We came. We saw. We conquered. Me and my pals Yvette, Sierra and Tyler traveled to Munich for Oktoberfest, which was something I always wanted to experience but wasn’t certain if I’d ever find the time to visit. We also had a quick jaunt in Londontown. These were two destinations that I can now cross off my bucket list. Read the nitty gritty of my adventure in my latest travel log.
DAY ONE: Thursday, Sept. 29
After a more than 11-hour flight that began the night before, I was eager to get off the plane and see what Munich was all about. I exited the airport determined not to freak out, as I had to buy a train ticket and get on the correct train, then take a bus, to our Airbnb located about an hour away. Of course, everything was in German but a kind gentleman helped me pay for my ticket and pointed me in the direction of the correct train. More confusion ensued as I exited the train looking for the bus that would take me within a block of the Airbnb. After asking a few people, I finally found the bus stop and made me way on board a short while later. I arrived safely at the one-bedroom apartment about 15 minutes later, and seized the moment to catch my breath and relax while I waited for my bestie, Yvette, to arrive. Local TV was broadcasting live from Oktoberfest, which got me juiced for the festivities that would take place the next day. I also caught an episode of “The Simpsons,” in German, of course. A few hours later, Yvette made it to the Airbnb. We ventured out to find a walkable biergarten and came up short, so we took the bus back near the train station to grab some grub. We settled on an Italian restaurant called Da Peppo. I know, I know. We didn’t come all that way to just eat Italian food, but it was all that we could find open that late in the evening. I will say that I was surprised at how tasty the pizza was. We washed it down with ice cold German beers, which made up for the lack of authentic local fare. Next door was a divey bar, so we stopped there for a couple of drinks. Our friends Toccara and Tyler joined us there. We were tired from travel and needed to prepare for Oktoberfest the next morning, so we headed home to the Airbnb.
Read more about my exciting European vacation after the jump!
DAY TWO: Friday, Sept. 30
The big day was finally there. We woke up early, put on our dirndls and lederhosen (traditional German garb) and boarded a train to Oktoberfest. Let me just say, I wasn’t ready. We chose to go into the Hacker-Festzelt beer tent when we arrived at about 10 a.m. (got the party started extra early!) and were immediately thrust into a high-energy atmosphere with thousands of people sitting at tables. I quite liked the painting of the clouds and scenery that adorned the walls of the tent, which in my mind was about the length of two football fields. It was huuuuge! Upon further research, I discovered that the design of the tent embodied the Hacker-Festzelt philosophy: “When surrounded by clouds and stars with a cold liter of beer in the hand, you may feel as though you are truly in a “Bavarian Heaven.” It really did feel that way! We were crammed in to a picnic table, where we talked amongst ourselves and made new friends from all over the world: Germany, Australia, Canada, Scotland, Ireland and England, to name a few.
It was fun to watch as men and women alike would stand up on the benches and proceed to chug an entire liter of beer. The crowd went wild as they succeeded. If they didn’t finish the beer, the person would be booed. Also fascinating: how many full liters of beer the beer wenches could carry at any given time. I mean, there I was using both hands to sip my beer from the glass stein while these women were carrying what must’ve felt like 50-pound weights on each hand while walking through crowded rows of revelers. All that beer got me hungry, that and the fact that we literally were there all day, so I tried the currywurst, which was spicy and crisp. At around 5 p.m., we were booted from the tables for people who had reservations, so Yvette and I went outside to experience Oktoberfest outside of the tent. Surprisingly, there was a whole other world out there. It reminded me of a county fair, as there were carnival rides, food stands and shops. We rode Wilde Maus, or “Crazy Mouse,” as we know it in the States. It was as jerky, bumpy, unpredictable and fear-inducing as ever. We survived, by golly!
After Oktoberfest, we stopped by Paulaner brewery for a much-needed dinner. I was feeling adventurous so I ordered the meatloaf, which I assumed would be like American meatloaf. Well, you know what they say about people who assume things. Tee hee! Not an ounce of ground beef goodness in sight. The German meatloaf looked like a thick cut of ham that was pan seared, but when I bit into it, it had a weird consistency and taste like a mixture of bologna and potted meat. It wasn’t horrible, but not something I was completely into. The fried egg on top and the potato salad mad it tolerable. We headed back to the Airbnb and called it a night, but not before catching a glimpse of the Glockenspiel clock. At night it appeared so majestic!
DAY THREE: Saturday, Oct. 1
We woke up the following morning feeling great! No hangovers, thankfully. Us three ladies headed to do some sight-seeing and souvenir-seeking around Munich, while Tyler headed back to Oktoberfest to meet up with a friend. We hopped on one of the S-trains, which to this day, I still don’t know how public transport ticketing works over there, as we were never asked to show our ticket or swipe a card at a turnstile. We got off at Marienplatz, which was like the city center, and did a lot of walking. We stopped in a thrift shop but I didn’t seen any gems. It felt good to be out amongst the people. On the way back to the train, we happened to be on the back side of Oktoberfest where there were hordes of people dressed in their traditional garb — and a lot more children and families than I remembered from the previous day.
One of Toccara’s friends had tickets to the sold-out FC Bayern Munich soccer game, and we wanted to see a professional match, ’cause YOLO. So we trained it to the Allianz Arena and attempted to buy tickets from a scalper, which was a terrible idea. The scalper kept insisting we put more than a hundred dollars on a card that was only valid for concessions inside the arena, but the people manning the ticket booth refused. The guy was really aggressive and after a while, we gave up because, in the end, getting scammed abroad wouldn’t have been worth it. Thankfully, there were beer and hot dog stands outside of the stadium, and let me tell you, it was THE best hot dog (sausage) I’ve had in life … ever. It was crisp but juicy and enveloped in a hearty (but not too bready) roll. Perfection!
We took the train back to Marienplatz and headed to the Hofbräuhaus biergarten. Much like Oktoberfest, it was jam packed but we made fast friends with some Scottish guys who allowed us to sit at their table. There were also some American girls from New York who were already seated at the table, which was in a prime location, right in front of the bandstand. It got real pretty quickly as we started playing King’s Cup, which I was delighted to discover was an international game of good cheer, and later Heads Up. The group of lads were college friends, who got major props from me for bursting into their native land’s national anthem, and had come from Scotland specifically for Oktoberfest but hadn’t actually made it there. Being the good travel mates we are, we offered to show them the ropes of Oktoberfest, so back to the train we went. Side note: We met an American soldier who was stationed in Germany, who was seeking relationship advice from us ladies, because his German girlfriend was the absolute worst. Long story. Point is, we convinced him to drown his woes at Oktoberfest, and ended up joining us there later. It was well into the night when we got back to the festival. We started at the carnival side and had the bright idea of riding the bumper cars, which were more violent than I remember (I jacked my neck up and definitely hit my head several times from the impact), but it was fun, nonetheless. We then found our way back to the tents and found a table outside of the Hofbräuhaus tent, where we had a nightcap of more delicious beer. Yadda yadda … and we ended up somehow at a Mexican restaurant-turned-night club that reeked of farts and body odor. It was rough! We didn’t stay long, as fatigue was starting to kick in. We called a taxi just in time before it started raining.
Our hero, the cab driver, was willing to drives us about 30 minutes to our suburban Airbnb area, and made small talk about how much of joke Donald Trump is. We reconnected with Tyler and promptly went to bed, for we had an early morning ahead of us.
DAY FOUR: Sunday, Oct. 2
Our flight to London was at around 9 a.m., so we had to leave the Airbnb at 6:30 a.m. to take a bus and then a train back to the Munich Airport. We checked in for our flights on the train and made great time, and then proceeded to have THE most stressful time in airport history. Tyle and I had one simple task: Pay for our checked bags and make it through customs/security. Munich Airport personnel had no idea what the heck they were doing and kept sending us to the wrong lines, which was rapidly eating away at our boarding time. We had to ask strangers if we could cut in front of them so we didn’t miss our flight and, thankfully, they were super nice and understanding and obliged. We made it through with barely enough time to pick up a few trinkets to bring home. The flight was about an hour and 25 minutes, which meant we had a full day to explore London. We took the train to Toccara’s flat in the Brixton area of the city.
After dropping our bags off and getting our bearings, we ventured out to the Brixton Market a short walk away. I immediately fell in love with it. The vibe reminded me of Berkeley with all its shops and eateries in one central space. I copped some exquisite ankara fabric (a total of 12 yards in two prints for a whopping £25!) and was real juiced for the fashions that would be created with those pieces. We were famished and satisfied our hunger at a local Jamaican eatery called Fish, Wings & Tings. I tried the jerk chicken and it was smackin! The sauces, which incidentally featured an image of the owner who we met, kicked things up, and the coleslaw was perfect for subduing the heat. We found our way to The Wine Parlour, where we had a sip and conversed with the two bartenders. It’s a quaint spot that I’d happily visit my next go-round in London.
We hopped on the tube to Shoreditch, which was bustling. We stopped in a couple of thrift shops. I wish I had more time to peruse all the vendors’ booths. That will definitely be the first stop when I make it back to London. We stopped off in a nearby market for a drink and a nibble, and then met up with Tyler for a traditional Sunday roast. Yet another assumption that was shattered! In a good way. I was expecting a beef pot roast, but instead the “roast” in question was a pork roast. The meat was tender and succulent, and the potatoes and roasted carrots were a nice complement to the dish. For dessert I had a tasty chocolate mousse. I wish I remembered the name of the restaurant. The food and service was phenomenal. The lotion in the bathroom was a nice touch! The four of us then walked to have a night cap and a local dive bar, which seemed to run out of a bunch of ingredients for its signature drinks and was a hotbed of couples full-on making out. It was awkward to see. We headed back to Toccara’s and boy were we pooped.
DAY FIVE: Monday, Oct. 3
It was just Yvette and I for the morning portion of touristy sight-seeing around London. We successfully took the tube to Buckingham Palace. Honestly, it was a bit underwhelming. No offense to my British friends! It seemed much smaller in person, and I was hoping to see the guards with the tall hats so that I could dance around one, all while they kept their composure, but there was nary an iconic guard in sight. We saw a procession of officials on horses, which was pretty cool to observe. Why they were marching in a single-file line and where exactly they were heading, no one seemed to know. We could see Big Ben and The Eye off in the distance, so we hoofed it over to that general vicinity.
Then we made perhaps the best decision of the entire trip: Renting bikes to take us around the sights. It was only £2 for an all-day rental! Such a bargain. Though it was a little dodgy and points riding bikes with traffic, it was a great way to experience the city. I highly recommend that to anyone visiting the area. Big Ben was regal as ever and I was struck by how ornate the tower is in person. Next to that were the Houses of Parliament. An added bonus was that parliament was actually in session, so we saw the members walking to recess in their powdered wigs and red coats. It was fantastic. The Church of St. Margaret was situated in the grounds of Westminster Abbey on Parliament Square, and I was enchanted by the bells that the tower played at length. While enjoying the sounds, I noticed a familiar face: Monte Durham, the divo from “Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta.” He was really gracious and kind to allow us to take pictures with him. Apparently, Monte was in town to meet with the archbishop — whatever that means.
Next, we biked over to the Tate Britain museum to see some art from eras of old and meet up with Toccara. While we waited for her to arrive, we started touring the galleries. There were pieces dating back as far as the 1400s, if memory serves, and there were some quite famous works on display, such as Sir William Beechey’s “Portrait of Sir Francis Ford’s Children Giving a Coin to a Beggar,” from 1793. Trust me. You’ll recognize it when you see it. Oh, and there was a living installation, if you will, of three young women dancing intermittently in the museum’s open space. It was slightly weird but amusing to watch. We checked in with Toccara and she was at the Tate Museum Modern, not knowing that there was another museum on the other side of town. An honest mistake! By then we’d seen all the classical art we could take, so we took an Uber to a nearby hotel to meet Toccara for high tea.
What a treat high tea was! I mean, when do we ever take time out of the day to slow our busy lives down, gather at a table and enjoy some tea (I went with a chai) and champagne and delicacies of the savory and sweet variety? Never. So I thoroughly enjoyed that moment. I felt grown and sophisticated and loved all at once, as the three of us shared how much we appreciated each others’ company and the week of travel. It was beginning to sink in that our trip was coming to an end. But before we could get sad about it, we dashed off to do some shopping down Oxford Street (I believe). I got to experience Primark for the first time and it was everything I could’ve hoped for and more. Picture a Forever 21, H&M, Ikea and Target colliding to make one giant superstore with the cutest apparel and housewares. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it’s all tax-free! Yaaass! I just about lost my mind, grabbing all the things and stuffing it into my cart. The trippy thing about that area — in a very “Groundhogs Day” way — is that there are multiple locations of the same store within a couple of blocks. Zara was literally on every other block, just like Starbucks is in the States. Very interesting but super convenient if you’re looking for a particular piece in a certain size. Speaking of Zara, I found the most perfect red leather jacket that actually fits for a mere £20. It was practically begging me to make it mine.
We worked up an appetite with all that shopping and settled on a spot that offers £10 steaks. Seriously delicious! Tender and cooked — and seasoned — to perfection. And those drippings chips (a.k.a. French fries cooked in the meat drippings) were fantastic. Magical even. I need more of those in my life! We finished the evening at a speakeasy in Chinatown with great ambiance and personality. We didn’t make it to “The Bodyguard” musical, but we had a wonderfully full day. On the way back to Toccara’s flat, we saw the Red Lion Pub, which my boss recommended but time didn’t permit.
DAY SIX: Tuesday, Oct. 4
It’s so hard to say goodbye! The party ended, as we had to pack up and head home. My flight left at 12 p.m. or so that day, so I ventured off on the tube by my lonesome at about 9 a.m., which was rush hour. I’d never seen anything quite like it, as hundreds of people were waiting to get into the station. Imagine trying to brave a crowd that huge with a ginormous rollie suitcase, duffel bag and purse. It was pretty intense. Thankfully, a kindly British man saw me struggling and carried my bag down the steps. Such a gentleman! I transferred trains without a hitch (patting myself on the back, because public transportation for a newbie can be daunting) and made it to the airport on time. I had plenty of time to shop for souvenirs and had a nice but bittersweet trip back to LA. I can’t wait to go back!
A huge thank you to Yvette for inviting me to experience Europe like I had never gotten to before and to Toccara for welcoming us into her charming home and being our London tour guide!
To see previous places I’ve jetted off to via my Travel Log, click here.