Christmas Markets!

The Christmas market is an outdoor market of stalls selling goods and food, often at nighttime, during the weeks of Advent, and originating in Germany. Their popularity has spread all over Europe and even into North America in recent years (heck, even Ottawa started a wee one this year!)

While we certainly plan to make it to a German Christmas market at some point in our 3 years here, we knew it wouldn’t be this year. However, there are many Christmas markets happening not far from us that we thought we’d check out this season.

First off, we did a big one – Bath Christmas Market. The Bath Christmas Market is one of the biggest in the UK, and consistently awarded one of the best in the country (this year being no exception).



Bath is only about 15 miles from Bristol, but as things are in England, it’s a 45 minute car ride or a 45-60 minute train ride. We opted for the train because it’s cheap (£13 round trip for all 3 of us) and then we wouldn’t need to search for parking.

However, we were warned – – – being the most popular market in the country means it’s busy! We originally thought we’d go in the evening, but were told we’d hardly be able to move then, and there’s too many drunk people around. So we changed our plans and decided to go at opening. Good thing, too, because when we left 3 hours later at 1pm, we could hardly move!
(We heard that brawls broke out on later trains because they were so packed and busy… so we’ll stick with going early!)

Our favourite stall – we had to circle back around and return to.

So, we may have missed the ambience of the evening market and the lights, but as none of us like a crowd, we were very happy with our choice. We spent a whack-load of money at the stalls buying gifts and treats for others and ourselves. We enjoyed sampling cheeses, charcuteries, and spreads at many stalls, and drinking thick hot cocoa and mulled wine as we ambled around.

We got freshly made sugar doughnuts that will haunt my dreams until next year – they melted in your mouth…
Grabbed a pizza from a mobile pizza oven along with a cider for lunch. I love that the UK doesn’t limit you to staying in beergardens if you want to buy a drink.
Our pile of shopping on the train ride home.

Overall we just loved the Bath Market. It was easy to get to, a fun morning out shopping, and a feast for the senses.



The next market we went to was a few days later and a bit more local. Okay, a lot more local. The Henleaze Christmas Festival is a one-night affair a few blocks away from us. We live right on the edge of Henleaze neighbourhood in Bristol, and we really love the Henleaze high street to do our shopping and errands.

Nighttime, people moving, etc… and I think I had a sausage in my other hand. Sorry, this is the best photo I got.


Apparently this was the 12th year this festival has been running, and it’s a market of about 30 stalls and 3 blocks long. It was a Wednesday night, so we had to pick Sophie up from gymnastics class at school (2 blocks away) and scuttle over there where it was already fully underway.

Sophie said she saw every kid in her class except 2. We enjoyed the stalls and the music, there were school choirs and children’s entertainers. We didn’t buy much at all because we had just spent so much in Bath, and there really wasn’t anything new. I was a little disappointed, as I would have waited for this festival and bought more locally had I known. Well, next year.

But we enjoyed sampling the cheeses!

We were able to grab dinner at a BBQ stall, get give-aways at local traders (Sophie got a big box of 6 full-sized Cadbury bars at a law office!), and enjoy the whole festival with local cheer. Every time we move, we love being able to find these great things to be proud of in our new home town/ neighbourhood area.


The third market we went to wasn’t much- it was the smallest yet. We stopped in at the Christmas Festival at Sophie’s school on Saturday afternoon. I don’t have photos to show due to privacy for all the children present. But I was very impressed with the school’s ability to put on a festival with crafts, games, music, food, stalls, raffles, and prizes. Most importantly– and this is something so important I think we need to bring it to all Canadian school festivals and parties — there was mulled wine.
Yes… to get through a couple hours at a junior school function with children running amok everywhere, I was able to purchase a warm cuppa mulled wine.
This. Is. Just. Civilised.
Every school Christmas concert really needs to have a cash bar – they’d make a mint for the school!!!! And before you get your panties in a knot, NO, I’m not suggesting anyone get drunk around children. Hell, even put a one-glass maximum if you want. But that one glass really helps a parent get through the screaming children/the children singing off key/the waiting for the 400 children that aren’t yours to finish their part so you can watch your own kid for 2 minutes/the putting up with overzealous parents.
Sure, maybe I’m a curmudgeon, but I’m okay with that. School events need wine. This was the best school event I’ve ever been to.

I’m sorry, I wouldn’t have mentioned the last market, because I didn’t have photos, and it was so small, but it really needed a shout out, just for the wine.

Our tree this year in our new home. (With a few new ornaments this year from our travels and the Bath Christmas Market, too!) – I just wanted to share with you! xx



Well we can’t wait until next year or heck- maybe even the following year, when we can make it to Germany for a Christmas market. Now that we know how fun they are and have had a small taste, we will definitely be putting this on our short list and be aiming to get there!

St. Mary’s Church, Redcliffe

Once upon a time, before cars were around and it took three days to travel from one side to the other of modern-day Bristol, Redcliffe was its own thriving port town next to the busy city of Bristol. History notes that there was a lot of rivalry between these two cities (for age-old reasons too numerous and odd to recite here). However, in 2019 Redcliffe is just a part of Bristol, sort of a neighbourhood area marginated on the edge of the river. We’ve driven through and around the area countless times.

One building Redcliffe is famous for is St. Mary’s Church. Its spire is the tallest building in Bristol (at 90m). While we’ve driven past and admired it many times, we’ve never gone in. I was at a charity shop a few weeks ago and found this awesome ink sketch dated 1940 and picked it up. It now hangs in our front hall.

So now it was on our ‘to-do’ list of places to get to, things to explore.

We learned a lot. St. Mary’s was the church where merchant sailors would began and end their journeys, praying at the shrine of Our Lady of Redcliffe.

John Cabot came to St. Mary’s upon his return from his renowned sail to America where he discovered Newfoundland. (There’s a big main road here called Newfoundland Rd, too). He presented St Mary Redcliffe with a whale bone from his journey. It still hangs there today, 500+ years later.

The whale bone is to the right, directly above Sophie’s head.

Beside Sophie is a statue of Queen Elizabeth I, who visited St Mary’s Redcliffe and described it as “the fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England”.

In 1997, five-hundred years after Cabot first set sail Eastward, a replica of his ship The Matthew sailed from Bristol on the same journey to commemorate it. The crew of the second Matthew gathered at St Mary’s Redcliffe right before they set sail to pray for a safe journey and receive blessing.

Model of The Matthew over the door of the Church

Here’s some photos of this gorgeous gothic church:

Then we stumbled upon a neat science experiment, right there in the Church, The Chaotic Pendulum.

There were a lot of notes about the building through history since it was built, about various wars and conflicts that threatened the entire structure. Most notable was the Bristol Blitz in WWII. Because Bristol was a hub for both aviation and shipping, it was a prime target for the Nazis and was the 5th most heavily bombed British city in the war. St. Mary’s Redcliffe was right on the flight path of the German Luftwaffe and suffered some minor damage.

During one large raid on Good Friday, April 11, 1941, a huge bomb hit only a block away, and a large chunk of tramline was thrown from the blast over the rooftops of nearby houses and landed in the churchyard. It’s been left there since, as a reminder of how close a call the church had and of how senseless war is.

We enjoyed touring St. Mary’s, exploring a little part of our new hometown, and are happy that we’ve now seen the building behind our lovely hallway picture.

PS- Happy Thanksgiving to all those back home in Canada celebrating this weekend! We miss you! We’re doing a roast chicken and all the trimmings this weekend, and I made Nanaimo bars for dessert and to share with the neighbours. Have a fab turkey day!!!

Moving in and moving around

Well we are now officially full-time residents of Churston! Our belongings all arrived in two shipments this week to make for an exhausting few days of unloading, unpacking, and now rearranging.

Our shipping container was packed so tight – they needed to send the last 8 boxes by air!

We still have oodles and oodles of work to do, exercise equipment to put together, spare room to make up into something resembling a room, outdoor furniture to put together, more gardening to do, pictures to hang, garbage to call a disposal company for. . . just endless amounts of work still. However, our beds are together and the kitchen is mostly useable (if not making sense or very tidy, still useable!)

The next step was to go to Trowbridge and pick up our new (to us) car! I’ve been driving all week as practice, knowing that I’d have to drive either the new car or the rental the 1-1/2-hour drive home (on both country roads and motorways) and I think I’m pretty adept at the left-lane driving now. The very narrow roads can still be white-knuckle harrowing but either I’ll get used to them, or I won’t…

Me in our new Peugeot car after I got it safely home 70 miles and parked in the drive.

On the way to Trowbridge to pick up the car, we stopped in a quaint little town, Bradford-on-Avon, for a picnic lunch.

We sat in a park on the river for lunch and those are just medieval buildings behind us.

The river Avon
Just a WWII pillbox we stumbled upon that had been built just after Dunkirk and the English suddenly genuinely fearful of a German invasion. Apparently these pillboxes are scattered all over England and mostly completely overgrown and forgotten.
For your plaque-viewing pleasure.


That’s all. Just a little update on our lives – we’re settling in, learning how to drive, visiting the grocers every day, exploring the neighbourhood and even a little further afield.
Heading off to London next week!

The oldest building Sophie has ever been in

We have been busy this week! We’ve been to our house every day, painting, cleaning, doing yard work, etc. We’ve been all over town running errands such as getting the cell phones active, looking for a car to buy (we found one this morning and put money down!), picking up school uniforms, banking, going to the homes and hardware stores to get things- – – It’s really felt endless!

Today has been the first bit of pure tourism we’ve done- and we visited the Bristol cathedral (our hotel is literally right next door to the cathedral… and we’ve only got there now, after 5 days!).

We were waiting for a service to finish to go in and talking to Sophie about the history and importance of cathedrals across Europe (and this earth, really) and why we’ll be visiting them in almost every city we visit. Then we realised that because this was her first European cathedral, that we could be certain this was the oldest building she has ever stepped foot in.

Bristol Cathedral

Bristol cathedral was consecrated in 1148. That’s old. We found tombs of knights in it from the 1200s.

Most of the stained glass was broken and blown out during the Bristol Blitz early in WWII and the stained glass windows were all re-done after the war. The interesting fact about this is that a series of them shows the at-home heroes of the war – the nurses, St.John Ambulance, Red Cross, Home Guard, etc.

The inscription in the window

So yes, we’ve been ridiculously busy and still jet-lagged (okay, I think I’m the only one still jet-lagged), but while trying to set up our life and home here, we’re still managing to find a few moments here and there to enjoy to beautiful city and country we’re in.

Success!

We have found a home! Our offer to let has been accepted! It is a lovely home in north Bristol, on a very family-friendly road.

One of the things we find so neat about our new home is that it has no street number. It is next door to #1 but our house is left with no number – only a name! We will live at Churston House. This is so quintessentially British and actually exciting to us! (But a total bitch to put into nav systems!)

The house has 3 bedrooms plus a 4th is converted to a dressing room/walk-in wardrobe. There is a large reception room, large hallways, and a conservatory! It is also equipped with most of our Canadian standard-of-living amenities like large kitchen with dishwasher (though a standard small English oven), a chest freezer, and a utility room with sink, washer, and dryer. We can’t wait to live here!

Our house is lovely. It has 2 off-street parking spots, which is rare and a huge plus for this area!
The gardens are so nice! And there’s a garden house (shed-type house we can use as a room – it was an office for the owners)

We’ve sent photos to Sophie to show her the house and her room, and she is so excited to garden and tend to these pretty flowers. Good- I’ll need help! Also, she has a great idea for a colour scheme for her bedroom of white, pink, gold, and black- and there’s a bedroom that has all black lacquered trim (baseboard and window-wells) that will perfectly match her style.
Every time we have a move, she gets to redesign her bedroom with new colours, new blankets, and even some new furniture (in this case, she’s in need of a new dresser). Yes, this is pretty shameless bribery, but it really helps her look forward to a big move and see the bright side of leaving what she knows and loves in order to go on a new adventure!

Speaking of Sophie back at home, they’ve all been doing a wonderful job on her glucose levels. She’s been running a bit higher than normal, but we’re completely fine with that in order to avoid dangerous lows. We’re so thankful for Dexcom and the ability to check in and see how things are going. It also makes caring for Sophie much easier on my parents. What an amazing thing technology can be!!

Now, we’re touring schools in the area and putting in applications. They’re all currently full but we’re hoping some students leave this year and open a spot for Sophie. We’ve also visited the local GP clinic and will be able to register with them just before moving so that we can have an immediate doctor visit upon getting here. We need to make sure Sophie can get a referral to the Paediatric Diabetic Clinic ASAP.

We leave tomorrow to go back to Canada and are so happy we’ve had a successful house hunting trip – got what we needed here in Bristol and Sophie is okay and healthy back home!