Oh, duh. Cologne!

Living abroad away from friends and family for the past two years has been depressing at Christmastime.  We thought it would be fun and exciting, but really, it was lonely.  Our first Christmas here we thought it would be very romantic.  We had ideas of waking up on Christmas morning, renting Barclays Bikes and riding the streets of London on the one day a year when there is no traffic.  We even went to a church service at St. Martin’s in the Field in an attempt to participate in the festivities.  We posted pictures of our fun times, which was deceiving, because we just wanted to be with our friends and family playing music, having Christmas Eve snacks and drinks, and the traditional Christmas night mini-party at our house.   As we celebrated our first London Christmas by making a traditional dinner,  we vowed not to stay in London the following year.  However, when year 2 rolled around, it didn’t make sense once again to buy expensive tickets home.  So instead, we embarked on a two-week long train journey for less than half the price of flying home.  Our first stop was Cologne, Germany.

We expected just to find a nice place to eat dinner and then to sleep for the night, but what we found was a spectacular display of the world’s best Christmas Markets!  Each one was magical.  Even though there were thousands of people around, it felt like we had made a special discovery.  The joy and friendliness at all of the markets was inspiring.  We went to three different markets, each with a different theme.  One was bright and bustling with lights (upper right), one was cosy and green (bottom left), and one was nautical with white sails and was located on the river (not pictured.  I think there were at least five more that we didn’t go to.

The moral of the story is: If you can’t be at home, be at a German Christmas Market.

 

 

 

 

 

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Splish Splash I was Takin’ A Bath

Bath is a city that continues to call us back over and over again.  Not only is it easy to get to from London, Bath features the perfect combination of relaxation, activity, and good food and drink.  One year ago, when we first went to Bath, we stayed in a B&B recommended by Rick Steves.  It was not that great.  In fact, Rick Steves has let us down so many times that I donated his book to the charity shop when we moved last week.  Boo.  We also visited the Roman Baths, went on a walking tour, and ate some really great food.  Here’s what happened on Thanksgiving, one year ago…

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The food in Bath is amazing.  The Blue Quails Deli serves a really nice lunch overlooking the Pulteney Bridge.

 

 

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Acorn Vegetarian, our favorite restaurant anywhere, is the reason we keep returning to Bath.  The waitress there actually changed my life.

 

 

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Not sure why I kept putting this turkey hat on, but the point is that if you go to Bath at Thanksgiving, there is a spectacular Christmas market where you can get staples like mulled wine and mince pies.  Bath is also the sister city of Aix-en-Provence, my French home.  Another good sign!

 

 

IMG_4286 Imagine my surprise when the audio guide at the Roman Baths stated that no one is allowed to bathe in this ancient monument.  My quest for warm water was resolved however when I found out you can pay £39 to spend two hours at the thermae bath spa. Which we did.  And will do again.

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We woke up on Thanksgiving morning and took a free tour of Bath!  The guide was really informative and we saw all of the sights in about two hours.  This is the Royal Crescent.  People live in there.

 

 

 

That was a year ago.  This Thanksgiving we had a nice stay-cation where we baked bread, spent time with friends, and relaxed in our new apartment.  The theme of this year has been “settled.”  Not like the pilgrims “settled” America, but like the way the water settles after after a storm.  We don’t need to rush off on trips every time there is a break, because we live here!  And we’re finally grateful for that.