Winter travel bucket list - festive trips
Winter 2019 has snuck up on us like a thief in the night and I can’t believe how quickly the year has flown by. Summer felt like it lasted all of 8 days and before I could blink and say hallelujah it was getting dark at 5pm once again. Like the majority of the British population I live and long for the long summer days, with the sun blazing at the occasional 29 degrees Celsius and the cool breezy evenings it’s accompanied by. I remember many summers where I’d shoot off to the West End of London, my favourite locations being Leicester Square and Covent Gardens both of which came alive with vibrancy and what feels like half the British population. That I guess is the “UK way of living”; enjoying the summer days and spending the winter longing for its slow return.
I have however come to appreciate the little treasures that come with the colder months. When I think of winter, I imagine cosy evenings on the sofa with dim lights, Netflix and chilling (not that type), drinking a hot cup of chai latte and falling asleep halfway through the movie. Even better, I welcome the return of Christmas markets in quaint towns and cities and the overall festive vibe; I’m a true romantic at heart. On deeper contemplation, the winter season really shouldn’t be loathed when you think about the great things we can look forward to. I’m going to share my top 4 Christmas-y winter getaways within the UK:
Exeter is a cathedral city in Devon, South West of England and what a beauty it truly is. The town centre is lined with cobbled streets which gives the whole place a traditional, historic feel. There is plenty to do in Exeter including visiting its magnificent cathedral. I was fortunate enough to experience Exeter’s Christmas market which although was not the biggest, was definitely a classic and the perfect getaway. This year’s Christmas is guaranteed to be another smasher with 90 stalls serving mouth-watering delicacies and tasty treats. Running until 16th December, it offers a great 34 days of opportunities to indulge; I will most likely be dragging my family there as I always recount my experience to my husband and I’m sure he’s tired of my retelling the same stories of the delicious burgers, sausages, burritos and more. Of course, there’s more to the market than fantastic food and mulled wine; you can also purchase unique pieces such as scarves, hats, Christmas knick knacks, scented candles, to name a few.
York, in northern England, quite like Exeter boasts beautiful medieval streets, rich with culture and history. There is a vast array of activities and sites to keep you busy, from visiting York Minster, and a number of art galleries such as the York Gallery and the Art of Protest Gallery. Depending on what you are into, let’s say you are into food like me (why wouldn’t you be) then again, there is a delightful Christmas market that runs every year until mid-December. If cobbled streets are really your thing, and you have the appropriate footwear then you will revel in the Shambles, an undisturbed medieval street with whining small lanes that run through the city. You can check out the various cafes and pubs that are at your disposal as you wander round in your flat comfortable shoes.
Portsmouth is quite different from the two cities above, as a port town, it offers beautiful scenery. I was granted the opportunity to visit Portsmouth on a work trip a couple of years ago. When I first discovered I had to travel there I was unexcited and uninspired, I mean, I had colleagues who were getting sent to Dubai and the most I could manage was a trip down south. But off I clobbered onto the train to attend a meeting I deemed semi-important. After my work commitments I thought to wander around for a bit since I had a few hours to kill. I took a long walk through the city centre and made my way to the shopping outlet. As a walked up a steeped path and the view of the dockyard came up, I was taken aback by how lovely it was. With restaurants lining the waterfront, overlooking rather impressive boats, it was a sight to behold. The designer shopping outlet, Gunwharf Quays also had great shops, catering for different weight wallets. Not just this, there are cathedrals, art galleries, museums and festive events that take place throughout the year. Thankfully Portsmouth also hosts a yearly Christmas market in its city centre if you want to pop by and live your best life.
If you were to ask if there is any one place I’d love to live apart from London, it would be Cambridge. I’ve had a mysterious love affair with Cambridge ever since a school trip over 10 years ago. There is a certain nostalgia that rises up when I recall how enthralled I was with the historic town. Located in Eastern England, Cambridge is really a university town but its appeal transcends beyond this. There is so much culture and if a bit of physical activity is your thing, you can try your hand at punting on the pretty water that flows through the town, or if like me, you are more of a spectator of these things, you can take a stroll by the banks and take it all in. The university buildings are simply stunning and if you like a bit of architecture, get your cameras ready and clear your memory card for extra storage. In true fashion, I cannot round up my take on Cambridge without mentioning, yes you’ve guessed it, another top notch Christmas market.
With all these options and more, we are very much spoiled for choice!