin room and there was so much space, it actually had two (!) desks and then there was still so much space around the beds that we could have waltzed in there. Also, our room was on the seventh floor and the beds were facing the windows, so you can enjoy a wonderful view over the city right from your bed. It was amazing and I wanted to move in there.

Other than enjoying the hotel, we didn’t do all that much. Not much more than shop. I also finally got to see what’s supposed to be the oldest Starbucks in…England? Europe? I don’t know. But it’s also set in a nice old building off Regent Street and you feel as if you were in a 19th century cafĂ© rather than an international coffeehouse. They had the most gorgeous bathrooms with their own wallpaper pattern design that looked vintage but upon closer inspection, you’d see that it said Starbucks and Seattle on it.

I went a little wild inside House of Fraser where I only meant to buy Urban Decay’s Primer Potion but ended up buying that, another eye shadow for my palette and a make up setting spray that I technically don’t really need but always wanted to try and hey, who cares if I just blew twenty pound on it? I also didn’t get my favorite perfume, Agent Provocateur’s Maitresse that I fangirled about in great detail in my post about last year’s trip to London. It’s a shame because it seems impossible to get here, too. So I’m ashamed to say I got a bit reckless with my shopping and bought several nail polishes and a new bag. Can I just say that it is unfair that England has such great drugstore brands? I mean, we have Catrice and P2 which are also quite decent. But they’re nothing compared to Rimmel or Barry M! They had so many matte nail polishes and I could have bought them all. Instead, I settled for a dark blue and a blood read one, thinking I was such a smart shopper…and then I hit the basement of the huge Boots on Oxford Street and went wild buying shampoo and Carmex and I don’t even know what else. I also really need to complain about Germany’s aversion to Carmex. It’s become really hard to get here. I heard some places took it off their shelves because there were rumors about some fishy ingredients but I don’t know. I’m a buyer and I don’t care. So there’s only one place that I know that still carries it. And then you walk into any old Boots or Superdrug or even just Sainsbury’s and there it is. And not just the pots or the tubes, either, but both and a bunch of different scents. I picked up the mint one, just because it was there.

When we returned to our hotel, we witnessed a little crazy scene. When we tried to exit the DLR station, several police officers were gathered around a girl who had curled up on the ground. At first they wouldn’t let us through but then realised they couldn’t just tell a bunch of people to take the train to another station. Still, they made us wait for a while. I have no idea what happened but suddenly a bunch of people spoke up who were apparently involved with the whole thing and it looked like some real drama. My personal guess is that it had something to do with the Britain’s Got Talent casting that was going on in the convention center right next to our hotel. Maybe the lady didn’t accept that nope, she wasn’t gonna be the next Lady Gaga.

So yeah, that’s it. As I said, not much to tell this year. What I absolutely loved, though, was the Selfridges Christmas decoration, so I went a little crazy trying – and failing – to get the perfect picture. Normally, I find their decoration a bit tacky but this year, it looked amazing.

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

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

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