London Calling: 14 Hour Stopover

Big Ben. Scaffolding had been removed just weeks before!

After leaving Bern, I took the train to Karlsruhe followed by the bus to Flughafen Karlsruhe / Baden-Baden. There I said hello to my surly RyanAir friends and took the plane back to London. I took the Stansted express back into the city. Once again, they were checking tickets so make sure you buy the dedicated airport ticket rather than just swipe through the turnstile with your phone/general e-ticket.

I landed mid-afternoon and had decided that I really wanted to see some of the incredible artifacts at The British Museum. I checked my bag in at a local shop via an app so I didn’t have to deal with it at the museum. First, I went to the special exhibit, Feminine Power: the divine to the demonic. What a name! It was a compilation of sacred objects and fine art from different cultures showing representations of the divine/sacred in feminine form. It wasn’t the largest exhibit, but it was an interesting concept. It was manageable for the time I had, but I also could have stayed longer to take it all in.

Other exhibits were calling though, so I went to other galleries. I saw the Rosetta Stone, which was really neat to see in person. It’s amazing what soldiers can stumble across and find!

I saw the Parthenon Sculptures (née Elgin Marbles). I saw friezes that I had only seen in books and were now right in front of me! The Nereid Monument was pretty wild as it’s a small temple reconstructed within the museum.

After taking in the antiquities, I went to the second floor to see other highlights. I was following the museum map that showed where highlights of the collection were located. I saw the monumental carillon clock, the Lewis chessman, the Sutton Hoo helmet (AD 600s, Anglo-Saxon England), and the Lycurgus cup.

Finally, on the way out, I walked through the Parthanon Gallery again. I tend to like double-backing in museums (much to SMS’ delight) and today was no exception.

Theater between British Museum and the Strand Duchy House

The guards herded everyone out and I walked to my hotel (Strand Duchy House via AirBnB), which was a dorm room for a college currently not-in-session. It was quite nice, albeit basic. I quickly headed out towards the Thames, although I did get a nice recommendation to stop at Gordon’s Wine Bar.

I walked along the river. It was a beautiful evening with perfect weather. A heat wave was set to roll in the next day but this day was amazing. I saw a boat turned bar (old passenger ferry) called Tattershall Castle and I went aboard for a G&T. The G&Ts are served in large glasses, which I hadn’t see before. It’s supposed to allow the aromatics to be fully appreciated. I’ve only seen G&Ts in small glasses or cans, but I can learn to appreciate goblet-style!

I was hoping to see 10 Downing St, which didn’t happen. But as I walked towards St James Park, I heard a band performance. A quick internet search showed that it was “The Massed Bands of HM Royal Marines Beating Retreat.” It was super cool and later in my walk, I came upon them again as they marched down the mall from Horse Guard Palace to Buckingham Palace.

Yes, I did see Buckingham palace! Be still, my royal family gossip loving heart!

I went to Gordon’s Wine Bar which, as advertised, had a really neat vaulted cellar that was mostly candlelit. I grabbed some tapas at Port House and then headed to bed. The next day, I took the train to LHR. I left a lot of time, which is unusual for me but I had heard LHR horror stories and I did not want to miss my flight. As a result, I had a few hours before my flight but it was a nice airport. I grabbed a snack and read for awhile. Then it was time to board, head home, and get ready for a major road trip with SMS in just two days!

Aare you safe? Bern stopover!

After arriving in Bern, I headed straight to my hostel, changed into my swimsuit, and headed towards the river Aare. I love floating in the river Aare so much. This time, I skipped the bridge jump and just entered upstream from Freibad Marzili at the Campingplatz Eichholz, which is about 1 km.

In between floats, I had French Fries for dinner. I was really hungry and it was supposed to be a snack but the serving was enormous and delicious! This made my second float a little late and kind of quiet, which was nice in its own way. I think I prefer the bustle of more people at the height of the day. Fewer gnats and yes, safer from a swimmer’s perspective. Overall, I took four floats down the river this trip and it was awesome!

Exit channel at the Freibad Marzili
Hostel. At first I thought they were individual rooms!

The hostel was nice. I was in the newer building and bunked with three other women. I was barely there, but they seemed very nice. Logistically, it wasn’t the best set-up since one woman came in very late (Spanish) and one woman left very early (American- me, haha) but hopefully everyone’s earplugs worked. I had set everything out and there was a small common area/bathroom compartment that had a door to divide it from the bedroom so hopefully I wasn’t too disruptive. I was trying to save money since I was solo traveling but I think I’m aging out of hostels, slowly but surely.

I took the Bern Marzili funicular during my stay, which was a nice way to avoid climbing a steep hill with my bag. The ride is quite short, but nice to take. Also, covered by the Swiss Rail Pass! At the base of the hill, you look up and see the Bundeshaus, which is quite stately. SMS and I had wandered briefly through the historic city on our last visit but it really does deserve more attention. Maybe another trip!

Männlichen, Kleine Scheidegg, and Wengen Hike

View from Männlichen

Good morning! I faced a dilemma- what to do? This was the only day I’d have to spend in Bern, but I really wanted to hike. Since all I wanted to do in Bern was hop in the river, I decided to hike and forsake the other nice things Bern had to offer (the old town is amazing- UNESCO says so!).

I lazed in bed until the sun peeked over the ridge line. I went to the breakfast room and even though Mr. B.O. was not there, I took my plate out to the terrace. I saw two helicopter pallet deliveries, which was pretty cool. No wonder everything is so expensive up in the mountains! I decided to hike to Kleine Scheidegg, which was a much more mellow plan (elevation-wise) than my hike the day before.

Männlichen Cableway Station

I took the Männlichen Aerial Cableway from Wengen. My Swiss Pass covered it, but there was a small supplement for “The Royal View.” This allows the rider to take a small staircase to an open-air balcony on top of the car. Although the views from the inside were awesome, I think riding without any windows would have been amazing. Terrifying, but amazing. Unfortunately, I didn’t figure it out before boarding and it wasn’t worth it (to me) to wait for the next cable car.

The ride was ~5 min and the view from the platform was spectacular. Rather than head straight to Kleine Scheidegg, I headed up the hill on the Royal Walk to the crown-shaped viewing platform. Along the way, there are some excellent informational signs about the geology, alpine climbing history, and knot-tying. At the top, there are incredible 360 views of the Eiger/Monch/Jungfrau (EMJ) mountains, Lauterbrunnen Valley, and Grindelwald. I even saw Schynige Platte. Although it is beautiful, I felt better about skipping it since the hike to Kleine Scheidegg would have similar features along the trail. I would be trading a view of the lakes for a view of the EMJ complex but that was worth it to me!

From the Royal Walk viewing platform, I also saw Bluemlisalp, where SMS and I had hiked on our prior visit. After taking in the scenery for a bit, it was time to hike towards Kleine Schiedegg. It was a very mellow walk with the path cutting through flower-filled alpine fields. I’m pretty sure it’s the traversing trails during ski season but in the Summer, it makes for great walking. There were a lot more people on this trail than my previous day’s hike, but there was definitely plenty of room for us all.

I arrived in Kleine Schiedegg in ~90 minutes. I definitely stopped along the way for pictures, but was otherwise walking at a pretty reasonable clip. I had a mountain-side table for lunch, with great views, good food, and deliciously fresh, clean air (does this make sense?).

After lunch, I decided to walk back to Wengen, rather than take the train down the mountain. It was a great decision because it got me really close to the EMJ. This helped me see the many glacier-fed waterfalls streaming down the side. I also saw Swiss cows, which was nice.

Swiss hiking tip: if there is a destination sign with two routes (bike and ped), take the walking path. The bike routes tend to be wide and are fine to walk on, but the ped trails are narrower and meander a tiny bit more. The payoff is that it is much more of a nature trail than a semi-paved road. Part of the trail was bike/ped, which was great too! Overall, my route was pedestrian trail out of KS, bike/ped road after the cow fields, and then a ped route through the forest to Wegen (prettier and needed shade).

The forest trail paralleled the edge of Lauterbrunnen Valley, although the edge was only accessible at viewpoints/BASE jump sights. The sign above was warning BASE jumpers to call the helicopter launch site below before jumping. Never fear, SBA, I will never be making that phone call.

Getting to Wengen took a little longer than I thought, but no worries. The days are long in a Swiss Summer! I took the train from Wengen to Lauterbrunnen, followed by a transfer to Interlaken and then onto Bern. I made it to Bern for a few floats down the river, but that’s for the next blog post!

The train was packed, so I got a great seat by having a glass of wine in the dining car. Tough life.

Berghotel Obersteinberg & Schmadribachfällen Hike

View from Tanzbödeli

So, the prior night, I searched different hikes to find out which one I wanted to do. The Jungfrau.ch company has a great marketing website for its private railways that link to a lot beautiful sites. I’ve never cared about getting to the top of Jungfrau, but I was almost swayed by the marketing for Schynige Platte. It looks so beautiful. There were also some nice write-ups by different bloggers. But ultimately, I realized that I had traveled to Wengen to see the Lauterbrunnen Valley so why would I backtrack almost all the way to Interlaken? [Also, please keep in mind I had two days to work with! Too short but way better than nothing!]

I did some more searching. And, on a trail running write-up, a woman mentioned her lunch stop at Berghotel Obersteinberg, a restaurant in a dairy farm. As I read more about the area, I read about Schmadribachfällen, which is a gorgeous waterfall (that seems to be several waterfalls in series) that is difficult to see without hiking to it. I was sold. My perfect Lauterbrunnen Valley hike was set.

As it turned out, although there was a lot of signage on the hike, it wasn’t always complete. What I mean by that is that the farthest destination might be listed but there were actually several ways to get there. As a result, I accidentally cut across the loop I meant to do. I had meant to include Oberhoresee, which is a beautiful mountain lake according to Google Images (see farthest right picture above). I wasn’t too disappointed since it meant I hiked to the base of Schmadribachfällen rather than view it from the top. It also saved me several hundred feet of elevation and really, I had plenty of it that day! Also, I discovered Tanzbödeli along the way, which was the highlight of the hike. All in all, my loop is approximated by the yellow highlight in the far left picture.

The next morning, I had a delicious breakfast at the hotel. The spread was amazing and, after being seated near a family in which the dad had horrific B.O, I took my plate outside to the terrace. This was a total win! Thanks for driving me outside, weird-outdoor-dude-with-unexplainable-B.O.-since-shower- access-is-available-at-a-hotel-and-you-have-no-excuse-first-thing-in-the-morning.

Then, I took the train down to Lauterbrunnen. I bought some snacks at the Coop and walked around while waiting for the bus, which I took to Stechelberg. Next, I took the gondola up to Gimmelwald where I started my hike. As on previous hikes in Switzerland, I feel no shame in saving some time and altitude gain with a well-placed gondola ride. Bonus, it was covered by the Swiss Rail Pass!

Gimmelwald is beautiful. It is a big favorite of Rick Steeves, whom I used to think I was way too cool for to take any of his advice. But, with age comes wisdom and while I’m not signing up for his tours, his website is helpful.

I set off for the Berghotel Obersteinberg (which I just realized also has the abbreviation of B.O. Excellent). I had saved directions on my phone, which was a safe thing to do even though I’m pretty sure I had signal the entire time. It was a translated webpage, which was a little confusing since it talked about “Bosom Fire,” which refers to the near-heart explosion that occurs a few miles in as I climbed up Busenbrand. It was very steep. Also, it made me happy I was going from Gimmelwald to Stechelberg rather than the other direction since that particular section was so steep, it would have been a little treacherous as a downhill.

After I finished that section, I walked through a forest-y field with cows. I drank some water through my LifeStraw and continued. Eventually, I came upon a sign for Tanzbödeli. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it, but I went for it. Then I wasn’t sure if I should do it because it looked like a steep rock scramble that would be safer with ropes. I decided to be like John Muir, meaning that I should walk up mountains that would probably be safer with a little gear. But, never fear. One, I am alive and typing this. Two, it actually wasn’t that bad step-by-step on the trail. It just looked intimidating.

When I got to the top, it was spectacular. The trail had been gray, sedimentary rock with flecks that looked like shale. But the top was a grassy plateau filled with wildflowers. It was a wonderful surprise. Translated it means, “the dance floor” and I felt like running through the field like Heidi although I would stop at the edge. I stayed for awhile to take it all in. It was so beautiful. I also got my first real view of the falls.

But, I had to get going! My next stop was the Obersteinberg hotel. I ordered a beer and an Alpkäse sandwich, which was two slices of bread, a huge hunk of alpkäse, and a knife. Unexpected presentation, but delicious!

Upon leaving, I messed up and missed the fact there was another Ober*** (Oberhornsee) destination. So, no lake for me. But I was happy that I took the valley route to Stechelberg because of the gorgeous waterfall views.

I took so.many.waterfall pictures. I also enjoyed the mostly downhill second half of the hike.

Holdrifälle

I eventually got to the Hotel Stechelberg. I had 30 minutes until the bus came, so I decided to grab a beer and a snack. Well, I missed the bus and waited a total of 90 minutes because the service was so.slow. But it was beautiful, I was sitting down after a long day of hiking, and it really felt amazing.

My route is in yellow- about 8 miles, a fair bit of elevation changes!

In Transit: DE -> CH with stopover in Bern, Switzerland

On Monday morning, Dad and I met up for breakfast in the hotel. The buffet was quite good. I love bread, cheese, jam, yogurt, and muesli for breakfast. There was also excellent coffee, which is key for combatting jet lag.

After breakfast, we walked to Tartes Cézanne, a French bakery that Dad swore had the best quiche. We had tried eating lunch there yesterday, but it was closed on Sundays. Today, we had better luck! Initially, I turned down Dad’s offer to buy me a quiche for the road because, honestly, it sounded a little gross. I’ve never thought of quiche as a “travel well” food. Well, chalk another one up for Dad because I did accept his offer and it was delicious! It was so tasty and fresh. I wrote to Dad and said it almost tasted like a health food, which I’m pretty sure quiche is not. I think it’s a “sometimes” food.

I was sad to leave Dad, especially since he was there for another day and our visits are always too short. But, although he would miss me, he encouraged the visit to Wengen since it would otherwise be difficult to experience given my own short timeline. So, away I went!

Eichholz entry point, Aare River

The visit was very smooth. I am going to write a more logistics-focused post (maybe I’ll get more followers!) but once again, Google Maps and its public transport directions option are stellar. I ended up buying a Swiss pass for convenience and the fact that I was traveling pretty far on two of the four days. I don’t think I saved a ton of francs, but I saved a few and again, just getting on the train without the hassle of buying point-to-point was worth it!

My main goal of the trip was to have an extended stopover in Bern and go swimming in the Aare. It was one of the highlights of my last Swiss trip and I definitely wanted to do it again. The train station is pretty close to Freibad Marzili, a complete free pool complex that is fed by the river waters. There is also a path that people walk down to get longer floats in the river. It is awesome, and Swiss taxes are worth it if this is the result!

I ended up floating twice. First, I jumped off the Schönausteg, a bridge known for people jumping off into the river. Second, I walked a bit farther to the Eichholz campground beach (very rocky). It was awesome! In between floats, I stopped for a beer at a riverside bar where about 1/4 of people were in bathing suits, including me. After my second float, I changed at Freibad Marzili and stopped for some gelato at Gelateria di Berna. SMS and I had been there before and it still has delicious gelato and semi-long waits. Worth it!

Then, it was time to get on the road. Even though I love Bern, I knew I’d be back in a couple of days and I didn’t want to get to Wengen too late. I took the train along Interlaken, which is a beautiful train route. Then, I transferred to the train heading for Lauterbrunnen.

Just leaving Lauterbrunnen, heading towards Wengen
Closer to Wengen, view of Lauterbrunnen Valley

The final train was the one to Wengen. I was so excited because I think one of the most beautiful views in the world is from the train window along this route. When SMS and I were here last, I was distracted by getting my ticket out for the conductor so I really wanted to take it all in this time. It was amazing.

Wine and cheese

I checked into my hotel (Bernerhof) and then went to the Hotel Schönegg, where Dad had stayed and recommended it for the view. I had a cheese plate for dinner while the setting sun lit up the mountains. It was a great end to the day.

Tübingen, Germany

Neckar River, the famous boats, and an island in the middle

Tübingen is a beautiful university town in Southern Germany. Dad was there for a few days so I decided to include a visit in my whirlwind European tour. We arrived at 10 pm after our Baden Baden day. I was pretty tired and thought about going to bed. Dad suggested meeting up for a drink, which meant we walked up the hill to one of the main squares where a festival was happening! Stadfest!

We ordered beers from one of the tents, which I found confusing since I was given two tokens instead of two beers. Wait, what does that mean? Dad explained that the tokens for when we turned in the glasses after drinking and got our glass deposit back. Glass and bottle deposits were common in Germany and Switzerland- it’s a great idea to me!

We took our beers and sat down at one of the tables. It was a lot of fun because everyone was in such a good mood! There was a lot of singing along to the music and it felt very happy and carefree. Also, drunk, for sure since everyone else had probably been partying for hours rather than on a never-ending train ride.

We had two beers and left as the party was winding down about 90 minutes later. Dad and I bought the second-most delicious thing I ate on the trip, which was a bratwurst with mustard on a roll from a food tent set up on the street. It was delicious! Late night snacks after drinking, plus a little bit of jetlag-fueled hunger, are best addressed by bad-for-you, tasty-to-eat types of food!

The next day, we walked around historic Tübingen. We went to the Hölderlin Tower, where a famous poet lived for the second half of his life as a boarder renting out the second floor. Some of his translated poetry was very evocative. He really liked rivers, which is fitting since the Neckar flows by right below his window. The back garden was beautiful where there was a statue that had a plaque that said the statue was meant to reflect the emotional state the Hölderlin’s poetry creates, rather than actually looking like Hölderlin. Um, okay. I guess the likeness is pretty poor, then? I thought the statue was nice.

Tübingen, not a fan of the pigeons! This is the pigeon house where the pigeons roost and the city-workers steal the eggs to keep numbers down!

Next, we walked up the steep hill to Hohentübingen Castle, where there’s a great museum overseen by the university. We saw the UNESCO-approved Ice Age mammoth ivory tusk figurines. The most famous one is a little horse (Vogelherd horse), whose legs seem to have fallen off sometime in the last 40,000 years. It’s the first example of figurative art known in modern human existence. Very impressive, especially since 40,000 years later, my own drawing of horses look way worse and less horselike!

Eros, casually riding on a centaur

We also saw other antiquities. It was a really nice museum. The castle itself is on the high ground so once we were done, we went outside and took in the views. Next, we grabbed some lunch from a very limited menu (Sundays), which was two pieces of perfectly toasted toast with cheese. It was okay though because I was saving my appetite for a delicious dinner.

I climbed to the top of the church tower while Dad went back to the hotel. The views were pretty spectacular. Apparently, the bellringer lived up in the loft with his family in olden times. There was a rule that they couldn’t toss their waste from the top of the tower, which, as the sign says, probably means they did it and therefore necessitated the rule being made!

I took a quick nap and then it was time to go to dinner. We walked up the hill again to Restaurant Mauganeschtle. We sat on the terrace on another gorgeous evening. For a started, I had a delicious salad and Dad had a cold soup. For the main, we each ordered a pork dish- mine was with a white wine sauce and his was with a creamy mushroom sauce. Both were excellent! We each had an aperitif to start, followed by a glass of wine. Even though I normally drink reds, I had a riesling since we were in an area known for them. It was very good, very much on the dry side which is what I wanted. I’m not a big fan of sweet rieslings.

After that, we walked back to the hotel. No Stadfest tonight! The next day, I was planning on leaving for Wengen, Switzerland for a two day stay in what I think is the most beautiful place on earth!

Friedrichsbad Spa, Baden Baden, Germany

I flew into Baden Baden to meet up with my Dad, who was spending a few days in Tübingen. RyanAir wasn’t quite as cheap as I was hoping it would be, but I was booking last minute. A convenient airport was Baden Baden (Bath Bath) so there I was.

My first night, I ate dinner and went to bed. The next day, Dad wanted to meet me in Baden Baden to tour the town. It was a three hour train/bus ride for him, so I went to the Friedrichsbad Spa. As the nice check-in woman said, “It is both genders, textile-free.”

The Spa!

So, yes, away I went! No photos so use your imagination (please don’t). I walked into the large locker room where I used my wristband to access. As soon as I went through the turnstile, there was a box that said deposit wristband here. So, even though I thought it was a little weird, I did what I was told. What a dumb bunny! Of course, I should have kept it and deposited it at the end. But now, what could I do? I waited to long so the turnstile locked and now I had no sign that I was even supposed to be there. So, I crawled under the turnstile, went back to the front desk, and got another wristband. By the way, in case you were worried, this entire part took place clothed.

Take two! Off to the locker room and then, to the baths! A person can do any of the baths/steam rooms/saunas they choose, or one can follow the 17-step prescription. I decided to do that, although I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.

So, first you lie down on your towel-sheet on wooden loungers in two progressively hotter dry sauna rooms. There are little signs that tell you the degrees centigrade and recommended duration. There are clocks in almost every room, so it’s pretty regimented rather than a “lose all of sense of time” spa experience.

Next, you go into two progressively hotter steam rooms where there is hot springs water directly piped in and visible on one side of the wall. It is out of reach so no one can directly scald themselves, but the rooms are very hot and humid. The first room felt a little rough (10 min!), but the second felt like an endurance event (5 min!). It didn’t feel great, but I told myself to be tough and follow the orders!

After the steam room, there were three baths of successive cooler water- warm, lukewarm, cold. It was nice to bring the body temp gradually and the cold plunge, while shockingly bracing, felt great.

To my surprise, there were no hot tubs! What!? I totally thought there would be at least one onsen-like hot tub. Wrong.

Then, I deviated from the prescription and repeated the steam room and cold plunge (showering in between- I’m not a sweaty savage!). After that, I applied lotion and then went in the rest room where I wrapped myself up in a blanket that was very cocoon-like. Supposedly, the attendant tucks you but I think I blew that chance when I deviated from the order.

Finally, you end in the reading room where you can lie back and enjoy tea, although I was nervous about spilling the hot liquid. Although maybe that could be a mini-hot tub experience?

So, who was there? Well, it wasn’t too crowded. More men than women, but it was definitely a mixed crowd. Some people were on their own, while others were in pairs. The pairs seemed mostly to be guy friends and man-woman couples. Most people seemed to be in their 30-50s, so not filled with old creepers or young kids (min age is 14). I didn’t make any eye contact because frankly, I don’t love eye contact so I often look away and what if it looked like I was looking down!?!?! Awkward!

Roman Ruins

After my bath, I showered, dressed, and headed out to meet Dad for lunch. We walked around the slightly busy downtown. We considered going to the car show, but we decided to go back to the hotel and eat at the beer garden. Then, we went to the old Roman bath ruins, which were pretty neat. Very hot- I could tell we were near the springs!

Also, FYI, if you’re more into bathing suits, there is another spa next door that allow bathing suits in most (but not all?) areas. And maybe there are hot tubs!?!

Then, we went on a never-ending train ride. The power to Stuttgart and the surrounding tracks had been disrupted +/- striking workers (this was harder to verify) caused several train cancellations. Dad and I ultimately went North a bit, and then headed South through Stuttgart which seemed to be an unaffected direction. All in all, it took just under 6 hours to get to Tübingen which was a lot. But I was glad I was with Dad and, our saving grace, Google Maps and my international data plan!

Idle Hands Mean…A Trip to Europe!

The Great Hall, Natural History Museum, London

After meeting up with my former Williams biology TA and his wife, my wheels started turning. She had mentioned her “new” discovery of Google flights. So I got to thinking… Even though I was enjoying my “Real Housewife of Silicon Valley” rest and relaxation, the thought of a last minute trip became very exciting. Mainly because when else, other than after retirement, will I have this much time that is obligation-free from a scheduling standpoint? I can just pick up and go! And so, I did.

Happy in London!

Yes! I went on Google Flights and found out that a trip to London that was relatively inexpensive. It was still quite a bit, but half the price of anywhere else in Europe. I wasn’t super-flexible with dates since SMS and I have a trip planned for the second half of July so really, I was pretty fixed between 7 July – 15 July. I do recommend Google flights map option where you can look broadly at destinations in a specific month for a one or two week timeframe. A person could really score some deals! After unsuccessfully trying to use a travel credit, I booked with points.

SMS wasn’t able to come and really, didn’t have a ton of interest in a long-haul flight. Before I left, we got the Tesla 3 serviced since the tires were super-worn on the inside (very sneaky!). There’s also a weird wheel squeak that they said they fixed, but they are Pinocchio nose-growing liars since it’s there and actually worse.

That morning, I took the train into San Francisco to meet with another Williams classmate who’s an ortho surgeon at UCSF. He had good information about benefits, so it was nice to meet with him over an Andytown coffee. Then, it was off to SFO to catch my flight to London. Although I thought it would be tight, I had time for a quick lunch in the AMEX lounge- yes!

After a long flight, I got through customs reasonably fast. I had no check-in luggage which was nice. I arrived around 7 am and had a flight to Baden Baden, Germany at 1700. That flight was on RyanAir out of Stansted, so I planned a mini-day in London.

I planned on a day in the Kensington Area, since I had seen a picture of the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall, a super grand entrance hall with incredible architecture. First stop though: Breakfast.

I went to Sheila’s Cafe and ordered the English Breakfast plate. I did, however, order coffee. After breakfast, I walked through Kensington Park towards the museum. It was gorgeous and had a pond with vases featuring swans right next to a little rest where a few were hanging out. I wanted to rent a bike, but had difficulty with the program and having an international zip code. So I walked. I did use an awesome app called “Stasher” to store my larger carry-on for the day.

The museum was quite cool. I saw the Dippy the Diplosaurus cast, a lot of fossils, some gems, and the great hall. Off of one of the galleries of the hall was a “Treasures” room where they had beautifully displayed some of the highlights of the collection. It was cool to see things in person that I had only seen in pictures- especially since I didn’t even know where the originals were!

Afterwards, I walked towards the Saatchi Gallery where a special Tiffany’s display is being hosted. It was a very nice part of town- Chelsea, I think. There were lots of good looking people in beautiful clothes living a model life. I didn’t look terrible since I was wearing a dress, but I was impressed with how so many people were so well-turned out. At the gallery, a lot of women were very fashionably dressed. The exhibit was good, but it was sort of like a really drawn out commercial. But hey, I saw the “Beyonce necklace” and some other amazing jewels that I wouldn’t say no to so overall, it was a nice event even if I did end up going through it pretty quickly.

Quick Harrods Food Hall Stop

Then, it was time to head to Stensted. The express train was delayed so the trip took longer than normal- 55 minutes instead of 30 minutes. Hot tip: you need to buy Stensted express tickets rather than just tapping through the turnstile with a normal farecard or RFID card or phone. So, I did that but then they were checking tickets on exit which was causing a LOT of consternation since people were late for their flights and the check was really time-consuming. I saw the huge line and figured there had to be another way out (there’s never just one!) and I was right! There was another shorter check by the lift halfway down the platform so I go through relatively quickly. One other hot tip that I have for people in general is that, if you are not ready to show your card/ticket/pass/whatever, please step to the side rather than block everyone else until your entitled, ill-prepared self is finally sorted out.

So, I took my first RyanAir flight. It is hilariously terrible in a “what do you expect, you get what you pay for” sort of way. Mostly in the form of really brusque customer service. But I got to Baden-Baden without trouble, went through customs, and used my 9 Euro card to take the bus into town! Yes, June-August, the German DB transport system sells month passes for all city and regional travel for just 9 Euros/month. Amazing! That, combined with Google maps public transport routes, made traveling really easy.

I checked into my hotel and at dinner at the attached beer garden. It was a beautiful night and very enjoyable, as well as easy after a long, logistically-intense day.

Rec’ing Ball

I want to start posting more regularly and one way is to have repeating topic-based posts. Now, I have tried this before with no follow-through so no promises that this is going to stick. But I think I have a good idea! This recommendations based post will be for recommendations that I have and recommendations I gather up from other sources (mostly Instagram). Hopefully, it’ll be a good way for me to look back on things that caught my eye for future ideas, mostly related to travel.

Menlo Park Area Eats: SMS and I went to Ben Franks, a drive-thru and walk-up window hot dog shack in Redwood City. The hot dogs and cross-cut fries are delicious! I got a chili dog and SMS went with the classic (classic). Yum!

I also had a Philz iced mint mojito, which was so tasty. I order it “house-style” with cream and milk. The only disappointing thing is that it is very heavy on the ice.

Love a good meme!

Funny memes: Maybe I will look for a weekly meme so I remember when I read them. A little meme timeline? Anyway, here’s last week’s!

Not digging it!

Buying the right thing the first time: I think Caroline-bird has been missing her playground and her friend, Mr. Pinks. I bought a lampshade from Ikea, since the birds really liked to chew on other shades I’ve owned. Nope! Doesn’t like. Don’t worry, a bird playground is on the way!

France Trip Recommendations: SMS had a picture of Gordes, France pop up on his work computer lock screen. It looks very beautiful. Also, a friend of mine recently went to Calanques National Park. A pretty town with oysters: Île de Ré. La Table du Maroc, a restaurant by the river in Saintes, France.

Spain Trips Recommendations: A woman whose IG account that I follow is in Barcelona. I’m not sure when I’ll get an itch to go there but a few cool places include the El Born neighborhood, the Moco Museum, the Aire Ancient Baths (I have either heard of this or there are Aire baths in other European cities?), and the Moirai Market (clothes).

A Cat Named Mausie

SMS is a very kind-hearted person with a particular soft spot for animals. Not animals as his own personal pets (I want a doggie), but just in general. He supports the World Wildlife Fund and generally, just really feels compelled to help protect them (maybe this is why he is against me having a doggie?).

Anyway, SMS and I were walking around the neighborhood, which is a great way to unwind at the end of a day. I am loving these long summer days and extended twilight evenings! All of a sudden, SMS says, “Wait, isn’t that the lost cat?!”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but I did see the cat in the corner lot yard. He said, “No, really, we just passed the sign.” He ran back to get a picture of the sign to prove that it existed, get a picture of the cat, and get the contact information. We looked at the sign, the cat, the sign, the cat and yes, we were looking at the same cat.

I encouraged SMS to call and after a moment of hesitation, he called. That started a pretty hilarious conversation where the owner said that the cat wasn’t lost and SMS saying the reason we were calling is because of the sign. It turns out that earlier in the week, the cat hadn’t come home for three days so the owner was worried. The owner thought he had taken down all the signs but it seemed he missed one. He was appreciative of the call. SMS hung up, we watched the cat for a bit, and went on our way.

Later that night, SMS got a follow-up thank you text. This was the point where I figured out that the cat’s name was Mausie. How awesome is that? I thought it was a pretty funny name for a cat. I’m going to steal it and use it when I name my dog.