Thursday, December 26, 2013

Finding cheer in a cookie

I spend the whole morning (and part of the afternoon) on Christmas Eve baking American-style peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip cookies. Ken provides quality assurance.

Despite the drizzle, we set out with a dozen or so packages of petits gâteaux. Our mission is to wish our voisins (neighbors) bonnes fêtes (happy holidays). The gesture is more for us than for them: We need a little cheering up as we are really missing our family this first Christmas abroad. (Technically, it's our second Christmas away, but we spent much of the holiday last year on a runway in Dallas.)

Our first stop is at Madame Alba's, the matriarch at the end of our block who broke her hip last summer. She  is wrapping gifts and eager for her niece from Milan to arrive tonight. We chat for a few minutes (always a challenge as our sweet 80-something-year-old voisine has a strong regional accent and speaks très rapide). She insists we accept a jar of her homemade apricots soaked in eau de vie. Bien sûr!

A stop at Charlotte and Bruno's nets us a bunch of holly for our table, so gorgeous that I at first think the sprigs are made of plastic.

Our next stop is at the home of a retired headmaster. He, his wife and their son, who is visiting from Picardy, insist we have some tea and cake. We chat about our plans for tomorrow's dîner de noël and I tell them I'll be preparing gigot d'agneau. The monsieur disappears to a back room and returns with a bottle of 2003 Bordeaux, which he assures us will be the perfect pairing with lamb.

Our promenade continues to centre-ville where we give cookies to our boucher and a couple of other commerçants. We notice that everyone seems a bit surprised by our little gesture. One voisin offers an explanation. He tells us that bringing gifts to one's neighbors is not something he has often seen in France. Perhaps, he speculates, it is common American hospitality? And, because our hearts of full of cheer, we agree.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Journée de filles à Bordeaux

Moi (center) with mes amies Linda et Julie.
This week, two friends and I took the train to Bordeaux to do a little shopping, touring, eating and dishing. The petit voyage was much needed: a break from our husbands, and for nos maris, a petite pause from us.

We arrived in time for a late lunch and passed nearly two hours over our saumon (me) and lapin (Linda and Julie). We demurred from ordering dessert since we correctly predicted we'd be ready for some coffee and sweets later in the day.

Carousel topper
Mother Nature did her part supporting our girls' day out: ciel bleu and mild temperatures. We spent most of the day at the Bordeaux Marché de Noël and in the main shopping district. I was alarmed at the prices at the Clinique counter in Galleries Layfayette and decided I could hold off buying my favorite moisturizer until my next trip to les Etats-Unis.

Christmas trees and cheval near Grande Théâtre de Bordeaux

As the sun set, we walked a bit along the quay on the Garonne River, hopped on a tram and made it back to Gare de Bordeaux-Saint-Jean just in time for our train home. As we did more browsing than buying, I returned with a nearly full wallet (happy husband) and with two better amies (happy me).

A stall at Bordeaux's Marché de Noël

Linda models a handbag made from an old 
45 rpm record.

Sculpture by Jaume Plense
One of two sculptures recently installed in Bordeaux 
by Catalan Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

How does he do that?

My café gourmand

Fountain at Place des Quinconces

Fountain at Place des Quinconces
Fountain at Place des Quinconces

Monday, December 9, 2013

Rock 'n' Roll samedi soir

Geoff Barker is our local celebrity rocker.
The winter doldrums are set to begin in about three weeks, but for now, our little corner of France seems to have a lot going on each weekend. On Saturday, it was a rock 'n' roll benefit for a school in a neighboring village. We shared some laughs with our British friends.

Nos amis Linda, Dave and Gill.
The salle des fête is all decked out for Noël.

We bring our own dishes and 
silverware to village soirées.

Gill is our artistic friend.

Une jolie petite fille has lost most of her
face paint.
I love watching les enfants 
slide across the dance floor.

Ken gives me the look that says,  'About ready to call it a night, honey?'