Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market, the nightlife rendition...
The Christmas markets on this side of the globe are world renown. People come from all over to enjoy them. Our local paper has advertisements from tourist agencies..."Christmas Market holiday weekends...by bus or train". People gather friends and family and make it an event; so when I heard Birmingham has THE largest German Christmas market outside Germany and Austria...you already know that this gal would have to be right in the thick of it. I asked a few local mom friends what to expect and I was told to get a babysitter and make an evening out of it, so that's exactly what we did (the first go 'round). Our friends from Ireland were still with us from Thanksgiving, so we surprised them with champagne and train tickets to destination unknown. It was so awesome to literally walk out of the train station and BAM!... Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market in all it's glory. It was hustle, bustle; people were every where. We met people from Wales, Austria, Germany, France, and those who had driven from all over England just to be in the Christmas spirit in which this beautiful scene would transport you. There were twinkling lights on every corner stringing from building to building, lining the side streets of the market. The German shop vendors were ACTUALLY from Frankfurt and their stalls were ornately decorated with gingerbread, candles, furs, Christmas villages, mead, you name it. You could see Santa climbing down the chimneys, train displays, a building turned into a life size advent calendar, and let's don't forget singing Santa. (Toto...I don't think we're in Wolverhampton anymore!) The rumors were true; Birmingham knows how to do Christmas.
(Below: Champagne on a train!! And yes, we did borrow the kid's Ikea cups.)
(Above: Our first glimpse of the German Market.)
Now granted, this place was ridiculously crowded, but after a bottle of champagne on an empty stomach...we really couldn't have cared less.
Our first stop was for the weissbeer and the stuffed pretzels, and keeping with the Thanksgiving theme I had the turkey, cranberry and brie stuffed pretzel. You talk about AH-MAZ-ING! I thought my mouth was going to explode with happiness.
(Above: My first stuffed pretzel.)
We ate and drank our way through the entire market...oh, the ladies honestly did have the intention of Christmas shopping, but when you're with your husbands and there are 2 pint beers to be had...shopping was a far off dream. Chelsea and I didn't complain though. We had our pretzels, our beers, glühwein, schnitzel sandwich with chips (that's french fries for all my fellow American friends), candied nuts, topped off by a bottle of Cava...and who knows what else after that.
I learned three very valuable lessons that night.
1) When at a Christmas market, do take time to stop and enjoy the authentic German singing Santa.
2) Talk to people! Always make friends in the line for the ladie's restroom. You never know when a public toilet may not have toilet paper, and your new friend might just have a tissue you could use. Because after champagne and 2 pint beers, you ARE going to need to use the toilet.
(Above: My new potty buddy!)
You see the woman in the background...that's the face of a woman without a potty line buddy.
**"A simple hello could lead to a million things!" - Author Unknown
3) When heading home on a train, and no car is required...finish the night off like a boss.
We absolutely loved our nightlife experience at the German market, but we really wanted to see what it would have to offer during the day and I really did want to Christmas shop...we made a point to go back the next weekend, with the kids. Our little guys are amazing...they can handle pretty much any crazy situation...or so we like to think.
Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market, the daytime rendition...
After visiting at night, I could completely understand as to why our British friends recommended it to be a parent's night out. It's beautiful at night, and kids are very welcome, but there were so many people that our boys would have been totally overwhelmed. As one of the first to enter the market in the morning at opening time though, it was still crowded, but much more manageable with toddlers.
There's just something about shopping outdoors that gets me excited. I grew up shopping in the American suburb indoor shopping mall, so if and when I get the chance to spend some cash while outside...I'm all over it! These Christmas vendors didn't even know what hit 'em, I was really glad I waited to do my Christmas shopping here. There was such a wonderful array of goodies. We loved the opportunity to pick up a few unique gifts to give to our loved ones back in Texas.
Traveling with little ones isn't always easy, the hubs and I definitely thought the kids would have a wonderful day out. There were frankfurters (hot dogs), candy of every kind, singing Santa (can you tell I love this guy?!?), games, and a carousel. What kid wouldn't be thrilled about those things? But with our kids, who knows what mood you'll get. I think we had a sweet spot for about an hour, and then they hit their melting point. We all argued while shopping, my youngest had a MASSIVE tantrum while riding the carousel (exhibit A):
...so we decided we had had enough fun for the day, and after an hour and a half, we called it quits and headed for the train home. But while in the Birmingham train station, we came across a choir singing Christmas carols to raise money for a local hospice in the area. The boys were mesmerized. We all stopped and took a minute to listen while hundreds of people just passed right by. While sitting on my knee, my oldest started whispering questions in my ear about why the carolers were singing and what was Christmas at a hospice like. Then it seemed to all smack us in the face at the same time, that all this rushing, arguing and tantrums, isn't what Christmas is all about...it's about slowing down, helping others, caring for each other and remembering the "Reason for the Season" (I know it's cheesy, but I love it). It was kind of our National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation ah-ha moment! Dragging my family from one fantastic travel destination or event is stressful. It takes a huge amount of planning (nap schedules, logistics, packing kid essentials, snacks, yada yada yada), but one day, I I know I'll look back on all these family moments, and cherish every last fit. This is my Dubiton Vacation and these guys are my kind of crazy!