Saturday, 31 December 2016

Second Time Around at the Holiday Irvine Park Railroad, Irvine, Southern California

Last year, I wrote about our first visit to the Irvine Park railroad at holiday time, to go to the North Pole. It was a fantasy night for all of us, especially, for my two grandkids who were two and four years old, at the time. This year, my daughter decided to schedule this family, holiday activity once again, and a very curious question was asked by my grandson who is wiser and older at five years old.

Grandson: "Mommy, are we going to the real North Pole?
Mommy: After thinking, quickly replied " We are going to the branch office of the North Pole in Irvine. It is here where Santa sends some of the gifts so they can be delivered to all the children in Orange County."

That was clever, I thought! Convinced, my grandson happily got ready to go.

 The village setting was designed as an old town in the west...

...including a rural bank, a barber shop, more shops, and the train station.

Farm equipment

The house of Mrs. Clause - she comes out to read stories to the kids.

A reminder that Santa is making a list - were you naughty or nice?

 The FAVORITE ACTIVITIES of the Kids at the Park

You can buy a booklet of tickets. Tickets are used to participate in some of the activities, while  there are some that are free.
With a fishing rod, the kids fish out rubber fishes from the buckets submerged in the water...and walk away with a prize as they turn in their catch of the night.

Now, this is a very sugar-rich cookie.

The bounce house -a  great way for exhausting the excess energy of the kids, specially, after eating their decorated cookies.

All are winners in these games.

A maze configured with bales of hay

 Just one, last, quick stop before going to the North Pole.

We are ready for the MAIN EVENT.
It's time to hop into the train.

The train is about to leave as scheduled.

Going faster...passing through the village and the farm acreage... the middle of a distant land...

...heading to the North Pole.
It was a warm evening, with no snow on the ground...
and the almost-full moon was lighting up the night.

Here we are!
On stage... Into the woods to find...
...old man, Santa!
My two grandkids assured Santa that they had been nice.

Mommy and daddy bought the picture with Santa - something to look back to. And when they do, it will surely bring back happy memories.

It's time to HEAD BACK to town.
 Waiting for the return train trip...
 All aboard!

It was another chapter in making beautiful memories for my grandkids. But it seems that we - the adults - were having as much fun just seeing the little ones have an enjoyable time. I can just imagine that one day, in the future, my grandkids will be thinking of ways to make memories for their own families, just as we did.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Les Villages de Noel 2016, Paris, France

It's that time of year again when Christmas markets spring up around the city. In Paris, one of the popular ones opened on the Avenue Champs Elysees,  on November 10, 2016.

 With more than 200 store-chalets to visit,...

from the rond point at the Champs Ulysses,...

all the way to the Place de la Concorde, visitors can walk around...

to shop, eat, drink, and have a good time.

Secured and patrolled, it's a nice setting for singles, couples, and families to come and celebrate the holiday season. it has been set-up with some of the standard features, such as the rides for the children, the ice-skating rink, the restaurants for the big appetites for seasonal foods, and the chalets for the Christmas shopping. Artisanal and handmade products, and goods from around the world are back, with more variety this time.
 Among some of the hand-made, artisanal products are...
Greeting cards
Scented soaps

 Scented soaps made with organic milk

Savon de Marseille - first created as early as in the ninth century, the savon de Marseille, made with olive oils and ash from Mediterranean ash plants, continues to be popularly used for washing linens, cloths, and for use as a complexion soap.

Dried lavender flowers in sachets - perfect as room, closet or drawer deodorizers


A seat-down restaurant serving regional recipes from different parts of France

 A specialty stall serving salmon grilled on a slab of cedar plank

Treat yourself to a sandwich slathered with melted raclette cheese, plain or with a slice of chicken or ham.

 This is a "fromagerie," a cheese shop. with traditional and specialty cheese products made from cow's or goat's milk. Some are colored and flavored with truffles, herbs, and spirits. It is so tempting to try a few if not all.

 Nougat - sold by weight, with nuts, fruits, or with nuts and fruits together

A candy paradise for the kids

 From the delicatessen - cured, dried meats in ham or sausage formats, in traditional formulations, or flavored with other fruit ingredients

Moroccan delights - cookies, pastries and sweets

The French macarons - this is a must-taste French pastry fabrication that is made with almond powder, egg whites, and sugar, as the basic ingredients of the cookies. Then, two pieces are used to sandwich a flavored filling. With each new season, a new flavor is created.  

A NEW ADDITION to the Christmas market...
 The Magic Forest is a big draw for kids and adults for photo ops...
with Père Noël and the other characters in holiday land...

...with some animals in the forest and the ancient past...

and a chance to look like someone else behind these mock-up characters...

At night, the Christmas carols, the scent of chestnuts roasting, and the aroma of food cooking draw in large crowds.
It's the perfect time for a glass of "Glühwein" (mulled wine). This stall is beautifully decorated with the nativity scene, reminding us of the reason for celebrating this season. 

In France, most big Christmas markets, always, have a manger scene. What started out as a celebration of St. Nick's feast, changed to a celebration of the Infant Jesus during the Reformation in Northern France, patterned after the Christkindelmarket.

This is the longest running Christmas market, it seems. After the holidays, you have the new year - up to January 10, 2017, to spend some of your wintry days at the Champs Elysee's Les Villages de Noel. 

May I wish you a hopeful and prosperous new year!


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