I have another friend stopping by, this time from France, to share a little Christmas in Provence. I'm welcoming Tuula, an American expat living in Provence. She is the author of the beautiful blog and travel site, Belle Provence Travels. On her site, Tuula shares much of magical Provence with us, while discovering out-of-the-way little villages and markets along the way. After meeting her virtually via our blogs, I had the great fortune of meeting Tuula in person during my trip to France in October. It was one of the highlights of my trip. She took me to little villages on hills, outdoor food markets, wine tasting and on several other culinary adventures - all of which you'll be hearing about soon. Today we're talking Christmas, as she shares a day at the Christmas market in Aix-en-Provence - and many of the treats on offer at the market. Enjoy!
Being an American living abroad certainly has its ups & downs, but undoubtedly one of the high points of residing in the beautiful land of France is the chance to experience the Christmas season... à la française.
What France may lack in splashy decorations (believe me, I really do miss my sparkly, pot-bellied Santa from home), it more than makes up for in simple sophistication. Holiday traditions in Provence, as in other French regions, are quite a subdued affair - full of elegant pine trees (les petits sapins), lots of twinkling white lights (think woodsy meets Coco Chanel), and thankfully, a Christmas market in almost every city.
Which brings us to perhaps one of the most quintessentially Provençal cities of all: Aix-en-Provence. It's difficult not to fall under the spell of this charming university town which somehow manages to do "high-brow" and "stone-washed village" all at the same time.
Having visited this southern gem on many an occasion, I can safely say Aix really shines during the holiday season - and nowhere is this more apparent than at the annual Christmas market. This past weekend, I braved the somewhat less-charming holiday crowds to shop the "snowy" chalets lining the main boulevard of Aix: Cours Mirabeau.
Representing not only Provençal specialties, including many of the key ingredients needed to make the famed 13 desserts of Christmas, the market was filled with traditional French favorites. Chocolates of all shapes & sizes, macarons, cookies (navettes from Marseille & calissons from Aix), mulled wine (vin chaud), and gingerbread - to be served beneath a huge slab of fois gras, of course.
This is a French Christmas after all...no skimping on taste or quality by any means. And if you ever happen to be this far dans le sud (in the south), you may just want to check out the Christmas market in my town. Oyster bar anyone?
*All photos in this post are courtesy of Tuula - Belle Provence Travels
Paris Christmas Market: La Defense - Belle Provence Travels
A Day at the Market with Chef Kathy - Belle Provence Travels