Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Bye, bye Germany

I just wanted to share a few snaps with you from my last day in Düsseldorf. We checked out of the hotel at 11am and spent a few hours wandering round the city one last time before going to catch our plane. Bon voyage. 

Monday, 15 December 2014

Sophie and the Chocolate Factory

Sunday we got up early to catch a train to Cologne. Only 20 minutes away (and 30 Euros for a return ticket) it is definitely worth a visit if you have chosen to stay here already - it's beautiful. When you leave the station on the left is the cathedral which is one of the most awe-inspiring places I've ever seen. It's crazy to imagine that somebody built this from the ground up with all the intricacies and details. Just behind it is the Hohenzollernbrücke (the Love Lock Bridge) which gives you great views all the way down the river.

We wandered all the way down the river to my personal highlight of the day, the chocolate museum. Now this is not any chocolate museum, this is a chocolate museum with a Lindt chocolate factory inside. I'm not joking. I was quite literally Willy Wonka. After finding out about all the ingredients (the lighter the chocolate the more cocoa butter and the less cocoa mass there is) you get to watch the entire process, and try a few samples along the way. It wasn't quite as magical as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but I could definitely imagine Augustus Gloop whizzing through the pipes the carry the chocolate across the ceiling.

Watching the hollow figures being made was something. Each one was individually hand-crafted. A precisely defined quantity of chocolate mass is placed in one of the halves, the mould is then closed and placed in a centrifuge (yes that is an actual thing). By continually rotating the mould the chocolate is evenly distributed. After being cooled for about 45 minutes each hollow figure is hand wrapped.

Next up it was yet more wondering around markets. There was a lot more to see in Cologne and really pretty when lit up at night. I finally got my Baileys hot chocolate (okay maybe more than one) and sampled barbecued pork and cheese fondue. I think I've found my spiritual home.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A Stop in Little Tokyo

The good thing about our hotel being in the heart of Little Tokyo is that when you roll out of bed at midday with more than a slight Glühwein headache, a much needed hungover breakfast is never far away.

We headed for the place with the biggest queue (somewhere on a corner with heated benches outside, you'll find it), always a good tactic when travelling abroad I think. When we got in, we got settled in a corner and tucked in. Wagamamas eat your heart out.

We took things slowly the rest of the afternoon, wandered down the main shopping street and spent more than a healthy amount of time in the Lindt store. Girls on rollerblades were giving out free chocolate, can you blame me? In the evening it was a couple more Glühweins by the Rhein and an early night.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Exploring the Old Town

Oh my gosh. We had the best nights sleep in a long time. The beds at the hotel were so comfy! After (reluctantly) getting out of bed and rolling down to breakfast we wrapped up and headed out to explore the town. Our first stop was the Rheinturm tower on the edge of the river. We each paid 5 Euros and took the lift up the 167 floors to the top. Now, I'm not going to lie, I'm not great with heights, even inside. You wouldn't catch me standing near the edge of the window, my legs just go all wobbly, but I still got some pretty good shots of the foggy city from a few feet back.

Feeling more than a little relieved to be back down at (almost) sea level we figured it was high time to go find some more food. I wanted to find an authentic chocolatier and opposite a bakery with the best window display I've ever seen, we found just that. A gingerbread hot chocolate and a gooey slice of chocolate cake seemed only polite.

Today seemed to be mostly about food... I've probably put on half a stone just writing this all up. Bit we spent a few hours browsing the stalls - German Christmas decorations are the best but aren't half expensive! Plenty of soaps, candles and gingerbread adorned the lines of wooden huts, I'll definitely be back for some Christmas presents. Feeling a little peckish we stopped off for a Glühwein and a Raclette cheese toast. A raclette, if you've never seen one, is an amazing thing. A huge cheese is kept under the a grill so it's just the perfect consistency for scooping onto bread. For dinner we went to a delicious seafood restaurant and of course Rich had to get oysters! Washed down with lots more Glühwein in cute cups and a couple of pints of German beer we spent Friday night wandering in and out of the various bars along in the Altstadt (Old Town).

Friday, 12 December 2014

Headed On A Jet Plane

Last Thursday Rich and I grabbed our suitcases and got an Uber up to Tottenham Hale at 4am and jetted off in true London style to Stansted airport. After extensively browsing the duty free (where I decided to become a grown up and splashed out on some Chanel foundation and a Bobbi Brown eyebrow pencil - highly recommended by my friend Rosie) we hopped a plane to the German city of Düsseldorf. Despite having been to Hamburg, Berlin and Ibiza together this was Rich and I's first trip alone together, and the first where he's had to endure me on a plane. I wouldn't say I'm a nervous flyer, but having suffered from chronic travel sickness when I was younger, it definitely puts the fear in me. Thankfully Germanwings eased the situation with some classic sick bag humor: Keine Angst, wir nehmen es nicht persönlich.

After an incredibly short flight, only an hour and fifteen, we touched down at Düsseldorf International. Just a handy travel tip if any of you are per chance thinking of travelling to Düsseldorf - don't fly Ryanair, there is a second Düsseldorf airport which Ryanair exclusively fly to which is actually miles and miles from the city, hence why the fares they offer are so low.

We arrived at around 10:30 so after dropping our bags off at our hotel we headed straight out for some well earned breakfast. We stopped off on the edge of Karlstadt Square at a place called Bastians. It had a lush bakery at one end and a cafe at the other. It was rammed which I always take as a good sign so we settled down at a table in the corner and tucked in to a traditional German buffet.

After a quick explore around town we headed back to the hotel to check into our room. We stayed in the Hotel Sir Astor (ranked #7 out of 242 hotels in the city on tripadvisor) which was really, really nice and only a 10 minute walk away from the Altstadt. The staff were lovely and welcoming from the moment we stepped through the door. The lobby was cosy and festive and our room large and bright. Everything down to the last detail was perfect.

After a quick nap (not going to lie I don't cope well without my 8 hours any more) we headed out to explore the Christmas markets. We walked all the way down to the river and chose a traditionally German-looking pub to have our first round of schnitzel and sausages.