Sunday, November 25, 2012

Belgium on a whim

Most Saturdays usually involve sleeping off a hangover, doing some shopping, catching up on some of my favourite TV shows etc. Just normal Saturday stuff. Don't get me wrong, I love my Saturdays of doing not much, but every now and again I need to get out and do something different. I've also decided that I am far too planned with stuff. I never really do anything on a whim. Something I am trying to change (only for the fact that I think it could be fun!).

This weekend I decided to do something a little out of the ordinary. I wanted to go somewhere I'd never been before, but wasn't really sure where to go. I also wanted to do it on my own, just because I thought it would be fun.

So on Friday night I took a look at the Deutsche Bahn site and saw that there was a 10:16am departure direct from Frankfurt to Brussels, getting me into town at about 1:30pm. Perfect. I then took a look at to see what was on offer in terms of accommodation. There was a mystery hotel offer in the city centre for a handsome price of €70 rated at 4 stars. €70 sounded like a bargain for somewhere relatively nice so I booked it (having no idea which hotel it was, or what it looked like). Turns out it was the Hilton. Score! It was only a 10 minute walk from the station in one direction and another 10 mins to the city centre in the other.

With my plans made, I threw a few clothes in a bag and headed down to take the train. Deutsche Bahn got me to Brussels on time and the trip took me via Cologne and Aachen. Upon arriving and doing the hotel check in, I dropped my stuff off and headed out with a map and some rough directions from the Concierge.

First stop: Food.

It was getting on towards 2pm and my tummy was feeling a little empty, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to sample of local fare. The Concierge had marked out at area near St Catherine's Cathedral to help me avoid the over priced and poor quality tourist traps down town. I stumbled upon La Paon Royal (Rue du Vieux Marché aux Grains 6). A nice little pub with tasty food and (in true Belgian fashion) a good selection of beers ( I opted for the steak with a selection of dipping sauces (3 sauces all up) with the traditional Belgian fries. The meat was amazing and you could tell they had used real artery clogging animal fat to fry the chips in. They were possibly some of the best chips I had ever had. None of the crap about cholesterol free blah blah blah. All full fat and tasty goodness.

One google reviewer writes:

"...this typically Bruxellois treat is in a house dating from 1631 that has a rustic wood-and-exposed-brick interior and timber-beamed ceiling. Have just a snack with one of the 65 brands of beer, six of them draft beers, behind the tiny bar (some of which are used in the cooking), or try the hearty plat du jour, invariably a traditional Belgian dish offered at lunchtime only. Specialties of the house are roast suckling pig in a mustard sauce, and cod filet in a Hoegaarden (Belgian white beer) sauce."

Of course I chose a beer to go with it, a local darker beer with a heavy flavour. Lunch was a big success.

Then it was time to go and see what Brussels had to offer in terms of sight seeing.

Next Stop: Grand Place de Bruxelle

This is a huge square lined with tourist heavy chocolate and beer shops. The buildings are amazing and it's one of those places where it's hard to take a bad picture. I have to admit I didn't spend too long here. While it was amazing, and the buildings were impressive. The throngs of tourists started to edge on my nerves after a while.

So I decided to go on to see another element of Belgian fame:

Manneken Pis.

Manneken Pis is a statue of a little boy doing a wee. Why this has become such a famous tourist attraction is really difficult to understand. It is funny, and I like the humour of it all...but really? I think now it's just famous for being famous. Apparently at different times of the year the city will dress him in different outfits. You can buy postcards of a the different outfits...kind of like a urinating fashion show. You will have to climb over a mob of Americans and Japanese people to get a decent picture. But it's the one thing everyone goes to see in Belgium, so you kinda have to take a picture :-) I am told there is a female (squatting) version somewhere in the city, but I didn't stumble across it.

Brussels has a lot of amazing buildings to go and see. The royal palace and some of the government buildings are quite impressive. It's great to just walk and explore the city streets and the little squares.

Of course I bought chocolate. I actually made myself feel a little sick from a sugar overload. But it is very good and the Belgians are very proud of their chocolate. I also found some waffels (a must) and drank my fare share of beers as well. Try to be careful with the beer as some of them are a lot stronger than you might think!

With all the chocolate, beer, waffels and french fries (or Belgian fries)...I was really shocked that I didn't see more 'larger' people around. A country built on good metabolism.

I essentially ate my way through that city. Croque Monsieur for Sunday lunch, waffels, more french fries (they really are sooo good!). I told myself I could eat what I like in Brussels as long as I went to the gym this week. A lot.

Before I knew it, it was Sunday afternoon and I was headed back to Bruxelle Midi to catch the 2:15pm train back to Frankfurt. Deutsche Bahn whisked me quickly back across the border to Germany and I was home by 6pm.

I was a bit apprehensive at first about going on my own, but in the end I really loved it. I could do what I wanted, when I wanted. It was actually nice to be able to be quite selfish like that for a while and just do whatever the hell I liked. Some people might think it a bit strange, but sometimes a bit of time on your own can be great (I'm also a big fan of going to the cinema solo).

Brussels really surprised me. It was a lot busier, bigger and fast paced than I had expected. The rumours of Belgium being 'boring' are completely not true. It's definitely an underestimated travel destination. It's hard to believe I was only in town on a 24 hour flying visit, but I loved it and saw loads. It certainly beat a weekend of bumming around at home!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Busting a groove in Berlin

I would have to say that when people ask me the question of "what is your favourite city in the world?" the obvious answers of come to mind (FYI my other faves are Sydney, London, New York...Paris too)...but I still think Berlin is one of the greatest cities going anywhere in the world.

I must admit I am a bit of a history geek (actually - I'm a complete history geek), so anything that has to do with the Europe throughout the 20th century gets my full attention...and Berlin was the center of it all.

Even if you're not a complete history geek like me, there is so much amazing stuff to see and experience in Berlin that I can assure you that you won't be disappointed!

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel gets excited by Berlin
I've had the opportunity to explore this really unique city over a few visits spread out over a couple of years. My first visit was back in 2004 and I returned in 2011 and again in 2012 (a number of times). Even still there are so many things I haven't done that I still want to see and do. But here are a few of my favourite places to see and things to do, places to eat while you're in Berlin.

Getting there is easy.'d be easier if the new airport was open, but that is one almighty stuff up that feels quite un-German. Brandenburg International Airport...scheduled to open in June pushed back to March 2013. Only announced the delay in May. So you can well imagine the loud sounding word that started with 'F' that was probably shouted by the CEO of Lufthansa at that news. In the meantime you'll have to be content with the ever convenient (if utterly boring) Berlin Tegel and the eastern counterpart at Berlin-Schönefeld (for our friends at EasyJet). Trains in an out of Berlin to every corner of Germany also make it super easy to come and go.


Schwarzes Cafe, Kantstraße 148, 10623 Berlin

Yes the name of the street does sound quite rude if you're a native english speaker...but it's actually named after Immanuel Kant who was a German philosopher (1724-1804 for those of you playing at home).

This place has amazing breakfast. Choose a platter of cheese, eggs, fruit, bread...or go for the more simplistic scrambled eggs on toast. Euro breakfast at it's best. The atmosphere is a little grungy and the building looks like it has been there forever and a day. Still it's got atmosphere and the staff are friendly and attentive. My pick of the breakfast menu is the Späte Liebe. Scrambled eggs, bread like you have never had before, fruit and cheeses. I also got a croissant and jam because I'm a fatty mcfatty. Coffee is pretty good by German standards (yes, I am still a Sydney coffee snob). Take a seat upstairs by the window and look down on Berliners go about their weekend morning stuff. Love it.

Nocti Vagus, Saabrückerstraße 36-38, 10405 Berlin

Holy crap this has got to be one of the most intense yet amazing restaurant experiences I've ever had.

The concept is this. It is a fully functional restaurant serving a variety of Europan cuisine. The only difference is that all of the floor staff are completely blind and the entire restaurant is in complete and utter darkness. I am talking pitch-fricking-black. It looks like this:

Don't you love what they've done with the decore?

The procedure is that you enter what is a normally lit bar and lounge area. You can have a drink and sit and chat for a bit. It is here that you are given the menus and order what you'd like to eat.

From here you are taken down a few steps into this small room and the door is closed behind you. You are told to stand in a line and place your hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you. After that the lights go out and the inner door to the restaurant is opened. Your waiter (who I should remind you is blind) comes in, says hi and introduces themselves. They then take the hand of the person at the front of the make shift conga line and guide you and your party through the maze of tables and furniture to your table. They then sit you in your seat. If you want anything, you simply call their name and they'll come over.

The whole idea of this thing is that you can experience what it is like to eat a meal in a restaurant as a blind person. You will find yourself doing all sorts of crazy stuff like sticking your fingers in your food, feeling your way along the table to where you think the glass of wine is. All in all it is a lot of fun and it isn't something you easily forget. Worth a visit!

Touristy Stuff:

Walking tours

Berlin is the best place to learn about the division of Germany into East/West and all that went down in Berlin post 1945. Get your history hats on! The best way to see it all is to do a walking tour. I've done two from this company and they are fantastic tours. I did one on Berlin during the Third Reich and also another about Berlin during the Cold War. You can go and see things like the location of Nazi HQ at Hitler's Chancellory (now a rather ordinary looking apartment building with the Chinese takeaway) and the infamous bunker (now a car park). Tours are in english and the guides are local Berliners (well some of them are anyway). Check out for all the details. You will learn something I promise!

The Berlin Wall

Various sections still stand around the city. You can see a large section of the wall at the Berlin Wall Memorial at Nordbahnhof. It is worth a visit to see the wall but also a section of the reconstructed no mans land that once divided East and West Berlin. There is an observation platform so you can see over the wall into the no mans land and the watch tower etc. There is also a memorial here to the 136 people who lost their lives trying to escape East Berlin, as well as the 400 others who were killed trying to cross to the West along the inner German border outside of Berlin. Look for the markers on the footpath with the word 'Flucht' (escape) that show the location of people who escaped to the west at various location.

East Side Gallery

Another section of the wall. This 1.3KM section is the largest preserved section of the wall and it is now an open air art gallery. Take the U-Bahn or S-Bahn to Warschaustraße or Ostbahnhof. The art works are amazing and you will spot a few well known works as you walk along.

Checkpoint charlie

To be honest, it's a must do because it's what people know about Berlin. Other than that...meh don't get too excited over it. Have your picture taken and move on. Super touristy, you will pay three times the price for everything nearby. There is a DDR border guard here who will stamp your passport with an East German stamp if you feel so inclined.

Potsdamer Platz

Worth seeing simply for the fact that until the wall came down in 1989, this entire area was an empty section of no mans land. There was nothing. Now it is a buzz with highrise buildings, shopping centres, cinemas, restaurants. It is worth seeing just to compare the before and after pictures that you will see around the area. Take the S-Bahn or U-Bahn to Potsdamer Platz. Don't forget to get the obligatory photo with one foot in the east and one in the west. I did it, everyone does it. As touristy as it might'll want to do it as well.

DDR Museum

See what it was like to live everyday life in East Germany. Everything from groceries, home appliances, TV shows, cars, clothing - everything. All on display for you to see, touch, play with. It's designed to be an interactive experience. Big recommendation on my behalf. It still amazes me that two countries could sit so close by and be so different. Worth the visit just to sit in a Trabbant car. If you don't know what a Trabbant is. Google it.

Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag

The Brandenburgertor is an amazing piece of architecture and a symbol of Berlin that has stood through all the trials and tribulations that Berlin has faced over the recent centuries. Go and see it. Take pictures. Mind the tourist traps surrounding it.

The Reichstag is an equally impressive building. Book online if you'd like to climb the dome to the top for a spectacular view out over Berlin.

Holocaust Mahnmal

Built as a memorial to those who lost their lives during the Holocaust, the Mahnmal in Berlin is an unusual though also moving experience. Designed to slowly disorientate visitors as they enter, the Mahnmal attempts to recognise the disorientation and sense of isolation that was enforced on the victims of the Holocaust. Try to be respectful...I must say it kind of shits me to see loud mouthed tourists and their annoying, feral children running around here as if it's some kind of playground.

So why do I love Berlin?

I love Berlin because it is a centre of history, of culture of all things random and odd and all things normal and sensible (all at the same time). Go from one part of the city to the next and it looks so completely different that it is hard to believe that you are on the same planet let alone in the same city. The people are great, the shopping is fantastic and the opportunity to see some amazing parts of history make this one of my favourite cities in the world. Go and see it.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Stuff that Germans Love...shelf toilets, 'Genau' and more

Greetings world.

In a brief follow up to my last post about some of the typical German customs, I thought I would put together a summary of some of the things that Germans get really excited about, things they love and stuff that is really 'typisch deutsch' or typically German. So what kind of stuff is part of the true Germany?

Apart from the things I've laid out below...this gentleman has a few thoughts which I thought were also quite true :-) Check out his video.

1. The shelf toilet. 
Now this pic is not my toilet (I stole it from Google images...look out copyright peeps!). But it is a traditional German shelf toilet. The first time I came across one of these was on my second day in Germany. My first thought was...REALLY?? I have asked many a German and foreigner about the rationale for the shelf toilet. What I am told (and have also read on this website for bathroom manners) is that it is supposed to be so you can go about your business, have a bit of a look and make sure that everything with your downstairs plumbing is working as it should.

All in all, it is a really German experience and if you come to Germany and don't get to experience the shelf toilet, then you've not really been to Germany.

2. Walking sticks.
No not the kind your nanna might have, but the hiking kind. And not always for hiking, why not give them a go when you're walking through the streets of downtown Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich or some other city (where there is not a hiking track anywhere nearby). I absolutely have no idea what the fascination is with these sticks. They might be good for helping you along your way, but seriously it looks a tad ridiculous.

3. Processed meats. 
Like many countries in Europe, Germans have a love for all things in cured and processed meats. Smoked, cured, whatever. Lots of salami, wurst etc but it is all seriously, seriously good to eat and seriously bad for you in large quantities. But I still eat it because it's YUMMY.

4. Open windows. Imagine this. It is the dead of winter, it might have been snowing outside earlier in the day. It's probably about -15°C outside and inside it's a lovely 23°C. What do Germans just love to do? OPEN THE DAMN WINDOW. Oh my god, yes it gets stuffy sometimes but they all love their fresh air.

5. Silence. 

I'm not a particularly loud person, but Germans appreciate quiet time. I have only been told to be quite once since I've been here...not too bad I guess. Quiet time on Sunday, quiet time during the middle of the day. But hang on a 8am every Sunday your local church will blast the whole suburb with church bells with a sound not unlike living under the flight path of a near by airport. Sunday of all days. Everyone knows Sunday is the day of rest because it is when everyone has a shocking hang over from the night before.


Listen to one side of any German telephone conversation and you are likely to hear these three words (well four if you count Na Ja as two) over and over again. Germans seem to love to say "Exactly" (Genau) all the time...just to acknowledge to the other person that they are in agreement. Or perhaps it has to do with the German obsession with precision. "Na-Ja" (oh well) and my personal favourite "Achso!" (Oh right!) are also heard a lot. "Achso" is such a perfectly German sounding way of saying "ah! OK!". If you want to sound like you can speak fluent German to try and blend in a little, just go around saying these few phrases.

7. SUNDAY. Sunday has already been mentioned above under 'Silence'. On Sunday, as I mentioned before, is a day in Germany that holds special importance. All the shops are closed. That's right...ALL the shops (not even Supermarkets are open). The only place you can get stuff on a sunday is your local convenience store or there are supermarkets open at the main train stations, airports etc where all the touristy people are. But nothing else. Laundromats and hairdressers, florists, department stores...all closed. This basically ensures about 80% of the city will force their way into shops on a Saturday making for one hell of a hectic shopping experience. Once per quarter the shops will open on a Sunday for a 'special' trading day. The whole place goes freaking nuts for it. Like shopping on Sunday is somehow different to on these weekends everyone goes on Saturday (because that is the routine and Germans love their structure)...and a whole load of them will go again on Sunday. Why? BECAUSE IT'S SUNDAY.

Another Sunday tradition, but something I seriously love, is Kaffee und Kuchen (Coffee and Cake). It's quite traditional on a Sunday afternoon to go down to your local bakery or cake store (Which are open on Sunday by the way) and purchase yourself an enormous-cream-laden-chocolate-infused-wonder-of-nature (simply known as cake) and invite a couple of your nearest and dearest over to enjoy some cake, coffee (or tea if you're so inclined) and catch up and chat. Seriously the cake in this country is something to be believed. It may even warrant an article on it's own!

So what do you think? What do think is typically German? Did anything here surprise you? Add your comments people! This is a blog forum people, not a one way communication medium so let me know what you think!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

German people and culture...not what you probably expected

Everyone knows the stereotype of the shouting, angry German that has been portrayed in countless film, books, TV shows etc over the years. All in all my experience has been somewhat different to this. Whilst it is true Germans love their rules and structure, I have found them to be a very friendly, warm and fun loving people. Like any culture there are some things that are unique to Germans and sure, the social norms of this country might be different to other parts of the world but all in all, you will probably be surprised about how many of the stereotypes that people believe is the "typical German" are in fact exaggerations.

This early video by Steve Carell is pretty damn funny, but shows just how the world sees the stereotypical German. Check out his point of view on Germans who say nice things.

Thinking about all of the people I have met in Germany, and the Germans I have met elsewhere in the world I honestly struggle to think of one person that I have met that I would consider 'cold' or 'mean' (which is often the stereotype that people think of when they are asked to describe a German person).

It is true that Germans are a very direct people. They call a spade a spade and are not afraid to speak their minds. For many people this can be interpreted as being harsh or even 'angry'. The simple fact of the matter is, Germans will say what they think and they don't give a shit if you like it or not. They have their point of view, will express it and if you disagree then you are very welcome to debate the issue with them. But they are not being mean, angry or negative. It's just their way. Don't take it personally!

German culture is something that I have slowly slowly slowly becoming more accustomed to. Here are some of the customs and parts of German culture that I have discovered since I have been here.

1. Say cheers! When you say cheers ('Prost') you must look at the other person in the eye as you do it. The punishment for not doing this every time you cheers is seven years bad sex. Even those who are not at all superstitious will take part in this ritual as they say the risk just isn't worth it!

2. Guten Apetit! It is considered good manners to say 'Guten Apetit' before you begin any meal with other people. Quiet a nice ritual that I rather like!

3. No applause please! It is considered bad manners to applaude someone who has given a presentation, or received an acknowledgment in an academic or professional setting. Applause is for the theatre and for performers. Instead, Germans knock on the desk or table to acknowledge the person's achievement or work.

4. Say your name. When you answer the telephone, it is polite to say your surname when you answer rather than 'Hallo'. 

5. Shhhh! Many people frown on loud noise on Sundays and during the Mittagsruhe (Midday Silence). This is a period from about 11am to 1pm where you shouldn't create excess noise in your apartment or yard. I have heard some people have received 'a talking to' or a note from their neighbours/building managers telling them that things like loud TV or vacuum cleaners should be avoided during this time. Some people also won't mow their lawns on Sundays. It's not really that common anymore (or so I believe), but some people still expect you to keep the noise down on Sunday.

6. Pack it yourself. No supermarkets (unless you go somewhere quite posh) pack groceries for you. You bring your own bags and pack them yourself.

7. Bio is better. Germans loooooooove organic produce. they have entire supermarket chains like Tegut that are devoted to organic only food.

8. Rules. There is a rule for everything. One element of the German stereotype that is true is their love of structure and organisation. Whilst it's not to the point where you feel 'controlled', just about everything has a process and a procedure and people will follow these. They will certainly let you know when you do the wrong thing.

9. Credit cards are out. While it's starting to be more common place, many stores and service providers won't accept credit cards. IKEA, Saturn (a large electrical chain) won't accept them. I had to pay for my iMac in cash because Saturn won't accept credit cards. They will take cash or EC Card (debit).

All in all, Germans are generally a friendly and helpful people. They are very tolerant of people who are visiting their country and may not speak the language and most German people speak excellent English. In fact I think quite a lot of German people enjoy the opportunity to speak English when they can. Things that are in English (signs, names of shops/restaurants etc) in Germany, are often seen to be a little 'cooler'. I have no idea why English is 'cool' but for some people it is. Go figure huh?

Many ex pats living in Germany often complain that 'things are so difficult in Germany' or that 'Germans go about things in weird ways'. It's not weird, just different to your home country. That's part of the excitement about living somewhere else in the world, living and learning the culture. My advice is always the same: When in Rome....

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Loving London Life

Greetings travellers from across the world! I was fortunate enough to spend last Christmas and New Year in the UK. London is one of those cities that just keeps giving. It's somewhere that is always buzzing, always on the go. It never stops. Having done all of the touristy stuff before, my trip was really just about visiting some good friends and exploring great places to eat, drink and play. Here are few of the awesome places I went to and experienced during my visit. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

The Swan at the Globe: 21 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT
This place has probably one of the best views of St Pauls Cathedral going. Large windows across the front of the lower floor make for a fantastic spot to sit enjoy the view. The food (though slightly pricy for pub grub) was excellent. The tapas option is nice way to explore a few different items on the menu without having to order massive quantities of food. Try the butter's AMAZING and the tripple cooked chips. You can tell they use real hard core fat for frying. It's not so much that it becomes sickly, but they've managed to balance it just right so the chips are full of flavour but not greasy. A nice range of salads is also on the menu. After eating, you'll need a pint to wash it all down. They have their own ale on tap which isn't a bad pint as well as a very well stocked wine rack.

This is a great spot if you want something a little nicer than the local pub, but not too up market that it lacks a bit of atmosphere. The only disappointment was that on the day before NYE they closed up a little earlier than we would have liked (10pm)...which was a bit of a shame (and a bit odd for central London), but as I said it was the night before NYE...their opening hours are normally a lot later. 3 out of 5.

The Winchester, 2 Essex Road, London (Angel) N1 8LN
After a big night out on NYE in London I was nursing a bit of a hangover. Feeling a little sorry for myself I thought the best way to deal with the situation was to go to the pub. We spent a lovely sunday afternoon in the Winchester. It's a warm, welcoming environment with friendly staff who are pretty damn good at what they do. We went for a late lunch and stayed into the early hours of the evening. The cocktails are just fantastic. An absolute must is the 'Tease Me'. It's an exquisit combination of Absolut Pear Vodka, Peach liqueur, lemon juice and a blend of English breakfast tea. It's a super refreshing and very tasty way to start your afternoon. Sunday offers 2 for 1 Sunday Roasts with beef, lamb, chicken and a vegetarian option. They all come with Yorkshire Pudding and are all very hearty for a wintery sunday lunch option. They also have a free WiFi network which is kinda handy if you need to jump online. Relaxed, friendly and comfortable. 4 out 5.

January Sales Shopping
London shopping is fantastic. It might not be as cheap as shopping in NYC, but they have some fantastic stores. The only problem is the crowds. It seems that between Christmas and New Year all of London wants to go shopping, and they want to go at the same time. Not a good idea if you have a hang over. Go when you're in the mood and not going to be bothered by the crowds.

My top tips for London sales are:
1. Selfridges (Oxford St). Easily now one of my favourite department stores in the world (Harrods is for tourists, take a picture to say you went there and move on). During sales time it can be mighty crowded so be prepared for lines, crowds a bit of push-shove at times. The range of clothes they offer is fantastic. Great designers and all of the big brands you want all in one spot. Don't forget to check out the food hall on the lower ground floor.

2. UNIQLO (Regent St). In true Japanese style it's a pretty minimalist approach in terms of their designs but fantastic for basics. My favourite thing however is their new heat tech designed winter range. It's mostly socks, t-shirts, underwear etc but it's all very light fabric but super warm. It also draws moisture away so you don't get sweaty when you go in out of the cold. Best of all it's not expensive 2 pairs of their jazzy socks was only 9.90 GBP! Best things I've bought since arriving in Europe. You really need them for the winter in Germany!

3. TopMan/TopShop (Oxford Circus). OK at the sales this place is just nuts. I stood upstairs and looked down at the crowd below and it looked like a sea of small ants buzzing around. Sooooooo fricking crowded. BUT the clothes are great and they are really affordable. As I say, during the sales brace yourself for a bit of a crowd but if you can handle that then go fo it. Great range of casual clothes and accessories at good prices.

4. Kurt Geiger (Various locations including Regent St). This shoe store is amazing. LOVE LOVE LOVE Kurt Geiger shoes. Stylish, comfy and good quality shoes.

New Years Eve Options
My advice is DO NOT go to the Thames and just stand around to see the fireworks. The crowd is ridiculous, there will be no way out once you're in and I am sure the lines for bathrooms etc would be horrific. If you want to see the fireworks up close - don't be tight about it and fork out some cash for a ticketed event.

NYE at the Tattershall Castle.
The Tattershall Castle is a boat floating bar/restaurant that is permanently moored in the Thames directly opposite the London Eye near Embankment tube. Entry was 75 GBP and it didn't include anything other than entry. However, after seeing the crowd gather on the street and seeing the view we had in our comfortable seats close to the bar, it quickly became apparent that it was money well spent.  It's not the classiest venue in London, but it was perfect for our NYE where we didn't want to be spending loads of money only to wind up in an over crowded venue with no access to a bar etc. The tickets were capped at 500 so the crowd wasn't at all a problem. The view was AMAZING. We had our own table, we didn't have to fight through any crowds and the drinks were surprisingly affordable. Good option to consider if you're in London town for NYE!

Summerset House, The Strand WC2R 1LA
This amazing building was built in 1547 and now houses galleries, shops, a fantastic cafe (that has a GREAT brunch) and in winter they have an ice skating rink in the courtyard. Brunch at Fernandez and Wells was amazing. A broad range of meats, cheeses, breads that they serve as platters, in sandwiches and a whole load of other options. You can build your own meat platter by choosing different kinds of salami, chorizo etc. All of this can be washed down with one of the many wines they have on the menu. They also do Raclette for those who love their cheese. 3 out of 5 (would have been a 4 but it was kind of drafty/cold...they didn't have the heat on for some reason!?).  We went ice skating at the Museum of Natural History, however the rink at Summerset House looked a little nicer (and less crowded by children!)

That's all for now kids. Stay tuned for my next update and don't forgot to follow me on Twitter @Night_Day_Matt