A Christmas break in Zurich.

At the beginning of December myself and Chris took a little five day break to Switzerland. This came about because my friend from work in the UK, Louise and her partner Lee moved out there, when Lee got offered a job in Zurich. So on one cold Saturday morning when I had the major holiday blues from returning from travelling, I saw a post off Louise asking for a dog sitter whilst she returned home for a few days. After a quick Google of flight prices we agreed to look after little Bella and have a Christmassy break.

Lee and Louise live in Urdorf which is a 20 minute train ride from Zurich train station, in a lovely flat. Urdorf is a quiet picturesque little town, which has everything you need 10 minutes from the city. The trains run every 20 minutes too so the transport links in Switzerland are amazing, the trains are clean, on time and double decker, the brilliant thing is you do not need a car at all.

When we went out to see them in Zurich, Louise was still job hunting due to a very high demand for German speakers as a job requirement. Since my visit though, I am pleased to say that Louise has started an online UK business as she visits the UK a lot, and she runs it online when back in Switzerland. The company is sells cosmetics called Arbonne (botanically based skincare, cosmetics and healthy living products) which I cannot wait to try out.

We flew from Manchester into Basel, after a few too many in the airport lounge (and a sighting of Jim Macdonald from corrie), a lost handbag (got it back by the way) we arrived in Switzerland. Basel is an hour train ride from Zurich and if I can give you a massive tip it is so much cheaper to fly into here and get the train into Zurich. We paid £30 return each as a pose to £300 each to fly into Zurich (it does go lower than this at times, but when we were looking these were the flight prices). Basel- Mulhouse –Freiberg airport is actually in France on the boarder of Germany and Switzerland, so a great airport to access all these countries.

We spend a night in Basel and hit the Christmas markets as they are the best in Switzerland before heading to the Zurich the following day. As with my Paris blog I am going to do a top five round up of things to do in Zurich. We didn’t do everything as we were on a limited time and also it is so expensive!!!

Bahnhofstrasse
This is the main downtown street in Zurich and one of the world’s most expensive shopping streets. You can spend hours wandering down here looking at the expensive watches and clothes in the window knowing you will never afford them. When we went it was all lit up for Christmas and looked amazing. Louise walked us down here on our first night to show us around and it is so classy. It is also the perfect spot to sample some swiss chocolate, we opted for free samples at Laderach as it is one of the most expensive chocolates in the world! We also went for breakfast a Sprungli café one morning and I had the richest most chocolatiest hot chocolate ever and it was lovely. If you want to treat yourself they do a Sunday breakfast buffet, with a glass of prosecco which is 55CHF (£43 each!). I just opted for the croissant with hot chocolate for 13.50 CHF (£11).

Zeughauskeller
It wouldn’t be a trip abroad without sampling the local food, so on our first night in Zurich Louise and Lee took us out for a meal to say thank you for looking after Bella which was really kind of them! They took us here so we could get the rustic Swiss experience. The décor was old beams and all historic items on the walls and we were seated at long bench seats. I had a massive Cordon Bleu which came with an enormous potato rosti and Chris had a special I can’t remember the name of with lots of mushrooms! It was so tasty, and we washed it down with a few drinks and had a long overdue catch up.

Uetliberg
This is a mountain next to Zurich which has amazing views all over the city and the lake, you can pay for the cable car to the top and then climb the pylon at the top to see beautiful views, make sure you go on a clear day. That’s it really the pictures speak for thereself.

Christmas markets (seasonal of course)
We were so excited to experience the authentic Christmas markets as I am a massive fan of the ones in Manchester. There are lots and lots and festive stalls selling all sorts of Swiss foods and Gluhwein which we had plenty of. It  was so festive to wrap up and drink a mulled wine (or three in Chris’ case when his German didn’t quite go to plan). I tried a currywurst which was so good, I wasn’t too keen on the sound of it, but I was proven wrong. There are 3 or 4 different Christmas markets in Zurich our favourites were the ones in the main station, where the massive Swarovski crystal tree is at Christmas. The other we loved was down by lake Zurich with plenty of food stalls and an ice skating ring. If you can visit Zurich around Christmas it really is magical, and I love a cold holiday now and again.

Boat ride on Lake Zurich
As part of your train ticket in Zurich you are also permitted to a 1.5 hour boat ride around Lake Zurich, so when Louise had returned from the UK on our last day, we all spent the day at the Christmas markets and had a little boat ride. It was also a coincidence that another work friend of ours Natalie was in Zurich for the day so we all had a little work reunion day, it was lovely. The boat takes you out to the areas you wouldn’t necessarily see (including the Lindt factory) and you have opportunity to get off if you like. We also saw Tina Turners house! It’s a great and cheap way to see more of Zurich.

We had a brilliant time in Zurich, and thanks to Louise and Lee for putting us up in their flat (we still miss Bella). I would definitely recommend Zurich for a Christmas break (or any other weekend I just love the markets). Although it wouldn’t be the cheapest city break to go on, I will say this about Zurich it is clean, you feel very safe and the public transport is fantastic and it is absolutely beautiful.

Lucy

What’s in store for 2017?

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Firstly I understand that it isn’t the best start posting my blogging new years resolutions on the last day of January but I have been busy getting back into things after Christmas and its still January so it still counts 🙂

This is just a quick blog to say Happy New Year and thank you to all my readers who continued to read and support throughout our travels in 2016.

I plan to have all the generic boring new year’s resolutions like eat healthier, go to the gym more blah blah, but I also wanted to set myself a few blogging resolutions.

This year I still plan to blog, we have a few trips planned which will definitely be included. Being away for so long made me realise that travel isn’t just in another country, and the UK has so many amazing places to offer that I still haven’t explored. So this year is going to include lots of UK trips and days out, recipes from my travels and my top travel tips.

The name of the blog will still stay the same as without New Zealand I would never have blogged my way through all our adventures for 18 months! I’m sentimental.

Thanks again for all your support

Lucy

P.s this photo was taken in Malham on Sunday, as one of our days out, as part of our promise to #exploreengland more! If you want to see more of my adventures in real time give my instagram @lucyjbarrett a follow.

Girls in Paris

A few weeks ago (well a month) myself and the girls donned our berets (literally) and jetted off on a girls holiday to Paris for the weekend! It was a much needed girly holiday after missing my friends so much when we were away in NZ. As you know I am scarily organised so I actually organised and booked the trip from NZ in June!

There were six of us in total myself, Laura, Kaley, Chrissy, Stacey and Daker! I won’t introduce how I know everyone or it will take all day. We flew on the Friday night on Air France and as half the group are teachers so we needed an after school flight. After a very long security and a few drinks we boarded the plane. Air France were fantastic and for an hour flight we got a lot of in flight perks such as wine and food (one of the air stewards took a liking to us and gave us two bottles of wine each and a large bottle of champagne- I think he thought we were on a hen do). The flight was so quick that laura thought we were going down when we started to land.

We were staying in a lovely little apartment in the Gare du Nord area which was pretty central and near to lots of lovely little bars, bakeries and restaurants.

Now if I tried to tell you every little funny quote and thing we did this blog would be a novel, but let me just say that I had such a brilliant time so many laughs and random moments! One of my favourites has to be us all stumbling into a locals bar one night and meeting the local 76 year old alcoholic Elaine who took a liking to us and started shouting ‘Show me the way’ as it was the only English she knew, to which Laura replied ‘Bon Pantalon’ (nice trousers). She was also pretty flexible putting us all to shame whacking her leg on the bar no problem.

We had such a fun time exploring the city and on the Sunday night Stacey, Laura, Chrissy and Daker went home and me and Kaley stayed on until Tuesday.

Those who left on the Sunday felt they had ample time in Paris to see the sites and therefore I would 100% recommend it as a cheap weekend get away that’s close to home! The flight is only an hour and we paid around £70 each return, flying out on Air France and back with easyJet! Accommodation prices range considerably so there is something for every budget!

We did and saw a lot of things whilst in Paris so I will share my top five with you:

1. Champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

We had a brilliant time at the Eiffel Tower, it may seem a cliche but it really is a must in Paris, the view is amazing. They have a champagne bar at the top, which is a little pricey at €13 a glass but we were treating ourselves, and had a lot of fun taking pictures in our berets with champagne in hand! I would advise booking in advance like we did to avoid queuing as they were horrendous. By booking in advance we got straight in, and on our limited amount of time it was worth it. Tickets to the very top are €17 each.


2. Open Top Bus.

I think all of us agreed that the open top bus was a brilliant way to get around Paris. They came around every 20 minutes and had two different routes (one for central Paris and one for the bits further out such as Moulin Rouge). We used Big Bus Paris which is €33 euros for a 2 day pass. We saw most of Paris from this bus and had such a laugh people watching and spotting funny things. I can recommend Big Bus as they had a great commentary and some excellent songs!


3. The Louvre.

On our last day as a 6 we headed to the Louvre and it was such a sunny day. The only reason we really came was to see the Mona Lisa and look at the glass triangle outside, which most tourists do. It’s €15 entry, if you are under 26 and in the EU it’s free (getting old as I didn’t qualify as I am 26). Anyway it’s worth a visit and quite impressive from the outside, the Mona Lisa on the other hand is quite underwhelming.


4. A night out in Montmartre.

When myself and Kaley were left to our own devises we spend both nights out in Montmartre which is where the famous Sacre Couer is and Moulin Rouge. This area had a fantastic atmosphere and many quirky little bars and restaurants! I would defo recommend a bar crawl round here like we did.


5. French Bakeries.

This one might seem obvious but definitely pick up a baguette or a croissant whilst in Paris, they are amazing!

So after a lovely few days we headed home. Get yourself to Paris if you haven’t been, it was my first visit and I loved it. It was lovely to catch up and have lots of girly chats so thanks for an amazing weekend girls!

Lucy

Coming home…

A week ago after 14 months away we finally came home!

7 Countries
9 Flights
20 Buses
9 Boats
32 Taxis
29 Trains
18 Hotels
9 Temples
3 Massages
1 Segway

It has been an epic adventure and the things we have seen and done have been the best experiences of our lives! We had a morning flight home from Kraków and arrived in Liverpool at midday!

It has been lovely coming home to see everyone and people have made an overwhelming effort for our return it’s so touching. When we arrived at the airport my Auntie, Cousin and oldest friend Chrissy surprised us at the airport which was very unexpected, I apologised later for acting really dazed!

I got home and my beloved Max he the westie ignored me I was devastated (he’s friends with me now though). I had a lovely bunch of flowers left off my godmother and my parents had completely redecorated my room which is gorgeous!

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The night we got home all me and Chris wanted was a Sainsburys curry and a chill night with my family, all the home comforts we have missed! We got a Julie Barrett bacon breakfast the next day which tasted amazing and had a full day shopping for new work clothes.

Sunday we picked up our besties Emma and Scott up from the airport as they were arriving back from Canada. I must say standing in arrivals is much more emotional than walking into it, I was so emotional seeing them again! That night we had drinks at my house and all our friends came, we were supposed to go to the blues but after too many drinks and catching up we never got there! It was such a good night and I don’t think we have all been together like that for 4/5 years it’s crazy. Three of my friends are engaged now so all the girls were in the kitchen being typical girls and the boys in the conservatory talking bikes!

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As it was bank holiday the weekend still wasn’t over and we had a much craved pub lunch with my family at the Silent Inn which was so good. The barman gave me and Chris a bottle of wine as a welcome home gift!

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I’ve been back to work for a week now, which is the job I had before NZ so it’s been very strange going back but great to see everyone! Returning home in general has been very strange, don’t get me wrong it’s been so nice to see everyone but slotting back into normal life and adapting after being away is quite hard.

Chris has set off for his job working away in Cambridge tonight which feels strange as I haven’t been apart from him for 14 months! I’m sure everything will go back to normal soon!

So that’s it we are home! I intend tocontinue my blog and talk about places I’ve been which I have never mentioned and other travel related blogs!

Thanks again to everyone who has kept reading.

Lucy

Kraków – Part 2

Our first day after the Segway debacle we were up early for the Wieliczka Salt Mines tour, it was a private tour so we had our own mini bus to take us the half an hour journey to the mines. We had to walk down 350 stairs to get to the bottom of the mine and it made you really dizzy, it was funny looking down and not being able to see the bottom and knowing how far you had left yet! We were 135 metres underground and walked 3km through all the underground corridors of salt, there were huge timber trunks holding up the walls and lots of different sculptures carved out of salt. The best was the hidden cathedral which had lots of carvings and ornate chandeliers it was really beautiful. I must say though we were all very happy to get above ground again and even more happy that there was a lift.

We had another lovely lunch around the main square, there is a trumpeter that comes out of the tower every hour and plays a turn north, east, south and west and then waves at everyone.

We then went back to the apartment for a nap before our polish food and vodka tour. We were picked up by our guide Kate at 7 and she walked us to the polish restaurant which was decorated like an authentic polish mountain restaurant. I was a little but apprehensive about the food, but not the vodka! The menu included polish dishes and five accompanying liqueurs:

Vodka
Krupnik (honey vodka)
A normal polish vodka but it was 72%
Soplica (Cherry Vodka)
Slivovitz Plum Brandy
Żołądkowa Gorzka (a herbal vodka good for digestion)

Food
Bread with lard and pickles
Oscypek (smoked cheese)
Zurek (sour rye soup)
Grilled polish sausages
Pierogis (polish dumplings three different flavours – spinach, cheese and beef)
Kaszanka (polish black pudding)

It was interesting to try the food but it was very heavy and unusual to what we are used to, it felt very strange actively eating lard! My favourite were the pierogis, I love dumplings and they were so tasty. The vodka was seriously strong the cherry one was my favourite, poppa Pete and Chris were the only ones who managed to shot all five and they both went a bit crazy for a few minutes after the strong one. It was a really good night to sample the polish culture.

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We had a Schindlers List tour which was a walking tour, the guide took us around the Jewish Quarter telling us all the history and showing us locations from the film. She took us into a Synagog and explain all the religious rituals. It was a really lovely sunny day too, mother Jules bottle of fizzy water exploded as she opened it and terrified everyone it was hilarious.

The guide then took us too a memorial in the old Jewish Ghetto which is lots of metal chairs, which signifies the Nazis throwing the chairs and furniture out of the windows and everything they had to leave behind.

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After some lunch we went to Schindlers Factory which was more of a museum to the whole of the history rather than what Schindler did (saved thousands of Jews, risking his own life) but it was a really good interactive museum. It showed the Ghetto flats they had to live in which were tiny, the Nazi rule that one window equalled four people in a room!

The afternoon was spent having a horse and cart tour around the square and then a tour of an underground medieval market!

I would recommend to anyone that Poland is an amazing holiday and very reason all price wise too. It is a beautiful country with so much history, and we had a brilliant time. I would like to thank my lovely family for coming out to meet us we had an great time with you and it was so fun catching up! Love you all.

Lucy

Kraków – Part 1

We are in Kraków! We arrived on Sunday by train and went straight to the apartment to meet my family! For those of you who have wondered ‘Why Poland?’ It’s because my dad has always wanted to go, and whilst me and Chris were in NZ we missed his 60th birthday so this is a little family trip to end the holiday and celebrate his birthday. So anyway we met the family at the apartment and had lots of hugs it was amazing to see them, we are here with my mum, dad, brother Josh and his girlfriend Amy. We cracked the gin open straight away and spent a few hours chatting and catching up it was so great to see them all.

That night we went to an Italian which was in Lonely Planet, the family have so far gone along with my Lonely Planet obsession which is nice of them to humour me. The Italian was lovely and I had an amazing chicken and almond pizza washed down with some wine, it was a lovely first day.

The next day we were up early for our trip to Auschwitz and Birkenau, which we were all a bit apprehensive about. We were picked up on a mini bus and we watch an hour video all about the holocaust and the horrors that went on there. It was so harrowing and the whole bus was silent for the journey, apprehensive about what we might see or feel when we got to Auschwitz. As we entered the first camp there was a huge sign that read ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ which means ‘work brings freedom’ and I just couldn’t help but feel how untrue that statement was as we walked underneath the sign.

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Auschwitz camp was established in 1940 on the outskirts of a town called Oswiecim chosen for its location due to good rail links and already existing buildings. I still cannot get my head around the fact that over a million people were killed here of 27 different nationalities. There are 13 of the 30 surviving original prison blocks present as some of the camp was destroyed when the Nazis were fleeing.

We were taken into many of the brick prison blocks which have been converted into museums, with horrible images on the walls and exhibits behind glass. It shows the gas pellets that were used to gas the victims in the gas chambers. In one room there was a huge pile of human hair and shoes which really shocked me. It was the hair from 40,000 woman and it just made you think that even the amount of hair there was nothing compared to what there would be at the time. We were told that the Nazis actually made money from killing selling people’s belongings, hair, teeth, clothes anything they could.

We were then shown a replica of where people would have slept, either on the floor of six to a three tier bunk bed. There were often fights as people were fighting to get the to bunk so that the very ill people who had diarrhoea due to starvation wouldn’t poo on them in the night, it really is harrowing.

Next was the camp prison in a cellar, it was hard to believe they needed a prion as the whole place was enough of a prison, with electric fences and barbed wire around the entire camp. In the prison we were shown the different types of punishment cells, such as the starvation cell and standing cell. The standing cell was a bricked cell with a tiny door at the bottom in which you had to crawl into and then stand all night there would be five or six people in there at a time.

The reasons for punishment seem so unjustified and it appears that they just wanted any reason to be as cruel as possible. If you helped a fellow weak prisoner – you got punished, if you gave someone you food – you got punished, if someone ran away they would punish ten other prisoners for that persons actions. There was a killing wall where people were regularly shot and it was horrible to stand on the same ground where all these people have brutally lost there lives.

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The bit that I wasn’t looking forward to was the gas chamber, the only way to describe it was a concrete underground bunker. When the prisoners arrived after being stuffed in a train for three days they were told they were being taken to shower. They were split into men and woman with children and then selected on whether they were fit to work. If they weren’t fit to work they were taken off separately naked for a ‘shower’, led into the gas chamber and killed. Hardly any children survived as they were all killed. The thing that upset me were the nail marks down the walls from people clawing to get out. They were then burned by other prisoners, which must have been horrendous.

Next we were taken to Auschwitz II or Birkenau as it is more well known as which is the camp where actually most of the killing was done. This is more to show the scale of the camp and reflect, hardly any barracks are open as they are falling down. The Nazis did everything as cheap as possible in order to make as much money as they could.

There was just barbed wire and barracks and the ruins of gas chambers it was so horrible to see how big the camp is and the horrors that went on there, I must say it was a quiet journey back to our apartment.

After a debrief and in-depth conversation about what we had seen we went out for a lovely Mexican meal and then headed to the main Old Town Square for a drink. There was a jazz band playing and the funniest drunk man dancing for everyone it was such a laugh. After a few cocktails we went home to bed.

The next day was a free day with no trips booked so we went to hire segways as Josh really wanted to give them a try. We were given a lesson and I must say I was terrible at first as you always feel like you are going to fall off, and it all about balance. We had hired them for an hour but the guide for some reason wouldn’t let us go off on our own and insisted on coming with us (must have seen trouble coming). We had so much fun whizzing around on them, it was a bit scary going up curbs on them as you had to lean forward with full power to get them to go up, and because we were scared me and Amy always ended up stopping at the curb and then not being able to get up!

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The one lady who did surprise everyone (in more ways than one) was my mum, she was so good at segwaying, riding around taking videos and handing our mints. Then the disaster happened at one very narrow bit she hit a parked car and fell off really hurting her shoulder. Then when she got back on the Segway she felt faint and then briefly fainted in the street and at one point we thought we might have to call an ambulance. I must say we are joking with her about it now, but it was pretty scary at the time and we are really glad she’s ok!

So after a steak lunch and a wanderthat afternoon the parents went back as my mum wasn’t feeling very well.

Me, Chris, Josh and Amy hired three wheel bikes with motors, they were just like mobility scooters it was hilarious. They were so rubbish but we had such a funny afternoon. We had to go back early though as two lost battery and the other had a popped tyre!

We finished the night with a few cocktails then back to the apartment as we were up early the next day for our salt mines tour!

Lucy

Warsaw

Warsaw is such a beautiful European city, we are so excited to be back in Europe and even more excited to see my family in Kraków today! We arrived in Warsaw around midday and got the train to the hotel – which is so amazing and luxurious compared to what we have been used too! A lovely lady we saw at the train station gave us a free tour bus ticket as she was leaving so that was the afternoon sorted. We had a ride on the bus which was a great way to see the city in our short time! We drove past the old town which looked gorgeous and said we would go back the next day. I was so tired as I didn’t sleep much on the plane and we had been travelling for 16 hours.

In the morning we hit the breakfast buffet and something amazing happened – we had our first proper bacon (in our opinion) in 14 months it was sooo good.

We got the tram to the old town which was beautiful so quaint and the buildings at
are so intricate and ornate in such nice colours. Everywhere is cobbled and there are no cars we spent the whole day here – I really have missed how much history Europe has and how lovely it really is. I feel we sometimes take it for granted living so close.

We had a tour around the castle which is actually a replica reconstruction as Hitler demolished the original, the inside was so lovely. There was so much gold and marble and expensive furniture, there were portraits everywhere – they looked like they should move like in Harry Potter.

After this we stopped for a cheeky gin or two in a cafe on the square and watched all the street performers, it really was a great day finished with a meal at Hard Rock Cafe!

I haven’t mentioned at the obvious which is the history of Poland in regards to the Jews it is there and a lot of museums and statues and memorials acknowledge the tragic times. We haven’t been to any of the museums yet as we have a full week in Kraków planned with my family to visit these areas, which I must say I am nervous about as I know it will be harrowing.

Today we have spent the morning killing time in the technology museum before our train to Kraków!

Lucy