Trip Number Four (of Twelve): Berlin, Germany

My first trip to Berlin Germany

Trip Number Four (of Twelve): Berlin, Germany…

Can’t believe we are already four months into the year, and thus my fourth trip for the year to Berlin is now under my belt.

Thea's Trip number four (of twelve) Berlin, Germany

Traveling to Germany was one big adventure from start to finish. In this post, I will highlight some things I love (and hated) about Berlin….

I could probably write several posts about Berlin, if time permits, but here are a few thoughts I have after visiting Berlin. (One post I would like to write is how Berlin Compared to Glasgow).
trip four to berlin - sightseeing

Berlin: It’s Massive

At 891.8 km² – this city is huge and is very busy. With over 3.5 million people living there, and however many visiting at any given time, Berlin is pretty crowded everywhere.

So you need to work out how to navigate the city. Public transport is very effective, well once you get the hang of it. It may be about my favourite thing about Berlin.

There are buses, trams, Ubahn/Sbahn and trains. The best thing about Berlin was how all transport integrates with one ticket. Not only that, it’s the honour system. You walk on and off of all their transport without really having to use your ticket (except for maybe buses where I did tend to hold my ticket in my hand as I passed). But really once you validate your ticket in any machine on your first journey you’re pretty much “good to go”.

I totally can’t imagine Glasgow (or even Britain) doing such a thing. I loved it.

The Brandenburg Gate is an 18th-century neoclassical monument in Berlin

Berlin Architecture is Amazing

For those like me who love looking at beautiful buildings this is a place for you. Do it on foot and consider taking one of the many boat trips along the rivers and or canals.

There are 170 museums and galleries, countless government buildings, churches, and monuments too – all of which, pretty much, were compelling. Seeing bits of buildings missing after having been bombed or shot at is pretty incredible. There is, and I guess pretty much always has been/will be, a lot of building and repairs going on after such an incredible amount of bombings.

So inevitably there is this interesting juxtaposition of old meeting new in Berlin. Or I guess in some cases new being built to look old. It’s fascinating. The downside of all this construction is that many of the most beautiful buildings had scaffolding around them or fences and so forth. Still it’s just one of those things.

The Fernsehturm is a television tower in central Berlin, aka TV Tower

Show me the Money – Cash is King in Berlin

One of the strangest things of note about Berlin, and the fact I loathed the most, was that card usage was less prevalent on smaller ticket items. So if you are going to Berlin make sure that you are always carrying a bit of cash. As someone who usually pays for everything with a card ans seldom has cash, I found that a bit disconcerting, even frustrating.

Even more challenging to me was the fact that there were not really that many ATM machines as readily available as I am used to in UK cities. Also a bit scarce for my liking, in such a big city, there were not tons of banks all over the place like they are here.

Again these are just my observations.

Thankfully I had Neil to pay when I needed cash and I eventually managed to find a bank to pull some out to pay him back! If I return to Berlin I will no doubt be more prepared, regardless.

River Spree Berlin, Boat Trip

Best Ways to See Berlin: Walk or Bike

I am a walker myself but Berlin is definitely a biking city with shops and apps to rent bikes all over the place. Neil kept trying to convince me to get a bike so we could ride around the city and see more but I wasn’t feeling it. I found Berlin to be overwhelming and bikes riding on pavements as well as the roads, cars coming at you from different directions and don’t get me started about pedestrians – it just felt too stressful on my first trip. Maybe next time I’ll feel more confident.

So walking it was. I covered around 25,000 steps each day on average (best was 28,000) and on foot was able to take photos everywhere. Ended up with over 500 photos between my camera and my phone. Will take a while to go through them all!

It was nice to see Berlin on foot and cover areas like the East Side Gallery, over the Oberbaum Bridge, passing the Molecule Man statue and so forth. In those five or so days I walked from one end of the city to the other and felt all the better for it. Well sort of. I think I managed to dehydrate myself, the effects I am still feeling in my body. Note to self: take more water next time.
Boat on the Spree Berlin

Or Take a Boat Along the River Spree

Another good way to see Berlin is by boat. It was one of the things I really really wanted to do and when it came to the opportunity it was the most stressful part of my own trip so please learn from my error in judgement…

I took the Sbahn over toward Alexanderplatz and got off early and took a walk. When I arrived there were several people selling the sightseeing tickets, and I hemmed and hawed of whether to do the bus or boat in the end as I only had a certain amount of time before meeting my friend Martin…So I bought a single boat ticket for fifteen euros from a guy Joshua, who was working for a new company that had just launched the day before (*first warning sign).

He told me to get on the bus and it would take me a few stops to the river where I would then be able to board the boat.

I got on the bus, (the only one on the bus – another warning sign) the new audio system was a bit glitchy. I finally asked the guy working with the driver where I should get off and I was effectively a stop passed it. He basically said go to the bridge and go down. He didn’t specify which side of the bridge, which way the boat would be going etc. It was supposed to simply be a hop-on-hop-off boat. Well could I find the place to get on? Could I F**K!

I saw a boat passing and figured I ought to be able to get on at the next stop since they were running frequently. Could I find the next stop? Could I find ANY stop? No…

Having a complete meltdown, unlike I’ve had in ages, I ended up walking all the way down the river to just opposite Berlin Hauptbahnhof. I was able to get on at the Reederei Riedel Anlegestelle boat place. The ticket they gave me was a one hour round trip so I had to go back there. By the time I got on the boat, I didn’t really even enjoy it. Next time, if I go back I will do better, for sure. The one I wanted to do was….The Bridge Tour of Berlin: The popular boat trip along the Spree river and the Landwehr canal shows numerous sights of Berlin – and more than 60 bridges.

Until Next Time, Berlin

Well that’s it for this post and perhaps I’ll be inspired to write another. Part of me wants to return to Berlin soon and part of me is in no rush to go back. The next trip, next month, will be Rome, Copenhagen, Iceland or Belgium…This time it’s not my call, it’s Kimba’s for her birthday. So watch this space guys!

Berlin Buildings from the Spree

Trip Number Three (of Twelve): Aberdour, Fife

Trip Three of Twelve - Aberdour, Fife

Trip Number Three (of Twelve): Aberdour, Fife

By the first week in March, I’d already done my third trip of the year to Aberdour, Fife. I went up for one night and liked it so much I stayed a second night. Aberdour, Fife wound up on my map due to meeting the owner of a hotel John at one of my Canva workshops in Lanarkshire. He’d traveled all the way down for it as it was the closest one to his business.

Anyway John wanted to talk about an idea he had to do some workshops at his hotel so it seemed like a way of doing both in one fell swoop…Namely a trip away and a face to face chat about his concept for these masterclasses.

Aberdour Castle, Aberdour Fife

The Woodside Hotel, Aberdour

So along I went – this time last weekend to the Woodside Hotel in Aberdour. I’d known nothing about the quaint wee village north of Edinburgh – apart from the fact it had a couple of beaches (Silver Sands and Black Sands) and a castle that was featured in Outlander as well.

It’s such a quaint wee place with a good feel to it. I met Woodside owner John at their cafe McTaggarts to start off the weekend and then was taken on a walking tour of the area. We strolled down to the harbour, up over some bluffs from one of its main beaches to the other.

Across the street from the hotel is a street with big stone gates which leads to the Aberdour Golf Course.

Workshops @ the Woodside

After returning to the hotel, our discussions about John’s workshops at the Woodside began in earnest. I’ve tentatively called them Workshops @ the Woodside but they can be called anything. It’s an exciting concept of doing half and full day workshops in areas like: health and well being, personal and professional development and finally the their area is loosely called creative pursuits. Pretty much everything we discussed would fit under that heading.

John with a copy of my Essential 80s Pop Quiz Book.

John and I also talked a lot about music. He was one of the 2000 or so people that actually bought my Essential 80s Pop Quiz book that I self-published in 1998. As he couldn’t find his, I brought him a new copy and five others to do with whatever he chooses. (‘Beats throwing them in a skip eh?)

Break Before Dinner

After the walk and all the talk I was pretty beat and retired to my room, or should I say suite, for a few hours. The Rennie Suite is a lovely large room with bay windows, an ensuite bathroom that boasts a bath and a shower, and a separate small TV room off the main room.

Took the opportunity to write in my Scotland Travel Journal (available on Amazon websites around the world) and a bit of a power nap before dinner.

Clipper room, with roof from RMS Orontes, Woodside Hotel Aberdour

At 7pm went down to have dinner with John and his wife Lis (pronounced Liz) in their spectacular Clipper room – complete with a cozy fireplace and a roof that was formally on a steamliner, the RMS Orontes. Dinner was tasty and conversations a plenty. Around 9pm or so it was back up to the suite to finish streaming my latest TV binge – Northern Rescue – on Netflix. (Very good, I recommend it)

Day Two in Aberdour Fife

Went down for breakfast, and had a chat with John about music. He proceeded to whip out a large variety of cassette tapes. One was even of my good friend’s bank, Thrum. Told him to open up and read the liner notes…to see my name amongst the others. Before I knew it, it was time to consider making tracks back to Glasgow.

I loaded up my luggage in the car and came back in to return the keys, only to realise I didn’t really want to leave…

When John asked if I had to, I paused to consider it for a moment, and the answer was “no”. I could stay another day in Aberdour Fife and explore a bit more and that’s what I did.

Fife Coastal Path, Aberdour FifeThe Fife Coastal Walkway & Castle

I took myself on a long walk by the golf course until I could really go no further (without winding up in the middle of someone’s rounds) and headed back to the village. By now I’d worked up an appetite and headed back to McTaggarts for lunch. After lunch it was a scoot around the grounds of Aberdour Castle…Well as far as the gift shop where I bought a few cards. I was too cheap to pay the six pounds to enter, but I will go next time as the views of the castle from inside the gardens look spectacular.

In any event I covered a lot of Fife’s walkways this map on foot and will do more next time…

Check out more pics from my Instagram here…

 

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Enjoyed My Time in Fife

After that it was more of the same, food, bath, writing, thinking, sleep. Next morning it was a dash back to Glasgow for a meeting. I was surprised it was only an hour away (55 miles door to door).

I look forward to going back to the Woodside Hotel, Aberdour, Fife for the workshops or possibly some gigs, of which there are many cool ones.

Was great to see owners John and Lis, of the Woodside in the newspaper.

In case you missed it, here’s my Trip one – Balmaha and Trip Two to Largs.

No idea where I will go for Trip Four but watch this space. It might even be Berlin next month. Or maybe the Highlands. Who knows? Open to suggestions…If you have them, leave them in the comments below.

PS: In case you missed why I am doing all of these trips each month, it’s because I decided to as a way of celebrating my father by taking him with me on little trips. I believe it’s what he wants for me now…

 

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Trip Number Two (of Twelve): Largs, Ayrshire

Trip Number Two Largs

Trip Number Two of Twelve - Largs AyrshireTrip # 2 (of 12): Largs, Ayrshire

It’s the last day of February 2019, and therefor time to write about my second trip of the year – an overnight stay in Largs, Ayrshire.

If you’re interested, you can read about my trip number one to Balmaha here.

To be honest, I find it a bit funny that I picked Largs to stay in – given it’s only about thirty or forty miles from where I live.

The fact of the matter is, I looked at the calendar thinking I had two weekends left in the month, when in reality I had one.

So I surfed over to Booking.com and typed in the day I wanted to go away, and up Largs came. It was a bargain basement price at a B&B. It was just thirty pounds…R E S U L T.

Culzean Castle Ayrshire - by Thea Newcomb

Culzean Castle

Before my stay in Largs, it was trip down to the south of Ayrshire, to Culzean Castle near Maybole with family friends of mine.

We stopped en route in Irvine to a coffee shop/cafe called Gro. That in itself was a mixed event but probably not worth talking about here today.

So after our meal it was to the castle,…I had once been to Culzean before, on what was effectively a perfect date with someone I briefly dated in the early 2000s. So yeah, that was a long time ago now.

Our first stop was Adventure Cove so the kids could run about. Then, while they played, J and I took a walk around Swan Lake (at least I think that was the name).

Culzean Castle Ayshire - by Thea Newcomb

Lynegar Guest House

On the way back from Culzean Castle, we stopped at the accommodation to pick up my room key. It’s a cute little brick house on the corner of the main road. I hadn’t bothered to look at its location so it was unfortunate to see it was on a busy road, which inconveniently had road works right outside it. Most disappointingly for me, was that I’d forgotten my ear plugs. Rookie mistake. Thankfully I did remember to pack my Bose headphones so I was ok.

Thea Newcomb - kicking back at Lynegar Guest House Largs - Trip # 2 of 2019

The upstairs room was clean and perfectly nice. Bed was adequate. My only complaint with the room itself was the fact that the bed and its pillows felt like they had some kind of paper protectors on it. I made a mental note to bring my own pillow on my subsequent trips, just in case. Regardless of that little niggle, this place was a lot better than last month’s trip to Balmaha and it was six pounds cheaper. Win/win.

Trip number two of twelve, Lynegar Guest House Largs Ayrshire

Breath of Heaven

I didn’t sleep great, but got myself up before nine, finished packing and headed out. I’d arranged to stop into the Green Shutters Bistro for breakfast – before hopping the ferry over to Millport. I had a lovely breakfast, more than I could eat, before catching the 11:15am Ferry across the water.

Breath of Heaven, Millport, Isle of Cumbrae Scotland by Thea Newcomb

My friend Juli, a fellow American transplant, runs thee cutest shop on Millport called Breath of Heaven. It truly is a breath of fresh air. There are so many cute items in this shop! Loved so many of the books on her shelf. Picked up some lavender oil for myself (as I use it daily to help me sleep).

I also picked up Scotland the Board Game. How fun is that?

Scotland the Board Game - Largs, Ayrshire

My Scotland Travel Journal

I am truly enjoying my short breaks this year, and writing in My Scotland Travel Journal as I go.

My March trip, or at least one of them, is over to the East Coast to the Kingdom of Fife for a night. Truly looking forward to that one.

Will update again when that stay, trip number three, has passed.

For now, am enjoying working three or four days a week and traveling and creating merch and KDP low/no content on the others. It’s not a bad way to live a life. It’s certainly more work/life balance than I’ve ever had.

Buy My Scotland Travel Journal

You can pick up my first ever KDP journal on Amazon USA or Amazon UK (it’s also available on all other Amazon stores…).

As you can see from one of the pictures above, I’ve been reading one of Mitch Ablom’s books, For One More Day.

It and his other best seller, Tuesdays with Morrie, are giving me much solace at this time…

Gilmore Girls – Warner Brothers Tour

WB studio tour hollywood

Warner Brothers Tour, Burbank

Have just returned to Glasgow – after a month in California – and thought it was time to pen a quickish blog!

Hard to believe that just a week ago I was busy cruising around the Burbank Warner Brothers studio lot in a golf cart!

Those who know me, generally know I’m a pretty big Gilmore Girls fan, so the news of their upcoming Netflix revival makes me, well, ecstatic.

I’m not sure how the idea of doing the WB tour popped into my head a few months ago, but the revival definitely played a part in it.

So I began to researching it…

To Tour or Not To Tour?

Anyway, if you’ve been contemplating taking the Warner Brothers Hollywood tour (actually in Burbank), then let me give you my own, recent experience of it…

The highs and lows, what it costs, how long it lasts, what you see, and whether it was worth doing or not…

Naturally this was just my own experience. I do suspect it’s different every time you take it.

I’d also suspect some tour guides would be better or at least different than others. My tour guide was from Chicago and a So Cal graduate in film making – so appeared to know her stuff.

How much does it cost? How long does it last?

As luck would have it, we were having lunch near the studio the day before I hoped to take the tour. My gut led me to swing by to buy my ticket. The hope was to do the 11am tour, but most slots were sold out. The first available tour was actually 11:30 AM. ‘No problem.

Plan ahead. I’d actually recommend either popping in to buy your ticket or buying it online ahead of time here. 

The basic guided tour for adults is $62.00 and lasts around two hours. At the end of the guided tour, you have the opportunity to take a “self-guided”, interactive tour (“Studio 48 – Script to Screen”). You can go through that at your leisure.

In an effort to drive back to Northern California ASAP, I blew through that in 15 minutes . Instead I headed straight for the gift shop (more later on that).

On the day…

You should arrive about fifteen minutes before your start time (at least). You can arrive earlier as there’s a Starbucks there for you to load up on your food and drink to take with you.

As soon as you arrive, you will be handed a ticket – whit or green (at least on that day) which is numbered.

You start with a ten minute movie about the studio’s history. It’s pretty cool. I actually found myself a little emotional at some of the snippets…

Then you load into a cart which is pretty big. They hold maybe 12 or so people comfortably.

I took the back row – deliberately – so I could turn around and try to steal shots as we drove around.

The Tour

Your guide will probably start off by asking you where you’re from and what shows you’re most interested in hearing about.

Let me just say I wasn’t the only one who was excited about the Gilmore Girls revival! Other people said Friends, Big Bang Theory, ER, Shameless and no one (not even me) admitted being excited to see Pretty Little Liars places.  I secretly was because my dad and I had just started to stream season one on Netflix the week before (but shhhh).

They start the tour taking you past buildings and offices (which sometimes double as hotels in TV shows like Pretty Little Liars and the Mentalist) before making the first stop at the back lot.

This was probably the best bit of the tour for me, as the first stop is the house that serves as Mrs Kim’s Antique store from the Gilmore Girls. Sookie’s house and the actual Gilmore’s house and garage too.

One of the house’s double’s as Spencer’s house on Pretty Little Liars. As you drive around the backlot you recognize the different buildings from other shows and films too. There’s the Fuller House house, the High School (from Gilmores and Pretty Little Liars) and the Church from Two and a Half Men.

I managed to take a few selfies and pics in front of the Gilmores house which was cool…but sadly on the street by Luke’s diner, they were filming so we didn’t get to go anywhere near the diner. Also a big white truck obscured it.

WB Hollywood, Burbank, Studio Tour - July 2016

OTHER AREAS

That was the most interesting part of the tour for me. At the point I was much less interested in the tour.

Dig Batman? Then you’ll love the stop to look at all the cool cars and take pics near them (but not in them or on them).

Ellen fan? You might like a tour of her soundstage. (No photographs allowed there).

Warner Brother's Studio Tour Hollywood - July 2016 - Thea Newcomb

If you like Friends then there are definitely some highlights on this tour for you – Phoebe’s dad’s place, Central Perk of course, and a few other places that will look familiar to you. I had to take the proverbial “sofa picture” in the coffee shop but on such a blistering hot day, I certainly wasn’t looking my best.

There is a longish walk-through of a props building which didn’t really interest me too much — though I am sure some people would find it utterly scintillating! (To each their own),…

Harry Potter Sorting Hat - WB Studios LA

There’s also a building with Batman items downstairs and Harry Potter upstairs. The most interesting thing for me there was the sorting hat…I didn’t put it on but I did watch one of the guys on my tour get assigned to the Hogwarts house of Gryffindor…That was pretty cool.

BEST/WORST BITS FOR ME?

Best bits of the tour for me personally were mostly the Gilmore buildings. Bummed I didn’t get to see the gazebo – I had heard it was available to take pictures on but not this time.

All three James Dean films had footage shot there on the lot. There were many other classics also were shot there.

The Friends sofa and some of ER’s Chicago items were super cool.

Loved how the same houses/buildings are used in so many different shows. (eg. The Gellor’s house on Friends is Emily’s house on Pretty Little Liars).

Now when I am watching anything, I am spotting the houses from the tour!

Now for the less than favourable things. Though I enjoyed the Batman movies – the buildings, costumes and transport items didn’t hugely excite me.

That said the Batman light/signal was pretty alright!

SHOPPING

The gift shop was pretty awesome. I could have spent more time and way more money in there but as it was I spent over a hundred dollars on Gilmore Girls merchandise in the form of t-shirts (for myself and my friend), mugs (for myself and my friend) and even a key chain too.

It was only as I was checking out that I noticed the “Who is A?” tank top which made me laugh. Especially as I am nearly done with season 1 of the show and have no clue what’s going on…

REcommend it?

Would I recommend this Warner Brothers Studio Tour? Yes I believe I would.

Whether or not I’d do it again is less certain. That said, as I mentioned at the beginning, I suspect each tour’s a little different.

I did see ONE movie star the whole time I was in Southern California and I can’t even remember his name. Naturally I didn’t even manage to snap a pic so I could later look him. I know who he is though and I will see him in something again soon I am sure.

Other Links

Here’s a cool article outlining more buildings you’ll recognize from TV and film. Another piece here shows exterior sets at Warner Brothers.

Book your Warner Brothers tour here…

Here’s one of the many videos on the lot at the WB. As a tour taker you’re fine to take as many pics as you like – in most places. They’re pretty social media friendly – complete with their own hashtag…#wbtourhollywood