Tag Archives: observations

Travel preparations

13 Jan

As you may or may not know, I love to travel. Since I first set off on a solo trip to Peru in 2011, I haven’t stopped exploring. In my case, it is certainly true when people say that travelling is a bug that you catch. I enjoying seeing other parts of the world and seeing how other people live. As well as trying different types of food, of course.

Soon I will be heading off on another adventure. This one will be longer than I have ever done before. It will be 35 days, in fact, and we will be visiting five different countries in South America. We have already booked all of the flights, buses, boats and hotels.

I find preparing for the travel almost as exciting as the travelling itself. I can spend hours pouring over books, the Internet and asking people for suggestions and recommendations. It’s so much fun to thinking that in a few weeks you will be doing X, Y or Z, or even all three!

One part of travelling that I am not such a fan of is the packing. For a beach holiday, a weekend away or going back home, I can cope. Just throw some things in a suitcase and off you go. It’s only for a couple of weeks or days so there is not a lot of planning needed.

For five weeks on the road, spending only a few days in each place, it is a bit more difficult. I have found in a lot of my recent trips that I tend to panic just before I am about to leave the house and end up throwing things into the bag because I am convinced that I might need a heavy-duty rain jacket in South Africa in summer or I should definitely pack that exfoliating face pack from the bathroom because that would really be useful while camping in the wild in Botswana. Incidentally, I have stopped taking makeup with me on holidays where the weather is hot because I realised it is a waste of time to think that I will feel the need to apply makeup when I am basically melting from the heat. I very rarely wear make-up at home so it doesn’t really make that much difference to me.

I always make a list of things to take and I try to stick to it but it doesn’t always work. As we will be on the move every few days, it makes sense to pack as light as possible. I have been having a personal struggle about whether to take my electric tooth brush or not. On the one hand, it does mean that I have to take yet another charging cable with me (along with phone charger, battery pack for my camera, activity tracker, Kindle etc) but I think that it is the type of luxury that I don’t think that I can go without for five weeks. Plus oral hygiene, as dentists will tell you, is not a part-time hobby so I am almost 100% decided that it will be coming with me.

I read once that for these longer trips, you should pack everything once and then take everything out of the suitcase and take half of the clothes and double the amount of money. This is probably very good advice. There have been more than a few times when I have got back home from a trip to find at least three articles of clothing stuffed in the bottom of my bag that I haven’t used and that I forgot I had even packed.

However, and let’s face it, if I had double the amount of money available, I would be going for double the amount of time. Perhaps only the advice about the number of clothes applies to me.

I will attempt to be very strict with my packing, as I have been with my travel planning, but good intentions and all that. I still have about five weeks to agonise about what and what not to take. Do you see now why this is the part that I dislike the most?

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Good Luck for the year ahead!

2 Jan

Although I have been in Switzerland for New Year for the last three years, this year I learnt something new about what charms the Swiss think will bring good luck.

I went to a friend’s house on New Year’s Eve, where there was, what I can only describe as paraphernalia, to help predict what the year ahead will bring. This was a spoon, small bits of metal (which type I am not sure), a candle and a bowl of water. The basic idea is that you put a piece of the metal on the spoon and heat this over the candle. When the metal is melted, you pour the molten liquid into the water. The shape that the metal makes is then a prediction of what will happen to you for the next year. There is a small interpretation book provided, so you can check out the meanings.

My form looked like a rain drop or a meteor. These shapes weren’t described in the interpretation booklet so I settle for on it looking like a ball. This means that I should play more sport in the upcoming year. This is probably a fair assessment and much more preferable than what the two other options could signify: namely, spending a lot more time in the rain or the end of the world as we know it is right around the corner.

I have never seen or heard of this before, but the kits are available in the local supermarkets. It was interesting to see how many different forms and shapes were made. Of course, it is just a bit of fun but at a party, it was an interesting ice-breaker.

I was also handed a miniature figure of a chimney sweep. Apparently, in Germany and Switzerland, the chimney sweep is a very lucky symbol – a bit like a four-leaf clover. I think that this was doubly lucky for me because I was given the figure by an actual chimney sweep.

img_9896As I had never heard of the connection of luck with a chimney sweep before, I decided to do a bit of research on the Internet before. Because, as is often the case, when I asked why a chimney sweep has a connection to good luck in Switzerland and Germany, no one could actually give me an answer. I was met with a shrug, a blank facial expression and the answer “I’m not really sure. We just always hand them out at this time of year.”

So, I found out that a chimney sweep is good luck for purely pragmatic reasons. If a chimney was blocked, it meant that you would not be able to cook anymore and so you would have to get the chimney sweep to come round. Once the flue was cleaned, you could carry on eating again. Hurray! It also meant that there was less chance of the house catching fire because of the soot stuck in the chimney.

I think the connection is completely charming. It is a shame that this is a profession which is possibly in decline, as we tend not to have houses with fire places, as we did in the olden days. But through the giving of these charms the legend will live on for generations to come.

I am a firm believer in the phrase that you make your own luck, but it still nice to have a few good luck charms tucked away just in case.

Happy New Year

31 Dec

Before the bells start chiming at midnight, I would like to wish all of you a Happy and Healthy 2018, wherever you are in the world and whoever you are with.

2017 has been a good year for me. I have achieved a lot of things that are on my bucket list and have been able to travel and experience a lot of new things. For the upcoming year, there will be more travelling in the first quarter of the year and then, I hope, I can spend more time enjoying what Switzerland has to offer. I think that the year could end up with me staying at home more because of work reasons. But let’s see…

For many people, the New Year is not always something to celebrate. It is a time to reflect and perhaps unhappy thoughts or disappointing times come to mind more easily. Whatever your feelings about this time of year, I hope that you will be able to look ahead to the opportunities that might be available to you in 2018.

If there is one piece of advice I would give, it would be to do whatever you want but do it with all your heart, in pursuit of your happiness.

So, Happy 2018! I wish you all the Best and more besides. Whatever happens, an adventure is definitely waiting for us!

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My year in numbers

27 Dec

As the year is almost up, I thought it would be a good idea to make a review of the year using only numbers.

This was my 2017…

105 Number of blog posts (including this one)

1,809 Number of visitors to my blog

2,821 Number of views of my blog

29 Number of flights I have taken

13 Number of countries I have visited (England, Scotland, Wales, Norway, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, France, Italy, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Singapore)

5 Number of countries I have visited for the first time (Norway, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Slovakia, Singapore)

62 Number of nights I have stayed in hotels

3 Number of weeks I have spent trying to immersing myself in German in a country other than Switzerland

37 Number of books I’ve read (I really tailed off towards the end of the year. Until July I was on track to read 52, or one a week!)

1 Number of challenges I have completed for my #40Before40 challenge

1 Number of scorpions I have eaten

26 Number of whole weekends I have spend at home in Zurich (Friday, Saturday, Sunday for the whole day)

60 Number of German lessons I have endured

60 Number of times I have said I’m not learning German anymore because it’s too hard and I will never be able to do it

1 Number of official German exams I have passed with flying colours

6 Number of Escape rooms I have done

4,332,026 Number of steps I have made according to my activity tracker

7 Number of vegetables I have grown in my garden (tomatoes, peppers, carrots, kohlrabi, leeks, onions, cucumber)

2 Number of houseplants I have killed this year (1 is hanging on for dear life as well)

3 Number of Physio appointments for my knee

7 Number of kilos I have lost this year and successfully kept off (16 pounds)

16 Number of late shifts at work

5 Number of years I have been living in Switzerland

200 (about) Number of times people have asked me what is going to happen with Brexit for no other reason than I am

I am a bit surprised by all of the numbers and what I have managed to achieve in 2017. It’s almost time to see what 2018 has in store…

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3 Things… Christmas Edition

20 Dec

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I stole this idea from Bev, so I can’t take credit for the concept but the contents are all mine. As Christmas is lurking around the corner, it seemed like a good idea to answer some questions all about Christmas…

3 Things I love about Christmas

  1. I’m not going to lie: the best thing about Christmas for an adult is not having to work or not having to work as much. Although I will be working between Christmas and New Year, I will have a lot less to do and won’t be under as much stress as the rest of the year. I sometimes find it a lot easier to get things done that I have been putting off for the end of the year and I can get myself ready for January, which, working in Finance, is always a busy time.
  2. Being able to stay inside without having to feel that you have to make an excuse to justify it. The weather is cold. It might be raining or snowing. This is the one time of the year when I can stay indoors and no one tells me that I should be outside and getting some fresh air. It’s nice and cosy inside and I like the feeling of know that I can lounge about and not feel guilty for not exercising for a few days of the year.
  3. Christmassy smells. Clementines, cinnamon, real Chrismtas trees, mulled wine. Nothing smells as good as Christmas.

3 Things I dislike about Christmas

  1. Asking someone what they would like for Christmas and them shrugging their shoulders and saying “Dunno. I don’t really want/need anything”. In fairness, I say this as well but it can add some pressure when you have no idea what to give someone and they also have no idea. I guess it means that you have no expectations to live up to but you can still end up disappointing someone.
  2. Commercialism. This was summed up for me about 2 weeks ago on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich. I am not talking about the Chanel, Louis Vitton and Rolex shops with their overpriced  wares in the shop window (but they are overpriced and completely unjustifiable to any normal people, not just at Christmas but throughout the year). There is a sign on the street that changes every day. It’s 5 letters long and a different word appears each day. Two weeks ago, it simply send “SPEND”. I wanted to think that this was a tongue-in-cheek assessment of the time of year but I doubt that very much. To me, it was a declaration of what companies and businesses want consumers to do in the run up to Christmas.
  3. Having to feel happy. Christmas is not a happy time for everyone and it can bring sadness with it. An empty chair at the dinner table is a stark reminder of someone who is no longer here to share in the memories or a phone call never made to someone who we love but, for one reason or another, we are no longer talking to are two examples of occasions which can cause us to reflect and bring us sadness. We focus so much on what we want that it can make us focus on what we have lost and are unable to regain.

3 Favourite Christmas Movies

  1. Home Alone. The ultimate and the best.
  2. Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Steve Martin in his prime and a hilarious John Candy. Just thinking about this films makes me feel emotional.
  3. Love Actually. I think I have cried from the beginning, when Hugh Grant talks about love in airports all the way through to the end, when Bill Nighy is baring his backside because his song was Christmas Number 1.

3 Favourite Christmas Treats

  1. A warmed mince pie smoothered with brandy butter.
  2. Cheese board. My mum always buys a cheeseboard, although she says that she never knows why because no one ever eats it all. And it is always the same cheese that is left to the very end in our household. Wendsleydale with Cranberries always goes first and then the Red Leicester. But there is nothing as decadent as going to raid the fridge during the Christmas period and sitting down to watch a film with a selection of cheeses, pickled onions and a few crackers.
  3. An alcoholic drink that I never normally drinking during the rest of the year. Perhaps it will be a Bailey’s this year, or a Brandy or something completely different that has been lurking in the back of my mum’s cupboard all year.

3 Favourite Christmas Traditions

  1. Eating and drinking so much that I fall in front of the TV while watching a film. This happens every year. I normally wake up when someone decides to change the channel and I tell them not to because I was watching it!
  2. Having a buffet dinner on Christmas Eve night. Normally my mum put on a big spread with crisps, sandwiches, dips and party food. Just what you need before going to bed to wait for the Big Man to arrive on the next day.
  3. Leaving a mince pies out for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph. We always left something out and I was a bit sad when I grew up and I couldn’t do this any more. Now my niece and nephew are a bit older, the tradition is back up and running. I’m really looking forward to leaving the treats out for Santa and I might be fighting my brother for the dram of whisky that we leave out for him.

3 Favourite Christmas Songs

These are in no particular order…

  1. Mary’s Boy Child – Boney M
  2. The FairyTale of New York – The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. This reminds me of the Christmas we spent in Tenerife, when my and my brother (both quiet inebriated) sang this at karaoke and brought the house down – at least that was my recollection.
  3. Last Christmas – Wham. I always loved this song, now it makes me a bit sad because George Michael died on Christmas Day but I still love it.

3 Favourite Gifts Received

  1. My mountain bike – I can’t remember how old I was but I really want a mountain bike. I came downstairs very confident that I would see my bike because I had been such a good girl that year. When I didn’t see it, I burst into tears. The bike was actually in the garage because my parents hadn’t wanted to bring it into the house. I knew I had been a good girl all along.
  2. My CD player and Gladiators CD – again I have no idea how old I was but I was thrilled to get my CD player. The added bonus was the Gladiators CD that I found in the bottom of my stocking. If you don’t know what Gladiators was, it was THE best programme on Saturday night and was on after Baywatch and before Blind Date, I think. I always had ambitious to go on that show. Alas, it was cancelled well before I was eligible to go on the show.
  3. My cash till. I played for hours and hours, and I mean hours and hours, with that till. I used to get my mum’s shopping out and till everything up. This was when barcodes weren’t widely used and the sticker was on the tin or packet. I also made cheque books and credit cards and I used to make my brother pretend to be customers. No wonder I ended up working in Finance. I have loved money for a long time.

3 Gifts I want to give the World

  1. Understanding. I think, if people were able to understand other people’s cultures, lives and motivations that the world would be a better place to live it. Often people are misunderstood or people have no intention of understand and learning about other people and their cultures. Also understanding of our effect on other’s and the planet is something that I would gift, if I could. Although we think that we are so advanced in our understanding today, it many areas, I feel that we understand very little.
  2. An appreciate of Health. Although health care and medical breakthroughs seem to be on the rise, lots of people forget that without your health you have nothing. How many people are stress out and not able to enjoy life? How many people give their own health second priority? Without our health and access to health care, we wouldn’t be here and that is a very limiting factor if we want to achieve things.
  3. Fun. Far to often, the fun of life is weaned away from us. As we grow up, we are programmed to have less fun. Children today have fun snatched away from them too soon in their childhood. I blame Health and Safety mostly. Life should be fun because we are only here once. We might as well have fun while we are here.

Photo an Hour

17 Dec

Yesterday I took part in my very first Photo an Hour. The basic premise is very simple. Once a month you take a photo an hour during your day and post this up on social media with the hashtag #photoaday. It means that you can check what other people are up to and is an interesting way to document a normal, or perhaps, a special day.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you might remember that for 3 years I used to take a photo a day. I still get notifications on Facebook of what I was doing on this day 3 years ago. For a photo a day, you have to get creative because it is not always easy, especially with having a nine-to-five job, and the photos get a bit repetitive.

With photo a day, I must say that my day was a lot more productive than it was the previous Saturday. Last week, I was so tired and a bit ill from all the overtime that I have been doing at work, that I mainly sat in front of the TV, like a zombie all day. I certainly couldn’t post a photo every hour with me in a different position on the sofa.

So here is what I got up to on Saturday 16th December:

8am: Good Morning! Tea and Toast time!

9am: Time to confirm what the neighbours always suspected: I am both a borderline alcoholic and a very tardy recycler

10am: Shopping for Christmas wrapping paper and sparkly things

11am: UK Tax return time

12pm: Writing a few posts for my blog

1pm: As we won’t be having a Christmas tree this year, I’ve bought a poinsettia to make the place look a bit more Christmassy

2pm: After not feeling well all week, I am trying to get back into my training programme

3pm: Helping Santa by wrapping up presents for some special little people

4pm: I have finally got round to tidying all my German exercise books off the dining room table

5pm: I’m about to venture out in the cold and dark

6pm: Christmas Tree shopping (see 1pm, the tree wasn’t for me!)

7pm: Fonduestube

8pm: We are still going

9pm: On the way home

10pm: Full of cheese, exhausted and climbing into bed with this one. Night all!