We’re not as cute as we once were but we try.
We’re never lied about this one, but in case in you didn’t notice
we’re not the most organised, intelligent travellers.
Case in point.
But wait! You can still learn from us. Don’t learn the hard way, we’ve done it all for you.
And so, we present:
TIPS FROM THE UNORGANISED
A definitive-ish guide to travelling the world.
1. Europe and the UK have different electrical plugs. The pointy bits aren’t the same. Don’t try jamming it in the holes.
2. Learn the basics of other people’s language when you’re in their country. People respond to it well, even if your pronunciation is pretty crap, at least you can all have a laugh. Otherwise, don’t be suprised if someone isn’t super keen to help you when you waltz up and start speaking English even though you’re in Austria for example. We learnt ‘hello’ ‘goodbye’ ‘do you speak English?’ ‘Thank you’ and ‘Sorry’ everywhere we went and literally no one was rude to us ever.
3. Carry little Aussie choccies to give as gifts. We had a packet of Cadbury Furry Friends and a packet of mini Cherry Ripes (which you can’t get outside of Aus and NZ apparently) which regularly came in handy when we wanted to say a little thank you.
4. Send stuff home from Germany NOT France. Mail is cheaper in Germany. Actually most stuff is cheaper in Germany. In Ireland its the same price for 3kg or 20kg or something. The moral of that story, is send lots of Ireland!
5. The Lonely Planet city/country phone apps are pretty handy. Helpful in quickly finding some alright-not-too-touristy-or-expensive food. Also useful for opening hours and quick itineraries if you don’t have time/motivation/skills to design your own.
6. Wear flowers in your hair, people really like that.
7. Don’t travel with someone who looks like you unless you want to be asked about it, A LOT.
Week 1: “You guys twins?’ “Haha no.” Became. Week 5: “Are you guys twins?” Simultaneously, “Nup.”
8. Bring quick drying towels! They are sticky and weird but you get used it and their quick dryingness is amazing in European winter.
9. This might seem a bit crazy, but its kinda helpful if you do research before you reach the country you’re about to explore. Instead of vaguely knowing a few cool things you might do or see there maybe read some history books, get a bit smart and write some wish lists. Or don’t. That’s what we did and mostly it was fine except the times when we only realised something existed when it was too late. Next time we’ll probably do a little more reading though.
10. At some point we remembered that making lists is pretty helpful. So for example when we rocked up to Paris we wrote a list of all the stuff we wanted to do then we broke it down into practical day plans and so if we missed something we did a bit of rejigging. Day to day planning gets exhausting let us tell you.
11. The tourist tour buses in Rome are rubbish. Honestly, don’t even try and know where the stops are.
12. Airbnb.com is amazing. We met some wonderful people with lovely houses. Affordable options – winning!
13. Oh and please, please for us! Buy ALL the things for cheaps if they are overpriced in Australia. All the shoes… sigh.
BAG TIPS/BAGS TIP: (When heavy)
1. Some people’s bags were excessively large (not looking at any one… Hey! stop looking at us!) Bring less stuff than those people. If you think you’ve packed everything you need, you’ve clearly packed too much, put some back. Either leave space or pack some things you wouldn’t mind chucking out.
2. Don’t buy a pack of mini Jaegermister bottles for just in case gifts. Individually they are cute and mini but six bound together is literally like packing a leak potential brick. Who’d do that though? That’s just silly.
3. If you’re worried about excessive baggage costs carry your shoes and books in your carry on. They are surprisingly heavy!
4. Soap also makes a nice gift, plus it makes your bag smell nice 🙂
Signs that your bag itself, let alone the contents, is too big: Regrettably tested on Germans
A. It’s so obese it can’t support itself. (We’ve tested it and turns out German men don’t like it when you forget to hold your fatty rolly polly bag on the escalator and it goes tumbling down onto them. Oops…)
B. Another tell tale sign is when German people heartily laugh at you because your bag is too wide to fit down the train isle and you are forced to drag it backwards on its side through multiple carriages. Ah, its ok, we were sick of our dignity anyway.
We saved our best tip for last:
TRAVEL WITH YOUR SISTER.
It’s cold and snowing but before you is a Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market),
filling the air with sweet smells, stalls lit up by star shaped lights and people meandering about clutching steaming beverages and looking at local curiosities.
CITIES AND THEIR MARKETS: The highlights
Munich: This was the first market in Germany that we stumbled upon and was therefore full of wonderment and magic. The stalls selling delicate festive decorations were a definite highlight.
Frankfurt: Food. Food. Food. Apfelwein. That’s all.
Dusseldorf: The best thing about exploring the markets here is that they are small and yet winding through a fair bit of the town. Wondering through them is a lovely way to see a market or two and this wonderful city in one hit.
Berlin: So many, so various and so diverse. We visited the Dahlem Dorf and Charlottenburg markets as well as briefly viewing the Alexandaplatz market.
MUST HAVE TRADITIONAL FOODS AND WHERE BEST TO FIND IT:
Heissen Apfelwein: Frankfurt
A hot and delicious apple wine which soothes at the same time as uplifting.
A large doughy, dumpling swimming in vanilla sauce and drizzled with nutella.
Kakoa mit Jagermister: Frankfurt
Warms the soul then warms some more. Hot chocolate with alcohol. The hot chocolate is sweet and comforting and the alcohol keeps you toasty.
Chocolate covered fruit: Munich/Frankfurt
Fresh mandarin, strawberry, raspberry… Anything they are all delicious on a skewer and coated in dark or milk chocolate.
Preferably at a stall where they make it on the spot. The icing is especially delicious.
(Blueberry gluiwein.) Hot spiced wine – So warming and delicious. Mmmm
Community vibes – Dahlem Dorf Berlin. It felt like the local fair. Old men dressed as Santa played Christmas carols on stage in a little open barn. We suspect the magician may have even been somebody’s dad. There was a stall of handmade books, art and craft workshops for kids, a display of old farming machinery and tools.
Most impressive backdrop: Charlottenburg Schloss Christmas Market, Berlin. Set in the yard before an impressive castle, lit up with a colorful light display, the extensive stalls line the garden, one end filled with kids rides. They even had a procession of Santas on motorcycles scoot by. Very fancy but good food and wares.
Best food: Frankfurt
Wouldn’t rush to Frankfurt for any other reason than to enjoy the food stalls at their Christmas market.
A side note on dietary requirements:
Celiacs, lactose intolerant, vegans and even vegetarians will find Germany and particularly the Christmas markets a little tricky to negotiate, especially if you don’t speak German. However, they are still a wonderful spectacle with lovely wares to buy though food options could be pretty limiting.
(PS. We should probably note that our spelling could be wrong. Our German’s not that good… )
Thanks for following along with our little (rather big) adventure so far.
We’re home again now but there’s a few things we forgot to mention and some reflecting left to do so stick around for a few more posts. We haven’t told you a thing about Scotland, Ireland or France yet!
Let’s get back into it shall we?
The Small Joys
Sometimes it’s incredible how the smallest gesture can make a difference and make you feel that little bit better. It could seem to be something insignificant and yet sometimes its these small joys that have given us something special. Lots of people travel and yet there are always unique experiences. Whilst traveling around Germany at the beginning of our trip we fell in love with the city of Dusseldorf. So much so that Hester risked missing the train to run through the ice in the pursuit of novelty Dusseldorf t-shirts. This love we think owes a lot to ‘the vibe’ of the place but our willingness to explore it owes a certain debt to a lovely German woman. We were in quite a strop, lost and tired, trying to find our hostel. We didn’t even ask for help, and yet she came up and offered it. (good thing too as we were walking the wrong way with our obese luggage). Thanks to her friendly kindness we practically frolicked the rest of the way to the hostel.
We came across this again just recently on the plane from Dublin to Paris. We aren’t the biggest fans of flying. In fact one of us is a little scared, and finds the whole ordeal a little gloomy. However the small Irish folk feel quite the opposite. (no sillies, we don’t mean leprechauns! We mean children!) As the flight took off all through the plane was the sound of children’s laughter. They thought it was an absolute thrill. “Much more interesting than school” said the adorable freckled girl seated behind us. Every moment of turbulence was a roller coaster and she was buzzing to go again. Her Irish accent made it all the cuter! She said hello to Ruby after landing, and then when Hester turned around she looked at us carefully and said “You both look like the same.” Isn’t it great how children just say what they think?! Refreshingly honest and the most FUN we have ever witnessed on an airplane.
On Tuesday the 11th of Feb we hit up Disney World – Magic Kingdom and the next day we got our Potter on at Universal Studios Harry Potter World.
We arrived in Florida in the early hours of Tuesday and already we had a few things to note:
1. Food here is whack. For example: the hotel restaurant had not one single vegetarian option. Hester therefore ordered Napa Chicken without the chicken. There were probably ten pasta options all with chicken or shrimp or both! Ruby ordered Oriental Chicken salad, grilled chicken atop Asian greens and crispy noodles so the menu said. In reality the noodles were absent (busy at Disneyland) and it would take some serious imagination to consider lettuce and carrots as Asian greens…?
Also, in theme parks a popular snack is a giant turkey leg, ie. a hunk of meat on the bone about as big as a child’s head. Classy.
2. We look weird.
People here dress in a particular fashion ie. fashion less. Shorts, fluro pink sneakers, merchandise or logo tee-shirt (think Big Bill’s Steak House for example)
People think we are dressed up. We’re sorta local theme park celebrities at the moment. A lady in The Forbidden Journey Ride said it was a breathe of fresh air to see two people so nicely dressed.
Looking around us that kinda made sense. Dressed up here is high heel converse.
3. Staff at theme parks are really nice
We have had enough compliments on our dress, hair and flowers to last a life time (or at least a few days) Yesterday we had a deadline to catch our bus back to the hotel and a massive line to the shuttle out before us. We asked for help and the woman gave us insider info because ‘we were nice. If you’re nice, good things happen’ she said.
4. The currency here is mental.
There are $1 bills (and all the bills look the same anyway) and the coins are no end confusing. There’s no 50c piece but instead there are 25c pieces… What? The 10c which masquerades as a ‘dime’ (confusing) is smaller than most the other lower denomination pieces. We give up!
Stuff here is rife with them. Menus especially. It’s off putting when they warn that undercooked food can contribute to food born illness (is it in the air whether they cook our food?) or icey poles that warn about sugar and heart disease. Who’s hungry?! We even checked the water just incase but that’s neutral for how.
6. Taxes and tipping
Taxes are a regular yet always surprising purchase sting. Why they don’t just make stuff easy and put it on the label we don’t know. Likewise, why don’t waiters get paid more? Tipping is practically obligatory but we feel bad for our hosts when we know they get measly rates.
7. It’s a weird thing to say but, we’re kind of surprised how Americany people are. All the ‘y’alls’ and the flags and t-shirts that read ‘American to the core’. Seems strangely cliche and patriotic.
Note: We still have to post about our experiences in Scotland, Ireland and Paris but here is a truthful narrative of all our dealings trying to arrive in the USA.
Ruby- “Oh! I’m popular I got a text… Uh oh.”
Dear bitches. Your flight tomorrow has been canceled. No info yet. No sunny Orlando for you. Sozzles. Lol Aeroplane peeps.
So that’s not QUITE the words they used but that was the affect upon us. This may or may not have been freely adapted.
That left us confused. No Internet available and facing a new and difficult issue. We did the only thing we could. Got a little excited by the drama of our situation.
Downed an entire packet of Camembert, sipped Rose and emailed all the helpful adults we knew including travel agent and family.
Get reply from travel agent with instructions to call Emergency Assistant phone line.
With the very last of our credit we called the Emergency Assistance line and got in the hold queue. Eventually got onto a helpful lady. She got into action mode and assured us she would email our travel agent and let him know of our situation… Glad we spent our credit on that… She also told us to watch the airline website.
Have watched the airline website. No changes thus far though it does note the timetable is subject to change, so that’s reassuring.
Ruby receives text from airline telling us they have made a new booking with a different airline.
Looks up details online but can’t seem to make the website accept Hester as traveling companion. Try not to panic…
We wait for contact from Travel Agent and start to worry about the fact Hester has not been contacted.
Travel agent emails us back and confirms we are both secured seats on flight at same, time same day, different company.
4:30 am SUNDAY
Miss phone call from unknown number.
Wake up from four hours sleep. Google number discover its our new airline. Call airline. The call was to confirm my flight and as a side note, my ticket has been issued, Hester’s hasn’t.
Hester calling Emergency Assistance line once again, they eventually confirm her position on the same flight. Back to packing and cleaning the house frazzled, tired and with the brain capacity of head less chickens.
Arrived at wrong terminal. Took shuttle to correct terminal and approached mammoth, snaking, slow as slugs moving queue to check in. Oh! And the boards informed us our flight had been delayed three hours. Swelleroony.
After much questioning, probing and confusion (mid panic about whether we could board this flight the guy had the nerve to interrupt the process and ask if we’d eaten kangaroo!!) we made it to the front of the line. Nice but frazzled lady informs us we won’t make our connecting flight to New York this evening. Next one is tomorrow – oh, which is all filled up. So our next best option she says is for us to fly to Chicago instead and then also swap our connecting Orlando flight. We were laughing with horror and agreeing to everything she said. She went ahead checking out the details but unfortunately determined she couldn’t make the changes on account of our connecting flight being with a different company – we’d need to contact them and with this new flight we had less than an hour to get the new tickets and complete check in.
Hester frantically calls connecting flight Airline. They tell us to call our travel agent.
Ruby calls Emergency Assistance line, begins to explain situation and the guy on the end of the phone interrupts and says “oh is this Ruby and Hester?” Apparently our troubles made us local legends on this phone line. So we explain our situation and he goes away to check out if he book us flights from Chicago.
Approaching final check in time he finally calls back. After yabbering on about how the company were within their right not to change our flight on account of the fact we can’t make it Ruby eventually got a word in to ask rather forcefully, “What our options were?” From the look on Ruby’s face Hester felt defeat overcome her core. The options were as follows: firstly we must give up on getting any credit from flight NY-Orlando. And though he talked about other things we managed to narrow it down to the only actual option: PURCHASE NEW TICKETS. For lots of monies which we do not have but put on Ruby’s credit card anyway. Oh well, beats sleeping in a suitcase in JFK airport for two nights doesn’t it?! We thought yes. We were pretty lucky that the staff taking care of us were legendary gems. It made the fact that we were ferociously devouring cold, soggy, maccas chips at the check in desk that little bit better. Four hours of sleep, many hours of stress. We were bodying the personification of disaster. Even airport security jokes were hilarious in our delirium. Read our friend’s blog, we called upon her wisdom in our delirium.
We finally check into the Chicago flight. Lovely man tells us that boarding is at 11:30. Uh hmm.. We become priority passengers and get lead briskly through security. With a little help from more delay we arrive at the gate just in time. As we walked through the tunnel connecting to the plane, a staff member who was at the time performing a procedural pat down, turned from the man with his arms out and called to us “Bye, have a nice trip.” adding from “from Kangaroo land” so we’d know who he was.
3:30 Chicago time (9:30pm Paris time)
Arrive at Chicago feeling mighty tired and with nothing to entertain us except keeping up to date with our flight.
Flight is delayed 20 mins
Flight is delayed 35mins
We try and sleep on uncomfortable plastic chairs. Heaped over eachother we get snatches of neck achey shut eye.
Start watching news report detailing tornados in the south east (potentially in our path)
8pm Chicago (2am Paris time)
Thoroughly exhausted and minorly concerned we might die, we board the plane and claim our first class seats. First class is a major let down. It’s noisy and nothing to write home about! Maybe just cause it was a domestic flight but we’re a little shattered. Not even risking perishing in lavish comfort!
We sleep the entire flight except when they give us our meal, which is presented on actual plates with actual cutlery in first class. Fun fact. With actual glass which seems a bit risky when our trays are jumping allover the place due to turbulence.
We survive the flight and arrive in noticeably warm Florida! Yay!
We jump in giant bus sized taxi with a lovely taxi driver and have a good talk about basketball and the layout of Orlando. And thusly arrive at our fanciest hotel yet with pool and cinema and two queen sized beds each. Luxury at last!
On our return to London we had two highlights: seeing Billy Elliot the stage musical and making our first ever snow man.
Like children high on red lollies we danced around in the snow laden garden at our accommodation before we set to work making our beautiful snow bunny. Complete with eyebrows, paws and tail with a cherry tomato nose, you’ll agree he is the handsomest snow bunny ever seen.
We were starving hungry and had just arrived in Spain, and for the first time since Austria we found ourselves in a country where we couldn’t speak the language and, perhaps more importantly, couldn’t read the menus.
Anxious to fill our bellies, we headed for the closest strip of shops in search of some lunch. We stopped at the first menu we found and had a look. No luck. What little we understood of the menu appeared to be meat or containing meat, with next to nothing appealing to Hester. So we wandered a little further, and it’s fortunate we did, because just around the corner we found “Marlen-Tastets”, a cute little restaurant that would soon be our favourite place in all of Spain.
We couldn’t read the menu, but it was nicely written on a pretty chalkboard out front so we thought we’d give it a try and hope for the best. Tentatively, we headed inside where we were greeted by Tony who, after receiving blank stares in response to his Spanish, ushered us to a table and returned with Andrea at his side. Andrea greeted us with a big, kind smile and spoke English. She explained their ‘menu del dia’, and helped us pick out our dishes, pointing out the vegetarian options and making suggestions. We were already grinning, relieved to have some guidance navigating our first Spanish meal. We started off with the fanciest coke we had ever been served. Then we had the food. Simply put, it was amazing. It looked and tasted incredible. 3 courses later and our grins had grown gigantic. We sat back, hunger well and truly conquered, and contemplated the culinary delights we had just enjoyed. When Andrea asked how our meal was the response was unanimous: best food ever!
We were already hooked on Marlen-Tastets, but then Andrea took good service to another level. She explained that she had been to London recently and consequently knew how daunting it can be finding yourself in a foreign city, so she asked if we had any questions and gave us some suggestions of places to see and go. She even went so far as to give us her number, saying we could call her if we ever got lost or needed help with the metro or had any other questions. We were gobsmacked! Such sincere kindness and generosity was astounding.
The food and service were so good we came back twice more. The next time was for dinner two days later. We’d had a tough time finding places with vegetarian options (with some places clearly not grasping the concept of “vegetarian.” which apparently in Spain either doesn’t exist or contains seafood. Fish must be just like breathing underwater vegetables to the Spanish), and those that did paled in comparison to Marlen-Tastets. So we returned, less than 48 hours later, to the same table we had been treated so well at before. Andrea, despite not working that night, came in and, rather than translating the entire menu, offered to bring out a variety of plates that she thought we would like. Eager to try more of the scrumptious food we had the last time, we excitedly agreed. Plate after plate after plate of delectable dishes came out: fried cheese in pastry with tomato relish; shiitake mushrooms in yummy Japanese sauce; potatoes with spicy dipping sauce; artichoke chips; foie gras; and more. We had 17 dishes all up, each up more delicious than the last. Then there was dessert. We feel very strongly about desert. Some would call it the most important meal of the day. Sooooooooo amazing! First was this yummy sesame ice cream served on a large plate with ‘friends’ written in chocolate topping (so cute!), then a chocolate self saucing pudding that was incredible. This pudding – you can not understand, it was amazing. Chocolately goodness at its delicious best. And then finally a kind of mango cake that was warm and gooey and sweet.
To compliment our meal Tony set us up with a bottle of good Cava – the Spanish version of champagne. It was fancy and delicious.
At the end of our meal we were keen for Andrea to convey to her parents how much we liked the meal. She smiled and said “I think they know from your faces”
Unable to resist we came back one last time for a Sunday lunch. What followed was another ridiculous array of delicious choices by Andrea, cooked by the talented Marlen accompanied by three amazeballs ‘gintonics’ (there’s no ‘and’ in Spain) concocted by cocktail master Tony. His cocktails are truly an art form. He gathered the glasses, three different gins and small bottles of tonic. He mixed ice around the glass to make it cool and then added the fruit. The ice and fruit swirled around the glass like magic. The perfect amount of gin was deposited in each glass, Tony was careful to wash the gin glass between each different gin. We were given the gin to smell and then explained the strength and flavour of each. Here there are different Gins for different times of the day! If they are all as good as the three Tony made us I understand why you’d drink them non stop. One was dry and mixed with a slice of lemon peel, one was aromatic and complimented by a piece of ginger and the last was sweet and filled with fruit (affectionately labelled by Tony ‘a sweet friend’)
To thank our new friends for the amazing culinary experiences they had provided us we came with gifts. We presented Marlen and Tony with one of mum’s King Island tea towels and Andrea received a koala pencil. In return they asked for our photograph and some words to go in the guest book. When we flicked through it we felt quite honored, noting we would be amongst celebrities and their favourite clients.
We said goodbye as good friends, devastated our favourite restaurant and it’s lovely owners would always be hundreds of miles away. (except for Facebook, where the restaurant has a page that constantly posts mouth watering images. Grrrr 😉
Our (Ruby’s) beloved fuzzy one has just gone home and we (Ruby especially) (but let’s not forget that Hester cares too) miss him dearly.
– He’s a pretty easy going, positive kind of guy. It’s hard to not get a long with him really.
– He bore our extensive and often thorough shopping excursions admirably. Despite the fact he couldn’t give a fig about eye liner pencils and ‘that perfect Zara shirt’ he came along with us to every shop and never complained.
– His singing. When once Hester commented that she enjoyed his singing Andy replied ‘that’s the first and only time I’ll hear that’ WRONG SIR! Later that evenning a drunk American we met at our hostel commented likewise. That’s because it’s pleasant and refreshing to hear a person singing cheerily whether or not their tone is pitch perfect and their lyric recall complete.
It’s the vibe of the thing.
– He was much more organized and quicker to be ready. Mostly because he’s a boy that isn’t too concerned about how he’s dressed (unless we force ably encouraged him to wear his christmas presents) he was already ready and bored well before we were. Whilst we were fussing about with make-up and earrings he was playing with his phone or doing something for the team like the dishes or preparing for the day, working out directions, food options etc.
– He was the snacks master. Hester and I worked out, pretty much on day 1, that we don’t do well without food so snacks are a priority. Fends off the grumps a little longer. So Andy faithfully lugged our hordes of assorted snacks every day that didn’t fit as easily in our bags around lip balm, diaries and all the things girls manage to cram into their bags.
– He was maps master. Just between you and I, we hadnt been using compasses or basic orientation at all before Andy came along. We had been getting lost a fair bit though. That’s manageable with a fully labelled map but 90% of free maps omit most the smaller street names which can get tricky.
So it was a bit of a revelation when Andy came along and looked at the map and said ‘We don’t know the street name but we’re headed East, so let’s just walk that way till we hit a main road’ then he opened his compass app and lead the way and that’s when he took over as Maps Master.
He retained the job of map Master by being the first person to say ‘bearings’ and the only person to use it correctly.
You can travel with the Gingers again Fuzzy one. Its been a blast!