This is the first weekend I have had at home as normal virtually all year. The first fortnight of January, I went home to get some sunshine. When I came back, I did have a week at home to basically do laundry and celebrate my birthday, but then I was back off travelling.
The last weekend of January, I took myself and a friend to Bruges, Belgium. My best friend lives there and has connections with the Kempinski hotel, so we availed ourselves of its lovely 5-star facilities (it was formerly the Duke’s Palace!). This is the weekend that the European Ice Age began with the cold snap settling in as soon as we got there, but I made sure to take lots of scarves and gloves. In particular, I rocked my new leopard Spirit Hood, which is very cosy indeed although you have to get used to the funny looks after a while.
Bruges is a really sublimely lovely place. Once you enter into the walls of the city, it is all quite intact and picturesque with its cobbled streets and gabled roofs. I thought it was a rather photogenic town. The heart of the town is dominated by the Markt square and the Belfort tower.
Whenever you go to Belgium, there are three things that you must try: chocolate, frites (chips/fries), and beer. They excel in these three departments so admirably that they are genuinely the best in the world at all three things.
The best chocolatier in the world is the Chocolate Line, where you can buy chocolates by the kilo and pick them one by one from a glass case stacked high with a multitude of flavours like Earl Grey, sake, or the more traditional caramel.
In addition to tasty food treats, we availed ourselves of some of the quite good shopping to be found in Bruges’ cobbled streets. In particular, we ran across a gorgeous interior decor and floral shop called Frederiek van Pamel. Going into this shop was almost like entering another, wholly more exotic and beautiful world. It was just incredibly gorgeous, especially the fresh flowers in the window.
In short, we had an utterly amazing and fun trip. I would dearly love to go back to Bruges soon and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys holidays in quaint towns with lots of church bells and canals and winding cobbled streets.
After this trip, I came home for a few days, again, to do laundry and re-park, but this time I had to cram my bag with loads of thermals and cashmere sweaters and the like. The ice age had truly set in and was getting worse, and we would be spending a weekend in Munich when even the warmest temperatures would be well below freezing. To be quite honest, although I have been to the Nordic regions a few times in the dead of winter, I have never felt cold like this before in my life, so I was a little at a loss when it came to packing.
Well, we survived. Fortunately, the point of the trip was less about sightseeing and more about seeing my brother and his wife for the first time in a few years (they were over from the US), so we could just hole up again in another glam 5-star hotel, this time the Sofitel Bayerpost.
When we arrived, it was indeed brutally brutally cold. We got to our shiny futureporn hotel room quite late, so for dinner we went into Hauptbanhof station to eat bratwursts while watching the sleeper trains leave for Paris. We were only outside for about half an hour, but my face was completely chapped and desiccated by the arctic temperatures. I took a sample of some Clarins face oil with me, but alas it didn’t really seem to help and by the next day I looked like I had a sunburn and my cheeks felt like sandpaper.
My sister-in-law was not terribly keen on hiking around town in the freezing cold, and it was brutal for all of us, so we never made it more than about a 15 minute walk in any direction from the hotel. Our one massive arctic trek was to Marienplatz to see the Rathaus with its insane Gothic facade and elaborate glockenspiel. Mostly we just scurried between Bavarian eateries and the bar in the hotel. I also indulged in the insane heated swimming grotto in the hotel spa, and spent a few minutes in the sauna, but we were terrified by the nudity. Topless is okay with me, but I really don’t want to see your junk!
Of course, the second night we were there, it snowed in London and shut down Heathrow airport, which meant that our flight on Sunday was cancelled. We ended up getting another room in the Sofitel that night, which they upgraded to an insane split-level suite, and flew home on the Monday after being delayed a couple of hours.
The grand thing about Munich is that it is full of amazing museums…but we didn’t set foot into a single one, sadly. It was just too cold to get there. Our one final big outing was done via taxi on Sunday night, when the four of us went to the legendary Hofbrauhaus for some beer and tasty Bavarian eats. I had a huge stein of dark beer and a plate full of roast beef and dumplings while a polka band played, and it was absolute perfection.