I'm an American expat, writer. photographer. and old-fashioned romantic in love with celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I appreciate timelessness, the natural world, and a slow life lived with simplicity and intention. When I'm not photographing families or  slowly traveling the world and writing about it in a little notebook, I'm happily grounding myself in nature and cozying up with my sweet husband.

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The smell of burning wood wafting through the air, hot mulled wine being sold along the narrow cobblestoned French streets with a haunting fog rolling through the hilly vineyards in the distance – the three small Christmas villages in the Alsace region of France felt like a dream. We ended the last week of 2018 on a road trip with a fellow newlywed couple we met in Strasbourg, and though it rained most of the day, it was romantic, nostalgic and so very French. The Alsace region of France sits along the eastern border of Germany, flowing alongside with the Rhine river. We spent the day, strolling under umbrellas, nibbling on cheesy “bretzels”, wine tasting the very best Alsatian wines, and marveling at all of the colorful, twinkly and traditional Christmas decor.

We visited three tiny French villages:

Ribeauville

Riquewehr

Kaysersberg

Most of them looked identical with their narrow streets, vineyard-covered hills in the distance and wooden Christmas stalls selling vin chaud and bretzels. My favorite village happened to be the biggest village with a variety of artisan shops and Christmas booths selling handmade crafts and ornaments and a striking river rapidly flowing through the town. Kayserberg looks like a countryside village that might have inspired the painter Bob Ross, with the various pastel-colored houses, timbered roofs, and wooden shutters. The mountains sloped down all around us, with the eeriest and most magnificent fog creeping through and the only sound being the water rapids roaring underneath the stone bridges.

Christmas in Alsace France, French countryside villages of Ribeauville Riquewehr Kaysersberg

Christmas Villages of Alsace

What made the villages come truly alive, thought was the Christmas energy and spirit that poured through the towns. Classical holiday music hung in the air, the smell of strong cheeses and wine wafted along through and the pastry and patisserie shops brightened up the streets with their gingerbread houses and traditional Christmas cakes and pies in the windows. It all felt so old, almost ancient and mideveil. Like something in a storybook or dream that I had always imagined of but never actually witnessed in-person.

I’m so thankful to our friends who invited us along on their road trip, for without a car it is impossible to reach these isolated towns that cling to the nearby vineyards. What a wonderful trip to end 2018 on.

Happy New Year my friends!

Love,

Helena

Our First Christmas as Expats in Alsace France

December 30, 2018

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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical, emotionally honest family and children's portraiture. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I photograph families across the world. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.

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