Monday, 7 January 2013

Bonne année!

Hello, Happy New Year!

I'm back from a really good long adventure. It was hobbitesque even, and I'm still sorting through the 1500 pictures that I took and the stories that they tell, and just kind of recovering mentally from the whole thing.

So, here. Before it gets to be April or May and while we are still currently in galette des Rois season (PS- they are nothing like that bastardized version from New Orleans that I love, but more on that later), here are some pictures of Paris right before Christmas.


I caught these people, with their pretty man-mannequin, trying to hail a cab up near Pigalle. The menfolk were stressed, but the woman was just laughing at the absurdity of the situation. Christmas shopping is the same everywhere. Awkward, tiring, and stressful enough to convince me the giving handmade gifts is the way to go.

They do embrace Christmas with gusto here. There is no Halloween or Thanksgiving to kick off the festive season, or to distract and steal thunder from Christmas. It just changes overnight, and suddenly it becomes Christmas. The department stores are slathered in LED glows and bows and the grocery stores have a huge section of Champagne and chocolates that I've never seen before. I developed an alarming habit out of Baru chocolaté covered marshmallows with a good glob of salt caramel sandwiched in there for good measure. I'm almost glad they stopped stocking them at the local Monoprix, but that doesn't keep me from hopefully searching for them each and every time I'm in there. If you ever see these babies in the store, my advice is to buy them all.


The lights were amazing. I had it in my head that there would be more pure, white lights and traditional decorations. Oh, how wrong I was. It was all neon. The Champs-Élysées looked like it was auditioning for a role as the "new Las Vegas".

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There was a huge Christmas market that lined both sides of the Avenue starting at Concorde (oh, there is no "happy holidays here. Just the un-PC Christmas to shake things up.). It was a touristy overkill, but I was happy being a tourist since I felt like I had been avoiding all things holiday-like for almost all of December as I am a well-documented scrooge in the sense that I think we should be happy and giving to people all year around and it's just too bad that it's socially reserved for this one time of year.


These aren't my best shots as, quite naturally, it was raining, and balancing big camera with umbrella in a crowd wasn't the easiest activity for someone with very limited athletic ability.

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The holidays are apparently just too much for these gingerbread men. So young. So much delicious potential.

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Oh, and the parties. Americans love to be entertained and any excuse for a gathering is a good one, and we know a whole lot of expats that get an odd homesickness this time of year. Only one thing will help ease the dark-day blues: Cheese, and lots of it, with a healthy dose of vino thrown in. While the goat cheese that announces spring is a little scarce right now, there are plenty of good aged cheese that are perfectly ripe right now.


Another ex-pat friend of ours helped us to discover the joys of Alsatian Charcroute:


A huge pile of homemade sauerkraut topped with unthinkable amounts of roast pork, pork belly, and a vast variety of sausages slathered with a healthy bit of spicy mustard.

It was also a great way to load up on pork products before an expected drought. Where I ventured next there would be a scarcity of bacon:


I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday and that this coming year is amazing.

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