Baby does Berlin

We were in need of a family holiday recently so took a short trip to Berlin at the end of May. What we discovered was a modern, fun, interesting city which was also baby-friendly (Kitty was just coming up to 15 months). Here’s a little guide for anyone looking for a city break to keep the adults and babes in your family happy.

First off, get the Like a Local app. Specifically designed to help you avoid the tourist traps, all the food/shopping/sightseeing tips are recommended by locals to the area. We’ve used this wonderful guide in Tallinn, Stockholm, Barcelona and Berlin, and it never fails. What’s more, you can download maps to use offline while wandering around!

We stayed at Leonardo Hotel, which was fantastic and well-situated between Alexanderplatz (central transport hub of the Mitte district) and the hip neighbourhood of Prenzlauer Berg.

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We found the transport systems (trams, the underground and overground trains) reliable and easy to use. Kitty loves people-watching and spent all our journeys grinning at strangers!

Eating

We ate huge pizzas at I Due Forni, great fast burgers at O Der Burger and insanely delicious and inventive burgers at Bun Bao. (Mine was a tuna steak with sweet potato fries. YES) Berlin is rife with vegetarian, vegan and gluten free places to eat, especially in the Prenzlauer Berg area.

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There are various supermarkets all over the city (including ALDI and LIDL), but as we were passing we picked up some groceries from hip organic store LPG Biomarkt.

Shopping 

We’re avid flea market fans, so were thrilled to discover the Mauerpark flea which was recommended to us by various friends. It’s an all-day event, and is ENORMOUS. Wear comfy shoes, you’ll spend all day there. Later in the day, neighbouring Mauerpark fills up with music and people relaxing, dancing and drinking in the sun. Wonderful festival atmosphere! There are lots of great places to eat nearby; O Der Burger is just across the road.

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Another good flea/antiques market (which sells itself as the original) is the Trodel Markt, which takes place on Saturday mornings next to the Tiergarten underground station.

We also loved the Humana chain of secondhand and vintage clothes. We visited the Alexanderplatz branch and the huge store (five floors!) near Friedrichshain underground station.

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Just wandering around Berlin you will stumble across interesting shops. Keep your eyes peeled!

Doing

I was really conscious that Kitty would be spending a lot of her time sitting in her pushchair, and luckily she is pretty happy observing the world around her. However, I wanted to make sure she had some time to play every day. This is where Berlin really comes into its own, with its wealth of child-friendly “kindercafés” spread across the city. Almost every café we went to for lunch had a sandpit!

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Giraffe, in Tiergarten, has an expansive baby-friendly menu and great outdoor sandpit. Afterwards, take a stroll in beautiful Tiergarten, Berlin’s enormous city park.

There’s also a great sandpit and play area near the LPG supermarket, and playgrounds in every park we walked through. Another excellent café is Kiezkind, which has both outdoor and indoor sandpits!

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We took Kitty on an open-top bus tour, and she lasted around an hour before she got bored and, ahem, demanded to get off. So instead spent an enjoyable hour climbing up the stairs of the concert hall in Gendarmenmarkt square. She also thoroughly enjoyed crawling around and looking at the animals in the small but very interesting Natural History museum.

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Berlin also boasts several vintage photobooths, which have been restored to their former retro glory. For a mere €2 you can take home some adorable family snaps. We’ll treasure ours for years to come. You’ll probably spot them wandering around the city but you can also find a map of their whereabouts here.

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We also visited the Berlin wall and went up the TV Tower for terrific views across the city. There were lots of things we didn’t do (the zoo, Ramones museum, Museum of Things) – but whatever you do, it will be great fun. For more recommendations check out the fantastic resource that is Berlin For All the Family – wish I’d seen it before we went!

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Just wandering around Berlin you’ll see all sorts of lovely, colourful, interesting sights – the true mark of a great city. I think you’ll love it 0r whether you have kids or not!

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An engagement shoot

A few weeks ago, me and Jim spent a morning in Erddig, Wrexham’s beautiful National Trust property, with our wedding photographer – and lovely friend – Llinos. And we shot an engagement photo session! We didn’t originally intend to do one of these, as I’m aware that sometimes they can be a bit, erm, cheesy, but we thought it was a good chance to get used to being photographed ahead of our wedding day.

As photoshoots go, we wanted something informal and outdoorsy. We’re extremely lucky to live so close to the beautiful house and grounds at Erddig, and knew it would be the perfect place for a pretty outdoor shoot, with all the lovely Autumnal colours. We had a great morning wandering through the woods, climbing across tree trunks and strolling through the crunchy leaves. Llinos is a lovely pal, but also a really fun, relaxed photographer, and she put us at ease all the way through.

I love Llinos’ photos and am now all the more excited for that bit of our wedding day (five months and counting!). Here are some shots from the shoot. Enjoy!

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France on film

I’m a big fan of film photography, and although I don’t take use my film camera as often as I’d like to, I adore looking through the pictures. Film photographs have that wonderful nostalgia, hazy quality that is so popular now with modern camera apps – but I always prefer the real thing. We usually just get the negatives developed, then scan them in ourselves. It’s more time-consuming, but means we can choose which ones to print out and immortalise on our walls.

We recently got the film from our Summer jaunt to France developed, and with the weather round these parts turning gradually colder, I’ve loved looking through pictures from warmer climes. To sum up, we drove to the Loire Valley to buy wine for our wedding next year: via Paris, down to Batilly-en-Puisaye, where we stayed in a treehouse; through the lovely town of Gien, then through miles and miles of wine country in Blois, Tours and Saumur; then to Nantes, where we visited Les Machines de l’île. We then drove up through Rennes, along the north coast and spent our last night and morning in France looking out across the channel, towards home. It was a busy trip, but a really fun one too, and I’m sure these photos from our last holiday together as “single” people will bring us joy for years to come. I hope you enjoy this bit of Summer in your Autumn.

(You can see more of my film adventures right here.)

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Lately

Spending: a sunny morning at our first car boot sale of the year

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Hanging: out in the garden with our small, feathered friends

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Celebrating: May birthdays with treasure hunts, parties and of course, cake

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Delighting: in signs of Spring after a very long winter

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Whiling: away many an evening with the usual crafting and baking

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An Estonian love affair

Last month, we spent a week in Tallinn, Estonia. We like to visit unusual, off-the-beaten-track sort of places, and Tallinn certainly didn’t disappoint. When we arrived we had just missed the latest big snowfall, so it was very cold, with the ground white and icy, but the sky was blue and clear – perfect weather for exploring. Tallinn is a small but beautiful city, a true mix of ancient town walls and modern shops. We stayed just at the edge of the Old Town, the perfect spot for exploring local wool shops, vintage stores and cafés, and as well as good access to museums and flea markets further out of town.

Before holidays, we like to do plenty of research. This usually involves scouring the internet for local flea markets, festivals and recommendations of good places to eat/drink/party. While researching Tallinn, we stumbled across a wonderful resource called Like a Local. Currently covering almost thirty cities across Europe, the Like a Local guide includes only recommendations from locals. In the words of the guide’s creators, it is “about finding those cool and hidden spots that locals like to hang out and missing the tourist traps. All our content is created by selected locals who’ve lived in their city for years and really know what they’re talking about.”

Brilliant! We thought. And it really was – especially since the guide has a mobile app, which requires no internet connectivity when you’re out and about. This was especially helpful in Tallinn, where many restaurants and bars which were lovely inside didn’t look exactly, erm, welcoming from the outside. If you are holidaying in Europe anytime soon I would heartily recommend checking out the Like a Local website and app. This guide truly helped us out every day of our holiday, and thanks to it, we ate, drank and shopped in some great, and extremely varied, places.

Ok, I think I’ve gushed enough about the guide, haven’t I? (Seriously though, check it out. It’s great.) Our week away really was magical, with highlights including exploring the many woolly-goods shops in the Old Town; catching local buses and trams to trapped-in-time flea markets; the snowy wonderland of Kadriorg Palace; getting engaged; taking a day tour of the stunning Lahemaa National Park; visiting the brilliant Puppet and Seaplane Harbour Museums; and of course, eating some of the most delicious food I’ve ever tasted. Giant pancakes anyone? Oh, did I mention we got engaged!? More about that below…for now, though, here are some photos:

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So…the engagement! In the middle of our third day in Tallinn, in a tiny, cosy little café called Chocolaterie Pierre, Jim proposed. I was taken completely by surprise, especially as I had no idea when he would have been to get a ring. Turns out he had been fibbing about where he was going and sneaking off ring shopping with his friend Stan. Crafty! Of course I said yes, and for the rest of the holiday we were in a delirious happy bubble, so much so that I didn’t really fancy coming home…but I knew the reactions from our family and friends would be wonderful, and they were. We are getting married in May 2014 in the Welsh countryside, and I am so excited!

So Tallinn will always hold a special place for us, not just for obvious reasons, but because it is a beautiful place. A sparkly ring always helps to make a holiday, but when the city itself is a true gem, well, you can’t really go wrong.

You can see the rest of our holiday snaps over on flickr.

Snow adventures

We recently had a LOT of snow around these parts, which, like many of our friends, we took as the perfect opportunity to go frolicking. Erddig House is a National Trust property in Wrexham, which features an 18th Century country house and a beautiful 485-hectare country park. We are lucky enough to live within walking distance of the park, and have enjoyed many picnics, walks and frisbee games in the summer sunshine. It’s a lovely place, popular with dog-walkers and families alike, and is a wonderful pocket of greenery right near the town centre.

So when the snow came, we decided to spend an afternoon in Erddig, wandering through snowdrifts and taking photographs. Although the snow caused a lot of disruption in the town, it also transformed our surroundings into a Winter wonderland. Erddig was especially enchanting, and I was awestruck by the beauty we encountered on our walk. Snow may be annoying, but it has the power to make everything silent, calm, and utterly stunning. Here are some photos from our afternoon out – and you can find the whole set over on Flickr.

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Lately: phone edition

My brother spoiled me last Christmas by giving me his old iPhone. I’ve never had a fancy phone before and I have to admit that I’m slightly obsessed. I can go on the internet any time I like! Obviously this is dangerous and makes for rash, excited Twitter behaviour and online purchases. I’ve also started taking photos with my phone, which means I’ve beeen neglecting my film and SLR cameras. Sob. But I’m sure the novelty will wear off, and I hope to redress the balance soon. In the meantime, here’s what’s been happening lately via my iPhone…

Enjoying: an indulgent evening of fancy cocktails at the top of the Hilton hotel, Manchester

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Finding: treasures, and only taking some of them home

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Marvelling: at handmade feats of beauty

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Preparing: for an Alice in Wonderland themed Comic Relief fundraiser at the library where I work

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And of course, crafting: as usual…

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