Stumbling upon the joy of a winter break was more by circumstance than design.  As Mr. Edwards and I are “head down, bottom up” over the summer working with all of our gorgeous weddings, the winter months seem to be the best time to get away to properly unwind.  We have found that beach time is best suited to shorter summer breaks for us because when lazing around with our feet up we always end up talking about work and getting excited about a new idea to get on to when we get back, so it’s not really a break, more of an extended meeting with nice surroundings.  To properly switch off we like an activity to focus on or a city to explore. Here I ‘ve shared with you a few ideas for some tried and tested winter excursions with romance, relaxing and a little bit of luxury in mind.

 

SINGAPORE

singapore-panorama

Photo Credit : http://www.makemytrip.com

If you’re feeling like some warmth, why not head off for a short getaway to Singapore?  Singapore is an Asian experience for the beginner.  It’s very westernised and cosmopolitan.  Most people speak English, even to one another, so it’s easy to step off the airplane and start having fun.  The local residents are friendly and open and welcoming to travellers.  It’s an energetic city, with lots going on.  We managed to pack in lots of sightseeing, but I am sure we didn’t covere everything there was to do over our four-night break.

park-royal-members-lounge

We stayed at the Park Royal Hotel on Pickering (there are a few in the city).  Something worth particular mention was our choice to book an Orchid Club Room at the hotel.  This gave us a larger room but also access to the member’s lounge on the top floor.  At the time we booked it said that it included a cocktail hour too, on arrival it actually included a lot more.  Complimentary soft drinks in the hotel, which you may think, “oh yeah?”  But an orange juice was $15 NZD!  We were also invited up to morning tea, afternoon tea with drinks, food and the cocktail hour had a chef cooking small plates of delicious hot canapes each evening, with all your drinks, cocktails, mixers and wine included.  We made sure to make the most of this before we headed out each night and it was a glamorous way to start each evening out with twinkling views of the city and a glass of champagne in hand.  It’s a larger hotel than we would usually choose, but it was nice and central and ticked all the boxes. I loved the lush green hanging gardens and the infinity pool to cool off in.

park-royal-gardens

park-royal-pool

Photo Credit : http://www.parkroyalhotels.com

We found the food in Singapore delicious, you don’t have to go far for good food with Chinatown, street food stands, and lots of restaurants all nearby. We enjoyed everything from ‘hawker food” (street food) to fine dining.  Whenever we chose a casual dining option, we opted for the communal or shared tables so we sat with locals. We met some lovely people and had nice chats about life in Singapore.  We found this one place based on a tip –  all they told us was it was like a market on a roundabout.  I can’t remember what it was actually called but we found it from this description alone and it was worth it!  Having dinner at a rooftop bar is a must, just don’t be put off as they scare you into committing to a minimum spend.  By the time you have ordered a main course plus a couple of cocktails you are hitting the mark.  I think they do it so that it’s a nicer experience for diners, rather than just having tourists popping up to take pictures so it’s understandable why they do it.  We liked Sky on 57 because of the delicious food, incredible views and we found the atmosphere lively but not too loud.  Of course, we loved walking around the stunning botanical gardens and spent a whole day there spellbound by the flora and fauna.

singapore-botanic-garden

Keep in mind when you pack, it’s humid in Singapore.  Think light layers for the suitcase – and my own tip is to pack some clothing to dress a bit smarter for walking around the city.  It’s not a beach holiday, so the vibe you feel in this city is different and when people around you are conducting their everyday business it’s good to acknowledge that.  There is a beach resort in Singapore, they even have a beach bar on a man-made beach.  We found it a bit theme park like for us and only stopped for an hour – I think living in NZ, with its vast empty beaches, has spoilt us a bit.  We both agreed we would visit Singapore again.  It’s a terrific little city to visit, really easy to get around and you can indulge in a few luxuries all of which make it an easy stopover on a longer journey to allow the body clock to catch up on a bit of jet lag as you fly.

 

AMSTERDAM

amsterdam-bridge

Photo Credit : http://www.wowcher.co.nz

One year, Mr. Edwards and I planned a Christmas city break.  I wanted to go somewhere snowy, wintery and romantic.  I had been to Amsterdam before but Mr. Edwards had not, so it made the shortlist and the place we booked.  We chose some accommodation on the top floor of one of those iconic narrow houses and headed off for our Christmas break.  One of the highlights of this city pad was opening the huge windows with the fire roaring in the background and watching the snow fall whilst we were tucked up in bed – just magical!

Being away for Christmas Day meant we had quite a different experience to what we would usually do.  There was no family lunch, but we did make sure we called everyone and wished them a very Merry Christmas.  Unlike other cities on Christmas Day, Amsterdam is buzzing.  It’s a real family day to go out and do things so everything was open.  Mr. Edwards and I ended up at the city Zoo seeing lions and camels in the snow – a priceless memory we still laugh about often.  After the Zoo, we had a delicious grazing lunch winding our way through the market food stalls and a trip to the cinema.  We ended the day with a romantic stroll back through the city streets at dusk as the snow was falling.  It was the perfect ending to the perfect day – the stuff a picture perfect postcard is made of.

winter-feature

Photo Credit : Victor Lacken

The apartment we booked was near the Van Gogh Museum, so it was quite central.  Amsterdam is a great walking city as it’s compact.  There are trams which we used if it was a bit chilly or we wanted to rest our feet.  We’re the kind of travelers that like to make our own fun, so we always explore the “must do” options and inevitably decide on doing something more offbeat.  We love walking and getting a more local experience when we are away.  We usually walk around 25,000 steps a day and see everything in slow motion as we stroll past.  We often walk to the main attractions, take a look from the outside and decide not to go in, especially if there is a long queue or it looks really busy.  We have been known to even take a picture of us standing outside just so we can say we went along.
My favourite spots were tucked away – we loved wandering all the lanes and stylish boutiques in the city.  It was definitely full of creativity, art, and flowers.  We loved the Bloemenmarkt, a floating flower market, and bought some tulip bulbs to take home for the garden – they were supposed to be black ones but they all came up yellow.  As it was Christmas there were lots of festive markets happening around town, so we bought some gorgeous little blue and white Delft Christmas tree decorations to remember our trip, that we still delight in hanging on our tree each year.

amsterdam-flower-market

Photo Credit : http://www.whereabouts.com

A little note about the food: Amsterdam is like any major city, there is a lot to choose from with lots of cuisines. I have to say the one lasting food memory I have is the delicious baking and in particular, the oliebollen, or Dutch donuts, served from little carts everywhere.  I think we had them every day !  It was necessary to warm us up, of course.

amsterdam-oliebollen

Photo Credit : http://www.amsterdamdelicious.com

When planning your outfits for this kind of trip, keep in mind that packing for a snowy winter break means you can’t get as much in your suitcase.  A couple of big jumpers and a coat and it already starts to look full.  I like to take one really nice coat with me and wear it there on the airplane, that way you will always look smart walking around the city and for dinner.  You can scrunch up your waterproof to pack, which is much smaller than a nice warm fluffy coat.  Similarly, low-heeled leather boots, like a Chelsea boot, are ideal as you can wear them out most evenings and walk around them all day.  (I’ll post a mood board next week of some of my favorite picks from this season)

 

QUEENSTOWN

millbrook-millhouse

We decided one year that we wanted to take a winter break here in the South Island of New Zealand.  The Queenstown area is a little more expensive than other regions, with a lot of larger rentals suitable for groups, but not many smaller homes/apartments for a more romantic getaway.  I knew of the Millbrook Resort, so I took a look at the website and saw they offer a fabulous winter break package.  Adding up what was included in the price, plus the fact that they had hot pools and a spa on site, it was an easy decision to book there.  We have spent a lot of time on shorter summer breaks to the area so we knew that having a car is helpful, but parking in Queenstown is usually at a premium.  We loved that Millbrook runs a free shuttle to ferry you back and forward and drops you off right by the transfer stop to the ski fields.  Their breakfast selection is one of the best, they cater to hungry skiers after all, and it means you can eat and run and be skiing first thing in the morning.  One night, when we didn’t fancy going into town, Mr. Edwards and I ordered a room service pizza.  It felt really indulgent sitting by the fire, all cosy, eating pizza from the box and drinking a delicious Pinot Noir from Rippon Vineyard.  We brought most our wines on this trip from The Winery in Queenstown – they have nice platters and it’s really fun having tastings.

millbrook-yvette-mr-e

Millbrook’s Spa is one of the best I have been to in New Zealand.  One of the things that makes this winter break package so fantastic is that you get a resort gift voucher to use at the spa or on food, drinks, etc.  To me it means you must use the spa, really, to use the gift voucher.  We both enjoyed a massage and I also indulged in a customised pampering facial, they use products from Elemis and I smelt amazing afterward.  Next time I go I think I might have to have one of the soak treatments, the soak room baths look gorgeous filled with candles and flowers.  You are also given access to the gym, fitness classes, the pool and outdoor hot pools during your stay, so we made sure to sneak in some serious soaking after a day of skiing.  It was dreamy, bubbling and soaking under the stars each night.

millbrook-spa

If you want to go out and about, there are some fabulous local spots we love to stop in whenever we are in the area.  One of them, La Rumbla, is a relaxed eatery in Arrowtown.  They do small plates there for sharing, which we enjoy immensely.  Mr. Edwards insisted we went twice to make sure we tried every dish off the seasonal menu.  If you fancy a glass of mulled wine to warm you up, The Sundeck was our favourite and another of Mr. E’s recommended spots is Blue Kanu in Queenstown – even though he drank them out of their Coal Pit Pinot Noir when we were there – but in his defense, it was one of his favourite wines on our trip.

queenstown-rooftop

The nice thing about New Zealand is that you can dress however you like, whenever you like.  We loved the cool, crisp winter evenings and I loved having my big coat with me, plus I brought along some more glamorous accessories – gloves, hat and a scarf which are a bit warm for Wellington.  The winter days in the area are quite sunny so sunglasses are needed.  You can hire everything you need for skiing while there, or you can take some of your own gear, as we do.  The airport is set up for large bags and there was no trouble getting it through check in.
Having spilled the beans on some of my favourite locations to take a winter break has got me thinking about this year and where Mr. Edwards and I should go.  Now is the perfect time to book something as we approach the colder nights, it’s something to look forward to and I find it keeps me motivated, do we live to work or work to live?  We might sneak an escape to Millbrook in, it’s only down the road (sort of) and I have been coming across a lot about Perth in Australia that interests me at the moment so we will see.

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Posted by:Yvette Edwards

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