Driving Home for Christmas

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With Christmas fast approaching it was time for us to return home. We had a long drive ahead of us, re-tracing our steps back through the Gran San Bernardo tunnel, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and France before getting back to the UK.

We decided that, in keeping with the season, we should try to spend the night in a German town with a Christmas market. Luckily there was no shortage of Christmas market options, nearly every town in Germany seems to have some option for festive shopping, eating and drinking. I lined up a few options, as it was a Saturday we worried that we wouldn’t find any spaces to park. When we turned up to our first option -the huge stellplatz in Freiburg am Breisgau – we realised it wouldn’t be a problem. The huge parking area must have had room for over a hundred vans and although it was very busy there were still enough parking spots left.

We drove in, got parked up, and then went for a walk to find the facilities. We had managed to park as far as it was possible to be from the water and waste, but we would be able to drive around in the morning to sort everything out.  At the office we paid for our overnight visit and were informed we would need to be out early the following morning as there was a match in the nearby football stadium and the stellplatz would be repurposed for spectator parking. No problem for us as we had a long drive the following day.

The information sheet also gave us transport options for visiting the city centre so we locked up and quickly made our way out to the tram stop. We bought our tickets from the machine on board but were a little perturbed when the tram dropped us a couple of spots from our expected destination. My limited German picked up that there was some sort of demonstration (not difficult as the word is the same in both languages). As we walked the short distance to the city centre we came to a well policed protest march in support of Palestinians impacted by the escalating conflict in the Middle East. The serious issues of death and destruction a stark contrast to the festive jollity in the nearby streets.

Off of the main street, in the alleys and squares of the altstadt, the Christmas Market was already in full swing, and got more boisterous as the sun set. The lights created enough dazzle to direct the eyes away from some of the shoddier sights that accompany a bunch of wooden shacks, and the smells of food and drink filled the air. There was none of the genteel civility of the Aosta market here. Beer was being consumed in massive steins and football chants joined the general background chatter of the hundreds of visitors.

We indulged in a few drinks and tidbits from the many food stalls, enjoying the atmosphere but were not overly impressed by the shopping options. Too many stalls selling the same things you will find in Christmas markets anywhere in Europe.            

After we’d had our fill of wurst and beer we found the tram stop to return to the parking. That night the local ‘Sick Arena’ blasted out some booming bass lines as background noise as we settled down for the night, but it must have finished at a relatively civilised time as we didn’t feel as though we’d lost out on our sleep.

The following day we had a long drive through to Belgium. As we got closer to our stop over in the aire at Han-sur-Lesse (one we have often used) we decided which ferry we wanted to catch.

We ended up travelling with Irish Ferries, a very quiet crossing with a company we’d never used before. I cant say I notice much difference between the various operators, but then we don’t really do much on-board apart from sit and read.

Our early crossing gave us plenty of time to get all the way back home. Our latest adventure was over and it was time to get ready to return to work. Thank goodness we still had Christmas to raise our spirits.

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