The first weekend in December and it seems like the whole of France is gearing up for Christmas. Lights are going on everywhere, swinging Santas are popping up all over the place and, in a small town near me two very special Christmas markets got underway.
Hucqueliers is a small village, nestling in the beautiful countryside of the Seven Valleys, Pas de Calais. For the last eight years, to enhance the Christmas spirit at their annual Marche de Noel, they’ve been holding a Festival des Tartes in the town hall! On Sunday 2nd December I went along to see what it was all about – and of course to try some tart(s)! The morning is dedicated to savoury tarts and the afternoon is all about sweet tarts – tartes aux pommes, tartes aux poires, tartes chocolat etc – for a tart fan this is a bit of tart heaven!
That wasn’t all though, they also had an exhibition of chocolate making – and yes you could eat the chocolate! – and bread making put together by local artisan bakers – I can’t tell you how divine the bread smells were!
The little Christmas chalets set up in the village square were filled with local businesses selling regional produce – fabulous goat’s cheese, beautiful cakes, handmade linen goods and ostrich meat and ostrich egg gifts from the local ostrich farm which I can’t wait to visit!
After that it was on to Montreuil-sur-Mer, one of my favourite towns in this part of France. Hannah France, an expat Brit who lives in Montreuil held an Artisans Christmas Market in her beautiful home – a magnificent 18th Century Hotel Paticulier.
It’s the fifth year she’s organised this event and it has become hugely popular. Visitors can buy unique hand-made gifts at really reasonable prices in a gorgeous setting. There were quilts and beautifully sewn cushions and gifts from local quilting queen Sue Sharp who is well-known for her skill with a needle and thread.
Donna Kerridge from New Zealand/Britain was there with her lovely melted beer and wine bottle designs and gorgeous glass gifts and I’ll be popping to her Christmas shop in her lovely home soon!
Anita Tuttel, a graphics designer who runs Franglais Cards was there with all manner of lovely gifts including some funky clocks she had designed and made; Helen Howard’s knitted dolls and animals were really lovely and her homemade jams left me very envious! Jacqueline Fievez is the Chutney champion in these parts and she had a stall full of chutneys for every taste. Finally Danish artist Mette Regnier was there with her wooden Santas. Where ever you go in this part of France – you will see Mette’s Santa sticks – they’re quirky and unique and we’ve seen them in shops, banks and houses!
Afterwards we couldn’t resist a walk round the ramparts of the citadel of this lovely town. It was one of those glorious cold, crisp December days, blue skies, tiny icicles hanging from the trees, a pale sun hanging on the horizon and casting a golden glow over everything…
So, the Christmas season got off to a great start for me and I’m looking forward to more!