December 29, 2009

I couldn’t go home for Christmas, so instead, home came to me! Mom, Dad, and Brooks made the trip to Paris so that I wasn’t alone, or worse, suffering from extreme reverse culture shock and then re-culture shock from a trip home to the U.S and back. To be honest these past 4 months without them have been hard, since half of that time is the longest I’ve ever been without them before. Family hugs felt so good, and they swear I’ve “grown up”, but to me everything felt the same!

I’ll first apologize for the unwritten ballet article. I was unexpectedly without internet last week and I was so busy with my family here that I forgot about everything else. But can you really blame me?

Chronological breakdowns are the usual makeup of my blog entries, but I want to do something different. So here’s a “Top Ten” list (in no particular order) of my favorite ‘family week’ moments instead!

10) The First Hello: Hugs and kisses from family after months of separation involve jostling to be the first, tears, exclamations, unwillingness to let go-even though it means moving on to another hug, and just the overwhelming feeling of being home and being loved. That feeling is irreplaceable, invaluable, and infinitely important.

9) Dad’s Omelets: As many of you know, my Dad makes the world’s best omelets-and four months without them is way too long! Dad’s “French” omelets are actually kind of hard to make in France! Eggs are easy and so are green onions, but you have to use emmental instead of white cheddar, a strange Canadian style bacon, crème leger instead of sour creme, and we found some weird Swiss potato pancake thing instead of the usual hash browns. But I didn’t care-I was too busy enjoying to notice the differences!!!!


8 ) Christmas Shopping: The Christmas market along the Champs Élysées, Galleries Lafayette, the tiny little shops on Rue Cler…the lights, the smells, the sounds, and the things! Food! Jewelry! Clothing! Santa Hats! Everything you could ever and never want in an overwhelming display that is breathtakingly beautiful-it’s enough to make me want Christmas in Paris to last all year-long!

The Giant Tree in Galleries Lafayette!

In the Middle of the C.E, in front of the Arc de Triomphe

Champs Élysées at night-towards the Louvre

Champs Élysées-towards the Arc de Triomphe

7) Dinner at “Le Florimond”: Apparently one of the 100 best restaurants in Paris, this tiny little place was just a 3 minute walk from our apartment. Mom and Dad had stuffed cabbage (the house speciality), I had rabbit, and Brooks had the duck confit. Imagine warm, filling, melt in your mouth French flavors, a waiter with a Tweety Bird tie, and a delicious dessert of flaky Mille Feuille, homemade of course, consisting of puffy pastry triangles with generous dollops of creme in between stacked 6 inches high…my mouth is watering just thinking about how incredible it was. Had they not been closed for the rest of the week we would have gone back at least once!

6) The Grande Roue: The Ferris wheel is put up each year at Christmastime at the Place de la Concorde, and overlooking the Champs Élysées. It is big, white, beautiful, and the cars are enclosed and even heated! Oh-and it’s 50 meters tall! Seeing Paris from above was so lovely, and the wheel itself was gorgeous-it is a touristy thing to do, but it’s a once in a lifetime experience, and it was worth it!

Place de la Concorde

I love how you can see Brooks's reflection in the window overlooking Paris

5) Dinner With my Host Family: In spite of having all of their family over for Christmas lunch the day before, my host family invited my American family over to dinner. I was nervous, since my “real” family doesn’t speak any French, and I had only ever spoken English with my host sister Ariane, who I know is sometimes shy about using it in front of people she doesn’t know (though she actually speaks English quite well). I really didn’t have to worry at all though-my host mother and all four host siblings spoke with my American family in English, and I was able to translate for both of my  “families” when needed, though my French skills were not quite what they should have been due to my week of speaking almost constant English! My host family surprised me with Christmas gifts, and they even gave Mom, Dad, and Brooks souvenirs! The dinner was beautiful and delicious-the desert had flames!-and it was really lovely to have the two halves of my current life meet up. I feel more unified now, if that makes sense? And I know that my American family is happier now that they’ve seen for themselves how much my French family cares about me. I’m doubly lucky!

4) The Eiffel Tower: I know it’s touristy, but it’s just so beautiful! There were people EVERYWHERE so ice skating on the first floor didn’t happen, but we still had a festive time. We saw kids riding little bikes around a track, ponies for pony rides, and of course just the beauty of the tower itself, from all different perspectives. There’s nothing like it!

Brooks was taking their picture with the tower in the background-I just got them, and the show of romance inspired by the tower!

Nothing like a little girl in a santa hat!

Bored ponies-and the world's cutest donkey!

A repeat of my favorite picture from the last time I was in Paris-the bottom of the tower just frames things so beautifully...

3) The Musée d’Orsay with Brooks: I couldn’t let my family leave without a single museum visit, so I dragged Brooks to my favorite place (this was somewhere around visit number 12 to the museum for me since I’ve been here) and gave him the whirlwind history of Impressionism-from the classic style of Ingres and Delacroix to the realism of Courbet, then on to Manet and some of the biggest scandals in the history of art, and then a speedy run through of Monet-we missed everyone else, including my favorites Renoir, Cassatt, Degas, and Morisot, but what can you do? At least I managed to add a quick side trip to see a fabulous painting by Rosa Bonheur! (and as a final point, you know you go to a museum too often when you complain about them moving things around, and you’re able to tell someone what painting is supposed to be there on the wall instead)

2) Christmas Dinner: My family is passionate about food, so naturally being in one of the most gourmet countries in the world requires a lot of eating. We took full advantage of the market on Rue Cler and we had ourselves nothing less than a feast! Somewhere between the foie gras, the escargot, the smoked salmon, and the oysters Dad exclaimed “the KINGS didn’t even eat this well!”. We agreed, then went back to the champagne, reaching for baguette to smear with cheese and top with saucisson. We didn’t feel ready to eat the main course of a roast, potatoes, fresh French haricots verts, and red wine until two hours later, but we did manage, and we even felt obliged to eat dessert; an incredible cake which was accompanied by a sweet wine, of course! (unfortunately no pictures remain of the cake…oops!)

First Course

A plate of remains

The Main Course

1) Midnight Mass at Notre-Dame: I forgot about construction on the metro, so we ended up walking farther than intended, in the cold and rain (Mom and I in heels) with our umbrellas, only to discover a HUGE gathering of similarly dressed people with their own umbrellas already gathered outside. We passed the time by taking photographs of the 20 meter Christmas tree out front, and I shared my umbrella with a man who cheerfully offered input (in limited English) on what I was telling Brooks about the facade. We finally made it into the church, only to discover that it was standing room only! It was all worth it though, since standing near the back meant that when the Archbishop of Paris processed through we were close enough to have touched him if we dared! Translating the key points of the sermon for Dad, the effect of the rain seen through my camera, and the long cold walk in search of a taxi after Mass all added up to a surreal and beautiful Christmas Eve, that will remain unique in my memory, for all of my life.

The one and only Notre-Dame de Paris

The city and the Seine at night

In conclusion, there’s nothing like family, and I know that I am particularly fortunate to have mine. Merry Christmas everyone, and love to you all!


2 Responses to “Christmas!!!!”

  1. grandma said

    Victoria: I keep reading this blog over and over and my heart is just filled with happy – not happy thoughts, not happy feelings, just happy. Happy is a place where you do not go to often but when you get there it is wonderful. Grandma

    • Victoria said

      This brought tears to my eyes! Thank you Grandma-I love you so much, and I am SO glad that this filled your heart with happy. That’s what family is supposed to do! ❤

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