I didn’t decorate our home for Christmas this year. No wreaths, no tree, not even Christmas lights. Nothing. I just haven’t really felt in the mood. Truth be told, it’s been rather hard for me or my husband to get “in the holiday spirit” lately.
Next week will be the first Christmas my husband and I have spent together without getting to see any family. It’s not how we originally planned it, but it is what it is. I’ve spent holidays thousands of miles apart from my family before, while I was in grad school off doing field work for my research – but those times I knew when I’d be back home, and the situation was very temporary. We’ve really become rather accustomed to our lives here over the past year, but by far the suckiest part is not having our family around. And just because I’ve spent Christmas away from family before doesn’t mean it gets any easier the next time (or the time after that).
To cure our holiday funk, last weekend we took advantage of one of those rare sunny weekend days en Suisse (seriously it’s rained/snowed almost every weekend straight for like forever lately) and decided to tour around the Marché de Noël in Montreux. I’ve heard tales about the fabulous Christmas markets in Europe but this was our first experience amongst all of the hustle and bustle that is a traditional holiday past-time here
The candy, omg. Nougat in all flavors and colors, and caramels, taffy, almond brittle, confections I’ve never even seen before. But my favorite were definitely the caramels – that rum raisin flavor?? Totally the best one ever. I loved them not only for the flavors, but for the texture. They were pliable and chewy, yet lingered on the tongue the way only caramels can. More like a cross between nougat, caramel, and fudge all in one tender soft mouthful. And if it weren’t for caramels, nougat might just be the best candy on earth – especially with pistachios, though all the almond flavors were certainly delightful as well. There’s something about the pull against your teeth when you bite one – and the unexpected marshmellowy texture as it dissolves onto your lips, leaving you licking every last remnant so as not to waste even the tiniest morsel of the precious stuff. It’s enough to make you forget that you just paid 4 CHF for that tiny 4oz. cup of vin chaud you’re holding between your almost numbed hands.
And even better? My gluten free husband enjoyed every single bit of it The mere sight of the endless stands of candy instantly transformed him to a 5 year old (what can I say, he really is a kid at heart).
Do you feel 5 years old yet? You would if you were there in person. It’s exhilarating to see all that beautiful candy in one place, all the bright colors make a vibrant rainbow feast of sugar for the eyes.
And if you don’t have a sweet tooth, there are certainly other pleasures as well – one of my favorites being les châtaignes, because chestnuts roasting over hot coals are the pure definition of comfort. I’ve roasted my own chestnuts enough to know that it’s a pain in the petootie to peel them all by hand, and I’m perfectly content with paying for fresh roasted ones that I can dive right into – now it is my turn to turn into a little kid!
We passed the rows of stands selling artisan crafts, resisting the urge to purchase any of the hand made artwork – wood carvings, painted glass ornaments, paintings, so much stunning craftsmanship in one place, it was overwhelming really. Ha what am I saying of course I couldn’t resist!! I got the coolest cutting board ever. Don’t worry, I’m sure that cutting board will play a starring role in several of my next photos here, you’ll get to see it soon enough.
For now I need to be patient so my husband can wrap a pretty bow around it and I can pretend I am surprised when he gives it to me on Christmas morning. We’re awful about keeping surprises, so we don’t - but that doesn’t mean we don’t like to unwrap presents throwing paper in the air ripping it into a million pieces with wonton abandon only for the bits of paper to rain back down as tiny festive confetti from time to time.
For lunch, it was grilled saussice de veau enjoyed sitting out on the dock – one view was the massive crowd and festivities of the marché, the other the peaceful serenity of Lac Léman.
And dessert? Well since we technically had dessert before we ever found lunch, we decided we were probably done for a while, at least when it came to food. We strolled along the lakeside, our vain attempt to burn off the delicious calories we had just indulged, and let the sunbeams glistening between the clouds over the mountains bring us into a zen like state of calm.
I think I found my holiday spirit. It’s in tasty food, new traditions, friendly people, and as always, the incredible Swiss landscape.