Without a doubt, winter has arrived for us here in Grenoble! Not just the cold and snow, but the traditions of the holiday season are here to be enjoyed. Journeying down to Place Victor Hugo, le Jardin de Ville, or Place Grenette, you encounter little wooden chalets where artisans offer their wares from des bijoux to chapeaux et bérets to articles en cuir and beyond. Gustatory delights abound as well—our favorite part. There are the crêpes, le chocolats de Noël, tartiflette, pain d’épices, soupe de poisson, and don’t forget the bière pression and des vins apéritifs aux fruits. It is time for the Le Marché de Noël des Montagnes à Grenoble! (Click on the link & then the arrow. Make sure your sound is on.)
Upon our arrival at Place Victor Hugo, we couldn’t resist first trying out some of the offerings at the food booths. I stepped up to a woman ladling a sort of pea soup into a huge bread bowl. The flavor was more delicate than I’ve ever had with pea soup, and it did not have the thickness to which I’m accustomed. But it hit the spot with warmth and deliciousness.
Steve tried the baguette-style sandwich that was loaded with onions and some type of sausage—which may not be as much of a mystery meat as American hot dogs but is still up there. He’s come to appreciate des saucisses (sausages) here, which remind him of meals his grand-mère would make. Other marché attendees around us were enjoying cups of vin chaud (hot mulled wine) at surrounding tables in the welcoming Christmas-decorated tents. We headed out to the lights and activities among the small chalets outside the dining tent after we had fortified ourselves with notre repas (our meal).
Now, we all know what Christmas shopping can be like with kids—not fun for either party. The marché organizers have thought of that and have installed Rendez-Vous Thématiques au Jardin de Ville (Meeting themes in the Jardin de Ville). Because we are in the midst of the French Alps, there is no better option than focusing on snow and mountain sports. Ski exhibitions are presented by the various associations dedicated to the promotion of the sports, along with the protection of the environment and those who use it. Un mur d’escalade had been erected for those who wanted to practice their climbing technique. And a celebrity, Franky Snow, un personnage de bande dessinée humoristique (a cartoon character), who skis and snowboards and does extreme sports, has arrived to “inspire” young snow athletes. In the Jardin de Ville, a small ice rink had been installed where small children can skate and fall in relative safety. Throughout the month there are concerts, parades of lights, ice-sculpting, mimes, magiciens, clowns, and feux d’artifices. Finally, Père Noël will make his appearance for a week before Christmas until la veille de Noël (Christmas Eve) for un Noël féerique (magical Christmas). We’ve decided to return to see him and try to convince him we’ve not been TOO naughty this year!
And just when you thought it was safe to go near the ice…
des bijoux: jewelry
chapeaux et bérets: hats and berets
articles en cuir: leather articles
tartiflette: dish from the Savoie region made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, cream and lardons(cubed pork fat) or smoked salmon and onions.
pain d’épices: honey cake with spices
soupe de poisson: special soup of fish
bière pression: draft beer
des vins apéritifs aux fruits: fruit wine aperitif
un mur d’escalade: climbing wall
un personnage de bande dessinée humoristique: a cartoon character
feux d’artifices: fireworks