Romans and Riesling – Our Trip to Trier

In my last blog post I mentioned that hubby and I had recently visited the German city of Trier. This was a surprise trip for me, and had been sneakily organised over Facebook by hubby and our friend Iris, who lives in Trier with her hubby Christof. (See, another example of the good side of social media!)

Trier is a Roman city, the oldest city in Germany, and an architectural extravaganza. Cue lots of photographs. Last lot until after our summer holiday, I promise!

We explored quite a bit over our three days there, starting with the very imposing Porta Nigra (Black Gate), the best-preserved of Roman city gates in the world.

The Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra

The Basilika started out as Emperor Constantine’s throne room, and is now a church, with a magnificent organ. There was no way to fit the whole exterior in the picture!

Trier Museum has so many Roman finds they can’t display them all, and if someone discovers something new in the city, the archaeologists take a photograph and say: very good, now put it back where you found it! ๐Ÿ˜€ I think if I’d found those coins I’d have sneaked a few away…

There are many Medieval buildings and remains in Trier, too. Note where the ‘door’ is on the House of the Three Magi. Yes, it’s meant to be up there. This house was built before the medieval city wall was finished, and so the door was accessed by a ladder which could be pulled up in case of attack. Clever, huh?

There was a lovely open air market selling all kinds of things, all gathered around the Market Cross. Poor Christof was chained to the Pillory by angry townsfolk! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Luckily he didn’t have any rotten fruit and veg thrown at him.

The Cathedral displays architecture and artwork from 1650 years of history. Hubby and I spent a whole morning in there.

Trier Cathedral

Trier Cathedral


So, we’ve seen the Romans – where does the Riesling come in? Well, Iris and Christof know the owners of the local winemaker Zilliken. We spent a very enjoyable afternoon wine tasting at their lovely premises, with the expert knowledge of Patrick Zilliken to guide us. We sadly couldn’t bring any back as we only had cabin baggage, but rest assured we shall be ordering some!

Wine tasting! L-R: Patrick (the owner), hubby, me, Iris

Wine tasting! L-R: Patrick (the owner), hubby, me, Iris

I’ll finish with a pic of Iris and me. We had just finished eating schnitzel, after the wine tasting. Hence why I’m a bit pink. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Hubby is taking the pic, and drinking the local beer.

I can heartily recommend a visit to Trier, especially if you love history (and beer, and wine)!

Our wonderful host Iris, and me

Our wonderful host Iris, and me

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A Larky Day Out in Luxembourg City

Well, I’ve finally got back to my blog! (Stupid day job.) As I mentioned in my last post, hubby recently organised a surprise holiday for me. I had an inkling of where we were going, but was still delighted when I found out it was to Trier, in Germany. But you said Luxembourg..? – confused wails from everyone Bear with me, people. Trier is home to a couple of friends of ours, who showed us round their city and treated us to lots of lovely German delicacies (more on Trier next time). However, work commitments had to be met, and on the first day our friends weren’t free. So hubby decided he would like to visit Luxembourg City, which was only about an hour away from Trier by train.

Luxembourg City Old Town is perched on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the gorge cut by the Petrusse and Alzette rivers.


A new bridge is under construction over the gorge. Wouldn’t fancy that job!

IMG_0285

The Old Town has plenty of pleasant squares, old architecture, and cobbled streets – complete with coach loads of elderly people also on a day out! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The city also has a modern business and administrative side. We took the obligatory open-topped bus tour to see as much as possible.

Once off the bus, we explored some of the old streets. Found this awesome sign which heartily met with my approval!

If we’d had more time there were plenty of museums, galleries and other places we could have visited. As it was, we had a great day out and caught a flavour of this vibrant city. The weather, which had been threatening rain all day (you can see the clouds in some of the pics), finally turned just as we were leaving, so that was good timing! We grabbed a local beer before catching the train.

(Follow the link if you fancy knowing more about Luxembourg City and what to do there.)

So: arrived in one country, promptly popped over to another, and then headed back to Germany for more food, drink and sightseeing. Now to sort out my Trier photos for the next blog post… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Excuses, Excuses…

Bloomin’ heck, nearly a month since my last blog post! Why’s that, then? Well, I’ve been kind of busy with a variety of things – not to mention catching THE COLD FROM HELL a week ago. Here’s a rundown:

New instructor training role in my driving day job is great, but it’s keeping me busy with more paperwork, planning, etc.

Paid a visit to deepest darkest Aberdeenshire to see my mad best friend (for what that’s like, read my post Pictures From A Wild Weekend). Except this time we weren’t too wild – we went to the ballet. Scottish Ballet’s new production of Swan Lake, to be exact. Very contemporary and very beautiful in a stripped back sort of way (if you’re looking for tutus and feathers, don’t go…)

Started PROPERLY trying to get fit again. One of my ex-driving pupils is a personal trainer, and together with his wife, runs a mix of personal training sessions and classes, together with a lifestyle and nutrition plan. So I’ve signed up (there may be more on this in the future, let’s wait and see…) ๐Ÿ˜‰

Somewhat throwing in a spanner into the works of the latter, I caught THE COLD FROM HELL just over a week ago and was basically out of action for most of last week. No energy, no voice, sniffly nose…you get the idea. Worse than any cold I had during the winter – and it waits until May to turn up! Bah! It’s still hanging around, although it’s going…slowly. Too bloody slowly.

In spite of this, managed to hand in my end-of-module assessment for my Open University degree on time last week. Phew! No studying again until October.

So that’s my feeble list of excuses for not blogging. Hopefully now my OU coursework is finished and my head not full of tiny annoying germs, things’ll get back to normal. And after next week, I’ll definitely have something to blog about, because I’m off on a mystery holiday. What? Yes, hubby has organised a trip somewhere, and it’s a surprise. I will need euros, apparently. I think I’ve figured it out, but sshh, don’t tell him. I may be wrong though, so you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to find out where I’m going and what I did there. How exciting!

(For those of you who may be concerned about this, thinking I could be getting carted off to The Museum Of Running Shoes or The Exhibition Of The World’s Greatest Kit Car Parts, don’t worry. Hubby is actually pretty good at surprises. I’m confident that wherever we’re going, it’ll be enjoyable and interesting. And apparently there’s beer involved, so there’s a plus point already.) ๐Ÿ˜€

Hope you guys out there are all well and enjoying some good spring weather, in between rain showers. Or autumn weather, if you’re on the other side of the globe. I’m off now to study a map of Europe to get more clues…

Goodbye To 2015

Hi folks! Hope you all survived the festive season, however you chose to celebrate it (or not celebrate it). Mine was quite low key, which suited me (and long-suffering hubby) just fine, as the second half of 2015 was rather manic. We are partying at New Year, though, so I’m gearing up for that, and trying to decide if I can brave the shops to buy a new sparkly top in the sales.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, as I think it’s just a way to put pressure on yourself and then feel extra bad when things don’t go as planned. One thing I’ve realised over the past few years is that life loves to throw curve balls at you, and sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Take 2015. Nothing much happened in the first half, apart from helping my mum move into her new bungalow, and a fun mini break to Liverpool in May. Then: bam! All at once, our plan for major house renovations came together, and we took a holiday to Turkey, including a trip to Istanbul, right in the middle of it all. When we got back, it was full steam ahead to get the renovations finished – and then my mum had a stroke and spent four weeks in hospital. She has made a pretty full recovery and is back in her wee bungalow, but that gave everyone a bit of a fright. No sooner had the house been put back together, than I started my Open University degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. I’d also joined the local Writers’ Circle in September, which I’m very much enjoying. And to cap it off, early in December I heard I’d got a promotion at work, so I’m going to be even busier in 2016. Eek!

Me studying... ;)

Me studying… ๐Ÿ˜‰

I fully admit I’ve struggled a bit to keep up this blog during 2015, simply due to lack of time – and with my OU degree, the Writers’ Circle, and more of the day job in 2016, I’m certainly not going to have any extra time next year! But I DO want to keep blogging – I love the community of readers, writers and all kinds of people I’ve met through doing it. So I’m telling myself here not to mentally beat myself up, and if my blog is a little less regular than weekly or even fortnightly, that’s okay. Some of the stuff I write for the Circle or for my OU course may end up as a blog post as well, killing the proverbial two birds with one stone. ๐Ÿ˜‰

In spite of my lack of time, when I look back I’m pretty pleased with my writing achievements for 2015. I’ve had short stories and articles in two magazines and one newspaper. I’ve featured on a flash fiction podcast. I’ve read some of my work at my Writers’ Circle and I think the latter has improved my skills at reading a story out loud. And I have blogged quite a bit (most of you will have noticed my shameless links to some of my posts in the second paragraph). As well as those, my top posts for 2015 were:

What Is A Kelpie, Anyway?

What Goes On Tour (WARNING: this is naughty!)

Is That Really..? Yes, it is. The Pineapple.

There you go, shameless plugging of own work over. ๐Ÿ˜€ How about you? What did you achieve in 2015 that you’re proud of? Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? Whatever you’re doing, have a great last few days of 2015 and a super 2016!

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

What can I say about Istanbul? As the song goes, it is indeed a Turkish delight on a moonlit night. The word I would more likely use to describe it, however, is…mental. In the best possible way.

View from the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

View from the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

Here are some facts about Istanbul, with help from turkeytravelcentre.com:

1. Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents: Asia and Europe.

2. While being the ancient capital of many empires, from Rome to the Ottoman era, Istanbul is not the modern capital of Turkey – Ankara is.

3. Istanbul, which used to be known as Constantinople thanks to the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, is built on seven hills to match the seven hills of Rome.

4. Under the Ottoman Empire, the city was renowned for having more than 1,400 public toilets.

5. Istanbul is Turkeyโ€™s largest city with more than 13 million people. (Our tour guide thought the ‘unofficial’ figure was probably closer to 18 million.)

6. Tulips, the symbol of Holland, originated in Istanbul and were sent from Istanbul to the Netherlands.

7. The Grand Bazaar is the biggest old covered bazaar in the world, with over 3000 shops.

8. Agatha Christie wrote her famous novel โ€œMurder on the Orient Expressโ€ at Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul.

9. Istanbul is surrounded by sea, with the Bosphorus cutting right through it. And yet, snow is common in the city, with the annual average being 18 inches.

11. Istanbul was once renowned as the most crowded city in the world โ€“ in 1502!

Regarding that last fact: I would say Istanbul is the second most crowded city I’ve ever visited. That honour still goes to Cairo.

Hubby and I visited Istanbul on a very long, but very worthwhile, day trip as part of our recent holiday to Turkey. Here comes a photo blog of our adventures.

We flew from our resort to Istanbul, and landed on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. The Old Town is on the European side, so first we had to get there. Here are a couple of views from the coach. Oh my goodness, the traffic!

Our first visit was to the Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, due to the unusual blue tiles found inside. Built between 1609-16, it was considered sacrilegious at the time, as its 6 minarets were seen to be trying to rival Mecca.

You don’t see it from the photos, but the inside of the mosque was so crowded you could barely move. That was the case with many places in this crazy city, including our next stop, right across Sultanahmet Square: Topkapi Palace. This grand complex of buildings was the home of the Ottoman Sultans and the women of the Harem for 400 years.
(I’ve tried with various photos to show how busy everywhere was, but pictures don’t really convey the madness!)

Crossing Sultanahmet Square towards the Haghia Sophia. Sadly we didn't have time to go inside this magnificent building. (That's our tour guide's arm waving the '20' paddle about, trying to keep us together!)

Crossing Sultanahmet Square towards the Haghia Sophia. Sadly we didn’t have time to go inside this magnificent building. (That’s our tour guide’s arm waving the ’20’ paddle about, trying to keep us together!)

Here are some views from inside Topkapi Palace:

Oh yes, and we met the Palace Cat:

The Sultan's Cat disdains to look at the camera

The Sultan’s Cat disdains to look at the camera

After some lunch – and ice cream – at a cafรฉ in Sultanahmet Square (where we met another cat), it was off to the river for a cruise on the Bosphorus. This gave us a great opportunity to take some pictures of both the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. There are some amazing buildings – and lots of bridges.

Cafรฉ Cat is a little shy

Cafรฉ Cat is a little shy

The Old Town skyline towards the end of a busy day

The Old Town skyline towards the end of a busy day

Our final stop before a restoring seafood dinner was the Grand Bazaar. Originally the spice market, now you can buy anything: spices and tea are still on sale, but also ceramics, clothes, shoes, pet supplies…you name it. So many people crammed under covered walkways, haggling, buying or just staring. It was awesome. We bought ceramics: 2 pot stands, 4 coasters and a bowl. Handmade and handpainted. The cost? A grand total of ยฃ7.

One of the many entrances to the Grand Bazaar

One of the many entrances to the Grand Bazaar

After dinner we caught the flight back to our resort, exhausted but happy. If you ever get a chance to visit this amazing city, do it. But be prepared for crowds. Oh, and the most annoying thing? Selfie sticks! I swear I’ve never seen so many. I won’t say what I’d have liked to do with them all… ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

(All photos by Gordon and Karen Soutar)

Turkish Delight

Hello folks! I’m back (somewhat reluctantly) from my holiday in Turkey. I have returned with:

A tan

3 pairs of new shoes

Mosquito bites

Lots of photos (collective groan)

Although it was mainly a lazy holiday, we ventured out on a Land Rover trip through the Taurus mountains, a speedboat trip round Fethiye bay, and – we got to Istanbul! Yay! I will do a separate post on the latter with more photos (extra loud collective groan). We also partied quite a bit (I blame making friends with younger couples while we were there), and even found a drag show to rival Blackpool’s Funny Girls.

Our resort was the lovely Green Forest Hotel in Hisaronu. Not too big, although big enough to have an atmosphere in the evening, and NO KIDS! Sorry mums-and-dads-who-are-my-friends, but once your own screaming weans have flown the nest you can’t be bothered with anyone else’s. Yes, it was an adults only resort and it was GREAT!

Hotel Green Forest with the Father Mountain in the background

Hotel Green Forest with the Father Mountain in the background

On our Land Rover trip, we explored the nearby mountain range and had lunch at a fish farm. We also had massive water fights with the other 4x4s, the village kids and anyone else who happened to be passing. Good way to keep cool in the heat. On the cultural side, we saw the ancient Lycian tombs carved into the mountains at Tlos.

Our speedboat trip was amazing – never been on a boat like it. They were originally made for marine commandos and rescue teams. Damn thing could turn on a hair – as our mad captain and his nephew demonstrated! After whizzing around Fethiye bay, we stopped for a refreshing swim. If anyone’s going to the Fethiye area, I can heartily recommend this trip!

True to our theatrical selves, hubby and I got fabulous and went to see a drag show – well, 2 drag shows actually. The cast of Talk Of The Town in Hisaronu have 2 different shows, so we had to see them both! A nice touch was that the ‘girls’ transformed themselves back to the boys at the end of the show. They were gorgeous either way!

Talk Of The Town also had some stupendous cocktails. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Well, that’s an overview of my holiday. There was a lot of lying about on sun loungers too, of course. So we’re back refreshed and ready for the next challenge: the new kitchen goes in next week. Aarrgh! ๐Ÿ˜€

Off In Search Of The Sun

Hisaronu bay, courtesy of beachzone.com

Hisaronu bay, courtesy of beachzone.com

Most Brits, or certainly Scots, will agree we’ve had a pants summer so far. To remedy this, and to get away from the building site that is our house for a while, long-suffering hubby and I are off in search of some sunshine.

In a week’s time we’re going to Turkey, to Hisaronu. We have a mountain view resort, pools to lounge by and cool off in, lots of beautiful sights to visit, and SUN! Sooo looking forward to it. I can catch up on my to-read list, as well. Also looking forward to having a Turkish bath again. We did this last time we visited Turkey and it’s refreshing, relaxing and leaves you all smooth and silky.

In spite of the chaos round here, we’re quite well-prepared. Just need to get currency, sort out clothes and do the packing. Oh, and make sure the house is stocked with cat food, so our kindly neighbour who feeds the little scamps while we’re away isn’t left short.

Therefore, I am signing off the blogsphere for a while. Brace yourselves for holiday snaps when I return. Also, lots of moaning about the final phase of our renovation project. Have fun while I’m gone – but no having wild parties in my empty house, now! ๐Ÿ˜€