Google Need Another Holiday: December 2012

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Weekend Picture Pick: Christmas in Munich

I know there was no weekend picture pick last week, but that's because I was too busy getting my festive buzz on by drinking mulled wine in Munich.

So while we're still in the middle of the festive season, here's a wee taste of Christmas in Bavaria, and a beautiful crib.

The crib in the Theatinerkirche, Munich 
I've got so much more to say about Munich, and my first visit to Germany (and it's all good).

So stay tuned and watch this space...

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Pondering Travels Past, Planning Travels Future and Packing for Travels Present

Reflecting is something we all do at this time of year, whether we intend to or not. We can't help it, and there's nothing wrong with that.

2012 will be a year I remember fondly as my biggest success to date in terms of travel. I might not have made it out of Europe, but that doesn't matter to me. The point is that I really feel like I made the best of my budget and my time off work.

In April, I returned to Venice to retrieve the piece of my heart I left there six years ago, only to decide that it belonged there, thus giving me a reason to go back once again.

A sunny sky, a beer in my hand and Venice. What more could I ever want?
In June, I made the short trip from home across the Irish Sea to my beloved city of Dublin. This time, I was on a hen party. I laughed until my face ached and the tears streamed down my face; I danced until my feet throbbed with agony and I had to limp back to the airport. I loved every minute.

Smiling (despite the clouds) one on of many visits to Dublin. Probably my favourite city in the world
In August, I basked in Greek sunshine on the Island of Kos; soaking up the sun, swishing in the sea and stuffing my face with glorious Greek food.

The perfect spot for relaxing. The Mythos Apartments in Tigaki, Kos
In October, I searched for secret sights in Fair Verona, and finally made it to Lake Garda, a place I have wanted to visit for so, so long.

Lake Garda. I made it. I loved it.

Now, in December, I'm preparing to pack light for a whirlwind 48 hours in Munich. We leave on Saturday morning for what will be my first visit to Germany; something I'm tremendously excited about. I'll be overdosing on Christmas spirit and getting to know the city by taking a walking tour.  I can't wait.

And of course, 2013 then beckons with all the optimistic promise a New Year brings. February will see me fly to Belgium for a trip to Bruges and Brussels, and in April I'm planning to visit Brighton for Traverse, my first travel blogging conference. I'll be nervous, but I'm really looking forward to it. 

Perhaps the most important thing about 2012 for me, is that I'll remember it always as the year I finally put myself out there and started my blog. 

My full-time job an electrical engineer is rewarding, and doing my bit to keep the lights on is something I love. 

But it's only part of my story. Need Another Holiday is the rest. 

And every single page view means such a lot. So if you're reading this now, thank you, sincerely. 

Here's to celebrating your successes of 2012, and making the most of every minute in 2013.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Weekend Picture Pick: When Santa Got Stuck Up the Chimney

This weekend's photo comes somewhat late, I'm afraid. But that's because I've mostly been in a frantic, festive shopping frenzy for the last couple of days. 

And that involved a visit to Manchester's Trafford Centre, one of the UK's largest shopping and leisure complexes.

The Trafford Centre Santa looks down over Manchester, from the 220 feet high Campanile

No matter how hard I try, I never seem to manage to avoid the mayhem of the High Street in the last fortnight before the Big Day. I must confess though, there's something quite exciting about being a last minute Christmas shopper. And once we're well and truly into December, I can submit myself completely to the season, unashamedly Christmas jumpered up to the max. 

Woolly reindeer hat and all. 

With bells on.

Have you done all your Christmas shopping?

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Barcelona: The City That Brought Me Back to Life

I went to Barcelona the year after I never went anywhere. That was the year I suffered two prolapsed discs in my lower back, condemning me to four months stuck at home on a cocktail of painkillers and daytime television.

It's strange how being housebound can affect you. As someone who loves to travel, I still struggle to get my head around how fearful I became of leaving my own front door. 

The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona,where I managed to forget about being in pain.

When you're getting over the type of physical pain that people tell you they can actually see on your face, it's easy to become frightened of simply bumping in to someone when you're out and about. You worry that the slightest thing will hurt you all over again. In my case, it meant that the real me went into hibernation. And despite being inactive for such a long time, somehow I managed to lose a lot of weight, because I just couldn't sit up to eat a meal.

Eventually boarding a plane and taking off on a trip to Barcelona, somewhere I'd always wanted to visit, was an unbelievable feeling. And it was there, in Barcelona, that the travel bug bit me again.

Feeling happy to be back out in the world. It might have been too cold for a dip in that pool, but I didn't care.

My lower back pain has never completely gone away, but I don't complain. Things can always be a lot worse. And it doesn't stop me travelling. I won't let it. Those flights can get uncomfortable, but a rolled up scarf tucked in to the small of my back (my fashion/ function saviour), works wonders.

Nothing will stop me from seeing the world

Not since Barcelona brought me back to life.

Has an injury or illness ever stopped you from travelling? Has any one place really made a difference to you, or brought you back from something? If you'd like to, please share your story in the comments.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Weekend Picture Pick: Inspiring My Inner Italian Chef

I chose this photo after spending lengthy periods of time this week pondering what culinary delights I might prepare this Saturday or Sunday. Sometimes there's nothing better than whiling away a winter weekend afternoon cooking up comfort food in the kitchen. 

And sometimes there's nothing more comforting than an Italian feast...

One of Italy's wonderful market stalls

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Travel Beauty Booty: 5 Skin Care Products You Should Pack

With age comes wisdom, they say. 

Well that may be true, but in my case, every passing year brings with it more of an obsession with skin care products. I might be determined to grow old gracefully, but I can't help believing that investing in a bit of good practise now, will saddle me up with the armour I need to ride into battle for the fight against wrinkles when they really attack.

Of course, plastering my face with a plethora of creams and serums is all well and good when I'm in the comfort of home. And a dressing table display of beautiful bottles and gorgeous glass jars is one of my indulgent little luxuries. But what horror befalls this beauty junkie when faced with a carry on case and a plane journey that means I'll be away from my lotion and potion loot?

I have to get ready for bed at 6pm to give me time to smother my face in all of this. And this is only half of it.

The variety of skin care I own is so shamefully vast that it would probably need its own suitcase in the hold if I packed the lot (along with my shoes; a whole other sore point). But I'm not daft, so I know that the skin care regime needs to be suitably streamlined when I'm ready for take off.

This begs the question:

What do women really need to look after their skin when they're away or on the road?

And what multi-taskers will see us through?

Here are my favourite five:

1) Vaseline - The skin saviour. Cheap and readily available. Plus, it doubles up brilliantly as a waterproof eye make-up remover and lip balm for even the most sensitive skin.

2) Cleanser - You need this. If I'm planning a long trip, I'll buy it in my destination. Otherwise I'm likely to pack a packet of cleansing wipes. Easy.

3) Toner - Not something I'm prepared to do without, this eradicates every last bit of face grime. Just decant as much as you'll need into a mini spray bottle and spritz it onto a cotton wool pad to use.

4) Moisturiser - At home I have a day cream and a night cream (needs must), but when I'm away I choose a good multi-tasker I can use around the clock. Something like Clinique's Dramatically Different would be a good bet.

5) Sun screen - Goes without saying! Much as we love it, the sun is our number one ageing agent. Be prepared in all climates!

And that's what I pack! I leave everything else at home, but I always leave room for duty-free beauty. Just in case!

(My current brands of choice are Vichy and The Sanctuary, but I do dabble in Chanel when I'm feeling flush!)

Do you have any travel beauty secrets or favourite products? Please share in the comments!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Mulled Wine and Magic in Manchester's Christmas Markets

As I peeled my gloves from my icy hands and curled my fingers around this year's Christmas market mug, I felt the exciting, yet comforting buzz of another December hit me.

First glimpse of the giant Santa, overlooking the European market in front of Manchester's Town Hall.

The warmth of the festive season seeped right under my skin with that first sip of mulled wine, rousing the kid who still lives inside me from her eleven month slumber. The season of goodwill has come round again, and I intend to enjoy every waking minute of it in a gluhwein glow.

My first sip of Christmas in this year's souvenir mug

The markets make a clear statement that Manchester just loves Christmas, and their annual appearance is a wonderful opportunity to soak up a bit of that festive spirit, or to buy quirky gifts which are just that bit more unique.

Fabulously festive hand made tree decorations for sale on one of the many stalls

We go to the Manchester Christmas Markets every year. It would be wrong not to. Sometimes it can be a battleground of eager crowds, but a couple of Christmas drinks generally mean you just sway along with the odd shove. It's worth it.

A view over the top of the market stalls. They get more impressive every year.

What started with a visit from a small group of German traders in 1998, has snowballed into a vast array of festive feasting and shopping opportunities. Now you can find numerous markets, aside from the main European extravaganza in Albert Square, all over the city centre, bringing a taste of Christmas to England's North West from all around Europe and beyond.

Bits and bobs and baubles, all so much prettier than in the High Street shops

We ambled our way around the various market locations, appetites growing with every step, so it's just as well there's no shortage of food options. It was difficult to choose between bratwurst, paella or goulash. Not to mention some more traditionally British options, like good old Lancashire hotpot. And then there was the sweet stuff. Crepes, waffles, chocolates and strudel. Winter foodie heaven. All washed down with whichever version of mulled wine you fancied. 

Me? Well, I had a mug of the traditional German gluhwein to start (complete with a healthy slug of rum - purely to fend of the cold, you understand), then I came over all Parisian as we strolled cheeks-a-glow back across town, taking in a taste of vin chaud after sauntering through the French market.

A little bit of Paris comes to upmarket King Street

And if hot, spicy red wine isn't your thing, there was beer galore and almost every take on coffee and hot chocolate you could think of. Something for every festive fancy.

The strudel I only wish I had room for, after my mammoth serving of paella

The Manchester Christmas Markets have become something of a local institution and a magnet for visitors to the city. So if you're planning a stint in the UK around the Christmas holidays, or you can hop on a train or jump in your car to get here, give it a try.

You might miss this year, but if 2012 is anything to go by, next year already promisies to pack a full-on, festive punch.

For more detailed information on the markets, facts and details on how to get to Manchester click here for the Visit Manchester website.

Are you planning on any Christmas market action? And have you been to any of the other markets in the UK? Let me know in the comments!