Sunday, 15 January 2017

2016 Round Up

Happy New Year!

Yes I'm about two weeks late with that one but I'm still saying happy new year to everyone I meet and email. Now the only problem is I can't remember who I have already said it to and therefore I may be repeating myself. Never mind - surely I am just wishing them an extra happy new year if I say it twice?

So a new shiny year. Where did the last one go? Although looking back I have done so much in 2016 and I think its important to keep track of your achievements and the positives because it can be so easy to focus on the negatives. So here are my 5 super achievements from 2016:

Me and a couple of excellent colleagues

  • I graduated
This is something that has been a long time coming. I actually submitted my final piece of work in October 2015 but somehow that meant I graduates summer 2016. It was still a nice day with lots of hand shaking and of course a silly gown and cap! The only sad thing was that my brother wasn't able to take the time off work to be there which was a shame but I am still super pleased that I graduated.

  • I travelled
    Cuddle the EU bear before we leave
This one is kind of an essential on my list for any year. 2016 was a fairly good one with trips to Scotland, Portugal, Germany, and Ireland. Trips don't have to be for a long time or even to somewhere that far away to be great. Glasgow and Lisbon were with work but I had already been to Glasgow earlier that year as a mini break with my boyfriend, and he also flew out to Portugal to join me after my conference so they count as holidays. Ireland is similar but the other way round, it was his work Christmas trip but I went too which was really fun . Dublin in November is FREEZING but we had a great time wandering round the city and having a night of Irish dancing and Irish drinking! Berlin on the other hand was a classic Ami and Deb travelling fiasco involving all the core elements of culture experience, inappropriate outfits, and drink related mishaps (Part One and Part Two linked here).

  • I was in a wedding
My cousin got married and she was sweet enough to ask me and her sister to be bridesmaids. It was a really nice day with lots of family I hadn't seen in ages. There was lawn games, and photo booths, and lots of fizz all mingled in with a really nice celebration of Lizzy and Danny as they start their lives together. It was refreshing to be able to run away from my normal life and drop into a world where there were hairdressers, make up artists, and running around a posh hotel in a robe was acceptable. I had a blast! Incidentally the hairdresser did my hair so well that even when I woke up the next morning, my hair was pristine! I need this lady in my life more.

From NYE having a blast

  • I moved in with my boyfriend
Or more accurately, he moved in with me (and my cat). This was initially a temporary trial situation as his house contract was ending and I was struggling to make rent on my apartment so we thought we would try it for a month and see how it went. Here we are 6 months later and it's still one of the best decisions of the year. The only downside is that Chloe (the cat) now prefers Mark to me (grrr).

  • I quit my job
This one is fairly new but I quit my job in autumn which came into effect at the end of December. I am finding the transition very stressful as I have not secured another role yet. I am currently in a temporary post for a short time but I am acutely aware that I need to find something else very soon. However, even with the looming threat of unemployment, I still think that quitting my old job was the right thing to do; I wasn't enjoying it anymore, in fact quite the opposite and it had been going on for so long that it wasn't until I hit breaking point that I realised how much I needed to leave. If anything I count this as my biggest (and last) achievement of 2016 as it is certainly the most irreversible one. Whether it was brave or foolish only time will tell but I'm hoping the former as I have done so many foolish things that I feel I am statistically due a brave one.

So I'm feeling much better about myself having thought about this post. I would urge all of you to look at the positives in the last year especially since 2016 was filled with so many bad things too. It is important to remember that life goes on and we can keep trying to make things better and not repeat the mistakes of the past. I hope 2017 will bring more good things too!!


Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Germany 2016 - Part 2: I'll jane to find you dons

I left you in Germany didn't I? I have been pursuing some other things recently which I will tell you about later but it means I have been distracted in finishing my Oktoberfest posts.

The next morning we intended to wake up early and hit Oktoberfest mid morning however we were told not to rush because it would be open late and we may as well take our time. We had both bought dirndl with us to wear (the traditional Bavarian dresses - well as traditional as £30 on amazon will get you) so sheepishly put mine on feeling a little silly. Then I went downstairs and our host was dressed in an even more extravagant dirndl so I felt much better. The lady we were staying with was so enthusiastic about us dressing up that she braided Ami's hair and put ribbon on a hat to match my Dirndl apron! So cute. It was also uncharacteristically warm that day so we set out in just dirndl with short sleeves and even bare legs!

The festival itself was much bigger than I expected and there were absolutely no maps to tell you what was where. We wandered round for a bit looking at the shops and the shire horses which were out in the sunshine before we found a beer tent. Each beer hall is split into booths that seat about 100 and each booth has a waitress who will bring you beer by the litre!!! The glass steins were so heavy when they were full of beer that Ami bruised her hand from how she was lifting them. What they don't tell you is how strong the beer is. Actually that's a lie, they did, we just didn't believe them because we thought nah we're British so we can handle it. Wrong. We made many friends throughout the night - none of whom I can recall the name of or have any clue what they did or where they were from. It was so much fun! Everyone stands on the benches and sings along with the brass bands - we knew none of the words so we made them up - "Genovia" is still stuck in my head. (note: in an attempt to identify the song I am now listening to Oompah while writing and bobbing along as I type.... Oh it's Ein Prosit apparently... I prefer Genovia).

Then I lost Ami. I think she went to the loo and just didn't come back. From our phone conversations Ami must have disappeared at about 8pm. She got the train home before remembering that I had the only house key and our hosts were out that evening. Apparently she sat on the step for about an hour before going to a petrol station to buy water, ham, and chocolate (excellent drunk shopping list) and returning to be let into the house by the next door neighbour. I, on the other hand, having walked around looking for Ami, cried at the big wheel, tried to find the train station but missed and made friends with a group who were also looking for a station, walked the next 3 stops, got a train, and arrived at the house about 11. Ami and I then spent the next few hours dozing and sobering up.

The next day I felt surprisingly perky given last night's adventure and we headed into town. There's not actually much in Munich apparently. We found lunch, a nice park, a very expensive deodorant to replace the one airport security took, and then went into town for a quiet drink in the evening. Home early, very non-eventful. In our final day in Munich we went back to Oktoberfest but that day it was cold and raining so everyone had piled into the beer halls and it took us forever to find a seat. We were both still scared from our experience last time so there was only very modest drinking. Ami attracted some 18 year old gits who took forever to get rid of and we got bored and went home early to change into something warmer and head into the city. We wandered round the shops and had dinner at a very strange place with a very enthusiastic waiter who at one point full on flipped a wine glass full of water just for fun (!).

The next morning we headed out to the airport and had a much less stressful flight to Berlin to start the next phase of our adventure!


Saturday, 8 October 2016

Germany 2016 - Part 1: A handbag?!

Surprise! I’ve been away again. I really should just make this a travel blog shouldn’t I? Then I would have the excuse to go places and write about them more. I feel like I go to places a lot recently but just haven’t had the time to write about them. Well I’m going to at least write about the last 10 days and then work my way backwards perhaps.
My travel buddy and I have had this trip planned for a while now: Germany. More specifically Oktoberfest in Munich and then a city break in Berlin. My brain likes to work chronologically so I will start with Munich.
Well no, actually I’m going to start with Manchester. I was packed and on the bus to the airport on Thursday morning with my trusty (and now well-seasoned) little blue trundle bag and my fits anything charity shop handbag. I bought this handbag when I had done too much shopping and the plastic bags were cutting into my fingers, so I popped into a charity shop and £3 later I had this handbag which now held all of my impulse purchases nicely on my shoulder to save my poor digits from being ripped off. Fabulous bag!
So anyway, I know Manchester airport pretty well now and it isn’t the easiest place to navigate, with 3 terminals all connected with walkways that resemble a 2 year olds artwork, and the bus terminal tucked out the way in a very quiet bit. I confidently strode off to my terminal and I think most of the bus followed me. As a seasoned flyer I feel I can avoid most of the common pitfalls that many travellers fall into so I was feeling smug about how easy going through security was going to be. Boarding pass? Check. Appropriate sized suitcase? Check. Plenty of time before my flight? Check. Oh how wrong I was.
Firstly there was a huge queue and it was like tesco where there are several thousand check outs, but only three open. Next they weren’t happy with my plastic bag with my liquids in so I had to put them into one of theirs – not too unusual but this is one of those rules that I feel most airports overlook because who actually cares which clear plastic bag my liquids are in? Manchester airport security apparently. So I’m now trying to fit a week’s worth of liquids into their seemingly tiny plastic bag. It wasn’t happening. I tried to stretch the plastic and ripped through it. Ok, new bag. I could fit everything in it but not close it. Close enough? I dump my things in a box at the scanner and the security man doesn’t say anything – success! But then I go through the scanner and my bag gets taken to one side for having hidden liquids. Apparently their scanners are sensitive enough to pick up a forgotten about perfume tester vial and a lip balm in the bottom of my handbag. So I’m there trying to explain that I genuinely didn’t know they were in there and at the same time, they pull me up on not being able to close my plastic liquids bag. And all this is after being ok with my boots and then not being ok with my boots, and then the pat down including the thumb in the waist band part and the sit down so I can scan your feet part. So anyway, security says I have too many liquids and I have to surrender some. So I begrudgingly hand over my half empty deodorant and my tanned bb crème. Then I spend a good minute manipulating the bottles into tessellating so this plastic liquids bag closes. Apparently it has to stay closed for 10 seconds so I stand there with the security man counting to 10 to see if it stays closed. It does – phew. Then for good measure my things are tested for explosives. Thankfully I wasn’t accidentally covered in explosives as well as accidentally smuggling liquids.
So after that ordeal I was a little stressed but not too bad. It’s reassuring that security is that thorough and by the sounds of it, my travel buddy flying from London didn’t have any of these issues – worrying for that airport?
Ok so now I’m at the gate and the lady says my lovely charity shop handbag has to go in my suitcase. Eugh. Why? Why does it have to go in my suitcase? My handbag could easily fit under my seat so what’s the benefit of it being in my suitcase? I’m not taking up any more overhead locker space by having my bag under my seat. So now I’m there at the gate behind the lady with my suitcase open trying to fit everything in. I stuff as much as possible into my pockets – glasses, sunnies, ipod, brolly, phone, passport, purse, boarding pass… thank goodness I had large coat pockets! But even with those things in my pockets, I still can’t get my suitcase to zip up. Oh and then there was another member of staff with a wheelchair trying to come through the bit of barrier that the lady told me to repack my suitcase in front of. So now I had to move everything mid packing so he can get through with my stuffed full coat on, getting very hot and bothered. Now I’m in the middle of the floor struggling with this suitcase looking pretty pathetic and stressed. Thankfully a guy takes pity on me and comes to help. He squeezes my suitcase shut while I try to wiggle the zip round and I nearly take his fingers off when the zip suddenly moves. Apparently no good deed goes unpunished. Sorry and thank you to my mystery helper man!
When I get on the flight there’s a stag do heading to Oktoberfest as well. Excellent. But I plugged in my ipod and the flight was uneventful. Ami (travel buddy) was delayed but one coffee, one doughnut, one walk around, and one makeshift sign on the back of a boarding pass later, we were reunited. In this time I also noticed that there were now some white stress points on the outside of my suitcase post handbag fiasco. Damn.
A short tube ride later we arrived at a very cute, bright red terraced house. The owners were out but the neighbour let us in and we set about exploring. It was very bohemian with white walls covered in art, but dark wooden furniture, and everything was covered in patterned fabrics or interesting pottery things.  We settled in and after a brief tripadvisor search I had in front of me, the most German plate of roast pork with both bread and potato dumplings and gravy.  Lecker.