A White Christmas in Seefeld, Austria

Bon lundi!

Hope you all had a wonderful start to 2015! 

While traveling, have you ever wished you could share the experience with a loved one who wasn't there with you?  Somewhere you knew would just be perfect for them?  That was one of the things that crossed my mind last year as Michael and I traveled through Germany and Seefeld, Austria for an annual trip we've called Christmaspalooza - and this year, I got to fulfill the wish by having my parents and brother visit for some Christmas Markets and cross-country skiing.

When we arrived, Seefeld looked like this. Still quaint and magical, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit disappointed that it wasn't covered by a blanket of snow. I mean, we confirmed with the cross-country skiing school that there would be enough snow on the ground for us to take our classes because we were uncertain.

Sunset at Seefeld's Christmas market

But then a Christmas surprise happened. Christmas Day and each day after it snowed and snowed, and turned Seefeld into the winter wonderland I fell in love with the previous year. And like the time before, it felt too soon to leave when the check-out date arrived.

Dashing through the snow, Seefeld-style

Though my brother had to head home, my parents joined us to visit our German relatives for an evening and then continued on to Paris to ring in the new year.  So now that I'm back and settled, I have lots to share once again :-)

What did you do for the holidays and New Year's?

Simply Sara's Ultimate European Christmas Market Round-Up

I’ve been making a list and checking it twice...and am ready to reveal which European Christmas markets made the naughty or nice list. This by no means is a conclusive list of markets throughout Europe, but it’s my thoughts on 20 markets spanning 8 European countries. So without further ado, here’s the breakdown by country:

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Christmas Market Count-down

Bon lundi!

Everyone has a favorite Christmas season tradition.  Growing up, my favorites were baking cookies and decorating the tree, while my husband's was putting the lights on the house.  As much as I love to deck the halls, I must admit that I only started decorating my Parisian apartment yesterday, so it's finally beginning to feel like Christmas is ten days away.

This week I can't wait to share my new favorite holiday tradition with you: going to European Christmas markets! Get ready for my round-up of the markets I've been to, and how they all stack up. Stay tuned this week.

Christmas in Cologne, Germany - this market had a giant Santa! 

Do you have a Christmas tradition that you learned from another culture?

The Most "Local" Christmas Market: Leipzig, Germany

Sometimes when you least expect it, you stumble upon something wonderful. If you saw my husband’s first guest post earlier this week, you heard how Leipzig, Germany was his addition to our first European Christmas trip in 2012. It wasn’t the Christmas market that attracted him to this town though. Instead, it was a pilgrimage of sorts to see the town where his favorite composer of all time lived for nearly 30 years of his life. And if you adore Bach like he does, the Bach Museum still stands as his favorite museum ever (and let me tell you, we’ve been to A LOT of museums). 

But let’s get back to the Christmas market. The mission of the trip was to experience European Christmas markets for the first time, and at first, I honestly thought this stop might interfere with that goal a little. After all, we reduced our time in Berlin to one day and one night to have enough time for Leipzig. But it was so worth it in the end.

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Something's Amiss in Galeries Lafayette!

Bon lundi!

Are you getting into the holiday spirit? I sure am! Christmas music is on chez moi at almost all waking hours. I've been known to listen to songs from a wide array of artists - everything from Straight No Chaser to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra over to Destiny’s Child (bet you didn't know they had a Christmas album!), with a splash of the Beach Boys when Michael takes control of the selection. Heck, I’ll even admit that I own an album entitled “Ska-la-la-la-la-la” which hasn't made an appearance on the Christmas playlist in a while, but it’s at the ready if needed...  

Anyway, if you don’t have your own Christmas music playing, turn on Rockapella’s You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch to accompany this post. It’s the most relevant song I could think of that was monster-related...because look at what those monsters did in Galeries Lafayette!

As I mentioned in my previous post, Galeries Lafayette does a really good job at tying in its Christmas theme throughout the store. This year’s Le Noël Monstre (The Christmas Monster) theme meant that those monsters featured in the display windows got their hands on the Christmas tree, and turned it upside-down!

So what do you think? Too weird or fun and festive? 
And second question: What’s on your playlist these days? Give me some new ideas, I need hours worth of Christmas music to listen to continuously! Just another reason I don’t start listening to it until after Thanksgiving - I don’t think I could go more than a month straight :-)

Simply Sara's European Christmas Market How-To

I have always loved celebrating the Christmas season, and moving to Europe has introduced me to an absolutely wonderful tradition: the Christmas market. For the past two seasons my husband and I have traveled to many European cities during December to experience the burst of holiday cheer and have been anything but disappointed in our findings. 

If you’re off to a European Christmas market, here are 13 tips we've learned firsthand!

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Paris Department Store Christmas Displays

I have a confession to make.

Every year I hold out, hard as it may be, to refrain from listening to Christmas music non-stop until after Thanksgiving. I don’t like to rush through Thanksgiving, and I try my best to savor each holiday as they come. (I once snapped at Michael and proclaimed he was “ruining Christmas” by playing holiday tunes in July. It’s serious.)

So while I can still say in good conscience that I haven’t blasted my Mariah Carey Merry Christmas album just yet, I do have to come clean. I saw the Christmas displays the week they went up (first week of November) at Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. It felt a little wrong and it wasn’t even very cold out, but I couldn’t contain my excitement. It all worked out though in the end - despite this little excursion, I didn’t ruin Thanksgiving :-)

I patiently refrained from sharing these pictures with you until after Thanksgiving was celebrated in the States, lest any of you felt adamant about focusing on the holiday at hand. So without further ado, let’s walk along Boulevard Haussmann together.

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Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Before we made our way to Seefeld, Austria for Christmas, the prior week was spent leisurely traveling through Germany. I fell in love with the German Christmas markets last year and wanted to see more this year. One place that seemed to come up frequently in my research for its ambiance at Christmastime was a small town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Rothenburg was a wealthy city in its medieval days and prospered until it was invaded during the Thirty Year’s War in the 1600’s. The invasion was quite unplanned. When Catholic forces needed a place to settle in for the winter, Protestant Rothenburg was the closest town and was overtaken swiftly. The city bribed its way to survival but never recovered and was preserved by its state of poverty. The town could not afford to upgrade over time to newer, more modern buildings so the medieval architecture had to make do. The city lived in these unfashionable conditions until the tides turned in the late 1800’s. Tourists were attracted by its reflections of the past. Inspired artists started selling paintings of the town, and its popularity spread.

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Christmas in Seefeld in Tirol, Austria

I'm in a sweet, fleeting season of life at the moment. One that has allowed me the opportunity to spend Christmas in Europe, just me and my husband. But it is a season that I know won't last too much longer. It is a wonderful and fun, yet the tension in this phase of life is missing out on moments with friends and family back in the US.

With a limited number of Christmases to spend in Europe, there is a lot of pressure to select just the right location to spend the holiday. 

I managed to nail it this year.

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Deck the Halls

I've been getting into full holiday swing. My (tall) house plant is adorned with little gold ornaments, my balsam and cedar Yankee candle has been burning to mimic that authentic tree smell, and my 626-song Christmas playlist has been going non-stop. 

After I got my apartment looking festive last week, I ventured out at night to Boulevard Haussmann to see how two of the major department stores had decorated.

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