One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.

Jacinda Ardern

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Christmas cheer, Berlin

While some people do the 12 pubs of Christmas rounds, I did the 5 markets instead. Mind you, the sheer volume and varieties of mulled wine, eggnog and other hot alcoholic beverages, probably made the pubs look like an apprentice.

December. Germany. Christmas. Markets? Yes, the association with markets isn’t crazy. In fact, the Christmas markets in Germany come in all sizes, shapes and styles. Think of Berlin alone, you’ve got soooo many choices and options. I managed five different markets this time around and as a native Berliner, the magic remains when the lights are switched on. The five I’ve visited are all great but I do have my top recommendation. Let me explain to you below, the different ones I got to enjoy and if you’re not planning a visit this year, maybe next year is a good time. Also if you switch over to my IG account, be warned, there are many, too many food pictures. I’ve outdone myself this year again and won’t be hungry until the goose hits the table on the 25th. So worth it! Every bite, every sip, every giggle and fun times with my best friend.

Starting with Christmas market number one: Alexanderplatz in front of Galeria Kaufhof. It’s one of the smaller ones, quite busy because it’s so central, terribly overpriced (€4.50 for a Currywurst! Who are you kidding?!), tourist hotspot but still cute. They have a number of art/ handmade crafts stalls which I normally enjoy the most. My favorite stall of them all on the small Alexanderplatz market: the Matrjoschka stall. I grew up with Matrjoschkas and they are very special, handcrafted, hand painted, unique dolls. I find the variety, colours and details incredibly fascinating. If you’ve never had one, you should get one! Prices start from €20. All the traditional German food stalls are around too. We used this one to start our tour and had a snack – Bratwurst and Krakauer. We did get distracted for 2h, watching the new Fitzy film 100 Things @100dingeofficial in the cinema which is right beside the market. The building itself because of its height, offers a cool panorama picture of the Alexanderplatz and from there you can easily spot, Christmas market number two.

Christmas market number two included a panorama view! (picture proof will follow) You will find this one between the TV Tower and the red brick building called Rote Rathaus. In the middle is a fountain called Neptunbrunnen. During the Christmas time, it’s also the center piece of an ice skating rink. What can be said about this market? We ate. We drank. We walked. A lot. It was cold, freezing but we managed. I still swear by the layers of clothes. The lights. My favorite part when it gets dark. If you’re in Berlin, visit this market. It’s not too small and not too big, overcrowded on the weekend? Absolutely. Not for the faint hearted or claustrophobic tendencies (yes, I struggle every time). Also, advice: Stay clear off the Ferris Wheel. The prices are outrageous and the queue is long, very long, too long. You’re better off, just eating more from the numerous food stalls and enjoying the red and white hot mulled wine. Cheers!

Christmas market number three: Gendarmenmarkt, facing the large concert hall. You can easily walk from number two to number three but bare in mind the dropping temperatures (layers of clothes essential!) and it takes about 20 minutes. The beauty of it though – apart from the many lights you’re surrounded with – you will pass by the river Spree, the Humboldt University, the memorial where all the books were burned under Hitler, the Dome etc etc.

Number three was the only Christmas market where they charged us €1 in which I thought was odd. We were freezing cold by the time we arrived and queued up to pay so we decided to use their first indoor food place right at the entrance to warm up. We had also planned to eat but as staff were terribly unorganized (don’t get fooled by the cute tent decorations), we didn’t get to order, but we did warm up and continued our journey. This market is great though. We ate like queens, had THE best hot eggnog with sweet cream. Some other highlights included the impressive cheese monger stall, the piping hot roasted chestnuts – aaaaand the art tent. I get excited when among creative people and there are so many of them. I was in awe with their art pieces. By the way, we went on a Sunday evening and you can see the volume of people in my pictures who had the same idea. It’s only a glimpse. The place was packed and in great festive spirits.

Fourth Christmas market.

Back in July, I discovered a place called Deck 5 in Prenzlberg. While in the summer with 30 degrees and a beaming sun, Deck 5 is a great, hip rooftop beach kinda place – in the winter they turned it into a rooftop Christmas market. Because it’s on the roof of a five storey shopping center, the view is pretty good, too. Apart from the traditional food and drink stalls, there was a berber tent where they show old fairy tale movies. They have converted old washing machine drums into fire pits and plenty of cozy places to sit down if you need to, in and outdoor. Although at 4pm they weren’t ready to serve the popular venison gulasch, it’s a lovely little, very unique place to see and hang out. Take the S-Bahn to Schönhauser Allee, enter the shopping center right beside the station, take the lift to – you guessed it, deck 5. It’s a gem!

Christmas market number five, the last market before I finish up my Berlin diary. Number five is in Charlottenburg, right at the castle. Bus stops in front of it and goes to all the main S-Bahn stations, too. Super easy to navigate. The castle cannot be ignored and is in fact, stunning! Welcome home Cindabella, I hear you say. Well, well…it was most certainly my favorite market of the five I went to see. My top recommended market, a must see if/ when you plan a market tour in Berlin. Number One! Why? As mentioned before, markets come in different sizes, shapes and styles. This one blew me away. The market looks small from the outside but the little alleys left, right and center, full with stalls to explore – feel endless; and I felt like a kid in a candy store. It was magical. So so soooo many lights and live traditional Christmas music on every corner. I got goosebumps and I’m not one that gets easily emotional. The arty/ crafts stalls were amazing! There are many creative, gifted people among us. Nothing but adoration. Food stalls, of course, plenty and seasonal international. There was a Finish smoke stall, a Hungarian stall, an Austrian tent, the Bavarians had their own stall, too – so much on offer, plenty of time to indulge and literally just there to enjoy the moment. And we most certainly lived in the moment. I’ll be back next year. Can’t wait! Pm me if you’re planning to go and have any questions.

Last of all – a super quick summary of what to eat:

I didn’t exaggerate when I said, I wasn’t starving. Christmas market food is the best! From eggnog to steak rolls to mushrooms in cream sauce to Hungarian Lagos to mulled wine, to waffles and Churros; we even stumbled across a Moonshine stall, venison Gulasch with Spätzle, potato soup, Bratwurst, Krakauer, Currywurst, candied fruits, cheese balls, Quarkbällchen and roasted chestnuts. The list could be longer… apologies if I made you hangry.

Christmas market number one


Christmas market number two


Christmas market number three


Christmas market number four


Christmas market number five

Hello again, Austria 🇦🇹

It’s been a while since I blogged and I have so much to post, so many stories to tell and so many more photos to share but hold your horses, I hear you say, because my photos are already shared through Instagram along with some all-telling captions, right? Absolutely, 100%, bang on correct! Bang on – yes, my little adopted Irish phrases. Once blended into Irish life, it’s difficult to shake off those sayings. It’s all about expressing yourself.

Anyway, you didn’t come here to read about my language skills and influences, this post is dedicated to my recent trip to Vienna.

If you followed my blog journey from day one, you will have read my previous post about Austria and how I went on a skiing trip with a bunch of other kids in the 90s. Scroll down to April 1st, 2017 if you’ve missed it.

I visited Vienna this time and more to the point, my friend and her family. I haven’t seen them in a few years and nothing is sweeter than to meet up again and feel like no time has passed at all. Only this time she has a cute little toddler dude and I have a miniature version of myself, adventuring with me.

If you travel first weekend of December, like we did, you might be in for a snowy treat. Vienna looked amazing, a stunning winter wonderland when we arrived. Freezing cold but effortlessly beautiful. Masterplan: visit my friend, explore the famous Christmas markets and have fun. I can tell you, all of it and more was achieved.

We flew with Laudamotive to Vienna International Airport for just under €100 return. Great bargain! We monitored the flights for three solid years (yes, years!) and they averaged before between €150 – €180 p.p. depending on the season. I was delighted seeing this great deal and impulsively booked it, 5 months in advance. Needless to say, no regrets!

I loved flying with Laudamotive. They have a partnership with Ryanair so expect no frills and embrace simplicity. All the staff were extremely friendly and what impressed me, was the casual smart look. Nothing tacky or over the top. Jeans and business jacket. Perfect. Exactly how I style for work, too although I’m not working in the travel business. I liked it!

Because I stayed with my friend, there was no hotel involved and so if you look for recommendations here, I unfortunately got none – except – book early if you travel during the winter season. Austria is a winter haven and has a ton of tourists visiting.

Getting from the airport to the city is easy. You have public transport, taxis and private companies. I’m not sure if mine was private as my friend had organized it but no matter what you pick, you’re grand getting around. On the way back I paid €34 for two in a cab but we had about half an hour to drive.

We used the tram and underground train when we visited a few places like Schönbrunn and you have a number of ticket options. I paid €8 at the machine for a 24h ticket. If you purchase online, it’s €5.60. There is no 24h ticket for kids, only adults so you decide what’s best. A single, one direction ticket for kids is €1.20. It was cheaper having a bunch of single tickets on me.

Christmas markets: go and visit at least two. You will find different ones on many corners and in many parks, many sizes, amazing smells, gooood food! I have photos to prove it. Have change with you which makes it easier to wander from stall to stall. Don’t bother with cards.

Speaking of Christmas markets, did you know Schönbrunn has its own one? So Schönbrunn is not just a train station but also the place to visit the Queen’s castle. The beautiful and famous Sissi used to live here and what a castle she had! It’s impressive to look at and so much fun to explore. If you have kids, the kids Museum is a must! Once finished and if you visit during the December buzz, stroll through the market. It has everything from handmade glass ornaments to wodden craftsmanship to – YES – plenty of food stalls. A Glühwein along with Waffelstangen or Bratkartoffeln or both (of course I had both and more) is a treat, and you’re surrounded by white snowy and icy castle grounds. I highly recommend layers of clothes, a hat, gloves and proper winter shoes!

Restaurants, Cafés and where else to eat…Vienna is a food haven! This cute city  fed me well! I want them Knödel with Gulasch now, washed down with an Almdudler and followed by a sweet, warm Kaiserschmarren. The only three things I didn’t get to eat as I ran out of time. I managed to eat everything else and more. I mean, common the Schnitzel inventing country with the delicious Sacher Torte, you just know you’re in the right place. And so I highly recommend to eat the above, enjoy some beautiful Austrian wine too (fun fact: did you know Vienna has vineyards?) along with a visit to the bakery to indulge in cake heaven. Anyone with a cake DNA will understand.

So in a nutshell, Vienna is a special place to visit and if you haven’t got it on your bucket list yet, put it on! You don’t know what you’re missing out on. Spring return for me to explore the vineyards next. Watch this space.

Morocco 🇲🇦

I visited Morocco in 2016 after having it on my bucket list for a while and finally managed to grab a good bargain with Ryanair, off to Marrakech a few weeks later. This was in Spring of 2016.

Normally I focus on my own observations and travel experiences but often I get asked how I manage to see places with two mini me’s by my side. So this is my only dedicated “Traveling with Kids” post, which can also be found on TripAdvisor. Please bare in mind, while reading, that A) I have a tendency of writing loooong sentences (patient reader alert) and B) it’s been two years since we visited Morocco and as such, some recommendations need checking to ensure they’re still current before committing or expecting.

If you’re thinking about traveling to Morocco with children but you’re hesitant and might worry about health, safety, provisions etc. don’t be. When traveling to Morocco the same cautions apply as with any other country and Morocco is a great experience for adults and children alike. Marrakech can be the base for you to discover near by towns and villages which is a handy way to discover parts of Morocco without having to check in and out of different hotels or riads.

Transport 

If you’re getting a transfer from the airport to your accommodation and you’re wondering about car seats, there is no strict regulation and the only condition is that children (like adults) have to use their seatbelt at all times but a special car seat is not required for the little ones. This might be different for babies but children 3 years and older can travel without a car seat.

Accommodation

Marrakech has a wealth of accommodation options. Hotels outside the Medina are just as suitable as a Riad inside the Medina. Life outside the Medina is less hectic and seems less chaotic and it really depends on your preferences. Riads are authentic and are a calm, relaxing place in the middle of a buzzing place. They cater just as well for children as Hotels do and often offer transfers and authorised excursions which means you don’t need to worry how to get around. Most Riads also have family rooms to give plenty of space. They also have inside courtyards which means you can sit with your children outside under orange trees without seeing or hearing the outside buzzing Medina life – and relax. Riads tend to cost less than hotels which most parents with two or more children will appreciate and it’s only a short drive away from the airport which just adds to a smooth experience every parent wants.

The Medina

There are tonnes of information available online about the Medina in Marrakech but not so many for parents traveling with young kids (anyone under 10). If you’re hesitant to stay or visit the Medina, it is totally understandable. If you’ve never been in a Medina before, chances are the first impression will be overwhelming and intimidating even for people without children. As parents you  always carry your worry hat with you and it’s important that you stay alert at all times but as stated above, this applies to every country. The difference in the Medina is the small and narrow roads, filled with people, some rushing through – others taking their time shopping and scooters with quite some speed, donkeys pulling loaded carts through etc. Don’t let go of your child’s hand and be aware of your surroundings. Walk on one side instead of in the middle of the alleys which saves you constantly jumping to your left or right. Once you get used to the buzzing energy in the Medina, your family will embrace it.

The Food

Marrakech has a huge range of restaurants, traditional ones as well as international cuisine, for all budgets. Most restaurants offer small meals for children at a fraction of an adult meal but you might have to ask specifically for a children’s “menu”. If the restaurant you’re visiting doesn’t offer this, ask for a small plate to share what you’re having. Most dishes come out in quite large portions. If you’re traveling with two or three children, you could also order one adult dish between them. You will see they get fed well. Also, in and outside the Medina you will find lots of small shops selling snacks and drinks. This might be ok if you’re only staying for two or three days but if you’re planning to stay longer and travel around, ask for the nearest supermarket. In Gueliz for example you will find a Carrefour supermarket that has everything (similar products) you’d get at home (fruits, variety of breads, drinks, baby food etc.).

Tours/ Excursions

You will find lots of options to bring your family on tours and excursions around Marrakech and Morocco in general. There are options for every budget, personal preference etc. You probably already seen lots of offers online but again, most do not specifically mention family tours and are aimed at larger groups or two adults. Don’t worry though. If you’ve seen something of interest online prior to your departure, send the tour provider an email and ask. Moroccans are very child friendly and accommodating. You can take shared tours which means it’s very likely to be in a group of 10 or more people or you have the option of a private tour for your family which has the advantage that the driver stops when you ask him to stop for breaks, photo opportunities etc. You can also – to a certain degree – control the itinerary of your tour based on what you know your kids will enjoy as much as the parents. The Berber village for example has farm animals and some Berber families offer tea breaks. Your tour provider will bring you to one they know which means you can relax and just enjoy your time. Don’t forget most people are looking for a small contribution for their services so if you choose a tea break, tip the lady preparing it for you. They don’t charge you, there is no fixed fee and so they depend on your budget/ what you’re willing to give as a tip.

Other things to bare in mind

As you experience Marrakech, you will find that especially in the Medina, there are young men offering to show you the way. No matter how lost you are, do not engage with them. Even if you half listen and wave them off, they will see it as their “services” being accepted. Have a strict “la shukran” and “go away”, be stern and walk your way. You have your children to look after and the last thing you’d want is to have an altercation with these young men because they got the impression off you that you needed help even if you feel, you didn’t. They can get aggressive and intimidating which is not a situation you want to be in especially when traveling with your kids. Also sometimes they just walk with you without saying anything but as said before be aware of your surroundings and the minute you feel someone is “silently” trying to “guide” you, tell them to go away. You will get an unfriendly reaction but they will leave you alone. This is not just the case in Marrakech by the way so same principles apply when you travel around in Morocco.

The square – Jemaa el Fna. This is the place where you and your children might be fascinated by snake charmers, baby turtles being sold and monkeys ready for entertainment. (It didn’t impress me but just to highlight it, this stuff happens there). You can stop with your children and look but expect someone very quickly standing beside you asking to get paid. I’ve sign too many tourists caught by surprise. If you don’t want to constantly fork out money, look at them while walking, don’t stop and tell your children before you visit the square that you won’t stop so they understand.

Marrakech comes to life at night time. Could you experience the Medina and particularly Jemaa el Fna after sunset with children? Probably. Would I personally recommend it? No. If you feel intimidated or slightly uneasy with the narrow streets during the day being full of people, it’s nothing compared to the late afternoon/ evening. In my view, this is solely an adult experience and not something for children. I have my indoor rule, before sunset.

 

Places to see and things to do

We used the Morocco Inspiring Tours excursions as offered by our Riad and we can highly recommend the tours with Ismail and Abdul especially if you travel with young kids. Both drivers spoke excellent English, were very friendly, attentive and committed to giving us a good time. The cars were very clean, spacious people carriers. When people say, you can get the tours cheaper – yes, you can but it depends on your travel preferences. If you travel alone and don’t mind sharing the bus with 20+ others to get straight from A to B, you will get it half the price down the road. In our case, I felt we got great value for money. The Marrakech Sightseeing Tour for example, cost us in total €45 and it was a personalised experience i.e. just us in the car with the driver (Ismail) who was funny, knew lots about Marrakech, took the kids into consideration and stopped whenever we wanted, to jump out for photos or have a look at places and he showed us so many beautiful places like the Bahia Palace or Majorelle Garden. His brother Abdul who drove the other two tours did the same. We enjoyed both days with him and had a great experience. Abdul was also the one who picked us up from the airport, organised through the Riad, even with a flight delay – he waited for us and welcomed us to Morocco in the middle of the night with a smile. I travelled to many places in the world, experienced various excursions and the ones offered here were very good. We did three in total and highly recommend the Marrakech Sightseeing Tour and the Ourika Valley Tour (Trip to and through the Atlas Mountains, through Berber villages and hiking up beside impressive waterfalls). You get a combination of guided and independent touring which allows for many photo opportunities, getting to know the area and meeting locals as well as knowing you’re being looked after. We were each time picked up in the Medina near where we stayed which was an added bonus and made us feel very safe. Overall we had an amazing trip. We saw so much and learned even more.

The Riad Experience

We had the pleasure of staying in this little gem of a Riad named Riad Misria in the middle of the Medina in Marrakech and our first time in Morocco. The Riad has a wealth of history which is displayed in pictures throughout the place.
The Riad offers airport pick-up which is very handy when you travel with two young kids. Our flight was delayed by an hour but Abdul, the driver was waiting for us with a big smile and sincere welcome. He brought us into the Medina as far as he could and then Yucef, who manages the Riad, picked us up and walked the last five minutes with us to the Riad. We arrived at night time and it was quite daunting walking through the Medina that seemed at first very loud, chaotic and confusing. You do get used to it and eventually get a sense of direction, however it takes some time. And then we stepped through the Riad doors and a complete different side to the Medina opened up: calm, peaceful, tranquillity, absolute stunning architecture and it really gives you that home away from home feeling – just Moroccan style. Yucef checked us in over tea and sesame biscuits, he showed us our room which was on the 2nd floor and consisted of two bedrooms (double and twin) and a private small courtyard. Again the beauty of the place alone was worth visiting, see photos. We stayed a whole week here and had a great time. Breakfast consisted of Moroccan bread, jams, pancakes and home baked cakes, fresh orange juice, coffee/ tea, Moroccan yoghurt and if you wished made-to-order eggs by Abdul (not the driver). I loved the fig jam and juice every morning, although I would have loved to see fresh fruits instead of three choices of bread/cakes but this is just my personal preference. On two occasions we availed of their dinner options, both times the food was delicious and our personal favourite was the Zalook, Kofta tagine with Cinnamon couscous and Orange slices with sweet syrup (totally underrated, it’s so good!) – all freshly prepared that day. The kids couldn’t eat fast enough, they loved everything on their plates and so did I. Fatima the chef is a really good cook and very friendly. Again, it’s this home away from home feeling which we appreciated.
We also used the excursions offered by the Riad staff and this is how I was introduced to the above mentioned tour provider.  By the way if you stay less than 3 or 4 days, always pay in cash. Due to ongoing phone line problems in the Medina, you will run into issues paying with CC. There is also an additional small CC charge.

 

*Please note, none of the above mentioned companies sponsored me in any way to write or publish my travel reports. Everything you read is genuine and unbiased (as in not sponsored) and is based on what I booked, traveled and experienced independently.

HB is short for…

Let’s keep it short and casual for today folks. Anyone reading this and dreaming of more vibrant weather days (like us Irish peeps) – here’s my sunshine video that I just finished. I claim no perfection but I guarantee plenty of palm trees, pretty skies and light. Sure what else does one need…ah ya pizza! Now it’s perfect. Happy Tuesday April vibes ☀️

 

 

 

And then there was Dublin 🍀💚

We’re writing the year 1998 when I jumped on a Lufthansa plane to travel through London to the Irish capital. Direct flights ~ a distant dream back then. My very first time on a plane, on my own and with no confidence in my English vocabulary, partially blamed on (because taught by) an English school teacher who thought she came straight from Oxford (she did not!) BUT before I drift off into that story, read my Dublin story here, as covered by Globelletravels on Instagram in 2016 as part of a 4 part series:

“From a very young age travelling always fascinated me but my parents, divorced and always strapped for cash, weren’t able to bring the four of us anywhere. A small break in Bavaria was a highlight for us as kids and a visit to family friends near the Dutch border another. We crossed the border for a day and went to see Eindhoven. I loved it.
It was the beginning of opening another world up for me. Aged 13, my friend’s sister returned from Ireland and enchanted me with her beautiful pictures and stories from the green island – stories that were outside our concrete jungle. It was a defining moment for me: I knew I had to travel.

I booked my first trip shortly after my 18th birthday, a flight ticket to Dublin, Ireland to visualize the stories I heard when I was 13. It was 1998, and the only way to book was through a travel agent: you handed over a large sum of money in cash (no student credit cards in them days, no cheap or direct flights either) and in return received a bunch of paper that represented your cash receipt, booking confirmation and flight ticket. How things have changed.

The 2 weeks stint in Dublin was amazing and inspiring. It saw so many firsts: my first journey on my own, my first time stepping on a plane, my first time testing what little English I knew then, my first time attempting to navigate London Heathrow. It was daunting, scary, exciting and educational.

I quickly learnt that you don’t have to be fluent in a local language, or surrounded by others to travel. I embraced the adrenaline-like rush that had hit, and realised – if you really, really, really want to see a place – there are ways, and the experience is always absolutely rewarding.
Travelling is a way of life, and from then on, it certainly became mine.”

1998 stands for interesting music, fashion and plenty of pubs in Ireland. Meeting a bunch of lovely, sweet people and seeing beautiful places in and around Dublin (County) – this of course extremely summarizes my experience without any real details but I will spare you the novel version today and write in more detail if requested. (hint: request it and I will follow up). Apart from getting a glimpse into Irish life & culture by staying with an Irish family, experiencing all sides of the city including trying to navigate through what seemed like countless Spanish students in town during day time and who used to come every year, queuing for taxis on Dame Street at night time, getting a coffee on Grafton Street in the historic and super popular Bewley’s Café after shopping – was all part of the wonderful experience. I loved it so much, adapted easily to the pint of cider or shots of Sheridan’s that indeed my decision was made without hesitation to return two years later. I did. I returned. And it’s been almost 18 years now that I claimed the Irish residence status. Yes, what was first intended as a holiday turned into a life. It didn’t hold me back from wandering off and exploring the world but Ireland for sure became my base, my home if you want to call it that.

I have seen every single County, numerous lakes, hills, mountains, national parks, castles, islands…it has become challenging over the years to still find a hidden spot. They’re there! If you plan to travel (to) Ireland and would like to get advise, especially the off-the-beaten-track places, pm me. I happily share. Yesterday I posted on Instagram about those fond memories after re-discovering an old pub from 2000. In the grander scheme of things, money depreciates, memories don’t and time is all we have. So make the most of it while you can. Here’s my pub post:

“An old pub reinvented and I loved the street art themes. Forgot the original name of this pub but the many moons ago created memories, did not fade one bit ☺️ this place is now called Ruin Bar. While we’re talking old places, who remembers Pravda in Dublin? Came up in a convo today and I had a few tb moments. Or what about HQ, the Pod, RedBox, Hairy Lemon, Break for the Border…to only name a few. Classics though!”