There are many devotees to the winter break. For winter sports enthusiasts, it is obviously the best season of the year for travelling. Then there are those who seek an escape from winter by heading to sunnier climes. I don’t fall into either category. Winter sports frankly terrify me, and the idea of a winter holiday to a sunny beach destination holds no appeal. I am born and bred in the North East of England, and if it is not cold, it doesn’t feel like winter.
The lack of frosty mornings and the total absence of any snow this year means that I still feel as if I am waiting for winter to start when the daffodils are blooming for spring.
When I talk about winter breaks, I mean short breaks away to UK or northern European destinations. I have had two breaks this winter to Edinburgh in December and Paris in February. Prior to that, I had only had one previous winter break a couple of years ago with a few days away in Chester and Liverpool.
There are definitely benefits to seeing travelling during Winter. Prices are often cheaper as it is not peak season. Places like Edinburgh and Paris will always have tourists, but there are not the hordes that descend during the summer. If travelling prior to Christmas, I also love seeing everywhere lit up with Christmas lights.
Travelling in winter also requires a bit more thought about the destination, as you need to have a plan B if the weather is not good enough for all of the outdoor activities you had envisaged doing.
But there lies the problem. The weather. In northern europe we can have some fantastic winter weather. There are some perfect days when the sun is bright, the skies are impossibly blue and the bone-aching cold is refreshing.
However, for the most part, the weather is grey. It rains. It is cloudy and overcast. That alone doesn’t put me off travelling, but I do feel as if I am depriving myself of the opportunity of seeing the places I am visiting in their best light.
Visiting Paris really brought this home to me. Paris is a city made for spring and summer. This is the Promenade Plantee in the 12th arrondissement:-
Its nice, but in summer I think it could be spectacular when all of the plants and flowers are in bloom.
Paris is also a city with numerous public parks and green spaces. With bottles of wine selling for only €3 in the supermarkets, one of the ways I would have loved to spend my time in Paris is with a bottle of wine and freshly baked bread picnicking in one of the parks. My choice would have been the Parc de la Villette on the outskirts of Paris with it’s Garden of Childhood Fears – how can that not pique the imagination?!
With the exception of one day, we didn’t have bad weather in Paris. But it was definitely too cold, and too windy for picnicking in the park, lolling around in the park or sitting outdoors. The same applied to both Edinburgh and Chester – whilst we did spend a time walking outdoors, the weather was not good enough for all of the outdoor activities that we might have otherwise done.
Eating outdoors aside, grey skies have the effect of making everything else appear muted and dull. Sure, clouds can produce some dramatic skies and some pretty awesome sunsets. But a dull sky makes for dull looking architecture, and part of the charm of visiting a city for me is appreciating the architecture – whether it is modern or old, I spend a lot of time looking upwards when travelling to new cities.
I have been to Edinburgh so many times in all weathers that visiting in winter was never going to shape or alter my opinion of the city. But Paris did not capture me, I have never felt the desire to return to Chester, and I did not really like Liverpool. I have to wonder whether this is down to the fact that I have visited in winter, and so not seen these places in their best light. It is easy to say that I will go back one day so that I can compare, but the reality is I have only one lifetime and a lot I want to see and do, so I can’t count on definitely being able to return.
So does travelling during winter do a disservice to the places you visit?
On balance I think probably not. I suspect that Paris would be spectacular during the summer, but it would also be hot, stuffy and crowded. I may have missed out on picnics in the park, but I got a chance to enjoy the city without being stressed out by the crowds, and without bankrupting myself in the process. The cost of a hotel room for 4 nights in Paris was staggering even in February – Paris in the summer would probably be beyond my reach.
We can’t have everything, and I think having the opportunity to travel at all far outweighs the drawbacks of grey skies and miserable weather.
From a personal point of view, I always struggle with early mornings in winter, which leaves me feeling tired and run down. Travel during winter is a chance to recharge and refresh by having a break from the routine. The trip to Edinburgh in particular really helped restore my energy levels to help power through the last couple of work-intense weeks before Christmas.
So even if I am not able to see the places I travel to at their spectacular best during the winter, from now on I intend to have at least one break away each winter, to have something to look forward in what can be a long, dark season.
Do you like to travel during winter?