Songkran water festival in Thailand is just one month away!

 

Check out my feature on how to survive Songkran – one of the world’s craziest parties.

I wrote this one for Jetstar Asia inflight magazine for all those people heading to the festival and in need of travel hacks to make sure they have the most bodacious time ever! 🙂 Go to the feature by clicking below.

Click here

I’m all excited about the Luminale 2016 light exhibition all over Frankfurt this week

Abena at the bar

I only heard about this light/art at night event while I was scrolling through Meetup.com checking out who and what was happening in Frankfurt. I saw a photography group were meeting up at Luminale 2016 and as always were ready to welcome newbies so I signed up and charged my cam.

When I checked out the website (click here) for the event I was pretty overwhelmed with the sheer amount of exhibits around the city. The programme was over 100 pages!

The event kicked off on march 14 and, as is happens I had to send my apologies to the photography lot because (Lord only knows how this happened) the train was late and then cancelled! For those of you who know Germans and Germany, lateness is just not an option so I was totally baffled while standing, freezing me bits off at the station.

I was also meeting some new buddies, who were very understanding. One was also running late… Obviously this friend was not German 😉

I digress! ..The light show.

Luminale 2016 is a city-wide light exhibition, on until March 18, when as soon as it gets dark the whole city comes alive with light and sound art installations, projections and interactive art at various different venues.

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I made another video! I think this is a slight improvement on the last one but still, I have a long way to go….. 😉

We wondered into the Trianon Light Show near Taunusanlage S-bahn.

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In the S-bahn station we found a hologram of grafitti and artistic lighting.

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After a while I was mesmorized by all of the city lights. There was something magical in the air.

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Red light district

Even the red light district became art.

Snow picnics and frolics – embrace the winter in Germany

First of all I feel I must apologise for not having an awesome picture of a snow picnic! 🙁

You see guys, it happened like this. We were on our way to the zoo – we were stuck for something to do and thought, why not – but there was a traffic jam on the highway into Frankfurt so we got off at the B8 to Königstein in search for a place to stop for coffee.

We went towards Große Feldberg, which is the highest of the Taunus Mountains at 878m, and as we drove higher up into the mountain we noticed the snow get thicker on the ground until 15 minutes later we were surrounded by this magical winter wonderland!

Mario in the snow

We took a walk. The snow was the deepest I (who has never done a ski season) had ever experienced. It was up to my shins. Awesome. The animals had to wait. Frolicking in the snow became the flavour of the day. I even made a video. Check it out 🙂

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view from the feldberg

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A snow picnic spot…or what?!

The German felsenmeer – it’s rock climbing but not as you know it..

It was a sunny day so my boyfriend Mario suggested we go climbing on rocks…
I thought he was getting confused with his English (being German) so I said “Don’t you mean rock climbing?”
It turned out that he actually meant what he said. We spent a bright morning climbing and scrambling over rocks at a felsenmeer, in the town of Reichenbach, which is something of a geological wonder.

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I mean look at all of those rocks! Where did they come from?

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Without going into a full blown geology lesson I can tell you that no one put them there and that their existence is the result of a type of weathering that happens when water gets into rock and turns into ice, thus expanding and breaking up the rock. Some people however will tell you that two giants had a fight and started chucking boulders at each other and kept on going until they created the “sea of rocks”, which is what felsenmeer actually means in German.

If you live in the southern hemisphere and you are going to travel to the north going to hang out at a felsenmeer is something you should try because these rock formations only exist in the northern part of the world and mostly in places like Iceland.

This one has boulders as big as trucks to trek over but if you don’t fancy climbing there is a woodland path that trails alongside.

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I would describe this felsenmeer as a play park created by mother nature –  pretty cool non?

We decided to climb from the bottom to the top for more of a challenge. Mario hopped from one rock to another without a care in the world. He can get to the top within an hour.

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I, on the other hand, was like a Bambi – all shaky legged and not knowing where to put my feet. It takes me twice as long to conquer the felsenmeer on a good day. I wouldn’t even attempt it if the weather is wet and the rocks are super slippery. Having said that, neither would Mario.

Good thing is there is a snack bar at the bottom and a restaurant at the top! We had no idea about the opening times of them so we took a picnic.

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It turned out to be a pretty awesome day and cheap too. It was a two hour drive from Frankfurt on the A5 in the direction of Darmstadt and Mannheim. We got off towards Reichenbach. Parking was just two euros and there was no charge to get in. I can’t wait to go back and give it another go 🙂

How to eat fresh and local in Gran Canaria – the foodie adventure!

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We have been having some seriously good eats in Gran Canaria!

I am a total foodie and so far the restaurant offerings on the island are yet to impress me. It is so hard to get away from flavourless dishes, ‘tourist food’ and meals that go ‘ping’. Yes, it’s true there are restaurants out here that think people want to eat out on microwave meals! The easiest way to spot these bad boys is to check that there is actually a kitchen. If there is a menu and no kitchen…well you know what is going on.

Our most memorable food adventures have come from exploring the markets and the harbour.

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Our favourite place to get fresh fruit and vegetables is San Mateo Farmers Market in the north of the island. It is open on the weekends from 7am to 7pm, on Saturday, and 7am to 2pm, on Sunday.

Gran Canaria’s  main products include tomatoes, bananas and aloe vera. So get hold of these when you see them because the quality is top notch.

We stocked up on sweet peppers, oranges, carrots, sugar apples, avocados, onions, lemons, pears, pomegranates, courgettes, strawberries, spices, fresh herbs, Lanzarote wine, cakes and cheese. The prices are cheaper than in the more touristy areas. The stalls all have different prices so it’s worth shopping around. Also there are lots of cheeses so try before you buy.

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Next stop was to Arguineguin. There is small fish store at the port that sells the catches of the day until 3pm. The variety changes depending on the haul but the quality is always great. Here, we found red snapper, shark, squid, salmon, tuna, sardines and many others selections of fish, which we had no idea what they were because of the language barrier and our lack of knowledge about fish. There was a poster on the wall labelling the fish in Spanish…

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The harbour is a working place. Fishermen sort out their equipment and engineers work on boats. There is a eating place next door but, like I said, I am yet to be impressed by Gran Canaria’s restaurants.

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So back home and stocked up with the best of Gran Canaria’s produce we cooked like our lives depended on it! Lol!

We fried the fish one morning. It’s a big smelly job. Dip the fish in spiced flour first and then fry. Simples. Those fish were great steamed over onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes (see above).

The paella was a lot more complicated. We found a recipe online and adjusted it to our tastes and it came out a treat.

I keep saying we, but I was merely sous chef and my boyfriend Mario was head chef.

 

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And then came a wonderful tapas meal. We made a salsa, guacamole, grilled courgettes, spiced shrimp, fish, bitter peppers and served it with the wine from Lanzarote.

Everyone was in the kitchen for this one, chopping, frying and seasoning under the direction of the lovely Mario. It was a fun-filled evening that ended with great eating!

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My well planned day trip in Gran Canaria was an epic fail! Here’s what happened…

The night before the ‘ill fated trip’ I checked the map of and found a route through the pretty towns of Arucas and Firgas and on to the highlight, which was a picnic in the forest beside the famous natural sight that is Roque Nublo. All of this is the north of the island, which is famous for its gorgeous mountainous terrain.

I woke up early and packed a picnic, warm clothes, yoga mats, blankets, a frisbee and some books. I had everything I thought we could possibly need. We set off in our hire car in good time and I knew my itinerary was going to please the whole family but there was something I didn’t take into consideration – those sheer drops along the mountain roads are certainly not for the faint-hearted and made for some tense moments, bad moods and arguments.

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See look a the map. My idea was to take the highway from Maspalomas along the east side of the island up to Arucas, bypassing the long drive up through the mountains that lie in the middle of the island. The mountain route takes 3 hours but the highway takes about one hour so I thought, lets get to Arucas and then travel down through the mountains. See how lovely Arucas is. Everyone was so happy…

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The beautiful cathedral next to the car park leads onto the historic streets, which are lined with coffee shops and boutiques.

Arucas street scene

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arucas tower rum

Oh, and guess what? Arucas has a rum factory that does free tours and tastings. We tried about 10 different rums. The one aged 14 years put that smile on my face. My favourite, and the bottle we bought, was the toffee rum. I am so excited to splash that over some good quality vanilla ice cream. Yeah baby!

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Rum tasting before lunch!? We had little choice because factory is open from 9am to 2pm (click here for more information)

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My thoughts were ‘I’m on to a winner here’ as we walked around with the tour. It was short and sweet, like the rum!

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Lots of Spanish celebrities have been there and have put their mark on the aging barrels. It was so cool to see.

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arucas rum mario and me

I hadn’t even tasted the rum yet and I was feeling pretty awesome!

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I did a check. The whole family was happy and ready to move onto Firgas. We only needed a short half hour stay here because the main sight is the Paseo de Gran Canaria. It’s an artistic monument that pays tribute to the different towns of Gran Canaria with plaques lining a water feature.

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Further up are plaques on the ground representing all of the islands that make up the Canaries.

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The next stop was what I was most looking forward to. The drive past Tejeda into the pine forests next to Roque Nublo where we would have our picnic and chill out for the rest of the day. As we drove higher my ears popped and the landscape gradually looked more green. We were so high we could see for miles. I thought it was breathtaking.

We made it to Tejeda…

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Pretty isn’t it? In the distance you can see Roque Nublo. It looks like a finger pointing towards the sky.

The drive to this point is impressive. Narrow mountain roads lined with blossoming almond trees. A treat. True wanderlust but when you look straight down all you can see is cliff edge and a sheer drop into the wilderness…

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The aim was to go higher but the whole family was NOT in agreement. It was too scary so I took the decision to picnic here and then head home afterwards.

You know those moments that are not funny at the time but you laugh at them afterwards? This was one of them. We thought the quickest route back was southwards on the mountain road past the famous Roque. I should have thought we would have to go all the way before going down. OMG, I was clenching my bum cheeks too. The road was super windy and right on the edge of the mountain and it went on for at least an hour. I thank goodness that my boyfriend Mario is a very skilled driver but, if those mountain roads put you or anyone you  know in a panic, don’t travel from Tejeda south towards Maspalomas, unless of course you want tears at bedtime!

Why at 35 my only ambition is to do the splits by age 40

I remember the first time I ever attempted yoga. I was sat in my living room trying to relax with my legs crossed but I was so out of shape my knees were closer to my ears than the floor and my hip muscles hurt.

My priority in life was my ‘so called career’ so I worked day and night and through lunch breaks to climb an illusionary ladder. I had a great job, which I almost forgot to enjoy, and an aching neck from long hours working at a desk. I also had no patience and a tendency to binge drink at the weekend.

That, however, was not the beginning of my yoga journey but more like the beginning of getting fit again. I gave up the yoga out of boredom and frustration and took up Zumba, which I loved. Then came kickboxing and after that, while in Thailand, I learnt to love yoga.

 

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Yoga reminds us to take time for ourselves and that, even when it doesn’t seem so, there are enough minutes in the day.

It doesn’t leave out a single part of oneself – mind, body and soul get stretched, strengthened and balanced.

It gives us patience to learn poses, improve balance and empty our minds and in turn to learn new things, understand the people around us and relax.

Yoga has taught me to listen to my body. I know what it needs and when. I listen to people more too and understand their needs.

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Yoga reminds me that challenges are fun and not to be feared.

It makes me really look at the beauty in this world and appreciate what I have.

I am amazed how my body is continually becoming more flexible, strong and healthy as I get older.

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Yoga is a free gift. You can share it with people you care about as well as complete strangers. I love heading to Youtube for Lesley Fightmaster’s Fightmaster Yoga channel (click here) for her awesome sessions.

When I lived in Thailand I took my yoga instruction in Thai at a community sports place in Chatuchak Park. I was the only foreigner yet I understood and laughed and joked with the other yoga lovers, even though we didn’t speak the same language.

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Most of all yoga has taught me that it is never too late to learn or do anything. One does not need to be an expert or have talent to join in. Just enjoying yoga teaches us to enjoy life.

So I realise that when you have yoga everything else will follow. My first priorities are no longer my emails but my stretches. I am excited when I rest my head on my knees and I am looking forward to one day doing the splits.

I build my life on a foundation of a happy and healthy self and I know now that everything else will follow.

I got it wrong, you don’t have to be rich to relocate for the winter

Hi guys. It has been a while, but trust me I have been finding out how to make life into the ultimate adventure. Not just once in a while, but everyday. Here’s the latest..

I used to think that popping off long-term to a sunnier place when the winter months became too much was a privilege of the rich but I was wrong, it’s something anyone can do if you are prepared to change your life.

This is my new life.

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I came to Gran Canaria for a month to see if it was really possible to live the dream and be a digital nomad. The temperatures back in Germany were heading towards freezing and having spent the last three years of my life living and working in Thailand, it just felt too cold. So I had to do something about it. It was time to pack up the ‘office’ and change location, but could I really do it on the cheap?

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One thing living in Thailand taught me was that there is a growing number of people working at the beach, by the pool or soaking up the sun in some other wonderful place. It was a discovery that changed me and made me change my life. Who says I have to go to the office, deal with the commute and put up with the humdrum? When I left Thailand I came back to Europe knowing whatever my next career move was going to be, it was going to be online. For me, teaching English online and writing was an obvious choice.

When winter came all I knew was I needed some sunshine and some heat so I Googled the cheapest hottest place in Europe and Gran Canaria was my answer. Flights were 100 GBP so all I had to do was find a base. I used ihacom.co.uk to book an apartment, near to the famous sand dunes of Maspalomas, direct with the owner. My mother, stepfather and boyfriend all wanted to go so we paid 300GBP a head for the apartment for five weeks.

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I wanted to be able to work with good internet connection and then go for a stroll on the beach or swim. Mum needed conveniences and my boyfriend Mario wanted to find some good surfing spots so we ended up in the tourist area. It is easy to rent a car for about 150GBP for the week. When you take into account taxi and bus prices this is the most cost effective option for a group of people.

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Internet connection in apartments are notoriously slow because they are often shared among a lot of flats so I had to invest in renting a mobile wifi modem. I used a company called Traveler Canaries Smart, who delivered the fast wifi connection to me at the airport. A representative was waiting for me as soon as I got off the plane. He signed me in and I was connected. It cost 100 euros for the biggest package.

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So here I am, working and exploring the island. It has amazing mountains and these stunning sand dunes. It doesn’t have the glamour of a tropical country but it has what I need within my budget. Let’s see how the next few weeks turn out…

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Travel to Tuscany and discover the anti-ageing benefits of red grapes and bathe in wine

Happy New Year adventurers. Sorry I haven’t posted over Christmas and New Year, it has been so hectic with hosting my boyfriend Mario’s family in Germany on Christmas Eve and then flying off to the UK the next day to visit my family on Christmas Day. Phew! After that I needed time out.

AND I have been busy with some magazine projects, one of which is out now!

As you may know Mario and I travelled around Tuscany in a mobile home for three weeks in summer and one of our many adventures was visiting The Adler Thermae in Bagno Vignony spa town and UNESCO World Heritage Site to.. (get this)… bathe in wine.

I had no idea what to expect.

Would the wine smell linger in my hair for days? Will it stain my skin? Can I drink the bath water?…Even if no one’s looking?

The answers to those questions are no, no and no but I did discover the anti-ageing benefits of the red grape seeds that make the region’s famous Brunello wine.

You can read all about it in the latest edition of The Riverside Journals luxury lifestyle magazine in London. Click here to read (and ignore the content warning. It is a technical hitch).