I had to go back to work on Monday, and when I unlocked the door that morning and walked into the semi-darkness of the office, taking note of the mountain of unfinished files on my desk, I wistfully thought back to the Monday of last week when, after a bit of a lie-in and a leisurely breakfast, we put our luggage into the boot of the car and drove off to pastures new. Well, not that new actually, as we'd already been to the same place last year but I'm sure you're getting the gist.
Our destination was Middelburg, the charming capital town of the province of Zeeland in the south west of Holland. And while it is safe to say that we were going abroad, the journey only took us just over an hour!
After a gorgeously sunny but crisply cold weekend, it was a bit of a letdown that the weather forecast for the week ahead wasn't looking all that good. In fact, dark clouds had been gathering all morning and it started raining before we were even halfway there!
We'd booked the same airbnb as last year, a small but perfectly formed cottage dating from 1890, which has been tastefully decorated and equipped with all mod cons. After all, the cottage's owner, Eveline, actually lives there herself when she is not renting it out.
We arrived at about 1 pm and after helping us unload our luggage and guiding us to a nearby street where our car could be parked (the street the cottage is on is narrow with very limited parking), our thoughtful host left us to make ourselves at home.
It was still raining at that point, so I'll show you around the cottage first.
There's a cosy sitting room with a large sofa and an Art Deco style armchair arranged in front of a wood burner.
The sitting room leads through to an open plan kitchen with dining area, with French windows giving access to a tiny courtyard garden. There's a compact but comfortable bathroom leading off the hallway, while a flight of stairs takes you up to a large bedroom under the eaves.
We had a late lunch and, as the rain still didn't show any sign of abating, we decided to go grocery shopping before hitting the town. I'm happy to say that by the time we left the small local supermarket, a watery sun was finally showing its face.
I was snug as a bug in my travelling outfit consisting of a warm lined green with a bit of red tweed skirt and green fur collared vintage jacket (an all-time favourite), which I wore with a scarf in autumnal shades of browns and purples and a jaunty pink beret.
The boots were a retail buy from last month. I'd been looking for an affordable pair of tall, comfy boots in this particular yummy shade of chocolate brown for years, so I was overjoyed when I came across these in a recently opened high street shop in Antwerp. I'd brought a spare pair of boots with me as they hadn't yet been properly broken in, but there was no need as I wore them all week, walking for miles without the least bit of pinching or soreness.
Our cottage is on the outskirts of the town, but only a mere 5 minute walk from the town centre, along and across a picturesque canal, and then crossing a second one.
Before the weather gods had the chance to change their minds, I quickly snapped the pale blue, almost wintry sky peeking through one of the trees lining the canal, bare-branched with only a handful of withered leaves still hanging on for dear life.
On the bottom left is the striking Kloveniersdoelen building with its Flemish gables. Built in 1607, it has served as a place for target practice for marksmen (‘kloveniers’) and as a military hospital. At present, it is home to a small cinema and a restaurant.
Our first port of call was a street called Langeviele, and in particular a shop selling all manner of souvenirs, as Jos was intent on buying a pair of slippers shaped like traditional Dutch clogs.
Slightly envious of the pink pair adorned with the obiquitous Dutch kissing boy and girl which I bought at the same shop last year, he was sorely disappointed when they didn't have the yellow ones in his size back then. As luck would have it, he was now able to grab the very last pair in his size!
The Langeviele leads into the direction of the town's main square, passing some empty and forlorn café terraces along the way.
The square itself is presided over by the former town hall (bottom right), a lavish late Gothic building, with its oldest parts dating from 1458. Its façade is covered with sculptures of the lords and ladies who have once ruled Zeeland.
We also caught our first glimpse of the iconic 14th century Lange Jan tower (top right) which is part of a large abbey complex. With its 90 metres, the tower is soaring above the town and is visible from far and wide in Zeeland's flat-as-a-pancake landscape.
It was well past 4 pm by then and daylight was starting to fade in favour of the gloaming. Twinkling lights were appearing in shop windows and spotlights were bathing the historical buildings in a magical glow.
But while I was still snug as a bug, Jos was feeling the cold in his leather jacket. As he was in desperate need of a proper winter coat - we had been scouring the charity shops for months - we decided to do a rare spot of retail shopping, finding this gorgeous duffel coat - a true classic - in C&A. As you can see, he started wearing it straight away, carrying his leather jacket - and the clogs - in a bag.
It was getting late and we were getting peckish, so we dived into a café where we indulged in cakes and cappuccinos.
Our spirits sufficiently restored, we wandered through the cobbled lanes, ending up at a little square right in front of the Lange Jan, lured by a flower shop's luxuriously illuminated windows and some gilded poems set into slabs among the square's paving stones.
The poem on the slab I'm standing on freely translates as: the cloud rains out into sea, bird after bird falls apart, feet feet take us with you.
The tower itself, with its lavishly decorated wedding cake layers, was looking particularly enchanting, glowing like a magic lantern in the fading daylight.
There was even more magic back at the main square, and it wasn't just the town hall's splendour which was being spotlighted here.
One shop in particular was prematurely sporting seasonal decorations, while cozy lamplight was spilling from the still empty pubs in an attempt to draw us in.
But not even the gaily lit stall selling the traditional oliebollen - a kind of fried doughnut balls - was able to tempt us, as those late cakes were still a bit in the way.
Soon we were back at the canalside, where the imposing Kloveniersdoelen building was putting in its two pennies worth by being lit up like the proverbial tree.
Then we recrossed the canal and, finally on our homestretch, the remaining daylight was now beating a hasty retreat, with the distant traffic lights painting the water with rainbow coloured stripes.
One by one, lights started appearing in the windows of the houses opposite, where fires were lit to accompany people on their evening routines.
And soon, we would be home too and doing the same, settling in for a cozy evening in front of the fire, mulling over our dream of a day and making plans for the next.
To be continued ...