Posted tagged ‘marchés de Noël’

Christmas For Sale Or Rent

December 16, 2008

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Somewhere in France there’s an authentic Christmas market, but it’s not in Aix en Provence.  Believe me when I tell you that this was one of the least tacky things at that particular market; the others would really hurt your eyes, and you don’t deserve that.

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The real Christmas markets are in the north, in Alsace.   That’s why at this market, which isn’t in Alsace at all but in Lyon, they are serving an Alsatian-style warm wine.  I’m not saying that the south doesn’t have authentic Christmas traditions of its own, but the Christmas market just doesn’t seem to be one of them.

Last year I showed you a French Christmas Market in Uzès, and we’ll be visiting that again this weekend.  It’s only for one day, so I imagine it will be small and quaint.  I actually hope so.  I also showed you Christmas in Barcelona, which we won’t be visiting this year.  Instead we’ll be spending the holiday at home, and I’d been hoping to stock up on some typically French Christmas presents and decorations at the markets in Aix and Lyon.  Mais non, pas du tout!

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In Lyon there was food from faraway lands, with a heavy emphasis on maple syrup,

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and bison, which I never thought I’d see in France.

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There were bells from Tibet,

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Russian nesting dolls,

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and Christmas headgear from, I think, China.

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There were also stuffed baked potatoes, which if not exactly a traditional Christmas food in any country I know about, did at least have a French spirit, being stuffed with things like reblochon, camembert and ratatouille.

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The market in Aix consisted of a long row of little chalets on the Cours Mirabeau, most surrounded by so many people that you couldn’t get near them if you wanted to, which I didn’t.  This one wasn’t too bad, but since they’re the same stars you might have gotten at Cost Plus, there wasn’t much incentive to approach.

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The least crowded place on the Cours Mirabeau was right here, where this couple was singing and playing Christmas songs in Provençale.  It might have been the fact that they were often a bit off key that kept the droves away, but I more think it was the total lack of glitz; it was authentic, there was no bling-bling in sight, and it’s a good thing they weren’t passing the hat as it would have come back woefully empty.

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In the evening rain, from a distance, after a glass of vin chaud, if you let your eyes go out of focus, it all had a certain charm.  Although maybe it was all about the vin chaud, which might be the secret to softening the tackiest of edges.

If you have a few edges that need softening, my recipe is here.  I haven’t made any yet this year, but tonight might be the night.