Thursday, December 13, 2012

Liege Christmas Village

We visited Liege earlier this year ('How do I describe you, Liege?'). We decided to return for the Christmas Village, the oldest and largest in Belgium.

It was a very frigid day. The sun never shone and the wind was biting but all sorts of food and beverage vendors were on hand to warm the cockles of our hearts. In fact, the lasting impression I have of Liege's Christmas Village is the food and drink. We've come to expect delicious vittles and amazing beer when we go to Belgium and we certainly weren't disappointed. There were stalls touting bratwurst, pommes frites slathered in mayonnaise, hot chocolate made with the finest Belgian varieties, foie gras, and delicious winter ales and fruit beers.

Some stalls were conveniently set up outside of the parking garage, on the route to the main Christmas village. The vendors at these stalls were a little more aggressive since they were off the beaten path. My husband's new obsession these days is sausage. He spends a lot of time wending his way from stall to stall, happily plucking samples off the tips of knives and always offering appreciative, "Mmmmms" and, "Wow, this is the best sausage I've ever tasted." After these endorsements, I see the sausage sellers' eyes grow large and they look at us expectantly, practically bursting at the seams and waiting to shout, "The whole lot can be yours! For a million Euros!"

Most of the time we just walk away, leaving behind very disappointed people who probably don't understand why we were so enthusiastic but didn't purchase anything.

So I wasn't surprised when my husband wandered off and tasted a sample from a boisterous man who insisted I also try some. "Yum," I said, as I prepared to continue our stroll. But it was too late. My husband had already began nodding his head enthusiastically and exclaiming, "Delicious! Incredible!"

The salesman quickly began his pitch in rapid-fire French. I could make out a few words but then had to politely say, "Je ne comprends pas." He only slightly paused before he said, "Ahhhhh... d'accord." Then he continued to speak in French as he described the different kinds of meat used to make his sausages. When we failed to nod or feign competency, he resorted to making animal noises. He pointed at one bundle. "Heehaw, heehaw!" he brayed. "Donkey!" I shouted. "Oui, oui!" he said, even though I'm not sure he understood the word donkey. "Baaaah, baaaaah," he yelled. "Sheep!" we cried in unison.

It went on like this for a few more animals before my husband pointed to one and the man said, "Originale!"

"Ok!" exclaimed my husband. "We'll take it!"

I whipped my head toward him and motioned to the sign clearly stating: 37.75 Euros per kilo. I saw the fear pass quickly on his face and he motioned to Monsieur Sausage that we only wanted a small portion of the log.

"Ahhhh... non, non, monsieur. Demi?" I knew demi meant half and I realized that the sausage could only be purchased as a whole or a half.

"That's fine!" said my husband.
I furtively whispered, "Look at it! Half of that is still going to be almost a kilo. This will be nearly 30 Euros."
"Nah, it won't be that much," he said assuredly.

After a lot of fancy cutting, folding, wrapping, and tying with twine, Monsieur produced our package of sausage and the receipt. 27 Euros.

I saw my husband cringe as he handed over 30 Euros. "Au revoir!" called the man, as he gave us our whopping 3 Euros in change.

We vowed to be more conservative with our money for the rest of the day.

A pleasant 5-minute walk brought us to the Christmas Village. It looked much the same as all of the other markets we've been to in the past month. Rows of stalls lined the Place Saint-Lambert. Wafts of street food filled the air and small bands marched through the village blaring holiday tunes from their trumpets and clarinets.

Liege Christmas Village Band
All the sausage talk had whet our appetites and our first snacks were crusty baguettes with four different melted goat cheeses, and homemade garlic pesto topped with sliced tomatoes. It was absolutely divine and provided the perfect cushion for our first beers.

We chose wisely with a sampler from the Brasserie des Geants. My favorite was the Ducassis, a fruity beer made from real blackcurrant berries. I'm not typically a big fan of fruit beers because they're usually too sweet but Ducassis is an exception. This is the best fruit beer I've ever had.

The perfect snack and most delicious fruit beer!
After quenching our appetites and thirst, we made our way around the village. All of the usual suspects were for sale. Candies, ornaments, wind chimes, scarves, and hats beckoned to us as we passed. It was all interesting but I must admit, we were mostly taken by the food and beer. We took a few more cursory laps to justify another stop. This time it was for chocolate-covered marshmallows.

We came to terms with the fact that we were just going to spend the rest of our time in Liege being gluttons. I think the sausage is what started it.

From the chocolate we moved onto more beer. Val-Dieu is an Abbey beer. I enjoyed the brown while my husband had the Christmas beer. We certainly needed them to wash down the cheesy concoction we ordered from the monk inside the Val-Dieu stall. The best way I can describe it is scalloped potatoes with chunks of ham slathered with gooey swiss-type cheese. Healthy, it was not. But we were already long past the point of return.

The sun sets early here during the winter and we only had time for one more stop at the Brasseri des Geants stall for another Ducassis. Why not?

So what did we take away from the Christmas Village in Liege? Full bellies and a nice, clean buzz from all of the delicious Belgian beer. It's certainly worth the trip.

Nearly a week later, we've only managed to make a small dent in that 30-Euro sausage. C'est la vie, as I'm sure Monsieur Sausage would say.

On the menu at the 'American Trip' stall.


  1. Awesome. I managed to get the sausage campaigne at one the stalls yesterday. Delicious ripoff. Too much rain and wind to really enjoy it though. I'm coming back this week. Hopefully the weather will be less harsh. If you're still in Liège we could meet up.

    1. The weather hasn't been kind this year for any of the markets I've visited! But I guess I didn't expect it to be much better, although it would have been nice.

      I was just visiting Liege but thanks for the offer!