So, it's no longer a secret, Rob turned 40 last Saturday! Exactly a year ago, when he turned 39, I started thinking what to do for this special occasion. Rob is a bit more sensitive than me when it comes to age and certainly didn't want to be reminded that the big four-o was approaching but I really wanted to organise something special and memorable. At first, I thought to involve friends and family. My plan was to book a short holiday for the two of us somewhere geographically convenient for all our friends located in different parts of the world and ask whoever was interested to join us for a couple of days or so. When I shared this thought with some of our London friends, they all got very excited. As long as I picked a cool place where they wanted to go on holiday, they would have joined us. Then, reality hit me. First of all, it was way too complicated to find a place "in-between" Europe and America - seriously, they have to put an island of some sort in the Atlantic Ocean! Second of all, dates were tricky. I really wanted to get away on the actual birthday but mid-May is not really a common time for Summer holiday and some people don't have the chance to take off work until June/July. Finally, at some point during the last year Rob told me that he didn't want a surprise party. Damn. As stubborn as I am, I decided to go ahead with a surprise nonetheless. However, I decided to organise something on a smaller scale that would only involve the two of us. Thus, I was on the hunt for the perfect place where to take Rob and celebrate his birthday. It sounds easy but it took me quite some time to settle on an idea. First of all, I had to check with my parents if they could come to London to babysit Emilia while we were away; needless to say, my mum said yes right away and took it as an opportunity to bring grandmum along. Because of work commitments, mum couldn't take off more than a couple of days but they booked straight away and set their visit from the 15th to the 20th of May. Great. Now that Emilia was sorted, I just had to find a place where to escape. All this keeping it as a secret from Rob.
During my months of research I encountered the following issues:
1. place: while I am keen to visit every single corner of the world, Rob is a bit pickier. Generally speaking I know what he likes and what he doesn't like but I still had some doubts or maybe hopes (?!).
2. length of the trip: as we only had three days available, I didn't want to go too far and waste a lot of time traveling
3. weather: mid-May is a tricky time of the year to be traveling in Europe. Even the sunniest of places (e.g. Greece) can still be experiencing a sort of transitional phase which means sun and high temperatures are not 100% sure.
These issues made me rule out some of the options I had in mind, like Santorini, Spain, Portugal, Sardinia, and Sicily. I also considered Venice and Florence as potential good options, however, we go to Italy often and we could always try and organise a trip to visit these two beauties. Other ideas were Prague, Provence, St. Petersburg, Marrakesh and the Northern Lights but for one reason or the other these destinations didn't click. Eventually, I opted for Bruges, a little Belgian gem that both of us had always wanted to visit. Win! Now that I knew where I wanted to go, I could start my research on hotels and things to do and see. To my surprise, Bruges offers an array of hotels and restaurants and has a lot of beautiful things to keep you busy and culturally entertained. In the end I chose the Grand Hotel Casselbergh as our base, a luxurious historical residence located in the very heart of Bruges.
Now that I have been there, I can highly recommend this hotel. And in general, I can highly recommend a trip to Bruges. To put it in Rob's words "apart from Rome, this is the European city that has impressed me the most". And that says quite a lot! Especially because we have traveled around Europe quite a bit. Without a doubt Bruges is stunning. It's a very cute, cosy town that has however a lot to offer to the tourists. The highlight of the trip was most probably the canal boat tour but even just walking around the cobbled streets is in itself a wonderful experience and the views that the city offers all around are amazing. I took more than a hundred of pictures, so I will only insert here a few and refer you to my Facebook album for a full look. You can find it here
And if you are in Bruges, make sure to dine at Zeno, where we had the birthday dinner celebration and the most elaborate meals of our life!
Now that you have seen the pictures, don't you think this town is part of a fairy tale? And the very good news is that Rob enjoyed the trip and loved the idea of spending a relaxing weekend away. All in all, I think getting old is cool, you get to see new places, experience new things and mingle with different cultures. I can't wait to explore the world more and grow older with Rob and my beautiful baby daughter! Thanks again mum and nonna for making this trip possible.