I am really lucky that the family I stayed with almost four years ago invited me back for Christmas during my stay in France. After a fun and successful stay back in September for Sarah and Aldric’s wedding, I was looking forward to coming back in December. I arrived on December 23rd around midday. After a quick (okay, 1.5 hour) lunch, I took an almost three-hour nap. That night I baked my Hershey Kiss Cookies for my host family, and then after dinner, my host brother Jean-Baptiste and I watched Maman J’ai Encore Raté l’Avion, or Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. On the 24th, JB and I listened to music and cooked in the kitchen. He loves to cook and I know nothing about cooking, so he taught me some techniques while I helped him bake his recipe for Christmas Day lunch. Afterwards, the two of us went to the family garage, which had been long ago converted into an art studio. Recently, my host mom’s brother began living with them, and he is an extremely talented artist. He showcases his pieces and has even had open galleries. His work is so impressive, and as a gift he let me take one of his pieces home with me! I am ecstatic and I chose a painting of a street in Paris painted entirely in hues of blue.
That evening on Christmas Eve, all of us drove to a small village in Normandy near Saint Lô, where we spent the night with their in-laws; we were 15 in total, so it was destined to be a great night. That evening was filled with apéros, champagne, and of course a five-course meal, equipped with many laughs and good company. We all crashed in various sleeping quarters of the house that night, and then the next day we were able to wake up on Christmas morning together. On Christmas morning we enjoyed of course a typical French breakfast of coffee, tea, baguettes, croissants, and various jams. Afterwards we opened presents, but definitely not in an orderly fashion. Everyone just sort of grabbed what was theirs and went at it, which was sort of fun. The big meal that day was Christmas lunch, which again commenced after breakfast with champagne. (I tried to teach these Frenchies how to make mimosas, but really they just thought I was ruining perfectly good champagne.) The five-course meal included of course appetizers, followed by sea food, including oysters, shrimp, and snails. The third course was of course Jean-Baptiste’s dish (potatoes, grated cheese, and citrus cream baked all in one) and some vegetable side options, followed by the bread and cheese course and of course finishing with La Buche de Noël, aka the Yule Log Cake, France’s trademark Christmas specialty.
The afternoon was similar to what any family does– sitting around and talking, taking a nap to fight off the food coma, and then
indulging in afternoon Christmas tea. We left. that evening and made the trek back to
Caen, where we had a small dinner and just enjoyed each other’s company.
Christmas Eve Dinner
Denis and Bou Bou
Florence and me
William, the star of the show!
Buche de Noël
Florence and me in our matching Christmas scarves
The next two days were quiet. My host brother was working on the other side of Normandy, so I didn’t see him at all after Christmas Day. The 26th, I did some thrifting with my host mom and then spent the afternoon in an Arabian-style spa called Hammam, where my host sister Florence works as a masseuse. I enjoyed a steam-room and sauna session (equipped with black soap), and then I indulged in mint tea, and finally enjoyed a massage from Flo Flo. On the 27th, I met up late in the afternoon with my American friend Mary and her husband, and we enjoyed a nice raclette dinner at their house, followed by Christmas tea and American Christmas movies. Overall I had a few wonderful days in Caen, and a wonderful French-Vietnamese style Christmas. I am truly lucky to have close contact with such wonderful people, and to have been able to share the holidays with people I love and who treat me as one of their own. I am planning to come back once more before leaving in June, so it will be great to be back with them when the weather is warmer and the sun is shining. Unfortunately I don’t have the amazing photo of me and JB in Santa Hats!
Happy Holidays to you all!