So I know it’s been a little quiet around here lately, but that’s because I’ve been on some ADVENTURES (Bilbo would be proud of me!). I’ve really been trying to make the most of my time off, and even though I’m working part-time now, I’m super lucky because the hours are flexible. Because of this, the boyfriend suggested that we go on a mini Christmas road trip while we had the opportunity to travel, and of course, I jumped at the opportunity! We worked out a plan that allowed us to drive from place to place, and then booked some apartments with the help of Airbnb, and off we went to go and get Christmassy!
We woke up early on a Friday morning (4am to be precise, ouch) and made our way to Dover where we got the ferry. We decided to splash out and book the VIP Sea View Lounge which I have to say was the best experience and I can’t recommend it enough. They have comfy chairs and sofas, and you get unlimited drinks (INCLUDING TEA!!!!), pastries and biscuits. I hate boats, and it made the whole thing more bearable. We landed in Dunkirk and then drove a couple of hours to our first stop, Bruges in Belgium.
Bruges was such a magical place. Every building looked old and all the roads were cobbled, and every five minutes you had to dodge out of the way of oncoming horse and carriages. It was like going back in time or entering a medieval fantasy novel!
We spent most of the first day just exploring the city, it was quite small so we managed to see pretty much all of it simply by walking around. We wandered along the canals hand in hand (awh yay, soppy stuff), checked out some of the local artwork, and of course, Bruges’s famous Christmas markets which were spread across two different squares. The actual market stalls were a bit disappointing as they weren’t selling anything particularly unique, but it was still lots of fun to uncover each one and get in the Christmas spirit!
After night fell, we decided to take a horse and carriage ride so that we could see all the Christmas lights in their glory. As our guide pointed out landmarks, we marveled at the twinkling lights and the sound of hooves connecting with the cobbles from underneath a blanket. Finally, we stopped for some grub, choosing chicken in Bruges’s specialist beer sauce, and I also attacked a Belgium waffle and devoured it in less than 5 minutes (it’s possibly the best thing I’ve ever tasted)! Then we went back to our apartment and settled down to the gangster film In Bruges, because why not?
The following day we spent the morning in Bruges, firstly trekking up the famous Belfry tower (pictured above) and its 366 steps which was a proper mission, as people had to come up and down the same stairs which were so small and windy you had to flatten yourself against the wall so others could pass. The bells chimed as we reached the top and we considered our mission complete! We also visited and ice sculpture festival which was a really fun experience (it even had an ice bar)!
After Bruges, we had a couple of hours drive to check into our next apartment near Brussels in Belgium. Due to the recent conflicts, Brussels was still in shutdown when we went, so we decided to steer around that and instead explore the opposite way towards Antwerp. We spent the evening at Antwerp Clue, an escape game centre, which is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. We were locked in a room for 60 minutes and had to try and discover clues to solve a murder and get out of the locked room before the time ran out, it was an absolute blast! There were desks with hidden drawers, hidden keys, padlocks with codes, writing that could only be found when the lights were off and a special light was used. For someone who likes stories and puzzles, it was exactly my sort of thing! We just managed to escape the room in time and came out grinning like absolute idiots, an effect that didn’t wear off for hours after. 🙂
The next day we checked out of our Brussels apartment and drove for 3-4 hours to reach Amsterdam’s park and ride. From there we took the train and then a tram, before finally braving gale force winds and ice cold rain to reach our apartment before collapsing in a heap and falling asleep.
The next day we woke up fresh and went in search for breakfast. I decided tasting Amsterdam’s famous crepes simply had to be done and found myself facing the beast above! Yes, I was unfortunately defeated half way through, and the crepe had nothing on the Belgium waffle! Walking along Amsterdam’s many bridges, I couldn’t help but feel impressed by the sheer amount of people riding bikes (I guess it helps them work off the crepes), and bowed down in awe to those doing it in heels. It was so nice to visit a city more populated by bikes than cars, even if you did feel like you were dodging wheels of death (literally).
The weather while we were in Amsterdam was pretty poor making it hard to take decent pictures, but we spent most of the day wandering up and down the streets seeing as much of the city as we could, occasionally ducking into cafes (I’m probably one of the only people in the world who didn’t go to Amsterdam for the coffee shops, LOL). The rain did eventually let up as dusk fell, allowing us to appreciate the Christmas lights, and by accident, some of the red light district (eugh). In the evening, deciding we needed a good meal to keep up our strength, we went to an authentic steakhouse called La Luna and ordered the biggest amount of meat and sides known to man. It was an epic place and the staff were crazy friendly, and even called us maestro and signorina!
Our second day in Amsterdam was spent visiting the Anne Frank house, which was the aspect of the trip I was most looking forward to having read Anne’s Diary about going into hiding from the Nazi’s during world war 2 several years back. It’s a story that shocked me, and millions of others, and I like that it reminds us of the human factor of WW2. Being able to explore the Frank’s hiding place and walk through the hidden bookcase door was truly a memorable experience, and I liked that the house honoured the memory of those who hid there without turning them into saints or making the experience overly emotional. The rooms were all unfurnished with reconstructed pictures on the walls, and the one thing that struck me most was how dark the rooms were, and how quickly I would have felt myself going insane cooped up with the lack of sunlight.
After visiting Anne Frank, we found ourselves back on the road for a good 5-6 hours until we reached our final destination, Paris.
On the 6th day of our trip, we woke up in a Paris apartment, with a fat ginger French cat named Napoleon with ninja abilities (he was able to make his way up and down a metal rung ladder fixed to the wall by going round and through the bars repeatedly). We were absolutely shattered so we didn’t leave the apartment until the afternoon, which was probably for the best because Paris looked so much prettier at night with all the Christmas lights! We managed to navigate the metro without any hiccups (Seriously proud!) and got around most of the main sights.
The recent Paris attacks did mean there was a bit of tension in the air, especially with the army and police patrolling and constant bag checks (even for going into McDonalds), but we tried to make the absolute most of our time there. The best part by far was going up the Eiffel Tower at night time. Even though it wasn’t lit up due to Paris being in mourning, the view from the top was so beautiful!
The next day in Paris, and the final day of our road trip, we just managed to squeeze in visiting one of the world’s most famous bookshops, Shakespeare and Company. (You knew there had to be books in this post somewhere, right?! ;)) It was a wonderful spot with a great vibe, right near the river and Notre Dame Cathedral. The shop was on two levels with a bookish quote going up the stairs, and a book nook where people had left notes about their visit. I wanted to pick up a copy of Les Miserables by the French author Victor Hugo because it seemed fitting, but I didn’t like the edition they had and it was really expensive, so I settled on The Catcher in the Rye, a novel I have wanted to get for ages!
And what a better way to end a road trip than on a bookish note? After Shakespeare and Co. we made our way back to the car via the metro, drove to Dunkirk and got the ferry back to the UK. 🙂
So, now you know what I’ve been up to and why it’s been a little silent around here the last month. Hopefully, you enjoyed reading about my Christmassy adventures, I know I enjoyed writing about it. 🙂 I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and a couch potato Boxing Day! And don’t forget, you can always keep in touch with me via my twitter @FuzzySlippers22 when it’s quiet around here because that gets updated frequently!
Did you visit any cool Christmas markets this year? And if you could go on a road trip, where would you choose to go?