runawaykiwi-in-the-snow

I seem to bring extreme weather with me wherever I go. I was in Stockholm a couple of weeks ago and they had a freak blizzard. Me being the ignorant Kiwi living in London that I am, I assumed that Sweden was just snowy all winter, but apparently the locals were surprised by the snow storm as well. They have not had snow like that in a few years, and even then it is normally in January not the beginning of November.

When I arrived on Monday there was a light dusting of snow on the ground. Don’t get me wrong it was more snow than I had seen in years, about the same as London got on the snowiest day a few years ago, but nothing to stop life functioning as normal. I was so excited, I mean SNOW. And it was good snow, snow that stayed where it was meant to and looked great in the background on Instagram.

Tuesday the snow was in the air, lightly falling. It turned my 15 minute walk to work into a 25 minute walk to work, but I wasn’t mad at it because it was beautiful. Like Winter Wonderland but not full of fairground rides and terrible excuses for human beings. Tuesday was great.

Wednesday was the apocalypse.

Wednesday was so much snow that all public transport stopped, cars couldn’t drive, and I fell over twice. My 25 minute Tuesday walk turned into a 40 minute shuffle through the snow as svelt 70 year old Swedish men ran past me in the snow drifts. Why was I shuffling I hear you ask? Oh, just because I was entirely unprepared for snow and the only shoes I had were my Converse. My Converse that have so little grip in the snow that they may as well be roller skates.

swedish-dog-in-the-snow

If it weren’t bad enough that I had to walk in a snowdrift that was up to my knees (as I said, the Swedish were surprised too and hadn’t got the whole snowplough shindig organised yet) I had the lovely joy of a Swedish person stopping me every 15 minutes to tell me I was wearing the wrong shoes.

When you are standing in a blizzard with a dog trying to pee on your semi-frozen leg it is really hard to know what to say to the person pointing at your feet saying “those shoes are wrong”. I went with the “oh shit really?” approach, because it was better than weeping into the snow as I tried to get Amazon to deliver snow boots to ‘somewhere in the blizzard – Stockholm’.

First time it was funny, twelfth time I was ready to stab them with a frozen herring.

snow-in-stockholm-in-november

Side note: during winter in Stockholm they normally have handsome men roaming the rooftops pushing off the snow, they make sure the footpath is cordoned off first to avoid accidentally killing someone. However, because it was a surprise blizzard the handsome men were off undertaking other duties. This meant that every so often a significant amount of snow would spontaneously fall off the roof, and if you happened to be underneath it you may die. Snow is fun.

It was an amazing experience to be in a city covered in snow, from inside a warm building it was my favourite thing in the world. From outside? After falling on my ass for the hundredth time as a local pointed at my shoes and rooftop snow of death might kill me…. I will take London rain any day.

Oh, and dogs in the snow are perfection.

What to seeBruges shops

Bruges is one of those ideal places where you can feel the adventure of getting lost in the winding streets, surprise yourself with the stunning views around every corner, but feel safe in the knowledge that you are only ever ten minutes away from the center of town.

For chocoholics you are in luck, with more chocolate shops than cars (I may have made that up) you can spend an entire afternoon just eating treats. The best part is that almost all the chocolate shops we went into had sample trays, so you can get your fix without spending a thing.

For a truly bizarre experience find your way to Retsin’s Lucifernum, a bar which is also the home of a 172 year old Vampire named Willy. But the bit I was interested in was the permanent art installation outside, it just looks like some scaffolding. Not kidding. There is some scaffolding up with bits of tape wound around it, and I just love that sort of arty balls.

Bruges art

Where to eatGinger Bread BrugesIt was freezing when we arrived in Bruges, and all we wanted was to find a cute place to hunker down and eat. I think we managed to find the cutest place in all of Bruges, so sugary sweet I could barely handle it. The Ginger Bread tea shop is just off the main shopping street and about a 15 minute walk from the train station. It appears to be run, in a largely Faulty Towers way, by two adorable grandmothers who run around this pink paradise clucking like mother hens. The food was exactly what we felt like for lunch, hot tasty toasted bagels; mine with goats cheese, honey and pine nuts and Mr M had ham scrambled eggs and sun-dried tomatoes.

What to doBruges on the riverBruges is a city to walk around in. There aren’t really any major tourist attractions that you go to see (or at least none on a winters day), you instead spend your time walking over the fabulously cute bridges, gazing at the drip castle buildings and trying to not break your ankle on the cobble stones. We looked at doing a little boat trip along the canals, but when we saw how many people were crammed onto the boats we decided to give it a miss.

I just found Bruges so damn relaxing. Its water everywhere, toy town houses and nothing to do but look, see and imagine.

How to get thereBrugges LaceBruges is seriously easy to get to from London. You can get the Eurostar to Brussles and then just hop on the local trains for the rest of the trip. There is a train from Brussels to Bruges every half hour or so, and it is not harder to navigate then London trains even with the language difference.

If you are desperate for a holiday or taste of Europe but just don’t have any annual leave left, Bruges is your answer.

A massive thanks to Eurostar for sending me to Brussels and Bruges, Eurostar offers any Belgian station tickets from £79 return, with stations including Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges and stations along the Belgian Coast. Eurostar operates up to 9 daily services from London St Pancras International to Brussels Midi and from there passengers use their any Begian station ticket to connect on to local services to their final destination. Fastest London-Brussels journey time is 2 hrs. Tickets are available from eurostar.com or 08432 186 186.