Take me "Bach" to Leipzig

Today's post is a guest post from a special someone - my husband! It's his first guest post, and appropriately on a subject he has always been passionate about, his favorite composer of all time. It's the reason we made Leipzig, Germany a stop on our first European Christmas market tour in 2012. Although it felt like a concession at the time on my end, it was a surprisingly delightful town that earned our superlative of "the most local" Christmas market we have visited, and all of this to do:

While we were planning our trip through Germany to see the Christmas markets, there was one thing on my Christmas wish list that had nothing to do with hot spiced wine or baked German treats: the town of Leipzig.

In America, Leipzig earns a mere footnote in our contemporary world history textbooks: they are mostly known for two things:

  • Their failure to prosecute WWI war crimes (this is one of the primary reasons the Nuremberg Trials took place: the Allies didn't trust Germany to prosecute the war crimes on their own this time)
  • The Monday demonstrations which led to the fall of the Berlin wall

Going further back in history though, Leipzig was a notable cultural center of the world. Martin Luther preached here, and some of the greatest minds in music have lived, worked, and/or visited here -- including Mozart and Schumann -- but most importantly...

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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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Coming This Weekend to Paris: Nuit Blanche 2014

One thing that has always impressed me about Paris is the focus on cultural events. It seems that everyone is well-versed on the latest expositions going on in the city’s museums and other cultural events. People love to talk about what’s on, what they went to, and what’s on the list to visit. I got some insight in how this interest in the arts becomes ingrained when I started tutoring English. I took my elementary-aged student to Centre Pompidou and she started telling me about one of her favorite artists, Robert Delaunay. I was blown away by how she could remember his name and give some reasons why she liked his paintings. Part of the school curriculum incorporates the arts, and the appreciation for people who create and bring beauty into the world is certainly celebrated here.

Given this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the events Paris puts on during the year is one to celebrate the arts...all night long. Nuit Blanche takes place the first Saturday in October. The 13th annual Nuit Blanche is set for October 4, 2014 so get ready for a night of art, dance, music, theater, and more!

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Chartres en Lumières

Most people treat Chartres as a day trip or stop-over on the way to or from Paris. It’s star attraction, the Chartres Cathedral, can be toured in an hour (allow more time to really explore it thoroughly). There are a few other sites to see for those who want to extend their time in town. But beyond that, why did I choose to stay overnight (especially when I have housing in Paris)?

I couldn't pass up seeing the city lit up at night for Chartres en Lumières.

Between April and October, the town puts on a show at night. I first heard of this event from a post on Out and About in Paris and it stayed in the back of my mind, only to resurface when Michael mentioned he wanted to visit Chartres again. 29 historical buildings participate, and the highlight of the nightly event is the projected light show on the main facade of the Cathedral.

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How to Celebrate Bastille Day 2014 in Paris

July 14th is La Fête Nationale for France, an important national holiday. In English we refer to it as Bastille Day because it commemorates the storming of the Bastille (and thus the beginning of the French Revolution). If you're lucky enough to be in Paris for this holiday, you have many great options to celebrate some liberté, égalité, and fraternité!

Here's how to join in the celebrations and make the most of being in Paris on Bastille Day:

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Fête de la Musique

June 21st is one of my favorite days in Paris. Not only is it the first day of summer and the longest day of the year, but it is celebrated well in Paris. That's because June 21st each year is the Fête de la Musique. This music festival is a national celebration in France (and has spread to numerous other countries) where all musicians, professionals and amateurs alike, are encouraged to perform.

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Ten Free Activities in Paris: Summer 2014 Edition

Paris can be a notoriously pricey city to visit, but a visit doesn't have to break the bank. Here are some ideas of completely gratuit (free) events and activities available to enjoy this summer. Profitez! 

1. Enjoy a view from the terrace of the Institut du Monde Arabe. 

I asked on Monday for guesses on where a free terrace in Paris could be that offers a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower and a view of Notre Dame. The answer? At the Institut du Monde Arabe in the 5th. 

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Park it in Paris: Parc Floral

In the "Park it in Paris" series, I write about the city's parks - some of the best spots to relax, people-watch, and mingle with the locals.

The Bois de Vincennes is Paris' largest park, located in the eastern reaches of the city. It features not one but four lakes, a (recently re-opened) zoo, an arboretum, and gardens. The Parc Floral de Paris is one of the gardens within the vast expanse of the Bois de Vincennes and is one of four parks that comprises Paris' botanical garden.

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A Day in Shoreditch (London)

As I mentioned previously about London (from past Monday and Wednesday posts), this trip was all about discovering smaller sights and exploring new corners of the city. One day in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London I did just that. There is much to see and eat in the east side of London, a much ignored area by tourists for its lacking in big-ticket sights.

Here's how I spent a Sunday in Shoreditch, with some interspersed tips from additional trips made to the area during my trip. I couldn't stay away from this cool neighborhood (despite staying on the opposite side of town)!

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A Curious Incident, Indeed

Bon lundi!

Sometimes even when you plan, things come crashing down. In my case, it was the ceiling of the Apollo Theater in London.

Thankfully I was not at the performance of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time when the roof caved in (and thankfully it looks like no one was seriously injured). But three weeks before I was going to see this show, it closed until June due to this curious incident.

The unfortunate event led me to seek another venue for a fun night out in London, and the conclusion of the search ended with heading out to Wilton's Music Hall on a Monday night to see the Basin Street Brawlers. This fun band got the crowd up and dancing by their second set as they played songs from the 1920's-1930's.  

Basin Street Brawlers

I'm looking forward to sharing more on this cool music hall and other finds on the east side of London!

 

Oh, and the Basin Street Brawlers seem to perform at Wilton's Music Hall frequently. If you're in London tonight, check them out!