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.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Annual Flight Count Update

A wonderful trip to Bangkok and Phuket with my fantastic hubby saw the flight count leap up to 33.  Keep an eye out for a bunch of Thai blog tips coming up!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Scottevest Trench Coat

I know I wrote about these Scottevest jackets last year, but I finally got my hands on one and I used it for the first time on this last short trip to the UK.

I flew to London Stansted on Ryanair and managed to get a return flight for the brilliant price of €55.  I think Ryanair is great - they're cheap and they run on time - but they do fly from odd places and if you want to check luggage in, reserve a seat, buy a snack, or get onto the plane first - you're going to pay through the nose.  That's why I only ever fly them with carry-on luggage (definitely one piece only, 10kg maximum weight and very strict bag measurements).  And make sure you check in online and print out your boarding pass before you go to the airport - if you don't you'll be hit with a €60 fee.  Really.

Ryanair was pretty much the reason I bought this Scottevest jacket, so I could take a lot more with me, wedged into the capacious pockets of the jacket - and it works!

On this trip over I packed the following into my jacket pockets, and I still had loads of empty pockets (it has 18!):-

  • 6 x 100ml tubes of mustard (yes, really)
  • 1 x 100ml tube of foundation
  • 1 x box of Lindt chocolates
  • 1 x bottle of painkillers
  • 1 x magazine
  • 1 x paperback book
  • 1 x purse
  • 1 x sunnies
  • 1 x Oyster card holder
  • 1 x set of keys
  • 1 x Ziplock of local currency
  • 1 x stack of UK Entry cards
  • 1 x iPhone

And, yes, it was a bit heavy, but it sat well and I didn't look like the Michelin woman (provided I didn't do it up and belt it - then I looked a bit odd).  I think it's well worth it (I got mine on special offer) and it will pay for itself in only one more cheap Ryanair flight.  I got the foggy grey one, but I think red would be more fun.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

M&S & John Lewis Shipping to Germany!

Now, here's some welcome news for us expats living in Germany!  Just in time for Christmas, as of today, M&S (aka Marks & Spencer, or Marks & Sparks - if you're classy) and John Lewis are now SHIPPING TO GERMANY - yippee!

At this stage M&S are shipping Women, Lingerie, Mens, Kids & Home Furnishings.  John Lewis are shipping Christmas, Home & Garden, Electricals, Women, Men, Beauty, Baby & Child, Toys, Sports & Leisure, Gifts and Special Offers.

One thing to note with John Lewis - make sure you check for "eligible to ship for international delivery" next to the item you want, or you're out of luck.  No mention with John Lewis of any free delivery deals.

I registered a week or so ago with M&S and received a discount code of WELCOME12 that gets you 20% discount off your first online order - and it specifically says to share the discount code around - so use WELCOME12 at M&S and get shopping!  They are also offering free shipping if you spend over €35 - not hard to do.

If you sign up for the M&S newsletter (here) you get your own 20% off discount code.

What are you waiting for?  Go shopping!

Oh, and unless you're mentally prepared, don't Google "delivery image" (like I did to get the cute little guy above), unless you want to see graphic images of women giving birth.  NOT the kind of delivery I was looking for ...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Restaurant Review : Barbecoa, London, England

Jim had eaten several times at Jamie Oliver's new restaurant, Barbecoa, in London and had only good things to say.  You know I love BBQ, so I was a very willing accomplice to try it again.

Barbecoa is in the new shopping development in the City, 1 New Change, overlooking St Paul's Cathedral.  We snagged an early booking before heading to the movies (we saw "Ruby Sparks", not even worth a review) and the large restaurant was already groaning with people.  It's across the hall from Gordon Ramsay's new "Bread Street" restaurant, which is equally huge and looked pretty empty.

Barbecoa is all about the meat.  They use Texas pit smokers, tandoors, robata grills, fire pits and wood fired ovens.  We saw HUGE steaks on the grill of the glass windowed kitchen, they were so big they looked like dinosaur steaks - something Fred Flintstone would have tucked into.

We started with the bread (oh, the bread), three generous hunks of warm bread impaled on a stick served with home made butter - swoon.  We then shared the Burrata and San Daniele Proscuitto which is served with fresh figs and almonds.  We both ordered the pulled pork shoulder which is served with a waffle and spicy coleslaw - the meat was fantastic, so tender that it fell apart.  We also shared a side of duck fat chips - yum!  There is also a dessert menu and it looked amazing, but there was no way we could fit anything more in.

The prices aren't mad for a celebrity chef restaurant and the food is good.  The restaurant was as busy when we left as when we arrived, and Gordon Ramsay's looked slightly busier than it had when we arrived.  The last time we had eaten at a Jamie Oliver restaurant was at Jamie's Italian in Manchester and it was AWFUL, so he's redeemed himself here.

Oh, and he also offers butchery classes and courses - they really are all about the MEAT!

20 New Change Passage
London  EC4M 9AG
Phone:- +44 020 3005 8555

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Annual Flight Count Update

After a lovely long weekend in London to see a dear friends daughter perform on stage in Her Majesty's Theatre in Covent Garden, the flight count has bumped up again - to my lucky number, 29.  Had a fab time with Jim too, so keep your eyes peeled for a review on Jamie Oliver's new restaurant, Barbecoa.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hotel Review : The Tremont, Chicago, USA

We found The Tremont on and many of the reviews are a bit negative.  I think that people expect certain things of an SPG hotel and this one doesn't quite cut it - yet.  One thing to keep in mind is that it's significantly cheaper than the other SPG hotels in Chicago, so you can't expect everything to be brand new and perfect.

As I understand it, The Tremont has recently come into the group, and it's being slowly done up.  Ceiling fans were being installed the morning that we left and there always seemed to be workmen around, though we weren't bothered by any noise at all.

The lobby is small and of an older style, though the lounge attached to it has been done up and looks very smart.  The restaurant, Ditkas, looks popular though we didn't eat there in the evenings.  We had breakfast (which was included in our room rate) there one morning and it was okay - nothing warm though, and no glasses, just disposable plastic cups.

The only guest lift is very slow, but there is a service lift a little further towards the back of the hotel to the left that seems to be much quicker.

Our room was fine, on an SPG floor, with a king size bed and a decent sized bathroom.  Rather odd controls/taps in the shower, but we worked it out.  The windows opened for fresh air (always a plus) and the bed was very comfortable.  The only real bug-bear was the bed pillows which were incredibly high and hard - I couldn't sleep on them, though my husband was okay.  I asked in the lobby if any different pillows were available, but no luck.  I ended up putting the decorative sofa pillow in my pillow case and using that.  I think I mustn't have been the first, as house keeping didn't change it back!

The location of the hotel is fantastic - right off Michigan Avenue (aka The Magnificent Mile) - and there is a Starbucks over the road if you're after better coffee than the breakfast "buffet" provides.

The Tremont
100 East Chestnut
Chicago  IL  60611
Phone:- +1 888 627 8281

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jewish Coffee Cake Recipe

This is another yummy recipe I pulled from Pinterest.  The weather has started to cool here in Germany, and I'm getting back into baking, so I thought I'd give this a try and it's really good.  As usual, my comments in italics.  Here we go ...

Jewish Coffee Cake

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar (I used brown sugar.  I know, I'm such a rebel!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup sour cream (I didn't have enough, so I used some Greek yoghurt with honey that I had in the fridge)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (I didn't have enough walnuts, but I had a tin of honey macadamias and I used those as well.  They are, however, much harder to chop and some fell onto the floor and then the dog ate them.  Sigh.)
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 350f/175c.
  2. Grease and flour a 9x9 inch pan (I used my bundt pan, I love my bundt pan!)
  3. In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda and baking powder
  4. Cream sugar, butter and eggs until smooth
  5. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth
  6. Stir in sour cream and vanilla
  7. In separate bowl combine nuts, icing sugar and cinnamon
  8. Spread half the batter into the baking pan
  9. Sprinkle layer of nut mixture on top
  10. Spread remaining batter and then top with remaining nut mixture
  11. Drizzle the melted butter over the top
  12. Bake for one hour in preheated oven, until cake springs back to the touch

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hotel Review : Sheraton Detroit Novi, Michigan, USA

This was my second stay at the Sheraton Detroit Novi, accompanying my hubby who stays there for business, and this really is a business hotel.

The reception staff were really friendly and helpful (particularly the morning the freeway was closed and two people helped me find another way to where I needed to go, printing me maps and really helping) and remembered us by name - asking after my husband when I checked in.

We had a very comfortable room on the SPG floor with a lovely king sized bed.  No complaints about the room at all, it was a good size with a decent bathroom.  The SPG "lounge" was a few doors down and, let's be honest, it's not all that.  It's about the size of two guest rooms knocked together and is often very crowded (especially at breakfast).  There's a waffle machine in there at breakfast, but no other hot food.  There is a good selection of cold food and a new coffee machine (which decided it didn't want to work for me), there is also brewed Starbucks coffee in big thermos flasks.

We ate downstairs one night in the restaurant and it was fine, no complaints.  Breakfast was included in our room rate and I had breakfast in the restaurant one morning - lots of selection and friendly staff.  There was a children's ice hockey team staying and they went through the buffet like a plague of locusts, but it was constantly replenished.

There's an On The Border and a Chilli's restaurant within walking distance across the hotel car park, and parking at the hotel is free.  There's a gym and an indoor pool, which I didn't use, but I did use the pool last time (in the heat of summer) and it was FREEZING, so I'm guessing they only heat it in winter.

Sheraton Detroit Novi
21111 Haggerty Road
Novi  MI  48375
Phone:- +1 248 349 4000

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Restaurant Review : Shaw's Crab House, Chicago, USA

As we flew out to the US on my husbands birthday, we didn't really get to celebrate on the actual day.  I thought it'd be nice to go out to somewhere fab in Chicago and celebrate when we got there.  I had a good poke around and decided on Shaw's Crab House, as we had both tried Alaskan King Crab in Florida a few years ago, and we loved it.  Alaskan King Crab is Shaw's speciality - yum!

I booked online via their website, which throws you straight away to, and shows you what's available and you book through them.  You get the chance to make a note on the booking, and I said that it was for hubby's birthday, so that they knew it was a bit special.

We lobbed in there about 15 minutes early and discovered that a booking basically essential.  If you don't book, you get your name taken and given a beeper with at least an hour to wait.  Half of the restaurant had been booked for a private function for the Ryder Cup - it's pretty popular!

We were shown to our table by the friendly staff and then our waiter introduced himself and took our drinks orders, taking our food orders when he came back with the drinks.

I started with the Maryland Style Crab Cake with Mustard Mayonnaise and it was gorgeous and not huge, just a perfect size.  For main I had a pound of Alaskan King Crab Legs which arrived with a claw cracker and a bib, so I could look extra classy whilst I shovelled it in.  And shovel it I did, it was so yummy.

Their wine list is good and varied, we chose a bottle of Two Hands red from South Australia.  I know, I know, "Red wine with seafood, are they mad?", but you'll just have to trust me when I say it was just right.

Our lovely waiter then appeared with a wodge of chocolate cake with Happy Birthday written on the plate in chocolate and a sparkler stuck in the top - how lovely!  Whilst chocolate cake is good at any time, I'd heard great things about their Key Lime Pie and we asked for the chocolate cake to be boxed up and to try the Pie, hubby's favourite, which was glorious.

All in all, it was a great restaurant with friendly staff, bustling atmosphere and well worth the money - perfect for a celebration.

Shaw's Crab House
21 East Hubbard Street
Chicago  IL  60611
Phone:- +1 312 527 2722