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Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Pictures of my Christmas tree. I normally would try and wait until December but all my American friends were putting theirs up the weekend after Thanksgiving and I just couldn’t wait.  I lit some pumpkin spice candles and settled in for an evening of untangling Christmas lights…

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On the left with the living room lights off, on the right with the living room lights on.

And then me trying to be arty with the Christmas decorations.  I do love my red and gold theme…

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Let it snow…

I’ve been watching the weather forecast all weekend and we’re now just 1 hour away from the scheduled 6pm light snow.  If only weather forecasters were that accurate!

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I’m still holding out hope though. The rest of the UK seems to have it…

Snowy road in Stirling

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Inspiration: Part II

(For the first half of my blog inspiration, read Inspiration: Part I)

That summer may also have been the summer my love affair with coffee really started. Not a single one of those road-trips took place without a large Dunkin’ Donuts iced French Vanilla coffee in our cupholders and nowadays, I’d quite willingly hook myself up to a Starbucks drip if they offered one.

My roommate had turned me on to DD’s French Vanilla and it was ‘our thing’. I dread to think how much of our student loans/part-time job earnings we invested into the pockets of Dunkin’ Donuts’ owners.

When I moved back to the UK, Dunkin Donuts’ was terribly missed. Interestingly, there used to be a couple but they didn’t last, although there were a few in Berlin.

In the past couple of years though, Starbucks has stolen my heart. When I was in college, Starbucks didn’t really appeal to me. I thought their coffee was bitter. My first Christmas back in the UK though, and those holiday cups took on a whole new meaning of nostalgia. I’d never had a pumpkin spice latte* but I really, really wanted one. The UK doesn’t even offer the pumpkin spice latte, but we do get gingerbread, eggnog and toffee nut so all is not lost.

 

Plus the peppermint mocha (which I know would make me really sick (all hot chocolate does) but doesn’t mean I still don’t really want to try one!)

 

It is widely recognised that I’m now a Starbucks addict. I come in late to work because I have to stop and get my fix. The baristas recognise me.

Most months I try and limit my intake somehow. I completely failed at a total ban for September but did much better at a Monday/Friday only rule for October.

I could literally drink coffee all day and night. I have three open bags of coffee in my fridge (full, half and decaf) depending on my mood and time of day. There’s even 5 coffee-related goods on my Christmas wishlist this year.

So, clouds in my coffee may be a good metaphor for life, but coffee is sometimes my reason for living!

*the majority of my high-school and college friends were kind enough to get married in the fall so my constant visits back meant I got to try pumpkin spice lattes after all. I didn’t go back this year though, so really need someone to get married again next fall!

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Berlin: Part 3–The Details

We arrived in Berlin on Friday evening, took the train and the underground to our hotel and had drinks in the hotel bar that night.

We were staying in Prenzlauerberg, which is in northeast Berlin and has a very trendy/bohemian vibe to it.

Saturday was the walking tour and dinner at White Trash Fast Food.

Sunday was the East Side Gallery and the view from the Reichstag (Germany’s Parliament).

We flew back Sunday evening.

I actually had very little to complain about EasyJet, despite all the horror stories I’ve heard over the years. I LOVED that there’s no weight limit on their hand luggage, which just makes things that little bit less stressful.

One of my very favourite things was the little green and red men you see at pedestrian crossings. You could tell if you were in East Berlin based on whether or not they were little communists.  I loved that.

Communist Green Man

Communist Red Man

 

We ate currywurst and bratwurst, drank beers and saw the sights.  I’d go back to Berlin in a heartbeart.  There’s so much still to see and do.

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Sunday morning we travelled out to the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery, which is a 1.3km-long section of the wall featuring paintings by 106 artists from all over the world

It’s the largest open air gallery in the world and these were my favourites.

Berlin

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Berlin: Part 1 – The Walking Tour

Saturday, we took a walking tour of the city which started at the Brandenburg Gate. The Gate is topped by the Quadriga, which is the Goddess of Victory in her horse drawn chariot.

View of the Brandenburg Gate from the Bundestag

The Brandenburg Gate is the only surviving gate from the former city wall and over looks Pariser Platz (Paris Square), which is framed by embassies and banks and Hotel Adlon.

Hotel Adlon is where Michael Jackson famously dangled his child out over the balcony…

Next up was the Holocaust Memorial officially the Memorial to the Murdered European Jews.

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It’s 2,711 concrete blocks of varying heights and looks like an abstract cemetery. It’s an eerie, imposing, cold, claustrophobic place that even though the site itself has no specific history with the Holocaust, can’t help but give you chills as you walk through the rows and remember the 6 million murdered.

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Then we got to stand on the ground above Hitler’s bunker, which is now a parking lot for the surrounding apartments.  You’d never know from passing by that it’s where he spent his last days and eventually took his own life, except for a small plaque off to one corner.

Next up, a surviving piece of the Berlin Wall itself. Construction began shortly after midnight on August 13th 1961 by East German soldiers and was an attempt by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) to stop its own people leaving.  Berlin Wall

As we stood alongside, we heard stories of people who attempted to cross the death zone of barbed wire, dogs and staffed watchtowers, like Peter Fechtner who was shot and wounded but bled to death as East German guards watched and West German guards were unable to get to him.

It’s strange to think that this was ongoing in our lifetimes.  The restrictions weren’t lifted until November 1989 but at age 7 I have very little recollection of what history I was seeing being made at the time.

Slightly further along we came to Checkpoint Charlie, famed as a symbol of the Cold War, and a principal gateway for Allies, non-Germans and diplomats between the two Berlins from 1961-1990.

Nowadays, it’s a tourist trap and there’s a partially reconstructed US Army Guard and a replica of the ‘You are now leaving the American Sector’ sign.

Checkpoint CharlieCheckpoint Charlie

From one side you can see the last U.S. soldier, who’s picture overlooks the East and on the other, the last Soviet solider who overlooks the West. The Berlin Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie (Mauer Museum) is supposed to be the best place to learn all about the ingenious escapes to the West but unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop in.

Berlin has some amazing architecture and next we came to the German and French Cathedrals, which stand right next to each other and are exactly the same (although the German one is supposed to be slightly taller).

I love this photo of the top of the French Cathedral peeking out from beyond the stalls of the Christmas Market.

German CathedralFrench Cathedral behind Christmas Market stalls

Further along we came to Humboldt University, Berlin’s oldest University where Marx and Engels studied and Einstein and the Brothers Grimm taught.

Humboldt UniversityThe tour ended at the Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom), which was built to look much older than it really is in order to compete with the Cathedrals of other European cities like St. Paul’s in London and St. Peter’s in Rome. Apparently, the architecture is ridiculous but it goes to show how little I know about architecture because I wouldn’t have known.

Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom)

It forms part of a square known as Museum Island (Museumsinsel), and just off to the left of this photo was the Altes Museum (Old Museum), which houses Greek and Roman art and Queen Nefertiti in the Egyptian museum.

If you’re ever in Berlin, I highly recommend the New Berlin Free tour (it’s based on tips).  It lasts about 3.5 hours including a half hour coffee break near Checkpoint Charlie and starts daily at 9am, 11am and 1pm at the Starbucks on Pariser Platz.

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Inspiration: Part I

Carly Simon’s Greatest Hits album was the soundtrack to my favourite summer in college thanks in no small part to this movie.

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Her songs take me back to carefree days road-tripping down I-95 and my best friend and I singing at the top of our lungs. Six years later, she’s still my go-to choice for karaoke. What can I say, her voice is just a good range for me and there’s always someone that you can sing ‘you’re so vain’ to.

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