Wow. Christmas vacation was over 2 weeks ago already and I am just now rested enough to start thinking and writing again. And I didn't even have to deal with the time change! My poor family. I'm sure that many of you have spoken with my family or seen pictures online of what a fantastic time we had, so I'm sorry if this is all redundant. But I wanted to put in one place all of the awesome views of the mountains, funny stories, and things we will never let my dad live down. He seems to be the running thread in almost every funny story. It's a good way to share with everyone, but also so that we can remember all of the jokes and fun things we did.
The first weekend of my break was spent in solitude, getting the apartment ready for everyone to arrive. It was wonderfully quiet and a fantastic time for me to recharge before everyone got here. They arrived on the 24th at my apartment with basically no problem. They forgot to time stamp their train tickets, but luckily the conductor did not ask for tickets, so they didn't have to pay the fine. Then they almost got lost driving from Lyon to my apartment, but thankfully my dad had been stalking me via google earth, so he was able to recognize where they were and make the appropriate adjustments.
Christmas was fantastic with everyone here! Not only did I have my family here, but we got to skype with Aaron's family Christmas afternoon as well. It was nice. We did not have a traditional French Christmas dinner. I contemplated trying my hand at foie gras, but it didn't happen. However, we did have some traditional French stuffed pork loins with unknown ingredients in them. We later learned it was apples and camembert cheese. The other was salmon stuffed. We also had buche de noel, or Christmas log cakes for dessert. Just like I did at Thanksgiving, we did the cooking in the tiny kitchen in my apartment, which was a challenge, but it all worked out ok.
|Hurray for buche de noel!|
We spent a few days walking around Roussillon and just seeing the life I have here. I got to show my family the castle and old church in Roussillon. We walked to the train station and the close supermarket in Le Peage de Roussillon. It was nice to spend time in the apartment together, investigate odd French television, and watch Christmas movies. We eventually had to go grocery shopping, which was quite the experience. The overwhelming experience that I had walking into Carrefour for the first time is now shared by my entire family. Really, the place is huge!!
We kept out food choices pretty normal and familiar, but tried some new things. Like the cheese. And the rabbit. And the brains. That's right...the brains. We bought a small thing of pork brains and Aaron tried his hand at frying them. They weren't bad., but not great. The rabbit was another Aaron creation and it was fantastic!!! Rabbit is a very common thing to find in the stores here. The one we bought was already cut up and packaged, like what you would buy at Wal-Mart, but most butcher counters also sell fresh whole rabbits, heads, eyes and all. As far as the cheese goes, I don't even remembered what we all tried. Different kinds of goudas, roquefort, mimolette, and others. When making uneducated decision about what cheese to buy, the easiest thing to do is just close your eyes and pick one.
|Aaron frying brains|
We did have 2 days where we did special things around Roussillon. One day, a teacher that I work with, B~ invited all of us to her house for lunch with her family. Their house was about a 30 minute drive south and up a a bit into the mountains. The view from their house was breathtaking!!! You can see the Alps and the valley down below. B~ and her husband both speak English fluently and their daughters are working on their English, so the conversation was a lot fun. One of the best moments of the lunch was when Dad tried to read one of the cheese containers. After studying it for several minutes, his conclusion, with a good amount of certainty, was that the cheese company was talking about the happy goats on a plateau whose milk is used for the cheese. The following conversation went something like this.
B~'s husband takes the package and says, “Sorry Tom. That's 100% wrong. 'Plateau' means tray, so it's just saying that you can use the container to serve the cheese. Nothing about goats, in spite of the picture of the goat on the container.”
B~ “Oh, now that's not true. Tom, of course you right. They only use happy goats for this cheese. (*singing now) The happy goats on the green plateau...”
At which point we all just laugh hysterically, not only at my dad's completely wrong translation, but also at B~'s singing and dancing in her chair about the happy goats. While I'm sure that story is not as funny in print, it is a lasting legacy of the trip. Every time we saw a goat, we had to make a comment. And we have even gone so far as to plan to call future farms (with or without goats) “Tom's Happy Goats on the Plateau.”
After lunch, we climbed a mountain, as Aaron would say. They took us to a village nearby called Tournon, which has the historic charm that so many French villages do. We walked a little through the downtown area and then climbed a rather large hill the overlooked the city. Again, from there we had a beautiful view of the Alps and the valley and vineyards below. We could see the factories of Roussillon and follow the Rhone River all the way down to Valence, the next big city to the south. We hiked with them for a few hours and ended our time together by drinking hot beverages in a café. We spent a wonderful afternoon with them and it was really one of the highlights of the trip.
|View from B~'s house of the Alps|
|View of the Rhone, Tournon, and the Alps from the hill we hiked up|
The 2nd special day we spent in Lyon. As with a visit to any big city, there was a lot of walking involved. We went to the indoor market to see all of the cool cheeses, meats, seafood, chocolate, wines, etc that there is here. In Lyon's cathedral, there is an astronomical clock that has been running since the 14th century. We stayed until the hour and got to see it chime. We climbed another mountain, so we could see the Basilica in Lyon. The church itself was undergoing some renovations, so we really didn't spend a lot of time inside. Plus they were getting to ready start mass. But outside, again, was a beautiful view of the Alps and it was clear enough that we could see Mont Blanc, the highest peak in all of Europe.
The next few days were spent doing laundry and getting read to leave for Paris. We had a pretty low-key New Years Eve, since we were leaving around 8 the next morning for Paris. That sums up the week we spent in Roussillon. Part 2 about Paris to come soon!
From Roussillon with love!