This was my first time (hopefully of many) visiting this incredible part of the world! I flew very cheaply from Edinburgh direct to Stuttgart airport. The flight was genuinely less than £50, however who flies at the start of January anywhere…
I was blessed with a boyfriend who doubled as a tour guide/taxi driver who made my first stay in Germany unforgettable. All credit is given to him for the well planned 4 day itinerary. I honestly think this is the first time in years that I have not planned anything except getting to the country. It was a lovely change….however I am a passionate planner and that will never escape me.
The flight from Edinburgh was far too early and the weather was too cold for the plane to leave the ground safely. Half an hour later after the doors were unfrozen we were on our way! The flight only took 2 hours to Stuttgart and the benefit about EasyJet is that the cabin bag is not weight restricted it just must be the correct dimensions which allowed me to pack more shoes…always a bonus.
Once I landed we drove 30 minutes to the city he grew up in, Tübingen. It was like walking into a fairytale…cobbled streets, city-centre castle and coloured houses lining the riverbank. This city is a photographers dream…it’s almost impossible not to take an impressive photo there. We explored the main squares and journeyed up to the castle where you get a perfect view of the city through the castle walls.
Just before the sunset we headed to House of Hohenzollern which is straight off a film-set. We drove to a car park that allowed us to walk through a forestry area up to an outstanding viewpoint overlooking the castle. Get comfortable on the set with the view, bring blankets, drink some Baden wine… and enjoy!
Flavour of the day was definitely the traditional Swabian dish called Spätzle! This dish is a unique type of egg noodle that can be served with various accompaniments and sauces. On my first night in Germany I enjoyed 2 portions of a variation of this dish called Käsespätzle which is like a cheesy noodle filled bake with crispy fried onions. It will become a craving…its totally a comfort food…had it at least 3 times before I left the country!
As soon as our exams finished we decided to escape to York to get into the Christmas spirit! York is only 2 hours and 30 minutes on a train from Edinburgh, perfect for a short break. We spent a couple of days in this enchanting city exploring the fairy-lit alleyways and exploring York’s main attractions!
As soon as we arrived in York we took the bus from outside the station to Ashley Park Road where our Airbnb was. As I have never used an Airbnb before I was slightly apprehensive of the situation but I was amazed at how perfectly it worked out. I cannot recommend Kilmartin Lodge enough, it was cosy, well located and Michelle the host was extremely welcoming (fresh bread and homemade jam on arrival)!
We arrived into York early evening so we just got settled into our accommodation then headed into York for dinner. As it was our first night we just took an Uber into York (cost around £6) and dined out. Our first meal was at a gorgeous Italian restaurant called Gusto. It had a canape of fairy lights and leaves, perfect for a romantic dinner! I would highly recommend the smoked haddock risotto for a heartier option….
Before heading back to the apartment we journeyed into the Teepee Tent that was in the centre of the Christmas market to indulge in some mulled wine!
We woke up early to ensure that we had a full day of exploring York! We started our day by journeying into York on the Coastliner bus which was only a short walk from the accommodation. Once we arrived in the city centre we headed towards York Minster which is definitely a sight to see! It is a stunning cathedral that can be accessed with an entry fee of £10 (all profit goes to the maintenance of the site).
After taking in the architecture that York Minster has to offer we strolled over to The Shambles. This is a picturesque street combined of many antique shops, confectioneries, jewellery shops and of course Harry Potter shops. This famous little street is said to be the inspiration of Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series (hence the 3 Potter shops)!
Then we headed towards the York Castle Museum to find out what living in York was like through the decades.
Feeling peckish and with so many quirky places to try, we ventured into an art bar called Victor J’s to grab some lunch. This is definitely a great spot to admire local art work while warming up in this cosy bar/restaurant.
Before heading back to the apartment we explored the Christmas market again, trying everything that was on offer….especially the York Fudge!
In the evening we dined at a restaurant that was recommended by a local and we were not mislead. We had dinner at a unique Spanish tapas restaurant called Ambiente . Like many restaurants in York the building was originally someone’s home, which made the place even more charming. Spanish cuisine is my personal favourite so we had the tasting menu for 2 and loved every dish… (the meatballs were fought over… which can only be a good sign)!
We woke up and gave our keys back to our wonderful Airbnb host in the morning which was all very easy. I can honestly not express how well my first experience of using an Airbnb went , I will definitely use the website for future travels.
We headed into York for the last time and took our luggage to the storage space near the station. It was the best option seeing as our train home was not till 6pm. After dropping our luggage off we headed back through the city walls, and down to the river for a walk in the park. We also climbed up Clifford’s Tower to take in the bird’s eye view of York.
Afterwords, we visited The Shambles one last time and of course bought some more fudge to take home with us! We still had a few hours of exploring before we needed to go for an early dinner, so we went to the York Dungeons . This was one of my favourite attractions in York. The actors were incredible and made me scream once or twice….. it’s such a good way to learn the history of York….even if you do get accused of witchcraft….
Before catching our train back to Edinburgh we had an early dinner somewhere that we always walked past and were eager to try. Lucia is an Italian restaurant that has lots of seating in the fairy-lit canopy courtyard. To keep dinners warm outside in the winter they also have outdoor fires amongst the tables as well as an indoor seating area.
Our time in York was amazing and we would definitely spend more time in this beautiful city. If we went back we would visit the places we ran out of time to see such as the top of York Minster and The Chocolate Story Museum!
We jetted off to Prague for a short Winter break from the 4th-6th December 2016. This was our first time in this city and we fell in love. In love with the history, the lights and the magical Christmas Markets. Originally we were just going to spend the majority of our time enjoying the markets but when we got there we realised that there was so much more to do that we would regret not doing!
We arrived in Prague at 10:30am local time and got a transfer to our hotel. The hotel we were staying in was called Hotel Assenzio. All credits for finding this hotel go to the Holiday Pirate website! For £180 all in we got return flights from Edinburgh to Prague and a beautiful 4* centrally located hotel. We were a little worried that the hotel’s pictures wouldn’t live up to the real place but they did down to a tee. From the cellar hotel restaurant to the grand winding staircase. We would not hesitate to go back there!
After checking in we immediately started exploring Prague. We decided to google map (much easier than a compass) our way to Wenceslas Square to check out the main Christmas market. However when we found ourselves in the centre we were slightly disheartened by the square, there were lots of ordinary high street shops and restaurants with a smallish Christmas Market. Don’t get us wrong the market was charming and the smoked sausage was incredible but it wasn’t the size of market we were expecting…
However! We continued through the centre and what we thought was a straight line down (you never really know where you have and haven’t been in Prague, the winding streets have the same fascinating architecture at every turn) and discovered many more areas that were home to larger Christmas markets. During our time at these markets we indulged in the local Tredlic (think of churros) and delicious Czech mulled wine! Also we were a little under dressed for the below freezing weather in Prague, so naturally we wanted to blend in, so we purchased some furry hats!
After getting our energy from all the delicious food at the market we decided to find the 3rd oldest and only Astronomical Clock still working in the world!
It is placed in the most enchanting area in the whole city, The Old Town Square.
The night began with a beautiful meal at a cosy cellar restaurant near the hotel called Husinec. We found this place on the way to the centre and decided it was worth checking out, how right we were! For starters Matthew had Beef soup and I had Baked Camembert with a glass of crisp champagne costing us only 39 czk ( very very very cheap). For our main courses Matthew went for the traditional Czech dish of Beef Goulash and potato dumplings, what a delicious and warming meal that was! I also had a delicious meal of homemade gnocchi served in a creamy bacon sauce. To accompany the food we drank from large wine tasting glasses a smooth Merlot (also very reasonably priced). In conclusion if you like a romantic location, good and filling food at a reasonable price eat here – you will love it!
We were booked in for our exclusive 3o minute slot at the Ice Bar located in one of the largest clubs in Europe (Karlovzy Lazne) at 11pm. We set ourselves up for a fun night getting slightly tipsy at some really amazing bars before the Ice Bar!
We headed first to the Hemingway’s Bar for some cocktails as it was known to serve unusual drinks. When we got there the bar was completely full so a group of locals who had just been turned away from the bar asked the bar staff if there was anywhere she would recommend going to instead. She suggested a quirky little bar called “Cash Only” that was owned by Hemmingway. Honestly my favourite bar I have been to yet! It was intimate and stylish. We sat down stairs, we literally had that whole space to ourselves it was incredible. I drank a “Taste of Autumn” made with champagne, pear and spices!
To continue our “pub crawl” we ventured onto the Absintherie…. again another UNIQUE bar! I ordered a Absinthe fuelled Moscow Mule (served in a cool mug which I later bought before leaving), and Matthew ordered The Zombie! It was a really relaxed atmosphere in there with cool decor – I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. (They also prepared the absinthe properly with flames etc)
After our fair few drinks it was time to make our way to the Ice Bar (only 10 minutes from Absintherie).
The Ice bar was -18 degrees! Thank god they gave us a thermal jacket…
We awoke rather sleepy…but didn’t want to miss a moment of Prague (or breakfast at the hotel).
As soon as we finished breakfast we walked into the centre again and bought more Christmas decorations for presents and consumed a variety of yummy food.
Potato, bacon, cheese and spinach (very good) Nutella crepes in the Old Town Square (obviously very good!)
Prague resembles a Disney princess movie, add snow and a white horse and carriage and you’ve got yourself the fairytale moment you always dreamed of (more relatable for girls maybe..)
When we got off the carriage we grabbed a hot chocolate from one of the stalls (the chocolate was so beautifully rich) we headed across the bridge to Prague Castle.
It was quite a walk from the centre to the castle, around an hour. By the time we got there all the lights were shining on the Christmas trees…but we were too late for the Castle entry.
Instead we climbed (hiked!) up the stairs in the Cathedral’s bell tower. The climb was nothing compared to the enchanting view that we were rewarded with. Prague illuminated.
This picture doesn’t do the view justice, go and see for yourself!
On our way back to the hotel (for another bath!) we took a detour to view the John Lennon wall. We weren’t really bothered about seeing the wall but we were taken back by the time that people had spent creating this tribute.
We wined and dined and wined again at the Fred & Ginger restaurant at the top of the Dancing House. Hand on heart this was our favourite restaurant experience ever. This restaurant does not just offer unbeatable food (might not taste anything as good till we go back) it offers a whole experience. To dine at one of the most famous buildings in Europe, drink champagne (at a good price) while gazing at your panoramic view of Prague and be waited on by very attentive staff!
GO! GO! GO! GO!
If you love a little bit of magic, history, exquisite architecture, flavoursome food wherever you stumble upon, travel to Prague….just go!