Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Ever since I invited my Mom to come to London (read about it here) with me in 2014, to celebrate her success in learning English and also to motivate her to keep the good work up, we have made it a tradition to go on an annual trip together.

London holds a very special place in my heart and always will. It is this metropolitan vibe that comes with a friendliness you rarely experience in Germany. (Many people will disagree with me, that it is rather inhuman, hectic, noisy, etc., I think it's lovely.) And my Mom agreed with me, we had a wonderful time, sipping wine out of paper cups, sitting on a bench overlooking the Thames. In 2015 we went to Paris, (read about it here) in August, which proved to be a bad time to travel there. The tourist attractions like the catacombs were very busy, while the true "Parisian flair" I had experienced earlier with Mr Schön was missing somehow. Probably because most natives had fled the city for the summer. Still, Paris is like a muse to me. I always feel very inspired whenever I am there. Anyhow, we experienced Paris between the attacks on the people at Charlie Hebdo and the shootings in November. You could already feel that the police and military were extra alert, but I can imagine that the city has again changed severely after the attacks on their way of life in November 2015.

I don't really know who had the idea, I think it was my mother, that our 2016 tour should bring us to Edinburgh. We had both heard a lot about the city already and always wanted to go.When I admit that I LOVE the Scottish accent, my English friends tend to make fun of me, but it's true. It sounds so melodic to me. The rolling "r", the singsong, it just fits all the clichés of Scotland I have in my mind.

We booked  Airbnb apartment again, a beautiful place with great equipment and style, in walking distance from the city center and great bars and restaurants. The host, Chris, was on holiday himself, but a friend of his showed us everything and was very kind. We had a lot of questions in advance and I used Chris as a "native" to give us tips on where to go, what to eat, etc.

As I said before, we both prefer discovering a city walking to public transport, so my mom and me walked until our feet hurt. Edinburgh consists of an Old and a New Town, divided by the Princes Street Gardens. We were pretty lucky with the weather, although it was much colder than in Germany, which made us both buy the same jumper for warmth. If you are in a city you don't know anybody you can also wear partner look with your Mum, because where else will you do that? With our new jumpers we were fully equipped to leave the shopping malls of New Town behind us and climb the steep hill to Old Town. You cannot spend time in Edinburgh and not hear a bagpipe. The pipers are everywhere. And weirdo tourists like me who take pictures of them as well. It was not as crowded as I feared it would be, so we wanderead along the Royal Mile and had already learned how to spot a cheap touristy kilt and how to spot a classy one.

Bag-Pipers are everywhere

New Town has it's charme as well

The old times and dark ages are very much alive in Edinburgh and you are reminded of them when you go through one of the little alleys or passageways. The Royal Mile today might be mostly tourist crap and expensive pubs, but there is still so much history present that it is definitely a good idea to go on a guided tour. One speciality of the city, next to being the writer's capital of the world, is ghost stories. So we took a tour around the graveyards and catacombs of Edinburgh with some of the most gruesome stories. The young student who gave us the tour was brilliant. I translated to my Mom, what she didn't understand, but we decided that for her sakes, we would do another tour in German the next day. It was a different route, different stories and a different tour guide, but still interesting and exciting. This time the tour took us Undergrounds, in the old cellars and catacombes where workingclass people used to have their businesses in the Middle Ages. Apparently those huge areas had been forgotten for a long while until a pub owner wanted to redo his basement and by accident found the entry to this huge maze down there.

One of the many alleys

Edinburgh is also a writer's city and from Sir Walter Scott to J.K. Rowling, they are everywhere!

One of the many pubs we had a drink in

One evening we went to Regent Bar, a pub that our host had recommended us, as it was close to our apartment we decided to have some drinks there. The best cider we had in Edinburgh was right on our first evening at Maxie's, a place that looked so much like a rip-off and still we not only had the best cider there, but also the best fish and chips of our trip. It was yummy! and we were sitting on the terrace overlooking beautiful Victoria Street. One of the best spots in the city.
But that one evening we were at this gay bar Chris had recommended us, which was cozy, later buzzing with locals and really nice to stay in. Sadly my mum hurt her ankle by slipping on the floor a little bit. (It actually looked hilarious, I still remember thinking "She can't be that drunk yet!"). Her ankle swell and the whole foot turned blue after a while. We went to a pharmacy where they were of great assistance and gave us a bandage for my Mom to walk with less pain. I wanted to take a break the next day. but she didn't want to hear it. Arthur's Seat was scheduled for that day and when I tell you it's the highest hill in Edinburgh you will know it was not a great idea to conquer it with a sprained ankle. I checked, it's 251 metres high. We were lucky, it was a sunny day and the area around Arthur's Seat is just amazing. I have never been to the Highlands and of course, 250 metres is not very high, but the countryside, the colours of the grass, everything in that park gives you a glimpse of how beautiful Scotland can actually be.

My mom is a real hero, she walked up that hill and down the other side as we had read than one of the most beautiful villages, Duddingston,  was there, with the oldest pub of Edinburgh, The Sheep Heid Inn. After arriving there, we were both pretty tired and the comfortable leather armchairs made us almost fall asleep. While we were enjoing the hospitality and taking in all the great old-fashioned interior, a wedding party arrived. I can tell you, in Scottish weddings it's not hte bride, it's the men you look at. They were all wearing kilts and special stockings with knifes attached to their calfs. I loved it!
The countryside around the village is adorable, you should pay it a visit when you are there.

Athur's Seat

My mum climbed all the way up with her hurt ankle


The Sheep Heid Inn

One extra you get when you travel to Scotland's capital is the sea. We love the sea, we love harbours, the rough winds, everything about being on the shore. One day we took a bus to the harbour to have a look around. Although there is some interesting architecture, in general we were rather disappointed by it. But we had a nice break, sitting on a bench looking out onto the water and watch a man daringly feeding some seagulls. When dramatic black clouds started to appear we knew we had to get into one of the restaurants, Loch Fyne. It was still pretty early, so we basically had the huge place to ourselves. It must have been one of the old fisherhalls and now is a rather fancy restaurant. We felt very adventurous, so we ordered the Haggis-Springrolls. I was convinced that, when in Edinburgh you have to try Haggis sometime. My mom was less convinced, but the springrolls she was willing to try. And man, they were good! Really tasty!

Harbour Area

Bad weather on it's way...

Haggis Spring Roles. Delicious!

On our last day, Saturday there was a farmer's market on the foot of Edinburgh Castle and I had read that you could buy the best chocolate of Scotland there, The Chocolate Tree, so of course we went! The market was very small, but charming and we got a free sample of lamb stew one the slow food-movement booth. I normally don't like lamb at all, but it was really good, I can tell you. So tender and just perfect with the potatoe and some carrot.

The slow food sample on the market. Yummie!

The chocolate booth didn't disappoint either. They even have some Haggis-flavoured chocolate, which we tried and it is not as bad as it sounds. But we decided to get some salted caramel chocolate for the loved ones at home instead.

A breakfast I had in a cafe around the corner from our flat 

The castle is definitely worth a visit. You know how I don't like crowds and some areas were just so crammed with people, I didn't go in. Instead I waited outside and watched all the people, again some wedding parties, assembling to wait for the famous cannon fire. It is all pretty silly somehow. With big tamtam they shoot a cannon every day at exactly one o'clock. It's all very Mary Poppinsy. But while standing there, my eyes found the dog cemetery underneath us. The officers had buried their beloved dogs there and even given them tombstones. I found that oddly touching. The military leaders of a strong country and they still mourn for their dogs and honour them in such a public way. Very human and kind of cute.

Edinburgh Castle

The dog cemetery

People waiting for the famous cannon shoot

If you are a Christmas fan like me you have to visit the Edinburgh Christmas shop. All year long you can buy jungle stuff in a glittering environment filled with Christmas music. It's awesome. The young woman in the shop was incredibly nice. She loves Christmas just as much as I do and recommended that we visit Edinburgh during that time of year, as Prince's Garden is turning into one big Christmas market and the whole admosphere is magical. I bought a Scotch-terrier-ornament for our Christmas tree. I chose the Scottish tartan pattern-one, of course. It's adorable!

The christmas shop

If you are looking for a place to have a treat, try Mimi's bakehouse. We had our cream tea there and enjoyed it a lot. All the cakes and muffins look so awesome. I could have eaten there everyday!

Food at Mimi's Bakehouse. Yummie!

Our Cream Tea

My mom loved Edinburgh even more than London and Paris and I have to admit, it is a beautiful city with a very charming atmosphere. It's incredibly easy to get in touch with each other in the city's open and welcoming atmosphere and the pub culture reminded me of the famous hospitality of the Rhineland.

Someone has taken the cork from my lunch. W.C. Fields - From a bar in New Town
A typical Edinburgh street
On our way to Arthur's Seat
Me and my Mom

My wonderful breakfast at Bella Italia

Edinburgh Castle from afar

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Fasting 2017 - No Sugar, No Alcohol, No Meat

Green Smoothies are great for breakfast

For the last few years I have used lent, starting after carnival here in the Rhineland, to give up sugar for those few weeks. The reason was that I was getting the feeling that sugar had such a power over me that I couldn't resist it, whether it was in the form of chocolate, cake or ice-cream. I wanted to proof myself that I am stronger than sugar if I want to.
(You can read about my sugar-fasting experience 2016 here.) This year Mr. Schön decided to join and as he likes to do stuff extreme, sugar was not enough for him, he also wants to quit meat and give up alcohol and coffee as well. I agreed, as actually meat and alcohol is not so difficult for me and why not? Coffee is another story. I don't need it or miss it, but I actually think coffee is good for you, so I might drink have one once in a while.

The carrot cake we made for carnival. I just love cake!

Fasting seems to be a new thing. During the last weeks I have always had groups on facebook with people that supported each other through the sugarless times, which helped. But I asked my friends whether anyone else uses this - originally religiously motivated - time to quit some bad habits or foods. The response was quite overwhelming! A lot of people responded in that they quit alcohol for a few weeks, most people don't touch any sweets and one of them even has the plan not to buy anything that isn't really neccessary and to get rid of useless stuff in her apartment. That is actually a plan we have had for a while, as there is just so much junk in our flat. We own guitars no one plays anymore, lamps that we don't use, etc. Some of the stuff is great and could make somebody really happy. We will sell the stuff online and I vow to make a list about all the objects today.

Bye Bye cocktails. For now...

It has only been five days, but so far we have been really good. We are food-planning now and buy all the wonderful produce for the whole week. That way we spend much less money - no going out for dinner - and the motivation for cooking is much bigger, if you know what to cook and recipe and ingredients are already there in front of you.
We recently watched a tv documentary about how nutrition can be used to treat various conditions. From rheumatic problems to migraine they can improve the suffering by eating the right diet. I am convinced that "You are what you eat" is truer than many would admit, by eating the right food we can already improve our conditions so much.
This morning we used one of the shows recipes to make a cashew milk with cinnamon, which was really good and apparently helps improve high blood pressure and migraines both.

I will keep you posted about what we are eating, which recipes we recommend and how our sugar-, meat- and alcohol-free life progresses. At the moment I am still in this "high-time" where you just feel so good about yourself for doing it and imagining that your jeans get more loose everyday. But I know from the last two years that there will come a time when the fasting thing is less new and less sexy and I will crave sugary food. Next week I will have a fairly stressful week at work, so let's see how that goes...

Green Smoothies are also easier to get "to go" which is just awesome!

Walking in a winter wonderland...

Oh how I love snow! I don’t talk about the muddy, cold, slippery stuff that rests in our streets and wets your socks on the way to work, no I mean the with powdery kind, that makes cracking noises when you tread on it. The white glory that covers trees and hills in thick blankets, makes everything brighter and hushes the noises of everyday life.

Living in an area with very mild weather, we barely ever experience that latter kind of snow. Last winter, our first winter with Lisek, we did not experience even one cm of snow, there was just none! The current winter turns out much colder, with much more sun at the same time. Still no snow in Düsseldorf, but we decided to pack dog, car and warm clothes and explore the snow in our surroundings. First we went one day to Solingen, where we had a wonderful walk through the fields to an old castle, Schloss Burg, which looked really nice with a bit of snow on its’ roofs. (And which, with all its bars and the stunning view might make a very nice venue for having summer drinks.)

Last weekend, as the weather was supposed to be superb, we decided spontaneously to drive to the Eifel, which is an area, just about 90 minutes from us and enjoy some snow there. I haven’t seen as much snow since we have last been to Switzerland, several years ago. Even to just drive through the streets, look up and down the hills and into the deep valleys felt magical. As it is a beautiful town with very old houses we ended up in Monschau again, I wrote about it a bit in this post, this time parking near the school, on top of a mountain overseeing the city. Last time we were there, we didn't realise Monschau has a castle. How could we not have seen this? Due to all the snow and ice, the walk into the town was a slippery one, but we managed and had a nice hot meal before climbing up again. 

Beautiful city of Monschau, famous for it's mustard, btw

Scotty on the rocks
Too cute!

See the Castle in the background?

Lisek probably knew we were going to lose his ball...

Lisek loved the snow! He is never cold, so even hopping through deep snow was fun for him. We ended up losing one of his tennis balls. Some schoolchildren or another dog might be happy to find it once the snow is gone. 

The next day we went to a nearby lake to have a nice walk around it. Fortunately, we still had a ball to play with and could enjoy the warm sunlight. Half of the lake was covered in ice and that ice made the weirdest sounds! I wish I had recorded it. Alienlike, synthesizer sounds, being echoed by the surrounding mountains. They gave me goosebumps. Returning to the van, happy but cold, we enjoyed some hot coffee and then drove back home. 

I hope you are having the chance to have a winterwonderland time as well! 

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Those two are just adorable!