Marché de Noël : Narbonne & Carcassonne

                                                                       Recently, I introduced you to Marchè Noël in a small village of approximately 700 people.
In a town like Narbonne or Carcassonne with a population of over 50,000, the Christmas Market is on a grander scale and the items available more varied. There are often rides for the young children and even a giant slide or a temporary ice rink assembled in the town square.
 Both towns are tourist destination in southwestern France in the    Languedoc-Roussillon
Narbonne was the first Roman colony outside of Italy, and was located at the crossroads of the via Domitia, the Roman road linking Italy to Spain. In a future post, we can explore more about the famous via Domitia. While I have not noticed traditional carol groups, the giant puppets wander around the streets of town.
 Carcassonne draws thousands of tourists each year. Carcassonne’s  medieval fortress is a city unto itself. The town of Carcassonne was built up around La Cité and the River Aude. The temporary skating rink is set up in Place Carnot which is the center of Carcassonne and filled with shops and wonderful cafes. While it looks very cold, the ice on the fountain is added for effect. Most likely, you would be comfortable sitting outside with a cafe or hot chocolate. Between the center of town and La Gare (train station) a giant slide is erected and cabins are set up to sell crafts, food, chocolat chaud (hot chocolate), vin chaud (hot spiced wine) and other seasonal and regional delights. Both towns have much to offer and will be visited again in future posts.
Slide in Carcassonne

Marché de Noël

Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them. Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The Christmas Markets (Marché de Noël)  of France vary from city to town and to each village. The smaller the venue, the more you are inclined to find the real treasures made by local artisans.
Sunday was our village Marché and it is for one day only. Larger villages and towns may extend it and if you are in a city they usually begin their festivities in late November through Christmas.
I found some lovely creations from homemade wooden toys and household wares to paté, fromage, saucisses, and fois gras, to knitted sweaters and caps made from mohair supplied by the artist’s own animals. Of course, there are also tables of fresh pastries, and hot and cold foods. A café or glass of wine will wash down the delicacies. There are many of your neighbors on hand and a chance to meet someone new. There is usually a tombola (drawings for prizes) to benefit the group who sponsors the event. Our local marché was to benefit Maison des Jeunes et de la Culture (youth club and arts center). Of course the local football (soccer) team had a booth to raise funds.
The origin of the markets goes back to Alsace and Germany in the 14th century under the name of Marché de Saint Nicolas. Throughout centuries the fête has had numerous changes in its name often linked with the politics of the time. As recent as the late 20th century, cities across Europe founded their own Christmas market with cabins or country cottages in which vendors sell their merchandise. While some of the items are marketing products you could easily purchase in shops, there is still a large number of local artisans with unique and creative items you may not find elsewhere. Numerous cities include attractions such as a transitory skating rink, train or other children’s ride. Whatever you are looking for you just may discover something more.