24 Jul Little Miss Independent
I know when I was a child, going on holidays were the absolute best. My younger sister, Val, and I would get so excited that we won’t be able to sleep the previous night. My dad would print out a packing list, we would all help with the packing but when I was 8 years old, planning my outfits and itinerary weren’t on the list. I just knew I had to stick to my parents, follow instructions and try not to throw up on the plane.
We’ve had a few family trips here and there as I grew up. This trip to Europe has been quite different as a working adult. It started off as a trip where my parents were planning to take my younger sister. Plus I knew my dad loves spending time with the family and has been yearning for a family trip for the longest time.
I really wanted to join them too so after going back and forth a bit, we’ve came to a mutual agreement, on the places we would go and of course finances. As I was already working, I wanted to chip in my fair share and would not expect my expenses to be fully covered by my parents. Also since I’ve been going on some trips on my own already, I have some experience in planning and booking things like tours and tickets. My dad was extremely tied up at work the few weeks before we flew as he had an event so I stepped in to help. But once all that was settled, it was time to properly look forward to the trip with a peace of mind.
I want to share with you guys how to spending a whole period of uninterrupted time with my family was undeniably one of the best feelings ever. This post is to give you a little insight to this special bunch of people that I hold very dear to me.
To backtrack a little, Val and I started off in Frankfurt a few days prior to joining the rest of the family in Antwerp. My dad and Judith (my stepmom, for those of you who don’t know) were in Antwerp as they took a different flight. Aretha (my stepsister) is doing her Masters in Antwerp, which explained why Antwerp was one of our pitstops.
This is the furthest Val and I have gone on our own before and we were super stoked at enjoying ourselves without the parents. But this came with added responsibility. I mean, she’s already 20, but as an elder sister, I was still responsible in making sure she was taken care of! Even in the littlest things like keeping our passports and cash, reminding her to check that she has her phone, ordering and paying etc.
We landed in Frankfurt International Airport and then headed to buy a train ticket to our Airbnb apartment.
On the first night, it was drizzling and we were exhausted from the flight so we headed to the apartment and went to the nearby supermarket.
The next morning, while Val hopped into the shower, I made coffee. I usually hate 3-in-1 coffee because it tastes super artificial but when I go on holidays, I will make do with a cup every morning, especially since in it was freezing and we didn’t know when we could find coffee next.
And of course the day started out with a photo of us.
Our photos started to look the same because we’re in the same coat every day hahaha
We haven’t been in on a holiday during winter in a really long time and we were like Energizer bunnies on the streets bouncing off the walls in excitement! It was our first time at Christmas markets and we tried so many different food – which I will talk about in another post. It felt really good to spend time with Val as we don’t see each other very often since she stays in hall.
(Sorry Val, please forgive me for what I am about to do :p)
First time trying mulled wine and we were obviously not used to the taste. Plus to get a nice shot, we had to hold on to the hot cup for longer than we’d like to. I think we spent a good 20 minutes trying to take a nice photo and trying not to scream at each other.
To be fair, here’s one unglam one of me too.
“Can you take it from a better angle?? WHY IS IT SLANTED?? MOVE BACK, OKAY STOP, NO MOVE SOME MORE”
Roaming the city!
Okay moving on – we booked a couple of day trips out from the Frankfurt city area. Val left it to me to choose and plan as she was having exams before our trip. I had to make sure we were on time to catch the bus, locate the meeting point. Val helped too, of course, just that in my head I was ticking all the boxes, making sure we brought the confirmation form along, updated the parents that we were safe and just praying that we’d make it back alive.
We booked a Black Forest and Strasbourg Tour from Frankfurt on Viator and the whole trip was about 10 hours. We stopped at Baden Baden, which was a small Black Forest spa town. We embarked on a walking tour. The tour guide was informative and went at a good pace. We were able to stop and take lots of photos.
Evangelist Town Church
Trinkhalle Building – Baden-Baden
Beautiful place calls for a photo hehe
Christmas feels were in the air everywhere *squeals*
We also walked past an ice skating rink! Unfortunately we didn’t know how to ice skate but it was nice to see the kids having fun. I always wanted to learn how to ice skate, but we don’t have outdoor ice skating rinks in Singapore anyway. Maybe when I move overseas next time!
This Black Forest spa town is famous for their Black Forest cake as this was where it originated from. I’m a huuuuge fan of cakes so we definitely couldn’t give this a miss!
The chocolate sponge layer was quite palatable but the layer of cherries had too strong an alcohol taste so we didn’t really enjoy it. Maybe it tastes delicious to people who like the taste of alcohol. The alcohol is unique as it is distilled from the cherries.
Hot chocolate to warm ourselves up.
There was also a lake that was outside and we had some fun with photos too!
We ended off the walking tour with a stroll through the shops. It was slightly different from Frankfurt. Frankfurt’s shops are mainly in shopping centres, at least those that were near our apartment. The shops here are along the cobbled street. We came across some unique brands, unlike the common ones like Primark and H&M that was in Frankfurt. We didn’t have the time to shop but it was still refreshing anyway to take in the sights while strolling.
Next up, Strasbourg!
We were quite excited as we needed to cross the border! We did bring our passports as we didn’t know what to expect. On the way to the border between Baden Baden and France, our driver told us that they usually don’t check passports when vehicles cross that border. Although occasionally they do randomly stop cars to check, but there are so many vehicles travelling to and from Strasbourg that they usually don’t. Just like that – we were in another country!
Grey evening skies – it started to get chilly!
Our guide was trying to get us to the last ferry ride of the day and thank heavens we made it. There is a ferry company along the river called Batorama. We didn’t have to pay for this ferry ride. Our guide got us tickets on the spot.
The ferry is covered so you don’t have to worry about wind or rain!
The interior of the ferry! There were heaters inside to keep us warm during the ride.
It started to get dark not long after we started the boat ride. This was one of the views as we sailed along the river. Sadly I didn’t manage to capture many nice photos due to the reflection of the ferry window 🙁 One of the downsides of being covered.
To end off the day trip, the last pit stop was the Strasbourg Gothic Cathedral. Not sure if it was the night time but it made the cathedral look extra spooky but so alluring at the same time. There was also a christmas market just outside so we could get a light snack before heading back to Frankfurt.
I love admiring cities at night. The city was lit up with beautiful lights at the bridge fairy lights lined the streets. After the ferry ride, we started to head back to Frankfurt. Had an eventful day, did so much walking and really grateful that our guide spoke good english, provided sandwiches and water, and he never once rushed us or left us alone.
There is always stomach space for supper! We were looking for comfort food after an extremely long day. So we indulged in McDonalds and cup noodles while watching The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
No better way to end the night with good company, good company and good food – well, kinda.
What you don’t see in the photos are the little moments where Val would offer to carry all the shopping, or to be the one ordering the food, or us trying to figure our directions together. I had no qualms yelling at her if she was being ridiculous, and there were constant reminders to check that we had everything we needed on us, and also that Val was fed and stayed warm. I must say it isn’t challenging at all to travel with my sister as I knew what she liked to eat, what didn’t she like, and knowing her personality so well, I knew what to anticipate and what would get her to be on time. I knew that she would fall asleep almost immediately when she gets onto a moving vehicle, so then I had to stay awake to make sure that we don’t miss our stop.
Layering our clothes every morning and then realising that we’re going to have to wear the same coat over the outfit we put together, always on the hunt for a coffee joint to get a hot drink, gushing over everything at the Christmas markets, I wouldn’t have traded that for anything in the world.
Next up – we made our way to Antwerp on a train from Frankfurt to meet the parents.