12/24/2015

A Strasbourg Christmas


I wasn't planning on making another Christmas decoration post
but I had an unexpected chance to take a trip up to Strasbourg this week.
 As I have mentioned before,
 Strasbourg has a huge Christmas market every year 
that draws huge crowds of people. 
We didn't go to visit the Christmas market though,
 we instead wandered the streets away from the markets 
and only came close a few times.
 One of the wonderful things about Strasbourg at Christmas 
is the beautiful decorations that shop owners put above their shops.
 They are often very elaborate beautiful Christmas scenes 
and I strove to capture as many of these as possible 
so I could bring them to you today.
 I don't have much else to say,
these pictures speak for themselves.
 Enjoy some beautiful scenes from Strasbourg, France 
as you celebrate your holidays near and far. 
I wish you peace and joy in this holiday season!
12/15/2015

Marché de Noël




In the region of Alsace here in France, Christmas is a big deal. 
The market in Strasbourg is considered one of the most famous markets in the world.
 It draws around 2 million visitors each year, 
some of them booking their hotel a year in advance.



It is also one of the oldest markets, 
history showing they have been happening since  around 1570. 
Seeing as how they brought in around 16 million euros in profit last year just in Strasbourg you can probably understand why they are so vital to the cities and towns in this region.


 It seems that every town or village of note has a market these days
 and they all draw their own crowd. 
Places you can park in most of the year are suddenly cordoned off. 
Pay parks are set up and the people descend down upon Alsace in hoards.  



This year I was able to visit three different towns to see their marché de noël: 
Mulhouse, Colmar and Kaysersberg. 
They were in high alert since the bomb threat to the Strasbourg Market in 2000 
followed by the attacks in Paris this year.
 I saw many an officer walking around with a machine gun in his hand. I didn't mind though. Hopefully that made things a little safer. 

Kitty sleeping in the Nativity
I visited quite early this year. 
Going to Colmar the first weekend and Kaysersberg on the second. 



 It's really the only way to visit without being crushed by the crowd. 
It made a big difference in how much I enjoyed them. 



The first year in Strasbourg we went near Christmas 
and we could barely weave our way between the stands. 
I loved it though so vowed to try and return at a better time. 
This year I did it right. 



There are stands for all kinds of goodies set up.
 Candies and traditional Alsatian Christmas cookies, 



Christmas ornaments...



all sorts of ideas for gifts
 and of course the many spiced wine stands 
and traditional Alsatian food stands dotted throughout the markets.



You can't visit without having at least one glass of hot spiced wine.



There are stands with huge pans 2 foot wide full of choucroute 
and tartiflette, rosti and many other Alsatian specialties offered. 
If you like potatoes and cheese you have found your way to heaven. 

Bretzels!


And then there are the dessert stands. 
Crepes and waffles smothered in nutella and whip cream 
are only the beginning of the offerings there. 



Last but not least, 
there is always at least one guy roasting chestnuts. 
That is a treat you don't want to miss.



My last visit was Mulhouse and their market is much better than in years past.
 They had many new stands and new lights and even a ferris wheel!



Mulhouse is the home of the fabrics museum 
so each year they make a new fabric line just for Christmas
 and use this fabric in the decorations around town. 
This is the current line. 

The Mulhouse Christmas Tree
 I find Christmas here very enchanting and I look forward to it more and more each year. Unfortunately, I wont be decorating our house this year as we leave on Saturday to travel down south and spend the Holidays with Frenchie's family. Next year though I am having a tree and it will be decorated with lots and lots of icicles. I promise!

May this Holiday Season find you in good spirits. 
May you be surrounded by friends and family 
and find much joy in everything...

12/09/2015

The High Road






When we first discovered our house up here on the mountain, our introduction was the road. This long hill to climb to reach the goal. We knew from the start we could not drive up it. Maybe if we owned a little car but not our Vito.



So one of the things we had to decide on before we bought our chalet was were we willing to accept that limitation. We were and we did but I know that life would have been much easier back then if only we could have driven up that hill.



When we bought the chalet it came with a jeep. It was an old ratty jeep but it did go up and down that hill. Now it did make the task easier but it was not a licensed vehicle so anything we hauled in the jeep had to be first loaded onto the van and brought to the bottom of the hill, then unloaded and loaded into the jeep. 



We used it to haul all our earthly possessions up to the house. It was a long hard move.


 I didn't help matters any when I fell down on December 30th landed on the top of my foot and ended up with an ankle that resembles a deformed balloon animal in various shades of green, blue and purple.


 The rest of the moving job rested solely on the back of Frenchie. I'm still not sure how he managed it.  That jeep was our grocery delivery jeep, our firewood hauler and everything else in between.


 It was a sad day when the jeep ran no more and we were forced once again to haul our groceries up the hill by hand. 



Finally this spring we hired a company to redo the driveway. 



They started by grating the whole driveway from top to bottom. They also had to remove some roots and rocks. Just doing that was a great improvement. There were places where the driveway sloped like the mountain and places where it humped in the middle.




Soon it was smooth all the way down.  Then they added the gravel.


Frenchie stuck by our neighbors entrance in one of the two attempts he made to go up the driveway.


Our road is shared by our neighbors and their entrance was where some of the roughest parts were,  The workers smoothed the area and rebuilt their little wall so there were no more worries about the road eroding away in that area. 




Last but not least, they laid pavers down from the garage all the way to the gate entrance. Frenchie chose these beautiful latticed pavers and had them filled with gravel. It provides great traction for the van since, though this is now much smoother, it is still quite steep. What a difference! 



While they were working on the driveway and pouring the concrete at the gate entrance, Frenchie was working away on the terrace, readying it for the work to be done on it later this year. Since the workers were already here pouring concrete, he hired them to also pour the slab for the new patio. 



I couldn't believe the difference in the surface area. Before it was so broken up with different openings that we really didn't benefit much. We hardly used it. Now it is this nice big expanse. Big enough for a table and chairs and an umbrella with room to spare.




This is not the finished product though. We still have many changes to happen out here but that's for another episode about this ever changing chalet in the mountains!





Last but not least, we had the workers remove the huge tree next to the drive.  This was a hard decision for me. Frenchie wanted it gone almost from the beginning but I was stubborn and wanted it to stay. It was such a beautiful tree but even I had to admit that it robbed the house of light all morning and into early afternoon. 





Losing the tree would provide us with the much sought after sun. It was also pointed out to me that the tree was on the edge of a small cliff area. If a storm decided to take the tree down it would take a big chunk out of our driveway also, it might even fall on our house. So even though it was a hard decision, now that it is done I realize it was for the best. We have enjoyed a long sunny summer this year and I also have a new view! 

SO this is just one of the things that happened while I was waiting for my camera. I lost my camera shortly before they finished the project so I went out and took pictures of the finished driveway today.

We have a few other big projects going on that I hope to cover soon. They are all making a HUGE difference in the comfort of this house. I am amazed at the differences here since we first came.

I'll be back soon to fill you in on more. I hope you are all having a joyous December!

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