Berlin – A Long Weekend Full Of Fun

I’ve been quiet on the blogging front for the last week. The reason is I was on a mini holiday in Germany visiting my bestie in Berlin. We celebrated her 30th birthday. It’s always nice to get a mini break away particularly when it’s in my home country Germany.

We didn’t make any massive plans because 30 is only a number after all. I still have my 30th birthday (January) ahead of me but I don’t plan on doing anything big either. It more than likely will be me and her going away somewhere again. To get the most out of my visit, I flew over on Friday early morning. When I say early I mean early. The flight was at 7.20 am.

With such an early flight and a journey of 2 1/2 hours to the airport, I booked a hotel 10 mins away from the airport for the night before. The Clayton was the one I picked. First time I stayed there. Such a big, lovely and family orientated hotel. I can’t recommend it enough. Plenty of room.

Last week was first time for everything. It was also the first time that I flew with Ryanair to Germany. It’s always Aer Lingus. Wow…the check in was a bit confusing. You basically have to do everything yourself. That is scanning your boarding card, make sure the bags aren’t too heavy and put the tag on the suitcase. It’s supposed to speed things up. I didn’t that. The queue was extremely long and you were seriously wondering if you are going to make it on time.

Ryanair Checkin
Ryanair Self Service

First day was a chill out day. I did my usual shopping. I brought everything back that I can’t get in Ireland. This can be quite a lot sometimes but because I flew with Ryanair this time, I was pretty limited as I only booked 15 kg.
In the evening we had a BBQ. The eye always sees more than you can actually eat. But oh my god the meat, skewers and sausages were so good. On the side a bit of delicious potato salad.
We made some delicious cocktails Karo found on Pinterest. One of them was Sangria. Very refreshing and tasty.

cocktail

Saturday was shopping and sightseeing day. Would you believe it, even though I was born in the Eastern part of Germany, I have never actually seen the Berlin wall in the East Side Gallery. I have to say Karo is a great little tour guide.
We also went to the Mall Of Berlin which is a huge shopping centre. It’s two buildings connected with a bridge. I didn’t actually buy anything, very unusual I know. Karo always wanted to go to this place called “Wonder Waffle“. They basically make waffles and you get to choose what you want to put into it. It’s oh so yummy but yet so filling. The coolest thing is though that they take your name and write it in chocolate writing.

berlin wall
Berliner Mauer
mall of berlin
Mall Of Berlin
Wonder Waffel
Wonder Waffel

In the evening time we took the train to “Alexander Platz” and met one of Karo’s school friends for dinner. We went to the ALEX restaurant. The food came pretty quick but other than the waiters were really slow. I was told they are quite good and efficient most of the time. When I am in Germany I always need to have a portion of chips, Schnitzel and mushroom sauce and that’s what I had. They also made this delicious lemonade which they have in different flavours. I had the Pink Passion one. We all had two lemonades because they were so good.

Schnitzel

Lemonade

On Sunday it was one of the hottest days… 29 degrees. That didn’t stop us from doing a bit of sightseeing. Karo, her mum and I drove down to Potsdam. There is not much you can do on a Sunday in Germany because shops are closed. We walked around Sanssouci Park. Jackson, who is Karo’s dog came with us. He loved it. He did need to have a pit stop and drink some water in that heat.
To everyone who doesn’t know what Sanssouci is:

Sanssouci is the former summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, in Potsdam, near Berlin. It is often counted among the German rivals of Versailles. While Sanssouci is in the more intimate Rococo style and is far smaller than its French Baroque counterpart, it too is notable for the numerous temples and follies in the park.

Sanssouci
Sanssouci
SanssouciPark
Sanssouci Park

When we came back to the house, Karo and I went off and got some ice cream for us three from my favourite restaurant “Madlen”. At that point it was only an hour to dinner time. You can probably gather from my post that I ate a lot in those 3 1/2 days. I still needed to eat my favourite meal… a doner kebab. Just around 8 pm we decided to get one. I enjoyed every bite of it. The rest of the evening we watched a horror movie and had some cuddles with Karo’s new kitten called “Fussel” (Fluff). She is only 8 weeks old. It makes me want to get a third cat.

Fussel

Monday was spent with a bit more shopping in the local town, some lunch and off I went to the airport to catch my evening flight back to Dublin. I had a great time and can’t wait for our next trip away. Of course I need to consult this with hubby first. Our next trip away will be Spain at the beginning of August. I might be going away on a short trip with Karo for my 30th in January.

New York Travel Journal Part 3

Welcome back to the last instalment of my travel journal from New York.

Sunday 6th March Another day, another adventure. This day was actually a pretty quiet one. We didn’t do too much. Karo wanted to go down 23rd Street again near the Flat Iron building. She discovered some sort of Craft store online that she wanted to visit. After a bit of difficulties, we found it and spent quite some time. The amount of Easter stuff they had was crazy. Not just decorations and paint Easter eggs, they also had made up Easter Baskets starting at 9.99$. If I had the space in my suitcase, then one of them would have definitely had to come with me.

On the back going uptown I picked up a sandwich because it was lunch time already. I have to say food in Manhattan is very expensive and the most annoying part of it is that there is generally tax cost on top of it so you never know what you actually pay.

We walked back to 49th Street as we planned to go up to Top of the Rock. The building is massive and you can certainly get lost in there. Once we found the entrance and where to purchase tickets, we decided against it though. 32$ was a bit much in my opinion. I think it included a tour but still too expensive for my liking.

2016-03-06 14.36.58

Instead we went to Nintendo World store and I picked up a present for hubby. A new Nintendo World T-Shirt. He already has 2 from New York but a new one was in order as clothes stretch overtime. I am a big Nintendo fan myself. It is just a shame that I barely get time to play the games.

2016-03-06 15.02.37

2016-03-06 15.11.51

2016-03-06 15.02.04

Our next stop was Central Park. Right beside Central Park was the Apple Store. The reason why I wanted to see that was because it was built in a glass cube. Pretty cool and you go down the stairs then but oh my god, it was mad busy. We left pretty quickly again.
Shortly after we entered Central Park. Along the park there are a lot people with horse carriages. I didn’t see the price how much it would be but I’d say it’s not cheap anyway. I did see a sign and it said 50$ max. Central Park has a zoo but it’s tiny so we didn’t bother going in. The park is much nicer during the summer so we didn’t spend too much in it. The squirrels in the park are so friendly that they touch your hand with their nose and you are able to feed them no problem. It is not advised to feed wild animals though because it attracts rats, there are signs all over.

To roll of the day, we walked down to… guess where… Times Square again. This time for some well deserved Cafe Latte in Starbucks. The amount of people with coffee, frapuccionos or simple water from Starbucks on the streets is mad. It’s a shame we don’t have Starbucks in Sligo. Down the road from our hotel, Papa John’s was our dinner for the evening. Pepperoni Pizza and Harry Potter movies in the hotel room. After so much sightseeing and walking, I think we deserved it.

Monday, 7th March For me this was my last day really as my flight back was the next day at 5.30pm and I had to get onto the subway pretty much by 1pm which meant there was not much to do and we couldn’t go too far from our hotel.
Just outside our hotel we had the subway station that led us to Chinatown for the day. I have never been before and this was definitely on my to do list in New York. Once you come out of the Subway station, it’s like another world. It’s still New York like but it’s so different. All buildings and houses have chinese signs. People sell tons and tons of food on the streets and chinese sweets. You certainly feel weird walking down the street with all the Chinese people passing you. After taking it all in, we walked back to the Subway station off to Lexington Avenue.

DSC06629

Lexington Avenue is located near Roosevelt Island. A tram takes you from  Manhattan to the island just across from the Queensborough Bridge. The ride is basically the cost of the Subway and you can take the Metro Card for it,too. Once we got on, it was a bit scary because we were so high and went over the river and under all the cars. On the way back though, we got used to it and took some lovely photos.

2016-03-07 14.52.59

2016-03-07 15.02.19

We decided to walk down Lexington Avenue and pass some shops and have a look inside them to see if we can find anything nice. It was more looking and window shopping than anything else though. On the way we passed another Starbucks, as you do in New York, there is probably one in each street, and because the weather was so nice and it was so warm, I wanted to get a Caramel Frapucciono. Walking down the avenue further, we passed Grand Central Station.

2016-03-07 16.17.10

2016-03-07 16.17.19

In the evening to celebrate our last evening in New York, we walked up to Times Square and went for dinner in Applebees. I used to love Applebees when I stayed in New York for a few weeks a few years ago. With the dinner we had a big glass of Sangria which was I have to say delicious.

2016-03-07 19.45.37

2016-03-07 19.53.15

Tuesday, 8th March The day of check out. We had to check out by 11am but we could leave the suitcases behind until we headed off to the airport. Karo didn’t leave for another 2 days but she was staying in a different hotel then. That day the sun was absolutely booming. It was so warm. I managed to do a bit more shopping for myself and Karo picked up a new pair of converse in a converse shop that had sale on. I wanted to go to the Disney store again and pick up a Mickey T-Shirt for Matthew. On the way back to the hotel I got a sandwich, it was more like a baguette which I ate in the hotel.
Shortly after I said my goodbyes to Karo and took the Subway to the airport. I arrived just around 3pm which gave me plenty of time. We left on time and landed at Dublin airport at 4.30am. This was a bit of a killer because I didn’t exactly sleep properly and the time difference had me jetlagged for 2 days. But after all I had an amazing time.

A blogger asked me if it was worth the money and if it’s expensive to go…
Well, if you book early enough, hotel and flights can be got just over €1.000. I do not recommend to go to New York during the summer time. There are 2 simple reasons for it. 1. It’s way too warm, it’s unbearable and 2. This is a peak season which makes the hotels extremely expensive. The best time to go is March/April or September/October in my opinion.

Is it expensive to commute in New York?
Subway: Recommended is the Metro Card which can be topped up with desired amount. We started off with a 10 dollar card and had to top of up another 10. One ride is around 2.75$. Doesn’t sound expensive but the system is a bit unfair. If you want to take one line from Manhattan all the way down to Brooklyn you pay the same price but yet when you commute in Manhattan only 3 or 4 stops, it’s the same.
To be honest if you have good footwear with you, then nearly everything can be reached by foot.

What’s the cost of the food like?
Food: It seems expensive to me. A normal baguette/sandwich you can buy for 8 dollars which is around 7 EUR. In Ireland I can get one for 4 Euro. But I suppose it’s New York. That’s not the annoying part though. Everywhere you go, anything you buy, there is tax on top. You never know what the end sum is of what you are paying. It’s something you would have to get used to.

How much money should I take with me?
Cash:
 I took 300 Dollars with  me thinking I will return some of it. Not at all. Even you are not the biggest spender, you will need quite a good amount of money if you are staying in New York for 5 days or longer. In the end, higher amounts I paid by card which made it easier and it meant I had cash on me for other things like snacks or lunch.
A credit card in New York is the way to go. You really have to mind it though. In some shops, they don’t even require for you to sign what you paid which means anyone can buy stuff when they have your credit card. Whereas other places, like Hard Rock Cafe, is actually asking for ID to make sure it is your card.

New York Travel Journal Part 2

Saturday 5th March just like every morning we went down first to have some breakfast to get us through the morning for our sightseeing.

After our refreshments we walked down 5th avenue which was only the street next to our hotel. First stop was the Flat Iron. If Karo didn’t tell me about it, I would have never heard of it. As the name says, it’s basically a flat building.

2016-03-05 11.23.26

On the way we passed Madison Square. They had a really good dog park where the dogs can go wild in. Something Ireland might want to consider for its parks too. I am not the biggest dog fan but this was genius.

Down the road from Flat iron building we took the Subway to the Brooklyn Bridge which leads us to our next attraction of New York. We walked over the bridge, took some photos and explored the water side of Brooklyn before we headed off to see the World trade center by Subway. In Brooklyn by the water (the quarter was called Dumbo) they had some sort of sign in the middle of the lawn. Whether it was supposed to say “Yo” or Oy”, I don’t know, we captured both ways. Right along the side there was a carousel in a glass building which looked pretty cool. When we viewed there was a little party going on, it looked like a Christening. Entrance for the carousel was $2 but we didn’t go on it.

DSC06569

2016-03-05 12.29.05

2016-03-05 12.35.25

The weather was much better that day, at least it was not snowing and the sun was shining which is why the place was packed. Last time I’ve been to New York they were still building the tower and the memorials so it was nice to see it finished this time round.

DSC06592

DSC06599

Battery Park was the next place. At the lunch time hour we had a delicious hot dog from a stand outside on the road. These stands seem to be very popular and it’s so odd seeing people eating in the middle of the road. Whether it’s a busy road or not or standing or sitting down. Every time we passed these stands, the delicious smell of chicken kebab went up our nose. Even thinking about it now, I am getting hungry. I didn’t get to have one but the hot dog was even worth the money.

2016-03-05 14.46.27

DSC06601

We had 2 options of seeing the statue of liberty. Either pay 18 dollars and see it up close and enter the island where it’s placed or pay nothing and see it from far. We went for the free option and took the Staten Island Ferry which is an orange ferry free of charge for all passengers in case anyone fancies going down this route. It departs pretty much every 30 mins and more during the week I think.

2016-03-05 15.08.38

2016-03-05 15.34.17

2016-03-05 16.15.02

When we took the next ferry back to Manhattan, we got onto the R subway back to midtown. We haven’t discovered Paley Park waterfall yet so before it was getting dark, we decided to go on the hunt. When you hear park, you probably imagine a big park with a waterfall in the middle right? Not at all, it was a little area with a few trees, tables and chairs and a waterfall at the end between 2 hight building. Very pretty though.

2016-03-05 17.33.33

That evening I invited Karo to a delicious meal in TGI Friday’s off Times Square which ended our pretty much second day in the Big Apple. This was her first meal in TGI’s and she really enjoyed it. That’s what she said anyway. Because we were in New York there is nothing else I could have other than baby back ribs. Heaven!

2016-03-05 18.27.16

Stay connected with the last part coming up soon…

New York Travel Journal Part 1

People who have been following me on Instagram lately knew that I was heading off to New York for a few days. The time has flown so fast and I am already back in the country a few days now. It took me a while to adjust to the time difference again. Hello Jetlag! I am still tired now. Let me tell you first of all, if you haven’t been to New York yet, now is the time to book your flight and go. I have been to New York twice before but more for work, for that reason I have seen the Subway more than the streets.

Thursday 3rd March was the day. In the morning hubby dropped the kids off to creche while I was packing the rest of my suitcase. I said my goodbyes to them before they left of course.
My flight was not departing Dublin airport until 3.50pm but it was advised to be at the airport 3 hours prior to departure because of the US clearance and all. So I drove to Dublin at 10,30am and arrived in the car park at Dublin airport at 1pm. Plenty of time. The flight was 7 hours long.
I killed the time by watching 3 movies. The time difference was a bit of a killer because it meant I arrived at 11pm Irish time and by the time we got to the hotel it was 3 am I think. It took so long because I arrived at Terminal 5 whereas my bestie Karo arrived at Terminal 8. I didn’t think at the time that we could arrive at 2 different Terminals as the last time I’ve been we always arrived at the same Terminal. I guess they must have changed things around in the last 4 years. There have been some complications with the hotel and my pre authorisation payment before I left the country but luckily while we were in New York it all cleared itself.
We made our way to the hotel by taking the Subway. Our hotel was called Hampton Inn and was located on the 34th Street just around the corner from the Empire State Building Great location, as we figured out 2 days later that it is only a walking distance from Times Square. We walked a lot to save money on the Subway.

Friday 4th March, after catching up on some sleep overnight we adjusted to the time change pretty well and weren’t jetlagged too much. Breakfast was served daily from 6am to 10am so we were hoping to sleep in until at least 9 am so we can still make breakfast. With the kids getting up between 7 and 8 am, time change or not, I seem to be programmed to get up at that time so I woke at 7.30am already.
The breakfast is something you really have to get used to. Continental in America and Europe is slightly different. We had the choices of Oatmeal Porridge, Bagels, Muffins, Yoghurts, toast, scrambled egg, some sort of sausages and waffles. The waffles were pretty cool. You could make your own waffles by pouring in the mix into the waffle maker and when it was done, it beeped.

2016-03-05 08.49.00Cutlery and plates was all paper but I suppose that was a way of them saving to wash it all. You have to think about the amount of people. There was 20 floors and each floor had around 6 rooms. I really liked the coffee. Generally I only have one coffee in the morning but here I had to have two. Purely because of these cups. Check out the cool cup holder even.

2016-03-05 08.35.59

Our first day in New York we had snow. It was absolutely freezing and cold winds. Not a great day to explore the city but we did our best, wrapped up warm and walked to Rockefeller Centre which was 14 streets away. It sounds a lot but honestly, each street is like 2-4 mins walk. While waiting on the Lego store to open, we walked over to take photos of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Atlas statue and ice rink at Rockefeller Centre.

DSC06550

DSC06551

We then walked to Times Square which was only around the corner. First stop was the M&M store. They got so many different new flavours that I got a bag with a bit of everything in it. Strawberry Cheesecake, Chilli nuts, Honey nuts, etc. As you can probably imagine they are nearly all gone now. I got a bag for my two boys, too.

2016-03-04 10.55.33

2016-03-04 10.31.07

Once all refilled with M&M’s and having a picture taken with the M&M man himself, we’ve done some exploring around Times Squares which included the Disney store, clothes shops like H&M and New York Gift shops. Basically the first day was all about spending money. We were going a bit easier on the money the coming days then.

We refilled our tummy in an Irish Pub around the corner from our hotel. Karo had some Shepard’s Pie while I had a delicious burger with steak fries. A bit of relaxing was in order in our hotel room before we went off again to Times Square to see the Hard Rock Cafe.

Everyone seems to come out of their rabbit holes in the evening time. The place was absolutely packed.

2016-03-04 19.58.23

To be continued…

7 Things to Do on a Long-Haul Flight

This time next week I am off to Dublin airport to get on a long flight to New York. To mention that I am overly excited is an understatement. My bestie is meeting me over there because she is flying from Germany. We decided it’s easier and cheaper that everyone makes their own way to New York first rather than flying to London, meet there and then fly to New York. It will save us a lot of time.
My flight is going to be roughly around 7h 30mins. A long flight where you need to keep yourself busy. There is a 5 hours time difference between New York and Ireland which will mean I land midnight Irish time. It could be worse but it means we can kind of get into the time change by going to bed around 9pm New York time and catch up.

1. Adult Colouring Book

1700895_picture_9857_1

This seems to be the new trend at the moment. It’s not just for our kids to have fun, us adults colouring in is the future. Mainly this is for de-stressing and relaxing. I didn’t give it a go just yet but I certainly love colouring in my son’s Paw Patrol and Monster Inc. colouring books. Hubby got a little colouring book from the Tiger shop for his Kris Kindle last year so I am going to try that out.

2. Music

ipod-nano-product-red-2015

A few weeks ago hubby picked up a new iPod Nano because he thought he lost the one I bought him. But typically after you looked for it so long, it turned up after the order which means I now have a new iPod nano that I can take on my trip or when the picks up and I can go for walks in the evening. I just need to fill it with lots of music.

3. Games

2923645-6835665827-vg.hh

Games are a great way of passing the time. I only have one game on my phone really which is Candy Crush Soda. I am thinking of taking my Nintendo 3DS with me. I haven’t played it in so long that I actually get time on the plane and finish my games like Animal Crossing.

4. Sky Shopping

sky shopping

This one doesn’t last long browsing through the Sky shopping magazine and thinking about the things you could buy but everyone is allowed to do a bit of “Window Shopping” and imagine what lovely things you could buy.

5. Web Browsing

media-social-media-apps-social-network-facebook

Most long distance flights now offer a Wifi, generally at a price and not free of charge but if you still want the luxury then why not catch up on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram while on the plane. Very handy to keep in touch with your loved ones via Whatsapp too. I am trying to get more into comping lately which can be hard with 2 smallies but this might be my perfect opportunity to enter loads.

6. In Flight Entertainment

LH-economy_setas-cabin4

I have been to New York twice before so know what the In Flight entertainment is like. There are so many options. You can watch the most recent movies, or TV series, listen to the radio or simply play some games on board. I watched 2 movies last time which passed the time quite quickly.

7. Sleep

1240515803_ef81938339_b

Most important thing when you have a very early or very late flight or an even overnight flight… SLEEP! As a parent the most wanted thing you are longing for. Not exactly comfortable on an airplane unfortunately. I generally don’t get much sleep because you are sitting up and it is so hard to find a good position to sleep in but I suppose you can try and take naps.

Are you heading off anywhere nice this year?

Top 11 Sights to Visit in New York

sightseeing new york

It’s just under 2 months until my bestie and I are heading off to New York for our girly holiday. I am really excited, although I have been to New York before. I was lucky enough to be traveling with hubby twice 4 years ago with work, as we work in the same company and work in New York, but also do a bit of sight seeing when we were off.

If you are planning a holiday in New York or are flying to New York in the next few months, then this post might come in handy for you. I am sharing my top 11 sights to visit in the Big Apple.

1. Empire State Building

empire-state-building-build-new-york

The main sight on the list has to be the Empire State Building. It can be a bit of a nightmare queuing for tickets at the building, but just to give you heads up, there are people walking around on the road near the building, selling tickets. It’s cheaper and you don’t have to queue. They are called “Skyride”. It’s a great experience in my opinion.

2. World Trade Center

DSC02281

When we went to see the World Trade Center it was only still being built. In the mean time it has been finished for quite some time and so has the memorial. I will be going back there in March and take photos of the finished building and visit the memorial. Meters away they have also have setup a museum with the story of 9/11.

3. Madam Tussauds

DSC02529

Madam Tussauds is a must to visit. It’s located on Times Square. Generally they are quite big going through the queue of people. You will probably spend up to 2 hours in there. A lot of known faces will appear for you and I am sure they added some new people since 2011.  At the end there is a cinema which is 4D. It means they have added some effects around the room where water splashes in your face or your seat moved. It’s pretty cool.

4. Rockefeller Center

DSC02604A popular place during the winter and summer. In the winter time they have an ice ring around the center and a massive Christmas tree. I haven’t seen it during that time but I think hubby has. Together we’ve been in the summer time. Very busy place but the food is amazing (and expensive). It’s also very sheltered. As some of you may know it gets very hot during the summer time, unbearable most of the time in fact.

5. American Museum of Natural History

DSC02703

If you are into visiting museums, then you definitely have to pass by the famous American museum of Natural History. It’s massive. This is also where “Night in the Museum” was filmed.

6. Central Park

DSC02698

After a visit in the museum you can trot around in Central Park for a bit if the weather allows. The museum is right beside the park which is very handy. There are some vans around the park that sell food. I recommend a hot dog. Maybe you fancy going to the zoo, too.

7. Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island

DSC02344

You can see the Statue of Liberty from near or far. We decided just to see it from far and took a ferry to Staten Island. The ferry is free of charge. In March I’d like to actually go and see the statue from near. I am not sure how much it is but it would be a great experience. As far as I can remember, there was a massive queue for tickets and people started queuing at like 7am in the morning. That was during the summer though, I am hoping this time around will be a bit different.

8. Flushing Meadows

DSC02391

The largest park in Queens, home to cricket, tennis and soccer. I would recommend this during the summer time. The US Open is on every year there. It’s lovely to sit around on the grass, have something to eat and just let the world go by.

9. Times Square

DSC02573

I could spend hours and hours in this place. It looks absolutely stunning at night. You’d think it’s day time. The whole place is full of lights everywhere. Times Square has a lot to offer. As I mentioned above you can go to Madame Tussauds, but you could also go for a bite in the Hard Rock Cafe. A must is to see a Broadway show. To date I’ve seen The Lion King and Spiderman. Both were breathtaking. Pricey enough tickets but there is an outlet called tkts. On the day you want to go you can check them out. An outlet can be found on Times Square.

10. Chinatown

16689091900_8ea0ed1f42_c

I didn’t manage to go to Chinatown the last time because it is quite some distance with the subway. I would like to add this to my list this time around though and hopefully we get to go there. It’s the closest you can get to China without being in China I guess.

11. Brooklyn Bridge

city-landmark-lights-night

Again, another attraction I didn’t get to see. The bridge is 1,3 miles long and has a dedicated pedestrian way all the from Manhattan to Brooklyn above all the busy traffic. If you are planning to walk it, you have to count in 1 hour both ways. This might also give you an opportunity to take a photo of the Manhattan Skyline.

#Blogtober17