Just like most spontaneous trips, this one started out (about 10 days ago) with the simple desire for a little escapism…
We had already decided on the Thursday evening before last weekend that we wanted to drive somewhere nice for the weekend… On the Friday after work we picked a gorgeous house on Airbnb, the whole thing for a better price than most hotels in the region… and hatched a plan to wake up early and drive to Alsace.
To a little town called Hattmatt, actually- to be precise.
Location: North East France.
The journey was smooth and rather enjoyable… sunshine present, radio blaring and of course, plenty of excitement in tow!
We very quickly settled into our gorgeous ‘home’ for the weekend- a detached, idyllic traditional Alsatian beamed house… complete with everything one could possibly need; 2 pet kitties, Barbecue, huge garden, terrace… We really felt as though we’d hit the jackpot with this last minute Airbnb pick!
We went to a nice big supermarket in nearby Saverne to pick up supplies for a barbecued feast for the evening. Then, we set off on a 3.5 hour hike in the hot afternoon sun… we headed from Hattmatt over to St. Jean Saverne into the Réserve Nationale de Chasse de la Petite-Pierre, and the beautiful, almost untouched northern French forest.
Lots of lovely wine and cheese and meat was enjoyed as a much-needed reward after our lovely long hike.
The kitties seemed to enjoy the feast too! (Especially Wolli, pictured above, who we renamed fatty! She flicked a steak off the table whilst we were up the garden exploring!)
Hattmatt was the perfect base for our Saturday night stay & springboard for another little Alsatian adventure. We drove back to Frankfurt Via Haguenau, where we enjoyed a nice iced coffee!
More importantly though… we went lake swimming in the Bassin des Mouettes in Lauterbourg (near the German border) and soaked up some sun!
On the whole, it was a really fantastic weekend. I would do it again in a heartbeat. If you get the chance… jump in the car with a map and a plan… (you don’t even need much of a plan!)
I wrote most of this post almost a fortnight ago now, but have been up to my eyeballs with life… so here it is, at last!
Thursday (15th) was a German national bank holiday (Corpus Christi)- though a Christian holiday, it’s not one we have at home, so that came as a nice surprise to me, as it meant a free day for exploring!
After a lazy start, Felix and I drove to Wiesbaden, the state capital of Hessen- somewhere near Frankfurt I had never been before! We had a really lovely afternoon in the scorching heat (it reached 31 degrees centigrade by around 3pm… too hot, if you ask me!) Our ice lollies and cold drinks were very welcome!
I thoroughly enjoyed admiring some of the beautiful old buildings and houses which the city boasts. We took the Nerobergbahn (a funicular railway) up from the level of the main town to hilltop Neroberg. We visited the stunning Russian Orthodox church, looked down over vineyards, churches and houses, and green that seemed to stretch for miles and miles the other side of the city.
We had a really nice mini-visit, and after Neroberg we drove and walked around and saw a few of the sights of Wiesbaden in a whistle-stop manner.
Then… on Friday I went to the annual state festival here in Hessen, the ‘Hessentag’, which is hosted by a different city in the state every year. The host city is transformed for 10 days, with roads closed, stands, rides and stalls erected and entertainment set up. This year it was in Rüsselsheim.
I went with friend (and former school exchange partner) Lara, and her parents, and enjoyed some really different German delights…. Bowle, Flammkuchen… the lot!
We took a ride on the Riesenrad (big/ ferris wheel) and enjoyed a gorgeous view over Rüsselsheim to one side (pictured below) and up along the Main/Rhine valley to the other side.
The day ended up being a real scorcher and despite plenty of factor 50 I got thoroughly sunburnt!
The Hessentag was nothing like I’ve ever seen before- the main streets of the town were all closed and lined with food stalls, entertainment stages and advertising/ sponsored areas. It was well worth a visit on a lovely sunny day!
On the whole, it was a really lovely couple of days of local exploration!
The weather the past few of days here has been glorious; blue skies, sunshine and daylight until gone half 9pm. Yesterday there was a wild, mildly tropical thunderstorm (but yesterday was a duvet day for me- so I’m not going to count that!)
On Thursday, I enjoyed a really wonderful evening in Frankfurt- spent strolling over the Eisener Steg towards Sachsenhausen, stopping for a relax on the Riverside grass along the Schaumainkai with a couple of beers. Afterwards we headed towards Sachsenhausen in search of grub.
Sincerest apologies for my brief blog hiatus. It’s been a busy couple of weeks… Last week I got my dissertation results, finished final year lectures & did quite a lot of socialising!
At the weekend I went somewhere I hadn’t been before… To… Dunstable, Bedfordshire…! (It’s near Luton, but far greener and nicer than I had anticipated from what I’d been told! (An atypical minibreak destination, I know!) but I was with friends and we had some great fun together!
Some words have a whole new meaning to me now… ‘busway’ for example… A magical bus only road/rail for super whizzy fast buses between towns! Who knew? The photo above was the view out of the window whilst we took a ride from Dunstable back to Luton station on Sunday afternoon. The weather was glorious.
We enjoyed some retro entertainment at the bowling alley on Saturday night! Followed by a quick game of pool at the (very sticky) local sports bar!
I’m stupidly overcompetitive (an early school report said “Hannah needs to learn to lose at games”) and thus, got very into the whole affair!
Also notable weekend in Dunstable occurances were…
Epic pork katsu food time…
A little walk through the park… (And some very interesting local knowledge about an angry Henry VIII and the establishment of the Church of England)
And the cuddling of two lovely bunnies, Frank and fizz. Very good indeed.
Our weekend trip to Dunstable (2 great uni pals and I) goes to show… Random English towns can be pretty fun too.
Also notable in my life at the moment… It’s all change…! It’s now only two weeks until I’m hitting the road and travelling back to Frankfurt to move in with my boyfriend and start my new grown-up job! I’m super excited. And also terrified. I’m currently at my parents house again for a couple of days, catching up with the family whilst I can.
I took all of my teenage bedroom ‘wall of stuff’ down today. (14 year old me decided sticking 47 postcards, 6 records, over 30 posters and more than 250 tickets of various varieties along with other odd bits and bobs- chopsticks, badges, medals- all over my walls would be the coolest idea ever.) I wouldve left it longer but my parents want to repaint in June before they sell the house… So it was a necessary evil. My room feels very bare now and it’s all started sinking in.
I’m excited to write again soon with more exciting news, updates and adventures.
I often think how sad it is that I’ll never get to experience London as a tourist.
It’s the most eclectic, multicultural, amazing city I’ve ever been to. It’s just so varied, full of culture, heritage, sightseeing opportunities and iconic landmarks. That being said, I love being a Londoner. This is something that has come to my attention more recently, showing international friends around the city I know and love so much…
I was born in the London Borough of Bexley- with the rate that London is growing and sprawling more and more, i’m sure one day Bexley will be considered more central than peripheral- But I grew up with it very much on the edges of the city. Close enough to the feel the buzz and experience the benefits of being a Londoner (better public transport, refuse collections and regionally inflated wages for my parents) and far enough out to feel comfortable and suburban.
The local train station, just a few minutes walk from my parents house, where I lived from the ages of 7 to 18 (and still frequent as a cheeky visitor) is in Zone 6. That probably won’t mean much to you unless you’ve spent some time in London. The transport network in London has its very own authority (Transport for London, or TfL) with the London underground and overground, privately owned regional train providers and vitally over 700 red bus routes serving the capital. It’s really so easy to get from one place to another, though not as cheap as other international transport links, it is quite efficient when you think about how much of a gargantuan operation it is to move London’s 8.64 million inhabitants everyday, (plus the 31.5 million visitors we see every year (that number was from 2015 alone)!!)
When I moved to provincial Guildford and the lush Surrey countryside for University three years ago… the lack of buses every 4-9 minutes hit me hard. What’s more, the need to carry around small change or risk the wrath of bus drivers when you sheepishly wave them a £10 note… and pray they let you ride!
When I moved to Frankfurt last summer, I was struck by the lack of ticket barriers… HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT EVERYONE HAS BOUGHT A TICKET?! The truth is you don’t… and Schwarzfahren or freeloading/riding is pretty damn common. That is something difficult to reconcile with my will to be a good person… do the right thing… and pay for a ticket… and the overwhelming temptation to see if I can get away with it. The only deterrent is a 60 euro fine if caught, which isn’t really enough to dissuade many people, though it’s definitely worth buying a week or month pass if you travel often because they are far cheaper than the fine. What i’m getting at with that point though, is that London is my yardstick for everything.
I frequently find myself saying “Oh this would be atleast twice as much money in London” (in the case of most food/drink I buy in central Europe) or “Goodness, you could get two of these for this price in London” (In the case of beer in Iceland– which is really saying something, as beer in London is not at all cheap by international standards!)
I see a ferris wheel and think… “that’s cool, but it’s no London Eye.”
I see a river and think- “that’s lovely, and much cleaner than the Thames!”
I see a clocktower and think of the Queen Elizabeth bell tower/ St. Steven’s tower (Big Ben is the name of the bell inside, actually!)
I find myself thinking- “The air is so clean here I can run without choking… must be far from home!”
As with most things in life, the place I grew up in is my imprinted scale for comparison when I travel.
It’s a blessing and a curse, having London, a great, influential sprawling city for a hometown.
Whenever I’ve been away for a while, even just in Guildford, I get a wave of relief from Heimweh I didn’t even notice I was suffering from, wash right over me as I see the skyline pulling into Waterloo.
I took a really cool photo from the window of an aeroplane back from Frankfurt a few weeks ago and the guy next to me asked me (in German) if I was going on holiday to London too. I just smiled and told him something like, ‘No, i’m just going home. But it never gets old.’
I’ve been lucky enough to meet a heap of wonderful people in my relatively short life so far. Many of whom, hail from places half a world the way from me.
I’ve found its amazing to make international friends, and it’s always so exciting meeting up after a long while apart…
This weekend, my friend Layne (check out his travel blog, right here), who was my colleague last summer in Frankfurt (we taught the same classes together, every day for 7 weeks) is staying with me in Guildford! Layne is from Missouri in the USA, but has been living and working in Granada, Spain, for the past few years since finishing Uni (or College, as he calls it!) Having not seen one another since parting ways at the end of last August, I was super thrilled to be reunited yesterday at Gatwick airport, and give him his first taste of green and merry England this weekend.
This isn’t my first Staycation rodeo, though… Around a month ago, during the Easter break, my school music exchange partner, Lara, came to stay with me for a few days along with her boyfriend Elias. Lara and Elias are from Smallish towns in Hessen, fairly near to Hanau, a short train ride out of Frankfurt, Germany. I’ve known Lara since I was 14 and seen her every year (bar one) since we first met. It’s been especially nice being close during my time in Germany and we’ve seen way more of each other than either of us could’ve anticipated a couple of years ago.
Moreover, I’ve spent some time with my German boyfriend Felix staying and I’ve also sort of played host then too- doing some touristy things and enjoying the sights together. Cooking obligatory full English breakfasts and tracking down the tastiest fish and chips in London.
Showing your friends around your home town or city has plenty of benefits you won’t even realise until you do it.
Both of my recent staycations (one currently in-progress) have made me more appreciative and aware of the beautiful things in the place where i’m from (and the place where I live now!) It’s so easy to ignore things nearby that you enjoyed doing once or have entirely ignored, despite the fact they’re right on your doorstep.
One major plus side of a Staycation is, by throwing yourself into a busy schedule, going out and doing stuff, you feel like you’re on holiday, but you have the benefit of being close enough to home to go back and crash out at any point. It’s really flexible. What’s more, you cut travel costs… no flights means just trains and buses to factor in. It can actually get kind of expensive, especially in London, where almost everything is pricier than it needs to be- but there’s plenty of stuff to see and do for free, if you know where to look.
It has been really good fun for me reeling off loads of random cultural and historical trivia I have to my friends as they look on in (what I hope genuinely has been) fascination! Local knowledge is always something I really appreciate on trips abroad.
Food wise- you can cook whatever you want and eat whenever you want. You aren’t bound by restaurant meal times (and prices) and it’s totally acceptable to grab a drink… a pint, a glass of wine, a tray of tequila shots… (just kidding) at any time of day. YOU’RE BASICALLY ON HOLIDAY, FOR GOODNESS SAKE! But you know where all the best places to eat are, how to navigate a supermarket perfectly, and have all your own utensils and crockery… perfect!
This isn’t always an issue, but it’s really useful to have a local around for navigation and communication can be super handy. Knowing the quickest and prettiest way from A to B, as well as… the cheapest train ticket option, the fastest bus route etc. is a real bonus. Especially if you’re on a short trip somewhere- you don’t want to waste time bumbling around in circles (although there’s no concrete guarantee that won’t happen a little to a native in some unfamiliar areas of London- it happen’s to the best of us!)
Getting an outsider’s perspective on somewhere you take for granted can be really refreshing.
Living in the UK, one thing you can’t count on is the weather- So far this year, all of the sunniest days have landed when I’ve had guests to stay… which has been damned excellent luck- that or they’ve just been bringing the sun with them, which is a definite possibility.
Those were just a few of my thoughts on holidays from home/ Staycations! Definitely a great thing to do, especially when you have friends from elsewhere to stay.