|Bonjour mes amis,
In my last week in the village I caught up with friends to say farewell. It was especially difficult to say goodbye to Betty as we've become quite close and I'm concerned about her vulnerability. We enjoyed mulled wine and soda bread a last time and tried to ignore the fact that I won't be back for six months. But it's time for me to come home.
Garry and Glenda returned from Portugal a few days after my trip to Lille. Since we wouldn't be seeing each other for a while, we took every opportunity to catch up. As is our habit now when either of us returns to the village at night, the other always puts together a package of food essentials to tide them over. We meet at the bus then go home to debrief. They had some great adventures and we swapped our stories.
A couple of nights later, I went to their place for dinner. I brought them some vin chaud (mulled wine) that I'd made and even Glenda who is not a drinker, loved it too. We also opened my beautiful red wine from my trip to Bergerac.
As I was leaving Saint Savin on Thursday with all my luggage, the Gs insisted on driving me to Poitiers to take the train to Paris. Of course any trip to Paris involves a meal in Rue Montorgueil and a glass of champagne (this time Pol Roger) at Legrand Filles et Fils in Galerie Vivienne. I also took the Gs' recommendation to have a meal at Canard et Champagne in the Passage des Panoramas. I had duck confit and delicious champagne, followed by deconstructed lemon meringue pie. So good! Now this restaurant is on my favourites list.
Of course I didn't just drink champagne, I also visited the Christmas markets in Les Halles and Les Jardins des Tuileries and checked out the beautiful Christmas lights on the Champs Elysée and Boulevard Haussman.
I've now spent two nights each in Paris, Nancy and Colmar visiting French Christmas markets or Marchés de Nöel. I've discovered the beauty of Nancy and Colmar for the first time but I hope it won't be the last time. Here is my summary of those experiences.
Each market had ice skating, vin chaud, food and goods for sale. Paris was focused on food, drinks and too many carnival rides. The merchandise for sale was not good quality or value for money. There were less authentic French goods and more imported from Asia. Their Father Christmas was called Santa and he looked bored. While I'm glad I've done it and seen the lights, I don't think I'd make the effort again unless I was in the area.
Nancy itself was lovely, elegant and vibrant. It's situated close to the Champagne region of France. I enjoyed a wonderful meal in the fancy pants Hotel Excelsior and wished I'd packed some elegant clothes. There were festive cabins, pop up sites, all around where people enjoyed food and drinks and good cheer. The markets in two sites were fun but not big. However, they catered to everyone. I loved the champagne cabin that overlooked the children's rides and food stalls. The merchandise was authentic and you didn't feel you were being ripped off. Nancy's vin chaud was €3,50 while it cost €5 in Paris. Nancy's Father Christmas was Saint Nicolas, the patron saint of children and of Nancy. He smiled at each child and waited patiently as parents got the best pictures. I also loved the gospel group who sang Christmas songs and gospel classics with great joy and gusto. I would visit again, just to enjoy the city.
Colmar was the big surprise. It's near the German and Swiss borders and is quite German in its architecture and feel. While it's in France, people spoke to me first in German then switched to French or English. The old town is filled with historic buidings that make you think of fairy tales and there's even a number of canals. I loved walking around Colmar, the place where Bartholdi designed the Statue of Liberty and where Voltaire lived.
The Christmas markets had great atmosphere and were at six sites, each with a different focus e.g. artisans' works and a children's market. The quality and variety of merchanse was very good and Christmas lights seemed to sparkle everywhere. Their Father Christmas is called Père Nöel and I saw him giving out brioche to well behaved children, all in a straight line. The vin chaud was only €2.50 and was delicious. I'd definitely return to Colmar.
I took time out to travel to another ancient little town called Eguisheim, just a ten minute bus ride away. It is so old that the streets of the old town are in circles as they were built inside fortified walls. It still has a castle. I think it might be the prettiest place I've seen. I thought that Bamberg in Germany had that honour but little Eguisheim has taken its crown. And being in the Alsace wine region, it had a great number of places to do a tasting or a degustation which I didn't do. It was amazing and I'm so glad I visited.
Well, that's my French Christmas markets tour finished. Next comes Germany.