Even in this part of rural France, one can choose to Christmas shop at the Walmart-type (sans mal) store or virtually shop at Amazon.fr. This probably is how most people do their holiday shopping. But although all the grands magasins are decked with more than enough lights and tinsel, and even though a recent trip to Toys R Us in Bordeaux assured us that les enfants in France covet the same kind of crap, I mean toys, for which American children ask Santa, our rural corner of France offers another option for holiday shopping.
Marchès de Noël are similar to craft fairs hosted by high school booster groups in Reno. We're on the cusp of winter here, with little to do on weekends. (The chateaus and other tourist attractions have shut their portes for the season.) So even though we're not doing the gift-exchange thing this year, we still take the opportunity to brave the cold and browse the booths at the marchès each weekend.
Many vendors offer homemade treats or original arts and crafts. Some sell cards and wrapping paper. If I were in the market for earrings, I'd have hit the jackpot. Instead, today all we buy is a bag of chocolate-covered prunes.
There are A LOT of Brits in this part of France, so it isn't surprising that many of the vendors are britannique. Our friends assure us that Christmas markets are popular in the U.K. But there also are many French vendors, offering items made with their own, talented hands.
There are no big crowds at today's marchè in our neighboring village. But there's color, light and sweet smells. There are friendly artisans eager to talk with us about their wares. There's rich coffee and warm crêpes au caramel salè (salted caramel) to savor.
And, when we get home, we can chow down on some surprisingly delicious pruneaux enrobèes au chocolat. Hey! Don't knock 'em till you've tried 'em!