Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Shopping a la Suisse

 The Christmas Market is a charming European tradition that I have embraced with abandon not only because these markets are just so impossibly cute but mostly because every other booth, or mini-chalet, is serving Vin Chaud (or Gluhwein in the German-speaking areas) which is a delicious hot, mulled wine.  It’s quite proper, even expected, to have a Vin Chaud at, say, 11 a.m. and continue throughout the day into the evening.  One must love a tradition that combines drinking and shopping.

The markets have a variety of offerings by local artists, winegrowers, cheesemakers, toymakers, bakers, chocolate-makers, etc.  They are usually outdoors and set in the old parts of the towns beginning in one of the main squares and meandering along the pedestrian-only cobblestone streets.  It turns the hassle of Christmas shopping into an enjoyable experience.  A chilly experience, but enjoyable.  (The Vin Chaud helps here as well!)

However, my chauffeur to these events, Mr. Big, is really not much of a strolling, shopping, meandering kind of guy.  He is a Point A to Point B kind of guy.  So, we have worked out a system that keeps his antsy self busy while I am shopping.  He is in charge of the camera.  If I see something picture-worthy, I point it out and he shoots.  The rest of the pictures are up to him and I must say the man has a thing for clocktowers.  A high percentage of the pictures are of the back of my head or me turning around, cup of Vin Chaud in hand, because he has called my name.

His other job is planning out the walking route to insure that I don’t miss anything.  This is not an easy task because no streets in Europe are straight.  They are bendy and twisty and involve bridges, alleys and little tunnelish passageways.  He really gets excited when there are booths on both sides of the street—his planning becomes much more intricate.  He also sets a goal for himself that we are not “allowed” to double-back and see the same thing twice.  Consequently, he never actually “sees” anything in any of the booths because he is too preoccupied with where we are headed and not where we are now.  It’s not like he really cares, either.  His feedback is usually limited to “Uhuh, that’s nice” or “Whatever, Trailing Spouse, just buy it” or “Do you need more Vin Chaud?”

Using this system, we have set a personal best of three Marches des Noel in one day in two different countries.  For those of you reading this from the local area, here’s my synopsis of the ones we have been to so far:

Lausanne:           Don’t bother, only about 25 booths.  Vin Chaud, delicious.
Geneva:               Don’t bother, way too many vendors of cheap, crap Indonesian stuff.
Montreaux:        Cute, crowded and very photogenic.
Bremgarten:      Mr. Big gave a big thumbs-up to their Park-N-Ride system.  Gluhwein, excellent.  Large, 190 vendors.  Also, Christmas tree farm 2km outside of town where you can cut your own tree.
Morges:       Covered market inside hall of the train station, big plus.  High percentage of artists, good gift ideas.

Besancon:           Just OK, not worth a special trip
Montbeliard:     Fabulous in every way.  My favorite.  The lightshow is super.  Here’s the link, sorry it’s only in French but the pictures are worth a click.

It is not even 8 a.m. here but today is Sunday so I am already Google Mapping trying to outline our plan of attack for today.  Mr. Big is still lying innocently asleep upstairs, completely unaware that he has yet another day in store stomping around outside in the cold drinking Vin Chaud.  Bless his heart!

No comments:

Post a Comment