Christmas in the French Countryside

The last two holidays, I wasn’t able to travel and the two before that we ditched our families for the Bahamas and Hawaii. Fortunately, the family openly accepted us back into the fold and we decided to spend Christmas with Fabien’s family in France.

So, on December 22nd, we packed our bags full of fun, American presents and hopped on a flight for the longest journey ever. Living in a smaller city like Nashville guarantees stopovers when traveling internationally, adding hours to an already long voyage. What is a 7.5 flight from Detroit to Paris, is now a minimum of 10.5 hours since we try to fly through Atlanta in the winter to avoid weather delays. Then, normally it’s 1.5 hours to Fabien’s village of St. Cyr en Val, but this time was 3.5 hours due to epic Parisian holiday traffic. Oh and I only slept one hour and 18 minutes on the plane. And my tv screen and headphones didn’t work. Awesome. File all these complaints under first world problems.

My lack of sleep and chronic jet lag has not been so conducive to the marathon we sprint when vacationing in France. Our days are filled with non-stop visit with friends and family, gluttony and speaking nothing but French, which officially turns my brain to mush after an hour or two.

BUT, this year, I had a saving grace, named Lara. We’ve been friends since she moved across the street from me when we were nine. Our births were only separated by two days. In our roaring twenties, we still liked each other so much that we lived together. Basically, we communicate telepathically after 27 years. AND, she came to St. Cyr en Val from Geneva to spend Christmas with us after her trip to Michigan got canceled. I’m bummed for her because I know she wanted to go home, but selfishly, I’m grateful she was there for me to make eyes at and talk under my breath about the crazy frenchies we’ve come to know and love.

After an additional, insufficient night of sleep, Christmas Eve day, was spent walking around the village, venturing to Orleans Christmas market and visiting the cathedral. It was the first time I’ve been inside after coming to Orleans countless times and living here for six months. Shameful.

Inside the cathedral

For the family’s Christmas Eve festivities, you have two choices to kick off the evening. The first option is to make the grandparents happy by going to mass and the second option is to stay at the house and get drunk with the guiltless majority. Having a bum liver, I chose option one (for the first time ever) and Lara joined by proxy. We only lasted a few minutes because the church was cold and we weren’t able to understand the priest’s accent. So, we snuck out the back after tossung 5€ in the offering basket.

The others, including cousin Julien’s dog, stayed. Yes, you read that correctly, he brought his dog to church. Did I mention “my beautiful family” pretty much runs the town?

Milo’s 1st Christmas Mass

My escape was short lived when Fabien called me 30 minutes later because the priest was asking for me. Thinking I was in trouble for leaving, I returned and was surprised that the priest wanted to tell me that he prays for my health everyday. Then he performed a priestly blessing. I don’t know much about this, but it seemed like a great honor and I was very touched. Between that and completing a pilgrimage in a holy year, I’m hoping God will give me a little break for a while.

We returned to Aunt Vero’s to start dinner which consists of several courses. Oysters, smoked salmon, stuffed chicken, green beans, chestnuts, cheese, dessert and fruit, all washed down with copious amounts of champagne and wine.

The beautiful decorated tables

Near the end of the meal, Uncle Gilles and I came prepared with games and songs which lasted until 3:00. This is six hours past my bedtime, jet lag came in handy.

Lara singing “Silent Night” in German with Papie

But, every positive has a negative. The 10:00 a.m. wake up call came quick. I required intravenous coffee to cope with gift opening, the world’s longest lunch, a walk, followed by more visiting, French speaking and rolling my eyes at Lara.

The next couple days were pretty much repeats of uninterrupted streams of visitors, gluttony and googley eyes at my American compadre.

This came to a halt Wednesday when the “beautiful family” and I road tripped to Amsterdam to enjoy what Amsterdam has to enjoy. #spacecakes

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