This January will mark my 9th year living here in Paris. I can’t believe its been 9 years. I’m getting ready to head back home for the holidays (home, where the heart is, as the old adage goes — in my family, heart where Mom is) and it hit me that after so many years I’m more familiar with life, ways of being, products, behavior here in France than I am from whence I came. Seems so strange. But that’s another story for another post some other time.
Ever since I came over to France, those 9 years ago, I’ve wanted to visit the Christmas markets in Alsace. I just love the Christmas season and I’d heard about the markets since I was a little girl. I’d seen pictures. As a child I always thought that Santa Clause (the real Santa Clause – I was a believer for longer than most) was some eastern European Saint Nicolas, the version of Coca Cola’s santa in the green velvet jacket, the St Nick celebrated on Dec 6. For me, Christmas was always framed in those snowy, far-off villages, with those peeked roof tops… something I’d imagined as Swiss or German or Austrian. But I’d never made the hike eastward to see it for myself.
This year all that changed. Last weekend we decided to run away for a few days and ended up in two of the most charming towns in Alsace I could ever have imagined: Colmar and Ribeauvillé. Two Christmas market towns not to miss!
The first, the old city of Colmar, is exactly what I had pictured reading Christmas carols as a wee-one – a snowy Christmas market town. Sharply gabbled roofs, architecture from the 1600s, board and batten, narrow cobbled streets. Gingerbread houses! I just loved this place. Inside the old city, there are 5 markets at Christmas time. We visited two. Take a look:
Colmar, by the way, also happens to be where the designer of the Statute of Liberty, Auguste Batholdi, came from! Cool. They even have a mini version in the new city erected to commemorate the 100 years since his death.
The next place we visited was indeed a village. Rather than a magical Christmas market in the old section of a modern town like Colmar, Ribeauvillé is an ancient village, preserved by UNESCO. Their niche at this time of year: a medieval Christmas market. Everything from a hog roast on a roaring fire, to medieval dancers parading the streets, and warm wine served from large witch-like cauldrons. The village, which boasts but one main street, was literally lit up with festivities. We ate a traditional Alsatian meal of sauerkraut and sausage – delicious – drank mulled wine and visited the attractions. The only downside was that we chose to go on a Saturday with about 10,000 other people!
A children’s paradise, even for overgrown ones who still love Christmas…
Wishing you and yours a very merry one!