Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: christmas

Prague and its Christmas

Prague is one of those places that was on my “must-go” list of European travel destinations. I don’t know what it is that appealed to me about this city, but the way I discovered the name of the city was through a Mandarin pop song that was released 12 years ago. The literal translation of the song is “Prague Public Square”, and it was sung by Jolin Tsai, a Taiwanese pop artist. When I first heard the song on the radio, I was hooked on its unique style and arrangement, but that doesn’t surprise me now that I know that the melody was written and arranged by Jay Chou. Anyway, we’re not here to talk about music right now. As a 15-year-old kid, the word “Prague” became etched on my mind and when I discovered that it was the capital city of Czech Republic, I was determined to visit it one day. That one day didn’t arrive until almost 12 years later, which brings us to last Christmas.

Ah, yes, Christmas, a magical time. Of course a perfect time for some solo travel too, maybe? As I didn’t manage to find company, I went alone because I wasn’t about to let the lack of a companion stop me from finally going to that place in the song and finding the “Prague Public Square”, if such a place really existed. Prague evaded my plans for two Christmas holidays in a row. I could have gone in 2012, but unexpected circumstances meant that I went to northwestern France instead. Then when my dad visited me in Europe in December 2013, we chose Italy out of several potential options of which Prague was one. So after two tries, nothing was going to stop me from spending my Christmas in Prague in 2014. And one all by myself? Why not?

Perhaps a place with the exact name “Prague Public Square” doesn’t exist in Prague, but there are many public squares in Prague and the Old Town Square is definitely the most well known. The Gothic Týn Church (perhaps the one that Jolin sang about in her song) with a luminous glow while a Christmas tree shone in the centre of the square. The Týn Church was really something, kinda made me think that it was the castle of an evil overlord once upon a time. And the fairy tales begin here…

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Glasgow loves Christmas

The Christmas holidays are approaching and since mid-November, the city of Glasgow has been wrapped in Christmas spirit. I will not be spending Christmas in Glasgow this year, and so I took advantage of the festive activities featured in the Glasgow Loves Christmas events taking place over the weeks before the holidays themselves. A trip to the city centre is always a better alternative than staying at home during the weekend – and yes, I’ve moved! More on that in another post…maybe.

It is unfortunate that the true meaning behind Christmas is often forgotten and smothered by the commercialization of the holidays – Santa Claus, reindeer, Christmas trees, Christmas shopping, Christmas lights…the list goes on. Despite this, I don’t deny that the festive atmosphere is a source of warmth for the chilly winter days, and I can’t help but to immerse myself in the celebrations, all the while reminding myself that on this day, the Saviour was born.

Every fair/carnival has to have a Ferris wheel, and the one at George Square is no exception. The last time I went on a Ferris wheel was almost two years ago in Bordeaux, and while viewing a city from the high point of a Ferris wheel was amazing, the HIGH part was a bit more thrilling than I would have liked. There was also a merry-go-round (not shown in photo) at the fair in Glasgow, and for some reason I’ve wanted to ride on a merry-go-round for years now but haven’t found anyone to accompany me. Somehow I just wanted to relive my childhood on a merry-go-round, out of all the children’s rides…for no particular reason. Anyone in Glasgow want to volunteer to go with me? 😛

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Christmas with chef in Tarbes

Christmas 2013 was spent in an unlikely location. Not a winter wonderland like northern Europe, not a mysterious realm like eastern Europe, and not a warm paradise like Spain or Italy. On Christmas, I went to Tarbes. To say goodbye.

I bet most people don’t know where Tarbes is. Heck, I wouldn’t even know where Tarbes was unless I had a friend studying there. So, Tarbes is a small town located in southwestern France, almost at the border between France and Spain, right by the Pyrenees mountain ranges. It isn’t really known for tourism, unless you’re interested in skiing in the nearby Pyrenees. Yet, the reason why I went to Tarbes for Christmas wasn’t to undertake some extravagant travel for the holiday season. Just the opposite, in fact. I would spend the few days after Christmas in this tranquil little town, relaxing and catching up with my “chef” with whom I traveled in Switzerland and Belgium in 2012. It had been almost another 8 months since I last saw chef briefly in an unexpected encounter in Brussels, and how glad I was to see my dear friend again in his city 😉

(I really regret not taking more photos of Tarbes. It’s a typical French town, but I especially loved its river, its lake, and the mountains that sometimes seemed RIGHT in front of you. Too bad I forgot to bring my camera during our long stroll on day 1 and missed out on the photo opportunities 😦 😦 😦 )

I stayed at chef’s apartment during my visit and upon entering the small flat, realized that chef and his friends were preparing for a Chinese hot pot dinner which happened to be on the night of my arrival (Christmas night). Now, I’ve eaten plenty of Christmas meals at various gatherings before this, and I’m sure my weight is increasing exponentially this holiday season…but hey! It’s worth it, right? And hot pot on a cold, rainy night? Couldn’t be more perfect. Apparently it rains more in Tarbes than it does in Bordeaux, says chef. Gah, we already have enough rain in Bordeaux. How do you put up with MORE?

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It’s Christmas time!

Christmas is the time of giving and gathering, a time of being joyful and thankful, a time of celebrating the reason why we should be joyful and thankful. 2012 years ago, the one and only God came to this world as a man, a humble king who would die for the atonement of our sins. Because He came, we are free, and today, we gather to sing His praises and celebrate His wonders.

Throughout the years, Christmas has become such a commercialized holiday that many people have forgotten its true meaning. The other day my sister asked me what presents I got, and while I said none, she replied in surprised, “How could you not get presents? It’s CHRISTMAS?” A bit ironic, isn’t it? Because it is Christmas, I should be getting presents? Is Christmas all about putting presents under the tree, waiting for Santa Claus, and singing carols? Among the dazzling lights and cheering crowds, who remembers the real Christmas story?

Regardless of the way we perceive Christmas, it is a time where joy is present in the air. Bordeaux, of course, lacks no Christmas spirit. Although it is rain instead of snow that covers the city, Bordeaux dances in its own beauty even in the rain. Although our Christmas market isn’t as grand as the ones in Paris or Strasbourg or Cologne, the crowds are not to be belittled. Although I am far from my home in Canada, I found a family here with whom I could share the peace and joy that was blessed upon me 😉

So you wonder if Santa Claus really exists. Did you know that Santa Claus is really…a thief? Yep, that’s right. Santa Claus was caught in action in Saint-Émilion! There was a big “attention au chien” (“beware of dog”) sign in front of this house, but I guess the dog somehow missed the stealthy Mr.Claus…

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Copenhagen, the beginning of a Scandinavian winter

The first trip to a Scandinavian country happened last weekend with Denmark as the destination. It was a choice between Copenhagen, Denmark and Strasbourg, France for travel buddy Ara and I, but taking into account cost (flight and accommodation, we didn’t know we were in for a surprise in Denmark) and exoticism, we went for Copenhagen. It would have been cool to see the famous Christmas markets in Strasbourg too, but they’re exactly why the reason why train tickets and hotel prices are jacked up, probably. Oh well, I’ll have my chance for Strasbourg again.

Actually, I always thought Scandinavia is Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Makes sense, no? The three long countries in northern Europe…turns out it was a geography lesson learned for me as I found out Denmark, not Finland, is part of Scandinavia. The four countries, plus Iceland, are the Nordic countries. Ah, terminology!

A few observations on Denmark or well, Danish people in particular. (1) Danish people speak excellent English, almost without an accent (“not quite British, not quite American” as mentioned in this entry). (2) Danish people are extremely friendly, so friendly that it warms up even a bleak winter. (3) Danish guys are quite hot ^_^ One of my colleagues suggested that it was necessary to offset the cold temperature in Denmark. Very likely, my friend. Good hypothesis 😉

Denmark is one of those mysterious countries that I knew nothing about before going. With the mindset of “not knowing anything and counting on finding out more when we get there”, Ara and I headed into Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, on a delayed flight, and the story begins. (Click for Copenhagen album on Facebook.)

I gotta start this post with my favourite photo of the trip, taken at Nyhavn, or “New Harbour” in central Copenhagen right after we arrived. The canal area, surrounded by colourful façades and boats on both sides, is gorgeous during the day but stunningly beautiful when reflected in the water during the night. Thankfully the wind and snow didn’t hit until day 2, so the water was calm enough to give us this scene!

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