Thursday, 29 December 2016

Glühwein and good times on a German Christmas market crawl round Bavaria

In my opinion, you can't beat Bavaria at Christmas.

It's my favourite place in the world but Germany's biggest state really comes into its own over the festive season - the castles, cobbled streets and colourful timbered houses make every town look like somewhere out of a fairytale, but when you add in Christmas markets and twinkly lights errywhere, I'm done. It's just too magical. I can barely deal.

It was amazing living in Bavaria in the run up to Christmas three years ago, which I was telling my flatmates all about one Friday evening a couple of months ago.

We'd opened a bottle of prosecco, as girls do, and before we knew it we'd booked flights. Lol.

December soon rolled round and we were off on what was essentially a Christmas market crawl.
I'd planned an itinerary (natch) which would see us spending each night in a different Bavarian town. The plan was to take Maddy and Jess to a few of my favourite places, choosing ones that would give them a rounded image of what Bavaria has to offer.

The train network is great and we kept our costs down by travelling with the Bavaria ticket (which also allowed for spontaneity and flexibility) so it was totally doable to spend each night in a different place.

After our first night in the lovely Park Plaza Nuremberg, we AirBnB'd, which was fab.

The original thinking was that we'd be able to save money by eating breakfast in, but lol German bakeries. Maddy and Jess tried Nussschnecken and pretzels and there was no going back.

What with spending each day somewhere new, there wasn't a load of time for sightseeing. I'm not going to lie to you - we essentially spent five days drinking and eating at Christmas markets. And it was ideal.

For that reason I'm not going to give you a huge spiel about each place (y'all know I did all that on my year abroad - see here), but rather I'm hopefully going to give you a feel for each location through the medium of photo.


First up, we visited the capital of Bavaria, Munich.
We lunched in a cute cafe called Marais before hitting up the main Christmas market.
After a couple of Glühweins we took things up a notch with some Feuerzangenbowle: it's a traditional German drink made by setting rum-soaked sugar lumps on fire and letting it drip down into mulled wine. Yes it's extra strong and yes it's extra tasty.

We had dinner at a totally traditional and untouristy restaurant out of the centre called Alter Wirt Moosach: I obvs had schnitzel.


Regensburg is utterly charming. It's colourful, beautiful and incredibly cute.
We went for a wander and lunched at the oldest sausage kitchen in the world...
...before hitting up the market as the sun went down.
Apple and cherry Glühweins were on the menu here.
It was absolutely FREEZING - I'm talking minus six, people - so we all felt the need for a hearty, warming dinner. Enter, my old fave, Käsespätzle.
It is just the most comforting thing I've ever eaten. I always describe it as the German version of mac 'n' cheese but it's topped with crunchy onions and is just too good for words.


The next stop was Bamberg, a beautiful but increasingly trendy town.
It was charming even on a cloudy, freezing day, but caramelised marshmallow hot chocolates were so necessary.
This was the night we discovered amaretto Glühwein so it's safe to say we had a cracking time. Give it a try, you won't regret it.
Fear not though, we soaked it up with more sausage and carbs in the shape of Bratwurst and Currywurst. We may have also had crêpes afterwards but hey, we were on holiday.


Stop four was the daddy of Christmas markets: Nuremberg.
Picking up another mug to add to my extensive collection, we perused the stalls, sipped drinks and ate yet more sausage whilst listening to a choir singing carols.
With my two wonderful pals, it was just pure happiness.
We even met Father Christmas!


The final stop of the trip was my old home, Bayreuth, to see old friends (and re-visit my favourite restaurants, of course). And then it was time to fly home again!
Not before one final pretzel though, obvs. Bavaria, I miss ya already. Aaaaand I now really want some Glühwein - anyone else?

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The ultimate Christmas film night in

One of the things I love most about this time of the year is how sociable it is! December is party after party after party, and I have been known to enjoy a party.

But as someone who enjoys going out - Christmastime or not - a rare night in is a real treat.

It's my favourite time of the year and there is simply so much fun to be had, but that needn't always mean going out - I decided to invite over some of my best gals and have a relaxing, cosy and Christmassy night in watching films.

I wanted the night to be a bit more special than the spontaneous (but still lovely) film nights my flatmates and I often end up having, so I made sure to set the festive scene.
Fortunately, the flat has been a Christmas grotto since December 1st, so there were only a few finishing touches left to get.
Crackers, festive candles, twinkly lights, a poinsettia, my gingerbread-scented wax melt, Christmas napkins and a pretty mandarin, clove & cinnamon room spray (from M&S) made for a deliciously festive vibe, if I do say so myself.

The girls soon arrived so I popped open a bottle of prosecco (obviously) and we snuggled up on the sofa in Christmas jumpers.

Crackers were pulled, bad jokes were read, party hats were donned. W sipped our drinks and nibbled on crudités and houmous whilst deciding which festive film to watch first.
Decision made, I popped some food in the oven.

I'm not going to pretend - absolutely no cooking was involved in this evening. But hey, it's a busy time of year. Also, for a film night I figured you want nibbly bits rather than a plate you have to try and balance on your lap. Also also, M&S have some cracking party food and they were on 4 for 3 sooooo...
We had Christmas tree-shaped mini pizzas, a mini sausage party selection, cheese and onion muffins (omg they were so good you simply must get some) and cheese and garlic dough balls.

So good. And yes, I bought food for about ten people even though there were five of us but god forbid anyone should leave hungry. (They left stuffed, my bad.)
Nawwwww ma pals.

Oh, and by this point we'd started watching It's a Wonderful Life because only Ellie had ever seen it. Also, research by E.ON recently found it's the festive film Brits would most like to step into, so it is quite frankly outrageous that only one of us had seen it.
The trouble was, we kept pausing to chat. Well, put a group of girlfriends together and what do you expect?

Savouried-out, it was time to hit the sugar.
And more bubbles. Cos Christmas.
We had starry brownie squares, Baileys chocolates, pecan and chocolate popcorn, strawberries and Christmas Percy Pigs (he's wearing Santa hats you guys!)

I like to think I had a nice pudding snack variation - chocolate, sweets, fruit and of course, popcorn, for what is a film night without popcorn?

Naturally, we ate far too much and before long had to move on from prosecco to peppermint tea.

My plan had been to watch two films over the course of the evening. We managed half of one because we were talking so much. So yes, in some ways you could say it was a failed film night, but in my books it was a huge success.

It was an evening of fun, friends, food and festive cheer, with a bit of film thrown in for good measure.

Thanks to E.ON for inviting me to host my film night. E.ON is now proud sponsor of Sky Cinema Premiere and Sky Cinema Family.

Friday, 16 December 2016

A night in the new Park Plaza Hotel, Nuremberg

Back on my year abroad, I spent a lot of time in Nuremberg as it was the nearest big city to where I lived, in Bayreuth.

But living so close meant I'd never had the need or the opportunity to spend a night there.

So when my flatmate Maddy and I needed somewhere to stay for the night to kick off our Bavaria tour (more of which to come, chums - prepare for many cute Christmas markets and much deliciousness), I didn't know where to start. But then I heard about the Park Plaza Nuremberg.

Situated just opposite the train station - which is also a great spot for exploring the city - it was perfect for us arriving late on Friday night.

The hotel is brand new too, having only opened a few months ago.
In something of a contrast to the traditional old town of Nuremberg, the hotel is modern, stylish and sophisticated - we loved the decor, particularly the huge Christmas tree in the lobby.
There's also a very swanky bar on the ground floor which serves Bavarian-American-inspired cocktails (whatever they may be).
We checked in smoothly and headed up to our room - I believe it was the most basic type of room at the Park Plaza but was still fab.
The room was stylish and spacious, with everything we needed, including a kettle and teabags yasssss! Also important - the mugs were a decent size (don't you hate those cups that are basically two gulps' worth?) and the range of teas on offer was excellent.

I was however, slightly surprised to find no sort of snack/nibbles provided - I've never stayed anywhere in Germany that hasn't put out little packets of Haribo on the pillows. Of course, it's not essential, but it's a nice touch.

After being told at check-in that the mini-bar was complementary, Maddy and I pretty much squealed in the lift up to our room. Excitedly, we ran straight to the fridge (well, after I'd taken some photos cos hello, blogger over here), opened the door and.....!

Two bottles of water. That was it.

I mean, it was something of an anti-climax.

The water was at least sparkling which I love, and hey, I'm not complaining about free stuff, but we had been misled.


The beds were extremely comfy, if a little narrow, but the duvets were huge. The TV was equally sizeable and Maddy and I enjoyed the range of mood lighting.

Let's move on to the bathroom.
It was a decent size with a lovely big shower - two shower heads too, good. I do love the overhead rain shower but sometimes you just don't want to wash your hair, do you?

We also loved the Elemis toiletries, 10/10 would use again. And we did. Because we totally stole them.
We freshened ourselves up and had a good night's sleep, already excited to hit the breakfast buffet the following morning.

Being on holiday and all, Maddy and I didn't get up early - luckily breakfast is on till 11am at the weekend. We were two of the last to arrive, but luckily everything was still out.
The dining room is big and airy, if lacking natural daylight, and the buffet area was nice and modern.

We made sure to try pretty much everything...
There was all sorts on on offer, although the fruit game could be upped. My fruit salad was pretty disappointing (grapes and a bit of melon does not a fruit salad make).

My croissant, however, was delish, as was the bircher muesli with honey from an actual honeycomb at the buffet.

Maddy hit the savouries and particularly liked the beans and salami. I quote: "All of the cooked food was really good actually."

I was also really impressed and pleased with the range of interesting teas.

And then it was time to check-out and start our Bavarian Christmas adventure for real! It had been a wonderful way to start.

Maddy and I were guests at the Park Plaza Nuremberg but all opinions are totally honest.
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