Category Archives: Out & about

My year on Instagram – a few highlights

About half way through this year I was suddenly reminded that I had an Instagram account that I hadn’t touched since 2011. I really don’t remember why I set it up way back when, nor why it fell into disuse. At any rate, I was pleased to rediscover it, and since June it’s become one of my favourite social media networks and has spurred me on to take and share a lot more photos in everyday situations than I probably would have done otherwise. It’s also got me back out on photowalks with friends, so the creative and social benefits have extended way beyond the digital realm.

It’s been a bit of a ragtag mixed bag of a year with one thing and another, but looking back over my Instagram feed has reminded me of the many happy, colourful moments there have been – I find it surprisingly difficult to gripe and whinge in photographic form – and after I read Konstantin‘s Instagram review post, I decided to do something similar. So here are seven of my favourite shots from 2014, one for each month from June to December.

June: Chilling at Jos Fritz Cafe

Kooky chair.

A photo posted by bexxi (@bexxi71) on

Many will say that it wasn’t much of a summer, but my Instagram feed suggests otherwise. I can’t actually remember a year when I spent so much time outdoors at street cafes and the likes. Renewing my acquaintance with Jos Fritz Cafe and discovering newly opened places like Cafe POW gave me fresh horizons on places to work, read, relax with friends or watch the world go by on my own. Roll on spring when it’ll be warm enough to sit outside again!

July: Christopher Street Day in Freiburg

Today in Freiburg, narrated by the back of this guy's head. <3 #freiburgpride #csd #whatthefreiburg

A photo posted by bexxi (@bexxi71) on

Going along to the Christopher Street Day parade was one of the best decisions I made this year – it was without a doubt one of the very happiest and most memorable days spent in the best of company. In a year that’s had more than its fair share of headlines involving discrimination, hate, intolerance and ensuing barbarity, it was wonderful to be in the midst of such a joyful and welcoming throng of glorious, cacophonous diversity, and to feel truly at home in it.

August: Posh nosh with a bestie

I definitely don’t see Diana often enough – which is a little bit shameful given that we basically live in the same city – but we spent a lovely evening in August putting the world to rights over some pretty decadent plates of antipasti and tapas: a grown-up girls’ night out but with plenty of silliness thrown in for good measure. I’d like MORE of this in 2015, please, and I’m so very grateful to all the friends I’ve been able to spend similar occasions with over the course of this year. <3

September: Boats at Flensburg

Boats. #whattheflensburg

A photo posted by bexxi (@bexxi71) on

Every September, I (try to) attend the annual conference of foreign language instructors at German universities, which is held in a different place every year. This year we were up at Flensburg, which is about as far north as you can get in Germany, and it was wonderful to have an excuse to go to the seaside on business, so to speak. The whole affair is a bit like a family reunion crossed with a very pro-active self-help group – a far cry from the scary, stuffy academic conferences I sometimes attended as a research student, and greatly energising and uplifting as well as informative. Each time I go I feel more confident, and I come back brimming with new ideas and resources.

October: What a difference a new mug makes

I can't help smiling every time I look at my new favourite mug. 😊 #100happydays day 34.

A photo posted by bexxi (@bexxi71) on

I’ve been a fan of Woodstock for as long as I can remember – I always seem to go for the sidekicks rather than the main characters, be it Piglet (rather than Pooh), Robin (rather than Batman) or George (rather than Zippy or Bungle). So I HAD to buy this mug as soon as I saw it, and it’s become my office staple. In fact, I found it necessary to buy a second one for use at home, plus a breakfast plate for good measure. It puts a big smile on my face whenever I see it, no matter how rotten I might be feeling at the time.

November: And the autumn just went on, and on…

Magical landscape.

A photo posted by bexxi (@bexxi71) on

Given half a chance, I could easily have populated this entire post with landscape photos – it’s been a wonderful year for getting out and about around Freiburg as well as a bit further afield. But this is one of my favourite scenery shots for the year, taken on a day that started with thick fog over Freiburg itself, yielding to sunshine as we travelled beyond the city limits and up into more mountainous terrain. You can see the fog in the distance in this shot, contrasting with the wonderful warm glow of the autumnal countryside approaching the late afternoon. On that day in late November, I was convinced that the autumn would go on for ever, and I could have sat for hours looking at the view, had it not been a little too chilly to do so…

December: The power of words

The thought that counts. 💗

A photo posted by bexxi (@bexxi71) on

I received this little package from someone I’ve been trying to help overcome some difficulties. The simple eloquence of the words, and their sincerity, left me a little lost for words. In fact, I still am.


So, there you have it – a few moments, places, people revisited. It’s been fun reliving parts of this year, and I hope I haven’t been too introspective for it to be of some interest to other people in here as well. Roll on 2015:my camera’s at the ready!

2 Comments

Filed under Creative stuff, Out & about, Photography

Summer hols!

Well, after a long hiatus, it’s time to update this blog. We’re currently on holiday in Wales and about to embark on something a bit different: walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

We’ve been doing some training hikes over the last few months, plus I’ve taken up running. Our latest hike was from Aberystwyth to Llanrhystud, offering some breathtaking views and hopefully a taste of the kind of thing we’ll be seeing over the next week.

20130807-090548.jpg

Yesterday we travelled down to Carmarthen with my parents, as Dad was booked to give a talk here in the evening (very good it was too – wouldn’t have missed it for the world!). Now, after a hearty breakfast, we’ll shortly be hopping on a train down to Kilgetty and starting today’s walk down to Tenby. A week of walking and B&B accommodation awaits, and we’re very excited!

20130807-091105.jpg

1 Comment

Filed under Out & about

Landlocked seahorse

20121202-231517.jpg

I love passing this colourful fountain up in the woods between Freiburg and Günterstal – you may be out for a leisurely Sunday walk in a hilly, landlocked area so far from the sea, but if you carried on far enough along the path, you could end up in Santiago de Compostela. It makes you think differently about distance, purpose and effort!

Leave a comment

Filed under Out & about

It’s sometimes the little things…

Yesterday I made one of my periodic journeys from Germany to Wales. It was largely a dull and uneventful affair – which I’m not complaining about, incidentally, having had a few that were eventful in a less-than-good way – but a few unexpected moments made me smile.

The ticket guy on the ICE down to Basel: I’d only just managed to retrieve my ticket from my bag when he appeared, and was rummaging to find my purse containing my railcard (which you have to show to validate a ticket of the kind I had). He said “You’ve got your card, haven’t you? Don’t bother getting it out, I believe you”. Maybe stuff like this happens in some countries all the time, but it was a first for me in Germany and left me rather amused.

The elderly lady on the plane: I really don’t know what I did, but when I passed her seat as I was boarding the plane, she gave me the most radiant smile I’ve seen in years. I spent the whole flight wishing I’d been put to sit next to her.

Little Angus and his mum: Over in Merrie Englande and on the chugalug train I was destined to spend three and a half hours on, a young mum asked me rather apologetically if I’d mind “awfully” if she and her child sat next to me. “He’s a bit loud,” she added, rolling her eyes. Actually Angus, aged about three, turned out to be a complete sweetie and his mum was just brilliant at keeping him occupied. We didn’t get into conversation as I was reading, but I was left full of admiration for them and almost wish I’d said something to that effect.

Leave a comment

Filed under Out & about

Post-holiday update

Postcard stand in Obernai

Well, we’re back from Alsace after a whirlwind tour lasting some eleven days, and my memories and images are in some ways a bit of a jumble, rather like the postcards shown in the picture. I’m grateful for the old-skool pen-and-paper logbook I kept on a daily basis – that and the (not very many, admittedly) photos I took should help me to piece it all back together in due course.

This year’s tour was in some ways more arduous than previous ones. For one thing, I was a lot less fit when we started, my time in recent months having been rather occupied with non-saddle-related sedentary activities. A further factor was that we had planned almost exclusively to spend only one night at each camping site, which meant that we had the daily task of putting up and packing up our camping gear and were travelling with full luggage (him: a largish rucksack and trailer with ~20kg of gear; me: a small rucksack, two large saddle bags and the tent) almost all the time. On the other hand, experience has taught us how to pack effectively and efficiently, so we didn’t actually encounter any problems with the bikes or what we were transporting on them (with the exception of some saddle-soreness that I’ll spare you the details of – the moral of the tale being that you shouldn’t do a long tour with a new saddle until you are completely sure that you have broken it in…).

Our overnight stops were: Gieswasser – Cernay (2 nights) – Eguisheim – Scherwiller – Erstein – Kehl (2 nights) – Obernai – Rhinau. We cycled about 500km in all, an average of 50km a day for the ten days we were actually cycling; our main tours (but not smaller-scale local pootling about) are recorded here, in case anyone’s interested. We met lots of other touring cyclists, some of whom travelled a whole lot further on a daily basis, but we wanted to strike a balance between the cycling and the more relaxing holiday elements such as sightseeing and sitting around in the sun (or the shade: for the first few days the temperature was around 35 degrees) in front of the tent.

There’ll be a few pictures to follow on Flickr, in due course [update 3 September: a few are already up!], but I’m not going to attempt a full-blown account of everything I did. Just a couple of quick summaries…

Occasional frustrations

  • The rubbish corkscrew on my (el cheapo imitation) Swiss army knife was beyond frustrating and provided unwanted extra roughage in our wine on more than one occasion. We bought a new one in the end.
  • Once again, I failed to speak as much French as I could have.
  • Eguisheim, which I’d been really looking forward to looking around, was completely overrun with tourists – we’d coincided with the annual wine festival.
  • Also in Eguisheim, the plot I’d determinedly selected as “perfect” for us to pitch our tent had such hard ground that we wasted an hour trying to get the tent pegs in, only to have to admit defeat and move it ultimately (the silver lining to this, however, was that we ended up with neighbours that couldn’t have been nicer, and a quieter spot).
  • We got awfully lost in both Colmar and Strasbourg, despite good maps and GPS. In Colmar it was because a large logistics company had plonked its new plant right where our map said there was a cycle route, while in Strasbourg I have to confess that it was our fault for choosing unsuitable roads in an attempt to cut corners.

Unexpected highlights

  • The storks wandering around the camping site in Cernay, completely unperturbed by anything else that was going on.
  • A bottle of local white wine provided by the lady at the camping site in Scherwiller, after we arrived soaking wet and bedraggled.
  • Showers with temperature control AND without either a timer or coin-operation in Rhinau.
  • The stained-glass windows in Strasbourg cathedral – some of the finest I’ve seen.
  • Grapes on the vine ready for harvest right outside our tent in two of the places we stayed.
  • I managed to hit on exactly the right (minimalist) combination of clothing for the tour – didn’t run out of anything or return with unworn items.
  • I already knew that tent-pegs were called Heringe (herrings) in German, but I was highly amused to discover that the French call them sardines.
  • The infrastructure of cycling paths and lanes in Alsace is a million times better than what we encountered further south on our previous tours.
  • On two occasions we experienced the deep satisfaction of getting the tent pitched before the thunderstorm begins, and we managed entirely to avoid having to either pitch or pack up the tent in the rain.
  • Chocolate eclairs – not unexpected as such, but amazingly good from every bakery we got them from.

1 Comment

Filed under Out & about

Travelling light

There was a time when going on holiday – or even on a day trip – meant packing my photo rucksack full of as many lenses, filters and other bits and bobs as I could carry.

Times have changed. I now have one saddle bag for all my clothes, and another that needs to accommodate my sleeping bag, cooking equipment and camera stuff. This ist smallest camera bag, and it fits inside a cycling helmet with room to spare (I’m just showing you this for scale – it’s not how I’m planning to transport it!).

20120818-140323.jpg

Yes, I could get a teeny tiny camera or just use the one on my phone, but I do want to be flexible and (maybe) experimental in the pictures I take, so a DSLR it is. It’s my old, smaller one (Canon 300D), simply because it’s light, not worth much now and a little battered as it is. I’ve got my two smallest, lightest lenses (though one has some zoom), one polarizing filter, two batteries, three memory cards. It’ll be enough, I think.

2 Comments

Filed under Out & about, Photography

My trusty bike

Here it is, my trusty Shanks’ pony, wire donkey or whatever you want to call it. I’ve had this bike almost 14 years now, and I think it’s benefited a lot from having always been kept inside. It’s also been excellently maintained in recent years (though I have to give the credit for that largely to someone else…).

Today I did my first longish tour on it since it received a new saddle and various other bits, plus a general overhaul. I’m a bit saddle sore, as I think the saddle needs to be tipped forward a bit more than it is, plus the chain came off when I had to do some radical gear-changing going up a steep hill.

Still, I have now reported back to the Chief Mechanic and he’ll have it sorted by Tuesday, at which time we hope to try it out again…

20120812-223652.jpg

2 Comments

Filed under Out & about