Month: January 2022

Fairytale Castles

On our way back from Barcelona last October, I pulled out my phone and idly checked the Hohenschangau ticket office, as I had many times over the past few months. To my delight, they actually had some tickets available for the next weekend! On a whim I bought a pair and we quickly arranged a weekend away in Füssen, the nearest town to the famous castle of Neuschwanstein.

On the train to Fussen

Füssen is southwest of Munich, less than three hours on the train. (It’s right next to the Austrian border, the next valley over from Garmisch-Partenkirchen.) The weather that weekend was gorgeous, and it was thrilling to see the mountains rising up in the distance. And… is that a little castle I spy?? 🏰


We stayed in the Hotel Schlosskrone, just a short walk from the train station. The view from our hotel was pretty glorious.

View from hotel

We headed out into the town for a wander and to find some dinner. Füssen was founded in Roman times and it’s retained quite a medieval feel.

Evening in Fussen

It’s pretty touristy too, being the closest place to Ludwig’s castles. Phew, €500+ for a cuckoo clock?!

Cuckoo clocks

We also got a glimpse of the Hohes Schloss (“High Castle”) up on the hill, the former summer residence of the prince-bishops of Augsburg.

Hohes Schloss

The next day we headed back out to check it out in the sunshine…

Hohes Schloss

Gosh it was beautiful there.

Hohes Schloss

We were heading towards the river, where we knew there were was a waterfall. Along the way we ducked in the courtyard of St. Mang’s, a former Benedictine monastery. Now it contains the Museum of Füssen.

St. Mang’s Courtyard

I loved how decorated the buildings were in town. This was the Church of the Holy Spirit.

Church of the Holy Spirit

The river in Füssen is called the Lech, and it flows from a lake in the Alps all the way to the Danube. Here’s the Snook on the Lechbrücke (“Lech Bridge”).


We had another view of St. Mang’s from the river.

St. Mang’s

We crossed the river and hiked a short distance to the west, where we reached our destination – the Lechfall.


The water pours down a series of steps at a narrow bend in the river with high cliffs on either side. Up on the cliff there is a small memorial to King Maximilian II of Bavaria. There’s also a small footbridge across the river that we headed down to get a better view.


I recorded a little video too.

Behind us, looking back east towards town…

River Lech

The water in the river was incredibly clear.


We crossed the river in search of the Via Claudia Augusta, the ancient Roman road created by Drusus and his Emperor son Claudius. Now parts of it are a popular hiking path marked with replicas of the Roman milestones.

Via Claudia Augusta

We followed it north towards the Tal der Sinne (“Valley of the Senses”).

Via Claudia Augusta

Along the way we passed lots of charming houses, both modern and traditional.

We made it to The Valley and found an old ski jump! That was pretty cool.

Ski Jump

And the Snook got to impersonate a sundial.

Sundial Snookums

We hiked back into town in search of sustenance. We passed a lot of hotels and guest houses, but tourist numbers were still pretty low due to Covid.


I thought this building covered in birdhouses was really cute.

Bird houses

Back in town, we did some shopping. I lobbied hard, but no, he regrettably did not buy the hat.

Snookums in the hat

We found a sunny spot for lunch and beers…

The Snook may not have bought a hat, but I did! I got it at the Hutladen.

My new hat

The next day, it was time to head to the castles! 🏰

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Seafood and Gaudi in Barcelona

I can’t believe I’m still documenting last year’s travels! We have been incredibly fortunate to get to travel, even during the pandemic. In October, I had a work event in Barcelona and so the Snook decided to accompany me. We headed there a few days early so we had time to play tourist.

On the plane

Neither of us had ever been to Barcelona before. Actually, other than a short work trip the Snook made to Madrid 20 years ago, neither of us had ever really been to Spain! We caught a Saturday afternoon flight from Munich and were there within a couple hours. We checked into our hotel and then went out in search of dinner. It was a lovely night.

Walking in Barcelona

It was nice to see palm trees again! We had made a 9pm restaurant booking off a recommendation from my boss Enrique, and we had plenty of time to walk through the city and explore. Our route took us past the gates of the famous Citadel Park.

Gates of Citadel Park

Our dinner booking was at Passadis del Pep. We honestly had no idea what to expect. Our first challenge was just finding the place – there’s no sign, and you enter through an unobtrusive hallway. We noticed right away that our 9pm reservation – which felt quite late for us – was actually the first sitting of the night, as the place was still pretty empty!

Pa amb tomàquet

Our waiter was an older guy who thankfully spoke a little English. “We have no menu,” he said. “We cook whatever is fresh and in season. Are you happy to be surprised?” We said we were. The starter was the classic “pa amb tomàquet” (bread with tomato) with some olives and chips.


I knew we were going to be in for a lot of seafood! Next course was a tuna tartare doused in olive oil with some crisp toasts.


The food just kept coming. Next was a pot of all different clams and pippis. This was my first time ever having razor clams! The Snook was in heaven, and we eagerly sopped up the pot liquor with bread.

Happy Snookums

See? Told you he was happy.

Peppers and fried fish

Next we had grilled Padrón peppers with sea salt, and a plate of lightly battered and fried baby shrimps. I was dubious of the Snook’s advice to just eat them, legs and all, but they were so tiny they had crisped up like French fries!

Grilled squid

Little grilled squids! Just the right amount of char…

Wild mushrooms

Next up was a local specialty of wild mushrooms with a very rich sauce. (Definitely butter, maybe even some egg yolks?) I liked this, but the Snook wasn’t as much of a fan.

Jamón ibérico

At this point I noticed there was giant Jamón on a special stand behind the Snook. *drool*


These were like a langoustine, I think? With some sweet caramelised onions on top.

More prawns

Yet more prawns! At this point we were getting pretty full, and there was no sign of the parade of dishes coming to an end. I flagged down our charming waiter to ask him how much more there was to come. “Steak or fish?” he replied. “Steak,” I sighed.

Our final “main” course was a beautifully rare steak along with garlic and rosemary fries. It was delicious, definitely the best steak we’d had since leaving Australia. We were so stuffed though!


But we were feeling great. We drank an entire bottle of a local Catalan wine. That probably helped.

Dessert was thankfully very light – just a couple scoops of lemon sorbet, and then our choice of a couple digestivs. I went for the cream liqueur, while the Snook went for the “Bruja” (which he said reminded him of grappa). What a great start to our Barcelona mini-break!

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A long-delayed Italian pilgrimage

In September, we went on a very special trip to Italy.

As always with these travel posts, I have to put them in context. This one goes way back! Five years ago, I went to a special foodie symposium at the Sydney Opera House hosted by acclaimed Danish chef René Redzepi (from Noma). He was joined onstage by many other chefs, including David Chang (from Momofuku) and Massimo Bottura (from Osteria Francescana). The event was all about the future of food, how we eat as a society, how food and culture intersect and impact the environment, and the responsibility of chefs to educate. Not only are these guys all really smart, they’re literally the best in the world at what they do. When you get a chance to eat at one of their restaurants, you take it.

Fast forward to September 2020, not long after we arrived in Germany. I started thinking about which bucket list restaurants we could visit in Europe, and I discovered that Osteria Francescana takes bookings six months in advance. It’s been rated the best restaurant in the world twice and currently has three Michelin stars. (Also, if you watched Master of None on Netflix, it was featured – along with Massimo himself – in Season 2.) Covid was still making everything uncertain, but we figured it was worth taking a gamble. The restaurant is very small (it only has 12 tables!!), but we managed to get a reservation for the following April. Unfortunately, we went into lockdown over winter and things were still very uncertain in March. The restaurant was open but we weren’t sure if we’d be able to get in/out of Italy without having to quarantine. Reluctantly, we cancelled the reservation and decided to try again. Thankfully we were able to get another booking for the following September, a full year after the initial idea. And happily, this time we were vaccinated and able to go.

Train to Italy

As usual, we decided to train it. We caught the EuroCity train from Munich to Bologna, travelling south across Austria through the Tyrolean Alps to Italy. The trip takes about 7 hours and features truly stunning scenery. We were lucky that that weather was perfect and we had great views of soaring bridges, charming villages, and hilltop fortresses. (Note: we wore masks the whole time and I only had him take it off briefly for the photo!)

As we passed through Verona, a cheeky Capulet bit his thumb at me! 😂

Biting his thumb!

At Bologna we had to change trains for the short ride to Modena, our destination for the weekend. Modena is known for UNESCO World Heritage sites, balsamic vinegar, Enzo Ferrari, Luciano Pavarotti, and of course, a very special restaurant. We hauled our bags over to our hotel and the headed out into the city to explore.

Piazza Roma

We got to Piazza Roma just as the sun was setting. The Ducal Palace runs down one side and has fountains out in front.

Ducal Palace

I’d found a promising place for dinner so we went for a wander through the cobbled streets of the historic center.

Modena at night

We headed to Sosta Emiliana, where we grabbed a small table outside. The restaurant specialised in local delicacies from Emilia-Romagna like tigella (Modenese flatbreads), meats and cheeses, and sparkling Lambrusco. We went with platters that meant we got to taste a bit of everything!

Sosta Emiliana

On our way back to the hotel we passed the Duomo di Modena (Modena Cathedral), a UNESCO World Heritage site. It looked very dramatic lit up against the night sky.


“Have we had too much Lambrusco or… is it leaning a bit?” we wondered. Definitely some funky angles going on there.

Bell tower

The next day the morning dawned hot and sunny. We had time to fill before our reservation, so we headed into the Parco Giardino Ducale Estense, the park that was formerly the gardens of the Ducal Palace. (As you can see, we dressed up a bit for our fancy lunch.)


The old part of Modena is shaped almost like a pentagon so we went for a long stroll around it. This beautiful building on the Viale delle Rimembranze is actually a bank!

Bank in Modena

The Snook scoped out the local real estate prices.

Real Estate agency

We also went back to the Cathedral and ventured inside. (It’s where Pavarotti’s funeral was held!) It’s over 800 years old and features lots of different styles of carvings and embellishments. The stone lions next to the entrance date to the Roman times and were thought to have been found while digging the foundations. The Cathedral also features the burial site of St. Geminianus, the patron saint of Modena.

We’d worked up quite an appetite by this point, so it was time to go to lunch! The restaurant entrance is quite unassuming with only a tiny sign, and we probably would’ve walked right past if not for the small group of people waiting nearby. We spent the time taking photographs with some of the other guests and gawking at the Maseratis and Ferraris parked down the street.

Osteria Francescana

And then we were ushered inside!

Rather than a single big space, the restaurant had a few different rooms and we were in one with only four tables.  The walls were decorated with fine art and I felt a little daunted to be sitting there in a dress I’d sewn myself!

At Osteria Francescana

Buckle up, because you’re about to get a LOT of food photos…

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Memory Vest and Digger Jacket

I actually did finish a couple long-gestating knitting projects in 2021! Above you can see the Snook modelling his new cabled v-neck vest. He’s decided in recent years that he likes knitted vests, as he can still wear a jacket over them and not be too warm. The wool is Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed from a packet that I bought in a Knitters Guild destash many years ago. It’s wonderfully soft and squooshy, and I knew it wouldn’t make him itch. (The colour is 419 Butternut, but to me it looks more like a golden cookie or a teddy bear.) The pattern is called Dr. G’s Memory Vest, and it was designed as a tribute to someone who suffered from dementia. I modified the pattern to be knitted in the round from the bottom up, and I worked on it off-and-on throughout the year. I also tweaked the length slightly as the Snook has a long torso. Doesn’t it look good against a blue shirt? More details over on Ravelry.

Digger Jacket

The other project I finished was the Digger Jacket. I actually started this project years ago when my cousin had her first child back in the US. I severely underestimated how quickly I can knit complicated intarsia though (or how frustrating dealing with hundreds of ends can be) so it took me a really long time to finish. By the time it was ready for the zipper, she was pregnant with her third son! I brought it to Germany with me so I could finally finish it off, and last month I was lucky enough to get to deliver it to her in the US. Obviously it’s a bit big for the little one right now, but he’ll grow into it. The wool is Morris Estate 8ply and I absolutely love the colours. As always, I tried to minimise sewing up by knitting the fronts and back together on a singular circular needle. The trade-off was that meant I had to knit all four machines at the same time, which got pretty complicated juggling all the different colours. I tried to simplify things a little by using duplicate stitch for the words and a few of the smaller details. I’m really charmed by how it turned out though, and the little one looks so adorable in it! More details on Rav…