Autumn, to-do

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Autumn is officially here and I’m not sure how I feel about it. This time of year always feels a little bittersweet – comfy sweaters and cinnamon spice sound so appealing, but I struggle a bit when the nights draw in and I find myself wishing time away, willing the clocks to spring forward.

Last year I compiled a list together of a few things I wanted to do to enjoy the season but with a few holidays abroad and lots of weekends away, the season passed by without too much angst. This year however I have no trips planned and a job which involves working odd hours with lots of weekends. I’m going to be extra careful to ensure I get enough time outside in the light and time with my people.

Here are a few of the ways I intend on making the most of autumn.

Go on an autumnal walk
Make fondue
Bake a pumpkin pie
Drink festive coffee
Make hot chocolate, drink it whilst stargazing
Try some new soup recipes
Make chutney
Drink mulled apple juice
Go on a haunted activity
Knit a scarf
Carve a pumpkin

6 Alternative things to do in Berlin

Husband and I visited Berlin three summers ago. We had just quit our jobs to embark on a year long trip around the world. Our first stop was Copenhagen where we spent a wonderful few days eating Danishes and being tourists. My brother-in-law joined us for that first city, and after he left, we ventured on to Berlin.

Here are a few of the things we recommend to friends.

Go on the Alternative Walking Tour, here

Street Art Street 2

One of my favourite things to do on a city break, is go on a free walking tour. This one was a bit different than the usual and took us through markets and curiosity shops, past artists squats and to a riverside beach club.

Sing your heart out in Mauerpark

Mauer Park Karaoke Pit

On Sundays this leafy green park, which was once slap bang in the middle of no-mans-land, turns into a massive flea market full of stalls selling trinkets and secondhand clothes… aaaaaand there’s a giant karaoke pit! We didn’t partake in the singing – for the sake of our fellow patrons, but we massively enjoyed seeing people from all over the world belt their hearts out. If you go late in the day, you can get some really delicious food for cheap as the vendors lower their prices to sell the last of their grub.

Be a film geek at the Messedamm underground pass

As we were speeding walking through this underpass to make our bus to Bremen, it recognised it from a scene in the film Hanna. Once you’ve recognised it – you’ll notice it pops up in the cinematic world a lot!

Drink all of the Fritz Kola

I like Fritz KolaAll the varieties of Fritz Kola

You’ll often find me in Brew Dog on a weekend, not because I like beer, but because they sell my beloved Fritz Kola which is the best soft drink ever, in all the land. Try it. Try all of it!

Be silly in a Photoautomat

PhotoautomatYou’ll run into more than one of these as you wander round the city. The cheapest, and in my opinion best souvenir you can buy. Pop in a couple of Euros and SMIIIILE

Stand above the Government in the Reichstag Building

The Reichstag 2The Reichstag 1Did you know you can visit the dome of the Reichstag Building for free? You can walk up the dome and peer down into the debating chamber of  the German Parliament. All you have to do is sign up here.

 

How to survive a night shift

After a glorious, year long reprieve, I’m back to shift work.

I hate, HATE having my sleep messed around with, but I’m getting better at dealing with it these days. A good thing, because night shifts will be a part of my life for a couple of years yet.

Here are a few of the ways I’ve found to make my night shifts a little easier.

Silence the outside, as best you can
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Our blinds don’t do a great job of keeping the light out so I sleep with a merino wool buff over my eyes. I discovered these whilst travelling as they were fantastic for shutting out the rest of the world when I was trying to get some shut eye in a hostel. They’re breathable and stay on your face unlike eye masks, because they fit a little tighter.

Sometimes I wear earplugs – especially if it’s the weekend or school holidays, because quite hideously, the rest of the world does not stop just because I am on nights. Rude.

Watch your caffeine intake
I have had nights where I’ve downed cup of tea, after cup of tea in the hope it would pep me up a bit. Instead, I’ve found that the caffeine makes me feel jittery and nauseous. Sadly, being up at 4 am just isn’t natural so you’re going to feel tired. Keeping hydrated does help – but I find it’s better to stick to water.

Time your break
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I try and take my break a little after halfway through my shift. Purely because psychologically I find it a boost to have less than half of my shift left to go when I get back to work.

Combat nights nausea with mint
Working nights sometimes makes me feel nauseous and I find that having something minty helps with that.

Eat well
7CE93377-01AE-4B36-A64E-8B8D62B35B62Every night shift I crave stodge, but after making the mistake of eating chips and lasagne one too many times on shift and trying to fuel myself on coco pops, I’ve  learnt that having all those carbs in your belly does not make for a happy worker. The post-prandial slump is made worse by fatigue.

I find eating small snacks throughout the night the most helpful, but everybody is different. Find your own rhythm and consider sticking to fresh, wholesome foods. Having said that, sometimes all you want is a bar of chocolate. Eat it. You deserve it.

Have nap before your first shift
I try to wake up at my usual time the morning of my first night, but then have a nap later on. If you can’t sleep during the day at least try and have a time of rest before your shift. Stay off your phone and let your mind relax.

Plan a treat for the end
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I try and grab breakfast with my colleagues after I’ve finished my last night. It’s something to look forward to whilst you’re working and it’s nice to be able to commiserate with friends who understand how damn tired you are.

B is for Bridgewater Canal

Inspired by Roger Oldham’s ‘A Manchester Alphabet,’ I’m exploring this fair city, from A to Z. Read about my wanderings around Ancoats here.

Today’s post is brought to you by the ‘water taxi’ sign that I’ve passed on my way home from work, most evenings, for the past two years. I decided it was time to finally follow the sign and find out what these water taxis were and where they would take me.

Bridgewater Canal - waterfall

The waxis (that’s WAter taXIS), I learnt, leisurely glide up and down sections of both the Manchester Ship Canal and the Bridgewater Canal, stopping at points of interest along the waterways. Since Bridgewater starts with the letter ‘B,’ it provided the perfect opportunity for my next alphabetical exploration.

The canal stretches for over 40 miles between Runcorn and Leigh, with Manchester sitting at the heart of it. Commissioned by the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, it was built as a means of transporting coal from his mines in Worsely, in to the city.

Bridgewater Canal - barges

My cousin came over for the day again and filmed our wanders, but I don’t think I’m going to invite her back. That girl is a rain magnet –  we had beautiful weather all week until she arrived on Sunday morning.

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Places we went, places you could go.

Mamucium, map
Strategically situated at a site overlooking the confluence of the rivers Irwell and Medlock, the Roman fort of Mamucium was built. Manchester was born here, in AD 79. Her first inhabitants, merchants and military. Today, you can see a reconstruction of the North gate and its ramparts, and walk around its foundations.

Mamucium

Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, here
Liverpool Road
Open daily 10am – 5pm

I’ve only been to MOSI once since I moved here which is a poor show on my part. We started our visit by fortifying ourselves with cups of tea in the Warehouse cafe where we also had some really tasty pastries. We spent a couple of hours taking in the exhibits and could have stayed longer if not for our water taxi booking. The museum has a number of talks and activities on throughout the day and whilst they are aimed at youngsters, we found them enjoyable and entertaining.
Manchester Museum of Science and Industry - entranceManchester Museum of Science and Industry - Tim Peake spacecraftManchester Museum of Science and Industry - engine

Manchester Water Taxi, here
A thoroughly enjoyable 50 minute boat ride took us from Castlefield to the Trafford Centre. Whilst it might not be the quickest way to get there, it’s certainly more fun than sitting in a car. Keep an eye out on their Instagram page because they often post discount codes for tickets. Also, it took us a minute to find the boarding point because of the direction we walked along the canal. The stop is round the corner from Albert’s shed,  where you’ll see their sign. Or, if you’re standing outside Barca, look across the canal and you’ll see a duck house – that’s where you need to wait.
Manchester Water Taxi #WAXI - arrivingManchester Water Taxi #WAXI - all aboard

Old Trafford
Though I technically live in the red part of town, I’ve never actually visited the stadium. The water taxi stops here however which would make a nice day out for a football fan -unless, I suppose, you support city.

The Trafford Centre
We only paused here for a comfort break on this occasion but I’ve been enough times before that I have a favourite parking area and place to eat.* Though I still haven’t had my picture taken on the staircase in the food quarter. Maybe next time? But probably not – can someone please explain the appeal??

Worsley
We skipped the village on this trip as the clouds were fast turning grey, but there’s plenty to see and do, enough for a day trip in itself. Including the Monton heritage trail which is a really pleasant walk on both cold wintery days and warm summer ones.

The Lancashire Mining Museum at Astley Green, here
Opening times: Tue, Thu, Sat, Sun: 1.30 – 5.00pm

Still a work in progress as volunteers continue to build new exhibits, but worth a visit to learn about local history. The surrounding area was once full of collieries, long since demolished. Now the museum houses Lancashire’s only surviving headgear (the steel frame in the picture below) and engine house where you can find a winding steam engine. It’s a thing of beauty and they run it on a few days throughout the year – I wish we could have timed our visit for one of those days. Although I’m not sure I dare go back. Seemingly, the reverberations of my coins hitting the bottom of the donation box sent two pin-boards flying off the wall of the visitors centre and crashing on top of a collection of commemorative plates. It was a heart stopping moment and luckily nothing broke but jeepers! That could’ve been baaaaaad.**
The Lancashire Mining Museum at Astley Green - entranceThe Lancashire Mining Museum at Astley Green - machinery

*the Orient car park. Perfectly placed in the middle of the centre so you can do a full circle and don’t have to walk back on yourself. Plus you enter/exit through the food court. Park in the section on the right and go all the way to the back – you’ll find a space  there whilst all the lazy bums fight for a spot closer to the entrance.

**what actually happened is that the command strips had given up at a most in opportune moment, but I still feel guilty.

6 Alternative things to do in Paris

Eiffel Tower reflection{eiffel reflections}

For the last few weeks, I’ve been sorting through my photos so I can get some printed and make an album or two. I’m really enjoying reminiscing about all the wonderful travels I’ve experienced. I love travelling. Like, LOVE love. But I also love planning holidays, so if you make the mistake of telling me you’re thinking of going somewhere that I’ve been before, you will find yourself the recipient of a list of places you should go and things you should do.* In that spirit, over the coming weeks, I’m going to share a few of my favorite spots around the world.

And what better place to start than Paris?

The city holds a special place in my memories. It was the destination of my very first foreign holiday, aged 8. We booked on to a coach trip, the youngest people on the trip by far, apart from one other mother-and-child duo. Whilst the rest of us were ferried around from site to site, they went out on their own, only returning to the coach in the evening for the trip back to the hotel. I remember thinking they were very adventurous. Later, it was the place I visited on my very first holiday without an adult. R, my long-time travel buddy, and I spent a weekend exploring the sites. I practiced my French, we climbed up the Eiffel Tower and spent a day at Disney. I didn’t pack a coat. It was cold. I’ve since learnt to listen to my mother.

And then, back when husband was boyfriend, it was the place we visited on our very first holiday together; my birthday present to him. I found 1p flights with Ryanair, we traveled with hand-luggage and city hopped by plane – on to Girona and then Perpignan. It was the start of many adventures together.**

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So if you’ve got the Eiffel Tower, Laudurée and The Louvre ticked off your list, here are a few places that I am confident are worth your time visiting.

Walk the Parisian High Line
Step back New York! Hidden away in the 12th arrondissement is the original highline ­ The Promenade Plantée. Around the corner from Bastille, you ascend a staircase that takes you to the start of the 4.7km long park which was once a train line. Walking amongst the Parisian rooftops, through bamboo walkways and along the track you can sneak a peek into the windows of those lucky people who get to call this city home.

Eat at the Pink Flamingo
There are a few branches of the pizza shop, but the one in the 10th arrondissement is my favorite as the area is full of cool drinking holes and it makes a perfect stop after you’ve explored Parc de Buttes Charmont (see below). Their pizza toppings that have a decidedly French flair to them (figs and brie, anyone?) and once you’ve ordered they give you a pink, helium filled balloon. Go and find yourself a romantic spot along the canal whilst you wait for your food which will be delivered to you by a guy who’s tracked you down by your balloon. Trés magnifique!

Explore Parc des Buttes Charmont

Sacre Coeur from Parc De Buttes Charmont
{Sacré Coeur from Parc des Buttes Charmont}

A little further out than the major sites but easily accessible by metro, or on foot if you’re a walker, the Parc is a little bit of tranquil paradise. Featuring a man made lake, waterfall, Italian inspired temple and a suspension bridge designed by Mr Eiffel himself, this is a great place to get away from the crowds and have yourself a little picnic. You are also treated to a wonderful view of the Parisian skyline.

Brave a night bike tour, (this is the one I’ve done)
I am a great fan of the free walking tours that you can find in most capital cities across Europe but sometimes it’s nice to give your feet a rest. Whilst you can hire your own bikes all over the city for not much money, I don’t have the steely nerves required to pedal myself around the crazy Parisian roads. With a guide however, I feel much more confident. Paris is just as, if not more romantic at dusk. Taking an evening tour allows you to see the city and its sights as the sun sets. Top it off with an evening cruise down the Seine (included as part of this particular tour) and you might just find yourself proposing to whoever is next to you because it’s so darn romantic!

Visit the Basilica of Saint Denis
Basilica of Saint DenisWhilst the cemetery of Père Lachaise always seems to make it on to top 10 lists, few people seem to venture out of the city to the suburb of Saint Denis, home to a Basilica of the same name. Even if you don’t know much about French history (I don’t, I’m afraid), chances are you will have heard of the famous Marie Antoinette. Although she and her headless husband weren’t initially buried at this church which is the historic resting place of the French monarchy, bits of their bodies were eventually rehoused there. Wander round this great abbey amongst the tombs of the French Kings and Queens of years gone by.

Wander around the Parisian sewer system – Musée des Égoute de Paris
Okay, live with me here. Maybe this isn’t necessarily somewhere to spend precious holiday time if it’s your first trip to Paris but I loved my visit to the Paris Sewer Museum. Seriously, when else are you likely ever to be able to visit a sewer system? It surprisingly doesn’t smell and the tunnels aren’t small and claustrophobic like you might expect.

*The (un)lucky recipient doesn’t really get a choice in the matter.
**I paid for more than just the flights, but I also like to reminisce about the days when Ryan Air were actually cheap so their terrible customer service was much more forgivable. Because you can’t really complain when you’re flight cost less than a chomp bar?

 

Autumn, to do.

Manchester, last autumn

{Manchester, last autumn}

Today is officially autumn. I love the colours of the season and the crisp mornings, but I struggle when the nights set it.

So here are 10 things I’m going to do to enjoy the season. Long, dreary nights be damned!

  1. Make caramel apples, go on an autumnal walk and eat them
  2. Drink a pumpkin spice latte
  3. Buy flannel sheets
  4. Make a pumpkin pie
  5. Wear orange tights
  6. Make a quilt
  7. Do something haunted
  8. Make root vegetable crisps
  9. Star gaze, with hot chocolate
  10. Eat fondue