We'd woken up to a foggy, humid morning after having heard the strange and mournful wails of ships' foghorns giving warning in the night.
After all, even in landlocked Middelburg, one is never far from the coast in Zeeland.
By morning, the outside world was still murky and uninviting and, frankly speaking, far better suited to a day spent inside, reading a good book perhaps, or watching some rubbish daytime television. Or we could have browsed and listened to Eveline's extensive and quite excellent CD collection.
I'd already made myself comfortable in that fabulous Art Deco style chair ...
But that's not what we'd come here for! The weather forecast having promised the fog would clear by late morning, we decided to wait it out, but when this still hadn't happened by 11 am, we donned coats, hats and scarves and walked into town.
The pea soup-like conditions had drained the outside world of most of its colour and across the canal the picturesque windmill was doing its best to contrast with the blanket of white obscuring the sky.
Slowly but surely, a misty drizzle was blurring my glasses but using an umbrella would have been too cumbersome.
The rather forlorn view towards the bridge was in sharp contrast with two days earlier, when there was the hustle and bustle of shoppers and day trippers making their way into town, making the most of the exceptionally mild and sunny day.
In the foreground is the landing stage from where open-top canal boat trips take off between April and November. Now, its emptiness added to the desultory atmosphere. I guess nobody in their right mind would have been tempted to take a cruise on the city canals in this weather.
I couldn't help but be charmed by the little vehicle on the bottom right. It belongs to a local brewery and must be the smallest beer delivery van ever!
The town hall's carillon was chiming the hour, its tower, which the people of Middelburg call Malle Betje (Silly Beth), still wearing a thin layer of mist.
The tower earned its nickname from the fact that its clock used to run behind the town's other clock tower, the Lange Jan (Long John).
Speaking of the devil, where exactly is Lange Jan? Middelburg's most visible landmark had clearly decided to play hooky that day!
We picked up some brochures at the tourist office and roamed the streets around the market square, taking in the buildings' delightful details and doing some window shopping.
There was a whole shop window dedicated to Zeeuwse Babbelaars (bottom left), the traditional butterscotch flavoured candy Zeeland is famous for.
The Christmas decorations, which seemed incongruous in the gorgeous weather of two days ago, somehow seemed more appropriate on this most dismal of days. Still way too early for me, though!
Having made such a late start, we were soon faced by hunger pangs so we went in search of a suitable place to eat. Shouldn't be too difficult in a town the size of Middelburg, right? However, as it was almost 1 pm by now, all the places we liked seemed to be fully booked. In the end, our empty stomachs got the better of us, and we settled for a rather run of the mill café-restaurant.
Upon leaving the café, we suddenly noticed the sign in front of the shop directly opposite. Yes, we'd discovered a vintage shop! The shop, called Lieve Hemel, was a veritable treasure trove of vintage china, kitchenalia, religious statues, handbags, hats, jewellery, you name it. It didn't take long for me to select these two brooches.
Venturing further into the shop, I found a rail full of vintage frocks! This handmade pink and green one took my fancy. I was holding up another frock and telling Jos that I used to have exactly the same one, when my eyes suddenly clocked two more frocks which looked familiar. This just couldn't be a coincidence: they must have been mine! Thinking back, both Jos and I are certain that the owner was the lady who bought up so much of my stock at last year's flea market. I've even spotted two of the dresses in question on the clothes rail in my post.
By now, it was past 2 pm, and with the afternoon well on its way, we knew our sight-seeing time would be limited.
As we'd already made up our minds to return next year, we decided to continue roaming the streets and following our noses, paying brief visits to some of the town's landmarks along the way.
First up was the abbey complex, which can't be missed if you walk into the direction of Lange Jan. The tower had finally decided to grace us with its presence, even if the fog up there was still quite persistent.
The abbey dates back to the 12th Century and consist of a complex of buildings surrounding a large and picturesque courtyard. Three adjacent, internally connected churches make up one part of the complex and it also houses the Zeeuws Museum, which traces the history of Zeeland.
We limited ourselves to admiring the courtyard, vowing to return for a more extensive visit.
Leaving the abbey behind, we found ourselves face to face with a picturesque red shuttered building. This former civil guard post is called St-Jorisdoelen and, in spite of the date proclaimed on its façade (1582), this is actually a reproduction of the original building, as it was destroyed by German bombs in May 1940.
Note the statue of St. Joris (St. George) on top of its scrolled gable.
On the bottom left is a wall fragment of yet another building destroyed in May 1940. Several such fragments, or stumbling stones, were built into the pavement at different locations across Middelburg, and are part of a memorial called The Explosion erected in 1988.
We walked into the direction of the Dam square, which eventually leads to the old dock area, in search of one of Middelburg's hidden gems, the Kuiperspoort.
This picturesque cobbled courtyard, with its historical gabled houses and warehouses, was built by the coopers guild between 1586 and 1642.
Entering the secluded courtyard through a gate leading off the Dam feels like travelling back in time to the Middle Ages.
Note the change of coat: I was very glad I'd had the presence of mind to bring along this warmer vintage swing coat as well! I was also wearing gloves, albeit fingerless ones which enabled me to take photographs without constantly having to take them off.
Leaving the Kuiperspoort through the gate at the other end of the courtyard, we emerged onto the quayside, close to the marina, where abandoned pleasure-craft were moored and a cold stinging wind was driving us back into the safety of the sheltered town centre streets.
Time to get warm and rest our weary feet, while having a cup of cappuccino and an indulgent piece of white chocolate cheese cake!
On our way back through town, I spotted a pair of green booties in a shoe shop. I'd been looking for a a pair that ticked all my boxes for many a year, so I couldn't believe my luck, even if they weren't the deep shade of forest green I'd had in mind. Their heels are just the right height for me.
After this purchase, it was straight back home for a quiet, relaxing evening by the fire. As you can see, someone was quite exhausted ...