A Travellerspoint blog

Holidays in Berlin

sunny 3 °C

We are lucky enough to have good friends staying in Berlin, so we took advantage of their hospitality for the holidays (almost all 2 weeks of them) and they gave up all of their personal space for the duration. (Thanks guys!!) Berlin over the holidays is especially exciting for a couple of reasons: the Christmas markets and NYE; neither disappointed :)

We spent a good deal of time wandering around the city in our first couple of days, either to tour the city or to look in vain for Chinese food to meet Luke's craving.
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All sorts of funny characters at the Brandenburg Gate. Darth is having a smoke break with the bronze statue; this was entertaining :)

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This is a memorial to the murdered gypsies during the war.
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This is us in front of the Government building, the formerly known as the Reichstag.
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On our way back toward the main centre, we found the Holocaust Memorial:
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We also found the Rittersport Museum/Store:
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And of course, Berlin is just photogenic:
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Though is wasn't too cold in Berlin, we (okay, I) used the cold plenty of times as a reason to stop at the Christmas markets for some gluwein (hot wine)
IMG_6782.jpg I like this picture, even though my eyes are closed. IMG_6847.jpg
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Here are a few shots from Christmas Morning chez Nick and Jonny's:
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Our gracious hosts :)
Nick and I made a fabulous meal, and afterward, Jonny, for reasons unbeknownst to all, decided to revert to his natural state by taking off his pants and serenade us with a sexy (not so sexy!) dance:
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On one of our walks around the city, we followed a walking tour trying to find art murals on the sides of buildings, finishing with the East Side Gallery. Here are a few of the highlights:IMG_6879.jpgIMG_6881.jpgIMG_6889.jpgIMG_6880.jpgIMG_6907.jpgIMG_6910.jpgIMG_6929.jpgIMG_6931.jpgIMG_6933.jpgIMG_6936.jpgIMG_6951.jpgIMG_6947.jpgIMG_6955.jpgIMG_6957.jpgIMG_6971.jpgIMG_6973.jpgIMG_6974.jpg

On one of the days after Christmas, we spent a day learning about the Berlin Wall - a memorial had been set up along several blocks to show where the wall had been, and showed how the first floor apartments had been bricked up to prevent escape to the other side; there were also audio accounts from residents at the time describing their experiences when the wall went up. After a short break at a coffee shop, we made our way to Checkpoint Charlie.
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The highlight of Berlin for us was, of course, New Years Eve. The whole week leading up to it, loud bangs sounded off randomly throughout the city, and we soon realized this was fireworks, as they are sold only during this one week in Germany, at insanely cheap prices. During the day on the 31st, they were non-stop, though mostly still in the residential areas. We got ourselves dolled up and went to a friend's house party, armed with our fireworks and champagne. Out in the streets just before midnight was like a war zone: smoke and broken glass everywhere, fireworks all over the place lighting up all the smoke. Having fireworks carelessly set off in any direction (though mostly up in the air) was terribly exciting at the time, look back at how one practically chased us inside the apartment complex and how one went under a taxi, it comes across as fairly dangerous now. Luke took a video of midnight in Berlin - have a look at his FB page to see it. Some photos:
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The street was an absolute mess.
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After the main street festivities, we got our things together and headed to the club - a complex of places that our one ticket gave us access to: about 15 clubs, each with several rooms....I think. Can't remember it all :) ahh, what a night, hindered only for a short time by the hiccups. Lots of dancing, drinks and great fun til 7 am. We did well, but not by Berlin standards. We spoke to people who'd been out until 1 pm, and some clubs were open for days on end. We almost went out again on Jan. 1 and would have if we didn't have to make a last effort at being tourists the following day. Might have to go back next year!
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This is the debris left in the parking lot near the apartment the next day:
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Posted by Meghan.Gardner 10.01.2014 10:16 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Christmas Time

semi-overcast 10 °C

It's Christmas time once again, and though the weather doesn't make it seem very Christmasy, Nice decorates to the nines each year so no one forgets the festive spirit. Even though we did this last year, we couldn't help taking a walk through Massena with the camera to snap a few of the lights and Christmas village. Of course, we'll soon be comparing Nice's Christmas display with that of Berlin - flying out this afternoon :D

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And this is how you might bring a turkey home in Nice:

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When I first saw them, I thought the butcher had just dressed them up in fake feathers, but after applying some logic and looking a little closer....no, those heads are real.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Posted by Meghan.Gardner 22.12.2013 00:52 Archived in France Comments (0)

Our new digs in Old Town

A little change of scene

sunny 18 °C

Since we've been back to France, I've obviously begun my new job...about an hour from Nice by bus, and perhaps a 30 min drive depending on the traffic. One of the schools where I work is quite far and a little tricky to get to by bus, so we thought it necessary to get a car. This is our new Peugeot 306:
IMG_6306.jpg After driving for a week, I decided that the bus is perfectly acceptable, and I'll continue to take the bus 3 days a week, as it's cheaper and much more relaxing, even if does take a little longer. Traffic and cost of gas aren't worth it!

It's parked in our new neighborhood: Garibaldi Square in central Nice, just on the corner of Old Town, a great place that's close to everything (except work). It's closer though, to the bus that gets me to work :) This is our new apartment:
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It's bright, now that Luke has fixed the broken lights: IMG_6298.jpg
and it's somewhat lacking in all functional kitchen appliances, but we're adapting and improvising: IMG_6296.jpg

We have some nice neighbours: a couple of cafes right outside, and a pirate themed bulk candy store right next door. We are on a central tourist thoroughfare, but we also have many butchers, fresh pasta makers, and bakeries all around us. IMG_6299.jpgIMG_6300.jpgIMG_6308.jpg

And on top of that, the new Promenade de Paillon, the park that they've been working on for over a year that runs down the centre of town, was finally opened last Saturday, and is steps away from our door:
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The only downside is that we're in very close proximity to about 4 churches which start ringing their bells at 7 each morning. But other than that, our new place is great!

Posted by Meghan.Gardner 31.10.2013 11:53 Archived in France Comments (0)

Cinque Terre

overcast 19 °C

For the first stretch of holidays this year, (now working full time for French schools), we decided on a jaunt to Italy's version of the Cote d'Azur to visit Cinque Terre, a series of 5 coastal and very picturesque villages connected by mountain pathways (and by train). We stayed in Manarola at the top of a very steep hill: nothing at first, but after each outing and a long day of hiking, it became tiresome. Each night, we had the choice of 3 restaurants or 1 takeout place for dinner, or visit another village - that's how small these places are. IMG_5947.jpg
On our first afternoon, we took the train to see Riomaggiore, the next town over. At the top of the village, lightening and thunder announced a storm coming from the water, and not giving ourselves enough time to get back down to the shelter of a cafe, we got almost entirely soaked scrambling down these steep and tiny staircases, hoping one would lead to a cafe. Finally, it did and we waited out the storm over some red wine.
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On our second day, we hiked the path that connected the remaining 4 villages: about 14 km, with stops at each one for a glass of beer or gelato. The scenery and the views were incredible; some of the terrain reminded me of northern Vietnam with the terraced agriculture. These villages are built on aggressively steep hillsides and yet, every inch is used. Life in these villages seems dependent now on tourism, but also relies heavily on fishing and this sort of farming. And then other parts of the trail felt like we could've been wandering through a BC forest, lush as it was with moss, ferns and vines. Particularly pleasant though was wandering though the olive groves high up on the mountain sides with sea views the entire way along.
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The mountain pathways were supposedly closed due to risk of landslide....but not for us! This actually meant that no one was collecting fees for using the trail :) (this wasn't a reckless decision; there were quite a few people hiking these sections, and there didn't seem to be any apparent danger of anything)
IMG_6106.jpgIMG_6134.jpgIMG_6135.jpg This is Monterosso in the distance, our destination for the day. IMG_6204.jpg Looking back at the distance we'd covered, our village in the background.

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Monterosso is the largest of the 5 villages and has a beach, so this was the plan for day 3, but unfortunately the weather wasn't warm enough for a swim. Instead we explored the town and then investigated our own village a little closer before finding dinner. IMG_6278.jpg
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Of the highlights were the caprese salads and cappucchinos; and panna cotta on the second night after dinner: wow, heaven in a bowl! IMG_6268.jpgIMG_6269.jpg

We were woken the last night to the loudest thunderstorm we've ever experienced - seemed like the thunder was constant for at least an hour and was so loud we felt like we should have emerged to a bomb sight the next morning. We're back home now and resting our very sore calf muscles after all that hiking and preparing to head off again tonight to Indoor Championships in northern France this weekend.

Posted by Meghan.Gardner 25.10.2013 00:04 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Tour de France

sunny 28 °C

The Tour de France was in Nice on July 2, on it's way from Corsica and then on to Marseille. This was the only point in the Tour where they did time trials. Richard, wish you'd'a been here! They began in town and took the Promenade out by the airport, then north in a big loop and then back again to finish on the main drag of the Prom.
I was supposed to attend a faculty meeting that day out of Nice, but it quickly became clear that almost all transportation routes going in and out of town by road were shut down for the day. Instead of buses stopping in their usual spot, the team trailers were set up instead:
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I met some friends and we all spent some time wandering around taking in the buzzing atmosphere. As the actual race time approached, we tried to make our way through thickening crowds to a place by the course, and were forced to pass through the narrowest section right at the starting line (where everyone wants to stop and take photos). The worst was that people had bikes with them! This made getting though this section quite a frustrating and claustrophobic experience for everyone trying to get from one side to the other. Got back finally Nick's place for a good vantage point to see some action - his window looked directly onto the course - before we had to brave the hellish gauntlet once again on our way to work.

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Posted by Meghan.Gardner 13.07.2013 03:35 Archived in France Comments (0)

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