Glamping in the Highlands

Throughout my childhood I’d never been camping or anything close to it. I always thought that camping wasn’t for me, despite my love of nature and exploring. Thankfully over recent years, glamping has gained popularity and this is much more my style! Since my boyfriend had talked about how much he would enjoy camping, I thought we could meet in the middle and visit a Shepard’s Hut I found on AirBnB.

I do realise that our hut was definitely at the high end of the clamping definition, since the hut had it’s own hot tub. But of course there was no way Jamie would disagree with the visit when it was such an amazing place.

Day 1

We left Aberdeen and drove North-West to reach the highlands. We’re lucky that such a beautiful place is so close to where we live! We found our way through fields and country roads to the house of the owner, but we didn’t even need to see them because the hut had a code locked door so we could arrive whenever we wanted. We drove through a field to reach the beautiful Shepard’s hut which was much bigger than we had expected.

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With it’s cute blue door and stacks of wood outside I couldn’t wait to take our bag inside and see what was waiting for us.

As you can see from the inside, we had a huge double bed and even room for a sofa in the hut. We had a small bathroom and hot water so there was nothing more we needed to stay for a few nights!

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Outside on the porch, the log-fire hot tub was already steaming when we uncovered it. It was cold and foggy so I was glad we could get into the hot tub to warm up.

We were surrounded by beautiful fields, could only see one road and the house of the owner in the distance and were at the top of a small hill. We had complete privacy and quiet, it was amazing! There were no cars on the roads, no shouting, just the sound of sheep and cows in the distance. For once I felt like we were truly out in nature (even if we did have a few luxuries!).

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Before we arrived we decided we would buy 2 disposable BBQ’s so we could use one on each night of our stay. We set one up soon after arriving and Jamie made some amazing food while I relaxed with a drink.

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We ate, drank and finally decided to use the hot tub which we had topped up with logs to make sure it was extra hot when we got it! It even had cup holders so we didn’t need to get out! We spent our first night relaxing, playing card games and Dobble. I felt fully relaxed for the first time in a while!

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Day 2

Our second day was much brighter and sunnier so we decided to drive up to the coast for a few hours to enjoy the weather. We drove to an area called MacDuff which is a fishing town on the north coast. We saw a crazy amount of boats in the shipyard and marina, lots of fishermen were getting ready to head out into the North Sea for a few days too. We had heard that there was an aquarium in the area, so we thought it would be a good place to stop off.

When we arrived at Macduff Aquarium we weren’t too sure what to expect but we had a really fun time. The aquarium was pretty quiet so we were the only people in most of the rooms. We travelled from the estuaries of the highlands all the way out to the depths of the North sea to find out about where each species lives. There was a small interactive exhibit with starfish and crabs which was next to the nursery with lots of baby fish, lobsters and rays!

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We had arrived in time to see the feeding of the sea creatures which are found in the deepest parts of the ocean which included rays, cod, dogfish and fish which survive on the floor of the sea. It was great to see the feeding and a member of staff provided a talk which told us about each of the individual fish.

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After leaving the fish behind we decided to visit the next town Banff which has a beach instead of a marina. We got the chance to walk along the beach and Jamie skimmed stones across the water. Even though it had started to become cloudy it was still warm and there were plenty of dogs to spot too! Once it had reached dinner time we thought it was best to go back and set up our second BBQ incase it started to rain later.

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We had another amazing BBQ with Jamie cooking everything while I relaxed! I had also bought us a small marshmallow toasting kit, so we got the chance to use that before spending the night relaxing in the hot tub again!

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Although we only spent two nights glamping, I felt so relaxed. It was nice to not sit and watch netflix or be on social media all the time. I also loved that we were in such a quiet environment, being in the hot tub felt so peaceful and the log burning fire meant there was always an amazing smell in the air. After such a great experience I think I could brave a less luxurious place for our next clamping trip! Still don’t think i’ll be sitting in a tiny tent anytime soon though!

 

 

 

Aberdeen Inspired Nights Food and Drink Festival

Aberdeen Inspired Nights is a new food, drink and cocktail festival in the city of Aberdeen! As a blogger, I was gifted two bands to enjoy the festival so myself and Jamie took advantage of lots of discounted food!

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The festival ran for 9 days and included offers at restaurants and bars all over the city. Since I only moved to Aberdeen a couple of months ago there are lots of restaurants we haven’t had the chance to try. So this event was perfect for us!

To kick off the festival, a night festival was organised to showcase lots of different food vendors from around Scotland. We arrived a little early, eager to eat as much food as possible so went to find some local street art while the vendors set up and started their grills!

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It was nice to visit a new part of the city, see the art and sit in the sun while we could smell the food being prepared. We already knew what we wanted to eat so get ready for lots of food snaps!

Night Food Market

We started out at the CuBao Box, a dumpling and Bao vendor which made the most amazing halloumi bao. We had to wait about 10 minutes for the food to be ready, but it was worth the wait! I tried the halloumi and Jamie had the pulled pork bao. Both were amazing (but I have to say mine was better!)

We decided to share a portion of vegetable dumplings too, which completely exceeded our expectations. Even though CuBao only had a small stall, they steamed and pan fried the gyoza to give them a really authentic taste! We were tempted to buy more, but knew we needed to save room to try other food.

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After our gyoza, we grabbed a drink and tried not to feel too full! The Pizza Geeks had travelled from Edinburgh to serve up themed pizzas (e.g the ‘mario’ and ‘bravehart’ pizzas). Even though we really wanted to try, we knew that we couldn’t eat a full pizza between us. I had tried the Pizza Geeks before too at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!

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Right next to the pizzas, we couldn’t resist trying out a Melt grilled cheeses. We tried the classic toastie with homemade chilli jam to see just how good their cheese toasties were. The classic included two cheeses and a homemade cheese sauce combined with the optional chilli jam.

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Unsurprisingly, we loved the grilled cheese sandwich! It was cut in half and ready for us to share, the chilli jam was the perfect addition too.

As you can see from the photos, we had a lovely day for the market. There were lots of other vendors from bbq foods to seafood, there was something for everyone. We felt so full from the dough and bread though! We just couldn’t try anything else! Although we did have room for a Brewdog beer in the sunshine before we left.

 

Yatai Izakaya Restaurant

We came back into the city a few days later to go to our favourite Japanese restaurant in Yatai Izakaya for a discounted dinner trip! We love this place because there’s a big menu to choose from, unique dishes and always great specials to try.

We started out with gyoza and edamame as we nearly always do at this type of restaurant!

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As soon as the food is ready it is served, so we always had plenty of food at the table. We chose a sushi special which included flash seared halibut and salmon (it was so soft and fresh) and prawn tempura rolls too.

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After sushi we tried another (unusual) special dish which was a pan friend pigeon dish! This one was Jamie’s choice and it definitely wasn’t my favourite. If you like duck and other meats which can be served rare, I think pigeon would actually be enjoyable. But sadly it just didn’t appeal to me! The meat was served with vegetables and flowers, it looked like a pretty dish even if it wasn’t to my taste.

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Boozy Cow Bar/Restaurant

Once we’d finished out meal, we decided to head to the Boozy Cow next door. This is one of my favourite cocktail bars and the food is fab too. The Boozy Cow has bars/restaurants in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen, this was my first time in Aberdeen but as a student I visited a few times in Edinburgh.

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Since we had already eaten, we were just visiting for drinks. The Inspired nights wristbands meant that we were entitled to a special discounted cocktail which tasted like fruit salad sweets. We decided to get one of those and a ‘that dude ain’t russian’ coffee vodka and Malteser boozy shake. Both tasted amazing! If you get the chance I would recommend drinks at the Boozy Cow!

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Angus and Ale

Our final food festival stop was on the final day of the festival at Angus and Ale. We had never visited before but were given 10% off our bill with the Inspired Nights wristband. Although it was only a small restaurant, the staff were lovely and there were only a few couples in the restaurant in time for a late lunch.

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We weren’t sure what to expect from here because no one we know has been before. Thankfully our expectations were exceeded and portions were much larger than we had expected.

To start I chose Cullen Skink (if you don’t know that’s a traditional Scottish soup which includes haddock and potatoes), which was lovely. Jamie chose cauliflower wings which were deep fried pieces of cauliflower in a buffalo hot sauce. I couldn’t believe how good the wings were, I hadn’t expected to like them, but next time we visit we will share a portion to start!

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Our starters were huge portions and we knew once we’d finished that we wouldn’t be able to finish our mains! I opted for a small sirloin steak, whilst Jamie had a monster burger called ‘The Big Jock’ which included a beef burger, piece of steak, onion rings, salad and a token gherkin on top!

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As I said, there was no way we could finish all that food, we ate as much as possible before heading off to the cinema for the evening to watch Solo!

It was a shame that we couldn’t have spent more time at the food festival, but of course work and exams meant that we were away from Aberdeen for 2 of the 9 days! I think we did pretty well though and managed to try out plenty of food. I can’t choose my favourite, but I loved getting to try lots of different foods at the market!

Hope you enjoyed all of the food pics, think I need to go for a walk just looking at them all again!

6 Days in Berlin (Days 4-6)

Onto the second part of our Berlin trip! (If you missed the first check out my post here!) After a few days at the hotel we had made ourselves at home and loved the location. As a reminder we were staying at the Hotel CALMA which was in the Berlin Mitte (central) area.

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We were around the corner from U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations, near lots of restaurants and the outdoor courtyard had come in handy for evening drinks. Breakfast was continental so we had unlimited meats, cheeses, cereal and bread to start the day. We had a ‘medium’ sized room which was more than big enough, the staff were friendly and forgave us for our poor German language skills!

Day 4

Sunday was the busiest day of the trip. We tried to pack in lots of tourist attractions and started with the one closest to our hotel. We walked to the Museum of Natural History, which was filled with dinosaur bones and animals. The museum even had a world record holder, the worlds tallest mounted dinosaur skeleton, a huge 43ft 6 inches high!

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Another special exhibit was Tristan the T-Rex, originally found in the USA he is now the only original T-Rex skeleton in Europe! We loved this exhibition because aside from getting up close to the dinosaur there was lots of information about the species we’d never seen before.

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Once we had visited all of the exhibitions it was still pre-lunch time so we took the train to the Berlin Story Bunker, a former bomb shelter from WW2. This place contained two exhibitions, one detailing the full history of Berlin and the second (which we chose) was Hitler – How could it happen? I think this is a question which everyone wonders, how did the situation escalate so much and how did so many atrocities happen?

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We walked into the Bunker (no photo’s were allowed so you won’t see any from me!) and were given an audioguide to break up the large portions of text which filled the walls. Beginning with stories and photo’s of Hitlers birth and youth we delved into his life story. This exhibition has been described as controversial as the aim is to understand why and how someone could develop to have the personalities and desired of Hitler. Some have described it as sympathising but I would disagree with that, perhaps my years of studying and practicing psychology have changed my mind set. But of course Hitler wasn’t simply born as the man he became.

We spent over 3 hours in the bunker, reading and listening to detailed accounts of how Hitler came to power and ultimately committed suicide in his own bunker. Some photos were hard to look at and we were constantly shocked by how truly awful life was for specific groups of people. If you want to find out more about the man behind the facade, I would recommend here over anywhere else. So detailed and thoroughly researched, I found the Bunker one of the most interesting and educational experiences.

As we walked deeper into the bunker we knew we would eventually find a reconstruction of Hitler’s own Bunker from the day he committed suicide. We were able to see the layout of the bunker and the main room (were the acts were committed) was recreated to give a feel for the size and interior of the bunker. It was kind of surreal and the only existing reconstruction, so I would recommend this place if you’re interested in WW2 history!

After 3 hours in the bunker we were ready to leave, but at the end of the war hundreds of people died within the walls of the bunker. It was filled with people and later flooded, after days of people being trapped. I couldn’t imagine being cramped in the bunker, in fact, I wouldn’t want to imagine it. One woman who had been a child at the time described her experience and it was honestly awful. I won’t go into details here in case you visit yourself!

Keeping in with the theme of the war, we walked to the nearby site of Hitler’s real bunker (now a car park if you were wondering). A sign commemorates where the bunker once stood. I find it fitting that life has continued since and the place hasn’t been dedicated to the man himself.

Close by, you can easily walk to the Holocaust Memorial so we decided to visit on our way to the Reichstag Building. I hadn’t realised that the memorial actually includes an underground exhibit where you could spend at least an hour finding out about the lived experiences of holocaust victims and survivors. Since we were booked into the Reichstag, we didn’t have long to spend at the memorial, we had a quick walk through and spent a while at the top walking through the memorial itself.

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Once you leave the exhibit, you surface in the middle of the memorial. The blocks are much taller than a person and you walk out feeling disorientated and uncomfortable, not knowing where to go. This is the type of feeling the artist wanted to recreate, making visitors feel in some sense the way Jewish people felt at the time. The memorial is a pretty profound experience and definitely one we should all visit at some point.

After spending most of the day visiting WW2 related places, I had pre-booked to visit the Reichstag Building. We arrived at the parliamentary building in time for a quick security check before we went into the building and up to the infamous dome.

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We decided to walk around the outside of the roof to take in the panoramic views before heading into the dome with an audio tour. The views from the top of the Reichstag are beautiful and it’s free to visit. Its necessary to book tickets in advanced and you need to take your passport to confirm your identity, but it’s worth the trip!

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When entering the dome, the audio guide starts up automatically and the guide signposts famous landmarks which can be seen from the dome. When we reached the top we realised that the dome has an open top. There’s a place to lay down and we looked out through the dome into the sky, it was a lovely place to relax!

After our time at the Reichstag, we walked a few minutes to see the Brandenburg Gate. We arrived at the perfect time and were able to see the sunset through the beautiful gate.

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After a really busy day, we were so so hungry! I looked online and we found that Vapino was close by, we had never been to Vapino before but realised that its a chain with stores in the UK. We arrived and no one explained to us how the restaurant worked. Turned out that you chose what you wanted and had to visit the pizza or pasta bar to order. It took us a while to work it out but we managed to get some food before we starved!

Day 5

We started the day by taking the underground to the East Side Gallery to finally see the artistic side of the Berlin Wall. The sun was shining so we were happy to walk along the wall and check out all of the art.

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Most of the pieces were politically motivated in one way or another but they were all created by amazing artists. We walked all the way from one end to the other in around an hour, taking a few photos along the way.

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A word of warning, pick pocketers are pretty active in this area, a group of people tried to stop us to sign a petition (which is a well known pick pocketing tactic) so just be aware of your belongings and don’t stop to sign anything!!

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We took a look in a few of the small shops along the way, but decided to not stop by the free museum since we wanted to spend most of the day at the zoo which was on the other side of the city.

We walked to the station and saw a perfectly placed McDonalds (we were so thirsty from being outdoors!) and decided to try out German McDonalds! This is sort of a tradition for us and we weren’t disappointed at the differences between the UK and here. First of all, we bought a chicken box, not a chicken nugget box a chicken box half filled with nuggets and half filled with chicken wings! That’s right we tried our first ever McDonalds chicken wings! Not only that but there were lots of new options we didn’t have the chance to try.

We walked upstairs and realised that McDonalds had it’s own mini cafe! Serving coffee, cakes and snacks, it was literally a separate cafe. Another thing we had never seen before!

After eating ourselves into a chicken coma, we made our way down to the U-bahn and took thankfully just one train to the zoo. This was the furthest west we had been in the city so we were looking forward to seeing what awaited us!

After getting a little bit lost in the station, we surfaced right outside Berlin Zoo. Thank goodness we didn’t need to do any more navigating! As you would expect there were lots of animals to see, so we set out straight away to see as many as we could before closing.

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One of the first places we came across was a petting zoo – my favourite kind of place! We went into the area and started out petting some small lambs before we noticed that we could buy some food to feed them. We went around the park and fed the shetland ponies, sheep, donkeys and goats!

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I fell in love with the baby goats who slowly ate from our hands and were happy to be petted!

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After getting to interact with some of the animals, we made our way around the park. We hadn’t realised but this zoo had Giant Pandas which were amazing to see! One of my favourite parts of the park was seeing the gorillas, I love monkeys anyway, but we managed to watch a silverback gorilla completing one of the enrichment puzzles! He was making small tools out of twigs and managed to work out how to get food out of the game.

We managed to just finish our trip around the zoo before it closed, so we decided to go back to the hotel for a rest. We had been walking for 8 hours solid and definitely deserved a sit down! We decided to just visit a small restaurant near the hotel that night since we couldn’t face walking much further!

Day 6

We were sad to be leaving after a wonderful time in Berlin. We had our last continental breakfast and packed up before checking out of the hotel. Taking the bus back to the airport we were once again packed into a small space. Thankfully we got on early enough to get seats so we were much more comfortable this time! Walking around in the sun I wasn’t ready to leave such lovely weather, I couldn’t even bring myself to take my coat onto the plane, in denial that we would soon be back in the cold!

If any of you ever travel to Berlin Tegel, you’ll notice that the airport could do with some updating. We were quickly through security and were expecting to find a large duty free/restaurant area. We were sadly disappointed! We walked through a tiny duty free shop (and picked up some Berliner to take home) reaching a small snacks stand which which sold the only food after security checks. In a large white room (which somehow looked like a construction project) we tried and failed to find seats. I decided to sit on the floor and we sat for over an hour in a non-air-conditioned room which contained five flights worth of passengers!

Thankfully, our flight was quick and painless, with us arriving in Edinburgh earlier than expected. The second we stepped off the plane I was missing the warmth of Berlin already!

After an amazing time in Berlin, I couldn’t recommend it enough! There were still so many places we didn’t have chance to visit, so I think we will be back to Germany over the next few years to see more! The trip was even better than we had anticipated and we can’t wait to go back again!

6 Days in Berlin (Days 1-3)

For our latest trip, we decided to visit Berlin, I’d never been to Germany before so was really excited! I’m sure like me, you have heard good things about Berlin, so we booked our flights back in February and two days before flying we picked a hotel. Flying from Edinburgh went smoothly as usual and we took around two hours to fly into the German capital.

Day 1

Once we reached the terminal in Berlin, we realised this airport was much busier and warmer than in the UK. Thankfully we managed to find our way to the bus stop and an English speaking member of staff helped us use the ticket machine. We boarded the airport bus like sardines, packed in even though the bus arrived every 6 minutes. On the hot bus I wasn’t in the best mood, but the sun was shining and I couldn’t be annoyed for long!

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We walked a few minutes to our hotel and were pleasantly surprised to find our hotel in a small courtyard near lots of restaurants. We stayed at CALMA Berlin Mitte which was a modern, minimalist, lovely place to stay. When we arrived we hadn’t eaten so we found a local shop and picked up a few essentials (by that I mean some german meats, cheeses and soft pretzels) to snack on before we went for Asian food that night. On our way home we decided to stop off for our first taste of German beer, we bought a Berliner each and enjoyed the sun for a while.

That evening, we walked to a nearby restaurant which I had pre booked for our first night in the city. We walked to Nordbahnhof Two Buddha’s which exceeded our expectations entirely! We had prawns, fish, vegetables and a little bit of sushi. I loved the decor and there was a huge wine menu which made it the perfect place in my mind!

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Even though we were in Berlin, after eating we managed to stumble across a Brewdog bar. We decided to spend the evening here, sitting on wooden boxes, dog spotting and looking at which attractions we wanted to visit during our stay.

Day 2

Our first full day in Germany was filled with sightseeing and visiting attractions. We started out at the South of the city and visited the German Museum of Technology. We had to visit at least one place where Jamie could see aeroplanes and helicopters so we chose here. We had a fab time! There was so much to see, from planes and trains to computers and telephones. If it’s electronic it probably makes an appearance in this museum.

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The best part was reaching the top floor which showcased lots of aeroplanes, including some from WW2. We could walk out onto the top of the building and see a huge aeroplane set over the edge of the museum.

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One aspect of the museum we hadn’t expected was walking through the trains and finding a carriage from the Holocaust. We were able to walk into the old wooden cart and see where so many innocent people walked to their deaths. It was such a profound, unexpected experience that even though it was empty I felt a little claustrophobic!

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Once we left the museum, we walked along the river and decided to visit some more popular attractions like the Topography of Terror. Much busier than the museum, but thankfully due to the time of year, it wasn’t too busy. We were able to see everything we wanted. We spent around 2 hours walking through the exhibit which displays a huge amount of information about the Nazi’s reign of terror across Europe. Starting with the beginnings of intimidating opposition, we followed the journey of persecution and murder through to the end of the war. This attraction isn’t for the faint hearted, some pictures were distressing and individual stories were heartbreaking. The attraction is super informative though and we learnt so much about the realities of the war. Although heavy and sometimes upsetting, I can’t recommend this place enough. The information covers all groups who were persecuted (not just Jewish groups) and really describes how day-to-day life was impacted by the war.

Outside the building we also got to see our first glimpse of the Berlin Wall, although not particularly artistic (it wasn’t the East Side Gallery after all) it was interesting to see and we were able to read some basic information about the wall.

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Only a few minutes walk away, we visited the infamous Checkpoint Charlie. Now I don’t know what I expected, but it definitely wasn’t a small shack in the middle of a busy road! I was a tad disappointed, but I guess I had set my expectations too high! None the less, it was interesting to stop by on our way to the underground station.

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After a day of walking, we headed back to our hotel to change before dinner. I had booked a restaurant called Clarchens Ballhaus which I had read about online. Internet reviews described the place as fun and one of Berlin’s best kept secrets, so I couldn’t wait to visit! When we arrived I was so happy we had booked, outside tables were filled with food, fairy lights hung overhead and you could hear the music from inside. We had booked a table inside the old ballroom and walked in to see a ballroom dancing lesson in action on the dance floor!

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We were taken to our table and still able to watch the lesson, the place was packed, people of all ages were eating, drinking and dancing. The place had an amazing atmosphere and we were completely drawn in. The menu at the Ballhaus was traditional German food, I managed to take a photo of our starters but when the main arrived we had already drunk a few too many glasses of wine and I forgot!

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Our food was delicious, I chose slow roasted beef which was amazing. I do need to mention now that if you plan to visit here, you should set aside the whole night for the experience. There was a significant amount of time between courses, but it made the night more social and the food felt freshly prepared. When we were eating our mains, the dance teacher encouraged people from the tables to join his lesson and taught more people to dance. Unfortunately we were eating so didn’t take up his offer!

Once we had eaten, a DJ was setting up and people of all ages were dancing. We were people watching and drinking for a while before we decided to join in. Being so full of food, we thought we would be dancing for about 10 minutes… but 3 hours later we were still dancing and a live band was setting up! By around 10pm, all younger people had left and it was only Adults, there was still a huge range of people and ages which made the night even more fun!

After 10pm the Ballhaus charges people to enter like a club, but if you are there earlier no charges apply. So thankfully we spent all night there for free. After midnight, as I said, a band set up and we danced for another hour or two before deciding our feet hurt too much to carry on. According to my fitbit we had walked nearly 30,000 steps so that was a sign it was time to head home and take off our shoes! When we stepped outside we realised that we had been shouting and singing so much we could barely talk and we were partially deaf from the music. I can’t recommend this venue enough, the Ballhaus was one of the highlights of the trip, me and Jamie had the best night. We had planned to only stay for a few hours and were there until the early hours of the morning. If we hadn’t been so active in the day we would have stayed even longer. If I go back to Berlin this will be one of the first things I prebook!

Day 3

After some much needed sleep, we woke up a little worse for wear (I blame the wine) but thankfully because we had breakfast included in our booking, that motivated us to still get up early and head down for some food. Ok I say that but after eating lots for breakfast we got back up to the room and I ended up having a nap instead of getting ready for the day!

After a well deserved nap (at least thats what I tell myself) we ventured to Museum Island to see the Cathedral and visit the Neues Museum. We took our first trip on a tram and learnt the hard way that you need to use coins to pay. We only had enough money to pay for 1 ticket but thankfully no one checked! We were dropped off at the end of the line and walked over the bridges to the beautiful Island.

The first thing you notice is how amazing the architecture is. We arrived at the south of the island so were immediately able to see the beautiful Cathedral. The sun was shining, people were singing, playing guitars and blowing bubbles. I felt like we were living in the 1980’s and I was loving it!

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We walked over to the water fountain and around all of the nearby buildings to see how impressive they were up close. I also wanted to walk around in the sun to tan more, but thats another story.  We walked through a huge pillared walkway and eventually found ourselves at the Neues Museum. The majority of this museum includes collections from Ancient Egypt (something I find particularly interesting) which is why we chose to visit, but there are so many to choose from, you can find one which piques your own interests.

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Thankfully we didn’t need to queue for tickets due to the time of year. But if you visit in the summer, I would recommend pre-booking because it can become crazy busy. We had a great time at this museum, again the architecture and building interior were stunning. It included the best collections I had ever seen. From original papyrus to golden sarcophagi, we saw so many well preserved pieces and learnt lots of new facts. I think the highlight of the museum for me was the Queen Nefertiti bust which is world famous. We weren’t able to take photos in that exhibition but if you google it, you will know which statue I mean!

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We managed to make our way around all of the museum despite the time I lost napping earlier that day. When we left at 5, the sun was still shining so we decided to walk along the river and visit the north side of the Island to see the beautiful Bode museum. There was a busker outside the museum so we sat with the crowds on the walls of the bridge and soaked up the sun. It was a beautiful place to relax and I was sat next to a one-eyed dog so I couldn’t have been happier!

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Once it reached around 7pm we decided to walk back towards the hotel and stopped off for sushi along the way. We had a lovely time at Kuchi Mitte which served us lots of good sushi. It’s useful to know that the staff are happy to speak English too if you’re worried about ordering sushi in German!

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We spent the rest of the evening having a few drinks and relaxing, it was so nice to be out in the sun until the late evening. I hope you enjoyed reading about the first part of our action-packed trip. I will post next week about the second half of our Berlin adventure which was even busier than the first!

A weekend at Loch Ness

To celebrate my 25th birthday Jamie treated me to a long weekend at Loch Ness! Having never been to this area of Scotland before I couldn’t wait to visit. We were booked in to The Lovat hotel in Fort Augustus which is South of Loch Ness, turns out this is a great location if you are planning to visit!

 

Friday

Travelling to Loch Ness takes around 3 hours from Aberdeen, we took the country roads to reach the west of the Loch and then took the loch side road to the hotel. The journey was so beautiful, especially along the shores of the Loch, we saw the castle we would visit the next day, lots of small villages and boat tours out on the water.

We arrived at around 4 and had dinner booked for 7.30 so we went to the room to get settled. Jamie had surprised me by getting the hotel to set up balloons and a birthday card. After a while the staff arrived with my second surprise, a beautiful bouquet of flowers!

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We went down to the restaurant in the hotel for dinner and had high hopes after reading reviews online. Thankfully we weren’t disappointed! To start I had a smoked salmon dish which was amazing.

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We were given free homemade bread and the staff were friendly and helpful. All of this was followed by a lamb dish which I chose for my main. The food was so good that we didn’t even have room for dessert!

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Instead of more food, we had a glass of wine and visited some of the other rooms in the hotel. We loved that there were lots of public areas, one room was filled with bookshelves and knick-knacks. There were even some games like chess to play later in the evening. We settled in the front room which had a piano and fireplace, the perfect end to a lovely day!

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Saturday

Our first full day started early, with a hotel breakfast included, we were ready to go and explore Loch Ness. Firstly, we drove to Urquhart Castle which is an ancient castle on the backs of the Loch. We parked in the carpark which is way above the castle, thankfully you buy tickets at this level and can take easy stairs/a lift down to the castle instead of having to scramble down a steep hill!

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We were shown a short introductory video which briefly described how the site became a castle and was besieged multiple times throughout history. Unfortunately the last inhabitants blew up the gateway to prevent invaders using the castle, but there are still plenty of things to see on the site. We walked down past the castle and visited the Loch first (since that’s what the trip was all about!) We sat for a while to appreciate the beautiful views.

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Once you enter the castle you can climb down to where ships would arrive and sit on the shore to see more views. We were lucky to get really sunny weather too so we were happy to sit and relax by the water.

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Once we had the opportunity to take in the natural beauty, we climbed through the castle and visited all of the areas. It took us around an hour to explore everything and there were lots of ruins to climb through.

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We were lucky to visit at this time of year, there were no queues or crowds of people. We didn’t need to wait to climb the towers and we could easily watch the actors who told us about medieval weapons. The castle was one of the most beautiful I have ever visited, I think it’s safe to say it had the most picturesque views too!

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Once we had finished at the castle, we decided to visit the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition. Now when we first arrived and went inside, we weren’t sure what to expect. The decor was outdated and because we visited before the summer we were the only people in the entrance hall. We decided to go ahead and visit anyway since it was around £7 to enter and we actually didn’t know anything about the history of Loch Ness. If you’re the same, and don’t know much about the Loch, I would recommend the attraction, we walked through different rooms and watched videos which described how the legend of Nessie began and how the Loch Ness Monster was researched by scientists. I don’t want to spoil anything, but we learnt lots. I have to say though, I think Nessie is more imaginary than real!

After stopping off for a snack which we got around the corner from the Exhibition, we decided to stop off at a harbour we passed on the way to our hotel the day before. Although lots of people do visit Loch Ness, there are a few abandoned boats which can be seen if you walk along the shores. We also walked to a small island which is located just off the shores of the Loch.

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Since it was such a sunny day, we still hadn’t had enough of exploring. We travelled back to Fort Augustus where our hotel was and walked along the canals which separate Loch Ness from the other Loch’s in the area. We walked for around half an hour until I saw a trail through the woods which could take us down to the parallel river.

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Sounds like a good idea right? Walking through the woods to a beautiful river. We even found a bench when we got there, which made us think that the path must have been followed quite often…. But we were wrong! We walked along the river until the grass ran into the river, walked through the trees trying to find a path and spent the following half hour walking through the woods and ended up in running between lodges in a private park!

Although we hadn’t planned the detour, we found some abandoned campsites and spied a few small waterfalls between the trees, so I guess it had been worth it! We decided to walk back along the canal and stop off in a beer garden to end our evening after lots and lots of walking!

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Sunday

For our last full day at the Loch, we decided to visit the east coast and stopped in a small village called Foyers. This area is well known because of the Falls of Foyers which is a tall waterfall and large river which meets Loch Ness. We started to climb down, reached the waterfall relatively easily and felt like we could easily follow the river along to where it meets the Loch.

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We started out following a clearly marked path and took in the beautiful views, we could easily follow the river until we reached a road which blocked our views of the river.

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What then ensued was a four mile detour in which we couldn’t rejoin our original path! We made a wrong turn and walked into a caravan park, walked back and thankfully somehow managed to walk through a forest to reach the banks of Loch Ness. This was one of my favourite parts of the trip, we still hadn’t found our path, but had found a make shift camp site with tree stump seats, a rope swing and burnt out fires. We had the place all to ourselves and it was one of the most peaceful places in the world (until we decided to try out the rope swing!)

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We shamefully ended up using google maps to find our way back to the car after a few miles of walking in the wrong direction! We had to climb up tiny steep paths with overgrown plants. At one point I thought I may die out there in the wilderness (kidding) but we made it back and were looking forward to visiting a tea room we had spotted on our way there.

When we arrived at the tea rooms I immediately fell in love, highland cows, deer, ducks and geese were all living in the surrounding area. A deer with a limp was being nursed to health and we got to see them up close!

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Once we had some soup to warm us up again after the weather took a rainy turn when we were walking, we walked out to find these guys waiting for us too!

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After being lucky enough to see all of these animals, we took the country roads back to our hotel. We stopped at the top of a hill and were lucky enough to have stopped just as a rainbow had formed.

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Although it can’t really be seen in this photo, we we could actually see both ends of the rainbow! Sadly there was no pot of gold but we got to share the most beautiful view together! Just when you think that Loch Ness couldn’t get any prettier, I guess a rainbow has to appear to prove you wrong.

Once back at our hotel, we wanted to take a much needed break from hiking up and down hills. We decided to take a look around Fort Augustus and we found a viewing point at the end of the village harbour.

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This was one of my favourite views, the most southern point of Loch Ness, we were able to look between the hills and see miles of the Loch. A duck even decided to photobomb my photo and make it even better too! The village had a few small pubs and cafes, our hotel was on the next road to two of the main pubs. We stopped by there for dinner before heading back to out hotel. I snapped a photo outside before we went back inside for a night cap.

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Each night we had been greeted by bunnies on the lawn outside the hotel too, so if you were unsure about staying there, the fact that you can see bunnies every night must sway your opinion!

After a wonderful stay, Jamie had paid for a late check out so we could sleep in on Monday. We were even given cookies for our journey home by the hotel manager. Everything from the hotel to the walks and views were amazing on this trip. I have to say that Loch Ness surpassed all of my expectations, both the loch itself and the surrounding land is the most beautiful I have ever seen. I can’t wait to go back and see more of the countryside, waterfalls and to sunbathe on the shores of the loch again!

 

3 Scottish Castles You Should Visit

Scotland is home to some of the most beautiful castles in the world.

I’ve picked out three beautiful castles from my travels around Scotland which need to be visited by you!

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle would easily fit into the title sequence of Game of Thrones. Located on a clifftop off the North East coast of Scotland, the castle appears to be built on it’s own island. Thankfully no boat trips are necessary, looking down from the edge of the cliffs you can see the steps which descend down one cliff and up again to the castle.

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You may need to take a break during the climb to the castle, but thankfully when you reach the bottom you can take a break on the beach before taking the next set of stairs up to the castle.

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A word of warning, the remains of the castle are just that, ruins. There are lots of stone steps with no hand rails, so watch your step! We saw someone take a small fall when we visited (she was ok though!).

Once you make it to the castle, you can visit all of the ruins and are given a map to navigate. The history of Dunnottar started around the 3rd century, meaning that the castle is filled with history and legends you will learn about on your visit.

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Dunnottar is one of the most beautiful places in Scotland, so definitely worth a visit!

Edinburgh Castle 

My second choice is one of the most well known in Scotland – Edinburgh Castle. Set in the centre of the city, this castle is even more unique because it is still active with a military presence. Every day at 1 in the afternoon a cannon is fired to keep time across the city, this is fun to watch so make sure you arrive before 1!

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Edinburgh Castle is filled with lots of different exhibitions, when we visited we spent hours visiting all of the buildings and checking out the beautiful views of the city.

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There are cannons, prisons, museums and ruins all in the same place here, you you’re guaranteed to have a fun time! Another great thing about this castle is that over 10 of the city’s attractions are on the road leading up to the castle so you will have plenty to do if you visit!

Craigievar Castle

My final choice is one of my favourite castles in the world. Craigievar Castle is said to have inspired Walt Disney when he designed Cinderella’s castle. With a pink exterior, this castle is completely unique and so picturesque!

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You can visit the grounds and have a guided tour of the castle. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and friendly. During our visit we even decided to invest in a National Trust membership so that we could visit more castles like this on the Aberdeenshire Castle Trail.

One thing we particularly liked outside of the castle was the surrounding wildlife walks. We walked through fields along streams and in forests after our tour, which was lovely thanks to the sunny weather!

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Craigievar Castle is located out in the beautiful Aberdeenshire countryside so if you visit you can expect lots of winding country roads and fields along the way. Inside the castle is filled with possessions from the previous owners which are interesting to see and the tour guides will tell you when the castle was built and the inhabitants throughout history.

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We had a great day out at Craigievar Castle which is why it had to be featured on this list!

Visiting a Harry Potter Bar

The Pop Up Geeks opened Perilous Potions in February, their fourth themed pop-up bar. Previous themes included Game of Thrones and Stranger Things, I had been wanting to visit but hadn’t had the opportunity. Each bar runs for around 3 months before the theme changes, so I’d missed a few before finally making plans to visit.

As soon as we saw the promotions on social media myself and some friends from work booked a two hour slot to experience the Harry Potter inspired bar. After the move to Aberdeen, I booked a weekend back in Edinburgh to catch up with friends and of course visit the bar!

I walked along The Arches until I spotted the bar, a small building with less than 10 tables. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first since the building was so small, but the inside was transformed into a bar filled with Harry Potter decorations!

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Maybe my Hogwarts Letter ended up here

We sat below the Hogwarts acceptance letters and took some time to appreciate the broomsticks hanging from the ceiling, the candles perched on the walls and cauldrons on the shelves. I was amazed when we were given drinks menus inspired by class books, it seemed like the creators had thought of everything!

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Drink Menu’s

I used the book of Advanced Spells to pick a drink. I knew I wanted to buy one of the Conjure It Yourself cocktails which you created at the table. Each cocktail had a ‘difficulty level’ depending upon how long it took to create the drink. I chose the Gravitas Transverso drink which was based upon a bellini by combining ‘wine of the merpeople’, ‘liquified pixie eggs’ and ‘petrification potion’. The bar tender took our drinks order, dressed in a wizards cape and we waited for our cocktail ingredients to be prepared.

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Time to create my own cocktail

The ingredients and equipment arrived along with instructions so that we could create all of our own drinks.

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How to create Gravitas Transverso

The instructions were written with the harry potter theme in mind to completely immerse us in the experience, which I absolutely loved! To create my drink I had to pipette liquid into a strainer to create small red ‘pixie eggs’. I then scooped the eggs into a champagne flute where the eggs reacted with the fizzy prosecco and floated through the drink. A bonus was that the drink was really nice, I’d created strawberry eggs so the drink tasted like a strawberry bellini as I’d hoped. The eggs added to the drink because they remained solid until I popped them in my mouth to release the strawberry flavour!

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Our first round of drinks

While we finished our first drinks we had more time to appreciate the decor and got the chance to watch other tables create drinks we hadn’t ordered. The bar was fun to watch too since there were lots of drinks being prepared in test tubes and beakers!

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Drinks in prep

We decided to get another create your own cocktail since we had so much fun the first time. Both me and Elaine decided to order the Draught of Delirium drink since we worked together on Delirium research at the hospital!

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Draught of Delirium ingredients

We weren’t disappointed when we received our drinks! Again complete with instructions we were able to mix up our own cocktails. The Delirium drink included a few unusual ingredients including Unicorn Mane and Basilisk Venom. I loved that this drink came with candy floss too!

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How to create Draught of Delirium

We hadn’t realised before we mixed the drinks, but they contained an ingredient which made every glass become a different colour! Mine was red and Elaine’s turned silver. They also had a metallic tint to them, which made it look more magical!

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We found making the cocktails so much fun that we didn’t even get a chance to try out the drinks mixed up by the bartender. The menu had lots of different choices, each with a different spirit or type of alcohol to choose from. You could even buy a bottle of butterbeer which came in it’s own butterbeer bottle!

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Bar Proclamations

One of the last things I managed to take a photo of was the proclamations displayed on the walls.  It felt like The Pop Up Geeks had thought of everything when it came to designing the bar, from the drinks to the decor everything was Potter related!

I wish I could visit all over again, I loved the experience so much! I would definitely recommend a trip to anyone that enjoys Harry Potter, I wish we had booked more time since we were limited to two hours.

If anyone isn’t so crazy about Harry Potter, from the end of April the theme will change to Rick and Morty and later Lord of the Rings. I think there is something for everyone over the next few months!

 

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