In my monthly round-ups, I am looking back at my travels over the past four weeks, what went well and what didn’t, and what’s next for me.
Where I’ve been
I started the month in Mexico and ended it in Berlin – and in between, I spent time in Los Angeles again, I finally returned to New York City, I drank my way through Sonoma Wine Country, spent the Holidays with my family in Germany, and toasted to the New Year in Berlin. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end 2016!
This month was packed with travels and awesome experiences – I left Mexico and flew to LA (my third visit this year!) for a long weekend, and then from there to Santa Rosa in Northern California for a week of wine tastings and Redwoods explorations. And then finally, after 15 weeks away, I returned to New York! It felt amazing to come home, if I can call it that. I didn’t get to enjoy NYC (all decked out for Christmas!) for too long though, because I went to Germany in time for Christmas to spend the Holidays with my family. During my time in NYC, I managed to fit in a whole bunch of activities that I hoped would get me in the Christmas spirit: seeing the famous Christmas lights in Dyker Heights, ice skating, marveling at the Christmas decorations on 5th Avenue and the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. And there was just enough time to satisfy my cravings for a good New York bagel, New York pizza, banana bread pudding from Magnolia’s Bakery, and a few catch-up sessions with some friends.
And then.. Christmas! This was only my second Christmas with my family since 2007, so I was over the moon to be able to visit several Christmas markets, bake a whole bunch of Christmas cookies and make a massive Christmas dinner for my family (I even made a roast duck – trying to ignore the fact that I’m a vegetarian). While I enjoyed spending the Holidays with my sister, my brother, my nieces and my nephew, I was ready for some city life after a few days in the countryside at my sister’s house, and so I decided on a whim to escape to Berlin – a great decision, as it turned out, because I had an amazing week there, that included more Christmas markets, lots of beer, Turkish and Lebanese food, some sightseeing and New Year’s Eve with someone special.Let’s take a look at my December highlights before I share my most embarrassing travel mishap ever with you in the lowlights:
Christmas markets in Germany
I love German Christmas markets, and they are part of the reason why I think I should go to Germany for the Holidays more often. I enjoyed several visits to the beautiful Christmas market in my hometown Erfurt, and thanks to the extended opening times of several of Berlin’s Christmas markets (most of them close a couple of days before Christmas Eve) I got to enjoy three of Berlin’s Christmas markets the week after Christmas. I love everything about them: sipping Gluhwein (mulled wine) and Eierpunsch (eggnog with white wine), eating chocolate covered fruit and sugar roasted nuts and almonds, all the fried Christmas market food, and wandering the aisles lined with wooden huts selling Christmas gifts and souvenirs.
I’ve been to various Christmas markets in the US and also in the UK over the years, but I have to say: they just don’t compare to the original German Christmas markets. I hope one year I can take an extended tour of the country’s most famous Christmas markets, since I have never been to popular ones like Rothenburg or Dresden, and I would love to return to some of the ones I loved when I visited them years ago, such as Frankfurt, Cologne or Nuremberg.
A long weekend in LA
After my extended stay in September and a few days in town in November, I found myself back in Los Angeles for the third time at the beginning of December, and when a friend happened to pass through LA at the same time, my visit turned out a bit different than I thought it would. Instead of spending all weekend with my favorites Jen, Chris and Henry in Long Beach, I ended up having a rather touristy weekend with sightseeing (Griffith Observatory, sunset drinks in Downtown L.A., exploring the Arts District), microbrewery hopping, a tour of Venice and Venice Beach and ticking one thing off of my LA foodie bucket list: California Donuts. I am not a big fan of regular doughnuts, but I love artisanal doughnuts from places like the Doughnut Plant in New York or Voodoo Donuts in Austin. So California Donuts had to happen and they did not disappoint (albeit not coming anywhere close to my all-time favorites from New York’s Doughnut Plant).
Ice skating in New York
This one made my 16 favorite travel moments of 2016 – Ice skating in Bryant Park. Ice skating in New York was something I’d been wanting to do even long before I ever thought the city would become a place I’d call home, and with all the ice rinks in the city during the winter, there’s no shortage of options. I had set my eyes on two particular ice rinks though: Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan and Wollman Rink in Central Park – both have great views of Manhattan’s skyscrapers. I didn’t make it onto the ice once last year, even though I watched people on the ice on those rinks and the one in Prospect Park, but I never happened to be with someone who enjoyed ice skating as well.
But this year, I finally made it happen! And it was glorious. The best part was that my friend Kristin and I went early, around 8.30am on a week day (the benefit of being my own boss and setting my own hours..) which meant the ice rink was fairly empty. I hadn’t been on an ice rink in years, but I quickly got back into it and am already looking forward to next winter’s ice skating season.
A wine trip to Northern California
I don’t accept many invites from Tourism Boards but an LGBT-focused wine trip to Santa Rosa and Sonoma Wine Country sounded too good to pass up. And I am glad I did! I loved seeing the picturesque landscape of Sonoma County in the fall, the vine leaves while they were changing colors, and hike in the Redwoods on a crisp autumn day. And of course I toured a bunch of wineries – not only did I get to taste some fantastic wines but I also learned so much about wines and wine production. I can’t wait to share more about this trip with you.
Leaving my laptop on a plane
It’s official: 2016 was the year with the most travel mishaps ever. I left a pair of $300 headphones on a plane earlier this year, I lost a brand new jacket, damaged two camera lenses (irreparable), broke my phone several times, lost a number of battery /Kindle / phone chargers and other things.
On my flight from New York to Europe I managed to do the unthinkable: I left my laptop on the plane from JFK to Heathrow. I only noticed it when I, upon changing terminals to catch my connecting flight to Berlin, I had to go through security again and was asked to take my laptop out of my bag. Only that my laptop wasn’t in there! I had finished a freelance article on the plane that was due that very same day, and had put the laptop on the seat next to me after I was done… and simply forgot to put it back in my bag. To my defense I want to say that I only slept two hours on that red eye flight, but still, considering that this laptop is pretty much my livelihood, this was a massive mistake, and ended up stressing me so much that I burst into tears in the airport. The BA employees weren’t very helpful at first, not allowing me to go back to terminal 3 to try to retrieve my laptop, because they thought I might miss my connecting flight. I didn’t care about that though – all I cared about was getting my laptop back. After a lot of begging and pleading I made it back to terminal 3 and to the Virgin counter, and my laptop had been found and handed in. I was over the moon when I was reunited with the most valuable item I own and I made it back to terminal 5 just in time to board my flight to Berlin.
Getting sick on the road
I had my fair share of getting sick on the road incidents this year, with a short stint in the hospital in the Amazon in March, food poisoning in Colombia in January and again in Mexico in November, but this month, I got really scared when I got sick on my wine trip in Santa Rosa and wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to board my flight from California to New York, afraid my appendix might burst 30,000 feet above ground. I was suffering through nearly a week of severe abdominal pain, until I was ready to finally see a doctor (thinking I might not make it through a trans-Atlantic flight) – when the pain suddenly disappeared. I am still not sure what this was, but will definitely get a proper check-up before I leave Germany, especially since several of my friends have had terrible health scares in recent months (including a burst appendix).
I ended the year with two great awards – being included in Meg’s Lesbian Travel Awards and in Travel Fashion Girl’s Top Female Travel Blogs! Check both of them out for other queer blogs / female travel blogs:
What’s next for me
I have to admit that visiting my family for the Holidays was not the only reason for my spontaneous trip to Germany this month… I have hinted here and there about a huge, possibly life changing event that I can’t really talk about yet, but this is the actual reason for my Germany trip, and I hope that I can finally spill the beans on it next month.
And since I can’t sit still for too long, I just booked a flight to Tel Aviv to visit my favorite person in the world! This will be my third visit to Israel after a month-long trip around the country in 2014 and a short week in Tel Aviv in 2015. I am stoked to return to Israel and explore more of this beautiful country and overeat on hummus and shakshuka. My next update will be coming from Jerusalem!