The vain person’s guide to dressing for winter

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The lowest fashion moment of my holiday.

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The detailing on my wool coat bought in Poland.

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The delicate little gloves I bought in South Africa which I very quickly had to replace in Europe with a warmer pair.

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Trying to look good under the coat was a challenge too.

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My trusty pashminas – I would never trade them for a traditional scarf.

As I write this I am sitting in a vest and short-shorts back in the comfort of the South African summer. I also have to admit that I did not manage to find the holy grail this holiday; that is the ability to look and feel stylish while staying warm.

While we were in Paris walking along the river, a beautiful girl, in all black, long hair loose and blowing in the wind floated past (stylish people don’t walk, they float). I looked at her with all the envy and horror my body could spare since all my energy was concentrated on not crying from the cold. She had on a very light coat, no scarf and no beanie. I think she was even wearing heels.

At that same moment I on the other hand had on:
*two thermal vest,
*a top,
*two jerseys,
*a coat,
*2 pairs of stockings and jeans,
*2 pairs of gloves,
*2 pairs of socks cutting off the circulation to my feet, and
*a beanie AND a scarf wrapped around my neck and over my beanie.

It didn’t matter that my coat was grey wool and really classic, or that my boots are a rich warm dark brown leather. I felt like a war-time refugee from Eastern Europe. I had failed.

Call me vain, it’s okay, I admit it myself. I am also sure I am not alone. I was devastated that the soft caramel-colored leather gloves I bought at the Market on Main before I left made my fingers feel like I was climbing Everest. I detested the layers and layers tucked into stocking pulled up to my waist.

Maybe the secret is acclimatization, or maybe the beautiful winter fairy was just as cold as I was. All I know is that I long for the day when I can walk beanie-free along the river in Paris, in the dead of winter, smiling like I’m on the beach in Mauritius.

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A real kinder egg at last

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Back when we still lived in Poland the biggest treat for my sister and me were Kinder surprise eggs. Nothing matched the excitement of biting into that delicious chocolate, except opening the plastic egg inside to discover your surprise. The nice lady at the little corner shop sometimes weighed the eggs for us so that we had a higher chance of getting the better toys. I remember having a whole collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Smurfs and a family of crocodiles.

A few years after we moved to South Africa for some unknown reason they discontinued the traditional eggs and introduced a rather mediocre alternative with two different halves where you have two chocolatey balls and you dip them into white chocolate. The whole thing is eaten with a spoon and the toys are pretty much as cool as the spoon (I.e. not very).

So you can imagine my absolute delight when I went grocery shopping in Zug at the Coop and spotted something that looked like traditional Kinder eggs. My suspicions were correct and I even got a Papa Smurf!

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A trip to the world’s highest revolving restaurant? Why not?

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I have a confession to make – I love revolving restaurants in all their kitschy glory. When we moved to Durban I always longed to go to the Roma Revolving Restaurant, and indeed, one night, my mom took us up because my dad was there for a meeting or something.

So how could I resist a visit to the highest revolving restaurant in the world? At over 3500m above sea level the restaurant at the top of the Saas-Fee ski lift boasts an unbelievable view and peaceful silence. Although the actual rotating top part wasn’t open at 9.30 in the morning we still went up there, took lots of photos and drank some very yummy spiced hot chocolate at the cafe below (but in the same building).

The most bizarre thing for me is that people actually ski from up there…all the way to the bottom, some 1700m lower down. I tried to ski from the 3000m station on Thursday and it did not end well. I am very scared of heights and just wasn’t prepared to negotiate even the easy slopes on skis with people all around. However today there was no shortage of crazy adrenalin junkies zipping down slopes that I wouldn’t dream of going down on my own two feet and strapped into a harness.

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So the restaurant kind of looks like a strange spaceship on top of the mountain

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My first ever ski lesson

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I am feeling very proud of myself right now – yesterday was my first ever skiing lesson, and to my surprise, I did not suck. In fact I was pretty damn good – by the end of the three hours I was zipping around on my own and really enjoying the speed.

Many of you know how apprehensive I was about going skiing, and on Monday when we arrived in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, and went to hire skis and boots I was feeling nothing but butterflies in my stomach. But even two hours into the lesson I was feeling confident and enjoying myself. And I only fell once – off the button lift of all places. We have a private instructor from Eskimos Ski School for three days which is really the way to go when you are a complete beginner – while we were skiing I saw this massive group doing beginner stuff and couldn’t imagine anything worse than trying to learn with 12 other people.

Switzerland is really beautiful, it looks just like the illustrations from Heidi or the chocolate wrappers. Our room at the Du Glacier hotel (the second oldest hotel at Saas-Fee) has a breathtaking view of the valley. Stupidly though I have left my lens hood behind and keep getting incredible lens flare in the majority of my photos; because when the sun shines here it really shines.

I have also eaten more bread over the past week than I probably did all of last year but it is too good to resist and I’m going to keep convincing myself that I really need the bread, cheese, and gluhwein to stay alive in the cold.

Thank you to Martina in Jozi for the stylish ski jacket – my Bridget Jones nightmares were averted.

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How do people live in this cold?

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I have been in Europe (Switzerland) for less than 24 hours and I really don’t know how people live in this cold. I realized within ten minutes of being outside that I would have to cast off any last shred of vanity I had in order to survive. Sorry, no more trying to do winter chic, I like having digits too much. I am on my way to Poland in an hours time and there I will be stocking up on proper socks and better the gloves – the adorable leather ones I found at the market the other day simply weren’t made for below zero degree temperatures.

I hope the weather gods will smile on me and the temperatures will creep up a little. Those who know me must be laughing in between pitying me because they know how much I struggle in Joburg winters. I am glad we left Poland before I reached an age when you actually start to notice how cold it is because you have to be outside for reasons other than playing.

On the plus side, Zug, where I am staying in Switzerland, is really beautiful and you can see from some of these photos. I am looking forward to photographing it some more when I am back (and suitably attired) on Thursday and Friday.