Monday, February 10, 2014

Sometimes luxury is the only answer.

A few weeks ago, I was wandering down one of the prettier streets in Lund and a window display caught my eye.  I can't even remember what shop it was, but written in the window were the words;

Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it's not luxury ~ Coco Chanel

It got me thinking about the good things in life and what makes them so good.  Why does luxury soothe us so?  Does it have to be expensive?  Can everyone experience it, even if our pockets are empty?  I think so...I think Coco Chanel was right, it has to be comfortable, otherwise it's just posing.  I think luxury, for most of us, is also something that we don't experience on a daily basis.  It can be as simple as having some time to yourself, or sitting quietly with a good book and a cup of tea, or treating yourself to lunch when the weather is so horrific you just want to go to bed and cry. Maybe too, luxury is really 'felt' when what precedes it has felt far from luxurious.

Early last week, Mountain Man and I decided to go for a drive along the south coast of Sweden, east of Ystad (yes, home of Wallander) to the famous Ales Stenar.  We picked a pretty awful day for it, but we really wanted to get out into nature, so we persisted.  The densest fog I have ever seen descended on us as we drove, getting thicker and more depressing the closer we got to Kåseberga, where the famous 'Ales Stenar' are.  For some reason, fog lights aren't popular here, so driving safely felt like a Herculean task.  Eventually we made it to the stones, a megalithic monument, in the shape of a ship where a Viking king is reported to have been buried.  Not as magical or mysterious as I had hoped...

Finding our way through a sleepy, foggy village and icy, snow-laden fields, we spent a few minutes there, but felt so cold and glum that the only solution was a hot bowl of soup somewhere local before heading home.

In Ireland, even in the middle of nowhere in Winter on a miserable day, you will always find a
pub/grocery/post-office that will serve a hot toasted sandwich or bowl of soup to a weary traveller.  If you're really lucky there will be a roaring fire to thaw you out before hitting the road again.  In Sweden, there is no such tradition as far as I can tell.  The little village of Kåseberga felt like a ghost town, not a single shop was open.  There were cafes and art galleries, all closed until Easter when the 'season' begins.  We wandered around the frozen harbour, hunting unsuccessfully for something warm to eat and finally gave up and headed home.

On the road to Lund, we passed a sign for 'The Lodge', somewhere we had passed on a previous afternoon spent mountain biking.  Surely, this place would be open?  We took a chance and headed off the main road for a few km, following a farm track into a beautiful wooded area and parked.  A row of Audi estates in the car park gave us hope of some much needed luxury.  As we approached we saw this sign and nearly cried with relief.

A roaring fire greeted us as as one of the staff confirmed that we could still order food.  We sank into a comfy squishy sofa and began to thaw out...

We ordered soup and a salad, the soup sounded really odd, but I didn't care.  It would be hot and turned out to be amazing...a rich smoky tomato soup with juicy chargrilled chicken sitting in the middle of it.  WOW.  I don't think I've ever tasted soup like it.  I thought I had ordered half a portion of soup and half a portion of caesar salad, but somehow a 'räkor' or shrimp salad arrived.  I don't know how it could be called a half portion as it was huge and as a Swedish tradition, I figured it was probably about time I tried it.  I'm so glad I did, yet another resounding WOW.  Super fresh, gorgeous dressing, amazing sweet rye bread.  Yum yum.  Such a happy hungry cailín.

So, I think for me last week, this was luxury.  It wasn't particularly expensive, but the service was perfect, the food was fresh, locally sourced and delicious.  The sofas were comfy.  The toilets were clean with those lovely towelling squares to dry your hands on (pure luxury!)  We finally peeled ourselves out of the sofa and reluctantly headed back to the car, refreshed and happy.

How do you define luxury?  

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