Saturday, November 26, 2011

Vienna - Christkindlmarkt

Our next trip was to the city Vienna. With only a few days we packed our carry on luggage and flew out from Charles de Gaulle. Arriving late at night without a map we descended from the airport shuttle train into a foggy abyss. We hoped for the best, turned right and walked “tout droit” as the French would say. Luckily we arrived right in front of our hyper modern hotel.

We headed out the next morning map in hand. Although it can be quite cold a real plus to traveling in November and December are the Christmas markets, or in Vienna the Christkindlmarkts. In Vienna there’s not only one Christmas market but SEVERAL, and at least a Christmas booth or two can be spotted at almost anytime. We spent the morning walking around the city center before finding the largest of the Christmas markets in front of the town hall. There we had delicious lunch of Christmaspunch, deep-fried garlic bread, and frankfurters.

That evening we went back to the Christkindlmarkts for a delicious spaetzle dinner. We had thought that the Prater might be within walking distance and headed in its general direction. The foggy abyss manifested itself once again and we only made it as far as the Danube. We turned back towards our hotel stopping in at a wine bar to sample some local wines before calling it a night.

The Foggy Abyss 
The next day we went to the Schoenbrunn Palace home of the famous Hapsburg family.  Although the gardens weren’t blossoming in the November cold, the zoo and large iron and glass greenhouse were very impressive.


We then took the Metro to the historic Prater amusement park where we went on one of Europe’s oldest haunted rides.

That night we went to the popular Figlmueller restaurant for the best schnitzel in Vienna.  After dinner we went back to a few Christkindlmarkts for a last bit of Christmas shopping.

The next morning before we flew home, we went to the Belvedere Palace to see "The Kiss" by Gustav Klimt. It was a great weekend getaway. We didn’t have to worry about missing the Christmaspunch too much though, because the Marché de Noël had started in Arras!

Friday, November 25, 2011


Our last destination together was in the Pyrénées. For as long as I can remember it has been a dream of mine to go see the Saint-Martin-du-Canigou abbey located in the Pyrénées Mountains. When I was a little girl my grandmother had a poster of this abbey and I would stand on the staircase looking at it, imaging what it would be like to walk through its cloisters, gardens, and arcaded terrace.

Not to be overtly sentimental but it was a dream come true and a wonderful thanksgiving weekend. We stayed in our own little getaway, high in a ‘mountain’ of sorts, complete with hot tub and BBQ.  

After settling in at our Gite, the next morning we drove to the base of the Canigou Mountain to make the hike up to the abbey and tour inside its walls. 

That afternoon we also went to the belle Villefranche. Once inside the city walls we were surrounded by stores selling artisanal handcrafted witch ornaments. We discovered the legend of the Villefranche’s witches who would spend the winters in the Grotto caves heated by hot springs. With arrival of spring the villagers would make offerings and celebrate with the witches. Thus the witch in Villefranche is a symbol of goodwill and happiness.

The next day we went to the small seaside town of Collioure to see the Mediterranean one last time. 


It was a wonderful end to a wonderful holiday. Gen and Andrew continued their travels before coming back to Arras for one last good-bye. 

Tu me manques beaucoup!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


After our day trip to Bruges our next destination was Barcelona! Gen and Andrew arrived a day or two before us to make the most of their time. Arriving late at night Andre and I met them at the hotel where we were regaled with their previous day’s adventures snacking on their delicious finds from the Mercato.  Eager to explore the city we headed out the next morning stopping for breakfast at the aforementioned Mercato. Amongst the crowds, colours, noise and mounds of fresh food we found a little bar to sit and enjoy a delicious breakfast of croquetas de jamón, and my all time favorite Spanish coffee; the café bombón!

From the Mercato we walked down to the waterfront. Gen and Andrew were delighted to be presented with a favorite new city past time; aquarium visiting. Andre and I continued walking back into the winding old streets of the historic city. After discovering a bar serving the most delicious sangria we wobbled back to find Gen and Andrew.


We continued eating and drinking our way through Barcelona for the rest of the day and into the evening. We went from tapas in a restaurant to tapas on the terrace of our hotel back to tapas in a restaurant, and somewhere in between we saw Gaudi’s Casa Batlló.

Above left: Hammock on the hotel terrace
Above right: Gaudi's Casa Batlló

The next morning we decided we needed more Gaudi so we walked to the ever famous and forever under construction cathedral. Walking back we also passed by Gaudi’s other famous architectural achievement; La Pedrera.

After lunching again on some tapas we took an afternoon fiesta followed by cava on the hotel terrace before heading out for the ultimate evening of bar hopping in the old city center.

 It was a short visit, but we made the most of it! Our next destination was the Pyrenees…

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Adventure Continues...

After a few days rest in Arras our adventures with Gen and Andrew continued with a day trip to Bruges. We had a wonderful day walking around the historic city center, buying chocolate, and sampling the delicious Belgian beer at the Del Halve Maan brewery.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Une lune de miel avec nous!

This October Gen, Andrew and their good friend Gord came to visit us. They started their holiday in Paris before coming to Arras. With grand adventures in mind Andre rented a car, brought everyone to see the Vimy Memorial before heading out to Normandy. 

We started our road trip with a night in Honfleur. We had a wonderful time, Honfleur is such a beautiful harbour village, and this trip only upstaged our last visit on a count of the food! We had a wonderful morning walking around the harbour, eating French pastries for breakfast before stopping in at a few Calvados boutiques for some early morning samples. 

The Calvados sampling continued into the afternoon as we went to the Château du Breuil distillery. After walking around the grounds we stopped in at the local butcher to get some delicious homemade terrine and other picnic necessities. 

Our final destination was Mont-Saint-Michel. We stayed in a beautiful château, Gord’s amazing find, and upon arriving we were promptly told by the propriétaire, the Count, that that night was THE night to go to Mont-Saint-Michel. So we headed out to see the galloping horse tide that was to come in at the same time as the sun set. 

Not before stopping for foie gras and some stone milled flour from the moulin of course.

The next morning after breakfast in the dinning hall we walked around the château grounds to meet Jacques and Etienne. 


Back on the road to Arras we made a final stop in Étretat to see the famous cliff formations...