For one weekend a year the town of Boulogne-sur-Mer holds its annual Christmas Market and I have to say – it is without doubt, one of the prettiest, most festive and fun Christmas Markets we know.
Held in the old walled town (erected in the 13th Century) of the Imperial City, former home of the Emperor Napoleon, with its pretty squares, magnificent neo-classical architecture and cobbled streets – it’s clear from the moment you enter the ancient and huge gates to the town with their curtains of cascading lights that this is going to be a memorable visit.
The shops are decked with lights, festive wreaths and beautiful ornaments; the little wooden chalets are manned by smiling artisans and sales people and a bit of rain doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm of anyone! The scent of marrons chauds (roasted chestnuts) and vin chaud (mulled red wine) fills the air – especially in the beautiful Rue de Lille. The many shops and bars that line this historic route all put out a table with hot wine in a cauldron and it’s a very merry atmosphere by the time night falls!
At the top end of Rue de Lille is the spectacular Cathedral of Notre Dame, and as dusk falls, the beautiful dome which dominates the skyline of this port town glows with an ambient light. Inside a stage was set for a nativity scene and children stood at the lovely crèche de Santons – this really is a very special place at any time of year.
There was a four man band roaming the street playing festive and happy tunes and close to the Cathedral a rock band churned out Black Sabbath and U2 numbers!
In the Jardins Valentine Hugo a man with a lama and alpaca talked to the children about how the wool is collected and used – the lama was jealous of his giving attention to anyone and constantly tried to stand next to him and stop anyone getting close – much to the amusement of the gathered crowds! There were jugglers and lots of entertainment to keep the kids amused – all free.
Elves skipped and hopped amongst the crowd – holding children up for fantastic photo opportunities, making the kids squeal with delight; the wonderful Chevaliers of Boulogne cantered around on their pretend horses and believe me horse play was the order of the day. When they found I was Anglaise I was pulled into their embrace and then made to repeat phrases which I didn’t remotely understand – I was probably saying things like “I am a boiled egg” or “I like to eat worms”! Whatever it was, it certainly got a good laugh from the huge crowd that seemed to gather!
The lights were beautiful and a son et lumière on the Belfry added to a magical and special atmosphere.
For a really authentic, warm, happy and festive Christmas Market for families and couples – this is hard to beat and comes highly recommended.