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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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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4 Hours in Paris

Or eating morning pastries in Marrakech, doing laundry in Paris, and going to sleep in Zurich

Bon lundi!

Have you ever had a moment of disorientation while traveling? Like you wake up in a haze, expecting to be in your own bed, and then realize that you are hundreds of miles away from home?

This month, I had that happen to me - except I wasn’t dreaming.  Sometimes planning trips back-to-back can be messy, and when an already-booked vacation collided with a business trip for my husband, I found myself holding a boarding pass for Marrakech to Paris for the morning, and a train ticket from Paris to Zurich that very evening, with only 4 hours between.

We went from this, the famous market square of Djema el-Fna in Marrakesh...

As anyone who has traveled knows, walking in the door of your home after a long trip has a comforting feel -- knowing that after all that change, and possibly turbulence, you’re back to the familiar.  But when I walked in the door, knowing I was just passing through, it felt a bit like one of those dreams. this, a Christmas market in Zurich with a magnificent tree decked out in Swarovski crystal ornaments.

So what did we do with 4 hours back in Paris? Entirely mundane things: laundry, a quick lunch, and a re-pack of our bags for another week of travel.  However, let’s have fun with this and imagine what you can do in Paris with only 4 hours to spare:

  • See an opera at Palais Garnier or Opera Bastille.
  • Indulge in a proper French dinner, all the way from apero to an espresso finish.
  • See 0.005% of the Louvre’s collection.
  • Take a cooking class and then savor the fruits of your hard work.
  • Walk straight across town from the Bois de Vincennes to Bois de Boulogne.  And still have an hour to spare for a break at a café to refuel and re-energize!
  • Take a boat ride from Bastille up the Canal St. Martin to Parc de la Villette, with 1.5 hours left to explore the park or visit the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie museum (huge interactive science museum with an Imax theater and Planetarium).
  • Wait in line for, and climb, the Eiffel Tower - then have a picnic on the Champs de Mars.
  • Enjoy 4 expertly made cocktails at Red House.
  • Ride a bike through Paris on a guided tour.
  • And last but not least, Michael’s contribution: Ride his favorite bus, the 30, between Trocadero and Pigalle continuously for the entire 4 hours.  You’ll pass through the Arc De Triomphe traffic circle 10 times!

What would you do with 4 hours in Paris?