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Discovering Germany’s cultural heart in Weimar

Weimar, situated in the Thuringia region of Germany, is bursting at the seams with Heritage Listed buildings, gardens and monuments. As the home of Goethe, Franz Liszt and the Bauhaus movement, this city has something for every history, art, music and literature-lover alike.

Weimar is often referred to as a park containing a town and if you find yourself in Weimar – and you should – take a stroll through the parklands of Ilm Park.  Designed in the late 1700’s by famous author/poet/nobleman and statesman Goethe, whose fascination with both botany and anatomy led to lasting works in both fields.  Each point of interest being within line of sight of another, the classically designed park is breathtaking even in the heart of winter – when I visited.

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The trees in Ilm Park are estimated to have an average age of between 80 and 150 years old and is almost unchanged since its inception in the 1780’s.

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There are so many historically significant trees and buildings within the park that it is World Heritage Listed.  One such building is Goethe’s summer house, which is actually a copy of his first house purchased in Weimar at aged 26, but so faithful to the original, only the trained eye would know.

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Goethe’s summer house

 

 

Wandering the pathways, you will come across ruins, grottos, memorials and of course the meandering River Ilm.   The ruins are actually part of Goethe’s design recreating antiquity in gardens reminiscent of English country gardens, hence, the Romanesque feel to the freestanding walls.  Centuries old in themselves now, they are fascinating to walk through.

 

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Standing starkly alone in the centre of a clearing was the Tempelherrenhaus Ruin, or The House of the Templars (or what’s left of it).  This was converted from an orangerie, into a fashionable salon in the 18th Century to host concerts by such luminaries as Franz Liszt, another Weimar native.  This building marked the completion of the gardens and remained in use until WWII when it, and a large percentage of Weimar, were flattened by bombs.  Walking around the solitary tower that remains of this building, it still commands your attention and reflection.

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House of the Templars ©Lilyonthego

Weimar is an endlessly fascinating city, its cultural history is diverse and big-name filled. That alone should bring you here, but add in the opportunity to visit the Bauhaus, a working university to this day, with its Rodin sculpture in the entryway, and to walk the same streets as world famous composers, literary giants, arguably the best bratwurst in the country, monumentally pivotal political history and its endlessly beautiful architecture – which I will share with you in a future post – is a place I fully intend to return one day.

 

It would make me happy if you would  like, share or comment if you enjoyed learning a little more about Germany.   🙂

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Visiting Tulum’s ancient Ruins in Mexico

Every single time I’ve set foot in Mexico, I’ve loved every second of it.

This time, I had the opportunity to visit the Mayan Riviera on the Yucatan Peninsula, and the pre-Columbian Mayan Tulum Ruins that sit atop a 40 foot cliff overlooking the most gloriously idyllic beach anyone could imagine. And Mexico, you did not disappoint.

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The first red hot tip I have for travellers is Mexico is hot, and I don’t mean, ‘oh, I’m used to the heat’ hot, I mean ‘dear lord find me shade’ hot.  Take some form of personal shade – like an umbrella – and you will be so far in front of the rest of the punters, and will enjoy it all so much more.  A little pop up in your backpack will suffice and trust me, you will thank me.  And a bottle of water.  And sunscreen.

The Tulum ruins are unique in that they are the only Mayan city built by the sea.  And while they are now grey and crumbling stones, in their heyday, they would have been painted vibrant blue and red.

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Tulum was a sea port, trading in turquoise and jade and was surrounded by walls that are still there to this day, despite being built in the late thirteenth century.  Lucky we’re going through those 4 foot gaps in the wall today, because when the city was thriving, only the nobility and priests were allowed inside.

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Like many of the ancient cities in Mexico now under refurbishment, Tulum is walk-around only, with entering the buildings prohibited thanks to stupid people that fall off stuff and touch stuff they shouldn’t. You can still feel the bustle of the city if you close your eyes and imagine though.  The most prominent buildings still standing are the Castillo or castle perched on the very top of the cliff and the Temple of the Frescos which still has ancient paintings on its walls that are being restored. Both are amply photogenic and even a point and shoot camera will do this amazing place justice.

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Expertly chiselled into the stone above doorways centuries old are deities, such as the diving god that was said to watch over Tulum’s people. There was also a tarantula carved above one door, being that it is the home of such eight legged creepy crawlies.  And I’m kind of glad I’d forgotten that fact as I walked around the site.

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The only animals I saw in abundance were Iguana’s which I confess I am a little obsessed with now. I prefer to see animals in their natural habitats so I spent an inordinate amount of time watching and photographing them.

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And finally, if you are good with steep steps, take the walk down to the beach and have a swim in the most breathtakingly beautiful stretch of beach.  And here is my second tip – wear your swimwear into the site as there is nowhere to change and no one wants to scare the kids.

As with any area that attracts tourists, you will find a bustling market about 500 meters from the entrance.  I LOVED shopping here – if you have some bargaining skills, you will find some treasures to remind your of your visit that won’t break the bank.  The stall holders accept US dollars but expect your change in Peso’s so have small bills so you can get as close to the amount agreed upon as possible.

And have a margarita or two… one should always have a margarita in Mexico.  Trust me.

If you found this helpful, please leave a comment or share 🙂

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5 Authentic souvenirs from Jamaica

If you find yourself in Jamaica for the day in port on your Caribbean cruise, it would be easy to just stay on the ship, but I could never do that, as I am a shopper.

If there’s a shopping opportunity, I’m going to take it.  But believe me, I am super fussy.  Sure, there’s any amount of ‘made in China’ styled souvenirs at every port ( and I ALWAYS buy myself a magnet or two) but there are some wonderful treasures to be had that are going to bring a smile to your face when you use or consume them when you return home.  With the relatively new gated port shopping area, there is no reason not to take a look around.

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The first obvious one is rum… seriously… if you like a drink now and then, why would you NOT buy some rum from the land of the Pirates who traded/marinated in it?  Captain Morgan – named presumably after the infamous pirate – is well represented here and for very few pieces of eight, you can take a little of the Caribbean home with you.  (Do check your ships requirements on purchased alcohol though – they do vary, but generally, if it’s under the volume limit, you will be allowed to buy it and surrender it at the dock to be collected on your disembarkation day).

I also urge you to try out the free samples to see which one goes down the smoothest.  For me, it was the rum crème… like Tia Maria liquor… but with rum… and pineapple… and coconut… and mango… and such other delights.  So very tasty.  Do yourself a flavour.

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Another thing I discovered which I purchased as a gift and then kept for myself was a hand hewn bowl made from cinnamon wood and coconut husks.  I love it… and in the end, couldn’t give up this aromatic wonder.  Because it had been prepared for export, I didn’t have a problem taking home.  This may not be the case with other wooden items that are plentiful here so check your country’s customs rules before leaving home and save yourself the heartache surrendering it entirely.

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Another authentic must have if you enjoy a coffee, is the famous Blue Mountain Coffee.  Grown in the highlands, in the cleanest air and rich volcanic soil, the taste is smooth, full bodied and much sought after. While not inexpensive, it is also worth every penny.  Again, packaged for export, this is a wonderful gift for yourself or others that is hard to come by elsewhere.  Make sure though, that you buy direct from their store at the port (or perhaps a tour to the growing region), to ensure it is the real deal.

Jamaica is also a great place to buy the famous Tortuga Rum Cakes.  Wonderfully light buttery cake doused in flavoured rum…. What’s not to love?  I found a greater variety of sizes and flavours here than at other ports and it is also packaged ready for export, so indulge in this treasure that is authentically Caribbean because the taste is superb.

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And lastly, find yourself some authentic jerk chicken spices to take home and relive the flavours.  The combination is unique to the region, is balanced to perfection and packaged for export so if you like it spicy, then this needs to be in your suitcase for the trip home.  You will easily find this bottled (as a paste) or dry (as a rub) in the shops at the port.

Just a few of my favourites but there is so very much more to discover on a day in Jamaica.

A word of caution though, while the port area is safe to wander and shop, outside the gated area is not recommended to wander without being part of a tour or private car transportation.  As spectacularly beautiful as the country is, violent crime is an all too frequent reality here. Smart Traveller advice is to use a high degree of caution when travelling in Jamaica.  Shop within the port area – which is substantial – and you will enjoy your visit here.

Top Tips for Tanabata Days at Tokyo Disney Resort

If you’ve ever wanted to take part in one of Japan’s colourful festivals, then Tanabata Days – or the Star Festival – held mid year might just be the thing for you. A tale of star crossed lovers and wishes sent up into the universe is the core of the festivities that invites participants to write their wishes on strips of paper – or at Tokyo Disneyland, a mickey shaped note – and hung on Bamboo stalks.  These wishes are then lit on fire at the conclusion of the festival sending them wafting to the heavens, ready for granting.

A little more about its origins.

Traditional outfits

Tanabata Days are one of only a handful of occasions where you can catch the Disney Characters dressed in traditional Japanese clothing at the Tokyo Disney Resort and there is nothing quite as wonderful as seeing Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a Yukata in Japan.

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Twice daily, the Tanabata Greeting Parade weaves its way through the park to welcome you to the festivities.  Grab a place along the parade route to enjoy the Fab 5 (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy) dressed in their Yukata (traditional Kimono-style clothing).  Another top parade tip – If you pack a little pop-up umbrella  (or better yet, buy one of the many cute ones on sale in the parks) you will have some portable shade in the Tokyo summertime while you wait.

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Dining Tips:

Tokyo Disney Resort has some of the cutest food in all of the world’s Disney Parks.  There are so many options for enjoying the festival’s exclusive food offerings, and a little planning before you go will save you a lot of time waiting for a table.  By planning to dine outside of the usual meal times, your waits will be significantly shorter.  Grab a snack when you enter the park at the wonderful bakeries in both Disneyland and Disneysea, and then have brunch instead of lunch is a great idea to save you having to stop for too long.  Tokyo Disney Resorts have the most wonderful tradition of presenting their celebration foods in souvenir cups, plates and even lunch boxes which are a wonderful way to take a little of the magic home with you.

Shopping tips:

Of course, what is a vacation without a few souvenirs, and when I say ‘a few’, I mean a suitcase full.  Japan thinks of gifts that you didn’t even know you needed but can’t go home without.  Much of the festival merchandise will have Mickey and Minnie Mouse or Duffy and Shellie May dressed in their Yukatas and again, its one of the few times of the year these goodies are available, making them sell out fast.  Alongside the expected t-shirts, socks and key chains, you will find gems like exclusive pins, beautiful stationary and a myriad of chopsticks.  The 3D gifting tins ( known as Omiayage )  filled with candy or crackers are truly beautiful, and are worth every inch of precious suitcase space to get them home.

Take a look at some of the 2016  festival exclusive food and merchandise.

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When to go:

The Tanabata Festival at Tokyo Disney Resort is held in summer each year and 2017 dates are June 15th through July 7th.  Tokyo is home to over 13 million people, and a great many of them love heading to Disney on the weekends.  At any special event in the Tokyo Disney parks, the crowd levels will be greater than usual, with the best days to visit being Tuesday through Friday.  Plan to arrive at the parks as early as possible and then use that time to gather Fast Passes and ride the attractions that tend to have long waits.

Plan your stay with this crowd calendar of average daily attendance.

Packing tips:

Summer in Tokyo can be hot and humid so its best to pack light clothes and cool and comfy shoes built for walking. In the heat, a parasol/pop up umbrella is still a great option and widely used throughout Japan.   Another consideration is that if you have visible tattoos, you may be asked to cover them to gain entry into the parks, so pack a floaty cotton shirt with sleeves if you fall into this category. This is mostly because of the association of tattoos with gangs in Japan. While tattoos seem to be very slowly becoming a little more accepted, it is most definitely still a ‘thing’ and something to be mindful off.   A tip for photographers, leave that heavy tripod at home as it will not be allowed into the parks either. Alternatively, bring a small flexible one such as a gorilla pod, to use on table tops or anything at the right height.

Tickets:

If you are staying at a Disney Hotel or Good Neighbour Hotel, you can purchase directly through them on arrival or through the official website   prior to arrival. Keep in mind that you must nominate which park you will be attending on the first two days, and then you may park-hop for subsequent days.

 

And lastly, remember to make your wish on a Mickey-shaped note handed out by the cast members dressed in Yukata, and hang them on the wishing tree before you go.  I always ‘wish’ to return.

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Have you visited the parks during Tanabata?  I would love to hear about your experience in the comments.

If you found this post useful, please feel free to share it.

Welcome

Hello, and welcome to Lily on the Go….. I’m Lily… or more truthfully… Lisa.

Lily is how I’m known by my family and apparently I was always on the go, so it seemed a fitting name for my travel blog scribblings.

So I’m not one of your typical 20 something globetrotters… far from it… I am in my 50’s, I’m just starting to really live this travel dream life.  The nest is empty and I’m free as a bird to go where and when I want.

And I want to share where I’ve been and where I’m going with you.

Like so many who decide to sell everything and live to travel, I had a ‘perfect storm’ of loss and hardship that catapulted me into this life I have now.

But this opened so many doors… I’m now almost finished my first University degree… yes, at 50.   So before long, I will have a BA that encompasses creative writing (one of my 3 passions), journalism, media studies and photography.   I also have a Certificate III in Travel which launched me into that industry for a time.

I’ve had a camera in my hand for over 40 years, and for those old enough to remember them, my first camera was a Kodak box brownie.

And have I travelled? Oh yes, far and wide…. But I’m nowhere near close to ticking all the items on my bucket list.  I worked for a time in the travel industry and I’ve travelled solo, also with small and then grown up kids, with partners, with friends and on tours with complete strangers.   The bug bit early and left an itch I am happy to scratch often.  And I can’t for the life of me see why all this fun should be the domain of the 20 somethings.  So that is what I’m doing here… showing the world that there’s life in the old girl yet, and so fortunate to be still on the go.

Actually now, with flexible study arrangements, I have a lot more ‘on the go’ time than I’ve ever had.

Travel photography tours, photographic shoots and of course, writing my books.

And first and foremost, travel – it is after all, what hinges all the things that have Lily constantly on the go