The Best Christmas Market...Yet.

The angel of the market watches over the stalls - and may have pole-axed Santa by the look of it.

When I lived in Birmingham, I used to go to the German Christmas Market in Victoria Square; it was an interesting sparkle of an experience but there really never was much that I wanted to buy—or eat, for that matter.

So when we moved here, to Devon, and I discovered that Exeter had a Christmas Market in the Cathedral Square, I wasn’t all that keen...but I do like to get Christmas cards from the cathedral and you don’t have much of an option if you want to visit St. Peter’s in November or December; you can’t get there without encountering the market.

And what a market it is! So far it’s my favourite. Ever. Okay, I’ve only been to about six and I’m going to Italy next week so I’ll report back on the Florence and Lucca Christmas Markets which may be stunningly incredible but, trust me, if I like a Christmas Market, then it’s a good one. I’m a total Christmas shopping cynic.

How much of a cynic? So much so that I don’t agree with the concept of chocolate Advent calendars. Advent is about waiting; about the build-up to Christmas, not about our perennial need for instant gratification. Except for mince pies, of course. You have to have the mince pies. Obviously. 

Actually, I haven't had any yet so I could have held on to that bit of moral high ground. Bother.

But, Bah! Humbug! aside, wandering around Exeter’s Christmas Market on a cold, dark evening, is magical. The range of wares, the scent of freshly-cooked foods, the sparkle of the light, the amiable people snuggled into winter clothes—somehow, this one just works.

It's particularly special this year because of the Great Fire of Exeter which destroyed the Royal Clarence Hotel and seriously damaged several other old buildings. Now the aftermath of that is a lot more important than 'will we be able to have the market this year?' but it feels as if the market is a kind of healing for the shock of destruction. A lot of Devon folk were really moved by the fire—and I'm sure you'll join me in wishing all those directly affected, the best insurance companies and peace and comfort in the aftermath.

The empty space that was the Royal Clarence Hotel.
Incidentally, the body of Queen Victoria's father, the Duke of Kent, who died at Sidmouth, was embalmed in the Royal Clarence Hotel. The doctor was given the option of being paid or a knighthood for his services. Perhaps sensibly, he took the knighthood.

But I digress...

Here are some pictures of the Christmas Market so you can get a flavour of it. And if you're in Devon or Somerset (and don't have an utterly brilliant Christmas Market of your own) see if you can find time to come along. And you get the chance to sit in the beautiful, ancient cathedral too and maybe lisen to rehearsals of Christmas concerts. Those are enchanting.

 As you can see, there are all sorts of hand-made wooden (and metal) objects—fripperies for sure but all beautiful and fun. I forgot to take a photo of the stall that makes woollen egg cosies which was daft as they are incredible—they could all double as finger puppets and there are unicorns and all sorts of wonderful beasts. There are lamps that look like stars and you can't get much more Christmassy than that and stall after stall of sweet treats.

 Astonishingly, all of the items in the pictures below are made from chocolate. I constantly nag The Amazing Chocolate Workshop to make a chocolate teapot. They simply have to, don't they? A chocolate espresso jug is all very well, but a chocolate teapot would be the bee's knees. One of the staff there said he'd seen one that someone else made, which had a ceramic inside so you could make tea in it. Took me a while to figure out why that wouldn't really work...

And as for the's truly international.

And this stall is pretty—real flowers, dried and made into jewellery. Reminded me of the charm bracelet I was given as a child with a real four leafed clover encased in glass.

And finally, you can't really get a more Christmassy picture than this: scarlet background, carved decorations...and a woman huddled in her warm clothing sending a text...

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