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Trip Report Christmas Markets and more –a trip report in pictures with a few comments

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As long as I’ve known about the beautiful light shows called the Fete de Lumiere that Lyon puts on each year around the 8th of December, I’ve wanted to go there and see it. Well, if not now, when?!! So I booked a hotel room in May and started planning a pre-Christmas trip around the fete. We spent 12 days total—4 each in Lyon, Strasbourg and Paris—and had a terrific, magical even, time.

Somehow combining time in Lyon for the fete with Christmas markets in Alsace was a natural and from there we added in Nancy, time in Paris before flying home from there with a day trip to Lille thrown in for good measure. We got from place to place entirely by train which delighted my husband no end.

Rather than provide a lengthy narrative trip report, I’m providing three sets of photos from the 3 parts of the trip—Lyon, Strasbourg, and Paris. The pictures are captioned so you get something of a trip report from that. Let me just add a few observations.

I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in the Fete de Lumieres. All the lovely pictures I’d seen on the internet showed the lovely buildings of the city outlined in multi-colors against the black night. I think that kind of display was probably more prevalent in the early years of the fete and that to prevent repetition, they have had to turn to some more “artsy” installations which are fun but not quite as dazzling as the lighted buildings I’d seen. That said, it was still well worth going. And of course, it the fete had been a total bust, there would still be the wonderful food of Lyon, in their homey bouchons and in their colorful street markets and the fabulous indoor Paul Bocuse market. The city is simply food-obsessed and I love it.

Here's a link to our pictures from Lyon

I’ve seen debates on this forum and others about whether to attend the markets in Strasbourg or in Colmar. Obviously the best answer is to do both, but if a choice must be made my answer is Strasbourg, hands down. They have 10 markets to Colmar’s 5. Their markets have varying themes and the glitz is just much more overpowering—in a good way. I did, however, find the actual stalls and their painted peaks in the Colmar market superior to those of Strasbourg.

Frankly I hadn’t expected to feel so drawn into the Strasbourg market spirit. We’ve been to Alsace several times and after one visit to Strasbourg, decided it was too big and not as cute as the small surrounding villages, including Colmar, and had not chosen to return to the capitol but stay with the smaller places. Well, in the crisp air of winter with the lighted cathedral as backdrop, you can’t beat it. They don’t call it the Capitale de Noel for nothing.

Our day trip to Nancy afforded me a healthy dose of Art Nouveau--my favorite--both at their Ecole de Nancy Museum and at the Brasserie Excelsior which I booked from home to be sure of a table. Nancy was also a place we’d been once long before and not gone back until now. Like Strasbourg it rewarded us handsomely for finally returning.

Here's a link to our pictures from Strasbourg and Nancy

Lille is our new “find.” We built it into a trip to see more of the North of France earlier this year and liked it enough to return only 5 or 6 months later. The Flemish architecture is terrific any time of year, but really “cute” when surrounded with beautiful shop windows, a gigantic Ferris wheel, holiday carnival rides for the kids, and a wonderful market for everyone.

Against all of this, Paris was for once, kind of a letdown. I remember markets in the Les Halles area and by St. Germain des Pres, etc from a trip long ago—actually during “the storm of the century.” And yes, there were some plain white stalls here and there lining some sidewalks but they weren’t selling cute Christmas ornaments, santons or even much handicrafts that could be purchased as Christmas gifts. In short they just didn’t measure up to the magic we’d seen in the provinces.

I did some homework and was prepared for a market in the square by St. Sulpice. I think we were there on the 14th or so, and they were just erecting a Ferris wheel and there were no signs of stalls to be installed. I understand that La Defense has big markets—or they are supposed to, but we weren’t interested in going to one of the more modern parts of the city to look for old-fashioned charm as we’d seen so easily in Lyon, Alsace, Lille. Again, however, the food was good as it always is, so we contented ourselves with dining, comforting ourselves with “apples” so to speak rather than trinkets and glitter.

Here's a link to our pictures from Paris and Lille:

Overall, we had a wonderful time and I would recommend a similar sojourn to anyone and everyone. The markets are truly Christmas magic.

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