Bruges before Christmas 

We got back from Australia at the end of July and it’s been so wonderful being surrounded by family and friends again. I’ve started university and am doing a degree in English Literature with the goal of becoming a secondary school teacher.

But I miss travelling! I had a couple of days of  getting so down about the fact that my life isn’t in ‘everyday-is-an-adventure’ mode anymore that I booked us a pre-Christmas break to Belgium (as soon as my student loan came in!) It gave us both something to look forward to and even though it was only a 2 night stay, it was perfect. We left on the 16th December from St Pancras international and the station was so festive that I immediately got into winter holiday mode (they even had fake snow falling inside the station!)

We got the Eurostar to Brussels and then an onwards train to Bruges, which did not disappoint. We walked through cobbled streets and over bridges and through market squares following google maps to our hotel. It took longer than it should have because every 2 seconds I made Bailey stop so I could take pictures. 

Everything was so pretty! 

We stayed at the Grand Casselbergh Hotel and I couldn’t believe how nice it was considering what a great deal I had got by booking on SecretEscapes.com. We had an executive suite with the comfiest bed and biggest bathtub. The champagne breakfast was included, the staff were great and the hotel itself was gorgeously decorated. Even the hotel toiletries were by l’occitane, a brand I LOVE – seriously I felt like a celebrity. 

We spent two whole days just exploring the city by foot. We climbed hundreds of stairs to the top of the Belfort and the view was spectacular, you could see over the entire city. We ate Belgium waffles and frites and drank Belgium beer and coffee. In the main square there was an ice skating rink surrounded by Christmas markets, and almost every window had Christmas lights and decorations up. There weren’t many cars but there were plenty of horse drawn carriages (um, faitytale much?) We visited the historium and museums and bought plenty of chocolate, fudge, Christmas tree ornaments and beer to take home. If you are visiting Bruges I cannot recommend the Olive Tree restaurant enough. It’s menu of Greek food was absolutely delicious and the staff were excellent. We ate there the second night and it was better AND cheaper than the first nights meal we had at a restaurant in the square.

There are a few photos below and if you would like to see more follow my Instagram account @neonwanderlust.


   

    
    
   

I think a few short breaks within Europe per year might satiate my wanderlust! We are so lucky to live somewhere where we can just hope on a plane or train and be in another country in a few hours.

Now I just need to decide where to go next!

xo

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First Christmas Away From Home

First of all, Merry Christmas everyone!!!!! Sending positive vibes and good juju to wherever you happen to be in the world today 🙂 IMG_6980.JPGIt really is the most wonderful time of the year! With festive cheer, cheesy songs, good food, family time and lots of presents; what’s not to love!?

My family LOVE Christmas. We have drinks, nibbles and board games on Christmas Eve. We hang the stockings we’ve had since birth at the end of our beds and still put out mince pies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer. I’m the oldest of three but that doesn’t stop me being the first to wake up every Christmas morning and waking everyone else up by jumping on them and singing carols. Christmas is one of the happiest times of the year for me and I look forward to it months in advance!

This year however, I’m not at home, and as stupid as it might sound to some people, I’ve been really sad the last couple of weeks. I’ve been in Australia for 8 months and I love it here but I would have given anything to go home just for 3 days over Christmas. I had it all planned out in my head, we would book flights secretly and just turn up and surprise our families and there would be tears of joy and it would be a YouTube video-worthy reunion. But reality reared it’s ugly head and put a stop to that. The flights are too long to go home for such a short time, and they’re too expensive to justify a fleeting visit. Plus, we just started new jobs a month ago and no way are you gong to get Christmas off in the hospitality industry…

So now it’s 7pm on Christmas Day and I’m sat writing this in our Melbourne shared flat (our housemates are away visiting family for the holidays) and I’m happy. Really, really HAPPY! After a little emotional breakdown last night and family and friends telling me to embrace the sunshine and make the most of it, I did, and it was awesome 🙂

I woke up pretty early this morning to a Skype call from my dad and step-mom. Immediate Christmas feels. This was then followed straight up by a Skype call from my mum, step-dad, sister, step-siblings and their partners. Cue more Christmas feels. Then me and my gorgeous guy exchanged gifts, we also had gifts sent from his family and gifts from our housemates. Who can be sad when you have presents to open!! Check out the haul…
IMG_7032.JPGWe splurged a little on groceries yesterday so we tucked into caramel lattes and pain au chocolats for breakfast. DELICIOUS!

That was then followed by a pamper session using my new skin, hair and shower goodies (OMG, this Frank coffee scrub and balm stuff is ridiculous, everyone needs to try it. I’M SO FRICKIN’ SOFT!)IMG_6984.JPGIMG_6990.JPGOne of the things I was really sad about in the lead up to Christmas was the heat. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a sunworshipper. I love that flaming ball of hotness up there in the sky.
But Christmas should be cold! There should be snow (or the threat of snow in the UK’s case) and everyone should be wearing warm pyjamas and big jumpers and fluffy socks. Hot water bottles and hot chocolates should be a necessity and I should not be sweating my (metaphorical) balls off in the middle of December!
However, we took our loved ones Christmas-Eve-Anti-Homesick advice and put our swimmers on, hopped in the van, and drove to Brighton Beach in Melbourne. And it was FABULOUS.IMG_7021-0.JPGIMG_7029-0.JPGIMG_7004-0.JPGIMG_6998-0.JPGIMG_7035.JPGIMG_7034.JPG There was nowhere near the amount of people we were expecting to be there so no overcrowding or fighting for a sunbathing spot. The weather was gorgeous and we just napped and topped up our tans 🙂
There were no time restrictions, we didn’t have to be anywhere for lunch or leave to meet anybody, we just came back home when we’d had enough and tucked into some Camembert with caramelised onion chutney and crusty bread (mmmm, heaven.)

So to anybody else who has been away from their families for the first time this Christmas I hope you managed to have a lovely day anyway. I hope you embraced any cultural or seasonal differences and I hope you’ll be going to bed happy tonight.

To everybody who was (or is) with their families today, I hope you’re enjoying the silly family traditions you take part in every year. I hope you realise how lucky you are to be surrounded by loved ones and that you don’t take them for granted. I hope today is as peaceful, silly, fun or raucous as you wanted it to be and that you’ve ended 2014 with a bang 🙂

And lastly, to my family, to my gorgeous girlfriends, crazy parents, incredible siblings and everyone else I love and miss back home; I’ll see you next year. And next year is going to be IMMENSE (coz we’ve got some catching up to do!)

Peace, love and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

xo