Le Marché de Noël – A day at the Christmas Market en Suisse

by Jenn on December 17, 2010

in Gluten Free,Photography,Tastes

Christmas Market at Montreux

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).

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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 :)

Christmas Market at Montreux

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).

Christmas Market at Montreux

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!

Christmas Market at Montreux

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.

Christmas Market at Montreux

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.


dario ( foodpixels ) December 17, 2010 at 12:27 am

I too will spend Christmas away from the family…. it does suck :(
But what gorgeous pics you managed to get out of rare sunny day! love the sky and the Chateau de Chillon
great atmosphere!

Jenn December 17, 2010 at 8:20 am

Thanks! Yes the Château de Chillon is one of my favorite castles en Suisse :) I hope you enjoy your holiday Dario.

Kerrin @ MyKugelhopf December 17, 2010 at 12:29 am

aha !! so THERE’s all that different flavored nougat you mentioned that i was asking about… ! 😉 YUM to that. i absolutely love nougat, may just be my favorite sweet. (have a thing for cutting boards too, love those olive wood stands at the markets !) and those huge long tables of candy, they pop up here in zurich at every festival. olivier and i are both total kids and fill up little bags of bonbons ! hope all those sweets and chestnuts brightened up the holiday season for you !

Jenn December 17, 2010 at 8:24 am

Yes they certainly did, thanks Kerrin! Ha I’m sure we will be enjoying more candy in the future to come as well :)

Valerie @ City|Life|Eats December 17, 2010 at 12:30 am

So glad you enjoyed a Swiss Christmas market -they are truly lovely. I am sorry about the holiday funk – it is hard to be an expat (I know it from the other side – ie I am in the U.S., parents en Suisse) – also, the gray weather in Lausanne and areas would always get to me right about this time of year even when I was in Switzerland.

Jenn December 17, 2010 at 8:25 am

The area around Lake Geneva has been dismally gray lately…Wish the you best of holidays Valerie!

Jenni December 17, 2010 at 1:07 am

Sorry you are so bummed. It can be really hard to be away from family, especially at the holidays. Glad you found some holiday spirit–and some mulled wine–at the market, though! Looks like loads of fun. And I have to agree with you–caramel is magic! :)

Have a Merry Christmas!!

Jenn December 17, 2010 at 8:26 am

Yes, vin chaud and caramels are indeed magic! Maybe I will make us some vin chaud to celebrate Christmas with…

Cristina, from Buenos Aires to Paris December 17, 2010 at 8:04 am

Amazing pictures!!! I LOVE nougat !!! I could eat tons of it, and for me, it’s the symbol of Xmas…I’ll also spend Xmas away from my family…I DO miss Xmas in Buenos Aires, with the heat, the tables in the gardens…the mood is more festive than here in France….

Jenn December 17, 2010 at 8:28 am

Oh I’d love to see Buenos Aires at Christmastime! Ha for me the cold and snow is a sign of the holidays… I always grew up with a white Christmas…

Rosa December 17, 2010 at 8:24 am

Gorgeous pictures! The Montreux area is just breathtaking.

You are not alone… Since 2003, we celebrate Xmas alone. Try to enjoy each others company and make it a romantic Xmas. Why not go somewhere and do some cocooning.



Jenn December 17, 2010 at 8:28 am

Thanks Rosa! Oh I like your idea of cocooning and making Christmas a romantic getaway!

Kim - Cook It Allergy Free December 18, 2010 at 5:25 am

Jenn, your beautiful post made me a bit sad. I know how hard it is to be apart from family during the holidays. The first year that I did, I was on the verge of tears all Christmas day long. ;( But your little adventure to get into the holiday spirit sounds wonderful! I am glad that it helped you a bit with getting into the spirit. And I cannot wait to see your new cutting board in your gorgeous photos!

Jenn December 18, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Aww thanks!! Yes, I can’t wait to use it too – it’s so pretty!

InTolerantChef December 18, 2010 at 10:24 am

I have the opposite problem, my family don’t celebrate Christmas at all and condem us for doing so, and my in-laws are ‘interesting’. Last year we just had the 4 of our own little family for the first ime ever and it was the lovliest one ever. This year we are back with the in-laws but will do our own thing on Christmas eve or Boxing day. It did take me quite a few years to reconcile myself to the fact that I didn’t need the rest of extended family to make it special though, and I would be really weepy and sad. Now I just enjoy it all quietly and have fun makeing new memories and tradditions with us 4.

Jenn December 18, 2010 at 11:40 pm

New traditions can be fun – we are definitely creating some new traditions for ourselves this year!

Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite December 19, 2010 at 6:14 am

What a(nother) stunning post Jenn. I always loved those Christmas markets and am hoping for one here somewhere in Mexico, but it’s a long shot. Thanks for bringing a little bit of Europe to me!

Jenn December 19, 2010 at 10:15 am

Oh thank you Mardi – enjoy your Christmas in Mexico!

Katie December 19, 2010 at 1:26 pm

One does have to work a bit at the Christmas spirit as an expat…. We’ve been here for 15 years and get back to family every 5th Christmas (or so). We have our own, new traditions, now – and one is the Christmas markets. They are SO much better in Germany, Austria and I now see, Switzerland. The candy stalls are always wonderful – but I really like the chestnuts. In Spain they roast sweet potatoes, too.

Jenn December 19, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Oh roasted sweet potatoes would be lovely for the chilly wintery days! I will definitely have to visit more Christmas markets the future for sure :)

Valerie December 21, 2010 at 1:10 am

Beautiful market shots. The pink and pale blue nougat side by side… gorgeous. Merry Christmas!

Jenn December 21, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Thank you!

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