They’re a growing trend in the States, but a staple of Christmas in Europe. A Christmas Market is pretty much what it sounds like:
Markets. At Christmas.
Each year, for about a month before Yule, many towns and cities across the continent set up makeshift marketplaces in their center squares, with food, drinks of all kind, and Christmas-themed trinkets. Lights are just part of the show, including those that adorn buildings and churches (see below). Larger Christmas markets usually have ice skating rinks set up in the middle of them.
Roasted chestnuts are some of the favorites, along with Glühweinand well-decorated cookies. Of course, if that’s not your thing, there’s plenty of other local eats, depending on the country. We’ve visited a number of Christmas markets in Western Europe and found Germany and Belgium host some of the most elaborate ones (perfect places to get chocolate-covered Belgian waffles!). Although we haven’t made it to Switzerland yet, we’ve heard the Christmas Market in Zurich is by far the best anywhere.
And then there’s the Christmas trees. Europe really takes their Christmas trees seriously, putting the one at Rockefeller Plaza to shame.
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We spent a lot of time in California this summer, sometimes just taking in the surf. But as we cruised through the Bay Area, we had to stop at Nini’s Coffee Shop in San Mateo, our second time here. San Mateo has already proven to be a neat place, especially with our stop at a vintage record store.
So what makes this corner diner a real dish? It’s Nini’s!! Everyone knows that. The inside courtyard and all its out-of-place-yet-good-fit-for-this-place decorations always entertain. From street signs to statues, a fire hydrant and even a Texaco fuel pump (we’ve seen those before), you could say that Nini’s doubles as an unofficial museum. Never a dull moment.
And the food is fantastic! It’s a great place to unwind and take in the nice California breeze. Nini’s has been around forever, and judging by how busy it always is when we visit, it’s not going anywhere.
While we’re on the subject of Mark Twain, whose final resting place we visited last week, we also wanted to talk about how popular he was, well, everywhere. A real American legend, his time in the West cannot be understated. He spent a considerable amount of that time in Nevada, so it’s no surprise his image still lives on there to this day.
Enter the Mark Twain Casino & Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada. We discovered this place after our visit to the Republic of Molossia. Virginia City is an “Old West” town. Despite being a modern place where people live and go about their lives, it does an excellent job of preserving its heritage and historical image, complete with old-style boardwalks. The Twain Saloon is rich in historical relics, too; it’s a great place to settle down after a long day, have a drink, and enjoy the sunset. Coming into town late? That’s OK–it’s open 24 hours.
The Saloon does a great job of blending historical pieces and details–like an antique cash register and chandeliers–with modern amenities. The Old West of Americana lives on here!
There’s Greek Food at Pike Place Market. Go West, Young Ones.
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We know, we know…Seattle’s Pike Place Market is a mainstream tourist attraction that everyone knows about. But we’re focusing on what’s right across the street from the famous flying fish at the Farmers Markets: Mr. D’s Greek Delicacies.
Greek food might not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering eating options in Seattle, but trust us: this place is fantastic. Maybe it’s our East Coaster fondness of no sit-down, made to order street food that had us entranced, but it reminded us of home. This gyro sure tasted like the real thing. But should you desire to avoid the Market, complete with the famous gum wall, you’ll be missing out on some fantastic cuisine. And come one, it’s a staple of Seattle, you can’t not go! So treat yourself and enjoy the show. Flying fish below, for your entertainment.
Looking for something fresh? How about just a sample? Tapas? Atmosphere? Mercado San Miguel in Madrid has just that!
We don’t really know what drew us to Madrid’s Market of San Miguel. As far as offbeat attractions go, it’s not like it’s hard to find, since it’s in the center of the city, near Plaza Mayor. But the chic iron and glass structure—recently renovated since our first visit to Spain in 2008—called out to us.
Maybe it was the oversized saw tooth fish on ice that was smiling at us (see above), or the casual European atmosphere at the height of the Spanish summer, but San Miguel is a good stop for something different and relaxing, especially if you came a long way like we did. We didn’t eat anything.
We didn’t buy anything. We just explored. Sometimes that all you need to do to experience a place. It just works. And for all you hardcore foodies out there, this might just be your version of heaven. Enjoy!