Month: December 2015

Esslingen Medieval Market

When we chose Stuttgart as our destination for visiting Christmas markets in Germany, we started to look around and read about the nearby markets and what they had to offer. We chose to visit the Esslingen market, as it included a medieval portion complete with games and activities for the kids, and old-school medieval decor and gifts. The town was just a 15 minute tram ride from Stuttgart, and the walk through this quaint little town was really lovely. The front part of the market was similar to a regular German market, with lots of food stalls, loads of sweets, and decor. We started to notice the mass-produced stuff, which I guess I hadn’t expected (though maybe I should have?) and it’s still often very lovely, but it definitely was apparent as being some of the same stuff we’d seen in Stuttgart. However, there were still many stalls with lovely handmade items and unique gifts. There were also loads of wool socks, which I also hadn’t expected, but I guess that’s smart, and great if your tootsies were …

Stuttgart Weihnachtsmarkt

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to visit a real German Christmas Market. I knew we would have the chance to get there this year, and I’d really been looking forward to it. We decided that the easiest city to get to from Loches by train would be Stuttgart, as it is quite close to the french border. We spent five days there at the very end of November and early December. It turns out that the Stuttgart Weihnachtsmarkt is one of the oldest and largest in Germany! The first recorded market there was in the late 1600’s. Besides it’s age, the Stuttgart market is well known for the beautifully decorated rooftops and the special design of the wooden stalls, renowned around Germany. We were all pretty much in awe of the decor, all the delightful holiday offerings, and the delicious food. It totally lived up to all my expectations! I am sharing a few photos here pretty much for the storytelling and for our memories. I didn’t capture the best pics here, …

Around Town

Around Town, Volume V. In the Loire Valley this fall, we experienced the best weather they’ve had in over 50 years. There was next to no rain, the temps were hovering in the high teens to low twenties for much of October and on to mid-November. It was amazing! However, I will admit, this kind of strange warm weather really kind of freaks me out on the larger scale. It seems to be happening all over western Europe, and much of North America as well. Parts of Canada and the US that are usually blanketed in snow and freezing temps for much of the winter are experiencing record highs and a December devoid of snow so far! Unheard of. Let’s hope this new agreement from COP21 will start us all on making some significant global progress to fight global warming. Anyhow, I digress. Back to Loches… Besides the unseasonably warm weather, we have had a few foggy chilly mornings and evenings of late. As a kid, I remember falling asleep to the sound of foghorns on the ocean nearby. I have always loved a good foggy …

Les secrets de Mounlinsart

The Secrets of Marlinspike Hall. The museum is on the grounds of Château de Chéverny, and was a really fun place to visit. Oliver was particularly excited as he is an avid Tintin fan, but Danica got into it as well, as she’s been watching old Tintin cartoons with Oli lately. Disclaimer — it was really dark inside and my camera battery had died, so all I had was my phone. Hence the poor quality, weirdly lit, dark and grainy photos. Sorry about that! Oliver had also chosen that day to experiment with putting Vaseline in his hair to style it. Excuse the 50s greaser look, he got his hair cut a couple days later 😉 The museum was really well done. Amazing mockups of some rooms and scenes from the books. My favourite part was seeing Oliver’s face light up every time he turned a corner. Every time we entered another room, he would give us the background of what was going on. He was so animated, acting out scenes and really getting into the action. It was …

Château de Chéverny

Another weekend, another château! This time we visited Château de Chéverny, which is the inspiration behind Marlinspike Hall, Captain Haddock’s and Professor Calculus’ home in Hergé’s Tintin comics. Oliver was particularly excited about this visit, as he is an avid Tintin fan. He literally jumped and squealed with delight when we walked in and he laid eyes on the Marlinspike Hall! Chéverny is a relatively small and simple looking château from the exterior, but for me, it was one of the more beautiful that we’ve seen. I found the furnishings and decor to be rather exquisite, and very nicely representative of the era. One thing we all found very interesting, is that we finally discovered the reason for all the foreshortened beds we’ve seen in this era of châteaux — apparently the reclined position was one reserved for the dead! Not only that, but they were actually afraid to sleep lying down, for fear of choking on their tongues — sleeping was done sitting up! This is the first time we’ve actually seen it mentioned in a brochure, and the kids always wondered if it …

Château de Langeais

We had a good stretch of the most incredible weather, from about mid-October and well into mid-November. The days were sunny and warm, even reaching the low-twenties a lot of the time! It was amazing, and we took full advantage of the great weekends by exploring more of our surroundings here in the heart of the Loire Valley. We visited the Château de Langeais on one such beautiful Sunday afternoon. Another gorgeous 15th century château (are you tired of seeing these yet?) full of more tapestries and carved wood furniture, intricate tile work and ornate decor. Speaking of the kids, they are admittedly getting a little bored with all the châteaux. They fail to see the charming differences after the first half dozen or so that we’ve toured…Thankfully most of them are surrounded by amazing grounds, often with fun things like labyrinths, forests, gardens, and little playgrounds. Langeais held a hidden gem amongst the grounds of towering sequoias and cedars — a huge 6-storey treehouse perfect for whiling away the afternoon. While they played happily, Derek and I enjoyed …

Spooks

We knew before arriving in France that there would be some major cultural differences when it came to certain traditions and holidays. We weren’t expecting much of anything for Hallowe’en, and we’d warned the kids to be ready for a quiet one. Keeping in mind that Hallowe’en is one of their very favourite days of the year, we tried to keep it fun, but without expectation in order to avoid any major disappointment! However, the commercialized culture of Hallowe’en has definitely started creeping it’s way in to France, and we started seeing evidence of decorations and costumes about midway through October. One thing we did know of Hallowe’en over here, was that the costumes weren’t going to be a lot of characters or pop culture personalities like back home, but rather sticking to the creepy, ghoulish, and scary side of things. Love it! We tucked a few of our favourite holiday books into our suitcases for the year, and among them was our Hallowe’en fave, “The Haunted House that Jack Built”. If you don’t have it in your collection, …