My travel essentials

Hi EKA,

I hope all is fine!

I think I might have mentioned that in a week or so I’ll be off to Cuba? I surely have mentioned it. Maybe a hundred times?

Anyway, I am already making lists of things I need to take with me and I decided to share it, since I know you are a traveller. Also, maybe you can give me some good advice?

Let’s get started.

Passport
Tickets
Medical travel insurance (compulsory in Cuba)
Visa
Cash (£50 a day, but I hope it’ll be less!)

Paracetamol
Cystitis tablets (just in case)
Candida cream (as above)
Anti-anxiety drugs (for the plane)
Melatonin (for jet lag)
Insect spray (bought it for D’s trip to Morocco, might as well take it)
Plasters

Toothbrush
Toothpaste
SPF cream face
SPF cream body
After sun
Coconut oil (multiple uses)
Argan oil? (for my hair)

Travel pillow
Books (9 hours on a plane!)

That’s it so far. Obviously I will add some clothes and shoes. And underwear. And a straw hat. 

Any tips?

xx G

My German adventures – part 2

The reason why I went to Braunschweig is to visit my friend A who used to live in London and then moved there because she found a job in their dance company. She is a dancer.
On Saturday evening I went to see her performing. The show was great and she’s changed so much since last year when I last saw her performing.

Braunschweig Theatre

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Since it was a première there was a food buffet open to everyone (I love free food) and a party for the dancers in the canteen where they eat every day. I was sooooo tired. I don’t know how I managed to stay awake all night – we went to bed at 3am – but I did and met so many wonderful people.
On Sunday we woke up at 9:30 (yes I had about 10 hours of sleep in two days). Braunschweig is a nice town, very small and quiet. The weather was lovely, so sunny and warm and we spent most of the day out walking around or sitting in a cafe. I did enjoy my time there but I would never ever live in a place like this. On Sunday everything was closed. Everything. Since we didn’t do much, I don’t have much to tell. I’ll just post some pictures of food.
Most if the time, as you know, I don’t eat meat. Turns out that not many German specialities are veggie and you know how much I love to have whatever is typical when I am on holiday. I decided then to try this dish called Leberkäse with fried eggs and bread. The Leberkäse is basically a thick cut of ham. Not my thing. And then I had a Flammkuche which is a puff pastry pizza with cheese, ham and spring onion. Slightly better but still quite heavy and salty.

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After all that food I decided I still needed a dessert. We went to a small cafe where they do massive slices of these amazing cakes. Apparently if you’re having a cake in Braunschweig this is how you do it.

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And in the evening we went to a typical German Stube where I had Schnitzel with a creamy mushroom sauce and beers. No picture of that. I was too tired to even lift the fork to my mouth.
The journey home was very long but not as eventful as the journey in. The most exciting thing was discovering that at Hannover’s airport a normal bar of Lindt dark chocolate costs € 10.00!!!!! Bye bye Germany, I had way too many shocks for one weekend!

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My German adventures – part 1

Truth is, reading this story you’ll probably think I’ve never travelled my whole life.
I am very stressed when I fly and I usually allow plenty of time to get to the airport. But on Friday night, when I fell asleep a little after 10pm, D called me to say he was coming home and woke me up (“Baby, I didn’t think you were already sleeping!”). Then the girl that lives above me decided it was a good idea to start playing music at a very very loud volume and slamming her doors and stomping around the flat. Then D arrived home and came to bed. I didn’ get any sleep until half past midnight. This basically destroyed all my chances of having a good day.
There is a reason why I hate flying from Stansted. Most of the time I have booked a flight that leaves between 7am and 8am which means I have to leave the house between 4am and 5am. Like the other day. I woke up at 4:30 to get a train from Clapham Junction at 4:44. Trains to Victoria Station are usually from platform 14 so why was my train from platform 12? When I realised my mistake it was too late and I had to wait 15 minutes for the next train. Which didn’t arrive in time for my Terravision bus at 5:10. So I panicked.
I started checking on my phone what time the next Terravision was and it was in two hours. I then checked National Express and found a bus that would have taken me to the airport just in time for my flight. I got off the train and started running to Victoria Coach Station. Arrived at the bus I asked the driver if I could buy a ticket on board. He said no, I had to go to the ticket office and no he wouldn’t have waited for me. I rushed to where he pointed at and there was a metallic gate to block the access to the ticket machines. I asked the cleaning lady that was there if she could open and she said to me, very angrily, it’s locked. So I hurried back to the bus driver saying that she wasn’t letting me buy the ticket and he was like, well ok if you have cash you can buy the ticket on board. Whaaaaat?? Why didn’t you say that in the first place? Anyway this is what I did and finally was on the bus to the airport. I arrived in Stansted just a little before my flight and went straight to Pret for a porridge. They have just the best porridge I’ve ever had in my life. I devoured it while walking to my gate. Flight was fine. And then everything fell apart again at Hannover airport.
I am not so convinced about the famous German efficiency anymore. Is it possible that at an airport’s train station there is no ticket office, no tourist information but just one ticket machine? I remembered reading online that to get to Braunschweig I should have changed at Hannover train station but when I checked the timetable on the (bloody) ticket machine it didn’t explain anything, it just said to get the 11:06 from the airport to Braunschweig. Which is what I did.

German countryside from the train

On the train there was no sign displaying where the train was calling so every now and then I checked my Google maps to make sure I wasn’t missing my stop. Problem is I found out I was going in the wrong direction when it was too late to do anything about it.  The F word started flashing in my mind like a neon light.
I arrived at Hameln, last stop of my train, where I ran to the information centre and a very kind lady printed a piece of paper for me with the times and platforms for trains to go to Braunschweig. She explained I would have to go back to Hannover and then get a train from there. I thanked her and then bought the biggest pretzel I could find along with a much needed dose of caffeine (Hameln rip off: € 2.30 for a cappuccino straight out of an automated machine).

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This is where I was supposed to go.

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This is where I ended up.

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This is how I got back.

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Oh well. Who doesn’t like a road trip in the German countryside after waking up at 4:30, missing the train and thinking they would miss their flight too? (Me)
When I finally arrived in Braunschweig and got off at the tram stop Schloss (= castle) I sent D a picture to show him I was finally there.
My friend later told me that the old castle is now a shopping centre.

The castle. AKA the shopping centre.

Spa break!

The two best words coming after weekend.

Bath is a lovely town in Somerset with natural hot thermal water, which makes it the ideal destination for a relaxing weekend.
In just over two hours a direct train from Clapham Junction deposited us on the platform. The plan was: croissants, coffee, spa, afternoon tea, hotel, dinner. Unfortunately, since the spa is so popular, it’s basically impossible to get in at weekends, unless you are happy to queue for an hour or more in the freezing cold February air.

Never mind. We decided to have a look at the town. The natural thermal water has been used since before the Romans (us Italians basically) and we visited the site of the old Roman Baths. Stunning.

Roman Baths – the water is green because the pool is not covered by a roof as it used to be and the sun has made plants and algae grow – said the audio guide

Those Romans did really know how to enjoy their lives. Sauna, hot water, exercise, good food, wine, theatre… Pretty much what I do!

We then set off to the hotel, just a short bus ride from the city. And that’s when I started feeling like I was in a Jane Austen novel.

Our four poster bed. With the fluffiest, warmest duvet I’ve ever had

Love the view from here. Can you spot my feet?

On Sunday the weather was beautiful. We walked from the hotel to the city, a good 40 minutes, in the sun, breathing the fresh morning air. No queue to get in the spa and in a few minutes we were in our robes and slippers ready to relax. The spa has a rooftop terrace with a hot pool and that’s where we were heading first. We took our robes off shivering despite the sun – it’s still bloody winter! and dived in the pool. Well not literally dived. Because that would be dangerous.

A thing British people don’t worry about is eating and then going in the water straight after. The spa was at an acceptable temperature to bathe even on a very full stomach (breakfast: one croissant, eggs Benedict on a toasted muffin, toast, two cups of tea, one glass of champagne) but I started worrying about the few seconds I would have had to walk in my bikini to get in the water. I mean, this is pretty irresponsible. The manager of the spa should think about these things. It’s a health and safety issue.

The spa was great but it’s not a place I would go back to in the immediate future. It gets busy so quickly and bathing in a small space with a bunch of strangers is not my idea of relaxation. It’s pretty gross actually. I wonder how the Romans felt about it.

xx G