The Paris Christmas Markets

Although the weather in Belgium has drastically changed, and I am nothing short of freezing - all of the time, - I have to say that the twinkle of the holiday season makes the chilling weather a tad bit more bearable. With the onslaught of winter come the enchanting Christmas markets that seem to suddenly spring up all over Europe. This time last year, Chris and I visited Bruges for the first time; the city sparkled and mystified me. In that instant, I told Chris that I wanted to live in Belgium, and I absolutely had to explore Bruges in every season. He smiled at the twinkle in me eyes and assured me that if ever the opportunity came up he would move me to Belgium. Little did we know that in less than a year, Chris and I would call Belgium home. 

What a year 2012 has been! 

Before heading home for the holidays, we decided to check out as many of the neighboring Christmas markets as possible, and the first festive stop on our agenda - Paris. We spent Thanksgiving weekend in "The City of Light," and below are a few pictures and details of the two markets that were open in late November.

Looking from the Louvre towards the Christmas market on Avenue des Champs-Elysees
From the Louvre, take a lovely stroll towards the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, and there you'll find the largest Christmas market within Paris's city limits. The entire street is illuminated with red and purple lights, and even in the rain, Christmas is in the air. Grab yourself a glass of vin chaud (hot wine/gluhwein) and a hand full of fried churros and perhaps do a little bit of your Christmas shopping. In my opinion, most of the stalls sell similar items: furry hats and expensive gloves, trinkets from Russia, candies and pastries, decorative Christmas ornaments, vin chaud, fried, unhealthy food, and every so often you'll get lucky and find someone selling creative, handmade items.

     - Open: November 16th, 2012 - January 6th, 2013
     - Location: Avenue des Champs-Elysees to the Place de la Concorde
     - Closest Metro Stop: Champs Elysees-Clemenceau or Concorde.


Sinterklaas Came to Town

Sinterklaas chocolates in Belgium. 
Happy Sinterklaas Day from Belgium!

A couple of weeks ago, there was a Sinterklaas parade in Roeselare, and naturally, I assumed that Sinterklaas was the same bearded, red-suit-wearing man that gives gifts to good little boys and girls in America on December 25th. While there are some similarities between Sinterklaas and Santa Claus, they are not the same. As the parade rolled past us, I started to get curious about this Sinterklaas fellow and his funny looking 'elves.' I turned to Chris and said, "Honey, why are all of the elves in the parade black?" To which he replied, "Lana (silly girl), they are not black people, but they are painted black." That confused me even more! Why would they go through all of the trouble to paint themselves black, and what are they supposed to be anyway? They were like no elves I had ever seen before! I was so confused!

I promptly asked our new Belgian friends about Mr. Sinterklaas and his black 'elves.' After much laughter, I received a brief history lesson. . . 


Mom in Belgium!

My wonderful Mom standing outside of our home in Roeselare, Belgium. 
While the expat life is most often exciting and full of adventure, there are a few difficult days that somehow find their way into the mix. The most difficult part for me has been the realization that this is no longer a vacation . . . this is our "life", and now I have to figure out what part I will play in this new chapter. 

After three months in our new home, the initial "newness" has sort of worn off. Of course, there is still so much to explore and learn (like the language), but I've figured out how to "survive" in Roeselare, Belgium. I ride my bike to the grocery store and often over-fill my basket for a shaky ride home, I've learned to carry an umbrella everywhere regardless of the fact that the sun is out when I leave home, I found a second-hand store and a place the sells furniture paint, Chris and I have started to fill our empty apartment and turn it into a home, after quite an ordeal, we found a doctor, and we're almost at the end of a very tedious visa process. Most importantly in this transition period, we have made friends. The weekends that we stay in Belgium are full of dinner parties, parades, Christmas markets, Tupperware parties and get-togethers at our favorite local bar, The Mustache Cafe.