Pack The Suitcases’ 2016 travel roundup

Happy new year to all of our readers! Yes, both of you.

We thought we’d do a roundup of all our travels in 2016 to finish off the year before 2017 travel kicks off. This is the first blog post we’ve ever written that isn’t a story of one specific destination. So, not sure how this is going to go down but let’s give it a shot anyway… It’s basically a glorified list and who doesn’t like lists?

Where we visited and when

Best new destination

Tie between: Gothenburg (Sweden) and Porto (Portugal)

We kicked off our honeymoon in May with Gothenburg and although we were exhausted from the wedding, we did our usual thing of getting overexcited and walking all day every day trying to take it all in. Already huge Sweden fans, Gothenburg just made us love it even more. It was effortlessly cool, with plenty of new Nordic cuisine, and we had an amazing day trip to the car-free island of Brännö.

Going to Porto in the summer was another highlight. There was perfect weather, street art, modern art, views, tiles, and some incredible food and drink – including the obvious port and the less obvious heart attack on a plate known as the francesinha. It was probably the most relaxing holiday we’ve had for a while but we still crammed loads in and found a fantastic local blog O Porto Cool to help us do our research. We’d been to Lisbon (a few years ago, pre-blog) but we fell in love much more with Porto.

Best revisited destination

Munich (Germany)

Five years after our first Bavarian adventure, we decided to head back this autumn for another dose of beerhalls, sausages and cosiness. Enough had changed that the city still felt fresh to us, and we’d missed enough out the first time to see new things, too. Last time, we had a day trip to Salzburg and this time, to the extremely cute Landsberg – proving that Munich is one of the best ‘bases’ you can have to get to all sorts of places.

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Best local (UK) destination

Kirkby Lonsdale (England)

We finally got round to visiting adorable Kirkby Lonsdale together, one of Caroline’s childhood holiday destinations. We had a lovely time exploring the little market town and generally overeating. It ended up forming one of our most popular blog posts ever – the public obviously share our appreciation of its cute cobbled streets, typical English cottages and stunning views. We even got featured on the Visit Britain instagram account for one of our photographs.

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Best meal

Brunch at Älskade Traditioner, Stockholm (Sweden)

The morning (okay, afternoon) after we’d been to the Eurovision Song Sontest, we had some incredible bacon waffles, milkshakes and kladkakke at Älskade Traditioner. We’ve had lots of gorgeous food this year, from Michelin-standard tasting menus to local street food. But when we were (inevitably) talking about food over Christmas, we both agreed that the best thing we ate this year was our brunch in a cute retro café in Stockholm’s trendy SoFo district. They even had lactose-free milkshakes so Chris was happy.

Worst meal

Some indescribable muck in Gaia that we didn’t even mention in the blog because it was so bad

With TripAdvisor and the power of the internet, it’s not hard to eat well nearly all the time. Emphasis on nearly. Sometimes, you end up in situations that go horribly wrong. It’s all part of the fun of travel…

We have no photos of this meal, nor any explanation of what exactly it was that we ate, and that’s probably for the best. We consumed something, looking at a delightful view of a particularly grimy butcher’s shop across the road, while being served by an overly attentive man who obviously hadn’t had customers, or a grip on reality, for some time. Luckily, it was hilarious both at the time and in retrospect. And nobody died.

Best hotel

Lion + Pheasant, Shrewsbury (UK)

We’ve only just written our Shrewsbury post the other week, so it feels repetitive to mention the hotel again, but the Lion + Pheasant is our clear winner for best hotel this year. It just couldn’t be any more up our street – beautiful grey Scandi interiors, amazing breakfast and really luxurious-feeling rooms without breaking the bank. It’s around £120 a night, which is more than we usually spend on accommodation, but for one night away it’s a lovely treat. It does work out more expensive when you return home and want to redecorate your entire house in their Scandi style though…

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Best travel experience

Tie between: Fjord cruise (Bergen, Norway) and the Eurovision Song Contest (Stockholm, Sweden)

We don’t do ‘activities’ on holiday. Or ever, really. Anything involving physical exertion other than riding (horses, not bicycles) or walking (in the non-hiking sense) is out of the question. So when we say ‘experience’, we don’t mean the usual travel bloggers’ ‘experiences’ like scuba diving, mountain climbing etc. We basically mean ‘things we did other than walk round, look at things and eat’.

We did so many memorable things this year, especially on our honeymoon in May. The Norwegian fjords in Bergen were beyond stunning. A river cruise is the perfect way to see them and to get extremely up close and personal with the waterfalls – our boat stopped so close to one that you could fill a cup with the water falling from it! It was also a memorable experience because some Japanese man randomly started doing Tai Chi on the deck, much to the bewilderment/amusement of other passengers.

Our other most memorable experience this year also happened on our honeymoon, and this was going to the Eurovision Song Contest grand final in Stockholm. British people are often horribly snobby and miserable about Eurovision and completely miss the point – it’s meant to be ridiculous, camp, glittery madness. Going to it in real life, you experience an atmosphere like nothing else. Everyone is so happy. Everyone dresses up – and no one does it better than gangs of drunk gay Europeans. There is an overwhelming sense of equality. We actually didn’t blog about the night, but it was one of the best things we have ever done.

Worst travel experience

Trying to do Reykjavik (Iceland) as a city break

‘Worst’ isn’t as bad as it sounds here, because we were really spoilt this year with absolutely loving the places we went to. Most were just our cup of tea. The city of Reykjavik was about the only one we weren’t enamoured with, although we did see and do some excellent things there and we did enjoy Iceland itself overall. But we don’t really drive and it seems that you need to rent a car to get off the beaten track and away from tourists in spring if you’re staying in Reykjavik. So it just didn’t suit our travel style.

Interestingly, the local press picked up on our blog about Reykjavik that said we had mixed feelings on it. Apparently tourism is a growing problem there and gets a lot of airtime in the press. So our blog went a bit viral! Local residents seemed to be concerned about the effect of tourism on their country and were pretty balanced in their comments. But American fans of Reykjavik seemed to be furious with us for not loving it. Very few of them actually seemed to have read the blog though, just reacted to the article’s headline and didn’t see what we’d really said. A sign of the Daily Mail times that we live in. So we experienced our first internet abuse, which was fun.

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What’s next for 2017?

We’re off to Japan very soon for two weeks! So we’ll be writing up many a blog post from that – our first trip outside of Europe since we started up the blog. We’ve been to Japan before, but this time we’re going to explore some new areas.

Other than Japan and some trips away for friends’ weddings and hen/stag dos, we don’t have anything set in stone yet. But we do have a few chunks of annual leave booked in, so watch this space…

A winter weekend break in Shrewsbury

The town of Shrewsbury in Shropshire is perfect for a winter weekend away or just a day trip around Christmas time. For some reason, people seem to pick Chester or York for a weekend of shopping and eating, overlooking the smaller Shrewsbury, which is exactly the same deal but without the crowds. It has pretty Tudor buildings, a public garden designed by the famous Percy Thrower of Gardener’s World fame, cosy pubs, good restaurants and independent shops. And you can get there easily by train, which means sampling all said cosy pubs is a must.

The Guardian recently featured Shrewsbury in their top 10 UK towns for winter breaks, similar to their top 10 UK towns list that featured our other favourite, Kirkby Lonsdale. There’s obviously a running theme here.

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We’ve been regular visitors to Shrewsbury ever since we first went on a whim a few years ago and became obsessed with it. We’ve concluded that it also has the best hotel we’ve ever stayed in: the gorgeous Lion + Pheasant Hotel, which is all beautifully grey and Scandi inside.

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It’s the only hotel we know is always going to be safe to recommend to friends – and no, we’re not being paid to say that (wish we were, like). It’s dead tricky recommending places to stay. People always ask us because we’ve been to so many places. But people are always after different things and you don’t want to run the risk of telling someone they’ll love a hotel only for them to find it too expensive/cheap/fancy/basic. The Lion + Pheasant isn’t cheap but it would be impossible to be disappointed by it.

Also, it has a fantastic bar that is an absolute delight in winter with more fairylights than you could ever dream of, so if you’re just in Shrewsbury for the day and don’t need to stay over, you can still pop in for a drink.

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Anyway, once we’d deposited our suitcase at the hotel, we set off for a walk along the River Severn, which curves round the edge of the town. You can follow it down into the Quarry Park. You’ll probably see people rowing boats down the river, even in winter.

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We always have to crack a photo of us into the blogs, but for some reason the light was horrific on our walk and they both turned out awful. We’re only including them because silver ankle boots.

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Chris: jacket – Topman (old), chinos – ASOS, shoes – ASOS. Caroline: coat, scarf and boots – Primark, jeans – New Look.

When you have the bandstand in sight, you’re near the Dingle. Turn off the path by the river and head up to the walls.

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Inside is this amazing sunken garden created by Percy Thrower and maintained to incredible standards all year round. It’s best in spring or summer, but even in mid-December, it was a little oasis. It has a pond with fountains, surrounded by various sculptures. It only takes 10 minutes to wander rounding winter, but when the weather is better, every inch of it is packed with colour and you can easily spend half an hour taking it all in.

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Overlooking the Quarry Park is St Chad’s Church, where Charles Darwin was baptised. We went inside it on a previous trip just to have a nose round and it was quite nice if you’re into that kind of thing (churches, that is). For a Christmassy touch, you can have a look in its graveyard for Ebenezer Scrooge’s gravestone from ‘A Christmas Carol’, which was filmed in Shrewsbury #festivefact. We only know this because when we were walking out of the park, we passed a themed guided tour.

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After coming out of the park, we wandered along the old town walls towards the shops via some of Shrewsbury’s prettiest little streets, taking in all the beautiful Christmas wreaths on the doors.

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Shrewsbury has an indoor shopping centre and main high street with all the usual chain shops you get everywhere, which is handy but pointless going to them if you have them at home anyway. The best independent shops are tucked away off the main drag.

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Some of our favourite Shrewsbury shops that we always go in are:

You may have gathered from all the olde-worlde street names above that Shrewsbury has a lot of character. Who doesn’t enjoy the name ‘Grope Lane’? The whole town is a mass of winding little lanes and higgledy-piggledy shops, cafés and pubs. We stopped off at the v trendy 77 Wyle Cop for a hot chocolate to re-fuel during the shopping expedition.

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Suitably revived, we had a last look round some shops, including an interesting homeware shop that had just opened on Wyle Cop. We completely forgot the name and can’t find it online but it sold modern, unusual home accessories so if anyone knows what it was, give us a shout…

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When we’d exhausted the shops and our feet, we headed for a few drinks at the Three Fishes Inn on Fish Street (pictured below). We always seem to end up going there even though it’s a CAMRA/real ale type pub rather than craft beer/IPA, which is more our cup of tea. But it is very cosy and has a nice atmosphere. It’s also very close to the Bear Steps (also pictured below), one of the many quirky little cut-throughs in the town.

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After a pint, it was getting towards feeding time so we mooched back to the hotel to get ready for our meal.

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We aren’t creatures of habit on our travels but seemingly this goes out of the window when it comes to Shrewsbury because we not only stay at the same place but also eat at the same place(s). It’s either the Peach Tree if we want modern European style food, or our absolute favourite Momo No Ki for the best ramen we’ve had outside of Japan, as well as loads of other delicious Japanese and Korean dishes, all at very reasonable prices.

Two tips for Momo No Ki:

  1. The portions, unlike in Japan, are on the larger side of average so you might want to pace yourself…
  2. If there are specials on, have them. Whatever they are. They’re always delicious. Everything pictured below was off the specials menu and we’ve completely forgotten what they were all called but everything was fantastic.

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After our meal, we just had a few drinks back in the Lion + Pheasant bar before an excellent night’s sleep in our stunning Scandinavian room… which we forgot to take a photo of until after we’d slept in it. So I’m afraid the photo just doesn’t do it any justice and you’ll just have to go on their website or take our word for it that it was beautiful before we messed it up.

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The next day, we were still really full from Momo No Ki but didn’t want to miss out on the Lion + Pheasant’s gorgeous breakfast. A haddock omelette was a slightly lighter option than the eggs Benedict we normally both have (although one of us still managed it…). They also give you all the fruit and pastries you want, but they were beyond us this time.

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After that, we had the blogging nightmare of a dead camera battery, which cuts this short for you. The plan was to take photos of the castle but alas, the battery had other plans. But if you’re interested, Shrewsbury does indeed have its own medieval castle.

It also has lots of other stuff we’ve missed this trip, but this definitely won’t be our last blog on Shrewsbury because it’s somewhere we’ll always return to. Screw you, Chester and York (although you are also quite good). And if any of our readers can give tips on other cute towns to go that are under an hour and a half on the train from Stockport, do let us know.

A winter weekend in Shrewsbury - www.packthesuitcases.com UK travel blog

P.S. Our travel plans for the new year are kicking off with a massive trip to Japan for two weeks, so the blog might be quite quiet until we’re back. See you soon.

 

Landsberg am Lech: the prettiest day trip from Munich

During our recent visit to Munich, we had a fantastic day trip to the picturesque Bavarian town of Landsberg am Lech, which lies between Munich and Augsburg. It was one of our favourite days on holiday ever. Landsberg is on the famous Romantic Road, full of character and cobbled streets, with views across the Lech river.

To get there, we got the train from Munich Pasing to Kaufering and changed to get the local connecting train to Landsberg from there. It was a smooth journey that took about 50 minutes in total, with some really nice Bavarian scenery to look at out of the window. There’s something extra magical about Bavaria in autumn. After arriving into the train station, our first sight of Landsberg was from across the bridge.

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There were spectacular views both sides of the bridge: one was an array of autumn colour and the other, across the weir, an array pastel-coloured buildings.

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The main square in the town also delivered highly on the pastel buildings front. Some market stalls were just packing up as we took the photo. The tower dominating the square is apparently known as the Schöner Turm (beautiful tower), which is a bit nicer than its official name, Schmalzturm (lard tower). It’s from the 14th century and formed part of the old city walls.

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Landsberg am Lech: the cutest day trip from Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com Pack The Suitcases travel blog

Bomber jacket – New Look, sweater – Asos, jeans – Asos

Landsberg is most famous for being the place where Adolf Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, while imprisoned there. The prison still exists, but fortunately Landsberg has more to it than this horrible history. We had a good explore of the whole town. It’s full of little cobbled alleyways, pretty archways and bridges.

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Wherever we go, we tend to find somewhere we’d like to live. In Landsberg, we found at least 10 houses we’d be happy to have if we win the lottery. The one below is should be in the dictionary under ‘autumnal house’.

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The main road of shops in Landsberg winds along to the town walls.

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Bavarian towns love a good Rathaus and Landsberg is no exception. Its town hall is a solid 10/10 for effort, with all kinds of intricate gold detail on the facade. It’s in the aforementioned main square, but who needs blogs to be in any semblance of order? As in Munich, the tourist information office is located inside the Rathaus.

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By this point, we were getting hungry, so we mooched our way towards a spot for lunch via the old tanning works (wooden-framed buildings in the third picture below).

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Obviously there’s always time for a quick shot when your top accidentally matches a golden tree in the background.

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Jumper – Primark, chelsea boots – New Look, pinafore dress – New Look.

Our chosen lunch destination was Fischerwirt, a cosy old Bavarian inn that was perfect for a cold autumn day. We had the very affordable lunch menu: one sausage dish and one kässpätzle (a better version of macaroni cheese). And a Helles – naturlich.

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After lunch, we hauled ourselves out again before we fell asleep. This tiny fairytale cottage was opposite Fischerwirt.

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The sun came out and we went for a walk up to the Neues Stadtmuseum, which was resoundingly closed. This was fine because we had some gorgeous views.

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It sounds like we did very little here, but we actually covered a lot of ground and must have seen nearly the whole town. What holiday would be complete without a thorough investigation of random residential areas?!

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About 4pm, we needed sustenance. We’d spotted the Lechcafé earlier and earmarked it for later, based on chalkboard menus (always a good sign) and being pastel blue. It was a ‘kleines literaturcafé’ (little book café), which reminded us of a similar one we’d been to in Bergen on our honeymoon. But this one really was kleines. Very cute. It also did real English tea and the lady serving us was lovely. She very helpfully reminded us of the German word for gloves (handschuhe, if you’re interested, which is quite literally, hand shoes – it doesn’t get any more German than that does it?!). And she didn’t look at us like we had two heads when we asked for a bit of milk for the tea, which is a rarity in central Europe. So we had tea and cake – the cake being some incredible homemade layered creation called a ‘kalterhund’ (cold dog). Delicious.

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We had another quarter of an hour before our train, so we nipped back to the official cutest street in Bavaria (happy to challenge that claim by visiting more pretty towns next time) for a photo with the sun out, and then we headed back across the bridge to the station. Some swans appeared to wave us off, naturally.

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The train ‘home’ to Aubing, where we were staying in Munich, was easy and efficient (like most German transport, of course). We were both really taken with Landsberg am Lech (and not just for the plethora of Instagram-worthy houses with pretty flowers). After the hustle and bustle of Munich, it was nice to go somewhere smaller and quieter for the day to wind down (despite us walking around for hours like we always end up doing). We did manage to take hundreds of photos though, which has made this blog post one of the hardest ever to narrow down.

Our next post is going to be about eating and drinking (beer) in Munich, so stay tuned for more Bavarian fun…

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Landsberg am Lech: the cutest day trip from Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com Pack The Suitcases travel blog

 

Five days in Munich: the best autumn city break

Golden leaves underfoot. Crisp mornings. Burning candles. Ankle boots. Crackling fires. Pumpkin everything. The internet is now fully obsessed with autumn. But we loved it before it became a ‘thing’… just like everyone else. When we first visited the beautiful and underrated German city of Munich in autumn 2011, we loved the colours and the gemütlichkeit that the season brought to it. So when we were looking for a short five-day break for this October, we decided we’d go back for a second time to see more of Munich and Bavaria.

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Where we stayed

There’s very little nice, affordable accommodation in the centre of Munich, as we discovered in 2011. We thought maybe there’d be some better central options now that Airbnb has blown up, but everything available was either over £100 a night (our limit!) or had a dodgy looking shower. Last time, we stayed in Laim at Hotel Laimer Hof, a pretty suburb, and enjoyed ‘commuting’ into the centre on the tram or S-bahn. So we decided to stay in another nice suburb not too far away, called Aubing.

We found the lovely Hotel Grünwald Garni, which was just right: independent and family run, but big enough for us to be anonymous and not have to make conversation with people. The shower was genuinely worth writing home about and the receptionist remembered that we wanted milk for our tea. Super. The hotel is at a crossroads, next to a gigantic maypole-type affair, shown below. And there are plenty of cute doors for getting that outfit shot for Instagram…

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The best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com

Jacket – Primark, jumper – Oasis (sold out but similar here), jeans – New Look (sold out but similar here), chelsea boots – New Look

Anyway, on with the holiday. On our first day, we wanted to return to our favourite place from last time. So our Bavarian autumnal experience kicked off with a day at Schloss Nymphenburg…

Schloss Nymphenburg

Schloss Nymphenburg is a great big baroque palace with lakes, a forest and botanic gardens in its 500-acre grounds. You can go into the palace – it’s full of the usual impressive ceilings and furniture – but we prefer walking through the grounds. If you want autumnal scenery, this is it. We’ll let the leaves in the pictures speak for themselves.

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The best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com

Caroline: duster jacket – New Look (sold out but Mango has similar), chelsea boots – New Look / Chris: bomber jacket – New Look, skinny chinos – Asos, trainers – Nike.

There are lots of pavilions dotted about around the lakes and trees. We walked for miles through the woods, looking out for cute black squirrels. Then we sat and talked to some Canada geese for a bit after harassing some poor woman to take a photo of us on ‘our’ bridge (we did it last time so had to recreate).

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We then had some lunch at the Schlosscafe im Palmenhaus in the formal gardens: a flammkuchen (like a thin pizza with crème fraîche on) and some sausages and chips. You’d expect somewhere in such a big tourist attraction to be overpriced, but it was quite reasonable. We’re going to write a full blog post about eating and drinking in Munich, so will shut up for now about food.

Revived with sustenance, we had a look round the arboretum and gardens and tried several times to get a photo of the big koi pond without some woman in a blue coat repeatedly getting in the way. Oh and also, more autumn colours.

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As it was October, there were some Halloween decorations around the place, including this nauseous chap.

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Something we’d not seen on our last trip was the Olympiapark, so we headed there in the afternoon.

Olympiastation at Olympiapark

The Olympiapark wasn’t the easiest thing to get to, being more designed for cars, but we found it eventually. The stadium was built for the 1972 Olympics. It has also hosted the 1974 football world cup final and countless other big european football matches. It was home of Bayern Munich and TSV 1860 Munich until about 10 years ago. It’s renowned for its unusual half-roof, which was very modern in 1972 and still looks futuristic now. You can do a walking tour of the roof… We obviously passed on this. The stadium is set in a man-made park with lakes and trees, which all looks strangely artificial. Almost like a model landscape.

The best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.comThe best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.comThe best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com

After the Olympiapark, we headed back into the centre for our evening meal (again, we’ll go into food on another post) and copious amounts of Augustiner Helles beer.

The next day, we went into the Altstadt (old town) again to retrace old steps and remember how beautiful the buildings in Munich are.

Architecture

Strangely, you never seem to hear anyone raving about how stunning the architecture in Munich is. Perhaps it is overshadowed by Oktoberfest. But we’ve found Munich to be one of the most visually pleasing cities we’ve been to.

The best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.comThe best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com

One of the criterion for us really loving a city is how many pretty pastel-coloured streets it has. Bergen and Porto both delivered well for that this year, but we’d forgotten how beautifully colourful the streets of Munich are.

The best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.comThe best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com

Probably the most recognisable Munich building other than the Rathaus is the Hofbräuhaus, below. It really is huge and definitely worth a visit if this is your first trip to Munich. In our opinions, there are better beerhalls in Munich and we’re going to write about them in our upcoming food and drink post, but it’s still worth going to once for the experience.

The best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com

Another iconic and much-photographed building is the massive Hirmir men’s clothing shop along the main shopping street, Kaufingerstraße. It boasts an impressive collection of window boxes.

The best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com

Of course, all through the city, the trees were turning golden and setting off the buildings in a new light. St Lukas kirche on the banks of the river Isar was looking particularly good with its gold details next to a golden tree.

The best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com

Neues Rathaus

Of course, the Neues Rathaus (new town hall) in Marienplatz is the big deal for most visitors. It hosts the city government, but more importantly, the tourist information office if you need it. Every day at 11am, its glockenspiel clock chimes and little figures reenact a story (a bit like the clock in Prague, if you’ve seen that).

The best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.comThe best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.comThe best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com

After reacquainting ourselves with the beauty of the city, we went to the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum (Bavarian National Museum). We couldn’t take photos in there, so you’ll just have to imagine a huge museum absolutely jam-packed with everything Bavarian you can imagine. We were highly amused by just how much stuff they’d crammed in. You really got your money’s worth! We’re not big on ‘old stuff’ and prefer modern art museums, but the sheer volume of artefacts in this was mind-blowing. Paintings, ceramics, china, musical instruments, textiles, a room full of gigantic statues of Jesus. They had it all.

After spending way more time than we’d planned in there, we were dying of hunger so went in search of grub.

Viktualienmarkt

The Viktualienmarkt is one of the loveliest markets we’ve been to in Europe – and we tend to visit one in every city we go to. It’s especially nice for autumnal plants – some really nice heather and cyclamen displays that we’d have loved to take home for the garden.

Its main draw is of course, food. Over 140 stalls with everything you could possibly want to eat (provided you like sausages, of course). We were cold and had a big evening meal coming up, so opted for some homemade chicken noodle broth. This was devoured while people watching – a great activity (provided you like watching people eat sausages, of course).

The best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com
The best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com

Haus der Kunst

After lunch, we headed off for our inevitable fix of modern art – it was also good to be indoors for a bit to warm up. The Haus der Kunst is next to the Englische Garten, which is a must-see but not something we had time for this trip. The art museum building itself was designed by the Nazis and is interesting in itself. Inside, the gallery does not have permanent pieces, but hosts temporary exhibits. It also has a beautiful café bar inside, which is definitely worth a visit in its own right.

The best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com

The best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com

Jumper – ASOS, grey jeans – New Look, chelsea boots – New Look

Urban surfing

Even if, like us, you have absolutely zero interest in water sports, you should pop over to the bridge outside the Haus der Kunst to see some surfing on the Eisbach, a side branch of the river Isar. It’s done on a man-made wave. We’ve sat and watched surfers in the sea on a few holidays, but we noticed how much more successful they were on this wave. They actually managed to stay up for a fair amount of time. Still don’t see the appeal, but it’s worth a look – and of course had a glorious backdrop of autumn colour.

The best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com

The rest of our holiday in Munich was taken up with a day trip to Lansberg am Lech (another upcoming blog post on that absolute treat) and exploring the many beerhalls Munich has to offer. But we can’t finish a main blog post on Munich without mentioning both our favourite thing about Munich…

Augustiner

Augustiner Bräustuben is our favourite place to eat and drink in Munich. It is the ‘brewery tap’ of the famous Augustiner helles lager, often called the ‘champagne of beer’, something we’ve been mildly obsessed with since our first visit to Munich. It even featured in our wedding. Augustiner Bräustuben is also the perfect cosy haven to escape the autumn chill and be enveloped in Bavarian hospitality.

That’s all we’ll touch on about beer for now, but we will get our full blog post about food and beer in Munich published soon.

The best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.comThe best autumn city break: five days in Munich - www.packthesuitcases.com

In conclusion, we’ve never been anywhere quite so full of autumn colour. Munich is the perfect place for a city break around October time. You can also use it as a base for a good variety of day trips. Salzburg, Neuschwanstein Castle or Nuremburg are all within easy reach, as well as idyllic little Bavarian towns like Landsberg am Lech.

See you in another five years, Munich…

A flying visit to Lancaster and Williamson Park

En route home from our day in Kirkby Lonsdale, we stopped off overnight in the historic city of Lancaster. For search engine optimisation, that’s Lancaster in Lancashire, England and not the Lancaster somewhere in the USA. That would have been a much longer bus journey.

Lancastrian streets - from 'A day in Lancaster' at www.packthesuitcases.com

This blog doesn’t do Lancaster justice. We barely scratched its surface – our trip was more about meeting up with friends, eating and drinking, and having a mooch round. Lancaster needs more time to see it properly. It is steeped in history and the big thing we missed out was the fantastic Lancaster Castle, which is only the main tourist attraction, oops. It’s where the Pendle witches were tried and all of that dark history is fascinating. There’s also the judge’s lodgings in a beautiful Georgian townhouse and the canal, which is lined with lovely pubs and perfect for a crisp autumnal walk.

But we did have time for arguably Lancaster’s other big attraction, Williamson Park and the Ashton Memorial within it.

The Ashton Memorial at Williamson Park, Lancaster from www.packthesuitcases.com

Chris had only ever been to Lancaster briefly before, but it is a city very close to Caroline’s heart, having been her home for three years while at university. That’s a (horribly) long time ago now, so a lot has changed. One thing that hadn’t changed was the great quality of the grub at The Borough. We arrived in the evening so headed straight there for our tea and it did not disappoint. We then went for a quick drink at The Tap House, a craft ale bar that used to be some terrible drinking hole called Cuba back in the day. It’s definitely improved and had a good selection of local artisan beers. We stayed at the Travelodge – less exciting than our lovely B&B in Kirkby Lonsdale, but we needed to be both cheap and central and it did the job.

In the morning, we headed off for Williamson Park. This was always one of Caroline’s favourite places in Lancaster and it was a relief that it was just as good going back. It’s awful when places change or go downhill. Or simply aren’t as nice as you remember. The main thing in Williamson Park is the Ashton Memorial, which is a folly built in the early 1900s by a local millionaire in memory of his wife. You can see it for miles around because it’s bloody massive and is on top of a great big hill. The dome is a lovely green, made of copper, and stands out against the (almost always) brooding grey skies of Lancaster.

The Ashton Memorial at Williamson Park, Lancaster from www.packthesuitcases.com

Aside from being ‘the Taj Mahal of the north’ to look at, you can also go inside it and climb up for some incredible views of Lancaster – rolling hills, Morecambe Bay and the sea. It’s easy to climb up and has proper stairs, so you’ll be fine if you’re in impractical shoes and/or wildly unfit like us.

It felt very autumnal in the park, although the leaves weren’t all golden just yet. They were on the turn though and there was a chill in the air. Well, there’s always a chill in the air up a hill in Lancaster, but this was a particularly autumnal one.

The Ashton Memorial at Williamson Park, Lancaster from www.packthesuitcases.com

The Ashton Memorial at Williamson Park, Lancaster from www.packthesuitcases.com

Chinos – ASOS, mint shirt – Weekday, jacket and shoes – Primark

The Ashton Memorial at Williamson Park, Lancaster from www.packthesuitcases.com

Sleeveless jacket – New Look, gold trim ankle boots – New Look, everything else – also New Look but old!  This was not an intentional New Look outfit, either.

Inside the Ashton Memorial, they’ve got an exhibition centre, with local art, and it’s also a wedding venue on the ground floor. The inside isn’t really the point, it’s more about the viewing platform, but there’s some nice stained glass windows if you like that kind of thing.

The Ashton Memorial at Williamson Park, Lancaster from www.packthesuitcases.com

The Ashton Memorial at Williamson Park, Lancaster from www.packthesuitcases.com

The Ashton Memorial at Williamson Park, Lancaster from www.packthesuitcases.com

The Ashton Memorial at Williamson Park, Lancaster from www.packthesuitcases.com

Next to the Ashton Memorial is the butterfly house. We’ve not attempted to go into a butterfly house since an incident in Vienna in 2012 when Chris was attacked by disgraceful hairy butterflies. This time, we survived with no physical interaction (but still plenty of screaming).

The butterfly house and the Ashton Memorial at Williamson Park, Lancaster from www.packthesuitcases.comThe butterfly house and Ashton Memorial at Williamson Park, Lancaster from www.packthesuitcases.com

Aside from terrifying butterflies, also in the house were some adorable little button quails. We’d never heard of these before – well, obviously we’d heard of quails, but not these cute little button chaps.

Button quails at Williamson Park, Lancaster from www.packthesuitcases.com

When you’ve escaped the butterflies, there’s a mini beasts house, featuring axolotls and dormice as well as lots of other not-so-cute things. And there’s an outdoor aviary with little birds in it, which are overly friendly and will land on you. But the pièce de résistance of the whole thing is of course, the guinea pigs in the petting zoo. There’s always been a good array of guinea pigs at Williamson Park and as we all know, they are the best animals in the world. Unfortunately, they were in the same enclosure as some rabbits this time. Guinea pigs and rabbits shouldn’t live together. Hopefully it was only temporary. On the plus side, they had plenty of space and were adorable and friendly.

Guinea pigs at Williamson Park, Lancaster from www.packthesuitcases.com

After we’d been prised away from the guinea pigs, we did one circuit round the Ashton Memorial. There are loads of walks you can do in Williamson Park but it was blowing a gale and we needed lunch and to meet up with friends, so we headed back into Lancaster.

Inside the Ashton Memorial at Williamson Park, Lancaster from www.packthesuitcases.com

Back in the city centre, we had a brief whiz round some nostalgic places from Caroline’s student days. This included Bashful Alley, home of The Old Bell Coffee House. This is where to have a decent scone with your mum! There used to be some sort of story behind the name Bashful Alley, but we can’t find anything to verify it online. It was something about women using it as a shortcut in ye olden days, to avoid being harassed by men in the market. It’s a good name anyway.

Bashful Alley - from 'A day in Lancaster' at www.packthesuitcases.com

Bashful Alley - from 'A day in Lancaster' at www.packthesuitcases.com

Speaking of the market, it was on when we were there (a Saturday). The atmosphere is always bustling and lively in Lancaster when it’s on. There’s cheese, meats, cakes and all sorts that you can buy, as well as an array of hot and cold food to eat then and there. We bought some lunch here to eat while walking around the shops.

Lancaster market square - from 'A day in Lancaster' at www.packthesuitcases.com

Lancaster market square - from 'A day in Lancaster' at www.packthesuitcases.com

After our lunch on the go, we had a quick drink at The Sun (different to the Sun Inn we’d been to in Kirkby Lonsdale). This was always an excellent pub when Caroline lived in Lancaster, but seemed to have got even better, with a little outside area at the back lit up with fairy lights.

The Sun Inn, Lancaster - from 'A day in Lancaster' at www.packthesuitcases.com

Behind the Sun is a typical Lancastrian street (called Sun Street), which is where it all seems to be happening these days. We were reliably informed by friends we met up with that this is where all the best eateries are these days and it definitely seemed to be the most up-and-coming area. We met up with said friends on this road, at The Music Room, a quirky independent café. We had a good catch up with a brew and some cake before our train home.

The Music Rooms cafe in Lancaster - from 'A day in Lancaster' at www.packthesuitcases.com

The Music Rooms cafe in Lancaster - from 'A day in Lancaster' at www.packthesuitcases.com

So that was it – until next time, because we’ll inevitably return to lovely Lancaster. We had a lovely little trip though. Next time, we’ll have to go to the castle, as well a bit further out of the city to Gresgarth Hall Gardens and surrounding pretty towns and villages.

P.S. Here’s a photo of Caroline outside Sugarhouse for nostalgic purposes. Only relevant if you are/were a student at the university and of no interest whatsoever to anyone just visiting Lancaster for a day out. Move along.

Sugarhouse student nightclub - from 'A day in Lancaster' at www.packthesuitcases.com