“There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions.” – Bill McKibben
I know it’s going back a while, but you might remember that we got our Christmas tree at the end of November. We had one day home from Germany before the youngest of my 3 brothers came to stay with us. He is playing hockey in Hungary so he was stopping over in London for a few days before heading back to Canada for Christmas at home.
We weren’t sure if all of the decorating back home would be done when he got there, and he usually sets up the Christmas tree, so we held off on decorating ours until he arrived. It was worth the wait because it meant I got to do some proper Christmas stuff with both T and my little brother despite being in London for Christmas.
In a couple of days, we packed in a lot of the city, including the Tower of London and Kensington Palace. The palace is quite a special place. I, more than Cameron, enjoyed the fashion wing devoted entirely to royal fashion encompassing Lady Diana, Princess Margaret, and Queen Elizabeth II. We both enjoyed the stately King’s Apartments (especially that staircase! Painted by William Kent, it is an absolutely opulent masterpiece) and Queen Victoria’s apartments. We learned more about the depth of her grief after losing her husband, Albert, and about her 63 year reign. After leaving the palace, we walked down the road that the royal residence side of Kensington is on (where the Duke and Duchess live) and then made our way to Hyde park. We rented bicycles and rode around for a bit in the dark before meeting up with T at the Winter Wonderland, where we indulged in hot beverages and tasty food and rode the ferris wheel.
I think Cam’s favourite part of the whole trip was getting to visit the Bloomberg pantry because my cousin works there and hooked us up- we left with hot chocolate, crisps, and candy in hand. You really can’t go wrong when you feed a 19-year-old athlete. Which was also true when it came to taking him for pub food, and making him pulled pork with homemade bbq sauce. A well-fed little brother is a happy little brother (I use the term ‘little’ loosely as he’s been taller than me for a few years now).
One thing I really loved about having him visit is that he loves visiting churches as much as I do. We’d pass by and wander into a church, and take a seat and take it in. In two days, we went to: All Hallows by the Tower, the Guildhall church (designed by Christopher Wren), St Vedast Alias Foster, St Giles Church at the Barbican and St. Michael’s church.
Then Cam left, and we had a Christmas potluck to attend on the weekend. Our contribution was the turkey, along with apple whiskey stuffing and gravy. We were thrilled for this dinner as some of it was the same crowd as the Thanksgiving dinner which was fab. There was so much food that I didn’t even manage to try everything! It was a festive dress event, but I -ahem- put on a few pounds and my dress was a bit snug, so we stopped in at Tesco and I picked up an elf pj dress. Best. Decision. Ever. There were dozens of people in the flat and it was pretty toasty, so I was comfy in my short-sleeved elf dress. And it was nice and loose, so I was free to pack myself full of Christmassy food 🙂
The following weekend we were off to Luxembourg. I could kick myself for not bringing my good camera. You know why? I told myself “it’s probably a lot like Germany, where I took LOTS of pictures, so I’ll just go be in the moment.” Philosophically, that might sound like a fantastic idea. In reality, though, Luxembourg is this incredible, ancient, multi-level city where new development is built upon ruins and it’s just stunning. It’s also quite a wealthy city, as evidenced by the fanciest retirement home T & I had ever seen. We arrived late in the evening, and our first sight when we got off the bus near the hotel was the beautiful lights at the Mudam gallery and Philharmonic.
We walked most of the city over the course of our couple days there but we still want to go back. It’s that beautiful. We really treated ourselves this trip and stayed at the Meliá Luxembourg Hotel. With views overlooking the city, a soaker tub, well-stocked mini bar (juice, gummy bears, gum, organic chocolate bars, crisps.. it was wonderful!), and a snack bar for mid-afternoon snacks, we were pretty stoked on our hotel choice. We spent all of Friday in our hotel room. We watched British TV, emptied the mini-bar, went to the sauna and steam room in the hotel spa, and had a nap.
We didn’t emerge until about 4pm, when we walked into the city and explored the Christmas markets. From our hotel, we could walk down the meandering path down the hill and then take an elevator from the lower river level back up to ground level on the city side. Friday evening was cold but clear, and we tried raclette and fondue, bought some cheese, and enjoyed hot beverages. At one point, we were standing with our hot chocolate and Glühwein, debating whether or not to keep the mugs. We had paid a deposit for them and were debating whether or not the deposit was an incentive to return the cups, or if it was payment in case you wanted to keep them. Given that they had the year on them, we figured they were meant to be kept. Then we met another couple from Europe (enjoying their newfound freedom as their daughters have both grown up and moved out, they told us) who were also keeping their mugs. Settled. We chatted with them for a bit and took some pictures together and have now been in contact via email. You can make new friends in the funniest of ways!
We spent most of our time taking in the three Christmas markets in the city, but we had a bit of a party night on night one, when two of our friends from London came to meet us. They were staying in the hostel down by the river, so we met up there before heading to a bar for drinks and dancing, then on to another bar, and then an outdoor bar where we hung out for a bit before finding our way back to the hotel.
On Saturday we went to the Musée Dräi Eechelen, just minutes from the hotel. The signs there are in German and French, so T and I did our best to translate and make sense of it all. Basically, we gathered that Fort Thüngen (which means Three Acorns) was built in the 1730s, and was originally surrounded by a moat. It was expanded by the Prussians in the 1830s and then again in 1860, only to be demolished in the late 1800s. The three towers survived the demolition, as did lower parts of the walls that were uncovered in the 1990s, and since early in the 21st century it has been the museum, housing hundreds of years of artifacts and Luxembourgish history. A surprising feature was a wing dedicated to the Adolphe Bridge, which for some time, was the world’s largest arch bridge. The exhibit included drawings and models of the bridge and its designers, as well as a video that covered the building process.
In the evening, we once again wandered all of the Christmas markets, this time with our friends. If memory serves it was a bit of an earlier night for us. Honestly, I didn’t take good notes in Lux, nor did I take many pictures. I can’t even be sure if this was Saturday, and not Sunday! Maybe the pubs were Saturday night. This is why I’m working so hard to get the blog caught up so I can write about things as they’re happening. Anyways.. what matters is that we had a fun and relaxing weekend in a gem of a city that deserves a second visit. ❤
We had a quiet Christmas at home. We got a chance to FaceTime with family, watch nieces and nephews open their gifts via video chat, and spent the rest of the day relaxing. We made a breakfast feast which was greatly enhanced by McCormick hollandaise sauce, and opened our gifts slowly throughout the day. In between, we watched a Christmas movie, had a nap, went for a walk, and made dinner, all in our comfy Christmas jammies.
It was peaceful and I think that it was good to have a Christmas that was totally unlike anything we’d be doing at home. I’m sure the video chatting and connecting really helped; I can say I wasn’t actually homesick. It was a special Christmas, and the many care packages from home reminded us how loved we are and that we were thought of over the holiday season though we were away. It was so heartwarming that there was no space for feeling sad! Thank you to everyone who sent a card, a gift, or a message on or around the holidays. ❤ And thanks to the beauty of mail services both here and in Canada, we had gifts arriving all the way from mid December up until early February, so the joy just kept on coming! We’ve kept our cards up through the month as there have been new additions and we’ve wanted to enjoy them all. We are now well stocked with tums, peanut butter, and q tips. Though you can never have too much McCormick’s hollandaise sauce! True story.
And at long last- my blog is ready to join the rest of the world here in 2017! It’s been quite an adventure already xo