The Köln Carnival – You really Should Go

Posted by admin | Posted in Germany | Posted on 17-07-2010

Mix together 4 days in a foreign city with a large group of close friends, very little sleep, lots of drink and having to wear a Dalmatian costume the entire time and you have all the right ingredients for an eventful weekend away.

I am referring back to my trip to Köln in January. I went with a bunch of good friends to celebrate my best friend Helen’s 30th birthday. Our good friend Victoria who lives in Köln gave the yearly city carnival the thumbs up so we booked our Ryanair flights and the date was set.

The whole weekend was carnage (fun carnage) from start to finish; we also missed our flight home. But we were all together and despite the hiccups it was a great time and reminded me what special friends I have and how close we all are even though we are spread out across the world now.

Because the weekend was months and months ago now I cannot remember it in particularly great detail, rather I can pick out fragmented bits which I have listed below.

Day Minus One
1. Met one of my best friends Catrina at Edinburgh airport – she had emigrated to Canada so hadn’t seen her for months and months
2. Went to supermarket – was ID’d, didn’t have ID as I am nearly 30 now
3. Finally got drink – went back to flat and had mini party just the two of us
4. My habitat lamp melted and went on fire
5. We went to sleep

Day One
1. Met at Edinburgh airport in the morning – having had about 2 hours sleep
2. Started drinking on the plane as any good Scot would do
3. Arrived in Germany and got hire cars
4. Feel asleep in the back of hire car while sober friend drove
5. Got to Park Inn hotel Koln
6. Had a disco nap and then got ready to head out
7. Got the costumes on, which stayed on for the whole trip
8. Went to a party at someone’s house in Köln – was rude and generally cheeky to people, but they seemed to like it
9. Left party drunk
10. Shouted ‘Hallo’ to virtually everyone in the street I walked past – again this seemed to get the thumbs up.
11. Got hit in the head with a snowball by some German teenagers. So I chased them in my Dalmatian costume and threw a snowball back which ended in us all laughing together
12. Tried to walk back to the hotel and got completely lost so eventually found a taxi
13. Collapsed into bed at 6 in the morning


Day Two and Three

I am merging these into one because I have forgotten the exact finer points to these days, but it was something like this.

1. Went to watch carnival procession
2. Tried to catch sweets when the procession threw them, failed at this so went to a bar to drink beer.
3. Ate fritters at a stall
4. Drank gluvine at a street stall
5. Went to a street bar and drank beer
6. Danced in the street at Altstadt in minus temperatures to house music in Dalmatian costume
7. Talked to random strangers about life
8. Walked about in the freezing cold in our Dalmatian costumes
9. Got on a tram and didn’t pay for a ticket
10. Ate food in an American themed restaurant
11. Walked about and marveled at the architecture
12. Got our picture taken outside Kölner Dom
13. Bought a Maneki Neko lucky cat in a tourist shop
14. Put on mascara in an attempt to be ‘rock’
15. Broke a bed in the hotel
16. Ate a delicious euro pizza slice

Day 4
1. Went for the plane home and missed it
2. Spent in total about four hours on buses needing the toilet for most of it
3. Sat in a dirty internet cafe that doubled up as a snooker hall and from the looks of it a tramp shop
4. Ate amazing food in this tiny Thai noodle bar in Brusselerstrasse
5. Got into hotel and went to sleep

Day 5
1. Up at four in the morning to catch airport bus to Düsseldorf
2. Got to airport and got flight home
3. Got home and went to bed

Verdict
The above little offload tells you nothing about Köln and to be honest I did nothing of any tourist notability, except the carnival. However I would highly recommend visiting this city. It has a great mix of what you would expect from a European ‘tourist’ destination, mixed in with modern culture, great bars (from what I remember) and really friendly people.

Most of what I previously knew about Germany came from growing up watching Eurotrash. So this trip really helped dispel my vision of all Germans being sex addicts and speaking with a Liverpool accent. I have been to Germany before to Berlin for the Love Parade, which was great fun, but only helped cement my view of Germans being crazy techno loving sex addicts :)



York, Leeds and 2 Nights in an Etap Hotel

Posted by admin | Posted in England, Europe | Posted on 13-07-2010

I have come to a certain point in life when I am reaching out for the more relaxed things in life, you slow down a notch and swap places like Ibiza for York and Ayia Napa for Leeds. Is it because I’m turning 30 – no It’s really because I’m a cheap skate and wanted a jolly in York with my friend and they were doing a deal on the train tickets.

So last weekend I went away with my old old old friend Helen. We stayed for one night in York and then two nights in Leeds. And for anyone that’s interested this is the summary of our whistlestop yet fun packed tour.

York

Ok what is there to say about York, it’s seriously breathtaking – a must to see at least once in your life and a complete tourist Mecca. We were there on a Friday/Saturday and on the Saturday morning I could barely move down the streets for tourists. It was like swimming against the tide at one point – If I was going back again I would go midweek when the only people about are the elderly and unemployed and you can walk without having to sidestep every two minutes. Having said that we loved the place and definately recommend it.

We stayed at – the Ibis hotel which is about 10 minutes from the old area of York (outside the city wall), but two minutes from the train station. Which was handy when you feel a bit ropey the next day and just want to get on the train. The Ibis is mega cheap, we ended up with a room each and Helen for some reason ended up with a disabled room on the ground floor. Bit of advice, if you’re staying there don’t get a ground floor disabled room as they are really noisy and the room is wired like the crystal maze, so one wrong move and you will set an alarm off.

What did we do?

1. The National Railway Museum – If you’re secretly a bit of a train spotter, or feel like you should be carrying a flask of tea and sandwiches in an ice cream tub then head along to the national railway museum. I was in my element, Helen was not – but it was free to get in so she couldn’t complain.

2. Kennedys Bar– York is blessed with more historical buildings than you can shake a stick at, but is lacking in any ‘style bars’ and coming from big shot town’s like Glasgow and Edinburgh ;) we demand this – so a tip off about Kennedys cocktail bar from a friend was a welcome blessing. The bar itself is great, head up to the roof terrace (below) and you can soak up the sun, however don’t be surpised if they ask you how to make a Margarita.

3. York Minster – We never went into this, but you can take in the beauty of this incredible building from the outside.

4. Fudge Kitchen – Ok we broke the bank in this place and bought some fudge, but after you’re plied with free fudge from the shop assistant you would too.

Things that we walked right past included –
Jorvic Viking Centre – queue as long as an execution and as tacky as Kerry Katona’s knicker collection.
Bettys Tea Room – again a queue like an execution and overpriced sticky buns.

Leeds

Not really sure why Leeds was factored into our break other than I was there ten years ago and had a pint at a pub by the railway station so it seemed like the logical place to go. However Leeds didn’t disappoint.

We stayed at the Etap hotel which is very handy for the town centre – the draw back is that it is £38 a night for a room so it doesn’t separate the wheat from the chaff and you get what you pay for. My room was ‘basic’ and did the job. The en-suite was a toilet in a cupboard and the sink was next to the bed. The furniture was screwed onto the walls and I was half expecting vinegar tits from prisoner cell block H to walk in on me. But weighing it up, it’s a room, it’s somewhere to lay your head and at £38 a night who cares. One tip about this hotel is that at the weekend it is 99.9% made up with people wanting to get steaming so keeping the noise down late at night does not appear to be factored in, take a pair of ear plugs with you or some valium and you will be out like a light.

What did we do?
Ok I said we were cheapskates actually we are not, we just wanted to save money on the accommodation so we could spend more on food, booze and shopping.

On the first night we had a drink in Malmaison – they do great cocktails. We then got a hot tip from the waitress that the place to head to is the Brewery Wharf which I guess is like a mini docklands. We ate in Cafe Guru which was a rather uber cool Indian restaurant, the food was excellent and I didn’t get diarrhea so it gets my seal of approval.

Two bottles of wine later we staggered along to the City Inn, and managed to wangle our way up to the bar on the top floor. They do amazing cocktails and there is a great view across the city so it is worth the £8 a drink price tag…

On the second day we went to Harvey Nichols for brunch. They do a set menu and the food is devine! Harvey Nichols is located in the old Victorian Quarter so not only is it a beautiful place but there are some amazing shops nearby too. I would say this is probably the best part about Leeds (for me anyway) – they have great shopping, so if you want to give your credit card a workout head to Leeds.

And that’s about the size of our weekend. We skipped any tourist stuff because we were too busy shopping and drinking! It went buy in a flash, but 3 nights with your best friend shopping, eating, drinking and laughing has to be good for the soul so go and do it!

Other top cheapskate tips include
Make sure you print out a plethora of restaurant vouchers so you can get a deal with virtually every chain reataurant in York and Leeds. You won’t use them, but it’s good to fill your bag with coupons just on the off chance.

If you are taking the train from York to Leeds – you need to buy two single tickets :( instead buy a return from York to Bradford. It’s cheaper and you can get off at Leeds!