Sunday 26 February 2023

Bruges wanderings, Part 1

Hello, and welcome to Part 2 of my latest travelogue!

As forecasted, all traces of the gorgeous Springlike weather we'd been blessed with earlier that week seemed to have disappeared when we woke up on Thursday morning. The world outside our B&B room's window was painted a dull uniform grey and, if the weathermen were to be believed, the temperature was about to revert to single digits once more. It's a good thing we brought a choice of caps and berets, as we would most definitely need them!

In spite of the combined relaxing effects of our night-time whirlpool bath, the absurdly comfortable bed and our blissfully quiet surroundings, I hadn't slept all that well that night. That is, I'd slept like the proverbial log until about 4 am when, after a visit to the loo, I had a sneezing fit which resulted in a - thankfully short-lived - nosebleed, after which I was wide awake and couldn't get back to sleep. I kept  tossing and turning for well over an hour during which, excited by next day's prospects, I mentally planned a full itinerary taking in Bruges' most picturesque sights. Needless to say, I was still very much in the land of dreams when the alarm on Jos's phone went off.

Taking our time to get ready, it was about an hour later that we left our room in the annex and - under the watchful gaze of our neighing neighbour in the stables opposite - made our way to the breakfast room.

Only one table was set, and in fact we'd have the place to ourselves for two mornings running, which meant that all Veronique's attention was lavished on us. After an appetizer of fruit and yoghurt and a glass of refreshing homemade apple juice, we attacked the basket of rolls, crusty bread and croissants.

To accompany these, there was a choice of cheeses and meats, as well as slices of delicious, melt-in-the-mouth smoked salmon.

Additionally, Jos accepted Veronique's offer of eggs, choosing a soft-boiled one, which came dressed in its own knitted cosy. Being supplied by the B&B's own chickens, the egg couldn't have been fresher.

We lingered over breakfast, which meant that it was well past 10 am before we stepped into our car for the 20-minute or so drive to Bruges, taking care to avoid the motorway which might have gotten us there faster but which wouldn't have been as much fun.

Our Satnav effortlessly took us to the big multi-storey car park situated below the concert building on the 't Zand square, which is within spitting distance from the city centre. Our ultimate destination was the Markt (Market Square) but as we had all the time in the world we decided to wander towards it in a roundabout way, making use of some quieter back streets instead of taking the main shopping thoroughfares.

We soon passed the magnificent Prinsenhof (Princes' Court, above, top left and right), which used to be one of the favourite residences of the Dukes of Burgundy.  In the 15th century, it was expanded into a large estate comprising, in addition to living quarters and guest rooms, a library, a donjon, pleasure gardens with a zoo and a huge bath house. I'm sure it won't surprise you that it is now a luxury hotel!

Then we walked under the Muntpoort (Mint Gate) leading to the quiet Muntplein (Mint Square), which is reigned by the striking statue Flandria Nostra designed by sculptor Jules Lagae in 1901. The horse-riding lady is said to represent Mary of Burgundy.

A short stroll along a narrow cobbled street devoid of any other tourists took us in the direction of the Leeuwbrug (Lion's Bridge), which crosses the Speelmansrei, a romantic tree-lined canal. The bridge is guarded by two placid, almost pussycat-like lions, their 17th-century front paws resting proudly on a shield bearing the gothic B of Bruges. Their gaze is directed towards the belfry, which on this particular morning was shrouded in a hazy veil.

On the canal's right we spotted the tower of the St. Jacobskerk (St. James's church) so we retraced our steps and took a side street leading towards it, then continued walking along the eponymous St. Jacobsstraat. Incidentally, Bruges' tiny Think Twice shop is in this street but, believe it or not, I decided to ignore it and pass through the cobblestoned Boterhuis lane (below, bottom left), the site of a former dairy market whose origins date back to 1580.

We emerged onto the Naaldenstraat (Needle Street) where we soon spotted Hof Bladelin (Bladelin Court, see detail top right), a city palace built around 1440 by Pieter Bladelin, treasurer of the order of the Golden Fleece. Only open on Friday afternoons, we have yet to visit this little know gem with its many treasures and atmospheric inner courtyard. 

Before making our way to the Markt for lunch, we made a little detour to Jan van Eyckplein (Jan van Eyck Square), where we had our respective portraits taken perched on the stone parapet of the Koningsbrug (King’s Bridge) which backs the majestic Spiegelrei.

Having arrived at the Markt, we made a beeline for our favourite of the row of restaurants catering for the constant stream of tourists, Le Pannier d'Or. One of the waiters even recognized us from last time we were here, in March 2022. They are doing an excellent Witloof in de oven, a Belgian classic featuring chicory rolled in ham, baked in the oven with mashed potatoes and a cheesy Béchamel sauce. Yummy!

But, wait a minute, I can hear you thinking. What about that special treat you mentioned in your previous post? It's past lunch time and so far I haven't noticed anything particularly special about your day, apart from the obvious fact that you're spending it in Bruges ... Well, bear with me, and all will be revealed in a minute.

Our lunch finished, we strolled across the square to the Belfry, where we'd agreed to meet ... my  lovely blogging friend Kezzie and her husband! I'd had the honour of meeting them in my hometown Antwerp last February so, when Kezzie mentioned they'd be spending their half-term break in Bruges, we wasted no time in planning another meet-up.

After a quick catch-up, we started walking to our chosen destination, with Kezzie's husband and me leading the way, and Kezzie being taught some basic Flemish by Jos along the way. No photos were taken during our walk, as obviously as we were far too busy chatting. Not to mention circumnavigating the endless roadworks - apparently, my night time itinerary planning hadn't bargained for the latter!

Jos and I had already visited the Adornes Estate and its magnificent Jerusalem Chapel back in February 2020, when we celebrated our Silver Wedding Anniversary. Located in a quiet neighbourhood well away from Bruges' so-called Golden Triangle, it was an oasis of calm empty of any tourists apart from the four of us. I'm sure the guy at the ticket office couldn't believe his luck when we turned up.

After watching a film in the almshouses in which the unique story of the estate was unfolded, and a not entirely unsuccessful attempt at trying one of the interactive quizzes in the museum, it was time for ... outfit photos!

In spite of the cold, Kezzie and I swiftly removed our coats to show you what we were wearing that day.

Kezzie wore a gorgeous pair of turquoise culottes she'd found at Think Twice, combined with a fabulous Seasalt jumper she'd snaffled off eBay at a steeply reduced price. 

Apart from our height difference - look at how small vertically challenged me is compared to her - we were actually matching, as I was wearing turquoise as well. It was my dress's first outing since finding it at Think Twice back in January. Kezzie later said its pattern made her think of Tardises!

Donning our coats again to keep ourselves from freezing - no sunshine, no warmth - we then entered the Jerusalem Chapel where, for once, we didn't have to photograph around our fellow tourists. Well, apart from the one with the red plastic bag who seemed to be following us around. The bag, by the way, contained our umbrellas as well as a present for Kezzie.

The Adornes family originates from the Italian city of Genoa, but came to Flanders in the 13th Century. 
Its best-known descendant is Anselm Adornes, who became an influential businessman, diplomat and knight in the 15th Century, when the estate was built. The chapel was consecrated in 1429

Anselm Adornes and his wife, Margareta van der Banck, are buried in the black marble tomb in the chapel, although in the case of Anselm Adornes, it is supposedly only his heart which is enshrined here, as these are the only remains that were able to be returned to Bruges after he was murdered in Scotland in 1483.

The architecture and layout of the chapel and its extraordinary relics are illustrations of the great reverence of the Adornes family for Jerusalem.  It is, in fact, quite a macabre monument, with a gruesome altarpiece covered in skull motifs.

By then, we were all feeling the cold and were gasping for a sit-down and a nice hot beverage. 

How lovely then that the estate's current owners have created a cosy room, dubbed the Scottish Lounge, with comfortable chairs, board games, books and refreshments for visitors. The latter are paid for by way of a "honesty box" in the form of the biggest piggy bank Kezzie had ever seen.

We continued having the lounge to ourselves, which couldn't have been more perfect, especially on this day with its less than perfect weather. I think we stayed in there, reclining in those wonderful Chesterfields and chatting non-stop, for well over an hour. If we'd had stayed any longer, they would have had to turf us out at the museum's closing time.

It had started raining lightly when we left to make our way back to the city centre, the precipitation gradually increasing in heaviness until we decided to seek out another place for a drink and some food including a giant bowl of fries for Kezzie and CBC since they had skipped lunch. 

And so endeth a wonderful and memorable day!

I won't mention the fact that, as we were concentrating on finding the correct car park exit, we'd forgotten to enter our destination in our Satnav so that yet again we got a tiny bit lost, but we eventually made it back to the B&B in one piece.

After eating the rest of yesterday's tapas board - which Veronique had kindly clingfoiled for us - and another soak in a far too hot whirlpool bath, we were ready for bed.

But not before showing you Kezzie's presents. She gave me two of her books (I'm currently reading the Ladies' Choir one), a packet of lavender shortbread, and a fabulous orange flower brooch.

I'll be back with the third and final part of my travelogue shortly!

Tuesday 21 February 2023

A welcome break

It truly beggars belief that the short break we'd been looking forward to for all those weeks is over and done with. As these little treats are wont to do, it was over in the blink of an eye. Time flies when you're having fun and all that ... 

Even though the weather gods tried to throw a spanner or two in the works, we enjoyed every single moment. We even had a treat within a treat to look forward to on Thursday, but I'm pacing myself here, so you'll have to wait for my next post to find out what it was. Oh, don't you just love a cliffhanger?

For now, I am taking you back to the Sunday preceding our tiny holiday. Same as Saturday, which we spent experimenting with my new camera in the park, Sunday the 12th of February was of the gloomy variety. The temperature refused to climb higher than 8°C, which I guess isn't bad for the time of year. However, aided by the lack of sunshine, there was a bit of a nip in the air.

Nothing more strenuous than pottering around and making a start with packing was on the menu and I only stepped outside into the passageway very briefly to show you what I was wearing.

Some of you might recognize the Prince of Wales plaid pussy bow blouse I'd found in a charity shop the other week. Instead of pairing it with the caramel button-through cord skirt I dressed Angelica in, I decided to do a spot of pattern mixing, picking a chevron patterned plaid skirt in browns, oranges and a dash of white, which I wrestled off a charity shop dummy in January 2022.

The blouse, by the way, was such a joy to wear. I loved its slightly balloony sleeves and the way the giant pussy bow flopped over my chocolate brown cable knit tank top. The latter was charity shopped back in December. Both the lady brooch I pinned to it and my translucent yellow plastic ring were flea market finds, while I stumbled upon the snoots (a.k.a. snake print boots) in a vintage per kilo shop at the end of November.

The colour palette might be fairly muted for me, but I mentally gave the outfit an A+ as I felt absolutely fantastic in it. In fact, I wore it again in its entirety on Monday, my final working day before signing off for the rest of the week.

As if on cue, the sun, who had taken absence of leave for the whole weekend, gleefully returned on Monday, when she shone brightly in an even brighter blue sky.

Thankfully work was fairly quiet, as my brain was already gearing into holiday mode. My lunch break took me towards Think Twice where another one of their famous sales was in full swing, with everything going at 50% off. Riffling through the rail of skirts, I pounced upon this flouncy Viscose biscuit coloured and flower printed one. The stretchy black and off-white chevron patterned belt was a no-brainer. I now have four of these belts, all with slightly different buckles!

And then it was Tuesday and the start of my holiday! Well, we were only leaving on Wednesday, but I thought having an extra day to sleep just that little bit longer, get into the mood and tie up some loose ends wouldn't be a bad idea. I'd finished most of the packing on Sunday, but still needed to decide which clothes to take. Not my forte, I must admit.

These are the two outfits which made the grade, complete with cardigans and accessories. It might have been another sun-drenched day with highs of 12°C, the weathermen couldn't seem to agree on the forecast for the next days, so I packed some camisoles, short and long sleeved t-shirts and a flannel lined slip to layer underneath as required.

We were overjoyed to wake up to a repeat of Tuesday's weather on Wednesday. The sun was still very much with us when, with slightly heavy hearts, we bade Bess goodbye just after lunch, arriving at our destination just over an hour later.

After a catch-up chat with Veronique, accompanied by coffee and home-made cake, we made our way to our room, Chocolat, which is located in an annexe opposite the stables. All the rooms are named after sweet things, by the way, the others being Caramel, Nougat and Cuberdon, which is a dusky purple cone-shaped Belgian candy. 

We got our luggage out of the car and reacquainted ourselves with our tastefully decorated luxury suite. 

While I took some photographs of its still pristine and uncluttered condition, Jos had a little rest.  I couldn't help but notice how well the colour of his favourite burnt orange corduroy shirt matched that of the armchair cushions in the background, while his trousers matched the bed's grey quilted headboard.

Let's proceed to the en-suite bathroom with its whirlpool bath which we'd be making use of every night of our stay.

There's a huge walk-in shower as well, although there's no denying a certain horror movie vibe in the photo I took in the waning afternoon light later that day.

Still experimenting with my Sony Cybershot, I was pleased to find it makes an excellent mirror selfie, which is definitely a first for me. Here's me wearing one of my all-time favourite Diolen frocks, accessorized with loads of mustard in the form of a suede belt, opaques and long-line cardi. I travelled in my caramel mock croc boots but wore my sturdy pair of fleece-lined chocolate brown ones for our outings.

Speaking of which, the weather was simply too gorgeous to stay put in our room. It was mid-afternoon by then, so we didn't want to venture too far from the B&B, opting for a bracing walk in Bulskampveld, a provincial domain which is practically on its doorstep.

The gateway to the extensive domain and nature reserve of about 230 hectares is the visitor centre - now closed for the season - located in a neo-Gothic style castle dating from 1887. Our afternoon stroll took us through the castle park laid out in the inevitable English landscape style, offering glimpses of the castle across the lake, the by now slightly hazy sunshine illuminating its red brick façade.

There were wooden adventure platforms and play huts to entertain and educate tiny people like me, majestic trees framing glorious panoramas and even a rare example of the elusive terracotta pot tree!

Established in 1980 on the site of the castle's former kitchen garden is the herb garden which boasts 400 or so species of medicinal and kitchen herbs, the majority of which were waiting impatiently for Spring to wake them from dormancy. Quite a contrast with our previous visit when the garden was basking in the heat of an August afternoon.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that the castellated tower is part of the castle, but it's not. It is actually a water tower, which was built in the 1890s. Lushly creeper-clad in the Summer months, now all that is left are the climber's tentacle-like branches which seem intent on strangling the life out of the poor thing. Originally, the tower was topped by a mill which pumped up water from a well, with a clock-like instrument indicating the height of the water supply.

The Hellebores in our garden might be on their last legs, this magnificent specimen of Helleborus foetidus, a.k.a. Stinking Hellebore, was definitely in its prime.

As sniffing the plant won't make you wrinkle your nose in disgust, the stinking adjective might seem quite undeserved. It is only when you crush the leaves that its odour, which is often described as beefy, is produced. Due to the plant's poisonous nature we didn't give it a try, but limited ourselves to admiring its looks and taking its portrait.

Grey clouds had started blanketing the sky while we walked, until all the gaps of blue had once more been obscured. As the sun dipped towards the horizon, she left the faintest of orange glows in her wake.

Would she leave us high and dry again and shift the season back to late Winter rather than early Spring? Only time would tell as, lately, the weathermen seem to be quite untrustworthy!

As we were walking back to the car park, we were distracted by the sight of a folly in the woods. Believing it to be some kind of a Summer house, we tiptoed towards it and peered through its window, behind which a tall plaster statue of Mary was perched on a pedestal.

Erected in 1920, this is a Chapel of Thanksgiving to Our Lady in recognition for the protection of the inhabitants of the village in general and the Lippens family - then owners of the castle - in particular during the First World War.

And then it was time to return to our home away from home for some down time and a relaxing soak in our whirlpool bath.  Followed by Veronique's famous tapas board, of course! 

I hope you'll join me again for Part 2 of my travelogue, which I'll be posting very soon.

Wednesday 15 February 2023

A spring in my step

As this post is brought to you by the magic of scheduled posting, we might very well be relaxing in our B&B room's jacuzzi when you are reading this.

This will be our sixth stay at Het Soetewater in Beernem near Bruges since we first discovered it in the Spring of 2018. As always, we intend to make the most of every minute and let ourselves be utterly spoiled by Veronique, our lovely host.

I'll be back with tales of adventures soon, but for now, let's cast our minds back to last week.

In spite of the bright blue skies and oodles of sunshine we were finally treated to, it was a bit of an ordeal, particularly as I was still feeling tired and had a lingering, migraine-ish headache on most days. 

By lunchtime, the minor frost we'd started the days with had vanished into thin air, the temperature having climbed to the mid single digits and beyond.

The world outside my office window was beckoning me, so I did go for a little wander during my breaks. Even on those days when I needed to run an errand, I walked to my intended destination in a roundabout way, making sure to walk on the sunny side of the street and bask in the sun's glorious rays.

With nothing on the agenda on Tuesday, I walked towards the largely pedestrianized square called Groenplaats just a couple of minutes' stroll from the office where, much to my surprise, there were still a couple of empty benches with a sunny aspect to choose from. 

My bench faced the cathedral tower soaring above the roofs of the tourist restaurants which line this side of the square. Having been disfigured by scaffolding for so many years, it's an absolute joy to be able to admire it in its full glory again. 

The Cathedral of our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwenkathedraal), construction of which began in 1352, is the largest Gothic structure in the Low Countries. Not surprisingly, it is a World Heritage Site, and it's a treasure trove of art including top paintings by Rubens. One can spend hours just looking at the the sculptures above the main portal, depicting The Last Judgment, alone.

The group of sculptures on the top left in the first collage is a dedications to the architects and stone masons who played a vital part in building the cathedral. The work of sculptor Jef Lambeaux (1852-1908) the sculptures were moved to their present location near the cathedral's main portal in 1935.

As I walked around the back of the cathedral, looking upwards as I am wont to do, my eye was caught by the charming stagecoach sign of the hotel opposite.

Before returning to the office, I made a little detour by walking through the entrance of "den Cleynen en den Grooten Biecorff” (transl. the small and the large beehive), a historical complex built around a central courtyard, the result of its restoration a fusion of the remnants of the old architecture and contemporary design. Home to luxury boutiques and other exclusive businesses a couple of years ago, most of the undoubtedly eye-wateringly expensive premises were now standing empty.

The weather gods continued being on their best behaviour on Wednesday and even added a couple of degrees so that by midday we were enjoying highs of 8°C.

I'd been meaning to revisit Antwerp's small but perfectly formed Botanic Garden for a while, but so far weather conditions had been too abominable to contemplate the walk involved. With a sky as brilliant a blue as it was that day, there couldn't have been a more prefect destination for my lunch break stroll.

Shortly before reaching the garden's entrance, I passed the magnificent Bourla Theatre, designed in neoclassical style in 1827 by architect Pierre Bourla. Construction started in 1829 but was delayed due to the Belgian Revolution. The theatre was eventually completed in 1834.

The Botanic Garden of Antwerp - locally known as Den Botaniek - is a landscaped botanical garden dating back to 1825, covering an area of slighty ​​less than one hectare.

The garden has a collection of 2000 plants and a conservatory housing a number of cacti and other exotic plants.

On this deliciously Springlike February day, there were signs of early Spring everywhere. I was delighted to discover several clumps of pink Cyclamen and a bed of Winter Aconites, their cheerful bright yellow flowers just starting to peek out from their frilly green skirts.

A Camellia shrub proudly presenting the first of its peony-like pink flowers, a single patch of early orange-hearted daffs, several groups of Iris reticulata, with their cobalt blue blooms with white and yellow markings, a flowering Mahonia, its spikes of yellow flowers reaching up to the bright blue sky: they all made my heart sing in equal measure and put a spring in my step.

Beyond the conservatory, an arrow pointed in the direction of the Prairie Garden (above, top right), the white building in the background belonging to the college I attended for two heady years in the early 80s, its classrooms offering a bird's eye view of the Botanic Garden.

Before returning to the hustle and bustle of Antwerp's city streets, a backward glance at the gate was rewarded with the lush jungle view on the bottom right. 

On my way back, I was mesmerized by one of the window displays of the Louis Vuitton shop - this particular street being the home of several posh label shops! - and spent several minutes photographing the reflection of the Bourla Theatre in the artfully suspended mirror balls.

It appears that the label has joined forces with avant-garde Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, for which  she decorated Louis Vuitton’s classic pieces with her iconic polka dots. Being generally ignorant in such matters, I only learned about this through Tina's blog post, here.

In order to keep on top of my work before going on my little break, I exceptionally worked a full five-day week, so that I was more than ready for the weekend. Unfortunately, any trace of sunshine or blue sky had upped and left, and we were back to days of soul-sapping grey on both Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday, I repeated the dress I wore to the office on Friday, One of my black florals, this vintage Mac Scott frock was a Think Twice find back in September 2020.

I mainly picked up the green in its pattern, choosing a green honey-comb knit charity shopped Mango cardigan in bottle green and a paler green necklace and ring. My belt is one of my beloved stretchy ones featuring a hexagonal faux-tortoiseshell buckle. The brooch, which is vintage and a flea market find - has an orange stone marbled with green. 

In spite of a blanket of solid grey being the best the weather gods could offer that day, we took the plunge and went for a walk n the park in Duffel.  Not just to clear our heads, though, but to try out the new camera I'd treated myself to. 

My Canon EOS 1100D, which I've had for ten years, during which it had had to work extremely hard for its money, had been showing signs of deterioration for quite some time. In fact, apart from the outfit photos, most of those appearing on my blog for the last couple of months had been taken with my phone.

I have now returned to my old love, a Sony Cybershot compact camera, with an impressive zoom range and endless possibilities which it will probably take me years to discover.

It also has an easy-to-use macro setting, which is something I was missing with my DSLR, and which, although offered, my phone wasn't exactly good at. 

Although light conditions weren't ideal, I'm quite pleased with the camera's initial results.

Its ultimate test, I'm sure, will follow during our wanderings in Bruges!

See you on the other side!

Saturday 11 February 2023

Gotta get through February

Although we have finally been blessed with a string of sunny days this week, the weather gods persisted in presenting us with yet another grey and dismal day on Friday before last.

We'd turned the calendar's page to February by now, bidding farewell, without any regrets, to the long and long-winded month of January. 

That's the first full month of Winter over and done with, but we're definitely not out of the woods yet! February might be the year's shortest month and may traditionally bring forth a handful of Springlike days, its feet are still firmly planted in Winter. 

This year in particular, I've been finding it hard not to give in to the downward spiral this imposter of a month often brings. I've been battling with fatigue, which I'm blaming on the chronic lack of sunshine, the nerve-wracking office move and the fact that my longed-for Christmas break was marred by that pesky flu.

Anyway, onwards and upwards! I've been topping up the Vitamin D levels on my lunch breaks this week and I've got a little trip to look forward to, which I'm sure will go a long way to make me feel right as rain again ... Although, on second thought, I'm not sure about the rain part!

But let's get back to the subject of this post, which starts with Friday the 3rd of February!

My non-office Fridays are without a doubt my favourite days of the week: a bonus day tagged onto the weekend, in which to wind down to a slower pace, and with a full three days of seemingly endless possibilities to look forward to. 

I love letting the mood of the day inspire my outfits, which is something that often falls by the wayside during my working week. 

That morning, however, I didn't even have to open my wardrobe and feast my eyes on its glorious contents. In fact, this groovily patterned shift dress had been waiting in the wings ever since I brought it home from Think Twice back in January. I had even already selected its companion, a chartreuse, purple buttoned cardigan charity shopped almost six years ago to the day.

Apart from my secretly matching purple opaques hidden by my boots, I opted for caramel accessories to match some of the dots in the dress's pattern. So, out came my mock-croc belt (retail), beaded necklace (charity shopped) and perspex ring from Rita's flea market stall. I've seen the brooch being offered as vintage on more than one occasion, but it is actually from H&M, where I bought mine brand new in the early noughties.

While Jos was doing his paper boy duties, I decluttered and reorganized my full to bursting make-up shelves and drawers. This wasn't at all what I had intended spending my morning on but as I'd been looking for something which at first I couldn't find, I realized that I needed to take matters in hand.

Note to self: avert your eyes when walking past the lipstick displays in the drugstore!

After lunch, it was time for a spot of wombling (like Claire, I'm pilfering the phrase from Lulu) in the form of a good old rummage at the charity shops. Surely, you'd be hard put to find a better way to get rid of the blues on such a dreary Winter's day.

As usual, we visited two shops, although we only struck gold in the first one. In fact, we hit a veritable gold mine!

First up was this labelless classic Prince of Wales plaid pussy-bow blouse, which I think is looking rather yummy with the cord skirt I dressed Angelica in. 

The greyish blue blouse with its side bow is by Brighton based label Pretty Vacant. Their website mentions that the label was established by a pair of Camden Market traders exploring the relationship between music and fashion. Well, I know which song I'll be humming whenever I wear it. In as far as you can hum a Sex Pistols song, that is. However, with its snow-capped mountains and cable cars print, I might switch to the hills are alive with ... No, you don't have to thank me for the earworm!

The solid two-tone blue and diamond patterned cardigan is yet another one from retro label Zoë Loveborn to join my collection.

Two skirts ended up in my basket as well. I believe the classic green and white striped and rope patterned one is somebody's very professional looking handiwork. It has pockets too!

The black and white leopard print skirt is by Essentiel Antwerp. Somebody apparently hadn't done their homework, as it wasn't on the posh labels rail, where it would have had a much higher price tag than the € 5,30 I ended up paying for it.

The bookshelves didn't disappoint either, as not only did I pounce upon another Philippa Gregory, I also grabbed The Victorian Pharmacy, which ties in with a four-part BBC series, showing how many products sold by high street chemists today can trace their origins back to nineteenth century formulations. There are even some remedies and recipes to try at home!

The book in the middle was found by Jos, and yes, it translates as The Magic of Radio and Television, and chronicles 75 years of Belgian public radio and television.

Saturday's weather was a repeat of Friday's, the 10°C indicated by the thermometer tempered by rain and wind. Definitely not the kind of weather to soothe our frazzled nerves!

While we were having breakfast, our washing machine, which had been making a bit of a racket lately, decided to up the ante, waking up the entire neighbourhood in the process. Too ancient to justify any repair costs, we drove to our preferred electrical goods shop in Mortsel, the nearest town to us, to order a new one. Yes, we are among those rare people who still prefer to shop in actual brick-and-mortar shops. The demise of the high street will certainly not be down to us.

The purchase, by the way, wasn't as painful for our purses as anticipated, as we were able to pay a large part in Ecocheques. These are vouchers most employees get here in Belgium at the end of each year, and which you can buy energy saving devices and all kinds of environmentally friendly stuff with.

My outfit was another one I'd had in mind for a while. Charity shopped last June, the turquoise skirt patterned with orange and blue birds perched on branches, had had to wait quite a while for its first outing, its felted wool fabric ruling out wearing it in Summer.

The thin knit jumper with its Mid-Century vibes is Zara by way of a charity shop. I'd worn it to the office somewhere in the Autumn and it was still airing on a hanger waiting for a second chance.

Adding turquoise accessories in the form of my birds-in-flight brooch, beaded necklace and chunky plastic ring was a no-brainer. My teal King Louie cardigan was layered on top.

In order to settle our nerves from the washing machine ordeal, we decided on another wee charity shopping trip after we'd had a late lunch, driving to the small shop in the neighbouring town of Reet.

I had hardly walked in when I spotted the Avon Lady Slipper soap still in its box. It still smells faintly of violets, but obviously I'm not going to use it. It has currently joined the Avon Looking Glass cologne I found at our local flea market a couple of years ago. Who knows, these might even be the beginnings of another collection ...

This navy crossbody oilcloth bag with its blowsy rose print might or might not join me on next week's trip ... watch this space!

My final find was this tiny 1950s vintage handbag from the Belgian L.H. label. I asked Jos to take a photo of me holding it so that you can fully appreciate its diminutive size! Isn't it cute?

The photo seamlessly ties in with Sunday's outfit.

I was wearing a favourite puff-sleeved and rose patterned jumper by King Louie, which I was lucky enough to come across in a charity shop. Not for the first time did I wear it with this vintage red and white striped Finnish made wool blend skirt. Why deviate from a match that is so obviously made in heaven?

I picked a green wooden necklace by the Belgian Les Cordes label, charity shopped in the Summer of 2020, and wore the forest green calf length suede boots with chunky rubber soles which were a naughty high street buy back in September.

I was loath to remove my pink beret as my hair needed washing!

Finally, let's have a look at the amazing brooch I pinned to my jumper. It's a vintage, gold-rimmed Lucite brooch encasing a posy of delicate garden pinks. 

Although there were plenty of sunny spells that day, we hardly left the house, as we had a couple of jobs to tackle, making space in our basement for the imminent arrival of the new washing machine.

The day's only outing took us to our garage to pick up the car and load it up with boxes and bags of donations to be taken to the charity shop on Monday. Well, it had to be done some time, and now was as good a time as any.

Meanwhile, I am counting down the days to our little break. We'll be off on Wednesday, but I'll be squeezing in another post before we leave. Hope to see you again then!