In 2014, Vaillancourt Folk Art celebrated their 30th anniversary with collectors from around the country—in another country!
Judi and I have done so many wonderful and memorable things in the last thirty years that it is hard to remember them all (I guess that is a problem with getting older).
The most special thing that we have gained over the years is the special relationships that we have made with so many of our collectors that we count as special friends. Without you, none of this would have been possible.
How can we properly celebrate year thirty? Well…
We have been to Europe a number of times for business and pleasure, but we have always wanted to go the European Christmas markets. Unfortunately, winter is our busiest time of the year and that makes it impossible for us to leave our retail operation in Sutton, MA. Because of this, we have never made it to the Christmas markets that have inspired millions around the world.
Early in spring 2013, Viking River Cruises approached us about hosting a river cruise of the Christmas markets from Nuremberg, Germany to Budapest. This trip would visit towns along the romantic Danube including a Christmas concert in Vienna.
Judi initially said that we were too busy, but, after a lot of thought, we felt that this could be the perfect opportunity to celebrate our 30th anniversary while sharing the experience of these Christmas markets with all of you (don’t worry, we’ll be leaving Luke at the office to run things)!
We would like to invite you to join Judi and me on this exciting river cruise! This special group cruise will include visits to the Christmas markets at Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau, Vienna and Budapest. Here, the spirit and romance of the holidays come alive with the scent of gingerbread and the tunes of traditional carols around every corner. Whichever Christmas markets you visit, you’ll enjoy a wonderful feast of tasty treats, as well as dozens of stalls brimming with unique and inspiring handcrafted gifts.
Saturday, December 6th
- Welcome to Nuremberg, Bavaria’s second largest city. Transfer from the airport to your ship.* After boarding, you have free time to explore the city on your own—or join our “welcome walk” to stretch your legs and start getting oriented.The Christmas Angel opens Nuremberg’s famous Christkindlesmarkt on Hauptmarkt square in the old quarter. Soak up the medieval charm and the aroma of gingerbread, Nuremberg bratwurst and glühwein. The Nuremberg Kinderweihnacht is the children’s market and has an old-fashioned carousel, Ferris wheel and steam train. The Nativity scene trail runs between the two markets. At 5.30pm on the Friday before the first Advent Sunday, the Christmas Angel opens her market, reciting the solemn prologue from the gallery of the church of Our Lady. And as every year, by Christmas Eve, more than two million visitors from all over the world will have sampled the delights of the Nuremberg Christmas Market. About 180 wooden stalls, festooned with red-and-white cloth, have given the Christmas Market its name of “Little Town from Wood and Cloth”. Each year 200 stall holders present their traditional wares: Nuremberg spicy gingerbread, fruit loaves, bakery goods, sweets and typical Christmas articles such as Christmas tree angels, cribs, Christmas tree ornaments, candles, toys as well as many arts and craft products. Favorite souvenirs include the “Nuremberg Plum People”, little figures made from prunes. For refreshments we highly recommend Nuremberg roast sausages and mugs of mulled wine. In Nuremberg the staff of the Christmas Market Council always keep a watchful eye on the goods being sold by vendors. Absolutely forbidden are any kind modern tat, such as plastic fir garlands, mass produced toys or non-stop taped Christmas muzak and carousels. The Nuremberg Christmas Market Stall Holders also compete for the most beautiful and tasteful stall design. Since 1981, the City has presented an annual award of gold, silver and bronze “Plum People” to the most beautiful stalls in Nuremberg. Nuremberg Christmas Market with its traditional image has been a model for many other German Christmas Markets. Equally the “Little Town from Wood and Cloth” has also been much in demand as a picturesque setting and backdrop for many TV productions.
Sunday, December 7th
- Your morning tour of Nuremberg features the former Nazi parade grounds and the Palace of Justice, historic home of the Nuremberg Trials. You have a brief stop at the Court House before walking from the imperial castle grounds past the Albrecht Dürer House to the Main Market Square in the Old Town area enclosed by ancient city walls. After lunch aboard, participate in lively and entertaining discussion about the European Union as you sail through a number of locks that comprise the Main-Danube Canal. The canal, an engineering marvel stretching 106 miles from Bamberg on the Main River to Kelheim on the Danube, enables river travel from the North Sea to the Black Sea. Dinner is served aboard and you cruise through the night. (B, L, D)
Monday, December 8th
- This morning, meet your guide dockside for a walking tour through the scenic town of Regensburg, considered one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval cities. See one of the largest groupings of 13th- and 14th-century church spires, towers and patrician houses north of the Alps. You also encounter the 12th-century Old Stone Bridge, St. Peter’s Cathedral and a number of idyllic courtyards. Take time to stroll the streets or shop—as always, your Program Director can help you plan your free time. This afternoon, spend more time in Regensburg, perhaps visiting the Alte Wurstküche, Germany’s oldest restaurant. Or, choose an optional excursion to Kelheim at the southernmost point of the Main-Danube Canal. Travel by road to Kelheim, then embark on a ferryboat ride to explore the 400-foot chalk cliffs and dramatic scenery of the Danube Narrows. You also visit the renowned Weltenburg Abbey, famous for its dark ale, brewed here by monks since 1050. Rejoin your ship for dinner and cruise through the night. (B, L, D)
- In Advent the streets and squares Regensburg a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Germany’s best preserved medieval cities are filled with sparkling Christmas lights. The castle-like towers of the mansions built by medieval patricians look magical in the shimmering atmosphere, as does the Regensburg’s Christmas Market, which an independent jury described as one of the loveliest in any German-speaking country. The stalls and booths around the 500-year-old Neupfarr Church and in front of the classical columns of the former city guardhouse sell a glittering range of Christmas decorations, traditional Nativity crib scenes with carved figures, children’s toys and other very practical presents. Through narrow streets, hidden passageways and courtyards, the visitor can stroll on to Kohlenmarkt and Haidplatz, to LUCREZIAMARKT where artists and craftsmen set up stalls laden with wonderful handmade wares such as dolls, pottery, paintings on silk and other materials, marionettes hanging amid a mass of strings, fine-quality toys (often too good to play with) and all sorts of other gifts. The creative people who have made all these objects are happy to explain techniques, and to encourage visitors to make tings themselves. Alongside these stands with their works of art, other booths invite visitors to sample gingerbread and Christmas cookies, all baked, of course, with whole meal flour and other mouth watering goodies. Furthermore, located in the courtyard of Thurn and Taxis Palace there is the Romantic Christmas Market, a Christmas event like a fairy tale. This romantic Christmas market offers all the bustling atmosphere of a market, traditional Bavarian delicacies, and a varied program of cultural events like daily entertainment programs with theme nights, for example “The Night of Choirs”, “Bavarian Style Christmas” and so on. Her Highness Gloria of Thurn und Taxis tells the “Christmas Story” and Regensburg’s “Christkindl” recites poems each day. At the Spitalgarden, Regensburg’s fourth Christmas Market takes place in front of some fantastic scenery, overlooking the cathedral and the old stone bridge. With its advent enchantment guests can experience an extraordinary program with regional dishes and specialties like mulled wine, or mulled beer, wild ragout and much more.
Tuesday, December 9th
- Arrive early morning in Passau, at the confluence of the Inn, Ilz and Danube Rivers. Your guided walk along the town’s narrow streets takes you through the Old Town and past traditional patrician houses. You see the Oberhaus Fortress and visit the impressive baroque St. Stephan’s Cathedral with its ornate interior. Inside, you’ll see the 17,000-pipe organ, considered Europe’s largest church organ. Eat lunch aboard, but return to the city for further exploration on your own before an early evening departure and cruise through the night. (B, L, D)
- The Passau Christmas Market or better known as the Passau Christkindlmarkt is set in the old historic town center of Passau against the glorious backdrop of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, it offers a wide variety of festive themed fun. About 70 selected little stalls will show and sell special Christmas goods, presents, arts and crafts. A wealth of Christmas specialties and food like Lebkuchen (gingerbread), Glühwein and Bratwurst (fried sausage) is also available. The Market is easy to reach with the Christmas Market Express and during the ride passengers will be able to enjoy passing through the charming old quarter and city center of Passau. Both traditional and contemporary cribs will point the way through the city to the Christmas Market.
Wednesday, December 10th
- Having cruised the mighty Danube River through the night – you arrive in Melk this morning and join a guided tour through the ornate interior of this baroque gem of architecture—the Benedictine abbey at Melk. See its elaborate frescoes and admire the library’s extensive collection of medieval manuscripts; enjoy the garden courtyard and the terrace views. Rejoin your ship for lunch and an afternoon cruise through the extraordinarily scenic Wachau Valley. Later, enjoy a workshop about Viennese coffee, complete with apple strudel. Arrive after dinner in Vienna and enjoy an evening at leisure, or you may choose to attend an optional evening concert in this “City of Waltzes.” (B, L, D)
Thursday, December 11th
- After breakfast, begin your half-day city tour. See some of Vienna’s gracious architecture, then ride along the beautiful Ringstrasse with sights including the Opera House, Stadtpark and Hofburg Theater. You then see St. Stephan’s Cathedral. After lunch aboard, the afternoon is yours to further explore this city on your own. Shop along the Kärtnerstrasse or take an optional excursion to Schönbrunn Palace, home of Maria Theresa and summer residence of the Habsburgs. Dinner is served aboard. (B, L, D)
- During Advent Vienna is a city of nostalgia and romance, concerts and nativity displays and traditional Christmas markets. Classics include the Christmas market in front of City Hall, the traditional Viennese Christmas market on Freyung, the markets at Spittelberg, Am Hof and in front of the church of St. Charles Borromeo (Karlskirche), and . The aromas of candied fruits, cotton candy and other delicacies like Christmas punch and roasted chestnuts wafting around the small wooden market stalls still retain their magical power. The Magic of Advent in Vienna during November and December complements the market in front of City Hall. The adjoining Rathauspark is a place of seasonal inspiration with festively adorned trees, pony-riding, trips on the Christkindl Express and fairytale scenes portrayed in artistically-arranged displays.
Friday, December 12th
- Arrive in Budapest, Hungary’s vibrant capital divided by the Danube River. Take a panoramic city tour through the more modern “Pest” side of the city—Journey along Andrássy Avenue and see the 19th- and 20th-century mansions, National Opera House, Parliament Building and Chain Bridge. Stop in Heroes’ Square to learn more about Hungarian history, then cross the Danube to Buda’s Castle District. Walk up the hill to Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church; enjoy brilliant views of the city below. Return to your ship for lunch and the rest of the day is yours to explore both sides of the city. (B, L, D)
- One of the most popular Christmas fairs in Europe awaits you in the heart of Budapest, in Vörösmarty Square. More than 100 wooden pavilions, which will attract visitors with their unique high quality folklore and applied arts products, will be built on the square. Christmas decorations, small presents, candles, gloves, woolen hats, wrought iron and woven products are also sold here, as well as other special articles that cannot be found anywhere else. You can experience the real wonders of winter-time while enjoying products that have been evaluated by a jury, and satisfying your appetite at typical Hungarian buffets, which offer mulled wine, kürtoskalács (sweet Hungarian pastry), roast chestnuts and other market snacks. When passing along the colorful and beautifully decorated rows of pavilions, it is worth walking, with mulled wine and kenyérlángos (flat bread baked in a cob oven) in your hands, to the front of the Gerbeaudcafé, where a great festive atmosphere is guaranteed due to the performances by children, folklore groups, dance houses, brass and reed bands, string orchestras and choirs. The peak of the musical entertainment is when the Advent Calendar, which hides contemporary works of art in the windows of Gerbeaud House, is opened on Advent Days at 5 p.m. in the context of a spectacular show with chimes, fanfares and beautiful lights. There is a giant Christmas tree and an Advent wreath on the brightly lit square, which is decorated for the feast with special lighting, so that visitors to the event can experience a really intimate Advent atmosphere during weekdays as well.
Saturday, December 13th
- After breakfast, disembark and proceed to the airport for your return flight.* Or, extend your time in Budapest for 2 nights, so you can explore the city in greater depth. (B)