Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Bright lights on a cold night

Hello there! Remember me? While we've only been away for five days, it somehow feels much longer, which surely must be a sign that we really did get away from it all. On the other hand, it does feel as if the days whizzed by at the speed of light, which is strangely contradictory.

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 ...


  1. Lovely, lovely -- yet another lovely, enchanting trip you're taking us on, Ann! The town and your Air B&B seem just right for getting away and feeling cozy at the edge of winter. There is something so peaceful about lights on water. I feel relaxed looking at your photos.


    1. Thank you Sherry, and I'm glad my photos made you feel relaxed! xxx

  2. Your travel posts are so poetic, Ann - I hear you narrate them in my mind as I read. Good golly, but it is beautiful there!

    Love your fur-trimmed jacket, and I'm glad for Jos that he's fully bundled up now, even if it's a retail purchase. Leather weather is nearly over!

    1. Thank you Sheila, I guess travelling puts me in a poetic state of mind. xxx

  3. Your home from home was gorgeous! I like it very much and I like the big attic bedroom. Your fur-collar coat is a favourite one of mine - I like it when you wear it!
    Jos' duffle is wonderful! It looks so long and cosy. Nothing worse than being cold and wet away from home! x

  4. Sounds like a proper getaway!
    Love your snug bug look! And the new boots are totally chic and seem a good, lasting quality..... Pretty pictures of the evening town.
    Hugsies! xxxx

    1. Thanks Beate, and those boots must be one of the most comfortable pairs ever! xxx

  5. Zeeland in Holland seems like such a lovely province. I've never been to Holland and I don't know much about it, except the well known facts and something about its historical art (I love their painters). This charming little town looks wonderful. It seems like you had a nice getaway despite the rainy weather. Jos looks smart in this new black coat. I really like your styling too. Beautiful skirt and green jacket combo. The fur collar is so pretty. You look great in that styling.

  6. How wonderful to have 'abroad' just an hours drive away!

    Loved your jacket and skirt outfit; very stylish.

    Your cottage looks really cosy and what beautiful buildings the town has. I could look at interesting buildings for ever; there's always something new to catch the eye.

    I;m so glad Jos got his clog slippers - cute - and a new warm duffel coat. I bet know you've bought one you'll see lots in the charity shops. It's called Sod's Law and it always operates in this way; in my experience!

    Glad you had a lovely break away.

    1. Isn't it just? Last Sunday, we visited friends abroad as well, they live just over the border in Holland. We haven't been to any charity shops in the meantime, but I wouldn't be surprised if we found a duffel coat one of these weeks. In Duffel perhaps? It's our neighbouring town :-) xxx

  7. It looks wonderful and the house so cosy even in the rain! You were suitably and stylishly attired for your day too! :)

    It's funny, I knew of New Zealand but didn't occur to me it may be named after an original Zeeland - I wonder if it is even if the spelling is different?

    Hope that you are having a great week! :)

    Away From Blue

    1. Thank you Mica, and you're absolutely spot on: New Zealand was named after Zeeland after it was sighted by a Dutchman called Tasman! xxx

  8. Ohhhhhhhh I loooooove Zeeland! Middelburg is one of our favorite towns there. I am in love with your pictures Ann. Thank you so much for this nice day travelling with you. Jos looks great in his new dufflecoat.A good buy. Sometimes there is sadly no second hand buy the right time.
    A very huge hug Tina

    1. Thanks Tina, I knew you'd appreciate this especially! xxx

  9. I remember that stunning cottage last year, the decor is gorgeous. I don't think Eveline would be able to get rid of me!
    Loving those clog slippers, Jos models them well as he does that C&A duffel coat, it's proper smart.
    Love your comfy boots, an excellent investment by the sounds of it. Your outfit is fabulous.
    Zeeland looks gorgeous, even in the rain. I love the shape of the buildings, almost fairy tale-like, aren't they?
    Bring on part 2! xxx

    1. Thank you Vix. We toyed with the idea of going a bit further up in Zeeland, but then we thought nothing would be able to beat that cottage! xxx

  10. Some of these photos look like they are postcards. The lights in the shops are straight out of a fairy tale.

    Jos coat looks very cozy. His new slippers are adorable!


    1. Thanks Suzanne, I really loved the lights in the shop, even if some of them were a bit too Christmassy, too early on :-) xxx

  11. I love twilight when all the lights are on in the houses you pass and it looks so cosy. You took some gorgeous photos. I love the one of the 'lantern' tower especially.
    Jos' duffle coat is perfect it looks so cosy and your boots are perfect for the job of a trip around town, cosy and smart.
    Your green and tweed ensemble looks great and complements the boots perfectly.
    Looking forward to the next installment. xxx

    1. Oh, I love twilight too, Sally. That's the only thing I love about my commute at this time of year, the glimpses into other people's houses while on the bus! xxx

  12. How lucky are you to be able to just jump in the car and be in another country so quickly! Your photos of the town are so beautiful. Those buildings are amazing. I especially love the twinkling lights inside. Looks so magical.

    Thankyou for the little tour of the cottage. I do love a sticky beak into other people's homes - such an insight to their personalities. The armchair is gorgeous.

    Love your travelling outfit. I know I've said this before; green is really a good colour on you. Your chocolate boots are divine. Of all my boots, I find it's my chocolate ones that get the most rotation. Something that has just come to mind, if you'll permit me to waffle on a bit, is that years ago, when I had completed a basic interior decorating course, our lecturer taught us that a bit of brown balances everything, whether it be in home decorating or personal style. This little tip has stayed with me (and brought on my obsession with chocolate boots) because no matter what colour I wear, even if it's bright and luxurious, a bit of brown seems to bring everything together. I often add it in jewellery, bags or footwear.

    Jos is also doing a fine job modelling his duffel coat. I'm sure you both get many admiring glances from strangers!

    Do you actually wear the clogs or do you use them as accessories in your home? I've tried a few over the years; no way can I walk in them!

    Thankyou so much for allowing us on your little holiday. Looking forward to more. Have the loveliest day.

    1. Thank you my lovely! And you are so right about brown. It's a mystery to me why so many people seem to steer clear of the colour. xxx

  13. wowwww, I love so much how you make us feel the atmosphere of this place!, so brilliant writting and evocative pictures!
    I remember this cute cottage from last year's trip, and love that it has kept all its cosiness!. I also remember some details of the town, the flemish gables, the cute shops and arquitectural details (which I love!). Glad that Jos finally had that pair of slippers! ;DDD
    Lovely to see you well wrapped in your green jacket and tweed skirt, and wearing those comfy&fab boots!. And lovely beret and scarf too!, accessories rock!
    And Jos looks elegant and toasty in his new coat. C&A has provided me with some sensible clothes and it's my first option when having luggage problems in my travels.
    Love particularly those last pictures of the lights in the shops and buildings and houses. So charming!

    1. Thank you for another lovely comment, Monica! I've even got some vintage C&A, wouldn't you know? xxx

  14. Another wonderful travel-log thank you.

  15. What a beautiful place to visit, Ann! The place you stayed looks fabulous too. How wonderful to be able to visit another country in such a short amount of time! I'd love to live in Europe for that very reason! ;) Hope you have a wonderful weekend, Ann! XXX

    1. Thank you Sasha! Belgium is such a small country that within the space of two hours you can be in Holland, France or Germany! xxx

  16. That is a lovely little cottage, I'm not surprised the owner uses it when it's not being let. And as nice as Jos' duffel coat is, those slippers are definitely his best buy - they're such fun!

  17. Zeeland looks very picturesque indeed, what a lovely place to visit. Your accommodation look most welcoming, and how lovely to be so close to the canals.

    1. Thanks Hazel, and it's a lovely place indeed! xxx