We’re racing towards Christmas. Driving through our small local villages is truly a wondrous experience; no decorations are quite the same, and in many places there are twinkling lights in abundance
A few kilometres from where we live I pass this Christmas tree outside the Mairie each day on my school run; it might not be perfect but it was decorated by the children from the local pre-school and for that reason alone I love it.
Les boulangeries have decorated their windows with wintry scenes. A sense of festivity flows out from every street corner and yet, incredibly, there is also an overall feeling of peace and calm.
Nothing is hurried; if you ask any local if they are ready for Christmas they will most likely smile and say no, but no one seems in the least bit concerned. Everything will get done in the fullness of time; it’s this lack of pressure that is so appealing and probably the reason why the atmosphere is so special.
One of the highlights of the holidays here is our wonderful open-air ice-skating rink which transforms the Place Colbert in the centre of Rochefort into a winter wonderland for December and the beginning of January.
It is advertised as one of the ten most beautiful rinks in France and I couldn’t disagree with that. It is framed on all four sides by architecture dating back as far as the 17th Century which makes for a stupendous setting and it is enormous; somehow this year they have squeezed in an extra 110 square metres of ice, pushing the boundaries to their absolute maximum.
There is a restaurant at either end, perfect places for a little ‘aprés-skate’ or just to soak up the winter sun
and wooden chalets, temporarily in situ for the holidays, selling locally made artisanal products.
The carousel might be a magical place for young children but it also never fails to make me smile too as I remember the many many times I have ridden on one holding a small child with a grin stretching from ear to ear!
Yesterday I was in Saintes with Gigi and was more than happy to have an hour to spare so we could wander around another Christmas village. A couple of weeks ago I showed you the white chalets which had been put in place but were empty and deserted. Last weekend, they opened for the first time, the bare earth has been filled with trees and the whole area has been completely transformed to mimic a snowy paradise. I have spoken to many French friends and they all have said how they adore shopping at these Christmas markets. In glorious sunshine it felt more like spring than mid December as we wandered towards the marché and small skating rink,
looking to our left across the river we were somewhat surprised to see sculptures of icebergs complete with penguins!
This gave us an inkling of what was to come as we entered the Christmas village beside the Roman arch, (the signs we had seen advertised Les Noëls Blancs en Scandinavie).
White matting had been placed all over the cobbles and sprinkled with very pale sand to resemble snow.
The next surprise was a polar bear
and then there was an igloo complete with modern chairs for relaxing – all in white of course
and then more penguins!
We wound our way through the Christmas trees; if you look closely you can see the icebergs on the far side of the river
and we came to the first of the white chalets
each little building sold local specialities and crafts
each one was adorned with the head of a reindeer.
If you visit one of these markets, it’s good to be a little hungry for there are always plenty of refreshments, here they all had a French/Scandinavian flavour; hot mulled wine, hot chocolate with honey and cardamom, and hot orange juice with honey and spices.
and naturally, local homemade patisserie
and a charming florist who saw me taking the photo and stopped and chatted, laughing as she asked if she would be famous!
I so wish you could come here with me and join in the fun, instead I hope this virtual visit has added a little festive cheer to your day. I have to admit we are really enjoying getting into the Christmas spirit, most of all I love the conviviality wherever we go. Tomorrow school finishes. We shall bring our tree indoors and decorate it en famille in the evening. It’s our traditional start to the holidays and I’ll share it with you on Sunday. I can’t wait, I think I’m as excited as the children!
In the meantime if you want to see last year’s tree, I was delighted to be interviewed by Pat at ‘French Country Style from the Foot of the Rockies’, and you can read the post here.
See you on Sunday and have a lovely end to the week. x