winter : ljubljana : slovenia

winter : ljubljana : slovenia

Ljubljana definitely knows how to do winter. It knows how to do summer as well, but in the colder months – especially as you can pretty much guarantee snow – it is very, very pretty. The old part of the city runs along each side of the river, and up to the castle and is full of cobbled streets, baroque buildings, churches, candle lit restaurants and bars, twinkling lights, Christmas lights and trees and beautiful independent shops. Just outside the old city centre, parkland takes over and this is always magical in the snow, especially as there are many ornate and elaborate churches and old buildings, on the fringes.

The centre is lively and buzzing, both during the day and in the evening, because Ljubljana is set up to function all year around. Bars and restaurants still offer the al-fresco experience, because they also offer heaters – some overhead, some under the tables but usually both – and complimentary blankets and faux sheepskins. It does seem unusual to opt to sit outdoors when it is snowing, because in the UK we’d have retreated indoors well before the arrival of the snow. But not in Ljubljana. And this makes it a very magical city.

 

 

Christmas 2020

Christmas 2020

Well, it’s definitely been a funny old year. Since returning from our Christmas road trip, back to the UK, in January, we have been nowhere. Coronavirus quickly put paid to our usual kind of year. No eating out. No mini breaks. No visitors to us, meaning that we’ve not seen family friends since last Christmas – thank goodness for Zoom! Travel restrictions and quarantines are still in place all across Europe and specifically in the countries we’d drive through (there and back) and add in full blown Brexit, and all that that will entail come 1st January, we’re not able to do our road trip this Xmas. However, plans are afoot with family to celebrate Xmas in the summer, and we suspect some festivities may occur with visiting friends, too. So, this all means we are spending our first Christmas, at home, in Istria.

This time of year has always involved much travel for us. Even when we lived in England, travel was still a massive part of the festive season, so it will be quite strange to be in one place. Although we might be able to do a bit of winter sightseeing in Istria, we think we’ll largely be at home, so we are going big on ensuring the house is as Christmas filled as possible. Usually, we don’t do much decorations-wise, as we’re not at home. We do usually have a tree – and when we were in Didsbury we used to have a real tree outside, meaning no needles dropping indoors – but that’s about it. Well, not this year. After a 2020 to forget, we’re going out with a sparkle or two ✨✨

The outside area has played a massive part in our lives this year and we’ve finally (we think) completed the front of the house. Now that it’s all tidy and very pretty (even in winter, for the first time), we wanted to create a bit of a festive feel outside. The kitchen window shutters are rarely closed so we’ve used the bar which keeps them open as a focal point. A long garland of faux ivy has been wrapped around it and around that, we’ve wrapped tiny LED lights. The cherry wood bench underneath still has the birdcages filled with beautifully coloured pumpkins, from back in October. We’ve only had one pumpkin casualty and that was one I sprayed gold which decayed under the film of spray and then collapsed in a pungent mess when picked up… The others – delicious hues of oranges and greens and light blues – are still going strong and look very pretty with lights twisted through the birdcages. The glass-effect summer bauble lights have been brought down from the trees and these also wind their way around the bench.

We’ve once again opted for a real tree outside. This potted Norwegian Spruce will be cared for until we finally move and can plant her up. She does look very lovely on the patio when lit up 🙂

Over the summer. I had a circular willow wreath which was wrapped with lights and hung inside the shed, so that it gave off a soft light in the evening. This wreath has been wintered-up. Again, garlands of faux ivy have been wrapped around it and orange berries inserted into the willow. Hey presto – a Christmas wreath for the front door.

I don’t think we’ve ever had a Christmas wreath before, but this year we’ve actually got two – although the second one came about by mistake. High winds had seen to the solar lanterns in the trees and all that was left of three of them was one of the hoops that formed one of the bases. This was about to be thrown away, along with all of the vines and berries which we’d cut back, when an idea formed…

Indoors is where we’ve taken December to a whole new level for us. Because we’ve never been here before over Xmas, it was decided that the house would this year, become a cosy retreat, full of twinkling lights and candlelight and woodburners burning brightly. The dark feature walls in the living room and the well room come into their own in the winter months and so we’ve been beavering away creating our own hygge haven. A fake white tree – another first! – is now sitting prettily in the well room, adorned with black baubles and a black sparkly star. Our big white stars (IKEA old-timers) hang at each of the windows and can be seen when driving down the hill from the village.

Croatia does seem to embrace Christmas as enthusiastically as back at home, and so we’ve had no problems sourcing decorations. Many do seem to be a lot less mass-produced (although supermarkets do the stock ’em up & pile ’em high with glitter baubles) and so we’ve found a lot of very unusual decorations. These wooden carved decorations are all from a store called TEDI – not sure if these are in the UK but is along the lines of The Range. Sadly, as we can’t travel to closer bigger cities such as Trieste or Ljubljana, we can’t get accessories from little independent shops, but hey-ho, we’ve tried our best with the restrictions we’re under.

By accident, I also bought some multi-coloured LED lights, on copper wire. I think the copper misled me, and I thought the tiny bulbs might be white, but no – they are every colour under the rainbow. And, with eight settings, I could have them flashing, flickering, racing. Many ways to bring on a hallucinatory state. Luckily, the last setting is static – and static it is…

In a nod to our new surroundings, we have introduced a bit of a deer theme…

Not sure if we have sparkly gold birds, with yellow feather tails around here, but just in case we do, and we’ve not seen them…

Even a ropey old wine rack which was about to be taken to the tip, got the gold spray pain and LED light treatment. A new life and something salvaged…

I think I’m quite liking getting into the decorative spirit, and even though I have *promised* I’ll buy no more, I can’t really say that I’ll keep this particular promise. It is Christmas 2020, after all! And, our homemade damson gin and blackberry gin is ready. So cheers, saluti and živjeli..

 

 

Metz : Grand Est : France

Metz : Grand Est : France

Metz Cathedral, France

We first discovered the beautiful medieval city of Metz, two years ago, on our first road trip from Istria to England, for Christmas. Positioned where it is, in north eastern France, it was a good place to stop and break up the journey to Calais. We’ve stayed a few times since – and although there are undoubtedly many fabulous places to rest our heads, we now just opt for Hôtel de la Cathédrale, which, as stated on the website, is very definitely, a hotel full of charm and character, in the beautiful heart of Metz. Housed in a 17th C building, the hotel is utterly charming, full of French antiques and, certainly in the variety of rooms we’ve stayed, oozing with vintage vibes. I’ve never stayed here and not returned home with a few ideas…

Hotel de la Cathedrale, Metz, France

Hotel de la Cathedrale, Metz, France

Hotel de la Cathedrale, Metz, France

Hotel de la Cathedrale, Metz, France

Hotel de la Cathedrale, Metz, France

Hotel de la Cathedrale, Metz, France

Hotel de la Cathedrale, Metz, France

We arrived earlier this trip, and so took advantage of the additional time we had, to take in the festive atmosphere in Metz. There’s something about being abroad at Christmas – especially if it’s quite cold and everyone is wrapped up. It’s also really lovely seeing how other places “do” Christmas – I’ve yet to see anything on our travels, that’s not utterly exquisite. See for yourself – this is how Metz does Christmas…

Festival of Lights, River Moselle, Metz, France

Festival of Lights, River Moselle, Metz, France

Metz, France

Metz, France

Metz, France

Iconic city centre buildings, such at the Cathedral (right opposite our hotel), were illuminated at night, to stunning effect…

Metz, France

Metz, France

Another advantage to staying in the hotel we stay in, is that literally next door, is the most amazing restaurant – La Cucina di Casa. Always packed with locals – no English voices, all French. Always a good sign when the locals chose it! Not only is it sumptuously decorated with rich red velvet drapes, deep red and navy blue walls and packed full of gorgeous French paraphenalia, but it also serves the most mouth-watering pizzas. Thin bases, with just the right amount of toppings.

La Cucina di Casa, Metz, France
We do keep promising ourselves that we’ll make the trip to Metz in the spring or summer as it will be beautiful, but for us it’s just such a Christmas city, that I don’t want to break the festive spell, just yet…