With international borders currently closed, getting anywhere near Paris, Strasbourg or Lyon is just a pipedream for the moment.
But at least France is set to come to us with the much anticipated Christmas in July event at the National Rose Garden – on the corner of Parkes Place and King Edward Terrace in Parkes – from 1-4 July.
The winter wonderland will feature snow, fairy lights, food and wine stalls, and a French market.
Event organisers are guaranteeing an authentic experience, right down to the wooden chalets specially imported from Europe and the snow (albeit, fake snow) that will be falling on the site.
Festival director Vincent Hernandez says organisers are excited to bring this unique experience to Canberra.
“In a time when we cannot travel, we hope to transport people to a magical and festive place,” he says.
For Vincent and his family in Strasbourg, visiting the Christmas markets was an annual tradition and one he holds dear.
When he moved to Australia 10 years ago, he wanted to do something to share his passion and love for these markets with his new country.
“It was tricky to get up and running and there were a few complications along the way,” he says. “For example, importing the wooden chalets was hard as getting any wood into Australia is not the easiest of tasks.”
However, Vincent says as soon as the markets were up and running they were a resounding success.
The Christmas in July event began at The Rocks in Sydney three years ago, and in 2019 there was an incredible 250,000 visitors who came through it.
Vincent says a big part of the event is ensuring the lighting and sound make visitors feel as though they’re in a European city.
“We will have a six-and-a-half metre Christmas tree, lights and decorations all around, as well as the snow cannons firing in snow lane,” he says.
“There’s also a separation of spaces with a light tunnel that visitors can walk through which is really quite magical.”
There’s set to be 15 French food stalls, all of which are free for entry and which promise to take you on a culinary experience a la Française.
When it comes to keeping warm under the snow and lights, a mulled wine, soupe à l’oignon (onion soup), crepes, an Alsace classic flammekueche (creamy pizza) or a gooey, cheesy raclette is sure to do the trick.
In fact, in a classically French manner, cheese is most definitely the star of the show. But if a sweeter treat is more likely to tickle your fancy, there will be a fire pit to toast marshmallows.
It wouldn’t be a French market without a selection of the best wines the European country has to offer at le bar à vin, from Bordeaux, the Rhone valley and Burgundy, to Provence and Loire Valley.
Also on offer will be a range of French artisan gifts, including tea, jewellery, Christmas decor and fine food to take home.
To keep the Christmas vibe alive, there’s also an outdoor cinema showing all of the festive classics. Think Home Alone and A Christmas Carol while you sip on mulled wine, wrapped in a cosy blanket.
Every evening from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm, and 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm, the sounds of Christmas carols will fill the markets.
Vincent also explains that from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm, the music will be turned off and the lights will be less harsh, making it a quiet space for people with disabilities, elderly people or anyone who prefers to visit without big crowds and loud music.
For more information, see the full program of Christmas in July events online.