There may not be a single sign of Christmas in my house, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the season. Au contraire mes amis, I love a town done up in lights and all that crap. While Canada does Christmas well enough every year, I have to say this is one area in which Europe has the upper hand. And why not, they’ve been doing yuletide mayhem long before Canada was even born. I remember the streets of Strasbourg two years ago …

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Magical and sweet, sure, but what I miss most about the holidays in Europe are the markets that go for miles. Here in North America, the focus is always on gadgets and clothing or whatever else is being shoved at you for 40% off. European Christmas markets shove food at you, as much as food as you could ever imagine. I remember this guy very well making a ‘little’ pot of Rösti in Montreux last year …

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Enough cheesy, crispy potatoes and bacon to keep you warm until March. I tell you the smell would buckle you at the knees. Swiss hash browns are one thing, but the true smell of a Euro Christmas market is found in something called a gaufre, also known as a waffle. Sweet hand of god, the fumes from a good gaufre stall can permeate an entire city and rouse the dead to salivation. So imagine my surprise when I was almost knocked down by the unmistakable waffle whiff whilst strolling down Johnson Street, Victoria yesterday. I followed my nose to a tiny shop called WannaWafel.

Inside was Monsieur Renaat Marchand, a lovely man serving up real Belgian waffles, probably because he himself is a real Belgian. We told him about our time in France and Switzerland and he was pleased we recognized the authenticity of his treats. We wolfed down a couple of liège waffles and reminisced about happy olden days of yore.

I wish I had asked for a picture of him, too busy stuffing sweet, sticky, hot off the presses dough in my big mouth—next time, and there will be a next time. Here in the land of gluten free this and kale/flaxseed that, a haven of holiday happiness. I say it’s just not Christmas without walking around town with a face covered with icing sugar. Merci Renaat.

 

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