Les Marchés de Noël

Marché de Niort - Opening Night

Marché de Niort – Opening Night

Les marchés de Noël, or Christmas markets, are an important part of Christmas in France, and in many other European countries as well. In France, the markets generally open in the beginning of December and run until Christmas, although some are only open certain days.

Many towns and cities of all sizes host Christmas markets. One of the biggest markets is held in Strasbourg, which is also the longest-running Christmas market; it has been held annually since about 1570. The biggest is in île-de-France.

Even in my little city of Niort there is a Christmas market. It opened on December 7 (which is also coincidentally La Noche de las Velitas in Colombia) with a parade in the town and it was the first day they turned on all of the Christmas lights that illuminate the town. There are also temporary booths set up that sell crafts, hot wine, and crepes, among other treats.

Today I also visited the Christmas market in a town called Coulon, about twenty minutes from Niort. I bought some delicious chocolates and looked at the different arts and crafts. Here are some more photos of the markets in Niort and Coulon:

Parade in Niort

Parade in Niort

Chocolate taste test in Coulon

Chocolate taste test in Coulon

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Lights in Niort

Lights in Niort

Niort Marché de NoelCrepe Booth

 

 

Back in France

I’ve been in Niort, France for just under three weeks, but it feels as though I’ve been here for much longer. I am completely settled in, I have my phone, I set up my bank account, and I began work. I’ve found my regular boulangerie, my grocery store, and my favorite cafe.

It’s been quite a smooth transition, easing into life in France. This isn’t my first time here, and I speak French, so I know that helps. I lived in Cannes, on the Côte d’Azur, for four months in 2008 while I was studying abroad. It was an amazing time, and I’ve always loved France and the French language.

There are some funny little nuances of life here, like the fact that I have a sink in my bedroom and the toilet and shower are each in their own separate rooms in my apartment. Also, stores always close during lunch time, and most places are closed after 7pm and all day Sunday.

Houses along the river in Niort

One of the most notable differences I’ve observed between Niort and Bogotá is the driving. it’s so crazy; people here use the crossways, and drivers always wave the right of way to pedestrians. So even if I’m crossing the street not in a crossway, cars always stop for me. That almost never happens in Bogotá.

So perhaps you may be wondering, Dear Readers, why did I leave Colombia to return to France? One reason is because I want to relearn French. I’ve lost a lot of it after not speaking it for three years and learning Spanish during that time. I understand people just fine when they speak to me, and although I can make myself understood, I struggle to form grammatically correct sentences.

Along with my goal of perfecting my French, I am determined not to lose my Spanish in the process. Luckily, one of my roommates is Spanish, so I’m able to maintain my Spanish by speaking with her, and I’m going to Barcelona for ten days in two weeks.

I also decided to come to France because I was accepted into the Teaching Assistant Program, which is what I am doing here. I work 12 hours a week in two different primary schools, and I teach kids ages 6-11, which is great experience because it’s an age range I haven’t really worked with before.

And finally, how could I pass up an opportunity to live in Europe, with a job that allows me plenty of time to travel and to write? I couldn’t. So even though I sometimes really miss Colombia, I know I can go back someday; I know I made the right decision to come, and I’m really happy that this is what I’m doing now. I love being back in France, one of my favorite countries, and I’m excited to explore new places.

The Long Goodbye

So I’ve left Colombia. I am writing this post from Niort, France, the city I will be living for the next seven months. I left Colombia about three weeks ago, spent some time with my family in Pittsburgh, and then came here.

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