Sunday, 26 December 2010

A french family Christmas

Thanks to my friend Pascal's generosity I am enjoying and learning about a french family Christmas. It's my first Christmas here in France so it's an important milestone. I arrived in his village outside the main city of Rennes and have settled in. Pascal's friend (Pascal2), whom I met earlier this year, and his new girlfriend Michelle arrived to join us. Pascal's daughter, whom I've previously met, was there too.

It was Christmas Eve and Pascal had gone all-out with his catering: apperitifs (including pieces of quiche for me because I don't eat fois gras or seafood), Cocquilles St Jacques, leg of lamb crusted with lemon juice and honey, roasted slices of potato, green salad, cheeses, a chocolate and cream log for dessert. Lots of wine, rose champagne to start with. Certainly, with the Pascals together you know there will be a lot of laughing and teasing and maybe some general silliness amongst them.

I managed to cope with the language situation. Sometimes the Pascals would assist with some English but mostly everything was in French. Christmas presents were exchanged and the night became morning without my awareness of it.

On Christmas Day we collected Pascal's son Axel from his mother and drove deep into Brittany, the Morbihan, to spend the day with Pascal's mother and extended family. Along the way we drove near the Forest of Broceliande. Legend has it this is where King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table spent much time, Merlin lived there and so did his not-so-nice half-sister Morgan le Fey, as well as the lady of the lake. It's an ancient place of legend, druids and great deeds. One day I'd like to walk in this forest and see Merlin's 'tomb', ancient megaliths and watch the little 'theatre pieces' in the warm weather. Check out

This is of special interest to me because the website I am working on at work is called la Foret de Broceliande.

Pascal's family are incredibly wonderful people. The acceptance and warmth I experienced in just one afternoon and evening with them completely overshadowed my experiences with my own family of a lifetime. Sad but true. I wanted to experience a true French family Christmas - I couldn't have had a better experience. Warm hugs and smiles, kisses and laughter all around. Those who could speak a little English tried to but most of the time I found I could use the French I know to be part of things. It's a little easier this time around the social circuit. I met Pascal's older sister, his younger brother, his mother Marie and her boyfriend Raymond, partners, children, neighbours.

The food. Pascal was rather concerned about me because most of the traditional fare is impossible for me to eat, but really, it wasn't a problem. I tried some special mushrooms- edible but not to my taste, little aperatif biscuits which were fine. Champagne to commence, white wine and then later red wine, seafood (pass) bread and Breton butter, leg of lamb (cooked differently to how we do it in NZ and it was Australian. I think NZ lamb is better), mixed vegetables and french fries, green salad followed by cheese (I tried some new ones and enjoyed them)dessert logs of different flavours but, of course, my favourite is always chocolate. And amazing dark chocolates too, offered by Raymond. I was moved to tears by the richness of the experience and then Raymond started crying too. This wouldn't happen easily in a NZ family. Nothing is superficial with this french family, the members are all genuinely close.

Since then I've had many french conversations with Pascal and today I had a mini conversation with his son Axel to encourage him in his learning of English. Living with a family is the best way to improve your language, that's for sure.


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