Oktoberfest Pilgrimage

Hello anyone still out there. Its been a while, but I am alive and well (and still living in Berlin, it’s been over a year now!). I’m not going to  bother making excuses. What can I say life got in the way. But it turns out I miss this here blog so I decided to give it another crack!

So much has happened over the last 6 months I’m not even going to try to break it down. Many more travels from a small Island on the Baltic, to California, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Munich, Prague! Wow writing it down I makes me realise how much we did!

I don’t even know where to start so lets start with Oktoberfest just because it was pretty much the most awesome weekend ever.

oktoberfest traditional clothing couple

I swear half the fun was the outfits. We splurged and bought traditional ones, best souvenir we’ll ever buy.

We decided last minute we just had to make Oktoberfest happen so booked a rare decently priced hotel hotel and car and made the 6hr drive Friday night after work. We could not have lived in Germany for over a year and not made it to Oktoberfest. Australian’s and American’s plan their Europe trips to include Oktoberfest. Nobody would ever let us live it down.

Oktoberfest is exactly like you imagine, except bigger. We got there at 9am and managed to not only make it in one of the main tents, the Hacker-Feltzet Tent, but also squeeze on a groups table! They had been there since 7:30am so we felt pretty fortunate to get a spot.

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How magical is it?! Like all of your Oktoberfest dreams come true

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Giant pretzels for breakfast on the way in. Big mistake, always eat a proper breakfast before a day of heavy drinking.

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Isn’t he handsome?? You could say he felt pretty awesome in his leather leiderhosen

From there the day went in typical Oktoberfest form. Start drinking at 9am, drinking games, more pretzels. Every so often someone would stand up on the table and down a beer while the entire crowd cheered them on (or booed if they failed).

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When the band started playing at midday thats when the festivities really took off! Everybody stood up on their benches and started singing and dancing. We barely sat down again for the rest of the afternoon. As people became looser so did the once exclusive tables, suddenly everyone is friends wrapping their arms around each other singing ‘Ein Prosit’.

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It is truly the biggest high to be a part of the festivities. You look around and everyone is smiling and cheering. Of course a lot of beer consumption helps to. And boy are they strong.

3 very large beers later and we were done. We took ourselves home around 5pm and crashed for a couple hours before rounding off the night with some all curing schnitzel.Oktoberfest crowds leiderhosen dirndl

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Giant schnitzel truly is the way to a man’s heart

Sunday we had a more low key day and enjoyed exploring the festival grounds. It was less crowded so we managed to get into almost every tent to check out different atmospheres and decor. By the end of the day the grounds were filling up with Germans dressed in the fanciest, traditional outfits ready for the final night.

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It was one of the best weekends, even if we did get a speeding ticket on the autobahn. Who knew that was even possible?!

Nuremberg- Castle Road pt 1

Nuremberg-Germany

Well its official, I suck at consistently blogging. Turns out it’s much harder to find motivation to blog when you’re staring at a computer screen 8+ hours a day, not to mention we’re lucky to get home before 8pm. From there the night just seems to disappear. But enough excuses! Here, finally, is the first part of our Easter Long Weekend Bavarian Road trip!

If you missed (or forgot since it’s been so long) we planned our Easter long weekend trip literally a week out, so we bought mystery flights as they were the only affordable option. Low and behold we ended up going to Nuremberg. We weren’t super psyched until we discovered there is this great road trip called ‘Castle Road’. Stretching from Nuremberg to Heidelberg it stops off at all of these old castles and medieval towns.

First stop Nuremberg! It was so much prettier than we expected. We just had a day in Nuremberg, but really this was the perfect amount of time to explore and wander the entire city (I’m so glad we discovered castle road instead of spending 4 days in Nuremberg!). Like so many European cities Nuremberg has an old town surrounded by the modern day city. The old town though is so picturesque, its like stepping back in time. Surrounded by stone buildings, Tudor style houses, canals, cobbled streets and many little intricate designs all over the place if you look closely enough. Of course like any old European city it also has a castle with fortified walls that reach out like arms to surround the old town.

One of the nicest things about Nuremberg was the relaxed, almost slow motion, time there. It was so relaxing. It felt like time had just been paused and we had endless time to wander the winding lanes and sip coffee by the canal. It might have also helped that it was Good Friday so none of the usual retail stores were open, but it made for feeling like you had entered an older world.

But really what I loved about Nuremberg was that it reminded us that Germany, unlike Berlin, can be beautiful. Berlin on a whole is an ugly not an attractive city. It is so unlike the rest of Germany in so many ways, so it’s nice sometimes to be reminded of just how beautiful the rest of Germany is.

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We had breakfast at that little cafe right next to the canal

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They had these adorable grass thatched Easter Bunnies everywhere!

They had these adorable grass thatched Easter Bunnies everywhere!

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Smokey Bacon flavoured, it doesn't get more manly than that!

Smokey Bacon flavoured, it doesn’t get more manly than that!

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One of the strangest things we noticed about Nuremberg though were their creepy statues and figurines all over the place! Sorry about the slightly disturbing pics below but seriously this was a statue in the middle of a square with children playing around , so creepy! The gnomes below were a kind of disturbing window display. We couldn’t help but stare and laugh!!

 

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Spontaneous Mystery Flight

Over Easter we finally had the chance to do what we really came to Europe for, travel! Up until now we have barely been able to get out of Berlin, let alone Germany. We just couldn’t afford to take the risk without steady income coming in yet. Luckily the Easter long weekend came just at the right time… about a week after our first paychecks (yay for having money again)!

Of course since it was only a week until the long weekend all the prices were sky high. The cheapest flight we could find anywhere was around 150 Euros and to like Poland or something. Not quite what we had in mind. At this point Spring hadnt really showed its lazy face yet so after 6 months of winter you could say we were pretty keen for a lil bit o’ this

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Flashback to one of the best vacations ever a couple years ago with my bestie! Seriously craving some Hawaii recently!!

 

Thats when we remembered this awesome ticketing option German Wings does, blind booking! Its a really unique deal where you put in your departure destination, days you want to go BUT you don’t select where you are going…

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I know it seems a bit crazy, but considering we didn’t really know where we wanted to go besides getting the hell outta Berlin and the fact tickets are only 66 Euro return it was a no brainer. So they do a fabulous job of selling it, they give you this mix of possible destinations you could end up. Italy, France, Croatia and more wonderful sounding places with a couple of German cities thrown in. So we go through the motions, click pay and confirm and sit there anxiously awaiting our Easter European vacation destination. We were just praying “please not Germany, please not Germany”, somewhere warm! Anywhere but Germany! I was literally like this

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‘Nuremberg’!

 

 

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Yep. Nuremberg. I was like ok, no lets be positive, Nuremberg might be cool! Nuremberg… that sounds familiar… lets google it! Yep. Anyone who is more familiar than  with Nuremberg than us will know exactly what Nuremberg is known for and lets just say its not what I was looking for over Easter. (For those as clueless as me, its the Nuremberg war-crime trials guys).

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A couple days out though we did some research on the area and discovered there is a fairly famous road trip from Nuremberg to Mannheim (near the Rheine) called Castle Road. Basically you drive past a bazillion castles. We LOVE road trips, in fact Easter last year we were road tripping around New Zealand, we’ve decided its a tradition now, so this was perfect. Could it get more European than spending the weekend exploring castles and medieval towns??

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More on our spontaneous Bavarian Road Trip to come!

Spring is (Almost) Here

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Spring is finally here near. We are starting to have some nicer weather in Berlin. Today is a cold rainy day, but the last few weeks have had majority sunny days and sometime even slightly warmer temperatures! It’s enough to make you think wow, this winter may actually end one day. Ok, ok, maybe a little dramatic, but as we arrived in Berlin mid-September, we’ve pretty much only seen Berlin in the winter. September is technically not winter (not even close) but since their fall weather here is like Sydney’s coldest winter to me it feels like one endless winter, that just got increasingly worse.

I absolutely cannot wait for summer! I have only heard amazing things about Berlin in the summer-time. Apparently people go a bit wild and it’s just like one, big, 3 month long festival filled with outdoor concerts, barbecues and street parties. Bring it on because I’ve had just about enough gloomy grey winter as I can handle. That is why last weekend, when it was finally going to be a beautiful sunny Sunday, we decided to get out of the city for a bit and take a day trip to Grunewald forest on the outskirts of Berlin.

I think the best part of the whole day was the 20min drive there. We signed up for drive-now, a car-sharing service, when we moved and had some minutes we needed to use up, so grabbed a mini convertible and had a joy-ride through the streets of Berlin. Unfortunately we got a little too excited about the sun and forgot that it can still be cold. We spent pretty much the whole day freezing. Oops. But the forest was certainly much prettier with sunshine and it was nice to soak up a little vitamin D, even if it didn’t last long.

When we got home I jumped straight in a hot shower and then curled up under the quilt the rest of the afternoon, trying to warm up. I can’t wait until spring is actually here, but for now I’m just loving the days we get sunshine!

A Day Trip to Dresden: Christmas Markets

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Am I the only one who can’t believe the holidays have been and gone already? Post holiday blues have certainly set in and I’ve only been back at work 1 day. As a remedy and since I refuse to admit the holiday period is over here is a recap of a day trip we took to Dresden (about 3 hours from Berlin) to visit their Christmas Markets. Don’t judge me, its cold and dreary here I need some joy.

We went to Dresden the Sunday before Christmas. It was our first time leaving Berlin since we arrived in September and it was so needed. Dresden is home to the Oldest Christmas Market in Germany. If you’re looking for a way to really get in the Christmas spirit look no further!! It was like Christmas exploded all over the square. It was the Christmas Market to end all Christmas Markets. We spent the whole afternoon exploring these markets and were sufficiently Christmased out by the time it was time to catch our bus back to Berlin.

Like any good Christmas market adventure we made the rounds trying all the free samples of stollen, drank some of the best gluhwein we’ve tried and had the most amazing marzipan melted chocolate hot chocolate I have ever had. Ah-fricking-mazing.

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The Best Ever New Year’s Eve Celebration: Leipzig, Germany

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I’ve said it before and I’ll said it again, those German’s know how to party!! This year was hands down the BEST New Years Eve celebration I’ve ever experienced. We rang in the New Year not in Berlin but in a city 2.5 hours away called Leipzig. One of my good friends from Sydney, Emily, was in Germany visiting her German boyfriend and brother and invited us to spend New Years with them. We couldn’t have asked for a better New Years Eve celebration and fun couple of days. From a snow filled first day, to a sushi making dinner party, checking out Leipzig and its crazy residents congregated in the square watching classical music in the rain… on a screen (we still don’t understand why) to the craziest New Years Eve celebration Leipzig did not disappoint. Of course a lot had to do with the great company we had, I swear the 2 days were just filled with endless jokes and laughs from people falling off chairs to learning new fun German phrases (my new fave is Geil it means epic/awesome/sick… but also horny, those crazy Germans) I think its safe to say a good time was had by all!

I’ve had some pretty amazing New Years eve celebrations over the years from Sydney, to New York, to Paris to Byron Bay. But this year takes the cake. Here are 5 reasons why this was our best New Years eve in Leipzig Germany.

1. Fireworks everywhere

Now if you know anything about the amazing spectacle of fireworks Sydney puts on every year (the best in the world in my humble opinion) then you can imagine why I don’t usually have high expectations of other cities being able to top it. But would you believe Leipzig took it to a whole other level this year. There weren’t any city run public fireworks displays, instead it is the one day a year fireworks are legally sold in Germany and people definitely make the most of it. We could hear the bang of fireworks occasionally being set off all day in the lead up by people who just couldn’t wait but nothing prepared us for the craziness of midnight. The streets were filled with people setting off their own fireworks. And I don’t mean little firecrackers, I’m talking full blown fireworks. It was absolutely insane. Bangs and flares echoing through the streets, the air thick with gunpowder and smoke. People throwing smaller firecrackers out windows onto the streets below. It was complete and total anarchy and it was amazing. My adrenaline was running high as we walked through the streets littered with fireworks. It was overwhelming trying to capture it on camera, I didn’t know which way to turn. It was so exhilarating and the most fun New Years Eve I have ever experienced. It’s one thing to watch fireworks, its another to be in the middle of them. I honestly don’t know how its legal but I am so glad it is!!

 

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not surprising considering the anarchy taking place

2. Setting off my first firework

If you really want to see (and hear!) what New Year’s Eve in Leipzig is like you have to watch this. This was a crazy experience standing in the road (with the occasional car or tram speeding by) while heaps of fireworks are being set of all around me and lighting a full blown, shoot into the air, explosive firework.

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my first firework!

3. Great Friends

Our New Years celebrations wouldn’t have been anywhere near as amazing without all of the wonderful friends new and old we spent it with. We had so much fun with everyone it was hard to leave!

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the boys and their fireworks

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ready to bring in the New Year with a bang!

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The boys and their beer

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Heading to the bus New Years Day, didn’t have time to stop for a group photo so took one while walking, have since decided we should make an album since we already have a cover

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Snow fun!

2. Great food

I swear we spent the majority of our time their eating. We had a great first night making sushi, my expat christmas wish came true! Their were many brunches, coffee and delicious cake at one of Europe’s oldest coffee houses, Coffee Baum, an amazing potluck buffet at the New Years party and a glorious buffet brunch New Years day. We won’t need to eat for a month (which is lucky since I’ve dubbed this month ‘just healthy eating january’ after the blowout of December!)

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homemade sushi, yep we made that

1. The Snow

The days before we left for Leipzig it finally properly snowed in Berlin. We have been waiting for this moment ever since we moved to Germany. It continued to snow the whole bus ride to Leipzig and the rest of that day. Its amazing how the blanket of white makes everything that much prettier. Naturally a spontaneous snow fight broke out (it was the best snowball making snow!!)

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beautiful snow covered leipzig

beautiful snow covered leipzig

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The people of Leipzig watching an orchestra performznce in the square… on a TV… in the Rain. We still don’t know why

A big thanks to Emily, Sebastian and Paul for the BEST New Year’s ever!

Linking up with:

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This One Time In Montenegro… | A White Water Rafting Adventure

 Montenegro-White-Water-Rafting

Let me set the scene for you. 5 blonde Girls. 8 Serbian Men. A Raft. Overnight at a campsite straight out of a horror movie. And a jeep ride from hell.

The story begins back in Croatia. We needed to stay out of the Schengen visa area (if you’re unfamiliar it covers most European countries and means you can only be in there for max 90 days) so we thought hey, why not Montenegro? What do you do in Montenegro? Go white Water Rafting of course! What you’d never heard of that? Yeah me neither. It turned out to be quite an experience.

We opted for the 3 day tour, which ended up being only 2 actual days of rafting since the whole first day was spent driving there. A driver, Joe, picked us up from our Dubrovnik accommodation and drove us 4hrs to the rafting place. He was this massive beast of a man, who looked like he was straight out of a movie playing a bodyguard for the President of something rolling up in an old school Jeep. 6 foot 5, very large build, shaven bald head and sunglasses and didn’t speak a word of English. But Joe was a gentle giant and hilarious as he tried to communicate with us in Serbian. If we asked a question he’d whip out his Nokia flip phone from his Adidas bum bag to call his boss to translate, it was great.

After stopping off for a beer in Bosnia at the largest man made pool I’ve ever seen we arrived at the white water rafting headquarters in time for dinner of mystery meat goulash (actually really yum) before calling it a night to rest up for what was sure to be 2 hectic days of white water rafting.

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Joe and the girls

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Giant man-made lake. Looked like it was straight out of the 70s and barely used since though some teens were swimming there surprisingly. Its in the middle of nowhere!

The next morning we met our guide and were keen to get rafting. Turns out we had another couple hour drive to get to the start, but it was really amazing getting to drive through the Montenegrin country side scattered with old wooden farms and free roaming cattle amongst some stunning mountain scenery. It felt like we had stepped back in time.

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Cow-crossing-montenegro.

Cow Crossing!

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Entering the EU, Montenegro!

After a very slightly hair raising drive along narrow roads, going very fast around blind corners with sheer cliffs on the otherside and absolutely no safety features in a jeep that two of us had to sit in the boot we finally arrived at the stunningly blue river of the Tara River Canyon. The UNESCO listed Tara River Canyon is one of the most naturally beautiful places I have ever seen. With almost sheer cliffs, scatters of trees and amazingly blue snow-melt water it unlike anything else. Its the 2nd largest canyon in the world just behind the Grand Canyon in the USA. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon and what I loved about the Tara River canyon was that it was completely different, I mean for one it wasn’t in the dessert but also it was a much more narrow sheer canyon which felt much more severe.

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Our jeep is dwarfed by the sheer size of the canyon

Now when you picture white water rafting in the 2nd largest canyon in the world you imagine some big rapids, lots of holding on for dear life just trying to staying in the boat right? Wrong, it was more like paddling for 65km (6 hours each day!). We started off not really paddling just chilling waiting for the rapids until we asked our guide if we should be paddling or not and he’s like its up to you, you’re the engine, I steer. We’re like ok well we’ll just keep chilling maybe paddle a bit until he casually mentions we may want to paddle if we want to get the before dark! It was a looong day. 65km of paddling is a really long way. We were dying by the end. I think we were also driving our guide a little mad constantly asking how much further. But in our defense I’m not exaggerating when I say we had to paddle the whole way, the river was barely flowing most of the time. It was not quite what we imagined. On the plus side we had plenty of time to take in (and capture) the absolutely breathtaking nature we were flowing through.

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Loading the raft

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We’re ready!

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Don’t be fooled by the smiles, that water was freezing!

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That water guys. I die.

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Clearly it was strenuous

Finally we arrived at our accomodation for the night. Straight up I’d felt like I’d stepped into a scene from a horror movie. Now I’m not a prissy ‘ew I am NOT staying there’ type of girls but this place was seriously creepy. It was like an old school camp building straight out of the 70s that looked like it had been reclaimed after being abandoned for years. It was in the middle of nowhere and had no electricity to this old Serbian man with gnarly teeth would emerg from the shadows when you went to walk to your room and would shine a dim torch down the creaky hallway to help you see where you were going, but it barely did anything and once in your room there was minimal light coming though the window. I also felt a little creeped out that it was just us 5 girls and now 8 Serbian men (especially after our guide told us all the guides had competed to be the ones to take us, flattering I guess). Luckily another group arrived so I felt much better. We had a delicious dinner made for us by our drivers cousin of fresh caught whole fish, Bass I think, potatoes, traditional homemade cheese, the most powerful cured meat, potatoes and more. Then there was the Rhaki, pretty much Serbia’s moonshine. We were all poured a shot and very much encourgaed to drink it as it is not polite to leave it. It was the strongest, most potent acohol I’ve ever encountered and only a drop touched my tongue (the rest we sutbly managed to tip out). After 3 fish each and many ‘pretend’ shots later we managed to escape to our rooms and collapse ready for a another day of paddling.

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Our accomodation

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Filling from our accommodations’ only drinking water, fresh from a stream!

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There’s something especially spiritual about small town church on the side of a cliff surrounded by sheer mountains

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The next day was cold and rainy and unfortunately we didn’t have rain jackets, so we wore plastic garbage bags. We looked hilarious, our guide couldn’t stop laughing he said we looked like we were wearing giant condoms, but hey they were warm and we had 6 hours of paddling ahead of us! And another long day it was. This time there were a couple of medium rapids at best but we enjoyed them for all they were worth. We finally made it to the end and were more than ready to get the hell out of that raft! Our guide though, he was a trooper, as we left he was like “ah so you girls more like umm… shopping and things yeah?”. Poor guy. But really we’re not uptight princesses or anything. I think anyone would have been like us, we signed up for white water rafting, not 65kms of endless paddling!

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Pretty much the only rapids

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The finish

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We made it!

The scariest part of the trip was not the rapids but the 2 hour drive to our next destination with our driver who had been up the entire night drinking rakia. We literally had to sing, buy him redbulls (and insist he drink them) and legit poke him to keep him from closing his eyes and us making it there alive.

All in all it was quite and experience and I feel lucky to have been able to seem somewhere so stunningly beautiful and remote. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the whole thing. On the one hand I loved it and it was amazing went well, but on the other I feel like we were lucky and things could really have gone the other way. But they didn’t and it sure made for some great ‘this one time in Montenegro…’ stories so we’ll call it a win!

5 Unexpected Items To Pack For Yacht Week

Happy Friday everyone! I’m actually excited for it to be Friday/the weekend because we have some great stuff planned this weekend so it feels more like a weekend and less like every other day (the pains of currently being unemployed). We’re hitting up the Turkish Markets of Kreuzberg this arvo before going to a craft beer brewery with one of those I’m-an-expat-and-I-need-friends groups (we shall see how that goes). Then tomorrow we are trying out this amazing sounding Ethiopian Restaurant where they don’t give utensils so you eat with your hands! Should be an experience.

Ok so everybody knows the standard stuff you’ll want to pack for Yacht Week (bikini, bikini and more bikinis) and there are plenty of packing lists. But there are a few items you wouldn’t think about packing that I assure you will take your experience to the next level and make your yacht the party boat everybody wants to be a part of, which really is the whole point of yacht week isn’t it?

So here are 5 items you’ll be glad you packed (or wish you’d packed) for Yacht Week

1. Hammock

A lightweight easily packable (because trust me the less luggage you bring the better, especially if you’re doing more travel after) hammock will quickly become your favourite spot on the boat. Our skipper brought one and when arrived at port would hang it between the jib (front sail for you non-sailors) and mast (giant pole). It was the perfect spot to chill out in the afternoon with a cider watching the shenanigans of the other boat. But it was also was a great spot to sleep at night when it got too hot in the cabin.

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The flying red and yellow thing was our skippers hammock

REI Eno Double Nest Hammock

Colourful, light weight and for 2! What more could you want? (source)

Something like this ENO Doublenest Hammock from REI would be perfect! (I might need to get one)

Con: you’ll probably have to fight the rest of your boat for time in the hammock

2. Crazy Inflatable

You will definitely want some ind of inflatable for the week like a ring or a li-lo (which also comes in handy for sleeping off those inevitable hangovers outside on deck). But the boats that looked like they were having the most fun and you could see everyone jealously eyeing and working out how to join their party were the ones with some kind of outrageous inflatable. There were donuts, giant pretzels, but the best was a sort of multi-person island inflatable with drink holders and back rests.

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pretzel & Turtle Inflatables!

Urban Outfitters Inflatables

I soo wish I’d had one of these from Urban Outfitters! Next time!! (source)

3. Unique Flag

You must make sure you or your friends bring your countries flag to string up on your boat. Every single boat will have them and often multiple ones depending on how many nationalities are on one boat. But if you want to set yourselves apart from the crowd bring ones that are more unique to you. For example your state flag (soo many California flags), or your university flag, or city flag. Also really helpful for finding your boat when they are all moored together! I really wanted to bring the Australian boxing Kangaroo flag but just didn’t have the space to pack it due to the whole I’m not coming home part.

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Look at all those flags!

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Our flags (see kind of boring)

4. Outrageous Outfit

The last day of Yacht Week is a regatta where all of the boats dress up in costumes and all sail along together. There were some great costumes like Baywatch and the boat I was on (our boat didn’t want to participate so I jumped ship for the day to participate on a different boat. best decision.) were all statues of liberty, simple but so effective. But beyond the final regatta you want some fun statement outfits/pieces to stand out from the crowd. There were some guys on another boat who had the most outrageous multi-coloured suits (they wore open without a shirt of course, gotta show off the goods) they certainly knew how to draw attention (especially when they sprayed champagne over the crowd).

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Statues of Liberty!

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Baywatch, Red, white & Blue and Wedding!

5. GoPro

I know its a bit $$ but trust me you’ll be so glad you made the investment. It was constantly attached to my wrist and I wouldn’t have been able to capture half the stuff I did without the fish eye lens and the fact its waterproof so you can take it anywhere and not worry (not to mention its small enough to shove in your purse). I have the GoPro Hero 3+ which I’m so glad because it captures more than the older models with its lens but has less of an obvious fish-eye effect (I can only imagine how great the new GoPro Hero 4 must be now). It also captures amazing quality photos even when shooting into the light, seriously it was my number 1 possession that week. I also kind of like the fact you can’t see what the shot was like but its almost guaranteed to turn out good (and you can always check it on your phone with the GoPro own built-in wifi).

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Some of my fave pics I wouldn’t have captured without my GoPro

 

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When Spontaneity Doesn’t Go to Plan

When we planned our New Zealand trip we didn’t really plan anything. We booked plane tickets and the van and that was pretty much it besides a vague idea of what we wanted to do. This is pretty unlike me, I’m a big planner, and a big procrastinator, but once I sit down and start planning I get pretty into it (trip advisor is my bible). We wanted this particular trip to be spontaneous and just go where we wanted when we wanted. It all started great…

roadtrip beginning

And then we realised we’d driven an hour in the wrong direction. Thats when Daniel started driving and I took charge of directions (men!).

We were off to Hamner Springs. On the way we read all about it and its natural hot springs, which came highly recommended in the free pamphlets guide books. That’s when we got to thinking, did we really want to go to what sounded like a real touristy destination or would we rather continue a bit further to what looked like a smaller potentially more unique hot spring? We were umming and ahhing when we drove right past the turn off to Hamner Springs, it was a sign!! A sign that that was our first mistake.

Our second mistake was not turning around when we started to rethink our decision as we were driving along a dark winding road through the forest that we could barely see a couple feet in front of our car. Finally we reached Maruia Spring … and drove right past it. What looked like a small town on the map was in fact a one building resort. We should have just cut our losses and turned back for Hamner Springs at that point, but no! We were on the road there was no going backwards!

I’m going to blame it on our exhaustion from driving in the pitch black on seriously windy roads but for some reason we thought that the next ‘town’ on the map, Springs Junction, would be better. Nope, once again New Zealand had gotten the last laugh. Springs Junction is in fact, just a junction. Two roads meet, there is a little roadside shop and a petrol station. That is all. That bitch spontaneity failed us again. So we went back to the original plan and drove to Hamner Springs and it was the best decision we could have made. The drive back sucked and desperately trying to find somewhere to stay for the night was stressful. Luckily the family that owned the holiday park paused their game of twister to take pity on us and let us stay the night in the field with the goat.

Hannah with goat

Hamner Springs was worth it all. I can’t believe we almost missed it for the sake of spontaneity. It was beautiful and I swear if I suddenly woke up there I would think I was in North America. Our one bit of spontaneity did pay off though, we skipped the springs. They were touristy as we had thought, not the natural rock ones you imagine, they were just giant pools fed by the springs filled with kids (human soup, not appealing).  Instead we climbed Conical Hill and had the best view out over the valley.

look out Hamner Springs

red and white mushroom Hamner Springs

Conical Hill

Conical Hill Hamner Springs

Hamner Springs

Hamner Springs Cafe

For the rest of the trip we didn’t give up on spontaneity all together but we did try to have a basic idea of where we were going to stay each night with at least one potential caravan holiday park there. We definitely learned our lesson about these supposed ‘towns’ on New Zealand maps.