Tag: Holidays in France

Very Best Christmas Markets

Best Christmas Markets in France: Colmar and Kaysersberg

The very best Christmas Markets are in the Alsace region of France, or so I’m told. I had to see for myself.

Ask anyone who’s scouted around for the very best Christmas Markets in Europe and they’ll say Strasbourg, Colmar and Kaysersberg in France are the among the most famous. Being that I’m on a mission to visit as much of France as I possibly can, the Christmas Markets in the Alsace region were “must do’s.”

Strasbourg was first on the Very Best Christmas Market tour and, as you saw in the previous post, the city and the festivities were pretty spectacular. Colmar was an hour’s train ride away from Strasbourg.  A perfect place to stay for a few days, then visit other nearby towns and markets.

Colmar, the “Venice” of Alsace

Colmar has an interesting connection to the United States. It’s the birthplace of Auguste Bartholde (1834-1904), the sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty. So what was the first thing tour guide Max of Alsace Original Experiences wanted his two American guests to visit? The huge replica of Lady Liberty that stands at the entrance to Colmar. It is the largest reproduction of the statue anywhere in the world. In France Bartholdi is quite a celebrity. One of the tourist sites in the center of Colmar is a museum in his honor. I’ll have to see that next time.

Colmar is a much smaller town than Strasbourg, so right away the difference in the holiday atmosphere was quite apparent. In the old part of the city (on the map below in yellow) there were five different Christmas marketplaces (red stars). Like in Strasbourg, the vendors had set up their food and gift items in temporary wooden huts in the midst of busy shopping areas . The difference was that there seemed to be more handmade and authentic French items at the small stalls in Colmar. Some of the “marchés” were lined up along the canals that seemed randomly interspersed through the town. Streets were closed during market hours so it seemed like we were in the midst of one big Christmas party.

Two favorite things about Colmar were the B&B – Cour de Weinhof (Weinhof Court) — and “dejeuner” at Le Marechal — both of which happened quite by accident. The B&B had a last minute cancellation, so there was “room at the inn.” The restaurant was a lucky choice through Tripadvisor  . Which reminds me. If your holiday tour includes fine dining there are several Michelin Star restaurants in the Alsace area. My thoughts were “good food, good price and let’s get back to shopping in the market.” Le Marechal ticked all those boxes.

very best Christmas Markets

 

Kaysersberg, the Night Market

Touring Kaysersberg at night was not exactly on the agenda, but by the time we’d visited Eguisheim and Riquewihr it was dark. I’m thinking that was a good thing. At nighttime the holiday lights were stunning. With the bits of snow that were falling, it was the perfect mix.

Kaysersberg is a very small town (see map below) and lots of people want to see it. So there was quite a lot of traffic getting into town. It reminded me of Christmases long ago in Charlotte, NC. My family spent hours in our car, behind lines of other cars, to see Christmas lights in McAdenville, a tiny mill town nearby. 

Fortunately, our wonderful tour guide Max, from Alsace Original Experiences, knew exactly where to go to park that was within steps of the entrance of town. He earned a “gold star” for that brilliant move.

Kaysersberg was decked out for the Christmas Market, especially around the route marked with red arrows. The market items seemed to all be from France — not all handmade — but fabuous.  All the way through the shopping extravaganza I reminded myself that I have nowhere to store Christmas stuff in my apartment. I really behaved … well, sorta.

very best Christmas Markets

Bienvenue á Colmar et Kaysersberg

Read more about Christmas Markets in France

The Very Best Christmas Markets in France

Best Christmas Markets in France: Strasbourg

The Three Most Magical Christmas Markets in France

very best Christmas Markets

Party Over? Flamenco!

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Thanksgiving dinner with new friends from around Uzes may be a hard act to follow. Just leave it to Geoffrey.

As you’ve gathered by now, life around Geoffrey is never dull. Saturday morning, after Thanksgiving, he called to remind me I was invited to lunch.

“There’s an interesting group of people coming over, ” he said in his most inviting tone. Usually Geoffrey starts off our calls with “Bonjour” or something else in French — as if he forgets who he’s calling. This day he started right off in his British-flavored English. “And bring your camera.”

I hadn’t forgotten about lunch, I just didn’t know who was invited to join us. It’s always a different group of his friends and acquaintances. This day must be special if he asked me to bring my camera. He knows I like good stories for my blog.

Flamenco Guitars

Walking to Geoffrey’s from my apartment was no small chore this day. The wind was whirling and making the air colder than usual. There’s a wind current called the “Mistral” in this part of France. I’ll give you the details on another blog. It’s a story all by itself.

I bundled up in my new black wool coat and warm scarf, threw on my black and tan hat; then set off to walk the ten minute route to Geoffrey’s. Getting there just in time, I was introduced to a Scottish couple who were joining us, and I greeted Angus (the guitarist from Thanksgiving) and Nandine.

Then the fun began.

In walked the guitarists and the Flamenco dancer.

P1010244 Flamenco in Uzes Flamenco in Uzes

Watch in full screen to enjoy the video and music

Flamenco in France

If you, like me, wonder about Flamenco in France, its’ easy to explain. The distance between Uzes and Barcelona is like going east-to-west across the state of North Carolina. Music and traditions from Spain simply spill over into neighboring France. Being from the United States, I have to keep reminding myself how close these countries are to each other. The entire country of France is smaller than the state of Texas.

Gypsies did not invent flamenco as we know it, but they certainly played a significant role in its development.

Flamenco dates back to the sixteenth century as a folk art and culture that originated in the Andalusia provence of Spain. Passed on for generations, mostly through the oral history of the poor and oppressed, Flamenco gained public acceptance in the second half of the nineteenth century. The first “cafe cantante” opened in Seville, Spain in 1842. It’s appeal to all classes in society resulted in a rapid acceptance of the music and celebrities of Flamenco. Performers such as Ramon Montoya and Antonio Chacon are still revered today.

After a decline of Flamenco in the early twentieth century, it has found popularity throughout the world today. In the south of France, you’ll find Flamenco guitarists and singers on street corners and in concert halls. Impromptu “jam sessions” can occur anywhere artists meet — in cafes and bars. It’s a tradition that is welcomed and cursed in a town like Uzes. Performers range from talented professionals to beggars who play for tips.

 

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