After Barcelona, the week passed very fast–so fast in fact that as Colleen arrived Wednesday evening, it felt like that was the beginning of the weekend. It was great because it took me back to my first few weeks here as I got to be a tourist all over again. I took Colleen through the city, and though we didn’t explore too many of the sites here, we walked for hours through the city and around the Christmas markets, which had started up this weekend.
As we had all missed Thanksgiving at home, those Georgetown students who were here for the weekend got together on Friday afternoon to cook Thanksgiving dinner for us and the host family whose house we used. I was put in charge of the salad (artisan lettuce, arugula, pears, goat cheese, and candied walnuts) and the sweet potato casserole, which all turned out great, and I look forward to making it again for my parents when I have a 2nd Thanksgiving dinner over winter break. In addition, the host family ordered the turkey, but we also made mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and apple pie. Everything was delicious, and it made me look forward to cooking again–so much so that I already started compiling a list of French foods I plan on trying to make when I’m home.
While we were waiting for some of the food to cook, we took a break to watch the lighting ceremony in Strasbourg during which they had a little concert and at the end, lit up all the lights they had been installing for the past several weeks in the city. Though the spectacle before was a little dull, and the commentator kept drawing it out, seeing the lights light up for the first time with a puff of confetti was worth it. Though it doesn’t quite feel like winter yet (we’ve had abnormally warm weather this weekend), it did get us excited for the Christmas season and got us hoping for some snow.
On Saturday, we spent the entire day walking through the Christmas markets. There are a dozen different ones set up in squares throughout the city, but they are all within a 5 minute walk from my apartment. So convenient, yet also swarming with tourists already. We heard that this weekend and the weekend after will be ok, but after that, there will be so many people coming to the Christmas markets that you can barely move. However, we were there early enough, that we got to see everything. There are several stores selling Christmas Alsatian specialties, from bredel cookies and beignets to spaetzel and choucroute (sauerkraut) and hot wine in addition to the other stalls selling Christmas ornaments, wooden carvings, candles, soaps, scarfs, and on and on. Of course, we were more interested in the foods (and I already started making a list of all the foods I plan on buying on my last week here so I can bring back home), and we filled our stomachs with bretzels and beignets and even a bowl of choucroute with sausage and potatoes.
After several hours of exploring each market, we made our way to Place Kleber in the evening to watch the lighting of the Christmas tree and a ballet performance put on by the host country this year, Georgia. Though there were so many people that we could barely see anything, we got to see the light show and the sudden illumination of the Christmas tree. The streets were so crowded with people, that we began to wonder where all these people had come from. Of course with the Christmas markets as the attraction, there were more people, but it was incredible that it could go from the night before when I would literally be the only one walking on the streets to that night when there were so many people you could only shuffle down the streets. We would have at least expected to see when all these people had arrived, or some sign of where they were staying. Regardless, I’m glad to have gotten a fill of the Christmas markets before they got too crowded, though I will have to brave the huge crowds the week before Christmas to get my goods I want to bring home. I hope my parents will be ready for lots of random French food products.