Thursday, January 4, 2018

Welcome 2018 -" Au Revior" 2017 - A year full of fun, love, family & travel

Photo Review
We started off  ringing in the New Year with a quiet celebration.  Later on in the month we celebrated 2 birthdays - Turning 16 years old and adding an official teenager to the house.  These girls keep me on my toes between their activities and social life!  Our two kittens turned 6 & 7 months old - the boys have become inseparable and often sleep next to each other.
During our mild winter, we enjoyed outings in Bordeaux  (coffee is always a wonderful treat!) and it's surroundings on the weekends - Darwin - Casserne Niel is one of our favorite places to visit as a family.  Having teenagers means less time all together but it's great to find a place where they enjoy going.
In early April, my mother and I went on a river cruise up the Seine toward Normandy.  We enjoyed many of the small towns along the way, most noteable was Monet's gardens in Giverny and the city of Rouen.
Our ship sailed all the way up to Honfleur on the Northern coast and we spent a day visiting the Normandy beaches and the American Military cemetery.  Busy week, including some great weather.  After our week, my mother ventured South to spend the next 3 weeks in Bordeaux with us.
The tourist season kicked back into gear and I returned to work touring groups throughout the region.  A weekend escape in Ile de Re was beautiful and relaxing - as usual.  It's one of my favorite places to visit and only a mere two hours from Bordeaux.
April vacation brought a visit with a very dear friend from the US and her daughter.  We enjoyed showing them Bordeaux, Arcachon, the Dune du Pyla and Saint Emilion.  Loved having the opportunity to take photos of the girls!  Especially having a 16 year old who more often than not, enjoys being off with friends.
Work continued to take me around various wine vineyards - I very much enjoyed Chateau de Reignac.  Will be doing a post of this chateaux very shortly.  The end of April vacation took us on a day trip to Talmont sur Gironde - a beautiful quaint village set up on white cliffs on the East side of the Garonne River.  So quaint and adorable - this little village is pedestrian only and is a beautiful mix of shops, restaurants and art galleries.

Weekend fun also meant enjoying a soccer game between Bordeaux & Marseilles.  
The months of May & June included tour visits throughout the city plus Chateau Giruard La Rose in the Medoc.  Had the marvelous opportunity to meet Veronique of the blog "French Girl in Seattle" here in Bordeaux.  It was one of those connections that clicked from the moment we sat down to chat.  So fun to meet my French counterpart who lives in the States!  The final long weekend in May was a delightful getaway to the countryside in the Dordogne - barbecue, poolside and just plain rest and relaxing for before the girls headed into their final month of school.
 June continued to be busy for me - including more visits to the Medoc, Sauternes & Cadillac.  Even traveled North 2 hours to Cognac touring a group through the village and taking them to the Cognac House of Remy Martin.  Always more to learn about this region and it's pure delight to share it.
 July kicked off with Soiree Blanche in Arcachon to welcome in the summer.  This fabulous public party is a "bring your own picnic" and bottle and the town provides tables, DJ and fireworks.  This is our second time we have participated in this evening and it's a blast!!  I love the Bassin & love touring my clients around the town of Arcachon and Cap Ferret. 
Additionally, we said goodbye to our little house that we rented for the past 3 years...for the summer we enjoyed an apartment in Pessac Center with a beautiful evening view from the balcony.
July included a lot of work on my part all over the region - Bordeaux, Saint Emilion, Sauternes & Chateau Margaux in the Medoc.  This month also brought a visit from good friends from Albany, NY.  We toured Saint Emilion, Bordeaux & the Dune du Pyla....enjoying lots of delicious wine and Oysters!  The girls enjoyed the month of July with their father.
I enjoyed a trip to Futuroscope with my oldest and youngest (while my middle daughter was away in the South of France with a friend) and then we headed out to the French Alps for a week of vacation where we caught up with my middle daughter.  We enjoyed an evening in Lyon on the way East.  This city is quaint and colorful and a beautiful place to spend a warm summer's evening.
Our week in the Alps was highlighted by visits to Lac Annecy & Geneva, Switzerland.  The water was so blue in the Savoie region and the mountain just called to me.  
 We drove into the Haute Savoie region for a day visit to Chamonix at the base of Mount Blanc.  Stunning views and a storybook village highlighted this area.  A ride in a gondola took us up for some peaceful sitting an beautiful views.  It was amazing to see the glacier on the side of Mount Blanc.
 Our vacation ended with my oldest going paragliding before we left the area and headed South to Nice to see family.  As we headed back to Bordeaux, we stopped in Marseilles for a night including a stunning sunset on the beach and a tour of the Velodrome the next day.  School started in early September and we finally found a new home ready for us in early October.
 September was back to school for the girls and high intensive season of work for me.  The harvest season was upon us - making for some great tours and photos.  My work also included touring groups from several Ocean liners who came to port in Bordeaux for a couple of days.
 October was a very busy month - celebrating not one but 2 birthdays - my baby turned 10 and I hit the half century mark....we also moved into our new home - which meant a lot of re-organizing and settling in.  My youngest got to enjoy coming to work with me for a couple of days in October and of course, as Americans, we celebrated Halloween with a party!  Trick or treating is slowly growing here - and the girls enjoyed ringing doorbells on the new street.
 The end of October also meant the two week Toussaint school break for the girls.  We enjoyed having friends visit from Paris -and headed out to Cap Ferret for a day. 

My visits to Cognac also included touring a small producer and the House of  Martell this month.  As we headed into November, we closed the tourist season with a final couple weeks of work.  Looking forward to beginning again in late March.
This blog has continued to be a great place to share both from our family point of view and to allow readers to see more of the region.  Bordeaux is a highly ranked tourist destination at this time and we are seeing more and more people coming to visit.  I hope from the photos that you can see why.  It's truly a spectacular region and after 6 years of living here - it still continues to amaze me with its rich history and stunning diversity.

As a blogger, I've been invited to enjoy many festivals and events. Notably this year, the food festival - Bordeaux SoGood in November and the Great Wine Capitals Awards evening which recognizes wine properties that excel in tourism.  (A blog post will be coming shortly - highlighting many of these properties).

Due to my work schedule, I wasn't able to write as many posts as I would have liked.  But new year - new resolutions - I know 2018 will be a wonderful year and continued growth for all of us.

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year - May 2018 be filled with joy, good health and prosperity.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Blending Traditions - Celebrating Christmas in France

 Christmas in France
For us Christmas is France is about blending traditions.  For me, it's passing down my American traditions and adding the French ones.  Now, honestly many of these Christmas traditions are very similar but other traditions in France are definitely unique to this country.

If you follow this blog - earlier this month - I shared about the French Christmas Market in Bordeaux and the Holiday Lights of the Season.

Trimming the tree is still a family event in my house.  In France, many families have small trees, either real or artificial.  I think this is more common due to the smaller apartments and houses.  My girls have always wanted a larger tree, I think due to their American roots and childhood.  Our first couple of years here, it was very hard to find a nice size tree, so we had one that was only about 4.5 feet tall.  The girls were a bit miffed and often wanted to refer to it as a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

This year, we have an artificial one that stands more than 6 feet tall.  Due to the high ceilings in the house, this works really nicely.  Since it's artificial, we will enjoy it for many years to come.  Happy to have finally found a solution where everyone is happy.

Pere Noel:
In France the young children believe in Pere Noel, just like Santa Claus. Like in the US, children will even write and send letters with their requests and desires.  Interestingly enough, France's "North Pole" is the town of Libourne (30 minutes East of Bordeaux) where letters from all over France arrive and are personally answered by Postal employees each season.
  Although, I have found it interesting that in France the average age for a child to stop believing in Pere Noel is around 6 years old. It seems that once they stop believing then all their gifts are just from family. For me this is a bit sad, as Pere Noel is part of the magic of the holiday season.
 I enjoy celebrating the magic of Christmas and even my older girls get gifts from Pere Noel.  It's the time of year to be generous and full of surprises, so it's always fun to mark a few highly desired gifts from Pere Noel in my house.

France is not short on decorating for the holidays or even similar to the States places where children can have their photos taken with Pere Noel.  In fact, there are often special celebrations the weekends in December up until Christmas where Pere Noel will arrive in a town to bring special wishes and of course candy and chocolate for the children.  This just depends on the town where one lives.  I remember once years ago, watching Pere Noel arrive into the village celebration via a construction crane.  He wished everyone a Joyeux Noel and gave candy to the children.
Towns are often highly decorated and will often have Winter activities happening the weekends before Christmas.  These often include music with musicians dressed in Santa costumes, Winter activities, Children's activities and often sampling of holiday treats and chocolate.  My town, Pessac often has this, including a chocolate fountain where people can sample bananas or marshmallows dipped in the chocolate.  Yum!!
Holiday meal on December 24
This is one of the biggest traditions in France that we have more than willingly adopted.  The French eat their holiday meal on the evening of the 24th instead of the 25th and it's often accompanied by some very traditional foods.  Each family and each region vary a bit but in general its a multi course meal.  Here are some of the traditional foods enjoyed on this evening:

Fois Gras served with Sauternes wine

Oysters - served fresh open on the half-shell with lemon:
Smoked salmon can be also served

For the main dish it's often - Chicken - A nice Chapron (Castrated chicken so it's bigger and plump) often served with chestnuts on the side.  or could also be more seafood this depends on the family.
Cheese platter with a blend of cheeses -

and of course a Christmas log - Buche du Noel for dessert - served with Champagne!
Christmas and gifts
Gifts can either be opened on the night of the 24th after the large meal - this could be into the early hours of the 25th.  Some families will still go to midnight mass and then return home to open gifts. 

Other families, especially with young children will wait to open gifts on the 25th after Pere Noel has arrived....Either way it's a joyous time and full of holiday spirit!

Joyeux Noel to all 
May it be full of family, friends and loved ones.
This post is part of the Christmas in Different Lands series in conjunction with - Multi-cultural Kids Blog.  You can enjoy other cultural holiday traditions by visiting Multi-cultural Kids Blogs or by the list at the end of this post.  Enjoy reading - there are so many fun traditions - world wide for this season!!
Christmas in Different Lands 2015 | Multicultural Kid Blogs
Welcome to our fifth annual Christmas in Different Lands series! This year each participating blogger will focus on a different country, sharing a traditional dish and more about Christmas in that country. For even more glimpses of global Christmas celebrations, see our series from previous years (201320142015, and 2016) plus follow our Christmas board on Pinterest!
Multicultural Kid BlogsChristmas Around the WorldFollow On
Celebrate Christmas Around the World Printable Pack from Multicultural Kid Blogs

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