Tuesday, 30 May 2017

A Long Weekend In Hamburg

Hamburg is one of those German cities that may not be on your radar but it really should be. We spent three days there recently, seeing the sites and soaking up the atmosphere and it was a city that really surprised and delighted us. Being guests of the Come To Hamburg scheme, we didn't have any expectations when we arrived, which probably made it more enjoyable.

Day one



Our base for the stay the Heikotel Am Stadtpark

We got to Hamburg in the afternoon after a short plane journey from the UK. In little over an hour we were landing down in Hamburg airport and whizzing over to the Heikotel Am Stadtpark Hamburg, a short 20 min drive away.


The Heikotel Am Stadtpark is a three-star superior hotel near the Stadtpark area. Check in was efficient and the room was spacious, clean and modern, with a small lounge area. You can read more about my review of the hotel here





So after a quick freshen up, we were off, out into the centre of the city. Rather than catch a taxi we took a five-minute walk to the nearest U-Bahn. The U-Bahn is a rapid transit system, and although technically an underground, most of the trains are above ground. This makes it feel less claustrophobic than the London underground. It is also incredibly easy to get around.  

We used our Hamburg card from Hamburg Tourism to get around. For one price this card allows you to explore the city by train, ferry and bus as well as giving you discounts to many of the local attractions. It was worth getting for the convenience. By the way, the U-Bahn is so easy to use, no tap in and tap out like the London Underground and we never saw any guards checking tickets which we thought was odd, but with the Hamburg card which you can buy online you are all set, just print it out.

It's a green city


The beautiful Rathaus

Travelling into the city we realised how green it is, it really is quite leafy especially on the outskirts.

First stop - photo opportunity at the Rathaus. The Rathaus which is the town hall is such a beautiful building. It is where the Hamburg Parliment and Senate assemble. It was constructed between 1886 and 1897, and although damaged during WW11 it was restored to its former beauty after the war. If you are a lover of architecture like me you really have to see it.




Now when in Hamburg you have to do one thing - yes have a Hamburger! So our next stop was to the Better Burger Company. The burgers were incredibly tasty and with lots of fresh salad toppings to choose from we could almost convince ourselves the burgers were healthy.... yeah right!

Was the Hamburger invented in Hamburg? Well, what is known is that when sailing on the Hamburg-America Line, German immigrants ate a salted minced beef patty, a recipe from the Russians, and later this version took America by storm. So did they invent it... the jury is out.

After our meal, we decided to take the U-Bahn to the Reeperbahn area. The Reeperbahn is a bit like the red light area of Amsterdam interspersed with restaurants and bars. If you are walking around in the evening we felt totally safe so don't worry about that if you want to see this infamous area. I had read about a great bar here called Clouds and we decided to visit for a cocktail.

Clouds is a cool cocktail bar and restaurant, over 100 metres above the Elba river. It's worth coming here for a drink and seeing the amazing views.


The cocktail and drinks list was large and although on the pricey side the cocktails were inventive and well made. I had a mojito, one of my favourite cocktails and it was really excellent.


By this time it was getting late so we headed back to our hotel and to our beds, which were, incidentally, exceptionally comfy.


Day Two

The Heikotel must be one of the quietest hotels we have ever stayed in, so consequently, we woke up on day two rested and ready for the new day ahead. After getting showered and dressed we made it down to breakfast.



The breakfast was a continental breakfast with a wide selection of cereals, yoghurts, cooked meats, cheese, bread, pastries and fresh fruit salad as well as boiled and scrambled eggs. It had everything you needed really and it was all tasty, and well prepared.




It's always interesting to see how breakfast differs in various countries and I was surprised to see about 4 different types of potato salad. The Germans obviously like their potato salad, that's for sure!


Our plan for today was to go on a boat tour, then head over to the Minatur Wunderland in the afternoon, the huge model railway museum. So we headed down to the port area on the U-Bahn.


The port area was really interesting and before long we were boarding our boat for the classic harbour tour.  The hour tour took in the sites such as the historic Speicherstadt warehouse district, and the Hafencity area. The company Barkassen Meyer gave us an English audio guide which was very useful as otherwise, the tour would have been just in German.



What stunning architecture at the Elphiliharmonie concert hall

We floated past the Elphiliharmonie, the multi-million euro concert hall recently opened. I must admit it really was breathtaking and shone proudly in the sun. I can imagine the acoustics would be amazing if you saw a concert here.



What was interesting was seeing the mix of boats, from touring boats to old fashion yachts, large cargo ships to luxury yachts. It's a real working harbour, the largest port in Germany and it shows.

After the tour we stopped for a spot of lunch on the harbour, I scoffed down the fish in batter and potato salad in no time, which seems to be one of the local dishes.

Now it was time to do something we had wanted to do for ages - go to Minatur Wunderland! Minatur Wunderland is the largest model railway in the world.and was started by twin brothers in 2000. Now it has over 6 miles of track including an airport with planes taking off and landing, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas as well as an extensive German area.







As you can see the attention to detail is amazing. We both thought it was a great day out for old and young alike and I would allow 2 hours to see everything.

So back to our hotel to freshen up before going out. 

That evening we ate at a restaurant we looked up on TripAdvisor called Pittarello. This modern Italian restaurant was smart, upmarket and served excellent food, highly recommended.



Tired but after a great day sightseeing we walked back to the hotel looking forward to what Hamburg had to offer on our last day tomorrow.

Day three



Today after breakfast we decided to visit the International Maritime Museum and then the Chocoversum, Hamburg's own chocolate museum.



Onto the U-Bhan again we took the nearest stop to the Warehouse District or Speicherstadt the largest warehouse area in the world. After the obligatory photo of Mr W with an anchor, we entered the International Maritime Museum. 



Who remembers the film The Fog?



Spot the dummy, no not that one

The museum houses Peter Tamm's collection of model ships, construction plans, uniforms, and maritime art, amounting to over 40,000 items and more than one million photographs. It really is a comprehensive collection and one that will delight lovers of ships and maritime memorabilia. 


We all need a good harpoon in our cupboard

I must admit Mr W did enjoy it more than me but they did have some incredibly cool items such as old submarines, a small pirate exhibition and a bunch of harpoons. We were unlucky that we didn't manage to book a guided tour but to get the most of it this is probably the way to go. Allow an hour or two to explore but if you are a real maritime junky you could probably spend all day here.

We stopped in the lovely coffee shop attached for coffee and dessert, the peach pie was outstanding, then decided to walk over to the Chocoversum.


If I could describe the Chocoversum in one word it would be choctastic! The Chocoverseum is a 90 minute guided tour through the history of chocolate. You follow the journey from the raw cocoa beans from the pods to the finished bar of chocolate ready for the shops. 



We both really enjoyed this museum, seeing the cocoa bean and trying it raw then being shown how it is made into chocolate and tasting the samples as you go around really made it memorable. My favourite part was making your own bar of chocolate and of course eating it later!


pin for later

So with tums full of chocolate, we stumbled back to the U-Bahn and our hotel. We could have gone to a traditional German restaurant that night but I must admit, we did the touristy thing and went to the Hard Rock Cafe, in the harbour area.

What did we think of Hamburg? In our short time here we only scratched the surface of this fabulous city but can conclude, it's a city full of history, amazing museums and stunning architecture. If it wasn't on your radar before, I hope it is now.

Read more about Hamburg including 8 reasons why you should visit Hamburg, and where to stay in Hamburg - the Heikhotel Am Stadtpark. Also, check out the travel blog Fly Drive Explore that I write with my husband and where we covered 48 hours in Hamburg Germany and our Hamburg harbour tour

If you want to find out what to do in 3 days in Hamburg with a three-year-old, check out this post by Zena's Suitcase. Kacie, over at The Rare Welshbit also has a great post on the best places to eat in Hamburg. If you are exploring Hamburg at Christmas, you may enjoy our post Getting Festive At The Hamburg Christmas Markets

Let me know, would you consider Hamburg as a city tourist destination?

* We were guests of Come To Hamburg and the Heikhotel Am Stadtpark. Follow the #ComeToHamburg bloggers on social media.

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Monday, 29 May 2017

Banana Chocolate Cake And The Blooming Great Tea Party

Most of us know someone who has had cancer, and thankfully many people who have cancer go on to live until old age these days. Unfortunately, some don't. Marie Curie, the charity offer support and care for those with cancer but did you know they offer care for any terminal illness too? 

This year on the 23rd to 25th of June they are encouraging family and friends to hold a fundraising 'Blooming Great Tea Party'. It's easy, fun and a great thing to do. All you have to do is pick a date, invite some friends, bake some cakes and watch the donations roll in.

Will you make a classic Victoria sandwich or a red velvet cake, or what about my chocolate and Caramac roulade or my classic Bakewell tart.

For some inspiration check out the recipes on the Marie Curie website by award-winning food blogger Suzy Pelta. I tried out the banana and chocolate cake with a peanut butter frosting below and found it was so easy to make. 

If you want a fundraising pack, it's free and available on the Marie Curie website.

Banana and chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting




Ingredients for the cake

3 medium bananas
120g butter
100g dark chocolate
2 large eggs
160g light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
150g self-raising flour plus 1 tablespoon extra


Ingredients for the icing

150g smooth peanut butter
225g cream cheese
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
300g icing sugar (sifted)
A few drops of whole milk
Flake bars to decorate


Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°
  2. Grease a 20cm deep round tin and dust with flour
  3. Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl and add one tablespoon of flour
  4. Melt the butter in a saucepan
  5. Add the chocolate and take off the heat. Stir until melted
  6. Add warm mixture to the bananas and combine
  7. Beat the eggs and add to the bowl along with sugar and salt, and mix
  8. Add the flour a third at a time. Stop stirring as soon as the mixture comes together
  9. Pour the mixture into your tin and bake for 45 - 55 mins (depending on your oven)
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool
Don't worry if the cake cracks as your icing will hide it.

Method for icing

  1. Once the cake is cooled, you can add the icing. You can also make the icing in advance and store in the fridge until needed.
  2. Mix the peanut butter, cream cheese, vanilla and half of the icing sugar - ensure you stir by hand
  3. Once mixed, add the remaining icing sugar a third at a time, along with a drop of whole milk
  4. Add more peanut butter to taste
  5. Mix until the icing sticks to the spoon but could be easily spread.
  6. Using a palette knife, spread the icing across your cake. Decorate with crushed Flakes.
Now I must admit, the frosting was very soft when I made it and there was a lot of it, so if I made it again I would chill the mixture for a good 8 hours and make a third less of it. 

What I liked about this cake is that it is moist and sweet but surprising not too rich.





So if you like the idea of raising money for Marie Curie check out the Blooming great Tea Party page, send off for the free money raising pack and happy cooking!


pin for later

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Saturday, 27 May 2017

10 Habits Of Women That Have Enviable Skin

Let’s face it, a major beauty concern that many of us have is how to get flawless skin. I know acne was an issue of mine when I was younger, then fine lines and wrinkles appeared in my 30's and now that I am older my skin is dryer but I still get hormonal spots. But there are some things we can all do to make our skin it's best. 



This article will provide a number of beauty tips to enhance your skin to perfection.

1. Not sleeping on the job


The worst thing you can do to your skin is sleep with your makeup on. As Janet Pardo, Vice President of Clinique, claims “Your skin is your biggest organ, and it must be tended to”, thus leaving it on overnight will not only irritate your skin but also increase the chance of your pores becoming blocked. So avoid this at all costs.

2. Having healthy food hacks


A healthy body is a happy body so keep your skin at its peak by consuming a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. If you are finding it hard to get the 5 portions of fruit and veg into your diet try some healthy smoothies for a quick nutritious drink.

3. Hydrating internally



We all know you need to drink lots of water during the day, but remember that this is not only for your internal health but for your skin to remain fresh and healthy. Drinking water rejuvenates your energy supplies and also helps your skin flush out any unwanted toxins.

4. Hydrating externally


A moisturiser is your best friend. Although it will take a little experimenting to find the perfect brand, ask your friends for recommendations and research online to locate a suitable product for your skin.

5. Multi-masking

Different parts of the face require different creams and treatments. Some parts may be dry and need to be moisturised, other parts may be greasy and need a clay mask to soothe it. Multi-masking takes different skin treatments to create the perfect mask.

6. Cleansing gently



If you have problem skin which is blackhead prone or spotty don't fall into the trap of washing your skin too often. This can cause your skin to be irritated and may exacerbate the condition and cause a skin imbalance.

7. Avoiding harsh toners

Some toners can contain alcohol, witch hazel or other products that can irritate your skin rather than rejuvenate it. If you know that your skin is easily affected by irritation, it is better to avoid them altogether.

8. Using fragrance-free soap


When it comes to fragranced soaps, there is always a possibility that they can irritate your skin, leaving it blotchy, red and sore. Be sure to invest in a fragrance-free soap for less chance of skin irritation or go for a cleanser that is soap free.

9. Experimenting with new products


Be prepared to invest in some new skin care products, such as toners, cleansers and sunscreen and have fun spending an evening testing them out. You never know you may find that wonder cure for your dry skin, fine lines or spots.

10. Going crazy for fruit hacks

You may get a free day where you want to do nothing more than try some sort of homemade face pack. Whether this is covering your face in grapes, fresh milk, salt and lime juice or ghee and glycerine, always proceed with a trial run before tampering with any sensitive or easily irritated skin. It’s better to be safe than sorry.


*PR collaboration 
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Friday, 26 May 2017

Where To Stay In Hamburg - The Heikotel Am Stadtpark

So recently Mr W and I were invited to Hamburg in Germany courtesy of the Come To Hamburg campaign, to promote the city to tourists. Make sure you follow this blog and Fly Drive Explore, our travel blog to read about our explorations real soon. 



Elbphilharmonie concert hall Hamburg


The hotel we stayed at was the Heikotel am Stadtpark.  This three-star superior hotel is in a peaceful location, in the Winterhude area of Hamburg. 


We arrived after a short flight from London and a 20 mins taxi drive from the airport and were greeted in a warm and friendly way. 




Check-in was super efficient and done in less than 5 minutes. We have travelled a lot recently and this is what we love about the German culture, the super-efficient staff.

Rooms


The room was modern and comfortable and decorated in muted tones of cream, brown and beige. Everything was in excellent condition and not a speck of dust could be seen.


In the bedroom area, there were twin beds put together which is often the custom in Europe. A night light was a great touch if you wanted to read in bed. There was a small lounge area with a table and chairs which were very useful too.



On the bed when we arrived was a cute little bar of chocolate, which was just lovely. I mean who can refuse chocolate?!

If you wanted a snack or drink there was a mini bar which you had to pay for and a coffee machine with pods. The price of these was 1 euro each. There was also free bottled water in our room.





The flat screen TV was on a swivel mechanism which was perfect so you could adjust it easily when sitting in the lounge, or move it so you can see it when lying in bed. I think more hotels could do this as it was a genius idea!

The wardrobe area was open for your clothes and a safe, which I feel is essential these days in a hotel was another great touch. 

The bathroom was compact but perfect for our needs, the shower was great, with a decent spray and toiletries - which were branded 'Naturals', were all organic and provided as dispensers attached to the wall.  If you need a conditioner though I recommend you bring one yourself.




Everything in the bathroom was spotless. If I am being particularly picky, I thought the towels were a bit scratchy and could do with replacing but this is me being super critical. They do provide slippers for your stay so that was nice!

Public areas


The corridors were spacious and the lights came on when you walked down the corridor, a great saving energy move by the hotel. 


There is a fitness room with a selection of equipment in excellent condition including treadmills and bikes.




Across the road in another part of the hotel, is a bar which had fair prices and is worth a visit if you fancy a drink after hours of sightseeing.

Breakfast


The breakfast area was light and spacious. 



A continental breakfast was provided with a selection of breads and pastries, 5 different types of yoghurts including Bircher muesli, cereals, fresh fruit and fresh fruit salad, boiled eggs, and scrambled eggs. I was impressed with the three different types of honey!



A selection of cooked meats and cheeses were also provided.





Whenever we go to a different country we look out for the breakfast offering that is particular to that country. In this hotel, we had a selection of potato salad and coleslaw, which I haven't seen in other hotels around the world. 



Little touches took this breakfast out of the standard level, like the various toppings for yoghurt and cereals.

Location

The hotel is in a leafy area and in a quiet location, but only 5 minutes walk from the U-Bahn, the underground. It was great to get a good night's sleep every night without any noise from outside.

We used the U-Bahn a number of times and it was incredibly easy to get into the centre of Hamburg - the Rathaus (town hall) being a quick 20 minutes and St Pauli 15 minutes on the U-Bahn. If you wanted to explore the surrounding area the hotel is within a twenty-minute walk from bars and restaurants.

If you are driving to the hotel there is underground parking which is good news for car drivers.

Opinion




We really liked this hotel. The location was much better than we thought it would be due to the close proximity to the U-Bahn. The rooms were of a good size, with a small seated area, and free water was a nice touch. We were treated to a lovely basket of fruit twice during our stay which was really appreciated. The free wireless Internet was suitable for checking emails and surfing the internet and if you wanted a faster connection there was an option of paying more for faster speeds.

This hotel has won a Tripadvisor Certificate Of Excellence and I can see why. It's a good quality hotel, in a decent location with free breakfast. With rooms from £100 a night I think the Heikotel Am Stadtpark is superb value for money. We really enjoyed our trip to Hamburg, which you can read about soon, as it's a very underrated city. I would have no hesitation in booking this hotel if we ever came back to this city. 

For another review of this hotel check this out - Heikotel Am Stadtpark Hamburg. Follow our journey in Hamburg with the #cometohamburg hashtag on Twitter, FB and Instagram.

Recommended.

Heikotel Am Stadtpark
Fl├╝ggestrasse 5,
Winterhude,
22303 Hamburg,
Germany
Tel: 040 278400
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