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This is one of those cities that must surely be on everyone’s bucket list. Its a place we have wanted to visit many times but like many other 9to5ers, it has often slipped off the itinerary. Thank goodness we made it this time. A city of such depth and contrast it is hard to not please.
We was in Berlin to participate in the annual half-marathon and boy was it busy. With an expected 35,000+ participants, makes it one of the largest events of its kind. The surge of visitors over the weekend didnt feel as though it swelled the city to make it uncomfortable either. Thankfully there is plenty to go around.
As a Englishman born and raised in Germany, I knew what I liked and currywurst and mettbrotchen (minced raw pork on a open bread roll – trust me, tastes much nicer than it sounds!)…and of course not forgetting the beer and plenty of it…
Currywurst was not the daily menu. Some better than others but thankfully found a cracking place a couple days before we was due to depart (which meant I could squeeze in at least another two!). The wurst was delicious and HUGE and curry sauce was to die for…
I wasn’t sure what to expect when planning for the trip. When thinking Rome, Paris, London etc you have images of striking iconic architecture. But Berlin…I couldn’t really apply an image, I couldn’t visually describe what I was to expect. On arrival, you certainly feel the history surrounding this cities vivid past.
Not necessarily the most visually striking of European cities but as I mentioned above, you quickly realise this place has such depth and contrast. Its like all of sudden being able to see colour.
We stayed in Alexander platz which is tourist central. Plenty of eateries, coffee shops and bars. The area feels open and energetic with easy access in and out and the city via the central train station just off the main square.
Head south of the River (or is west..!?) and you enter the busy shopping district. Full of stunning shops and and usual tourist trinket stores. But its this way you start to see the Berlin you read in history class.
Checkpoint charlie and the surprising well preserved wall (or parts of it!!). The history surrounding this area is astounding. You quickly realise how little you learnt in history class. For example (and probably showing now how thick I am), you heard of the Berlin Wall but where was it exactly. Did it literally run north to south of Berlin?? Well, this is a weird way is what I thought…I didnt actually consider the wall surrounded the city. Anyway, enough of my stupidity! We highly recommend buying a guided bus tour. We use these all the time as they are a great way to get around the city and listen to the audio guide as you cruise past some of the most tremendous architecture and history.
We have both travelled significantly across Europe for both business and pleasure and can without doubt put this firmly in the top 5 cities of Europe. The history, architecture, atmosphere, food, beer, people and just the openness and space make this place a warm and welcoming city. Scratch the surface on this beauty and quickly reveal gem that will appeal to a wealth a varying people. Whether you want, history, calm and relaxed city break or dance the night away to the early hours.. this is the city for you.
There seems to be a rejuvenated energy in me wanting to share more on social media. Whether that be Twitter, Instagram, Blog and even Facebook (which Im still not a huge fan of!) Its been a week since returning from Marrakech (when I started writing this!!) and oddly feels as though Ive been thinking about getting something up on 9to5escapes ever since. My schedule has been a little hectic and having come down with 'man-flu' has taken it out of me for a few days. But, as I write this Im sat in 14A on British Airways flight returning from business trip in France. Travel is something I enjoy but its never quite the same without Emma.
So, anyway, Marrakech, right…?? This is the second consecutive year we have been to Marrakech to run the Marrakech half-marathon. The great thing about Marrakech is that its roughly 3.5 hours flight time (from UK) and you are in a different continent, a wildly different country to European ones. I do often think about how lucky we Europeans are to have so much on our 'doorstep'.
These events are typically held on Sundays so we always try to have a 2/3 days post race day exploring the city we have travelled to. This helps combine a love of running with travel (a little more about this subject shortly..). Having been our second time in Marrakech we decided to book ourselves in to a nice hotel in the New Town. Last time we stayed in a beautiful Riad in the Old Town, which is great and something everyone must experience, but we do like a little luxury! But more importantly at the stage of booking, the hotel was a 2 minute walk from the start/finish! That little extra time in bed is worth a lot!!
The night before race day was as you would expect a little subdued. Not much in the way of beer or wine and stuck to simple eats to ensure we didnt have a dicky tummy the morning of the race. An early night and lots of water, followed by getting up multiple times in the night for a toilet spoiled any attempts at a decent nights sleep!
Its race day, the hotel is buzzing with super fit looking athletes ready to hit the roads of Marrakech. All seemingly analysing everything on the breakfast buffet to determine whether or not its good to have a chunk of cheese, ham etc an hour before the 'gun is fired'. Me on the other hand haven't really got a clue about nutrition so just stuck to what I like. Im not a huge breakfast fan but I do like to get something down before running for a couple hours.
At this time of the morning, the sky is clear, bright and blue but with just a little chill in the air. Perfect running conditions. We jockey in to position waiting nervously to get going….and we are off. Some slow, some fast and some super fast (“ill be seeing you soon..” I think to myself!). As mentioned, we've done this before in Marrakech so knew what to expect. The first few miles ticked away as you head further away from the Old Town, in to beautiful olive groves, before looping back and heading towards the hustle and bustle of the Old Town. This is the bit we dread! Its full of seemingly angry commuters trying to go about their day but being held up by police until a break in the stream of runners appears for them to cross.
The fumes from the obvious old and unmaintained (is that a word!?!) scooters and cars, spitting out god knows what fumes. It really stuck in the back of your throat. At this race, its vital to have water with you the whole way round so you can at least have a swig to clear your throat.
We plough on at a comfortable pace, not aiming to smash any records, but just get around in same time or slightly better as the year before. We cross the finish line and we did well and gave ourselves a good pat on the back. A short walk back to the hotel, shower, changed, pool action, food (lots of it) and beer was needed. The rest of our afternoon consisted of alcohol induced laughter and the odd achey moan about sore hips, knees, feet…the list goes on!
The next day was all about exploring the Old Town, more so than we achieved the year before. For nervous travellers, the experience in the Old Town (Medina) can be daunting. Everyone has heard about the Souks, right?? Well, these are a labyrinth of stalls selling all kinds of wares – stop and browse if you dare! Within 2 minutes you have not one, not two but three people jostling for your attention, thrusting objects in your face ready to start the all important haggle.
Well, this is part where it can and cannot be fun. Some sellers can be quite aggressive, can be obstructive (as in prevent you from leaving their store) and others can just be chilled, calm and 'ready when you are, Sir' approach. Unfortunately, those buried deeper in the Souks tend to be the ones that are the more aggressive. Lets face it, not many travellers will have the nerve to venture too far before it all becomes too much and they have to back out!!!
Truth be told, no matter where you are, the ambitious will always offer you 'free' directions to where you want to go. With this being our second time in Marrakech, you would have thought we would have learnt our lesson! Nope. We we're escorted to all sorts of backstreet locations having been informed of an amazing leather market that only comes to town once per week. We was in for a treat we was told!! Yeah, right…we was hurried along the streets, left, right, another left…before ending up at some guys 'odds and sods' store.
At this point you just need to hold your nerve and just so no thanks and move on. On this occasion, I thrust a small note in the guys hands and firmly said NO. Turned around and tried to make our way out. This is easier said than done. We was wondering around for about 30 mins before we managed to escape the Medina wall for a reference point.
The last few ours of not actually achieving much had severely taken it out of us. We looked for the nearest taxi and went straight back to the safety of the hotel! We was spent…
Perhaps see you again soon Marrakech.
We was staying in the beautiful lodge, Hog Hollow, near Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. Knowing full well that just up the road from here is Bloukrans bridge, the worlds highest commercial bungee jump.
Me being me, couldn’t just let this slip past me. After all we had travelled many thousands of miles to enjoy the best of what South Africa has to offer!
Im not a huge fan of heights so it had been playing on my mind for a while…should I, shouldn’t I??…
Well, what an experience. Here’s a little video.
Only taken 6 months but finally got around to sorting this video out! This trip is precisely why I bought my GoPro and so happy with the results, although I may not have enjoyed it quite so much on the day – the water was choppy and spent the next hour acquainting myself with a sick bag!
Hope you enjoy our Great White Shark encounters from South Africa.
Seems as though every new year appears and I wonder where the previous one had gone..Its easy to contemplate the years successes and failures and to some degree thats a good thing, right? helps us to learn from our misgivings and its important to sometimes celebrate the successes.
But heres the thing. I look at this last year and think to myself, thats been a good one, sure there has been some things I wish I had approached differently but would I want to change anything. For better or worse? Nah…Im happy with the path life is taking me. All I can do is make sure I put the effort in to enjoy the ride.
This past year has seen lots of fun, laughter, tantrums and tears but one thing is for sure, this coming year will be even better. I don’t like the whole new year resolution thing. It works for some but its not something I want to hold over myself or others. I have a few simple things in life where I want to do better but I’m prepared for little mishaps but will be sure to put the effort in to realise success.
But here is one thing Ill certainly put on the table. I MUST blog more. In 2016, we have been fortunate to create so many life affirming memories but Ive not shared that. Must do better. So on 1st Jan 2017, here is my first post..an acknowledgement of a 2016 failing but a celebration of things to come.
Enjoy life. We will!
My wife Emma is forever telling me I'm annoying! This, and trust me, is for many reasons. But, for all my faults, she sticks with me! But, the one thing that does annoy her is my constant wanting/need to book another trip, sometimes a year in advance and quite often before we have been on the numerous other trips we have booked.
Every year, and I've said this before, we tend to have a long(er) holiday, often long-haul and more than likely just cost us a pretty penny! So having just returned from a trip to Marrakech, I sat down and out of the blue just asked if we should go to Japan next year…or Canada…or Cambodia…or…
Emmas face firmly planted in to the palms of her hands!! “Can we get the next couple holidays out of the way first?!“, she said. I was quickly shot down when I suggested a long weekend to Jordan…or Israel…or…!!
Well, this is my problem. We have had a great time in Marrakech, and have South Africa tour in a few months, followed by couple trips to Italy (with one of them taking in the sites and sounds of the Monza Formula 1 Grand Prix!).
We both work very hard and don't get me wrong, it sounds as though we are minted. Trust me, we have our debts, our luxuries and usual day to day BS. We just like to put some cash away specifically for holidays. The problem is (my problem) is that I just want to do as much as possible in a very short space of time!
Quit your job I hear you shout….well, that's just not me or us. We both love our home comforts. It's just great to experience as many pleasures this world has to offer before it's too late.
Am I the only one like this?
We have just returned from Marrakech having spent 4 days and nights. We went to Marrakech with friends with the purpose of doing the Marrakech half-marathon – the annual event where circa 7000 people descend on this city with their trainers ready to hit the tarmac (and avoid pot-holes – which I quickly learnt to keep an eye out for!).
Marrakech is one of those places where I have always wanted to go to but will find excuses to not. Whether that is because there are other places I want to go to first, I don’t know, but it always seemed to slip out of my grasp. However, this year, we had paid and secured our position in the 27th annual Marrakech Marathon (half).
Our post race recovery included pizza and beer. Yes, even in a Muslim country you can find establishments that serve beer! It was whilst we was supping back our second beer (or it may have been our 4th or 5th!), we met a chap who had travelled out to Marrakech on his own for the sole purpose of competing in the Marathon.
So, not sure if I’ve mentioned but Emma and I are doing our first half-marathon this coming weekend (31st Jan ’16) in Marrakech…yay!!! YAY!!! – I almost sound excited!!
We are going with some friends of ours who last September asked if we would be interested in doing the half-marathon with them. Sure, I said, why not?? Sounds like a great idea. I have wanted to go to Marrakech for a long time. Well, after having knee surgery in 2014 (cartilage removed) and then compound-fracture of my big toe in summer 2015, I thought what better way to kick-start 2016 but to dust off my trainers, grease my aching joints and get my lazy backside up and out!!! [*cough* – I’m an idiot]
Emma had been running for quite a while but me on the other hand have done absolutely nothing since my knee op. Truth be told, quite glad about that too…So I have zero idea what made me think that a few months training, heading in to the crappiest part of the year for weather was a great idea. >> Fast Forward a few months…
With less than a week to go I can say that Emma and I are feeling confident but with a hint of nervousness, if that makes any sense!!? We have over the last few months got ourselves out running in the wind and rain, whether that be for a 5K, 10K or 15K. Sure, I could have done more (drank less, eaten less etc), but I’m comfortable. I’m not aiming to smash any records. In fact, our aim as a group is to stick together, run at the pace of the slowest and just finish it it one piece. [Anyone would think we was heading off to war..]
On Saturday Morning we catch our flight to Marrakech. We have a day of getting our bearings (although I’ve heard that’s very difficult in the Medina?), then race day on the Sunday. We then have a few days of exploring before catching a return flight back to the UK.
I will certainly be sure to post our thoughts and experiences when we return. In the meantime, if you have any recommendations and tips for our trip then please share.
It was an unusual feeling but in November 2015 I seen my grandmother for the first time in approximately 10 years. There is no particular reason for not seeing her for so long. Life I suppose, in some unfortunate and selfish turn of events. I cant even use the fact she lives in Germany as an excuse – its only an hours flight away!
My wife and I took my mum too. She also hasnt seen her mum for 10 years. Truth be told, the last time we seen my grandmother was when she had settled in to a new care facility following a harsh stroke that forced her out of her home and in to long term care. Her husband, my grandfather, had died about a year before following many health deteriorating years. This was a direct result of the lifestyle he led Im sure. The disappointing part of all this was that my grandmother was just getting her life back after spending many years looking after her husband, that she too, unexpectedly, suffered the same fate as her husband. A major stroke closed the door on so many more able-bodied years and placed her in to a lifetime of care.
Over the first few years, we all kept in touch, but then somehow it all stopped without explanation. In this time, we understood my grandmother to not be in great shape. Whether this is just age related or consequence of her condition, who knows…
We had booked ourselves on to a early flight to Dusseldorf, a city we hadn’t visited before and a city I actually had no intentions of visiting. Not sure why, I suppose there are so many other places I would prefer to go to first. As it transpired, I was so glad we decided to spend our first night in Dusseldorf before driving to see my grandmother. The city really is the cosmopolitan stylish city I wasnt expecting. Lots of shops (too high end for me!), restaurants and bars, flash supercars around every corner. It really was quite the surprise.
The other added bonus was that it was the first weekend of the Christmas markets and no better place to buy a currywurst and a beer. That brought back some memories.
Well, the next day was all about my grandmother. We took off mid-morning and headed up the autobahn to a town I spent much of my childhood. As we got closer it was bringing back so many memories and I certainly arrived with a smile on my face.
Before we went to the care home, we went to my mums sisters (my aunt!) house. She lives close to the care home and was taking us there for our “introduction”.
When we arrived at the care home, I could see the face of my grandmother peering over a communal dining table. I could see she was looking at us quizzically and could understand why – 10 years is a long time.
As we approached, I called to my Oma (German for grandma), she looked up through her thick glasses with a wry smile opened her arms in readiness for a bug hug. A flood of memories and emotions washed over me, it was without doubt a homecoming.
Before we had arrived my aunt had told us of my grandmothers state of mind. In short, she is easily confused. She doesnt recall being told her youngest grandson (my baby brother) had died and after 10 mins of reuniting with her she didnt recognise me and only acknowledged her grandson Andrew as the person in the pictures hanging on her wall.
We left that day having seen the woman we loved very much. She was (is) the most amazing grandmother ever. But we left with a deep heart as we only seen glimpses of the woman we remember. She is someone her deserves better.
So whilst I/we achieved something, I left with disappointment and some guilt. I could have gone to see my grandmother sooner, I could have seen her when she was perhaps a little more “with it”. I could have perhaps seen more of the woman I grew up with, my Oma.
If there is something to be learnt it is this; dont put things on hold, thinking it will be ok until next week, next month, next year. Before you know it, you are 10 years down the line. Do it now, whatever it is. Tomorrow may never come.
Wow, another year has whizzed by…
I started 9to5escapes.com with all good intentions of posting some tales of our adventures, domestic and abroad. Whilst the adventures havent stopped, I seem completely incapable of putting up some content, even in recognition of our travels this year.
We have had some amazing journeys in 2015 including Germany, Krakow, Singapore and Indonesia and many trips around the UK. But heres to 2016. A year where we have secured trips to Marrakesh, Italy and South Africa already (its always great to have something to look forward to), and hopefully a few more trips elsewhere in between.
So heres to you and yours, wishing you all safe travels in 2016.
Vegas is, simply, an awesome place that every person must visit at least once.
For us, we went twice within 18 months because we loved it that much. With Christmas fast approaching (yes, I know, I said it….), its time to get your festive travels planned.
The last time we went was over New Years Eve 2013. We had no idea what to expect for this time of year, but it certainly didnt disappoint. Without rambling, I thought I’d show you what is was like down on the strip. Enjoy…