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Trading at Durham Christmas Markets

Have you ever wondered what it's like to trade at one of the popular Christmas Markets?

We’ve always loved visiting Durham Christmas Markets, or Durham Christmas Festival to give it its posh name. My husband always comes away with his bag stuffed full of goodies, stocking fillers, gifts and artisan food ready for the holiday season. This year would be a little different though as we would be trading with my art for the first time and this is how it went.

So let me set the scene for you of what we expected. It would be cold and dark on Friday morning when we would get up, and see to Pebbles the dog and Salem the cat. After that, we would get ready and drive through to Durham. It’s not far and usually takes us 15 minutes or so. Once there we would set up for the day in the marketplace and have fun talking to people about my art.

That is NOT what happened.

This is what it was like driving to Durham on Friday morning.

Friday -Day 1

The alarm went off and we got up to be greeted by snow. Not just a dusting but a few inches. Hmm… we might need to hurry up and set off a bit sooner as although Durham isn’t far the roads aren’t always great in bad weather. We worked as a team to clear the snow and ice off the van and soon we were slowly making our way up the road. At this point, while I wasn’t happy about the driving conditions, I was still confident that all would be fine once we made it to one of the main roads. Spoiler alert – it wasn’t.

What should have been a 15-minute journey took us closer to an hour and three-quarters. We passed cars that had skidded off the road, had to stop to reclear the windscreen because of ice build-up and fish-tailed in a few places even though I was going slowly. But we made it! We were late but we weren’t the only ones and although everyone was a bit frazzled we all got our stalls set up and settled down for a fun day.

and we waited… and waited…

Alchemi Art Stall at Durham Christmas Market - Day 1
My stall all set up on the Friday with the help of my wonderful husband.

Where were the people? Yes, it was a Friday but we all expected more people than arrived. Was it the weather? The economy? Had they all gone elsewhere to a different event? It was impossible to tell, but by the time we were packing up and heading home, it was difficult not to feel deflated. We were cold and would be doing it all over again the following two days. As I got home and cuddled my little beasts (Pebbles wanted to tell me how much she’d missed me, but Salem just wanted to complain his dinner was late) all I could do was get everything ready for the following day and hope more people showed up.

Saturday - Day 2

Saturday morning we were greeted with more snow, but the roads were thankfully much clearer. I guess the council had been caught off guard on Friday morning but now had plenty of road gritters out and about. However, it was even colder reaching -8 Celcius at one point (I’ve since heard parts of Durham went down to -10!). However, the atmosphere was completely different and this time lots of people came to visit. This was more like what I expected based on our visits in previous years. Music, street performers and an atmosphere of fun. In the afternoon it started to snow again which delighted all the children but wasn’t as much fun when you’re trying to keep it off your stock!

By the Saturday evening, all I could think about was warming up and getting some sleep as we would be doing it all one final time on the Sunday.

Snow on Saturday afternoon – this was the view from my stall.

Sunday - Day 3

View of Durham Cathedral taken from across the River Wear on snowy day by Alchemi Art
The view across the River Wear towards Durham Cathedral in the Snow

Sunday morning as we were getting ready to leave I had a disaster. My glasses broke! Now normally that would elicit some swearing but this was my spare pair, my main pair had also broken a few weeks ago. After a brief panic (seriously, I can’t read without them) we decided to take them with us and see if we could get them repaired once we were set up. So this is why at 9 am I headed off to the other side of the river to the opticians. My route took me over the river Wear and oh my, the view was stunning! I whipped out my mobile and snapped a few shots, cursing under my breath that I only had my mobile with me. I had no idea at the time if I even had the view in focus (glasses remember) but thankfully it was. Yay for autofocus.

A while later I was back in the marketplace with my repaired glasses raving to my husband about the stunning view and encouraging him to take a quick walk down there.  After seeing the photos on my phone he was more than happy to take a break before it got busy to see the beautiful winter wonderland fr himself.

Alchemi Art Stall at Durham Christmas Market - Day 3
The stall on Sunday Day 3 - we were in different spots each day.

At the end of Sunday, we all packed our stalls up with much more enthusiasm than we probably felt. It had been a very long and cold weekend and I doubt there was anyone not dreaming of some hot food and a nice warm bed. I know I was.