Dresden, Konigstein and Basteii

I took Friday off work and flew into Berlin on Thursday night, so we could be ready to leave early in the morning for the drive to Dresden, where we were booked to stay at the amazing Radisson Blu Gewandhaus Hotel.  This hotel is by far the fanciest I’ve ever stayed in, with a full jacuzzi bath in the room, amazing indoor swimming pool with spa and a 5-star restaurant on site.  We were also lucky enough to get the only room with a private balcony!

After checking in and having a very long relaxing jacuzzi bubble-bath, we headed out to explore the city.  The centre of Dresden is quite small so you can walk everywhere.  The most popular attractions are the ancient palace ‘Zwinger’ and the rather opulent Opera house.  There is also a lovely river with some grand old bridges, and an 18th century  church that was mostly destroyed in World War II but restored in the 1980’s. 14463169_10157586490850220_2733297513625891342_n We found a touristy street with many bars and restaurants and some traditional German bands playing classical and folk-music, and had a drink and some snacks at, oddly enough, an Australian restaurant.  Then we headed back to the hotel for proper dinner at the restaurant, which did a platter of four different types of tartare.

The following morning we had a buffet breakfast which I collected and brought up to the room on two big trays with everything you could think of – eggs, bacon, salmon, sausages, four or fives cheese, various bread, potatoes, tomatoes, salad, croissants, etc – the perfect meal just before heading to a wedding in tight fitting clothing where there would no doubt be a lot of food on offer!

The ceremony itself was in a beautiful old country house, and was quite short and sweet.  Afterwards we headed off to the reception which was held on an old farmhouse that had been converted to a guesthouse and restuarant.  After much champagne, horse rides and photographs we headed inside for dinner, which was a lovely German style buffet followed by dancing, drinking and general wedding shenanigans.

The following day we headed off into the Saxony countryside to explore Konigstein, a centuries old castle fortress built high up on a flat mountain top on the bank of the River Elbe. It’s really beautiful and has some of most spectacular views I’ve seen anywhere in the world.  You can walk all the way around the perimeter walls, which are dotted with classic Disney-style turrets and ramparts.

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It also has a 152 metre deep well bored directly through the mountain rock, and the biggest wine barrel in the world, which holds 250 thousand litres.  They must have had some crazy house parties back in the day!

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After lunch we headed off to Bastei, which is kind of like the grand canyon of Germany.  It’s a huge collection of rock spires and outcroppings that were formed by water erosion millions of years ago, and once housed a large ‘rock castle’ called Neurathen, the ruins of which still exist there.

It also has some amazing views of Saxon countryside and the River Elbe sweeping in a beautiful arc below it.  The various spires are connected by a series of walkways and bridges which are a lot of fun to explore.  The area is very popular with rock climbers, and we saw quite a few who had inexplicably managed to climb to some otherwise completely inaccessible places.

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A Wedding in Watamu, Kenya

 

In March 2016, my cousin got married in the beach resort town of Watamu, Kenya.

I only had a week off work, which was enough time to see most of this tiny fishing village, but I could have easily stayed another week!  It is one of the most beautiful and relaxing places I’ve ever seen.  Truly heaven!

I was staying with my parents and my brother and his girlfriend, as well as another couple who we didn’t know but were guests of the bride and groom.  We all rented a huge, mansion like house just off the beach, with four double bedrooms, a huge living area, bar, kitchen, massive swimming pool and amazing outdoor lounge and sitting areas.  It even had an outdoor bed next to the pool!  And all this for a very affordable price, being that the exchange rate in Kenya works out very favourably to the British pound.

Most days were spent lounging around the pool, walking along the beach and generally just eating, drinking and relaxing. Proper holiday style!

We did a few activities, like snorkelling, paddleboarding and riding around on the back of incredibly scary motorbike taxis that weave in and out of traffic and ride with wild abandon along rocky dirt roads.

One of the best days was spent out on a small “glass-bottom” boat – the glass-bottom was only one very small, dirty square meter of perspex in the bottom of the wooden boat through which you could see very little.  However we had no need for it as we spent most of the time in the water around the boat, snorkelling with the free snorkelling gear the boatmen provided us with.  The water was a bit murky from all the sand kicked up by the boat motors, but I managed to see quite a few colourful fish and coral gardens.

 

The day before the wedding we visited a lovely, more deserted beach slightly north of the house.  We travelled there precariously on the back of a small rickety motorbike taxi, up some rocky dirt roads that I would struggle to drive a 4×4 up!  Luckily nobody died and we were rewarded with the most incredible white sands and blue seas I have ever seen.

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We walked quite far out into the shallow ocean and took some pictures sunbathing on a sand dune.  At one point someone dropped my phone in the ocean but luckily it’s a waterproof Xperia z3 and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the waterproofing actually works!
After getting sufficently sunburnt, we enjoyed an amazing meal of fresh fish and seafood in a tiny little wooden restaurant presumably run by the local fisherman.  Amazing they even had cold beer and wifi!  Although the toilets left much to be desired…

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As you can imagine in a small fishing village the nightlife isn’t expansive, however we managed to find a few bars with a bit of a vibe, the best of which was the infamous Pole Pole Bar (pronounced Poly Poly).10273470_10156752727600220_3041581785144207921_n  It was a bit dead the night we went and they were playing mostly awful radio pop and oldskool tunes, but amongst the eight or so of us we managed to get quite a dancefloor going!

That evening I finished off same as most others, lounging in the pool drinking Auchentoshan whiskey and watching the stars.  It’s so hot the pool water was still warm at 7am every morning!

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The day of the wedding went smoothly, with excellent weather, clear blue skies and only a slight breeze.  The ceremony was performed right on the beach under the palm trees and next to the softly lapping waves, in what must surely be the most beautiful wedding venue I’ve ever been to.  A small arch was erected for the bride and groom and the 20 or so guests were provided with sarongs to sit on the sand.  After the many touching speeches and formalities of the ceremony, it was time for the real reason people go to weddings – the reception!

We all piled into tuk-tuk’s and were whisked off a few kilometers to another huge lagoon-side mansion where my cousin and her family were all staying, and where the dinner and wedding party were to take place.  It was a stunning setting, all outdoors with white tableclothes set around a beautiful swimming pool and catered by a huge seafood buffet.  I drank and danced until inevitably ending up in the swimming pool, losing my shoes and yet somehow waking up in bed the next morning, albeit still wet.

 

 

 

A week in Watamu, Kenya

 

In March 2016, my cousin got married in the beach resort town of Watamu, Kenya.

I only had a week off work, which was enough time to see most of this tiny fishing village, but I could have easily stayed another week!  It is one of the most beautiful and relaxing places I’ve ever seen.  Truly heaven!

I was staying with my parents and my brother and his girlfriend, as well as another couple who we didn’t know but were guests of the bride and groom.  We all rented a huge, mansion like house just off the beach, with four double bedrooms, a huge living area, bar, kitchen, massive swimming pool and amazing outdoor lounge and sitting areas.  It even had an outdoor bed next to the pool!  And all this for a very affordable price, being that the exchange rate in Kenya works out very favourably to the British pound.

Most days were spent lounging around the pool, walking along the beach and generally just eating, drinking and relaxing. Proper holiday style!

We did a few activities, like snorkelling, paddleboarding and riding around on the back of incredibly scary motorbike taxis that weave in and out of traffic and ride with wild abandon along rocky dirt roads.

One of the best days was spent out on a small “glass-bottom” boat – the glass-bottom was only one very small, dirty square meter of perspex in the bottom of the wooden boat through which you could see very little.  However we had no need for it as we spent most of the time in the water around the boat, snorkelling with the free snorkelling gear the boatmen provided us with.  The water was a bit murky from all the sand kicked up by the boat motors, but I managed to see quite a few colourful fish and coral gardens.

 

The day before the wedding we visited a lovely, more deserted beach slightly north of the house.  We travelled there precariously on the back of a small rickety motorbike taxi, up some rocky dirt roads that I would struggle to drive a 4×4 up!  Luckily nobody died and we were rewarded with the most incredible white sands and blue seas I have ever seen.

12096117_10156762550835220_3436346047139880738_n

We walked quite far out into the shallow ocean and took some pictures sunbathing on a sand dune.  At one point someone dropped my phone in the ocean but luckily it’s a waterproof Xperia z3 and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the waterproofing actually works!
After getting sufficently sunburnt, we enjoyed an amazing meal of fresh fish and seafood in a tiny little wooden restaurant presumably run by the local fisherman.  Amazing they even had cold beer and wifi!  Although the toilets left much to be desired…

225597_10156762548660220_87430267711748597_n

As you can imagine in a small fishing village the nightlife isn’t expansive, however we managed to find a few bars with a bit of a vibe, the best of which was the infamous Pole Pole Bar (pronounced Poly Poly).10273470_10156752727600220_3041581785144207921_n  It was a bit dead the night we went and they were playing mostly awful radio pop and oldskool tunes, but amongst the eight or so of us we managed to get quite a dancefloor going!

That evening I finished off same as most others, lounging in the pool drinking Auchentoshan whiskey and watching the stars.  It’s so hot the pool water was still warm at 7am every morning!

12832559_10156740097360220_1829164436593995399_n

The day of the wedding went smoothly, with excellent weather, clear blue skies and only a slight breeze.  The ceremony was performed right on the beach under the palm trees and next to the softly lapping waves, in what must surely be the most beautiful wedding venue I’ve ever been to.  A small arch was erected for the bride and groom and the 20 or so guests were provided with sarongs to sit on the sand.  After the many touching speeches and formalities of the ceremony, it was time for the real reason people go to weddings – the reception!

We all piled into tuk-tuk’s and were whisked off a few kilometers to another huge lagoon-side mansion where my cousin and her family were all staying, and where the dinner and wedding party were to take place.  It was a stunning setting, all outdoors with white tableclothes set around a beautiful swimming pool and catered by a huge seafood buffet.  I drank and danced until inevitably ending up in the swimming pool, losing my shoes and yet somehow waking up in bed the next morning, albeit still wet.