Saturday, 25 January 2014

A walk in Richmond

I hadn't been back in London long before I was able to meet up with Alex, my friend from Bristol. His parents live in London so he was down visiting them. It was so nice to see him after a 3 year break! I had never been to Richmond before - and it doesn't feel like London at all - it is well and
truly in the suburbs! We took one of his two dogs, Sophie, out to Richmond park, which is huge, and after the rain we had, super muddy. But it was a great walk, and it was a sunny day - it was lots of fun and we had a nice catch up!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

In the Quarry

I've said it many times before, but generally, I take my best photos in the Quarry in the centre of town. Just a bit up from the pedestrian bridge, and the pretty swans, is the main grassy area of the Quarry. I never hung out there as a kid, but usually in the summer, it's full of kids,
ball games, and families having picnics. In the winter though, it's really quiet and super empty. I love how green the grass is when all the rain has come and gone, and the sky is just so blue in January. All the trees are so empty, and they look pretty stark against the blue and green.
I love getting to spend some time at home and take some photos in my town - I really am quite lucky that I live in such a photogenic place!

Back to Shrewsbury

My exam was the very first day I was back in London - way out at the Excel centre in East London. It was a pain to get to - and a pain to get back from too! The next day, I packed up and headed home to Shrewsbury - because we had an entire week off before our lectures started. Mum and I just
kind of hung out, and sorted some wedding stuff - mainly just wedding stuff and we cooked dinner too. It was quite fun, being at home after not being there since almost the start of University. January usually is either snowy or rainy, but I was quite lucky in that the weather had been wonderful
the entire time I was there. I headed out one afternoon with my camera, after running some errands in town. The river was quite high, and a lot of the river had flooded some of the low lying areas. It was a really interesting sight to see the trees sprouting up of the flood waters
I also got to see some cute swans which some people were feeding - and they even came up out the water to get the food, and waddled around for a little while before going back into the water! Then I headed over into the Quarry to take more photos in the sunshine!

The Tour Eiffel

We spent way too much time in Paris sitting in the apartement, not doing anything but studying and playing video games. It was nice that most days we headed over to the local Carre Four and got some great food - and we made dinner together every night - a nice Chicken and rice dish, mexican, and all sorts of yummy breads and jams for breakfast. I think it was nice just being quite domestic, trying out my rusty French again, and living on yummy French baguettes! After a while, the nice weather through the window
really started to get to me, and I decided we needed to go out! A few times, we did head into town - the first time to visit a big war history museum ( where I promptly forgot my camera) and to have a yummy lunch of French onion soup - which is still my favourite. The second time, right before we left, we headed over to the famous site where you can stand on this huge balcony and see the Eiffel Tower. We've been up to the base, and seen it up close, but it was really nice to see it from this distance - because it really is huge and tall!
We had lunch and then came back and bought nutella and coconut crepes, and just sat near the balcony and stared at the Eiffel Tower - it was just nice to be out and about and relax, and just be in Paris, rather than inside in Paris. It was a great end to our vacation before we headed home to Frankfurt!

Welcome to 2014

The weather had been raining off and on for the whole day - but thankfully it cleared up enough for us to get a spot and watch the fireworks in front of Cinderella's castle. It wasn't the same as home, but it was a great place to bring in a great new year of 2014!I didn't get any photos of the fireworks, but I did get this one of the castle all lit up before the light show and fireworks started!

Meeting Mickey

One of the things I was quite sad about was that I never got to go and see Mickey Mouse in Tokyo Disney land because the line was always super super long! While we were in Paris Disney, we found a short enough line to go see him! I was probably more excited than all the little kids there!

Road Trip Stop 4: Paris Disneyland

I guess this wasn't so much a road trip stop, but one of the final stops of our huge trip across Europe. To be honest, we spent most of our time in Paris hanging out in Josh's aunt's apartement - I had to study for an exam and he got to play video games all day! Thankfully, I had booked us tickets to go to
Disneyland Paris on the 31st - so we could celebrate the New Year at the happiest place on Earth. This year was my first year apart from my family for that too! Disney Paris is one of the Disneys that I don't actually remember from when I was a little kid - so it was so nice to be able to explore it with Josh and try out the different rides and food they had there!

Up to Prague Castle

I had last visited Prague Castle with my grandparents - maybe back in 2005 - and I remember taking a taxi there! Indtead, we walked, up the hill. Just outside was a Starbucks ( quite funny really). After you go through the gates, there is a giant cathedral.
Strangely enough, outside there, Josh ran into one of his students and her family, who were also on a family vacation in Prague. From the outside of the cathedral, there are lots of little buildings which make up the castle - like a random toy museum and the kitchens and such like. We went out of the castle a different way we came in - and got this great view as we left! It was sad that this was our final place for the three of us on our road trip across Europe. It was sad to see David head off to Japan again - and we headed off to Paris, the next stop on our adventure.

Back at the Bridge

These are two of my favourite photos that I took the entire time on our road trip. I was so glad that Josh and David were able to get to spend time together. Since moving from Japan, I know Josh has really missed getting to see him all the time, like we got to when we all lived together in Japan. I have quite a few photos of them being silly, but I am glad that we were able to get these nice ones! We revisited the bridge in the day, because I really wanted to see it, and we were lucky enough again to have great weather for photos!
I think Josh is pretty adorable in this photo. It was our final day, and we decided to walk over to Prague Castle. We hadn't done much sightseeing in the city really, so on our final day, we really should go see it. It was a long walk, and thankfully we were able to walk across the bridge again when it was a little less busy!

Rooftops and Buildings

We took lots of photos in Prague, because we were there for so long. It was nice for us to just be able to explore aimlessly, and just wander wherever we want. The main part of the city is this beautiful huge square with great, ornate buildings around them. Some of them are churches, some are restaurants, or some maybe shops. During winter, the square is filled with tourists for the Christmas Markets. They aren't the biggest Christmas markets but they are super lovely! I think we ate there more than anything!
I felt like a lot of Germany ( apart from Rothenburg ob der Tauber) had all sorts of modern buildings intermixed with all the old ones - whereas Prague had kept all their old ones together - and so it presented a really beautiful facade. We were really blessed with some wonderful weather while we were there - it was brutally cold in the evening, but much more pleasant to explore during the day!

The Charles Bridge, Prague

The Charles Bridge is really famous from a lot of movies - I'm pretty sure it's been in several Bond films and all the Bourne films. It is really creepy when empty and covered in fog, and very pretty otherwise. When it's full of people, it's kind of hard to picture that, but along all the sides there are these great
big sculptures from the bible and also these great, ornate lampposts. I sure love lampposts! I was lucky in that I could set up my camera and get this nice photo of the three of us freezing on the bridge before we headed back to our flat to warm up!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Evenings in Prague

Prague was really a lovely city - and really very large! We did some exploring of the Christmas markets, and tried all the food stands they had - it seems that in each city we visited, there were different specialities at the Christmas markets. Our apartement was really close to the main square, so we
spent a lot of time in that area, trying out different restaurants, and looking in lots of the little tourist shops which lined the streets. We tried a bunch of different restaurants actually - one afternoon we found a place which sold goulash in bread bowls - and another evening we went to Hooters! We
explored some of the Jewish quarter in the city too - visiting some synagogues and also the Jewish Cemetery. We also walked around some Churches, seeing all the nice architecture. It really is a beautiful city! We walked across the Charles Bridge late one night - it was really beautiful and you could see the Castle which was up on a hill across the way - with the river, and it being all light up - it was really a great sight! It was pretty cold though - so we quickly headed over to the Opera House, and we headed home to hang out in our very large apartement.
There was a corner shop near our flat, and we always went and bought snacks and then headed home to watch movies and Skype our families. It didn't feel like we had to be out sightseeing all the time, because we had so long there. It was really a nice, relaxing visit.

All dressed up for Christmas Dinner

While our apartement in Prague was super big, and had all the amenities, including a huge dining room table, but having never cooked a big Christmas dinner, I figured it probably wasn't a good idea to start doing that the very day of Christmas. So instead, we booked to go over to one of the big International hotels in the city, only a short distance away and have a Christmas Dinner buffet that they were holding. I decided, in order to make it special, we should all get dressed up. Both of the boys wore nice suits, and I had bought a
nice dress specially for the occassion. I had brought my high shoes, so it was hard to walk on the cobblestones, but I was very glad we had dressed up - not that everyone else was dressed up - but that it made it a bit special. There were lots of yummy foods at the buffet, chicken, fish, beef and even turkey ( which was what we were hoping for!) and lots of side dishes. I loved the deserts they had too - lots of sweet things and lots of things covered in chocolate! We also got free champagne, and there was lovely music in the background. I did miss a lot of the foods
that we had at home, like the cranberry sauce, and the stuffing ( I have missed stuffing so much!) but it was much better than anything I could have made! After the dinner, we went home, and changed into much warmer clothes, and headed out and about to explore the Christmas markets which were only about five minutes from our house. It was a nice end to Christmas Day - our first one away from home!

Christmas Jumper time!

Christmas morning was a little bit different this year, waking up in an apartement in Prague in the Czech Republic is a long way away from waking up at home in Michigan. It was my first Christmas away from home, and so I had tried to set up some things which would make Christmas with just the three of us a little bit special. My mum and I had picked out some great Christmas jumpers from Primark for us to have for Christmas morning. We had a hard time getting some which weren't too awkward,over the top, or super Christian! I thought it was a nice, British tradition
which we have never done at home, but would be great for our first Christmas away. I got these cute jumpers for us, and I made them the first presents we opened before we opened any other presents!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Our first little Christmas Tree

We got to our apartement in Prague - it was amazingly huge and lovely! Because it was Christmas Eve, I immediately started unpacking all the different Christmassey things I had unpacked - I had a whole entire suitcase full of Christmas tree stuff, and a whole suitcase of presents which I had wrapped in both Frankfurt and before I left Michigan. Josh and David are Jewish, and have NEVER set up a Christmas tree. It was so fun to get to show Josh how to do it - putting the tree together, getting all the lights on it, and then
hanging all the nice decorations on it. I had brought the same Christmas tree which I had used when I lived in Bristol for University. It was super cute, and I had all sorts of different ornaments for it. Mummy had even bought us some great Cadbury's ornaments, which are edible, and a great memory from my Childhood! I think Josh liked those best of all! Once the star was on the top, we put all the presents we had brought under the tree. I had such a nice time decorating our first tree together. Christmas might have been a little different this year, but it still was lovely!

The Neuremburg Rally Grounds

On our way out of Neuremburg, we stopped at the Neuremburg Rally grounds. To be honest, Neuremburg has a really weird history in that it is where the Nazi Headquarters were. The boys both know a lot about history, so on the way into town we had stopped at the main central Rally grounds, but these ones were the ones you see in all the history books. It was
kind of creepy - they had just been left there, but the central area had been turned into a sports centre, with football pitches in the middle. I suppose it was good that it was being used in a positive way, but still a little strange. Both of the boys climbed up to the top and said the view was really interesting, and the place was a lot bigger than it looked! It was only just a little stop, and then we headed on our merry way to Prague!

Christmas Eve in Neuremburg

Christmas Eve meant our final day in Germany, before we headed over to the Czech Republic. Not much was meant to be open, but we were able to go to a few stores, and back through the Christmas market, and explore the town a little bit. It was a nice city, really a lot bigger than we had thought - but it was nice to wander around the cobbled streets and small tourist shops. We thought there might be a castle in the town - but it wasn't a castle per say, but more of a old lookout base. Up we went, up this huge hill.
It was cold out, but we certainly worked up a sweat getting to the " Castle". It was a beautiful view from there - you could see the whole of the city - and it was really nice and clear so we could see a long way over the roof tops of the buildings. It really was high! There wasn't very much apart from the
view to see, so we took quite a lot of photos of each other, after fighting our way to the front of the barrier. I took a funny one of Josh and David - to be honest there were a lot of very funny photos of the two of them from the trip! In fact - I would say silly photos are their speciality! We also got a nice one of
Josh and I in front of the view as well - before we headed around the little base at the top of the hill, and then made our way back into the city. We didn't wander around too long, because we had a really long drive ahead of us, to get to Prague before it was too late!

Road Trip Stop 3: A Night in Neuremburg

We arrived in Neuremburg just as the sun was setting. Because everything shuts down on Christmas Eve in Germany, we rushed over to the Nazi Rally Grounds before they shut on the 23rd. It was a really, really creepy place, that's for sure!

The Walls of Rothenburg

We walked up and out of the little town, which is bordered by these great high walls, with towers along every so often, and some openings, but we didn't find anything exciting past the walls. We had driven through one of the paths the night before, on our way into the city, so we decided it was good
to explore them. We found out that we could actually go up and around the walls,and so we climbed up these steep little steps. We found ourself in the first turret, but it was incredibly windy up there! We walked along the skinny walls, along the inside for a long time, but it was hard for David, because he was so tall, and these walls certainly weren't built for tall people! We had to go along quite a long way along the walls - until we could get to another set of stairs, so poor David had to crouch for a long time! I was having a grand time though - and we
got some great views of the city, and as we went towards the rest of the city, some great views of the central areas of the town, with the spires and big Christmas trees! We finished up our walk along the wall, and then we headed back to the car to drive on to our next destination - Neuremburg!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Our day in Rothenburg

Because so much was closed or ready to close when we arrived in Rothenburg the night before, we did some exploring in the morning. We went through the Christmas markets, and had more Sneeballs again, and I even got some yummy apple alocohol free "kids' wine" which was really, really yummy. The boys also indulged me by going through Kathy Wolfhart's store with me too, where I got a cute, heart shaped bulb. We wandered all around the city, and right near the walls, we found
a newly opened, Japanese store, run by a Japanese couple, who were super excited for all three of us to speak Japanese with them. I got a Ramune and some Inari Sushi too - which was a bit surprise to find in the middle of a little medieval town in the middle of Southern Germany!

Road Trip Stop 2: Rothenburg

When we were designing our road trip - one stipulation I had was that we went to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. I had been there as a younger kid (definitely before I was a teenager) with my family for the Christmas Markets. We arrived at night, and checked into our cute little hotel with a great big room, and then headed down into the town to visit the Christmas markets. They were just winding down for the evening, but lots of the stalls were still open. My favourite place was the ones selling Sneeballs - these big "snowballs" which are made
of fried dough covered in powdered sugar and chocolate. They are amazing! Rothenburg is one of the best preserved medieval town and it is adorable everywhere! There were lots of Christmas trees and lights. We stopped near to Kathy Wolfharts, which is a shop which only sells Christmas
ornaments and decorations. They are often wooden decorations and are sold all over Germany - but the biggest shop is in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Things pretty much shut down, and then we stopped in a great little restaurant where we got a really random combination of food - but it was yummy - and then I had another Sneeball for desert! I think Rothenburg is mainly a place that you go to see the architecture and how quaint it is - so we wandered around for the rest of the evening. It was pretty relaxed for our trip - but it
was really nice to be back in a place I remembered! I think of all the places we ended up visiting - it was the most Christmassey feeling and it was so nice to listen to Christmas music and even "smell" Christmas from the stalls!