Thursday, December 8, 2011

To Market, To Market

One of the things I couldn’t wait to do when I moved to The Netherlands, was to see the Christmas Markets. I have always loved the decorations during the holidays and I usually start listening to Christmas music around the end of October. Yes, I know it’s a wee bit early but it puts me in a good mood. Last year, right before we found out that we were moving, this show came on the Home and Garden channel. It was all about the European Christmas markets. They were all so beautiful and I was so excited to see them in person and to visit the different places.
Well, I’m not sure of the actual number of markets this time of the year, but basically every little town or village has one of some sort or another. I’ve realized I won’t make it to all of them, but each year, I plan to visit a few and make some fun purchases.

My first experience at a Christmas Market was during a trip to Cologne, Germany.  We drove about an hour and a half away from our home to Cologne. After a busy day of touring the beautiful city we finally made it over to the market area. It was beautiful! Christmas trees, tall and beautifully lit, garlands and wreaths and magical stalls were all around. People were selling any kind of Christmas bobble you could imagine. There were ornaments, crèches, wreaths, lights, figurines, toys and an array of food all over. It was so beautiful and also very crowded. I knew my next trip there would be during the week.

My next quest was Brussels, Belgium. After only a short hour and a half drive, we got caught up in the chocolate and waffles. Actually my favorite was a combination of both. I never thought I really cared about trying the Belgium waffles, but Dear Lord, they were heavenly. The city was alive with people and as we wandered over to the area with the market, I was surprised that there were very few people there. One small swoop around the market and I understood why. There was a collection of maybe 10 booths and they were selling weird stuff you could find anywhere. The people selling the items looked like gypsies. Don’t get me wrong, I really know very little about gypsies except Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but they looked like they were more interested in the money than the artistry of their items. Many of the places I’ve visited, that is part of the joy of buying something. The artist is sometimes there and I really enjoy getting to meet the person who makes the item. But… not here. The personal attachment was missing..Anyway, if you’re going to Brussels, skip the booths but head for the waffles covered in chocolate and powdered sugar!

My favorite Christmas market so far was in Valkenburg, The Netherlands. The best part was going with one of my best friends, Cheryl, who was visiting from the States. We had so much fun walking all over this quaint little town. After lunch we ventured onto the market. The market was inside a very large cave. I know this sounds a little creepy, but it was magical. There were beautiful displays and lights and vendors all over. We wandered up and down the little paths picking and choosing our treasures to take home. Cheryl bought lots of little gifts for her family and friends and I bought Christmas cards. The prices there were wonderful! I’ll definitely be going back there!

This weekend… on to Helmond, The Netherlands…Dickens Night.

Christmas 2012.. update

This year as time slipped away as it always does during the holiday season, I had big plans to see a bunch of markets. But instead, daily life got in the way. School, parties, last minute shopping, just life. 

I did have time to spend one day with my friends that are in a Cultural Group that I'm a part of through the International Women's Club of Eindhoven. We traveled about an hour from Eindhoven south the the beautiful city of Maastricht. Some of us traveled by car and others by train. Snow had been forecasted but we couldn't have asked for a prettier day. Sunny with a slice of Christmas Market.

We started out our day in Selexyz Dominicans. Selexyz is a bookstore chain and this one is housed in a 700 year old church. As I said before, many churches are being closed here in The Netherlands. I can't think of a better use for a church that is no longer being used for worship. Inside the Selexyz Dominicans there is a coffee shop called Blanche Dael Coffee Lovers.

 I love how it sits up in what used to be the choir area. What a better way to enjoy a cup of coffee than surrounded with history and beauty!

Outside vendors were set up in the centrum of Maastricht selling all sorts of things but for some reason I zeroed in on a few sweaters. But the true beauty was that Maastricht had the children in mind. There was a giant Ferris wheel, several rides and all sorts of candy delights for the kids.

 In my opinion this is the perfect place to take your children for a day of fun. If you are looking for more vendors selling Christmas items.

 Cologne and Valkenburg have been my favorite so far. But I have plans to get some more German markets in next year. Time just ran out. 

I've also discovered that most of the garden centers set up Christmas markets that are truly beautiful. Coppelman's is my favorite. Room after room, winding around all the stunning displays, trees and little villages all set up. I saw one couple having their wedding pictures there. I'm sure they turned out wonderful.

Another delight for the year, Eindhoven has set up a beautiful skating rink in the Centrum. What a beautiful way to enjoy the holidays.

Ok, off to make Gingerbread cookies. 

And to my dear friend Becky that is moving back to the States this week. Love you! You will be missed! Tot Ziens.

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