2006


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I know that Christmas is over but the memories linger on. I’ve been seeing previews for the movie, The Holiday, about two women who are unhappy and who decide that they don’t want to be home for Christmas and each go to another country to escape reality. This got me to thinking of my past Christmas’s when I felt the same way.

 I always feel a little blue during the Christmas holidays since I became an adult. There is nothing like the magic of Christmas when you are a child, the difficulty of going to sleep when you are wondering what is under the tree. My sister once had me get up at three in the morning to see if I could see what was in the living room by the tree but I had to do it in the dark so I wouldn’t wake up the parents. I could see two bicycles where the street lights from outside reflected off of the chrome handle bars. I wasn’t as excited as my sister and could probably have slept until morning but she kept me awake.

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 I made a big deal out of Christmas for my children with egg nog and Christmas music playing while we decorated the tree. I had advent calendars, a creche where the baby Jesus wasn’t put in place until Christmas Eve. We went to church, sang in choirs, had Santa Clause show up at the front door. It was fun to share in the excitement of children who still believed in magic. As they got older it became harder and harder to get them out of bed and we occasionally didn’t spend Christmas at home but went on trips. Somewhere along the way, Christmas became a sort of chore, especially as my then marriage was winding its way to the end and I found myself putting all of the Christmas decorations away by myself, becoming resentful.

 After my divorce I didn’t even want to get a tree. A friend told me I had to do something for my daughter, still living at home with me. I bought a tree, got totally new decorations for it and went through the motions of having some holiday spirit. She was going through a rough time herself during this time and Christmas became a cheerless activity that we somehow got through. Holidays can be such a bummer. They seem to make bad times seem worse, and emotions, especially bad ones, feel magnified. I remember putting some left over turkey into the refrigerator and suddenly finding myself sobbing.

 So, for the next Christmas(this was ten years ago), I decided to skip the whole thing. By then my daughter wasn’t living with me. I didn’t buy a tree, I didn’t bring out any decorations. I decided on the spur of the moment to go to Las Vegas. Why, I’m not sure, except it was a place, in my mind, the least Christmassy city in the world. Nothing there but sunshine, casinos, one armed bandits, and unending buffets. For some reason, my niece decided that she wanted to go with me. So off we went. We stayed at a small casino/hotel, The Hard Rock Cafe. I love to gamble. I love slot machines and I love black jack. However, I seldom win any serious money. I am such a conservative, that I always limit myself to a certain amount to bet and once that is gone-and it almost always is-I stop. After two days, I decided that I couldn’t bet any more money. I had used up my quota. My niece had stopped on the first day. We found out that on Christmas day there are no shows to see. It isn’t much fun to wander around various casinos watching other people bet. We went and looked at all of the rather elaborate casinos with pirate fights going on outside in full sized boats, Roman statues and light shows and all of the spectacular things that they have going on in Vegas. What a soul-less place it turned out to be. I learned that it is not a place a depressed person should go to. My niece even had some sort of panic attack. I looked at our plane tickets and discovered that I had my dates wrong and we actually had one more day there than I thought. I spent some extra money to get out of Las Vegas a day earlier.

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 So I learned that you can’t escape Christmas no matter how much you want to and that it follows you around no matter where you go like a little ghost tugging on your sleeve and you can’t shut the door on it. And depression has to be worked through, there are no shortcuts. Each year after the Las Vegas debacle got better and better. I still don’t do much decorating and I still feel that little ghost when I hear some Christmas songs, such as Blue Christmas or Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas-man, that’s a sad one. I count my blessings every day and I always feel that next year will be the best one yet.

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So here it is–time for another new year. May yours be filled with love and joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 If I had to choose between the two places we are lucky enough to live I don’t know if I could. It’s apples and oranges, as they say.

 In Paris I get the stimulation and energy of a city along with architecture that always speaks to my soul.

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 I can hop a bus to the Eiffel Tower

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 Place Vendome is a short metro ride away

 

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It’s hard to beat trips to the Louvre

 I always have trouble leaving Paris, but then I arrive in Provence, France profound, to a totally different way of living and I am at peace.

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From one of the many lovely fountains of Aix

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To watching the life and activity at a vineyard

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This is the view from our house.

 I love it when we are in our home in Provence. I especially miss it when we are in our tiny apartment in Paris. I miss the space, the view, the peace.

 Someday, I may have to choose as we get older. It will be a hard choice. Then, just to confuse things a little more, is the fact that I am trying to figure out a way to be in the States more. I need to win the lottery to do this, but I am mulling it over. I need a little place, an RV, a trailor, something, so I can see more of my family but not have to live with any of them while doing so. Until I figure that out, I will just have to settle for trips twice a year to the States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Maurice and I spent the week of Christmas in Provence. I had a burning desire to see the Christmas festival in les Baux and missed it every year so I made a determined effort to make it this year and poor Maurice went with me. He is often with me on various adventures although he has learned to pass on small festivals as they usually involve mostly stalls selling things. I used to drag him to meet people that I had met on the Internet and who were in Paris. He went the first couple of times but finally told me he didn’t want to go to any more of them. He is always amazed that I will go meet people in person that I have only corresponded with on the Internet but I have made some great friends that way.

 Anyway, Christmas morning we set off. There was frost on the ground, deep and crisp and even, as the carol says, although it is speaking of snow. We curved through the mountains and finally reached les Baux set in some really lovely white rocky hills. Les Baux itself is on top of a mountain overlooking the valley. There are some Roman ruins up at the top and there was once a castle which was torn down by Richlieu. Les Baux has a fascinating history and was once very powerful. It has died to a tiny village and the only invaders now are tourists.

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 A view from the top

 We arrived really early as I thought there would be a huge crowd but as we wound our way up the steep streets to the church it was deserted. The church wasn’t opened yet. This might be because the mistral was blowing and it was seriously cold, well below zero. So we had a cup of hot chocolate and waited until it was time for the festival to start.

 It turned out to be incredibly sweet and very simple. After a mass, the lights were turned off and candles were lit. A ram pulled a rod iron cart covered with white candles around the interior of the church holding a baby lamb-one of the cutest lambs I’ve seen with black circles around its eyes and on its mouth and black tips to its ears and a red bow tied around its neck. Then some Provencal music was played, simply with just a drum and two flutes and men dressed in long brown capes and women in traditional Provencal dresses did a solemn little dance in which each person held a candle. The person at the head of the line going up the aisle towards the altar held the lamb (it had three feet tied to prevent its escape) and bowed to the priest sitting in a chair and holding a baby Jesus. They then each kissed the baby, bowed again, turned and bowed to the person behind them giving them the lamb and so it proceeded through a line of eight people.

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There have to be angels at Christmas

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Here is the cart with the lamb inside being pulled by the ram

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One of the women with the lamb

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The shepherd

 

 When the priest was getting ready to give communion, the head shepherd held the lamb and knelt in front of the altar and the ram’s bell was rung several times.

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The ram and his berger outside. I loved the cape

 It was cold and rather a long journey for an early Christmas morning, but I’m glad we made the effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 We had our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. Here in France, there almost always seems to be foie gras and raw oysters on the menu, which we had.

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I should say that Maurice had them. I will taste one but it really isn’t my thing. I did have foie gras though.

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A close-up. Maurice eats them with shallots and vinegar dribbled on the top along with bread spread with butter.

 Next we had turkey. The first year I was in France I ordered a turkey from a butcher who stuffed it with some sort of meat stuffing which I didn’t like at all. The next year I tried one by the French food company, Picard, which specializes in gourmet frozen food. Almost everything you can get there is fabulous and the turkey was wonderful.

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 Here is what it says on the box-a small tukey stuffed with chestnuts and raisins.

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The picture on the box says it will look like this when baked. By the way, the bones are removed in the white meat area so you cut right through to the stuffing which is neat.

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  Mine looked like this. Not exactly like those American Butterball Turkies, the Mae West of fowl, but it was very tasty.

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A traditional French dessert is Buche de Noel, a sort of rolled log of cake and frosting. I got, from Picard again, Buchette de Noel which were ice cream desserts which were very good with chocolate and pistache flavor.

I would like to thank everyone who has stopped by my blog this year. It has been a real pleasure to discover the world of blogging. To all of you, Merry Christmas and a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

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 A few more photos of Christmas windows around Paris:

 

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I thought this teddy bear santa was cute

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 This window was at the basserie, le Grand Colbert

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 I’m always surprised that the Palais Royal doesn’t do more in the way of Christmas decorations but the red carpet is rather festive.

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My favorite window this year

 

 

The Left Bank:
 
51. The Left Bank if full of fun winding streets. Start at the Odeon Metro Stop. Across the street is the Commerce St Andre, an old shopping street. Find the painting of Benjamin Franklin in the window of le Procope, the oldest cafe in Paris.
52. Rue di Buci is a lively street with many places to eat or drink.
53. St Sulpice Church holds the famous obelisk with the brass line marking the movement of the earth and sun. Don’t miss the Pigalle sculpture of Mary at the back of the church.
54. Walk down Rue du Cannards and find the sculpture of baby ducks high up on a wall over a blue door.
55. Visit the St Germain des Pres Church, oldest in Paris.
56. Across the way from the church is les Deux Magots, a famous hangout for writers such as Hemingway.
57. Walk down Rue de Seine to the beautiful building housing the Institute de France.
58. Find the entrance of the Institute du France, go to the front, cross the street and you are on the Pont des Arts, a pedestrian bridge always full of people and activity.
59.Don’t miss the Cluny Museum, small and easy to vist and make sure to visit the top floor for the magnificant Maiden and the Unicorn Tapestries.
 
The Orsay Musuem:
 
60. Visit the Orsay Museum. The famous Impressionists are on the top floor.
61. Have lunch at the lovely restaurant inside the Museum.
62. Find the transparent clock with a view of Sacre Couer in the distance.
 
The Luxembourg Gardens and surronding area:
 
      63.Take a walk through the Luxembourg Gardens.
64. Find the Statue of Liberty in the garden.
65. Watch children sailing boats in the pond.
66. Visit the incredible Medici Fountain in the garden.
67. Walk up Rue Soufflot to the Pantheon, visit the interior.
68. Head down nearby Rue Mouffetard for an interesting shopping street.
 
The Arts et Metiers Museum and surrounding area:
 
69. Take metro 11 to the Art et Metiers metro stop for a look at an incredible copper station.
70. Visit the Art et Metiers Museum. Don’t miss the chapel for the airplanes hanging from the ceiling and the model of the Statue of Liberty.
71. Nearby is a wonderful shopping/pedestrian street, Rue Montorguil.
72. Walk to St Eustache Church and visit the interior.
73. Dehillerin on rue Coquillerie is an interesting shop for kitchen supplies.
 
Boat Ride on the Seine:
 
74. Take a Batobus ride down the Seine. You can get on and off all day and see Paris from a different perspective.
75. The most romantic thing to do in Paris is a Beateau Mouches boat ride down the Seine at night.
 
The Marais:
 
76. Take a walk in the Marais, one of Paris’ most beautiful areas.
77. Visit the Carnavalet Museum for a look at the history of Paris as well as a lovely structure with garden.
78. Antique shoppers will want to walk into the Village St Paul and see the shops on Rue St Paul.
79. The church of St Paul St Louis is especially lovely. Don’t miss the painting of Jesus Praying in the Garden by Delacroix.
80. The Picasso Museum is in a wonderful building and worth a tour.
81. Walk down historic Rue des Rosiers and have some great falafal there.
82. See the many shops on Rue Francs Bourgeois and enter Place des Vosges, one of the most beautiful squares in Paris. The Victor Hugo Museum is in one corner there.
The Hotel de Sully in another where you enter through the back garden.
 
Invalides, the Rodin Museum and Pont Alexander III:
 
83. For a look at Napoleon’s tomb, don’t miss Invalides. Check out the weapons museum there as well.
84. Nearby is the Rodin Museum. Don’t miss the famous Thinker sculpture in the garden. This is a good place for a light lunch as well. There is a nice area to sit in the shade in the back.
85. Stroll across the lovely Pont Alexander III, gilded and baroque shining in the sun with a great view of the Eiffel Tower on one side.
 
Bastille and the surrounding area:
 
86. Place de Bastille is a lively area with a column in the middle commerating the “Three Glorius Days”. The Richard Lenoir Market, the largest in Paris, is here on Thursdays and Sundays.
87. An interesting market to visit is at Place d’Aligre, open every morning except Mondays. It has a permanant covered market that is interesting to see and is especially lively and fun to visit.
 
Nation and the surrounding area:
 
88. Off the usual path for most tourists is Place Nation. Two interesting columns are there where there were once at a gate in the walls of Paris.
89. Nearby is interesting Picpus Cemetery, burial place of La Fayette where an American flag always flies.
90. Stroll down Promenade Plantee for some beautiful landscaping above the streets.
91. Chateau Vincinnes is interesting to walk through and borders the huge Bois de Vincinnes where bikes can be rented.
92. Parc Floral is full of beautiful flowers and landscaping with free jazz concerts on Summer Sunday afternoons.
 
Republic and the surrounding area:
 
93. Place Republic is the site of an interesting central sculpture.
94. Don’t miss a stroll down the Saint Martin Canal with locks for passing boats, delicate bridges crossing over, and fun places to eat and drink.
95. You can take a boat trip down the canal to get a slow look at passing Paris environs.
96. The Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie is an interesting place for a hands on look at science, mostly for children.
 
A Monet Day:
 
97. If you love the Impressionists, visit the Marmotton Museum in a wonderful mansion housing some of Monet’s Water Lily paintings in the lower level.
96. You could make it a “Monet Day” and also take the short trip out of town to Giverny.
 
Unusual Architecture:
 
98. For a look at some modern architecture and, possibly, a move, check out Bercy Village at Coeur St Emillion metro stop.
99. The Bibliotech is a very modern ediface for those liking modern buildings.
100. It is hard to beat the architecture at la Defense for a totally different feel from the older buildings and look of Paris.
 
101. Don’t get so busy trying to see all that Paris has to offer that you don’t take the chance to just wander aimlessly around the charming streets of Paris or just sit at an outdoor table at a cafe and watch life go by.
 
 

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