29 January 2016

#MyTravelMemory to Thailand

Working as hard as we Brits do (okay when we're not on a tea break that is), holidays are places we can truly relax and enjoy luxuries we don't come by often. I love these kind of breaks, the ones where I come back feeling as light as a feather from detoxing from life's stress and worries. When it came to sharing my favourite travel memory here as part of a competition with Caribbean Cruises to win a Mediterranean Cruise, I didn't opt for one of my more luxurious travel moments but one that is irreplaceable in my heart - that is of course the first time I visited my family in Northern Thailand.

My dad remarried almost eight years ago now, my Thai Stepmum Ariya found a way into our hearts almost instantly with her quick wit and friendly charm. However, our extended family was complete nearly three years ago with the arrival of my darling baby sister Sky.

My first visit to their village home, at the top of a rainforest in North-East Thailand was when Sky was only six months old, it was my second time to the country and I had throughly enjoyed the tourism and culture across Bangkok, Koh Tao, Phuket and Phi Phi Island but village life was what will truly stay with me.


2 January 2016

Getting to know you: Basel, Switzerland

Arriving in Basel, Switzerland, I was certain we'd have snow instead we were met with the bluest of skies and glimpses of sunshine. 

Hotel Victoria was the most convenient location of any hotel stay of my European trip yet, with Basel central station literally opposite the hotel's front door and the bus from the airport taking us direct to the station in fifteen minutes or so. The reception was grand and we were greeted warmly. We did end up upgrading our room for an extra £20 per night, as the standard double room we booked was in fact a queen bed with little other space in the hotel room. A free upgrade would have been nice - especially as the hotel was far from full. Our new comfort room on the other hand was lush, with comfortable twin beds and en-suite with a bathtub.

Early the next morning, we headed out to explore Basel and it's glorious Christmas market at Barfusserplatz tram station - considered one of the most beautiful in Switzerland. What I loved about this Christmas market in particular was the extent of decoration each stall went too - pushing it that little bit further with their wooden carvings or light up ornaments on the roofs (almost how some neighbourhoods in America compete with their Christmas house lights). It all made for an enchanting walk around, especially when you buy a hot drink from one of the stalls - which came in a rather festive porcelain boot cups (for a 3CHF deposit). My coffee with cream (kaffe melange) went down nicely.

By far, the most sought after stand at the entire market was for the Raclette Fondue - a delicious Swiss cheese melted and served with either bread or potatoes and gherkin/onions. I alreayd had a taste of this delcious cheese in Berlin and knew we were in for a treat.
Talking of the delicious Swiss Raclette Cheese, I found you can actually buy a smaller verison of the ovens used to make your own melted cheese in your own kitchen - on my WISH LIST right now!

We continued over the bridge and along the river with it's winding lanes and fairy light lit wooden windows, with many houses having intricate vines spreading across them with the odd burst of flowers - I could only imagine how stunning it would look in Summertime.


23 December 2015

Getting to know you: Berlin, Germany II

As I'd visited Berlin earlier with year (see my post here) I was more than happy to go back to this wonderful German city which held wonderful memories for me. Here's what I got up to in Berlin, round 2!

With a super easy train service to the city, costing less than £3, we arrived at Hotel Berlin in under an hour and checked in to our room on the 5th floor, but not before greeting the massive Christmas tree in the lobby with a giant hug.

I navigated we were less than a 30min walk to one of my favourite restaurants where I ate on my last trip to Berlin - so my travel buddy Sharna and I strolled to the area of Charlottenburg where I introduced her to Saigon Green.
It was exactly how I remembered it, the dishes at an excellent 7euros for mighty portions of tasty Vietnamese, I washed down my curried duck noodles with a Tiger beer, while Sharna enjoyed a spicy chicken and mango salad dish with rice.

The next morning after an excellent sleep (a full tummy will do that to you), Sharna headed off on a walking tour of the city, while I went search of a brunch destination I had stalked on Instagram. I caught the bus to the area of Mitte where I dined at House of Small Wonder. Entering via a spiral staircase surrounded by d├ęcor including vintage books and bonsai trees, leading up to a loft restaurant with an all-day brunch menu. I settled on the french toast croissants with fruit salad, cream and syrup with a fried egg on the side.


13 December 2015

Getting to know you: Vienna, Austria

First stop on my December '15 European adventure is Vienna. Home to opera, the schnitzel and Europe's number one rated zoo. It is also home to an old friend I worked with in London who took the time to show us (I'm travelling with a friend) around this magical city she calls home, introducing us to punsch (rum and fruit punch), a Viennese beer house (bier house), the city's cathedral and some of the best Christmas markets around. Here is the round-up of what I got up to and what I highly recommend:

Where I stayed:
A hotel alternative, we booked a stay at VOX apartments which included our own living room and separate bedroom - sizeable enough that it could be considered a hotel suite. Our room sadly didn't come with breakfast but with plenty of coffee shops and bakeries in the area, it wasn't a problem.

See and do (including the fantastic Christmas Markets):

Schoeburg Palace

The Schoeburg Palace in Vienna is adored by both tourists and locals, both of whom walk, jog and run through the impressive palace grounds. The Christmas market here includes an outdoor stage where musicians jump up and play instruments - it's all very festive and jolly. Some of the stalls have wonderfully unique Christmas gifts definitely worth perusing.

You can buy tickets for the Schoeburg Grand Palace Tour - we ended up buying a winter special combo ticket for 25euros for both the palace and zoo entry. The tour came with an English audio set which told the deeply rooted history of the royals in Vienna including the country's own 'Princess Diana' she is of course Empress Elizabeth, otherwise known as Sisi.

Cafe Residenz in the palace grounds is also worth a visit as it serves King Franz Josefs favourtie Viennese dessert: Kaiserchmarren - which is a shredded fluffy pancake served with both an apple and plum sauce for dipping. A perfect balance - which can be shared among two.

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