Christmas in the South of France

Despite my general hatred of winter, Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. There is truly something magical about it, laughing with your family over a great meal, giving and receiving gifts, sending special messages to friends and celebrating. I’ve been living overseas for more than six years now, and have only managed to make it home for Christmas once (unpredictable Iowa winters definitely have played their part in that!). Up until this year, I’d never even really experienced a typical French Christmas. Either I was a nanny with a less-than festive family, or spending the holiday alone with my boyfriend who was far from accustomed to preparing a traditional Christmas dinner, or had just moved into my new house… This year, I decided, would be different.

I convinced Jé, who wanted to spend the holidays comfortably in our own home, that he should not overlook the family that he was lucky enough to have within a few hours from us. We had several options: a quick trip to England? A Parisian Christmas? Or a jaunt down to the South of France. As it turned out, his parents were getting ready to move and agreed that the extra mouths to feed would be a willing exchange for the helping hands. Jé took the car down on the Monday before Christmas, and I joined Wednesday night after work after less than three hours in my TVG, destination Avignon.

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2011 was a good year…

Oh, travel. This blog is a great place for me to document my trips, what I experienced, where I’ve been and where I’m going. As I wasn’t into posting at the beginning of the year, you’ve missed a lot. I carried over the 2010 travel summary post from another blog, and have decided to make it a tradition. So, without further ado, a little glimpse into my year, both inside and outside of France.

We started the year out right by buying our first house together, here in Gaillon, Normandy. We were worried that this purchase meant the end of our jet-setting around the world, but I’m glad to say that it did not get the best of us.

End of 2010: We had two lovely mini-vacations in November, 2010. This first was to Belgium, a short weekend in a five-star castle on a lake where were were pampered with massages and long walks in the cold, crisp autumn air.

The second was another spa weekend where we started in Mulhouse, France, then ventured into Germany and ended up in the charming town of Constanz, also a lake town. We meant to go from there to Switzerland (we could see the Swiss alps!) but forgot to bring our passports. As they aren’t part of the EU, we couldn’t risk it. Until one day we were walking around the lake and started to notice a lot of Swiss license plates… And then saw a border sign and realized we’d unwillingly entered into another country! Continue reading

Indian summer

Well, the boeuf bourgignon will have to wait. It was 28° this weekend in the North of France, which meant everything we had planned (stew and home improvement) for this weekend would be postponed, and that we would be hitting the open road hard in search of the perfect, sunny corner of beach that was not too packed, not too loud, not too rocky. I’m not sure that we actually found it, but in our to total refusal to set foot in Deauville or Trouville where the crowds would certainly be atrocious, I think we did pretty good.

Our first stop was Pont-Audemer, which is not actually near the ocean but nestled among forests and along the Risle river, which leads to the sea. It was adorable and tiny, which meant that after a quick lunch and thirty minutes of walking, we had about seen it all and decided to continue our promenade. Continue reading

In transit

If all was right in the world, my flight would be taking off from Ljubljana in about ten minutes, carrying me along with it towards home. Unfortunately, this is not the case. I’m now looking forward to a very late arrival in Paris and a mad dash to catch the last train heading to Normandy, which, if I do, will drop me off just before 1 a.m. on a Monday morning, with a full day of work ahead of me.

But, I can’t complain. Although exhausted, I wouldn’t trade my culture-filled East European and Balkan get-away for a quiet weekend in The Seine Valley for anything in the world. How lucky I am to have a job that allows me to travel!

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Macedonia bound

I’m at the Charles de Gaulle airport waiting to board a plane to Skopje in Macedonia. I can’t wait to see what culinary surprises this country holds. I hope I’ll be able to decipher the menus, as it may all be written in Cyrillic Updates soon!

Traveling through food…

Travel is my number one passion. Either that, or food. Or maybe both. Or perhaps traveling and getting to experience what’s new and different in any given place. That’s what I love.

Food is often the star of my vacation. The first thing I do when I book a trip is not search for the best museums or historical monuments, but delve into the culinary culture of my destination. Germany? What does it have to offer other than the typical wurst and schnitzel. The Czech Republic? Goulash, yeah, but what else? Mexico? Guacamole of course, but not just that.

As I prepare for a trip this week to Macedonia, a raw country laden with history, and later to Slovenia, I’m dreaming first of all the photos I’ll be able to take, second of getting paid to go there, and third of what kinds of Meditteranean-meets-Eastern-Europe fair I’ll be able to find there. I hear they have baklava, and lots of meaty, hearty dishes. Sounds good to me. Continue reading