...So, Ciaran arrived reeaaally late in the evening of the Wednesday (the problem with flying from/to Stansted is that you need to leave Stansted on the evening rather than the morning flight so that you have time to get down to London, whereas you need to fly to Stansted on the early morning flight so that you can catch trains to wherever you need to get to in the country eg. he was coming from/returning to Wales so that's what the poor boyo had to do, which meant a looot of traveling).
Thursday afternoon we ventured into the city center. I'm not sure if I've mentioned but I live not as close to everything as I could do (the cons of not knowing the city you're going to and just going with any old apartment you find online before you arrive there) - it's about 10-15 minutes on the bus to the main part of the city, which doesn't sound that long but it would in fact take me nearly 45 minutes to walk there and it's not the most exciting route. Anyway, I showed him around the city, and he got to sample his first real Italian gelato (from my favourite place, which I shall reveal in another blog post another time) and we went to look for the tortoises in the park (they've gone away, unfortunately!).
The next day we attempted a feat that I have, thus far, failed at - to get to the San Luca Basilica, located on one of the hills surrounding the city. The first time I tried it I managed to get lost and ended up somewhere totally different, but I'd got some advice on where to go and figured I had it all worked out. Of course, it never turns out that way! This time we did end up going the right way, the problem was that we took the long way up (as it turns out there are two routes you can take) - we eventually whacked out Google Maps to discover that we still had at least another 45 minutes on top of the 45 minutes we'd been ascending (after the walk to the point the ascent began anyway) and it would soon be growing dark (it was a horrid grey day anyway) so we gave up and headed home!
|Happy boyo during the unsuccessful walk!|
Unfortunately on Friday night things went downhill - I got ill. That evening it just started with beginning to ache, and I thought I was just tired or had hurt my back so I loaded up on the painkillers and we went out for a burger. But by Saturday....yeah it was clear that I was ill. Mega sore throat, everything aching, headache and a bit of a fever - the full works, lucky me! So unfortunately Saturday was written off. I think all we did was watch films and make chilli nachos, which was a nice day anyway (just with me complaining about being ill every now and then), it was just a shame that I didn't feel up to doing more!
However, after a slow start on Sunday (and all the painkillers) I felt up to going into the city again. It turned into something of a food day which was great - I think we packed in a gelato, a coffee with biscuits, a meat and cheese board with a bottle of Prosecco and dinner too! All whilst wandering through the city and taking lots of photographs. I decided to shoot on my film camera, so you'll have to put up with my iPhone photos for now. Walking through the city was especially fun because they'd started putting up all the Christmas decorations!
|Here we see the lesser spotted Ciaran, in his natural stance, appears to be stalking some prey..|
|Bows and lights!|
About halfway through dinner (at a nice place that serves really good Italian food, I'll tell you about it soon) I started to feel rotten again so after eating we headed back to my flat for a quiet evening in, not least because Ciaran's flight back the next morning was really early. I think I'll leave out the details of how we had a slight problem with the bus/taxi so he veeery neeeearly missed his flight...because the important thing is that he didn't!!
And that was that, our four days together. It's safe to say he's a fan of Bologna, so maybe next time he comes there'll be more to write about - we didn't get up to all that much this time so that we could have a nice relaxed weekend (although this was not helped by my becoming ill, so we ended up doing even less than I'd thought, oops!).
Unfortunately I spent the rest of the week still under the weather...I spent the majority of it sleeping to tell the truth! So I was really excited for Friday to come around so that I could travel to Germany to see my friend Megan, although I still didn't feel 100% better by then either which wasn't helpful.
I flew to Cologne airport that Friday afternoon and I barely remember the flight as I slept through most of it (I'm getting good at doing that!), though I do remember how NICE the plane was. I used the airline Germanwings for the first time and it made a welcome change from the last few Ryanair flights I've taken - there was way more space, I'll definitely fly with them again! Having arrived at the airport in Cologne I navigated my way to my friend's town of Mönchengladbach via the train, which was super easy and just over an hour later I was reunited with her!
One big difference between here and Germany is that Germany has it a lot colder right now! So we walked pretty quickly back to her flat so that I could dump my bag, and then it was off to find some dinner. Megan had already decided where we were headed and on the way we passed through the town's little Weihnnachtsmarkt (that's Christmas market to you, better get used to that word!), deciding that we would definitely stop by for a hot drink after our meal. Well, it was definitely a great place to eat as they had one of my favourite German things on the menu - SCHNITZEL. As she'd already tried both the options on the menu before (you could have it in a mushroom or an onion sauce) I took her word for it and went with the mushroom one (and she for the onion one), which was seriously delicious (oh by the way get ready to be hungry because I'm going to talk a lot about food from now on haha) and accompanied by a mountain of chips and and a generous heaping of salad, too!
|Yeah. You should be jealous.|
And then we had even more drinks at the market - a mulled wine for me and a hot chocolate for Megan at the market! As you can see (awful photo, I know), you paid a deposit for the mug along with the drink price which you got back if you returned it after - having seen these we decided to start a little collection over the weekend!
We explored the whole market (lots of food stalls but also gifts, decorations, toys, etc) and some of the town (think adorable little streets and Christmassy window displays)...
...before deciding what we were going to eat (first), and decided to head for the stall that was selling Champignons - mushrooms, all cooked up and served with a garlic sauce and a piece of bread. Scrummy.
I think it was not long after this that we also opted to have a banana and nutella crepe - yep just as amazing as you are now picturing it to be!
Typically we managed to pack in a little shopping too - we located the town’s H&M and I’m now the owner of a lovely new hat! As it grew dark it began to get even colder than it had been during the daytime, so we headed to a nice café for a hot drink and to get the feeling back into our fingers. The place we chose was on one of the streets of the market and not too busy, and we sat on the second floor and had tea and hot chocolate. Once we’d thoroughly warmed up we nipped back out into the market for our final Gluehwein (hot chocolate for Megan, again!) of the day. Just because the evening was coming didn’t make the market any less busy, either! (Also I don't know what's happened to the font now but I can't change it so hey ho)
|* In love with these mugs - tiny boots!!!|
Afterwards we made our way back to the station to catch our train back to hers, where we spent the remainder of the evening chilling out, eating chocolate Santas and watching Elf – because we were feeling so Christmassy!
The next morning we were up nice and early in order to get the train to Cologne and have a couple of hours to explore their markets before I had to catch my flight at around 2.30pm. I've not done Cologne before but luckily Megan has been a few times so she knew her way around - not that it was too hard, it turns out the main station is right next to that big famous cathedral of theirs! And of course right next to the cathedral was one of the markets. As we were still a little early and the market hadn't opened yet, we mooched past the shops (nearly entirely shut on a Sunday morning, of course) and down to the river so that I could take a look around. On the way down we came across another of the markets - this one seemed to be themed around gnomes or fairytales, and there were gnome figurines around everywhere getting up to all sorts of things (hence that first photo of the skiing gnomes!) and it was absolutely adorable! They even had a skating rink but unfortunately we didn't have enough time for that one.
So we strolled a little along the Rhein (it was a horrid grey day unfortunately) and then made our way back up to the market by the cathedral.
Having now been to two different markets that weekend we did find that this one had much the same sort of stalls as the others had, but this didn't make it any less fun! There were also some stalls from other countries at this one too, which I don't remember entirely but I think there was a Finnish honey stall, and definitely another from Belgium! And there was also a stall selling solely mustard....bleh I am really not a fan of the stuff.
We began to get hungry, so we checked out the food stalls and were not disappointed. I had a portion of Currywurst followed by another course of the mushrooms I'd had yesterday (though sadly not as good as those ones!), and Megan had a steak burger with lots of ketchup (right, Megan?! Haha) and a crepe! Of course accompanied by a hot drink - Megan had her usual hot chocolate and I tried their Heidelbeerglühwein which was mulled wine flavoured with Heidelbeere (blueberries!), it was nice but a bit too sweet for me.
There was still a bit of time left so we wandered back to the river in order to cross the Hohenzollernbrücke (the big bridge in Cologne which is covered in those 'love locks' that people attach to bridges and throw the keys into the river blah blah you know) and find the padlocks that Megan has attached herself. I wasn't really sure of this concept before (I mean, it's graffiti, right? That poor bridge in Paris is completely covered and sometimes I've seen random ones pop up on bridges in the UK and I just think it looks a little silly with one or two on. Apparently there's one or two on Menai Bridge (one of the two bridges that connect Wales and Anglesey, if you didn't know) and that makes me a little annoyed...) BUT actually this big old iron bridge looks a lot more colourful and kind of nice with all of them on, so I think i've been swayed a little!
|Playing with focal points and aperture...|
|* Hey look there's a man coming out of my hat...oh and look at all those padlocks!|
After this we headed back to the station to get a train to the airport, where we said our goodbyes! It was a really great weekend and quite nice to get out of Italy for a couple of days (though I'm glad Bologna is not quite that cold yet!) and I just love Germany so thank you to my lovely hostess!
Well done if you've got this far, that really was quite long....but at least now you're properly filled in on what I got up to these two weekends with two lovely UK people er, not in the UK! I'm here in the city for just over two weeks more and then it's home for Christmas which I'm getting really excited for - now I just need to finish my Christmas shopping...
Ciao for now!
(Photos marked with * were taken by Megan - we had a slight complication with phone chargers so I ended up not being able to charge my phone and therefore wasn't able to take any photos with it, so I've pinched these ones from her!)