Frenchie and les Fêtes – Christmas

10 Jan

I’ll be home for Christmas.

Jazzy Christmas songs playing in the background while packing the suitcase. Unfocused. So many things to bring and think about.

Swanky Christmas parties were going full swing in Boston. France was waiting for me at the end of the tunnel.

But not before a quick hop to Milwaukee, WI to celebrate the Holidays with friendly faces and midwestern friends.

And from there, time seemed to have granted my wish to fly as fast as possible while I put my suitcase down in front of a familiar French door, pressing on the doorbell and waiting impatiently for someone to come and open it.

Enfin arrivé !

A cold frosty December morning but a warm house. The yellow light piercing through the windows is soft, peaceful and inviting.

For days now the white-walled bedroom has been carefully prepared for my arrival.

As I place my bags next to the hot radiator, I can’t help but notice the welcoming French sun already warming the garden and the twinkling grass all around. The white shiny frost will melt fast enough that we can probably leave the windows and doors wide opened this afternoon.

It’s cold in the morning but unusually warm by mi-day.

Ce n’est pas normal en décembre.

A quick lunch is in order though. Something easy, something small.

We have 3 soups ready in the fridge.

We can make a tri-colored soup bowl.

Mais oui, une tri-soupe.

Saucissons – oui !

Let’s peel some potatoes and cook them in the fireplace.

And I’m sure the fish guy next door has some pollock for us.

Look at this dark wild blackberry home-made jam, it will pair royally with the tart we made.

As I said, effortlessly easy and small.

Il y a du fromage aussi !

Jet lag now digested, it was time to decorate the Christmas tree. Une tradition.

The dusty boxes and old suitcases full of Christmas decorations were brought up from the cool cellar next to the wine arousing amazement and joy in the bright eyes of young and old alike.

Colorful shiny tinsel writhing on the floor, old familiar ornaments slowly climbing the tree with small and big hands placing them carefully on the aromatic spiky green branches.

As kids, my brother and I used to split ornaments according to our favorites so we would only hang the ones we each liked.

Needless to say, I had already coveted some of his ornaments. But then I started to wonder if I would still be able to get away with stealing and hanging 2 or 3 from his pile of ornaments like I used to do.

Ironically, my mum proactively interjects – les garçons, no fighting!

Embracing the old with the new, we deliberately settle for treating ourselves with different flavors during the Christmas Eve dinner – called le Réveillon.

No particular liking in keeping with the traditional oysters, foie gras, roasted capon and chestnuts, potatoes, apple compote and Christmas dessert (bûche).

Our feast would include trout mousse spread, savory petits fours and foie gras. And this was not even the appetizer!

All night long, the table witnessed a parade of courses and dishes – tasty oysters, a velvety watercress soup, a citrusy prawn curry with pineapple, a plentiful cheese tray, a spectacular pyramid of French macarons, a Christmas fruit salad with ginger and black peppercorns and other delicious dishes and variations of traditional well-known recipes.

Pouring another glass of Champagne, reaching for yet another macaron and pretending the night is still young, we discerned signs of fatigue through the joyful promise of staying up all night.

And then came Christmas morning.

I can’t tell you why it’s difficult for me to sleep on Christmas morning. I try and try again to stay quietly in bed but to no avail.

And right by my side, as the sun caresses the chair I can barely see from the bed with its first morning rays, all I can think of is Christmas breakfast.

Waiting for everyone to awake in order to open presents is a growing harrowing pain that shouldn’t be described.

Everyone’s polished and shiny shoes were delicately placed under the glistening tree since the night before – waiting for Santa. They are now filled and stuffed with presents. Presents all around them.

Yes, stockings in the U.S. and shoes in France. But not your everyday casual shoes. Non, non ! Your best dressed shoes are required. And they should be clean and sparkling – don’t want to offense Santa!

It’s an unusual Christmas morning.

It’s warm. Really warm.

We could almost eat outside!

And we do!

Amidst the scattered pieces of noisy wrapping papers and bright-colored strings, we managed to play in the pleasantly floodlit garden, say Joyeux Noël to farm animals and frugally eat a casual lunch-snack outside.

A warm woolen sweater and a thick scarf are sufficient. The winter coats can stay locked inside.

Even the ladybugs joined us!

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without an afternoon family activity.

When the entire city shuts down and celebrations stretch through the day, a walk in the old city of Le Mans would prove to be the perfect Christmas outing for everyone.

The oldest buildings date from the 14th century but most are from the 15th and 16th centuries.

I’ve walked these streets a million times but always take a detour to go back, admire and recapture the dramatic feeling of times past with elegant, iconic quaint scenery.

Winding and undulating, the streets of le vieux Mans are uniquely well-preserved.

And that’s what les Fêtes (The Holidays) are in France – probably a lot more subdued and modest than in the U.S.

But above all, a time spent with family around a beautifully decorated tree and table where food, quality time and laughter take a center stage.

Next stop: Paris – coming soon!

A special thank you to BostInno for placing a special order of Holiday cocktails before Christmas and publishing the article.

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14 Responses to “Frenchie and les Fêtes – Christmas”

  1. amelia from z tasty life January 10, 2012 at 9:54 AM #

    David: your life is so charming! looks like you had a wonderful time over the holidays (I went to Italia and just got back, so I have not been blogging at all, just enjoying the time at home!). Bonne année et bonne santé!!!

    Like

  2. Annie*** January 10, 2012 at 10:05 AM #

    De magnifiques photos colorées, une lumière admirable, une ambiance paisible pour ce récit de Noël. Il est vrai que le soleil était éblouissant en France et ce 25 décembre ressemblait à un matin de printemps.
    “Noël au balcon, Pâques aux tisons”, dit-on en France !
    RV à Pâques !
    Bravo !

    Like

  3. Corey Frye January 10, 2012 at 10:20 AM #

    Wow, a very beautiful & charming post indeed! Love the arrangement of photos. I’m now officially dreaming of medieval Le Mans streets.

    Like

  4. victoria horton January 10, 2012 at 11:43 AM #

    c’est charmant, c’est gai, c’est léger, on en mangerait !

    Like

  5. ashleypaige4 January 10, 2012 at 11:52 AM #

    Beautiful pictures! I love the way you combined the photos, it’s very cute! I had never heard of Le Mans, but I would LOVE to visit now. Thank you for sharing!

    Like

  6. Donna A. January 10, 2012 at 12:17 PM #

    Ooh La La Le Mans!! This city is what fairy tale dreams are made of – great photos! It was unseasonably warm here in Maryland too.

    Now that I’m an older version of my child-like self 🙂 I’m happy to say my favorite part of the holiday is sharing good food with close friends and family. In that we’re alike.

    Like

  7. Rodger January 10, 2012 at 4:55 PM #

    Yes, you all must come to Le Mans and visit us. Just ring at the door where the holly given by Gipsy girls is hanging. Then, you too can have some saucisson, tri-soup, fish or/and walnuts. You will enjoy the town too.
    David took many splendid pictures of the city and of the Christmas meals. Thank you so much, David. Love from
    Rodger

    Like

  8. Nicole Criss January 10, 2012 at 11:07 PM #

    Well yet again a breathtaking post. I can’t wait til the day we get back to France. Such a stunning and charming place.

    Like

  9. Inspired and pretty January 11, 2012 at 12:16 AM #

    You cannot begin to know how I love reading your posts ! They are like little stories embellished with pictures and I’m always happy to read them.
    The food look so good, the blackberry jam looks yummy ! And the macarons….I adore macarons ! This summer, my niece who studied as a pastry chef will teach me how to make them.
    The streets of old Le Mans are so beautiful, I hope I will be able to go to France one day.
    Ohhh ! Paris ! Looking forward to see your post !

    Like

    • David Santori January 11, 2012 at 8:05 AM #

      Thank you all for the nice comments on this post. It was a wonderful quiet time. And if you’ve never been to Le Mans, I highly encourage you put it on your list of city to visit next time. It’s only a 55 min train ride from Paris. And the old city is truly one of the best preserved in France.

      Like

  10. Eric & Michelle January 12, 2012 at 3:37 AM #

    bonjour
    joyeux Noël et Bonne Année
    je vois que cette escapade en province c ‘est bien passée,très jolies photos,et je pense très bon repas également, ton récit et tes photos sont une véritable promotion pour notre pays et plus spécialement cette région
    gros bisous de notre part et a plus
    Eric & Michelle

    Like

  11. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite January 20, 2012 at 10:00 AM #

    I’ve never been to Le Mans (well apart from driving through it) but looks like I need to go. Gorgeous!

    Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] Goodbye Christmassy Le Mans. Bonjour New Year à Paris ! […]

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