Hope you’re ready for Christmas! It does feel a bit strange here, having Christmas completely out of season. We’ve had another nice week at La Villatte – it was a week of finals: at the end of our art lesson someone produced a couple of bottles of Normandy Cider and we had a farewell drink, we had our last French lesson and our last country dance class with some Christmas drinks and nibbles after our hour of boot-scootin!
Today, Sunday, was a cracker of a day weather-wise – 16 degrees and sunny. With the new cottage-sitters, Ceri and Dave, who arrived during the week, we headed south down to Clermont-Ferrand and enjoyed an afternoon outdoors. A lot of people were out and about actually, doing their last-minute shopping.
Christmas is a big deal here – every town has its Christmas markets, special events, lights and decorations, with each shop having an ornament-covered tree on the pavement and elaborate displays in the windows (polar bears and snow are popular features) – and it feels a lot less commercial than it does in Australia. That could be because we haven’t been caught up in the Christmas shopping crowds but we get the idea that it’s a lot more about creating a festive atmosphere than it is about madly buying presents. Christmas songs are played in the streets – not carols so much but things like “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas’ and others, all in English! Any song to do with snow is popular! And there are songs about Santa Claus, even though in France, he’s called Père Noël. Of course there’s a huge emphasis on food and the shops are full of Christmas fare, especially hors-d’oeuvres which are all quite elaborate and delicious-looking. We’ll have to sample some! The traditional Christmas cake here is the Bûche de Noël which is a long rolled up cake (like a Swiss Roll but with cream instead of jam), decorated to look like a log. They come in all sorts of flavours and colours and look very rich and yummy. We had a Bûchette, a mini version made from sponge cake around an passionfruit cream filling covered with chocolate mousse with dark chocolate dusting to make it look like a small piece of wood. It was decorated with a white chocolate paint leaf. It was amazing so we’ll force ourselves to sample a full-size one as well! Our photos this week are all of Christmas France style – hope you like them.
Our Christmas celebration will include dinner on Christmas Eve with Ceri and Dave, breakfast with them on Christmas Day and lunch with a French family down the road (the family of the lady whose apartment we stayed in in Grenoble) which we’re looking forward to – it’ll be great to finish our stay here with a French Noël. We’ll tell you about it next week!
The week ahead should be interesting as we’ll leave La Villatte du Bas and Montluçon and drive north to Amiens for the night. Then we’ll spend two days in Belgium visiting Brugge. Everyone tells us Brugge is a beautiful place so we’re looking forward to visiting and buying some of the chocolate it’s famous for! We then return to Lille, on the French-Belgium border, overnight there then catch the train to London. While we were hoping for a white Christmas this may have been problematic for driving north on snowy roads.
We wish you all a lovely Christmas
Til next week
Chris & David