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Archive for November 2014

10 Best Christmas Markets in Germany

Sunday, November 30, 2014

... and the surrounding countries!

All week, I've shared pictures from 10 of the Best Christmas Markets we've been to. 7 were in Germany, 2 in France and 1 in the Netherlands. We've been to a few smaller ones, too, but you'll find those in almost every village in the countryside.

In case you missed any of them, here's a quick recap:

ONE | Strasbourg, France. In the Alsace Region in France, this gorgeous little town is beloved by pretty much everyone I know who has been there. The people are friendly, the hot chocolate is to die for, and the Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg is magnificent.

TWO | Cologne, Germany. Big, busy, and with lots to do, Cologne (also spelled Koln) is for the city guys and girls out there. If you like hustle and bustle with lots of stimuli, this is a great market for you!

THREE | Heidelberg, Germany. Quaint pre-World War buildings are the perfect backdrop for this sweet little market. Heidelberg is always a joy to visit, but if you're planning to go for the holidays, try to go when the Castle Christmas Market is open, too. Remember, kids of all ages love the funicular train.

FOUR | Valkenburg Caves, Netherlands. For those of us who don't love the cold weather, Valkenburg Caves offers a respite in a world filled with ice and snow. Inside the caves is moderately warm and totally worth the entrance fee.

FIVE | Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany. That's a mouthful of a town name, but their Christmas market doesn't fail  to deliver. This town has Christmas spirit in spades!

SIX | Mannheim, Germany. Admittedly, this market is one of my favorites thanks to its proximity to where I live. Beyond that, it boasts plenty of easy parking, lots of restaurants and between the good deals in the market stalls (best I've found!) and the plethora of department stores and boutiques, I can check everyone off of my "nice" list in one shopping trip.

SEVEN | Nuremberg, Germany. If you'd asked me before I'd been to a Christmas Market what I imagined one being like, this market is what I would have described. Lots of variety, romantic ambience... I didn't even mind the cold. Much.

EIGHT | Paris, France. Because who doesn't want to go to Paris at Christmastime?

NINE | Burg Lichtenberg, Germany. Funny and a little kooky, this Medieval Market is a definite deviation from the norm. Dress up in costumes if you like (the more authentic, the better) and enjoy a step back several hundred years in time.

TEN | Munich, Germany. Truly gorgeous Christmas Markets. Bavaria at Christmas is magical and Munich is right at the heart of it all.

So, there it is folks. The best Christmas Markets we've been to and that I would recommend to anyone. I'm working on a list of the markets I would love to visit, so check back for that.

UPDATE: Check out This Post for my list of Christmas Markets I would love to visit before we leave Germany!

And, remember, sharing is caring! If someone you know loves Christmas and you think they would like anything from this list, please share! 

Snapshot Sunday: Snowy Trees and Miss Lola

Not for any special reason, I just wanted to share these snaps from when we went to The Valkenburg Caves Christmas Markets.

Valkenburg Caves Christmas Market (1 of 34)

Valkenburg Caves Christmas Market (3 of 34)

Valkenburg Caves Christmas Market (4 of 34)

A Snapshot Sunday Link Party is hosted over at Essence of a Family.
Linking to the HOST

Munich Christmas Markets

Saturday, November 29, 2014

I know a few days ago I said if you have to pick just one Christmas Market to visit, Cologne would be a good choice because they have so much on offer. And it would be a great choice...

But so would Munich. 

I, personally, enjoyed Munich much more even though we had worse weather there.

If you can possibly be in or near Bavaria around Christmastime, Munich is so very beautiful and their markets are fantastic. There are over 20 to choose from all around the city but the big ones are near the Marienplatz. Within this area, there are small clusters of markets and they each have a different theme. From hand crafted goods to an entire market dedicated to Nativities - be still my heart! I do have a soft spot for a beautiful Nativity! 

Plenty of stalls have good food and snacks, there's the ever present gluhwein and kinderpunsch, lots of restaurants to choose from, and even a huge skating rink to enjoy... Munich has something for everyone. 

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I can't speak for anyone else, but I prefer snow to rain when I have to be cold. And I think a snow covered Christmas in Munich would be magical... but, unfortunately, that's not what we had the year we went. It started with an icy drizzle and towards the end of our evening, it was a steady rain. A very, very cold rain.

You can see in a few of the pictures that not very many people were out and about... that probably says more about the weather than I ever could because not much slows these hearty Germans down. Certainly not a little rain.

I hope if you ever get the chance to visit, you have better luck. But just in case, maybe consider packing a water resistant layer. You just might need it.

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If shopping the markets doesn't really interest you, the window displays in Munich were fantastic and some of the most festive I've seen.

And at various times during the season, they have music and singing to enjoy as well. If you're really lucky, or plan your trip well, you'll get to see some of the drama performances and street performers.

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This whole nativity display was crafted  with simple rocks. So creative and beautiful!

If you're heading to Munich, I suggest looking for a hotel as close to the Marienplatz as you can find and balancing that with something along a tram line. Munich's tram system runs very efficiently (of course!) and it's the easiest way to get around the city. 

Keep in mind, too, that parking can be expensive. I don't have recommendations for that because it will just depend on what is available when you get there. I'm not familiar enough with these cities (having only been once or twice) to say for sure where to find a good garage. We always head to the area we want to be in and then start watching the parking signs and find a spot. In a pinch, we will use the GPS Parking function.

You can find more information, including opening times, here.

Let's talk! What's your favorite Christmas Market? Or which one do you think you would most like to visit? Let me know in the comments. 

Medieval Christmas Market at Burg Lichtenberg

Friday, November 28, 2014

This post is coming to you a bit later in the day than I'd planned, and for that I apologize. I've had a sinus headache all day. I'm sure you can imagine....

But I'm going to push through and get this posted, and might I suggest, if you don't already have plans for this weekend, check out the Medieval Christmas Market at Burg Lichtenberg. It's a short drive from the Kaiserslautern area and is a unique experience. And, as far as I know, it's only happening this weekend.

Costumes, dancers, fire breathers, archery lessons. If that's not exciting, I don't know what is. If it existed during medieval times, it can be found at this market. They also had some interesting and delicious food and some rather good mead as well.

Wanna be extra fun? Dress up. You'll blend right in
And you might be glad to have that cape to wrap up in once the sun goes down.

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Looks like fun, right? It is. It's a nice, relaxing kind of market. There's plenty of hand made crafts available for purchase. They had clothes, home decor, lots of jewelry, and wreaths and ornaments, too. The kids will have plenty of space to run and play and the animals are docile and friendly, so there's no need to worry about that - but do watch where you step... and maybe don't wear your best shoes. 

Oh, and this one is dog friendly, as long as your dog is friendly. Some spaces get a bit crowded and we had a few kids come over and pet Lola without permission, so it's best to know your pup and what he can handle, of course.

The castle ground is a bit of a hike uphill from one of the parking lots, so be aware of that, if it's a concern. Also, much of the castle ground is uneven. Parts of it are suitable for wheelchairs and strollers, but a lot of it isn't (in my opinion). 

This market has lots of entertainment - there will be something to keep everyone happy. We had a difficult time making ourselves leave because "the next show sounds fun, too!" 

All in all, a jolly good time. I hope you go out and I hope you enjoy it.
 It's a fun way to spend a day.

AH! I forgot about the waffle thing, above. That is a full sized waffle, folded in half like a sandwich, with ham, potatoes, onions and peppers in the batter. I wasn't a big fan, but the hubs loved it. He was in heaven and ate two of those monsters... and then wondered why he had heartburn. 

Silly boy.

As always, let me know in the comments if you like this market or are putting it on your list of things to do. 

Paris Christmas Market

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I love Paris in the Springtime...

I love Paris in the Fall...

But, really, I love Paris at Christmastime most of all!

I know that's not how the song goes, and I'm not even sure when my favorite season in Paris is - they're all pretty great.

I mean, for realz, any day I can stroll past this is a good day indeed:

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I just love this city and will take every opportunity to go back. A couple of years ago just before Christmas, my husband flew to California for training so a couple of friends and I hopped on a train and went to Paris for the day. 

It's a tough life, right? Living a 2 hour train ride from one of the most beautiful cities in the world.... I am going to miss that So.Very.Much. Words can't even describe it.

Moving on, before I start feeling too sorry for myself.

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I was really excited about Christmas in Paris, imagining a very different reality from what we actually experienced. If you're planning to go, I recommend waiting until just before Christmas or even the week after Christmas.

Hotels might cost a little more then (but, hey, hotels are never cheap in Paris), but more of the markets will be open. We went on December 11 and a few stalls were open, but most of them were just being built. Later I learned that most of the city celebrates the Christmas season starting about a week before Christmas and lasting through the 12 Days of Christmas (January 6). So that's something to keep in mind. I wish I'd known.

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While I was there, the markets that were open were along Champs Elysees between the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Clemenceau metro stops. Which is super convenient, because from Clemenceau you can walk towards Invalides (or do it backwards, depending on your starting point) and enjoy the ever so romantic Pont Alexandre III.

It really is a gorgeous bridge and I read somewhere that it is one of the most romantic places in Paris to propose. I wouldn't know about that, but if you're in the area when the Eiffel Tower does its nightly dance, it's a gorgeous view from this bridge. Be sure to bundle up, though, and be prepared to snuggle with your honey because the wind from the river is quite cold.

The lights dance and sparkle every evening on the hour from 8 pm until 1 am. Each light show lasts about 5 minutes.

If you find yourself closer to the action, I like the view from the Jardin de Trocadero across the river from the tower, but many prefer the Champ de Mars right at it's base. No matter where you see it from, it is a magical experience you're not likely to forget.

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A lot of people have shared with me their dislike of "commercialized" Christmas Markets over the past few days. If that is a dislike you share, these markets on the Champs Elysees may not be for you. The ornaments were pretty, but obviously mass produced. It wasn't a problem for me and I bought several things while I was there. Of course, I have no idea what will be available around the city after the other markets open.

I would love to hear from you if you've been or are planning a trip. My husband actually wants to go back to Paris one more time before we leave. It's really strange to me because for our first trip there, many many moons ago, I really had to talk him into it. It's funny to me how much he likes it now. Paris won him over.

And if that's not a great endorsement for the city, I don't know what is. ;)