Burg Hohenzollern – A Day Trip

Full disclaimer- this was supposed to be one post on our full weekend away, HOWEVER I just had so much I wanted to share about each place we visited that I just couldn’t justify having yall read one super long post. Instead, I am going to break this up into three posts over the next couple of weeks covering each outing we did. We only had 3 days over the weekend, so we decided to knock out a couple of the castles that we’ve been wanting to check out. There are two castles that are within an hour (or so) of each other, so we decided to book an Airbnb somewhat in between the two and just go from there.

So, Friday morning we headed out and over to Burg Hohenzollern.

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Hohenzollern is possibly one of the most popular, but quietly popular castles in the region. It sits high on top of the hill, with views around all sides. It has quite the history of owners and destruction/reconstruction. To start with, Hohenzollern is the ancestral seat of the Prussian Royal House and references to this spot date back to the 1000’s. The house was reconstructed in the 1400’s to make it bigger and more formidable. It became a fortress, but after the war turned into ruins. In the 1800’s is was reconstructed and became the castle that we see today. It is heralded as “one of the most imposing Castle complexes in a neo-Gothic style” (via the website: https://burg-hohenzollern.com/castle-history.html).

Hohenzollern was very well worth the drive. Incredible from the moment you lay your eyes on it driving into the region, it definitely gives off all the castle on a hill vibes. We parked on the property and did a short hike to get to the entrance. There are two hike options, one where you can park at a lower level and hike through (this is the free parking I believe) or the one that we did, a shorter hike with paid parking (2 Euro for a car for parking). You are also able to take a shuttle bus from the paid parking area to the castle itself (the cost varies depending on what ride option you choose and how many are in your party). The hike is actually quite pretty, but steep and quite a few stairs.

This particular castle is one with two entrance areas. There are two large gates, one to simply “get into the property” and the second to get into the main courtyard. Before you pass the second gate you are treated to an interior garden lining the round walls, as well as some stunning views from the first lookout. This area is lined with various paths and the views of the town and valley below are stunning. You can walk all along the exterior to see the 360 views, but if you head inside and follow the tour, you will get this chance anyways.

When we went, there was a display at the second gate to see all of the coocoo clocks from area makers (this castle is quite near the Black Forest area- which is known for its coocoo clocks and woodworking). There are also festivals at different times of the year (A spring festival, Mother’s Day event, several performances/open air cinema days, an Autumn festival mid-October and then a Christmas Market in December).

IMG_9935.jpgAfter the second gate, you are able to look right into the heart of the castle with the central courtyard. This particular courtyard is one of my favorites, just due to the look and views of it. I love the bench, the ivy, the brick. On your right is the chapel and church with stained glass windows dating back to the 1300’s. Then you see the “main event”, the castle itself.

There are two options to see the castle, a guided tour or a “casual stroll”. The only real difference between the two is what you would assume, the guided tour gives you intimate details on the history of the castle and family, while the casual stroll only allows you in the castle. They do have a brochure that details out the information of the castle and its rooms if you want a little bit of both. Typically, the guided tour is given in German, but they do offer other languages on certain days and times.

We did the casual stroll and I don’t feel like we missed much by doing that. It allowed us to meander through the rooms how we wanted, and I felt like I got the chance to actually look around (although that might also be because I wasn’t spending the whole time trying to shush a toddler during a presentation). We saw several rooms, each more incredible than the last (my favorite was the Count’s Hall and The Blue Room). In order to preserve the interior, you are not allowed to take photos and you must wear the slippers they provide.

In addition to the interior rooms of the castle, you are also able to see the cellar, which has all the silver stores, and the casemates. These spots have their own special history and charm to them, and once finished you climb the steps to the outer embankment. This stroll gives you a chance to see just about everything the castle has to offer. I do want to note that there is also a café to eat at and a gift shop to get a little souvenir.

IMG_9992.jpgOverall Hohenzollern is 100% worth the trip and I think it should definitely go on your list of castles to see if you get the chance. We loved our time there and the views are quite gorgeous. You can definitely make this a good mid drive stop (as you only need a couple hours tops to visit and explore) or combine it with a couple other stops in the area as we did.

Oktoberfest 2019

It’s the event of the year, the event that everyone talks about, the event everyone mentions when talking about Germany. It’s Oktoberfest. This past week we got the chance to go to Oktoberfest and today I am going to share what that experience was like, some tips if you want to attend, as well as a little history of the festival.

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Oktoberfest originated in 1810 as a wedding celebration for Ludwig I (Crown Prince, later King) and Therese (Princess of Saxony- Hildburghausen). The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities of the wedding reception held in front of the city gates. It has since evolved into the festival you see today. From horse racing being the exciting event, to agricultural shows, amusement rides and carnival games. From Beer stands to beer tents. Fun fact: Oktoberfest has only been canceled 24 times in the 209 years it’s been around (these were only due to illness outbreaks and war).

A couple more fun facts about this year’s Oktoberfest (from the Oktoberfest website)…

There was a total of 17 beer tents, the largest tent being Hofbräu at 9,991 seats. The beer that is served comes from the six major breweries in Munich (Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spaten and Staatliches Hofbräuhaus). There are actually three sections to Oktoberfest: The Large Oktoberfest Grounds (Grosse Wiesn), Vintage Oktoberfest (which is actually part of the large Oktoberfest called Oide Wiesn), and the Small Oktoberfest Grounds (Kleine Wiesn). The Vintage Oktoberfest is the only part of the festival that costs money to get into.

Now onto our day at Oktoberfest…

IMG_8972.jpgTo start with, we wore our German best, our Dirndl and Lederhosen. We had gone shopping about a month back to pick out our outfits to wear not only to Oktoberfest, but to any festival that we attend. There is always a chance to wear them at festivals and picking out a good selection that fitted us properly was important. We were fitted and put together in our best by Moser and I would highly recommend them if you are up for paying a little extra to get “the real deal”.

IMG_8979.jpgGetting to Oktoberfest is super easy by train, about a 2-hour ride for us, and the train ride is already full of the brimming excitement. Having a drink or two on the train ride is completely normal during Oktoberfest and most people you see will actually have a beer in their hand while chatting with their friends. We sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the ride over.

The train dropped us right off at the main Munich Station and from there it was about a 20-minute walk to the actual fair grounds. Super easy to navigate as they have dedicated blocks/signs on the sidewalk showing you the way. There are also crowds and crowds of people heading there, so it’s hard to miss.

Once on the actual fairgrounds we headed straight for the beer tent. We were all meeting up at the Hofbrau Tent, which is the biggest, most packed tent. This year we did not have a reservation (more on that later), so we knew that the earlier we got into the tent the better chance we would have to get a seat. Luckily we were able to go right in, be seated at the table, and have our first beers in a matter of minutes.

You have a wide variety of beer (and alcohol) options, but even just the standard beer was delicious. I say this as a non-beer drinker. You are served full liters of beer, so be sure that you know your limits and can pace yourself properly. There is a couple of non-alcoholic beverages as well if you would like those. Now, within the tent you are able to order a variety of German Delicacies to eat, as well as pick up a Pretzel and a wide variety of souvenirs. We ended up not eating in the tent itself, just drinking some beer, and decided to walk the grounds instead, picking up food from one of the many vendors outside.

The atmosphere inside the tent is infectious. The high volume of people all feeling festive, feeling the alcohol, combined with the music and just the noise is incredible. It has a way of making you feel intoxicated when you haven’t even had anything to drink, and you really feel that “let loose” feeling. It’s fun to just sit and watch the people around you and allow yourself to get swept away. But, after some time it’s good to get out, get some air, and maybe take a little walk through the festival grounds.

Outside the beer tents, is a carnival set up. You’ve got carnival games, roller coaster rides, even a Ferris wheel and carousel. There are a lot of food vendors selling anything from chocolate, to candies, to nuts, and traditional German food. Honestly, we just wandered through the various streets, soaking in the atmosphere. Outside the tents is extremely family friendly (more on that later) and we saw plenty of families enjoying the carnival atmosphere.

Overall, we had such a blast and are definitely going to be attending every year that we are here. It is well worth…well everything, and we loved being able to just let loose and really experience the culture.

Some tips for you if you would like to go…

Tip #1: Take public transportation. Here’s the deal, you can drive there. You can park nearby and take a bus to the grounds. It is an option and may be the best option in some cases. HOWEVER, I feel like it is safer, faster, and easier to take the train. Not only are you avoiding the obvious drinking conundrum, you are also avoiding the traffic and parking. When we were leaving (by train), we happened to go right past the Autobahn, and it was completely stopped. No movement in any way. It’s a long day, don’t make it longer (or dangerous).

Tip #2: Reserve a table. You don’t HAVE to do this, however if you want to be guaranteed a table in the tent that you want to be in, reserve a table. You are able to reserve tables anytime from {just about} the conclusion of Oktoberfest up until a month or two before it opens. You may be able to get a seat when you arrive without a reservation or you may not. If you decide to reserve a table (or a seat), your reservation ticket comes with a beer, a meal, and a guaranteed time to have a seat.

Tip #3: Don’t bring a bag. Large bags are not permitted on the fairgrounds, and even small bags can be a bit of a hindrance. I took a small crossbody bag to hold our things (as we didn’t really have any pockets to use) and that was it. Diaper bags are not allowed. You can check the Oktoberfest website for full details on the size limitations if you absolutely need to bring a bag.

Tip #4: All About the Family. My honest opinion on Oktoberfest…don’t bring the kids. This is not to say that you can’t bring kids or that the event isn’t kid friendly. Outside the tents is actually quite family and kid friendly. They also offer family days where it may be a little “tamer”, but honestly, in the tents it gets crowded quite quickly and the spaces are so tight and packed that it may be a better option to not bring the kids. Strollers are allowed outside on the grounds Sunday through Friday till 6PM (not on Saturdays or the Public Holiday), and there are biergartens that you can sit, drink and eat at if you like. They do also do a “child finder” bracelet for young children (I’ve read about this, but did not have the kids with me so I don’t know how that works). It is entirely up to you and your family, but I don’t know that our children will every actually attend Oktoberfest.

Tip #5 Check the Oktoberfest Website. Oktoberfest is run by a great organization and the website is top notch. They have a map of the fairgrounds, including information on where everything is located, AND a really great tool to see what the crowd situation will look like while you are there. They have statistics from previous years, as well as any changes or improvements for the current year. There is also an app that you can download on your phone. It’s a really great option while you are trying to figure out your Oktoberfest experience.

 

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed learning and experiencing Oktoberfest with us! Honestly, if you are planning a trip and happen to be around on the same dates, make a day to go. It’s not only about drinking, it’s also the festival and just letting loose.

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2019 – Inverness

When looking at Scotland and where to travel within the country, I was torn as to where exactly to go in The Highlands. I knew that I wanted to be in The Highlands, to be near, but maybe not in, a city, and just have a couple of “slower” days to start ending our trip. Honestly I was torn between going to Inverness and going to Isle of Skye. I did a lot of map looking, a lot of price looking, and a lot of activity looking. Ultimately I settled on Inverness. I just felt like that area would be exactly what we wanted. I would like to go back and spend a little bit of time back in Scotland and not only be in the Highlands, but also go over to visit the Isle of Skye. There is just so much beauty there and I really just felt like my heart felt at home.

I’ll talk about the drive in a minute, but want to talk about this first. Our accommodation in Inverness was actually located on the Black Isle’s, about 20-30 minutes outside of Inverness city. IMG_8042We stayed in an Airbnb called the Taffs Barn and it was absolutely perfect. It is a former barn that has been renovated to fit 2 cottages (with a passage in between, so you don’t share walls or anything) and it had the dreamiest field/highland views. It felt secluded enough that we didn’t feel anything other than peace there. I highly highly recommend staying at this location if you stay in the area.

The drive from Edinburgh to Inverness is only a couple hours max, consisting of true highland country roads. We decided to make a pit stop on our way up to give us a little chance to see something that I wanted to see, as well as just stretch our legs.

 

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Our pit stop was the great Balmoral Castle. This is a favorite private residence for the Queen of England, and I can totally see why she loves it. It has never been used for formal royal functions, but rather is a country home for the Royal Family. A private estate, the tour consists of the gardens, a walk along the estate, a walk along the river, and a tour of an adjacent ballroom used by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. We may not have gotten to see a lot of the castle itself (and I wouldn’t want to as it’s a private residence), but what we did see was just beautiful.

One more thing, the weather was off and on for us while we were in Inverness. We had one day of gorgeous sunny warm weather and one day of grey, wind, and rain storms. I’m kind of glad that we got both weather options because, like I said in my Edinburgh post, I love getting that typical Scottish rain, but I’m also glad that we got some sun and warmth to go with it. It worked out really well for us, and once again, the day we left it was pouring it down rain.

Day 1:

Our Day 1 was all about battles and military force. We had decided that we would have meals at our AirBnB since we were a little further out in the countryside, so once we left the barn, we simply headed straight to our first stop, Culloden Battlefield. Now, if you watch Outlander or if you’ve read the books, you’ll know Culloden. If you don’t, Culloden Battlefield is the site of the battle of the final Jacobite Rising. There is an entire history spanning many years and many family lines in regard to the Jacobite Rising, The Stuart Family, and such, but this site is where it all came to a head in 1745. This site is where they battled, often to the death, for what they believed in. It was the last pitched battle on British Soil, lasted less than an hour, and had a death toll of around 1500. To say that the site was moving is an understatement.

I think I always have this kind of “shock” moment when I walk through some areas of history- the landscape and area is just so gorgeous here in particular with the highlands and the fog, but you have this history of such death and destruction of life. It’s something I’ve always kind of marveled and wondered at, even more so since coming to Europe. (Dachau in particular is one that really comes to mind- we had such beautiful weather and the area is gorgeous, but you have such a senseless loss of life, of the pain and torture of a large scale amount of people, and so much more that just puts you at odds with the beauty)

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They also have Highland Cattle at Culloden and I made good friends with this sweet one. 

Along with the battlefield, the visitor center has a really informative, well laid out exhibit that talks about the history and what led to the battle, along with the battle itself. There is also an immersive battle experience in one room that places you right in the center of the field. There are also speakers there to talk about the folks involved on both sides of the battle, from high up in the military, to what would have been considered royalty, to the everyday commoner. It allowed for a true experience of the battlefield and time period.

 

 

 

 

 

From there we decided to continue on the history timeline and head over to Fort George. Fort George is a military fortress from the 18thcentury. If you’re wondering on those dates and timelines, yes, Fort George was built/replaced shortly after the battle in response to the rebellion. It is still in use today and because of that certain areas of the installation are off limits. Even with those limits, there is so much to see, and this is such a cool fortress to explore. Not only is there a lot of fortress information and you can spend a couple hours wandering its rooms and battlements, but they also have a museum that breaks down the history of the unit that is stationed there. There is quite a lot of artifacts from various engagements that they’ve done (including a lot of WWII and Japanese items).

The view from the battlements is also quite gorgeous. It overlooks the Moray Firth and you can see across the water over to the little towns, not to mention on one side there is the possibility for Dolphin siting’s! We were there at the wrong time and the weather/water was too rough for us to see them, but it would be a cool spot if you could (it is regardless, but that’s an added bonus).

Our final stop on the way home was Chanonry Point.

This is a spot almost opposite of Fort George where you can look out at Moray Firth and the other water spots and potentially see Dolphins. Since it was the same day, same storm, we did not see any, but it is a simply beautiful spot to just sit and spend a little time (which we did do…).

Day 2:

We started our morning back at Chanonry Point right at the tide time to try and spot some Dolphins. This is a fairly regular occurrence and we heard it’s one of the largest most active pods, but in the time that we were there, we did not see any of the pod. This was a tiny let down, but being against such clear, calm, water on such a beautiful sunny morning was the perfect start to our day.

Since the weather was so perfect we decided that we would head over to see Loch Ness. Now, Loch Ness is basically a massive body of water that has a superstition attached to it. It is incredible in that the amount of water is astounding, so it is worth viewing and learning about even if you don’t care about the superstitious side of things. We started at the visitor center which details a lot of information about the Loch itself. It gives stats, shows movies detailing the different ways they’ve tried to survey the lake, and show various displays about different events occurring at Loch Ness (plane crashes, boat issues, world speed record attempts).

Once we finished the visitor center we headed over to Urquhart Castle.

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This was what was heralded as THE place to go to get a good view of Loch Ness. As it is also a ruined castle, we were especially interested to see it. I’ll leave most of my tips for this in my tips and recommendations post, but I found this particular spot to be OK. We got some very pretty views and a decent history of the castle, but I felt that the views were better outside the castle itself.

That wraps up our time in Inverness! Honestly, we wished that we had one more day in this area to actually go into Inverness properly and have a stroll round the city (we probably still could have done this, but we were so exhausted by this point), but overall I think we hit the nail on the head for the sights we wanted to see.

I hope that you enjoyed seeing Inverness through our eyes! Have you been? What was your favorite? What would you most like to see?

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2019 – Edinburgh Scotland

Our second “long” stop on our Summer Holiday was to stop in Edinburgh Scotland. This was the one city in Scotland that I knew that we had to stop in. Edinburgh has a long history both in Scottish history and Scottish/English history. It also has a very unique feel to it (or so I thought when I talked to others/looked at pictures) of olde world meets modern times. So, when planning our summer holiday, I knew that our Scotland portion would include Edinburgh and then one area in the Highlands.

The drive from London to Edinburgh wasn’t too terribly bad. It’s a long-haul drive, but with stops and the pretty countryside it made for a very nice drive. We rented a flat in Edinburgh that was maybe a 10-minute walk from “old town” Edinburgh. It was a pretty in the middle spot for both sides of Edinburgh that we wanted to visit – the castle and the palace. The flat itself was a really cute set up with a surprising size kitchen and private entrance.

Weather wise we got exactly what I expected- rainy and grey. It was brilliant (I’m a person who loves the rain) and definitely added to our Scotland experience. We made great use of our rain jackets as we walked everywhere, even in the rain.

Day 1:

We started our day off with breakfast in a really quaint, but trendy café called Cult Espresso. We just picked up a couple of baked goods, coffee and a smoothie and were pleasantly surprised by how filling and delicious everything was! I loved the feeling of this little café and it was the perfect way to start our day off. Once we finished, we headed up to Edinburgh Castle. We had pre booked a morning at Edinburgh Castle and we still managed to spend 3-4 hours on the castle grounds looking through all of the different areas. They have their own set of Crown Jewels which were really cool and the history behind them was very interesting (lost, found, stolen, lost, found, etc.). We also managed to stay long enough to watch them do their 1pm Canon Firing, which they do at that time every day. The boys really enjoyed seeing that (after Colton got over the jolt of it) and we enjoyed doing a little whiskey trial.

Once we finished at Edinburgh Castle, we decided to just wander the streets with only vague destinations in mind. I wanted to walk down Victoria Street (which was totally worth getting us lost and having us walk all sort of back alleys to get back on track) and I wanted to try and make it to The Real Mary Kings Cross. We did not end up getting to go into that museum as the tickets were sold out until the evening time. (pre book, pre book, pre book!!!!) We stopped into the National Library and walked through the exhibit they held there (about enlightenment), as well as a couple shops along the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile refers to the mile walk and road from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace.

We also stopped in to The National Museum of Scotland. First, the interior of this building is so incredibly cool. Just the architecture of it makes it worth the stop. It’s a free entrance museum and we picked two exhibits to go in to. We started in the Animal Exhibit (so proper- I don’t remember the exact name) for the kids and they loved pointing out the different animals. The displays showed quite a variety of animals and we even got to stand on a scale to see what animal we weighed the same as. It is a very interactive portion of the museum very much for children and covers other topics, such as STEM topics and space/our universe. Once the boys had a little overload from there, we wandered up to the Ancient Worlds exhibit to take a look at the Ancient Egypt artifacts. Fun fact about me: I used to be obsessed with Ancient Egypt. Not sure what triggered that interest, but it used to fascinate me. It was nice to have the interest re ignited and look through the various coffins and mummified bodies they had on display as well as the jewelry and everyday items.

We decided to have dinner at a popular local spot called Gourmet Mash Bar. They do a lot of potato (as the name would suggest) with various meat options. I got chicken, the kids got sausage, and my husband got … We also decided to have some drinks, which gave me an excuse to try some Pear Cider. The Pear Cider was actually quite nice, although I learned that I prefer to drink it out of the bottle or lukewarm, not poured over ice. It got a little too sweet and bubbly when combined with ice. After dinner we were treated to a lovely Scottish downpour as we tried to find our way back to the house which gave us a chance to really embrace the rain and our rain jackets.

Day 2:

Our second day was supposed to be a fairly clear day after some morning showers. We decided to have a bit of a later start (aka our kids slept in and we decided to just go with that) and it ended up maybe working in our favor? We started with breakfast at a little café called Consider It (Chocolate). This is a plant-based donut shop and we had some of the best donuts ever at this café. I also had a very delicious cup of tea and we had a little goof around with photo’s while we were here. It was a really nice, slow start to what would turn out to be quite the day.

There was still rain forecasted for the next hour or so, but we decided to just go ahead and leave the café and move forward with our plans. The main goal of our day was to hike Arthurs Seat and tour Holyrood Palace. Our original goal was to walk the ridgeline between the two, but as you’ll read and find out, that did not become an option. A little background first.

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Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano with an elevation of 251 Meters (823 ft) at its highest point. The Seat itself is the peak of a group of hills that make up Holyrood Park, which is what Holyrood Palace backs up to. You can hike up to the peak and get an incredible panorama of Edinburgh and it is actually a relatively easy hike. There are two options to hike up, one a “back and forth” gentle upward slope and the other being a staircase straight up the mountain. You can create a trail at just about any spot, but those are the two popular sides. Right now, climbing is not allowed due to rock slides. We decided to hike up using the stairs because that was the side that we came to, which actually worked out better overall, and we got about a quarter of the way up before we got hit with a torrential downpour.

Yep, we hiked that hill (I so want to call it a mountain) in a downpour. Honestly, it was epic, and I would not have done it any other way. It really added to the experience and the sun broke just as we reached the summit. It just made for the most incredible and empowering experience. I was a little worried doing this hike and these heights with both boys, but it was totally worth it. We hung around at the top for a little while, snapping pictures, and enjoying the view before heading back down. We decided against walking the ridgeline and instead do the gentle downward walk on the way down as the volcanic rock that you climb down had become very slick with the rain. This gave us a couple more spots to stop and admire and it also deposited us right at Holyrood Palace.

Holyrood Palace was another spot that did not disappoint us in any way. They had several exhibits about the history of the Scots Rebellion, Mary Queen of Scots, and information about the current use of the Palace. We got to walk through several bedrooms (hello Mary Queen of Scots and where the attempt was made on her life) AND they had a whole exhibition set up for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding, including the dress and everything!! I knew that there was an exhibition, but I guess forgot that it was at Holyrood. Talk about a pleasant surprise!!! We also got to hear about the disused Abbey that was/is a part of Holyrood, and walk through the gardens.

Overall an absolute gem of a day.

We stopped for a quick dinner in one of the little café’s just off the palace and then headed back to the flat for an early evening.

That rounds out our time in Edinburgh! I hope you enjoyed seeing Edinburgh through our eyes. What was your favorite thing to hear about? Have you been to Edinburgh? What was your favorite spot if you have been? What would you most like to see for yourself?

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2019: Calais and Dover

Good morning and happy Friday!! Today marks the start of my many many blog posts about our Summer Holiday. I think this is going to end up breaking down into 5 “what we did” posts and 3 “tips/recommendations” posts. I just have so much that I want to share about our trip, tips for future trip takers, and things that I want to look back in and reflect about. It would just simply be too long to only do one or two posts…SO…

I am going to break it up by “location” or Day. This means that there will be separate posts for London, Edinburgh, and Inverness and then two additional posts about the stops we made WHILE traveling to and from. The individual cities will also have separate recommendation/tips posts, but the travel day posts will just have the tips within the post…

If that makes sense? Hopefully it does because this is going to be a long post and I’ve already blabbered on for 151…152 words.

When we originally planned this trip, I picked out the three cities we wanted to visit, knowing one would be London, one would be in the Highlands, and I wanted to do an “old school” Scotland spot. After quite a bit of back and forth and weighing our options, we ultimately decided that driving would be the best option for our family. When it comes to cost, enjoyment, and ease driving was just what fit for this particular trip. This meant having to cross the Chanel with our vehicle.

There are two ways to cross the channel, the Euro Tunnel or the Ferry. Both options have you drive your car into a train or ferry in Calais and then be whisked across/under the water to Dover on the other side. There are pros and cons to both options, and we weighed both choices for a long time. Ultimately we decided to take the train across. The benefit is that it is quick (about 35 minutes), but you stay with your car and do not have the gorgeous views and café that you get with the Ferry. I am not sure how often the Ferries get “cancelled” or pushed back on the time’s, but that is something else to consider. We had cancellations or delays on both sides of the crossing (this was handled very well though, they have a service spot with a lot of shopping, and they will automatically sort your vehicle into the next available train).

So, once we determined that we would be staying a night in Calais, I started to look around and see what we could experience while we were there. The drive to get to Calais for us is an almost all-day drive, so I knew that there wouldn’t be a lot of energy/time for us to really explore. This was fine as Calais is a port city, which means there is a lot just right on the pier if you don’t want to go far/the time is getting late (and you have little ones like we do). We ended up with a couple of free hours, so we wandered over to the Lighthouse, climbed to the top and looked out at the city below. This was an absolutely beautiful view for us and a lovely way to get our bodies moving after being cramped in the car all day long ha-ha. I’m starting to really love these aerial city shots that we’ve been doing a lot of, it’s nice to see a city from above.

We also decided to walk along the pier of Calais, watch the cars board the ferry’s and watch the water of the channel crash in and out. It may not be the most exciting thing, but watching the sun slowly start to go down while listening to the waves is just so incredibly relaxing.

We actually ended up eating dinner at one of the stand-up shacks right near the pier, choosing burgers, fries and cola’s for dinner. We stayed in a hotel in Calais, choosing the Holiday Inn Calais for our one night there. The hotel is actually right on the water and is a completely fine choice to sleep for the night.

Once we reached England and the other side of the Channel, we decided to take a stop at Dover. I’ve always wanted to see the seaside town of Dover and its beautiful White Cliffs. As soon as I had seen that no matter which choice we made, we would be right near/in Dover I knew that we had to stop there. It was a no brainer for me.

We did two stops in Dover, Dover Castle and The White Cliffs of Dover. Exploring Castles, both intact and ruined, have quickly become one of those “things” we do while traveling. They hold such a wealth of information, history, and can be some of the prettiest spots to walk.

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Dover Castle was no exception to this. Not only is the castle stunning and the displays full of information and objects from the time period (found on the property), but they have a cast of period actors that roam the grounds/are in the buildings as you walk through. It just added such a good touch to the castle, without feeling cheesy or cringeworthy. There were two exhibits that we were not able to see, the underground tours, as the queue’s got to be too long for our two very tired little boys. This isn’t anything that we weren’t aware, when purchasing the tickets, the attendant said that they were expecting a high volume of visitors and those two tend to go quickly. Regardless, I would still recommend a stop to Dover Castle, it’s the perfect stop to stretch your legs and learn a little history.

The cliffs are actually right down the road and you can see it from the overlook point at the castle, so make sure you take a look from the distance before you head over.

Oh, the cliffs, the White Cliffs of Dover… I got to live out every Victorian/English Drama Movie/TV Show I’ve ever seen and stand at the precipice of those cliffs dramatically staring out to the abyss….ok I’m exaggerating just a little bit, but it was a dream spot and a definite must see. Not only are the cliffs themselves incredible, but the water- oh the water- a stunning blue/green combo that makes one swoon at the site. Now, we only had time to go out to the lookout vantage point, BUT you are able to hike out to the cliffs themselves, the lighthouse, and have a lovely afternoon tea at the café near the lighthouse (which I so so so wanted to do). Another perfect  stop if you just want to get out and stretch your legs for a little while.

So that was the first, short leg of our Summer Holiday. I hope that you enjoyed seeing Calais and Dover through our eyes! Let me know if you have any questions, and if you’ve been there, is there anything you would add? What was your favorite spot?

Round The Kettle Ep. 16: A July and August Debrief

Oh, hi there! Long time, no speak…

How are you? I’ll be honest, it feels a little weird doing this this way, but I couldn’t just jump right back into normal blog posts without doing something else. That felt much weirder. How did July treat you? It’s a little crazy to think that it is now August 2019. I feel like our time is just flying by and there really isn’t any stopping it. It doesn’t help that we’ve just been a busy storm over here.

I figured that I would take this Round the Kettle as a way to sort of…organize my thoughts. Let you in on a little background of what has happened and what will be happening and just kind of have a chance for us to catch up properly. That ok? I hope so 🙂

So, July, whew what a month! In our area and my husband’s job, July tends to be a mass holiday time period with everyone going on holiday throughout the month (to different spots and times obviously). To be honest, we only truly started taking summer holidays a couple years back, we used to just save the time off days up for winter holiday and take a month-long December/January time period. But, once we started the summer holiday, we haven’t really been able to stop.

One of the benefits to living overseas is being able to do a lot of foreign travel. It’s not “cheap”, but it also isn’t expensive (as compared to traveling to Europe from the States). We are definitely changing our budget around to accommodate our travel and are very happy and willing to do that. But, I digress… It’s been really fun to watch where all of our friends have been traveling to as there is such a variety to the trips here. I’ve seen people go to France, Croatia, Italy, Prague, and then our very own trip over to England and Scotland.

Did you go anywhere in July? Any Summer Holidays?

I’m going to be completely honest; I have no idea how I’m going to be breaking down our travel into reasonable blog posts. We saw so much. We did so much. We experienced and learned more than I could even imagine. And I have SO MUCH TO SHARE. It’s something that I’m actually really struggling with in a weird way. I think I’m going to do a breakdown of our trip in this post, and then go from there, although after the breakdown if you have any idea’s, please let me know!

So, our summer trip. To say that England and Scotland were a dream holiday for me would be putting it very mildly. I’ve been dreaming of a chance to visit these countries for a long time. I’m a huge Anglophile, a huge reader, and the Highlands of Scotland have always held a sacred place in my heart (now a much bigger much more sacred place). When hubs agreed to the trip, I could not wait!

We did a total of 14 days away as follows: Day 1 and 2 travel, stopping in Calais for the night, stopping in Dover, Kent, England and then arriving in London, England early evening of Day 2. We did the Eurotunnel to cross the channel both going to and coming from. Day 3- 5 were in London, Day 6 we headed up to Edinburgh Scotland. Day 7-8 in Edinburgh, Day 9 headed up to Inverness with a stop at Balmoral Castle. We spent Day 10-11 in Inverness/Black Isle and then used days 12-14 to come back home with a few pit stops in Bastogne and Luxembourg.

Over all the trip was absolutely perfect, we would have preferred to have one more day in Inverness, but more on those specifics in all of my numerous travel related blog posts coming up.

Now, looking forward, August is going to be equally busy, but more in the home sense.

I’ve got to finish up putting our house together for starters. All that’s really left are the “final touches”, but those can be a bit of a pain to get just right. I do plan on sharing some of the things from our house, but, again, more on that later in the month.

I’m going to be participating in a readathon for the entire month, with a goal of reading 9 books by the end of the month. Which means I’ve spent the past week trying to get everything sorted so that when August 1 came, I didn’t have nearly as much on my plate and could focus mostly on reading.

To top all of that, my husband is now going into his busy time at work. He will be in and out for the majority of the next couple of months which means that everything is going to be double what it is normally. It also means that everything that can go wrong probably will and we are just going to have a fun time on this ride called life.

So, overall that’s where I’m at. Tell me, how was your July? Are you ready for it to be August? Before too much longer the temps will start to fall and Autumn will be upon us. Are you excited? I sure am.

No Camera’s Allowed

It’s no secret we’ve been doing A LOT of travel over these past few months and that is not something that will be changing anytime soon. It’s also no secret that I’m a major camera/picture junkie. I LOVE taking pictures.  I’ve always got my camera out from everyday little moments (seriously, my older son just looked so cute playing with a baseball bat in the store), to bigger vacation moments (this scene was just dreamy!). I’m one of THOSE people. I love having all of the memories to look back on, little snippets of our day to day to have for memories. This is especially heightened when we travel.

I’ve been able to capture photo’s at almost every place that we’ve traveled (every place’s exterior at least), but I have noticed that there are some locations that will not allow camera’s or photos. The most memorable were Neuschwanstein/Hohenschwangau, Berchtesgaden Salt Mines, Mozart’s Birthplace, and Salzburg Cathedral doesn’t encourage them. Each place has their own vast reasons as to why and I am not here to talk about the reasons (frankly I can guess, but just respected their rules).

With that though, it got me thinking. Every time I pick up my camera I pull myself ever so slightly out of the moment. Every time I go to take a picture of a place, rather than just take a minute in that place, I pull myself away. Yes, I’ve got a beautiful picture to hang in my home, to remind me of the wonderful places we’ve been, but I also have then taken a few minutes out of our time there (just for one single picture, not for all of them), to take the picture rather than simply enjoy the scenery.

I’ve been pretty good at balancing pictures and being in the moment at every place that we’ve traveled, but in places where “No Camera Allowed” is displayed, I honestly get a little thrill out of it. A chance to just look, to not feel the need to capture everything I want (which is A LOT). I am able to focus more on what I’m looking at, take a little more time at each point in a tour, and while I don’t know if the enjoyment level is really any more or less (as like I’ve said I love taking pictures) it’s definitely different.

I’ve even noted this in my everyday. As I said, I’m always taking pictures in our everyday. Our kids are actually picking up on that, and will say cheese at any time or even pose sometimes haha. I love seeing what we were up to at various times of our weeks and it’s really funny to look back on. I’ve been trying to get better over the past year or two about just taking a step back from being like that, for a similar reason than the one’s I’ve stated above.

Now, let me make something clear…this picture bit has really nothing to do with Social Media or with Blogging. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember. Always wanting to capture moments in pictures and in words, rather just being in the moment. This is nothing new to me. Social Media and my Blog has given me a way to share that with others, but it is not the root of what I am talking about.

I also want to be clear that I don’t think that there is anything wrong with this. I think that it is great and I fully plan on continuing on being that crazy picture person, BUT I definitely have enjoyed a bit of a reprieve every now and again and I think I need to do that more.

Looking through the lense or viewfinder can be incredible and you can see things and people in different ways, but It doesn’t really compare to just putting the camera down and being present at that moment. So here’s to less camera time and more in person/in the moment time.