It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Taking Your Pillow?

Am I Missing Something? 

Sorry for the delay in blog posts!  We've been travelling in the UK for Christmas with family and friends and I thought I'd try blogging from the iPad, but it didn't quite work out the way I thought it would!  I can't figure out how to put photos in when using the iPad, so I let it slide - sorry!

Anyway, we got home yesterday and it's lovely to be back.  We did two flights to get home and I saw several people boarding long haul flights with their bed pillow under their arm.  I've seen this for years and have always thought that it must be first time flyers who don't know that economy seats on planes are just about big enough for a person (a small person), but not a person and a bed pillow.  But then I started to think that maybe it's me that's missing something.

Maybe these people are experienced flyers and taking their bed pillow onto the plane helps them sleep.  Maybe I should be taking my bed pillow, and it'll help me sleep during a 12 hour flight in economy when I'm sitting up in a space designed for a 4 foot high anorexic who likes to be wedged into a tightly packed plane, jostling for space with strangers.

Do any of you travel with your bed pillow on a plane?  Does it help you sleep?  I'm talking about a full sized bed pillow here, not a little travel pillow, or one of those U-shaped neck pillows.

Flying in Economy - what airlines would like you to believe.

Flying in Economy - the reality.

And today?  After I deal with mountains of dirty laundry, walk the beast, stock up with groceries and ponder what I'm cooking for dinner with friends tomorrow night on New Years Eve (or "Silvester" as it's known here), I'll be writing some blog posts about our recent travels.  You'll hear all about the "Meat Fruit" at Heston Blumenthal's Dinner etc.  Meat Fruit?  Absolutely glorious.  Nom nom nom.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dog Walking Check List

Archie in his element, playing in the Lake and getting filthy.

You all know we've got a 35kg lump of brown haired dog that is thoroughly spoilt by us.  His name is Archie and we do adore him.  He's incredibly cheeky and his intelligence level swings wildly between being astonishingly thick and obviously gifted.  He gets at least two long walks a day, and we're lucky enough to live in a place that's just perfect for dogs - lots of forest, dirt roads and surrounded by water.  He can run free and play with all of his dog friends and honestly, he's got to be the luckiest dog in Germany.

It's winter here and because it's cold and wet, there's a bunch of stuff I have to get organised before we walk out the door, so here's my mental check list of what gets done:-

  • If it's raining or snowing (I wish!) I wear my Drizabone jacket and waterproof baseball cap with ear flaps.
  • If it's not raining then I just wear a parka or polar fleece and maybe a knitted beanie hat if it's really cold.  I was just given a glorious pair of Ugg sheep skin ear muffs (thanks Elke1!), so am waiting until it's cold enough to wear those.
  • Winter boots on (my Dublin riding boots are perfect, though the left one has just sprung a leak).
  • Scarf on.
  • Spare dog poop bags in pocket.
  • Snausages (dog treats) in my pocket.
  • House key in pocket.
  • iPhone in pocket in case of emergency (or to play Words with Friends whilst the dog swims).
  • Choke chain on dog (which makes no difference whatsoever to his pulling - he seems to have a very thick, strong neck).
  • Collar with registration disks on dog.
  • Lead on dog.
  • If it's dark, reflective collar on dog.
  • Put on my gloves.

And then, and only then, can we go.  And, of course, I have to take it all off again when we come back, and put it all on again when we go out for the afternoon walk.

Why can't we have one of those dogs that's just happy amusing himself in the back yard?  Oh, and Archie's latest favourite food?  Bananas.  Really.  He's a freak.

Gorillas in the Mist?  No, Furbags in the Fog.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ellie Goulding Concert

With my new BFF, Ellie Goulding.  Oh no!  Am I about to spill my watermelon daiquiri?

We had tickets to an intimate concert with Ellie Goulding at the W in Barcelona on the Saturday night, and she and her band were in the lobby of the W, checking in at the same time we were.  They were allocated rooms on the same floor as us, and we were thrilled to discover we'd been upgraded to a corner  suite with floor to ceiling glass looking out over the ocean - lush!  We even had a huge bath tub in the middle of the bedroom, looking out on those great views.

Our suite, from the bath tub!

We had a very lazy afternoon with the UK papers in the chic restaurant, then mooching around in our lovely suite, before getting ready and heading downstairs for a drink or two.  At 8pm we swapped our invitation for VIP laminate passes and were shown into an ante-room filled with lovely nibblies and a free cocktail bar - yay!

At 9pm we moved into the concert room with about 100 other people.  It was a really chilled out space, with staff running in and out delivering bean bags, poufs and cushions.  Everyone arranged themselves around the place and then Ellie and her band arrived.

Ellie did a set of about 10 songs and everyone really enjoyed it.  She was very interactive with the crowd and her music is so easy to like.  For those of you that don't know her so well, she sang at the wedding reception of Wills & Kate this year, and has won a Brit award.  Her version of Elton John's "Your Song" is quite lovely.

Ellie Goulding, "Your Song"

After the concert we could use our laminates to jump to the front of the line and scoot into the express lift up to the nightclub on the 26th floor.  Those who know me well know that the words "nightclub" and "Kristy" don't really go together, but even I've got to admit it was pretty cool to be ushered behind the VIP ropes and to meet (and have my photo taken) with Ellie whilst I slurped my cocktail.

We had a fabulous time and got back to the room quite late, which wasn't one of our best ideas considering we had a 4.30am wake up call to get to the airport in time for our flight home!

So, Ellie Goulding?  Fabulous.  Barcelona?  Great!  We'll definitely be back.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011



Apologies for the delay on my promised Barcelona post - I've had a bad case of writers block!  Not sure I'm 100% over it, but here goes ...

We flew out to Barcelona from Zurich on Thursday 1st December, arriving without drama around 7pm.  Picked up our bags (oh, the luxury of having check-in luggage - no Ryanair this time!) and grabbed a taxi to our hotel, Le Meridien on La Rambla.  We were given a lovely room and I after settling in I was starving (no surprises there!).  We headed down to the hotel restaurant around 9pm, which I discovered is very early to eat in Barcelona.  There were a few early birds having their dinner and we enjoyed ours with a bottle of Spanish red and headed off to bed.

Las Ramblas

Hubby had to work in the Barcelona office on Friday, so I got organised and headed out onto Las Ramblas to find some breakfast (hello Starbucks, how I've missed you!) and try to figure out what's what on my map (and we all know how well I can read maps ...).  Over a large cappucino I worked out that I needed to head down to Paseo de Gracia for some Christmas shopping.  It seemed to be within walking distance, so I walked back up the Ramblas, past the ice rink that they'd set up for Christmas skating in the main square and into Paseo de Gracia.

Paseo de Gracia

Had a great few hours shopping my way along the Gracia, and was careful to watch my handbag and phone.  I'd been warned by lots of friends about bag snatching and mugging, so I was on alert, but luckily I saw nothing unusual.  I'd been careful to pack a non-descript, over the body bag (my good old dark green Mulberry) so I could have my hands free.  I did see a few dodgy people and was offered flowers by some gypsy women, but I just smiled and kept on walking.  I found out that the big expensive stores put your purchases into their posh shopping bags and then put the whole lot into plain white shopping bags and staple the top of the bags closed - all designed to make things a little less obvious to the bag snatchers.

Headed back to the hotel to drop off my goodies and then had some lunch on the Ramblas.  Decided I'd take the easy option for the afternoon and bought a ticket on one of those big red "hop on, hop off" double decker busses.  The weather was lovely and warm (well, warm for me coming from 3c) at 19c, so I snagged the front seat on the top deck and enjoyed the next 2.5 hours being driven around the lovely city of Barcelona.  We headed to Montjuic, then down to the harbour, all via very circuitous routes, whilst I enjoyed the scenery and the sunshine.


That night we had a restaurant booking at Montiel, which I've previously blogged about, and we had a fantastic time.  On Saturday morning we headed out on foot to find Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, and ended up on the subway after being steered hopelessly off track by the satnav on Paul's phone.

Sagrada Familia

We joined the long line for tickets, which was moving quite quickly, and got our tickets and moved inside.  It really is just an incredibly fascinating building, and would have been much more atmospheric if people had actually been following the signs for "SILENCE" instead of prattling away and letting their kids run around shouting.  Seriously people, it's a CHURCH!  Okay, got that off my chest ...

There was a fabulous gallery off to one side showing Gaudi's thinking and building ideas.  He based as much of the structure on the natural world as possible, with spires being fashioned as giant Lavender heads and many tiles being created showing the lovely yellow flowers that grew on the site when he first visited.  Natural shapes and curves fascinated Gaudi, and the stretching and flexing of natural lines is very evident.

We headed back to the hotel to check out and move to our new hotel, the glorious W Barcelona, on the waterfront, where we had a special invitation to attend an intimate concert with the lovely Ellie Goulding that evening - and that will be my next post ...

W Barcelona

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Radolfzell Weihnachtsmarkt

Though we were in Barcelona for a long weekend, we were home in time to visit the last night of our local Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt) on Sunday.

Now, this is the third Christmas season we will have spent in Rado - where has the time gone?  Time certainly does fly.

The first two Christmas Markets were snow covered, and you walked through the stalls with snowflakes on your nose, clutching your mug of Gluhwein in your gloved hands - trying to keep warm.  Last night?  Not so much.  Someone with some sort of pull has obviously read my blog on the constant grey and boring weather in Rado, and last night there was gale force wind and it was about 11c!

It was so windy that stall holders were packing up early and the remaining ones were leaning against the walls of their stalls, trying to hold them to the ground before they swirled off into the heavens.

We were exhausted after a fab weekend in Barca, but grabbed two mugs of Gluhwein and they were so good.  This year they seemed to be fortified with shots of apple schnapps before being topped off with Gluhwein - yum!

We walked around and checked out all the stalls and then decided that we'd go and visit our friend Kitty at her lovely restaurant, Royal Thai, for our dinner before heading home to collapse into bed for a very early night.

Wonder what the weather will be doing next year for the Weihnachtsmarkt?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Restaurant Review : Montiel, Barcelona (Part 2!)

Sorry folks, for some reason (maybe I pressed the wrong button) my previous post on Montiel was published before I was finished with it - oops!

Anyway, I went on to say that hubby had the salmon tartare to start which was lovely and fresh, and then had the suckling pig for main.  The suckling pig was so tender that you could cut it with a spoon, but it still had the thin crispy, salty skin that makes it so wonderful.

The dessert list looked great, but we were too full to fit anything in, and after we'd finished our lovely bottle of Spanish red wine and had paid the bill, our friendly waiter walked us to the corner and pointed out the taxi rank on the next block.  It was so much closer than the distance we'd had to walk to get there!  Just goes to show what happens when you turn left instead of right.

I'll be doing a review on TripAdvisor, but I can't imagine it'll be different to what's here.  Montiel is a great restaurant, well worthy of a visit, and the prices weren't at all crazy for such amazing food.  They also do a multi course tasting menu with a wine pairing - very reasonably priced.

Montiel Espai Gastronomic
Flassaders 19 - Born
08003 Barcelona

Oh, and not sure if it was in the previous post or not, but you can make a reservation on their website.  It's simple and quick and you get a confirmation immediately.  Easy peasy.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Restaurant Review : Montiel, Barcelona

We had a fantastic weekend in Barcelona and, as usual, I tried to do some homework on TripAdvisor before we left home.  I tried to get a booking at Cinc Sentits after a good recommendation by Jim and great reviews on TripAdvisor, but they were booked out.  TripAdvisor suggested Montiel and I managed to secure a reservation.  Montiel is in the top 10 of over 2,000 restaurants in Barcelona, and reviewed fantastically well, so I was really glad we could get in.

It was a little hard to find, down one way narrow streets, but we got there on foot in the end after the taxi could go no further into the maze of lanes.  It was really worth the little bit of wandering around when we found it and were warmly welcomed inside.

It's a small restaurant, on two levels, with incredibly friendly staff - all of whom spoke good English.  The menu was glorious and we were asked if we'd like to order a drink whilst we read through it.  I asked if they did a Rose by the glass and the waiter apologised that they did not, only by the bottle.  Then he said "No, if that's what you want, then that's what you shall have.  Life is too short!".  I said that was fabulous, but he really didn't have to open a bottle just for me to have a glass.  "No problems.  I shall offer glasses to other guests.  Please, I will open it for you.".  That?  That's service.  Seriously good service.

I started with scallops and suckling pig - delicious.  The serves are generous so don't think you'll be going hungry.  I followed with duck on wild mushroom risotto for main.  Again, it was lovely and a good sized serve, so much so that I couldn't finish it.

"Afterwards" by Rosamund Lipton

Hubby and I are just back from a fantastic weekend in Barcelona, and I'm working on some posts about that, but whilst I was there I managed to finish the last little bit of "Afterwards" by Rosamund Lipton.

I was hooked into this book after the first few pages, and that hasn't happened for a while.  I had read "Sister" by the same author last year, and I enjoyed it, but "Afterwards" is seriously good.

It's the story of the aftermath from a deliberately lit school fire.  The story is told by the subconscious of the mother and daughter, as they lay in hospital, unconscious, after the event.  It's quite hard to explain, so here's an extract, here's the blurb from the back of the book, and here's a link to Rosamund's web page.  There is a twist in the tale, so you have to stay reading to the end.

My US readers will be able to pick it up cheap from Amazon, but my European readers might not have tried yet - cheap books and free delivery.  I get all my books from

Has anyone else read anything good recently?  This morning, on the plane home, I started "Her Fearful Symmetry" by Audrey Niffenegger - it's pretty good so far.