Monday, December 28, 2009

My First French Noel

Here is just a quick update on my first Christmas in France. It really was nice. Thanks to my up-and-coming trip to the French Riviera, I was in very good spirits. We left for the country on Christmas Eve in the afternoon. I do not remember the name of the small town, but the house was charming and cozy...a typical French country home. Our hostess, Michelle, the friend of the grandmother, was very kind. To describe this Christmas in just a few words I would use the following: food, sleep, champagne. How could it not be a good Christmas? To make things even better, the kids were good almost the entire weekend!

Christmas Eve night, or Reveillon, everyone got all dressed up and partied. We drank champagne, danced, and finished off the night with a huge, fancy dinner. I must admit that I was a little sad early-on, being that I missed being home with my family. Babou, the gradmother that never ceased to top off my champagne glass, saw that I was a little sad, and right away, led me downstairs to the game room with champagne. "Champagne will help," she said, and it did. Haha. She is great. This is Hannah and me early in the night. 

And of course, me with all three kids. I must admit that I find them absolutely adorable. 

I just had to get a picture of Babou and Sophie. 

Here is the beginning of dinner. This is a huge, styrofoam boat of seafood. I can't even remember it all...oysters, shrimp, something like snails, crab... And I tried it all. It wasn't so bad after all. I even like oysters (well, with a little balsamic vinaigrette)! This was only the beginning...not even the main course! 

I even got to skype my family after dinner (at 3 am!). I went to bed around 4 am and slept until around, I did not get up to see what Santa brought the kids. I know, I'm horrible. I was just too tired. Sophie took pictures anyway.

Christmas day was a little more relaxed. Everyone wore normal clothes and several of us took afternoon naps. It is a good thing I did because it was another late night of eating good food and drinking good wine. We spent one more night there and the next day and then drove back to Paris. All in all, I'd say it was a definite success. Tomorrow morning I am leaving for Antibes (where Olivier is form on the French Riviera). My flight arrives in Nice at noon. I cannot wait! New Years in Italy and almost a week with Olivier and his family. Should be fun. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Things just got a whole lot more Jolly!

Sunday night I went to bed in hopes of fast-forwarding through the next two weeks. My agenda was this: full days with the kids (aka Black Wednesday every single day), Christmas with the family (about the only highlight), weekends wandering Paris alone, and another week with the kids. I was honestly not looking forward to this holiday season at all, which is sad...I LOVE CHRISTMAS! Things changed Monday night. After a full day of very naughty children (they're lucky Santa isn't real, because a few of them would be on the naughty list), I received some news that instantly put me right back into the holiday spirit. I am free the entire week after Christmas, which means I can get the heck outta town and spend the rest of the holiday on the French Riviera with Olivier and his family! And, I think, New Years Eve in Italy. That's more like it. Honestly, I didn't really care if the plane ticket was expensive, and of course, being peak travel time, it was. Such is life. Nothing can discourage me. I just bought my ticket and did not buy travel insurance, which means this is official. :) Let me describe how happy I am. Yesterday, yet another full day of children, little Nathan was sick. He puked all over himself, his stuffed animal, his bed, and my leg. Being puked on didn't even make me gag. I MUST be in the holiday spirit. Bring on the Christmas music. 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Moon

Tonight I was on an Ile de France train (just a train that connects Paris to some of the suburbs) with some friends, and I saw the moon. I do not notice the moon a lot here, but when I do, it makes it even more special. The sky was not too dark, a deep blue color, and the sliver of the moon shone brightly in contrast to the deep, cloudless sky. I thought of my grandmother and my mother. The moon no longer reminds me of just my grandmother like it used to. For me it now reminds me of my mom just as it does my grandmother. It is my mom's birthday today and I long to wish her a happy birthday in person. A conversation via Skype will have to suffice this year. 

Some of you know the story of the moon. Others do not, so here it is. I was very close to my grandmother when she was alive. I think this has to do with the fact that I spent a lot of time with my Grandpa and Grandma Porter since they lived across the street when I was very little and I stayed at their house when my parents worked nights. My grandma and I always sang the moon songs together and when I was sad to leave, she reminded me that all I needed to do was look at the sky and see the moon to be close to her. She promised she would do the same. And so, throughout my life, this is what I do. Because of her, I love the moon. It makes me feel close to her. I think she would really like to see that I am living in Paris right now, following my dreams. The night of my grandmother's death there was a huge snowstorm. My mom and her amazing driving abilities somehow made it from our home near Caberfae Peaks Ski Resort into Cadillac to be with my grandmother, grandfather, and her siblings. I stayed home, knowing that it was grandma's last night, looking out my window at the blinding snow. Later that night, the storm calmed and the sky opened slightly for just a few minutes and I saw the moon. At that moment, I knew she had died, but I also knew that she was at peace and would always be a part of me. I look down at my ring right now and know that she is with me. It was her mother's ring. 

I think of her more at Christmastime than I do throughout the rest of the year. She loved this time of year. I loved Christmas caroling with her, my grandfather, other family members, and members of the church. Christmas Eve at my grandparent's house was my favorite day of the year, filled with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and lots of good food and Christmas cookies. It was magical for me. Then in the evening we went to church for the Christmas Eve service. We sang Christmas songs and towards the end of the service, the church went dark and one-by-one, everyone's mini candles were lit for the singing of Silent Night. Silent Night is my favorite Christmas song and I think this is why. 

So now, here I am in Paris for Christmas. Don't get me wrong, it is beautiful here and I am so happy to be able to experience the Christmas season in Paris, but it is hard to be so far away. I wish I could be with my family for Christmas, and I'm sure there will be many tears this week. Except for right after I arrived, I have not had much trouble with feeling homesick. Knowing that I will be here for Christmas instead of with family makes me homesick. However, I will be ok. I have the moon. And that means I have my grandma. I haven't felt this close to her in years. On Christmas Eve night, when I am somewhere with the family celebrating the holiday, I will step outside and hopefully see the moon. And I know it will help me feel a little better. This is why I love the moon. It warms my heart and keeps me close to two of the most wonderful people in my life, my grandmother and my mother. Happy Birthday Mom. I love you. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Start of the Christmas Season

Christmas is in full bloom in Paris right now. Everything is lit up and decorated. I love when I turn a corner and see yet another street draped in lights. For example, here is a street right by my home, rue du Commerce.

Crystal and I checked out the decor right away. We were especially excited to see Champs Elysees all lit up. It definitely is beautiful. Seeing Champs Elysees lit up for Christmas was one of the reasons I wanted to see Paris in the fall/winter. 

Crystal and I were excited to see Christmas trees lining the Champs. She called this one her "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree." It turns out that most of the trees here are like this, or not quite as nice. I guess I'm used to a Michigan Christmas (this tree was about our height and somewhat sparse, but it is hard to tell in this picture). 

This is just one of the many decorated stores/restaurants in Paris...a pizza place on the Champs Elysees. 

You can count on Paris to have a Ferris Wheel at Place de la Concorde for the season. I am lucky and got to go on it (thanks to a sweet boyfriend). Each little compartment is even heated. Classy. 

Here is a view of Place de la Concorde and the Champs Elysees from the top.

The large department stores are very decked out for the holidays. If it were not for the decorations, I wouldn't venture near them...they are FULL of people. 

Here is the gigantic Christmas tree inside Galeries Lafayette. 

Each store window has a different Christmas/holiday scene. 

And of course Notre Dame has a Christmas Tree. 

The last picture is just for fun...Olivier and me having a lot of fun with friends on a Friday night. I realize my smile is very over-the-top. 

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Boy

Some of you already know that I have a new boyfriend. I have not had a boyfriend in years, so it is very different for me. It is still pretty new, only about a month and a half, but it is really fun. We met at Chez George, one of my favorite bars in Paris. Sine then we have been hanging out a few times a week and having a great time. We speak in French together as I have insisted. He speaks English very well and I am the one who needs the practice. Every once in a while when I am really lost in translation I ask him to please explain/translate in English (en anglais, s'il te plait!). 

His name is Olivier and he lives in Paris. He is from a town called Antibes between Cannes and Nice on the French looks gorgeous! I'll spare you all the details, but here's a picture. I happen to think he is gorgeous, by the way...