Friday, December 22, 2017

10 Things To Do On a Ski Holiday ... If You Don't Ski

This morning, I waved my husband and his friends goodbye before settling in to finish my mint tea and warm croissant at our hotel breakfast table.

"Guten Morgen!", the waitress trilled as she came by to clear our plates. "And what are your plans for today?" she asked eagerly.

"Well," I said, scooping up the last bit of strawberry jam with my finger. "I think I might go to the 10 o'clock yoga class. Then I might have a swim. Then I'll read, probably. Then I'll take the gondola up to the top of the mountain and meet the others for lunch."

"It sounds wunderschoen!" she exclaimed, smiling as she whisked away an empty mug.

You see, I'm Day 5 into what might be the best holiday I've ever had: a ski holiday in the Austrian Alps, minus the skiing.

It's not that I haven't tried: I took lessons, struggled down a few baby slopes - literally struggling past babies - before calling it quits and accepting that skiing (or snowboarding, as the case may be) and I just don't get along.

Which is fine, except that my husband loves - I mean, LOVES - to snowboard. Past years have seen him take off on a week-long holidays with friends, but he's admitted that it just isn't the same without me (aww!).

Cue this year: we booked a lovely hotel in Mayrhofen, just an hour's coach ride from Innsbruck, complete with a well-equipped spa and a cute little town buzzing with cafes and shops less than a minute's walk from the front door.

I was skeptical, but sold.

And now I think I might be in heaven.

So, here are 10 things to do on a ski holiday - even if you don't ski:

1. Spa

Duh. This one happens to have a beautiful pool that is empty in the morning (because everyone else is trying to hit the slopes before the ski school descends) and most of the early afternoon, plus several saunas, steam rooms, and a generously-sized hydrotherapy hot pool, plus an extensive menu of treatments. Am pondering a neck and leg massage for tomorrow. Hmm.

2. Have a hot chocolate in town

I was told that Kostner Heimat had the best hot chocolate in Mayrhofen, so I decided to sit outside one morning (with the assistance of a heater aimed directly at my head and sheepskin-lined chairs and blankets) with a heisse schokolade mit whipped cream (naturlich!) while watching the snow fall. I nearly cried, it was so delicious.

3. Read

I downloaded 5 books to my Kindle before I left - an appropriate mix of Christmas-themed 'chick lit' (I do hate that term) and literary fiction (I'm half-way through The Power by Naomi Alderman and am addicted!). When I'm not lolling about in bed, I take my Kindle with me to the spa or the lobby, where I spend a few luxurious hours reading - entirely undisturbed. It's bliss.

4. Nap

No explanation necessary. Nap as much as I want, whenever I want. With no alarm to set - ever.

5. Meet the others for lunch at the top

A couple of days, I took the gondola/lift up to the top of the peak to meet John and our friends for lunch. I hadn't quite anticipated just how high or steep the first gondola would be, and I was in one on my own, so by the time the doors closed, I didn't have time to panic, but just focused on my phone, while sneaking the occasional peek to my left and right (which offered beautiful views, btw).

6. Gym

The treadmills here have Netflix. If that's not enough motivation to work out for a full hour or however long an episode of Riverdale or whatever it was I've been binging on lately - then, I don't know what is.

7. Take a class

Our hotel offered a complimentary hatha yoga class this morning and - guess what - I was the only person who showed up, so I ended up getting a private lesson. On my way out, the pool looked so enticing, I ran upstairs to change into my swimsuit before jumping in - and yes, I had it all to myself.

8. Arrange a horse and carriage ride

Lots of ski resort towns have horse and carriage rides you can organize during your stay. We took a lovely little loop through town and next to the woods, after the snow had just fallen. It was fun and very romantic!

9. Go on a hike

I noticed quite a few trails for walking up on the mountain as well as in town, which looked fun. I took little strolls with John when I went to meet him for lunch at the top of the mountain - the snow made it an extra workout (especially when trudging uphill)!

10. Shop

There are some very sweet little boutiques here in Mayrhofen and we picked up a cute little ceramic decoration to take home as as souvenir last night. It's fun to browse the shops with the sheer intention of browsing - not necessarily buying.

Would I take a trip like this again? You betcha. We lucked out on the beautiful and well-equipped hotel, though, which has been a constant source of entertainment. And every time I felt a little stir crazy, I'd just take the ski lift up to the top for some wintry views (and apple strudel!).

Are you a skier/snowboarder? Or are you more into apres ski, like me? Let me know!  

Monday, December 11, 2017

Floral Street

Nestled between Petersham Nurseries and Sandro on Covent Garden's fashionable King Street is the newest kid on the block, Floral Street - a gorgeous fragrance boutique founded by Michelle Feeney (best known for her role in bringing MAC cosmetics and that St Tropez glow-in-a-bottle to the UK).

You might have seen their beautifully designed bottles on Instagram already (which is where I originally spotted them), but the store itself is a treat to explore, especially if - like me - you've grown tired of the same fragrance brands popping up everywhere.

I've been wearing Neon Rose lately: a fresh, clean fragrance that's wearable in every season. Not too sweet or overly floral, it smells sophisticated - the kind of scent that makes your head turn when someone walks by. Its "hero flowers" are cyclamen, apple blossom, and bergamot, but its ingredients also contain a delicate blend of peach nectar, crisp amber, juniper berry, cassis kir, jasmine Egypt, white cedarwood and Sichuan pepper, for added depth and dimension.

Floral Street's fragrances range from fresh and flirty to dark and intriguing. I sat at their fragrance "bar" last week and sampled every bottle, wrinkling my nose at the thought of "Wild Vanilla Orchid" but exclaiming, "Wow!" as soon as I tried it, as none of the scents in Floral Street's collection can be placed in the box their names suggest. In this instance, the sweetness of vanilla is offset by bamboo, jasmine, sandalwood, lemon, patchouli fraction and red orchid, making it one of those scents you return to sniff again and again, because you couldn't quite believe it the first time around.

So, if you've been pounding the streets and department stores searching in vain for a new "signature" fragrance, I'd highly recommend a visit to Floral Street for something a bit different - and something you'll fall in love with, as I did.

Did I mention they also make scented stationery? The Wonderland Peony scented notebook smells like a dream and would make a great gift (the candles are on my wishlist too, and the perfume is sold in a purse-friendly 10 ml size as well).

What are your favorite fragrances?

Neon Rose perfume courtesy of Floral Street. All opinions are my own. Shop the collection online and at Floral Street, 30 King Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8JD.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Travel Link-Up: Top 5 Cities For Christmas Festivities

For the past two years, my family has made the 5,000-mile trip to celebrate Christmas with us here in England. Why? Well, I'm hoping that they want to see me (*insert angelic emoji here*), but really, I think they secretly love a European Christmas. Who wouldn't? Mulled wine enjoyed in pubs with roaring fires; Christmas carol services at the local church; frosty Christmas morning walks in the countryside; the tradition of pulling Christmas "crackers" filled with little knick-knacks and jokes ... Christmas in Europe feels so authentic.

So, here are a few of my favorite cities that turn up the dial on Christmas festivities - cities that are always on my list for a short (or long) December getaway:


We visited Amsterdam last December with my family with no expectations - and were blown away. The canals were lit with glittering lights (making a night-time canal boat tour especially memorable), the Amsterdam Light Festival was in full swing, and - best of all - we saw impossibly tall Christmas trees peeking out from the top windows of Amsterdam's famous canal-side apartments ('How did they get up there?' we wondered). There were plenty of places to enjoy hot chocolate and pancakes (or Poffertjes) dusted with powdered sugar, and the boutiques in De 9 Straatjes ("the Nine Streets") were perfect for last-minute Christmas shopping. Aside from visiting in the summer, when the air is balmy and the streets take on a dream-like quality, with people dangling their legs over the side of the canals, Christmas-time is probably the other best time to make a trip to Amsterdam. 


Paris feels magical at any time of the year. On our recent visit in August, it felt like the city was winking at me the entire time! But it takes on an especially swoonworthy-quality at Christmas. Sure, it's packed, but strolling along the Seine with a furry hood pulled up over your head with a cafĂ© au lait in hand and pushing past the crowds to get that shot of that tree at Galeries Lafayette makes a Christmas-time visit worth it. I especially love to browse the arcades in Paris around this time of year - the lights from the glow of the shops always make it look so enticing. 


What could be more authentic than a German Christmas market in ... Germany? During our same visit to Amsterdam last year, we took a day-trip to Cologne to browse the famous German markets (and to sip gluhwein and eat bratwurst, naturally). The stalls were adorable, but my favorite part of the market was being served hot chocolate in keepsake mugs that you can either return (they take a deposit when you buy your drink) or purchase to keep as a souvenir! 


Cobbled streets, horse-drawn carriages, and more Christmas trees than you can shake a stick at ... Bruges is ... well, it's a Christmas town. I spent most of my time there buying and eating all the chocolate, but cozy drinks by the fire and dinners in warm, candle-lit restaurants followed by evening walks in the bracing cold were equally fun ways to pass the time.


Finally, my home city (it's so weird but exciting to say that!) is a fantastic place to visit for Christmas: from crafty Christmas markets to festive decorations on every street, London definitely has its gladrags on in December (lights and decorations go up as early as mid-November). I love Covent Garden at this time of year, but West London feels incredibly festive as well. One of my favorite things to do - no matter how busy and crazily frantic it gets - is to stop by Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly and Liberty in Oxford Circus, to gawp at the beautiful ornaments and delicious Christmas hampers/cakes for sale.

What's your favorite city to spend Christmas in? I'd love to know!

This post is part of December's Travel Link-Up, hosted by Emma, Angie, Polly, and Zoe. Head over to their blogs for more posts about the festive holiday season!
© angloyankophile

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