Those of you in Prague and perhaps elsewhere in Europe, may have noticed the arrival of autumn. From the rapidly dropping evening temperature and red leaves on every tree to magazines featuring “Winter coats 2011” – winter is on its way. This got me thinking about the winter treats in which you are able to indulge in a city where the average winter temperature is under 5 degrees and often a lot lower.
Here are my top five tips for a lovely, cosy autumn:
1. Hot Drinks
My collaboration with expats.cz is giving me the chance to explore some of Prague’s loveliest tea houses. For something even more decadent, hot chocolate is my winter drink of choice. I had my first horka čokoláda of the season on Sunday, when my friend Rosi and I were enjoying an autumn stroll through Vyšehrad park and needed something to warm us up (and cure our hangovers).
One of my favourite places for a mid-wander pick-me-up in Prague is CukrKavaLimonada in Mala Strana. This delightful cafe restaurant is very close to the Charles Bridge, yet easily missed as it is tucked away on a quiet street. As well as brilliant savory pancakes and excellent freshly made tagliatelle, its decadent hazelnut hot chocolate is thick enough to stand a spoon in. A guilty pleasure.
2. Dry feet
It doesn’t matter how much hot chocolate you drink, you will never be happy with wet feet. A friend told me a while ago that she was happiest in her wellies. Apparently, when walking down the street, skipping through puddles or trudging through the bizarre is-it-snow-or-is-it-grit mix that Prague does so well, her wellies make her feel (I quote) “invincible”. Which is how we should all start our day.
My father-in-law kindly sent me some sheep-skin liners for my very smart navy wellies, so I start autumn days feeling both invincible and cosy: a winning combination.
Last autumn I went to Bicester Village, an outlet shopping centre near Oxford. Several uber-lux brands have a discount outlet there. Prada, Gucci, Escada, Burberry. You name the exclusive brand, Bicester will have it. What did I buy? Socks.
Not exciting, but still really luxurious Max Mara cashmere and silk socks. More than I would normally spend on socks but still going strong, proving you get what you pay for. Last week I was poorly sick and away from work. As I padded around the apartment feeling sorry for myself I took comfort in the fact that at least my feet were snug, even if the rest of me was shivery and cold.
4. Warm hands
Bless my mum. She sends me a postcard and the latest Telegraph Stella supplement every week, so that I can keep my finger on the pulse of the most crucial English developments, such as ‘the’ autumn colours and the musings of Bryony Gordon. Recently my weekly package included some gloves.
Mid-arm length and purple suede: fashion-forward indeed. These beauties have made me even more excited about the falling temperature.
There are some days when all the hot chocolate, smart gloves and lovely wellies in the world would not tempt me out of the apartment. Last February there were a couple of days when it was so bitter that nothing but Jude Law could have coaxed me out into the cold. On days like this, it’s best to stay in and cuddle up.
The kittens are particularly good accessories for this. They care not if you have icy toes and cold hands. As they have their own plush fur coats and like nothing more than sitting on my lap being adored, they will keep me warm all winter.
What are your favourite winter survival tips?