This post is sponsored by Cash Passport Prepaid MasterCard
Have you ever had a travel experience that has changed your understanding forever?
I had come to love the late trains of Italian Railway and the magical mystery adventures they sprung on me. Living in a tiny village in Tuscany with my father’s cousin meant at least three trains to get anywhere and one late train out of three was a good trip, but one late train meant the rest of the connections were lost. I lost a lot of connections.
The first time it happened I stayed on the station and fretted, but by this time I knew to roll with it and snuck off Florence station to do some last minute Christmas shopping.
I mumbled some really bad Italian to a guy about wanting to buy some Christmas presents. He sent me off, ‘Thataway, thataway,’ with a flurry of arm waving.
After slippy-sliding my way along the icy stone streets, I wandered into a cloud of sweet, warm, nuttiness. I turned the corner and Santa Croce piazza opened up in front of me. Photo creditThe warm light of the stalls, people in fabulous coats, hats and scarves milling around shopping for hand felted decorations, sculpted stone pieces and artisan leather goods. Children laughed under decorated trees and mistletoe, eating toasted chestnuts. Photo creditI’d stumbled into the pages of a storybook. This was Christmas! Growing up in a warm climate with picnics on the beach and barbequed turkey has always been fun, but it doesn’t relate at all to the narrative of Christmas found in the books I loved. Now, it all made sense.
I vowed to go to a different country for Christmas every year. A promise I’ve happily never kept, mainly because I love my family and New Year’s Eve in Sydney, but every year I find myself lingering over European Christmas market photos. One day I will go again, but where?
The best Christmas Markets in the world
My lovely friend Karen is a lover of the Christmas market and has visited about ten. Her all time favourite is Prague.
‘It’s such a pretty city and the fact that it can snow really makes the perfect atmosphere,’ she says. ‘You hug your gluhwein while listening to the local musicians or shopping for nick-nacks. It’s exactly how you want it.’ Photo creditShe’s also a huge fan of the German markets. ‘There are so many in Germany and they’re all lovely. I think Coburg was my favourite.’ Photo credit‘Berlin is also amazing.’
Apparently, there’s great art and jewellery at the Berlin markets, I discovered in my online travels. Photo credit I may have ended up down a research rabbit hole and might’ve bought my mum this bracelet on Etsy.com from a vintage jewellery stall.But don’t worry, I saved money, which makes it all okay.I used our lovely sponsor’s Cash Passport Prepaid MasterCard. Sign up was easy-peasy and it cut $17.01 off the price (nearly ten percent). There was an $11.31 difference in the exchange rate Etsy set if I wanted to pay in Australian dollars, rather than Euros, and the exchange rate I could choose at Cash Passport. Nor did I pay the 3.3% international credit card transaction fee my bank would’ve charged me, saving a further $5.63.
I was surprised, because I thought Etsy would be a lot fairer and so I had a look around and their exchange rate is better than other online marketplaces and shops, which seem to be very creative with their rates. There doesn’t seem to be any regulation on the rates companies charge just for doing the currency exchange for you.
Anyhoo, if you get a Cash Passport valued above $200 AUD before the 31st December, 2014, you will get a BONUS $10 AUD on your card. Simply enter BLOG10 when prompted in the application form (this offer is only available to the first 500 customers).
Mind you, you’ve only got a couple of days if you want to take advantage of the end of the Cyber Monday sales on the US websites or whip over to Sweden for the start of their Christmas markets…
The Swedish markets are my favourite eye candy. I love Swedish design and handicrafts, but really I have fantasies of dashing through the snow on a sleigh and you can at Jamtli, östersund in the very north of Lapland. Lookie…
A girl can dream. My Swedish friend Klara says she loves the Christmas markets in the castles around Sweden.
And an arty one, at our Stockholm art school each year,’ says Klara.
Now, I want to take my kids to a European Christmas market, so they can step into a storybook with me. But first we have a mighty fine competition.
UPDATE: the winner of the Cash Passport prize is Sarah from Creating Contentment. Congratulations!
What’s your favourite beauty treatment? I’d love to hear in the comments below.