Horn-Bad Meinberg (Germany), 22-24/11/12: Yes! We made it to Horn-Bad Meinberg.
Yes! After one wrong number, the taxi came.
Yes! We made it to our cosy room.
…and yes! It featured arts.
I had assumed that our friendly hosts at Hotel Waldschlößchen could, like many Germans, speak perfect Oxford English but spoke German to humour us but later decided that perhaps this was not the case. This presented us with a good opportunity to warm up our Deutsch in the field – Nicole being proficient and me able to ask “where is the [noun]?”, etc.
The hotel itself was quaint and cosy, befitting its location and featured a restaurant downstairs offering several variations on the theme of schnitzell.
As it was relatively isolated, we also got breakfast there which, in what turned out to be typical German style, appeared to us more like lunch.
One advantage of this was that the matron would kindly pack our left-overs as lunch – perfect for long walks in the forest. Also, when we later switched back to cereal, my metabolism really missed the bready, meaty morning jump-start. However it does make you wonder whether bowel cancer is endemic here, given the near-absence of vegetables in the German diet… So here are some hard numbers. It turns out that Germany’s ranked 14th, well behind Australia at number 6, so they must be doing something right.
But I digest. Our visit to Horn-Bad Meinberg (HBMB hereafter) was not for the bread rolls but rather to visit their local attraction, the Externsteine (infrequently refered to as the Ayers Rock of Germany).
These large, rocky protrusions apparently attract around a million tourists each year although it seems that even within Germany the name draws more furrowed brows and puzzled head-scratches than validating “aaaahs”. The Externsteine has also been an important religious site for Pagans and Christians (it features evidence of both groups) and has also had nationalistic signicance, especially around WW2, when the Nazis attempted to prove that it was an important religious site in pre-Christian times in order to boost national pride (kind of “we were holy first” I think) – but with limited success. To this day it attracts neo-hippies and renneisance festival types (those that sup of the pig and drink of the wine from ye goblet), who like to dance at make merry on the site around important astrological dates, much to the chagrin of some of the locals.
It also makes for good photos. The approach was made on foot through pretty, autumnal forest in perfect walking conditions.
There were rest points along the way where you could really kick back.
Then, after about 40 minutes, there was this:
Which led to this:
As you can tell from these epic pics, there are stairs leading up to the top and a sadly closed bridge, built in the late 19th century. From up there one can take pretty autumn panoramas.
It was all quite mystical, and the sureptitious whispers of nature were interupted only by the sound of the public employee with the leaf-blower across the lake.
This man will always have a job.
Once we felt we’d absorbed as much of the Externsteine and its infotaining visitors center as we could, we went out to take in the sights and sounds of bustling HBMB.
It is a small, cute town attached to national forest with nothing in particular for tourists on drizzly winter days. There was however a future echo of our trip in this monument:
…in that we would be visiting Metz, France in a few weeks time. As yet I haven’t been able to determine the significance of this memorial though.
We trudged through the rain back to Waldschlößchen, our eager sights set on a warm dining room, a Schnitzel dinner (which did not disappoint) and a good night’s sleep, since the morning promised another day of train travel which we were determined would this time be without incident.
Den Haag (ND) 17-22/11/12: A chronologocally oblique post to cover some of our foody experiences around The Netherlands.
Erwbten (pea and sausage soup) from a Den Haag soup cafe. Just the thing for a cold, foggy saturday.
Hot chocolate and coffee from another nice little Den Haag cafe as we waited to meet John and Zoe. We could sit here and watch Zwarte Piet direct traffic in the street outside.
Chips with mayo, the dutch condiment of choice outside a Den Haag pub with Zoe, Marie and John on Sunday. Tastes better than you’d think.
Burger (patty sans bun) and chips (with mayo of course) at Efteling on Monday.
Kebabs in Leiden on Tuesday. Turkish food has possibly overtaken chips in a paper cone with mayo as the ubiquitous Dutch fast food of choice.
Entrée of paté and a raw meat dip (whose name I forget but all tasty) plus €2 supermarket glühwein at Kyl and Vikki’s in Leiden. The glühwein (warmed) was more delicious than the price-tag and point of origin might suggest.
Kyl prepared a traditional Dutch meal of sausage, potato, broccoli and onion mash plus bread. He has his game face on here. Apparently home cooking is not such a popular pass-time here, so we were told, making Kyl & Vikki anomolous in this respect.
Dim Sum, a la carte, Den Haag style. Actually pretty good, though no fried squid tentacles.
If I haven’t mentioned already – and I will surely raise this again – booze here is cheap. Wine from around €1, beer is cheaper than water and a good whiskey is maybe €20-30. I seem to recall seeing a Laphraoig Quarter Cask for around this price. That’s Christmas taken care of then, eh?
Warwick (England), 14/11/12: The other thing that never ceases to amaze be besides the rich fertility of England is the old things and how accessible they are. Following our sit-down breakfast, we, along with our hosts, set out to explore some of Warwick’s more famous examples of the genre.
First stop was the Cathedral, just another workaday magnificent European, centuries old structure with dozens of dead Earls and clergyman from the middle ages buries beneath the foundations.
A big part of what I like about such relics is that they are still in active use and, while treasured, treated with a kind of callous affection. Another more specific thing I liked was this lectern:
I would love to do a gig from behind this thing.
As we were inspecting the chapel (which contained tombs of the early Earls of Warwick) a friendly guide told us a bit about the various tombs and some of the town’s history. She wasn’t overly precious about it though and, while obviously loving it all, would casually dismiss certain relics as a bit rubbish or incorrectly sculpted and at one point was giving the golden crown of the very late Ambrose Dudley a jolly good tug to make her point. Sweet.
She also mentioned that the current Earl of Warwick in fact lives (or recently lived) in Perth. True story, look it up.
Our guide had warned us that The famous Warwick Castle had been badly Disney-fied since it was purchased by Madame Toussauds and that it wasn’t worth the steep entry price. We were determined however and had 2-for-1 vouchers to justify our decision. Turns out she was right to a point – it had been camped up a fair but we weren’t too proud to get involved.
The castle and grounds are never-the-less magnificent though and the history fascinating at times. We were able to storm the parapets, which called for some epic posing.
Also gave me a reason to experiment with the panorama feature on my bat-phone.
Fun engineering fact: they were generating – and battery-storing! – electricity for the castle using a paddle/dynomo in the river next door as early as the 1890’s. The Earl of the time’s wife, Daisy, had an electric ferry she used to take around the waters.
Took the long and winding route through town and back to Val & David’s, then back out into the cold for a nice pub meal at a little place next to one of the canals in Warwick that form part of the English canal system.The thought of a canal barge holiday excites me a bit and I don’t care who knows. Maybe for the 20 year long service leave…
Warwick (UK), 13/11/12: Arriving at Heathrow airport on Tuesday morning, we were greeted by Nicole’s rellies, Val and David, who were to play host to us at their place in Warwick for the next few days.
Warwick’s about a 90 minute drive up the M4 from London. England’s cool, overcast weather suited me well. I never cease to be amazed by this country’s ability to grow things, though at this time of year there’s a good mix of greens and autumnal yellows, reds, oranges and browns. Very pretty.
Val and David kindly acted as cooks, chauffeurs and tour guides during our stay. Five star service. On our first afternoon we made a trip to the neighbouring town of Leamington, ostensibly for the shops but we also took in some of the local sites – the historic spring and public bath building being a stand out. The spring water was once said to have curative properties. It tastes very salty, as if having marinated generations of Englishmen in times gone by.
At 9:15, after a lovely home-cooked meal (mustard-marinated chicken with home-grown beans and a berry pie), I was falling asleep in my floral-print covered armchair and drooling on my chest, so we bid our hosts auf wiedersehen and headed upstairs to bed, where I slept fitfully until 4:30am. Stupid jet-lag.
After a dinner of Aunty Barb’s 4-and-a-half star lasagne, Mum & Dad took us for the tradionally panicky drive to the airport. With minimal queuing at the airport, this left plenty of time to take in the glamour of airport duty-free.
We were in the big fancy Emirates A380’s which feature a top deck for the master race. A curved staircase and primly-dressed attendant prevented me from seeing it for myself but rumour has it they feature full-size beds, a cocktail lounge, light-up disco dancefloor, a shooting range, a cryostasis option and live show-jumping.
Still, Emirates treats the peons pretty well too. Tonight’s entertainment included two films I actually wanted to see in Moonrise Kingdom and From Rome With Love. The abitrary meals served (dinner, breakfast, breakfast again, lunch) were far better than what Qantas offered us days earlier with some interesting Arabic Twix, I mean Arabic twists.
We managed though and even came out of the time/matter transfer at Heathrow, 11:30am, feeling basically human. Good times.
Melbourne, 11/11/12: Question: How do you follow up a BBQ and fine wine? Answer: That’s a meaningless question, but we went to Nic and Yeshe’s place for a BBQ and fine whiskys.
Oh and fine beer too. Here you can see Nicole interfacing with the formerly shy black cat, Bei. Seems that, in his case, with age has come backbone, if not guile.
Several rebutted attempts to board the table to requisition our sausages resulted in him laying a protest poo in the nearby cat tray. This briefly stalled the meal but he was spared banishment by being SO CUTE.
I gladly helped them drain their Tallisker 25, which they’re not so keen on despite its reputation (read:price). In fact, the whisky bar we visited the other night does a thing called a boilermaker, where they pair a fine whisky with a fine beer. I thought I’d give this a go.
Turns out Young’s Double Chocolate Stout goes better with Lagavulin 16 Year Old. Less diesely.
Tram, home, bed, the end.
Melbourne, 11/11/12: Another day, another meet & eat with the family, now recently extended.
We were out in force at aunty Barb’s place, enjoying the springy warmth and mountains of good food. Dad took the opportunity to toast the 100th birthday of his late mum, my granny, and for the occasion provided a couple of bottles of Henschke Mount Edelston shiraz. Liquid velvet – look it up.
Melbourne: Our holiday blog is turning into a food blog.
Or perhaps a food and pet blog.
Saturday was wedding day and of course it’s essential that one paces oneself in the lead up to a family wedding. In this spirit, we took in late brunch with Jim, Sophie and Rex at the canine compliant Old Barber Shop Cafe in Richmond.
A rousing (careful there) breakfast, coffee and good company set flight the senses and provided us with the energy we needed to face the day.
With some time up our sleeves before the wedding, J&S recommended we take in the Gregory Crewdson photography exhibition at CCP. Large prints of dystopian, Lynch-esque middle-America and crumbling Mussolini-era Italian film sets. I liked it so much I tried to buy the book.
Melbourne. If photos were all I had to go on, it would look like all we’re doing here is eating and drinking. Not too far from the truth, but also I enjoy stories about food & beverage more than ones about that time I bought a blue business shirt.
After a holiday start we opened with a meal betwixt brunch and lunch at Stone Ground, Richmond.
Really nice muesli & yoghurt plus coffee for me and Nicole enjoyed her BLT. Oh and cheap! Not to labour the point but it was half of what I would expect to pay in the two-speed economy of Perth.
A short tram ride found us in Melbourne town where we picked over a couple of Japanese $2 (approx) shops – Tokuya and Daiso. Nicole did well to limit herself to about 10 or 15 items but she was in cute overload.
Then in keeping with the theme, light lunch at Yoyogi.
*boring shopping expedition goes here*
The evening saw us first at Josie Bones, Collingwood with cousin Mikey.
I got word of this place back in perth and indeed their selection of beers was at once intimidating, delicious and boozey.
Back into town to meet the ever-affable Anton & Felicity along with lovely Liz. Kokoro Ramen was in our future but the agreed meeting spot was the nearby Mai Tai bar, where happy hour is all the hours.
But the main event was two doors down.
It was a good, greasy ramen. The stock was thick and rich, good quality noodles were used and the eggs were just right. If I had to choose a last meal, a good ramen would right up there.
But like all good things it had to end. As luck would have it however, we were just round the corner from celebrated whisky bar Chez Regine and so for the second time that evening we were confronted with an impressive and boozey directory. I settled on a Linlithgow 1982, foreshadowing adventures to come. I think the picture says it all.