Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Whooooosh... and that was Summer!!

In the words of Julia Fordham, where *does* the time go?!

It's hard to believe that I last wrote on here just before I finished work for the Summer and was looking forward to a long 5 week break & now I have just 8 days until I return for the craziness that is a new term and the arrival of brand new, shiny, impressionable 1st years!

I think I might have just about cracked this summer holiday stuff though! It's only taken me 8 years, but I do remember my 1st summer off as a lecturer and not doing anything with it! Massive fail as going back to such a demanding job without making the most of your time off only makes you feel like you need another holiday within a week of returning! This year I feel like I've done loads & I've really made the most of it which will hopefully see me return to work feeling refreshed and with lots of stories to tell the students!

There was no rest for me as soon as I finished for the summer. Not even a chance to sit down and reflect on the past year as I went straight out to celebrate another birthday. I guess most people who know me know that it's a rare event seeing me sat down! My birthday was brilliant! I suggested karaoke, lots of people suggested that they were not interested but would 'come along'. Those people who 'came along' couldn't be removed from the karaoke!! In my eyes it was a success & I look forward to booking a karaoke pod, & maybe a silent disco, in the not too distant future! It would be great to see some more non singers up!!! :)

Oh, and for those of you wondering if I was lucky enough to receive the Tatty Devine necklace that I really, really wanted for my birthday as mentioned in a previous post?!! I was lucky!! :) :) :)

Without a doubt my favourite birthday present in a long time! xx

So, pretty much straight after my birthday celebrations it was off to my favourite island in the World for some rest and relaxation with the folks & also to use the voucher I was given by my Auntie and Uncle for my big birthday last year, to have a go at powerboating.... they know me too well!! A voucher to have a go at crocheting wouldn't have gone down so well!!

I would recommend it to anyone! It was fast, exhilarating and fun... and my mum decided she needed to have a go too! We were lucky enough to speed out to Ailsa Craig, a stunning volcanic granite rock which is now only home to seabirds including the huge gannets with wingspans of up to 6ft! Approaching the rock was quite unbelievable as the sounds of the birds shattered any peace that we thought there may have been! My breath was literally taken away as we were surrounded by seals frolicking in the water, puffins feeding their young and just thousands upon thousands of white seabirds nesting on the cliffs. The leader of the trip, Russ, was highly informative and what he didn't know wasn't worth knowing! My mum's rather renowned for asking 100's of questions but Russ was able to answer every one!! :)

I'm not sure the outfits would be classed as particularly fashionable but it kept the sea spray off us!!

I've uploaded a few more pics including Ailsa Craig as it looks from Arran and then what it looks like close up. I also came across an abandoned house with the frying pan still on the stove... and beer on the shelves! Very Marie Celeste!

It was a fantastic trip and a lovely few days of just chilling & walking our gorgeous black lab on the beach!! I will *never* tire of Arran!

So then, I had a few hours back in the Toon before being picked up to start the journey to Berlin via Liverpool Airport! It was hard to imagine that we were on our way! I'd been looking forward to it for such a long time so boarding the plane at JLA saw me a little bit giddy!!!

I went over with Aly Agar, my colleague from work and her friend AJ & then we met up with another friend Rebecca, who had arrived after travelling around China and Russia so she more or less slept for the 1st 24hrs after arriving!! I didn't blame her!!

I had no preconceptions about Berlin. I tend to go to new places without reading up on them much apart from looking for recommended places to go. But I much prefer mooching around a new city and finding things myself! The only place I knew I wanted to go was the Aquadom, the largest cylindrical Aquarium in the World which was built as the highlight of the Sealife Centre 8 years go! I have already mentioned it on this blog so that's another tick on my bucket list even if I did have to wait 4 days to get there!!!!

It's as stunning as it looks on pictures! It's kind of like the finale of the Sealife Centre exhibits! You leave the main building then you head over to the Radisson hotel which houses the Aquadom. So, as you're checking into the hotel you have this huge aquarium looming over you! Pretty cool!!

Yep, my pic's a little wonky... but I was in awe!!!

I bet the diver gets to see a few strange sights in the hotel rooms!!! Cool job! :)

We spent the first few days just wandering around the area we were staying in called Mitte! I think what took me by surprise was just how big Berlin is! I knew it wasn't going to be a small town but it's quite easy to get lost! The public transport system is very efficient and clean although it's like a warren underground and there was more than one occasion when we ended up on the wrong platform!!
We usually kept stopping off to try the local beer! Well.. it would be rude not to!

We were very close to Alexanderplatz which is more or less the centre of Berlin and the location of the infamous TV tower which features on most postcards of Berlin! It is very impressive and although we never went up to the top (apparently the coffee & cake is severely overpriced and I refuse to pay extra for something just because it's sold in a tourist attraction!!!!) I took lots of pics!

We also visited the Brandenburg Gate. This took me back to being 18 and watching the footage of the Berlin wall coming down. It was just as impressive as it looks in pictures although it was full of tourists and gypsies and people selling rubbish. A good experience though & it's hard to imagine what life was like before the wall came down!!

The Sunday was spent in an area that had been recommended to us & only 5 mins walk from our apartment. The Mauerpark and its infamous Sunday fleamarket! It was a beautiful day and as expected the park was absolutely packed!! Every inch of grass was taken up by a body just chilling! Beers were out (even at 11am) and it perfectly depicted the very relaxed attitude of the Berliners!

The market was great. Like the Newcastle Quayside market but 30 times bigger!!! It was so easy to get lost amongst all the stalls... and it was even easier to spend lots of ££'s as there were so many bargains! I did manage to restrict myself though!!

We stayed in the park more or less all day as there was so much to see and do. We spent the afternoon watching a street artist perform in the ampitheatre. She was very good and had a huge crowd watching her & managed to encourage lots of audience participation!!

Our week in Berlin seemed to fly by but I felt that we packed an awful lot into a relatively short space of time! I feel confident that if I go back I will know my way around & would probably stay in the Mitte area again as the bars and restaurants were fantastic with lots of quirky places!
Oh, and the view from my apartment window was pretty special!

My trip across Germany continued as I took the train from Berlin to Hannover (with a weird incident of a mad German woman hitting me over the head with her handbag!) & then I caught the train from Hannover to Celle where my friend Gemma picked me up.

Gem's been in Germany for 5 months now working on the Army base at Bergen. She seems to have settled in well and has a pretty good social life in what she calls 'Little Britain'!

I have to admit, sometimes it was easy to forget I was in Germany as there were more English cars than German ones passing us on the street and every shop we went into, there was always an English person based at the barracks doing their shopping!

Without a doubt, my best first experience of arriving in Bergen was being taken immediately to the local ice cream shop! I saw the different flavours as we walked in and I oooh-ed a lot at which point Gemma told me to wait until I'd seen the menu!! Upon opening said menu I was rendered rather speechless! They did Spaghetti ice cream!!!!!!! Such a simple idea, get a machine which produces ice cream in a spaghetti shape, but it was highly effective! All ice cream shops should have a spaghetti ice cream machine!!! I went for the Spaghetti carbonara! A taste sensation! :) It really doesn't take much to amuse me!!!

Bergen was great. Quite a small little village but with a lot of history. On the 2nd day whilst Gemma was at work I decided to visit the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Famous for being the camp where Anne Frank and her sister Margot died.

I knew it wouldn't be the most pleasant of experiences but what surprised me more than anything was although my emotion levels were heightened, the actual location was one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited! It was just unbelievably hard to imagine the horrors that went on in such a beautiful space! I was more or less alone as I wandered around the vast area and all I could hear were birds tweeting and crickets chirping. You would have never guessed what had gone on but the signs dotted all over were a grim reminder.

I was rooted to the spot at times just drinking up the atmosphere. I just stood and stared, lost in my thoughts of the people who suffered at the hands of animals. Tears would spring to my eyes every time I passed a mass grave. First holding 1500 victims, then 3000 and then 5000.

The memorial committee have done an amazing job turning what was a relatively derelict and overrun site up until early 2011 into a place which is so fitting in tribute to the victims. Although beautiful the facts are there clear to see and we should never forget!

The rest of my stay in Bergen included a visit to the very pretty town of Celle & a trip to the cocktail bars of Bergen which is where most of the squaddies hung out on a Friday night which was amusing to watch! Squaddie dancing should be an Olympic sport... definitely a sight to behold!!

All in all, a great 2 weeks of travelling and experiencing a different culture. It does feel hard to believe I've been back almost 2 weeks though!

However, the days haven't been wasted! I managed a day trip to Edinburgh which was great fun doing touristy things I never got to do when I lived there!

And then I went back up for the weekend to see the show of the brother of a good friend. Called Grimm Up North it's an animated show which is quite dark but amusing! I managed to see it twice and laughed both times!!! It was also a a good chance to catch up with friends I hadn't seen for a while & I also managed to go and visit some of my Scottish family including my 2nd cousin and her baby girl Anna who I hadn't met!

I've also managed to spend a weekend in Leeds to catch up with some other friends who I haven't seen for ages! Now I have a week left to make the most of the remainder of my holidays! I intend to do a spot of decorating & also maybe a bit of illustrating & I also have 2 hen party classes to run.. oh, and I have to get over a nasty throat infection I seemed to have picked up.... possibly burning the candle at both ends! :/

But the best news of all is that I've just heard today that my sister Amy has gone into labour with her 2nd baby and my 4th niece or nephew! Hopefully I will become an Auntie again within 24hrs! I can't think of a better way to finish off an amazing, fun filled, crazy 5 weeks spent with the best people!

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