Sunday, December 23, 2007

Xmas in France, part quatre

So Thursday night we all met (brother, girlfriend and parents) at a restaurant called Le Troquet. None of us showed up together, but we all arrived with 5 minutes of 7:30 for our reservation. This was a basque restaurant that my brother knew about, and it was GREAT. Reasonably cheap menu fixe for appetizer, entree, and desert. I had the sausage sampler for appetizer, which was a basket of 9 different sausages that you could cut slices off to your hearts desire, complete with cornichons, pearl onions, and bread. For main course, I had deer in a yummy sauce, and pineapple skewers for dessert. Awesome! Then back to my brothers for our obligatory late night bottle of wine before crashing for my final night in downtown Paris.

The next day, up at 8:30ish and looking for something to do. I call my parents over at the place they are staying looking for ideas. They reel off a bunch of stuff that I have already done at one point or another in the last 15 years. I know, your hearts bleed for me, but it is already difficult enough to do something touristy again, and doing it ALONE is ridiculous. We couldn't come up with anything, so I went out for a walk, ended up at Les Halles mall, browsed for an hour, bought a Parisscope to see if there was anything going on, found the movie listings, and ended up planning to go to the Champs and see I Am Legend in v.o. (version originale, or English with French subtitles). It's funny, all the American movies playing on the Champs are in English with subtitles, where when you start doing the suburbs, it switches to the dubbed versions. It's also very amusing to see how they translate certain quintessential American expressions, and you realize what is lost in translation. Pretty good, if disturbing movie. I skimmed the book by Richard Matheson back in the day in a bookstore, but I don't remember enough of it to see whether the movie was faithful to the book or not. I believe it was not...

After the movie, I drifted back down the Champs, not having had ANYTHING to eat all day. I was expecting to have popcorn with the movie, but they were doing a bunch of construction, and did not sell anything. I ended up back at L'Entrecote, International Herald Tribune in hand, and had another serving of the fries and sauce while I caught up on the news for the first time since I was here. Nothing dramatic in the paper, unsurprisingly. Back to the apartment to start packing my bags, which I have to bring to my brothers apartment before we leave for my aunt's house. Including the transformer, which I was bringing for my laptop (and again, HUGELY heavy), my large rolling bag ended up being so heavy, that I eschewed taking it on the metro, and instead caught a bus to the train station. It ended up being that the worst stairs were the single flight out of the apartment. But when I mean heavy, it was probably 50+ pounds. Which of course will be too much for the airplane to travel for free. I expect that I will redistribute all the heavy stuff to my backpack, and also put a bunch of stuff in some plastic bags to carry as if they were 'purchases' that I had made since I passed through security.

Met my brother, we went to pick up his kids, and then off to Tanqueux (name of the 'compound'). We made great time, with surprisingly no traffic. An hour later, we showed up at a place I hadn't seen since my cousin's wedding 16 years ago. We get in around 10:30, and hang out until 12:30 to see the other cousin's dribbling in. They were totally organized, including a map of the place with all of the people's names in the rooms where they were staying. 60 total, and they had mattresses for everyone. They only had to borrow one mattress from some neighbors. Finally crash, and next morning, the rest of the family drifts in by lunch. At one point, we go for a long walk qround the property, which my 97-yr-old grandmother does in its entirety, which is mind-boggling. Probably about a mile walk. Back for lunch, with the older generation in the main room and the kids 14 and below in a separate building with some 'tenders' which was also all scheduled (in terms of who was covering what meal).

After lunch, the big event was going off to another part and cutting up some trees that had fallen into this waterway. Probably 15 of us, 3 chainsaws, a block and tackle plus steel cord for pulling things, and of course lots of electronic gear to capture it all. One of the trees was reasonably slim, but the other one had a diamter of at least 3 feet near the base, so it was cut off a slice, drag it up, cut off another slice (and roll the slice out of the way), and so on. We were out there for probably 3 hours. At one point, a bunch of the other cousins came out to spectate with a bunch of the wee bairns. Then back to the house for a snack, and preparation for the church service, which all 60 of us were going to attend. Apparently they had worked with the priest to plan the entire service. Well, we all pour out in our cars, get their 10 kilometers later, and walk into an unheated church! It was no more than 35 degrees in the church during the entire service. Foggy breath and everything. And they had planned a way too long service, with too much singing considering the conditions. I even had to get up at one point and do a reading in French. Fortunately I didn't screw up, but it was a little nerve-wracking.

Back to the house, and then they finally unveiled the second floor of the main house. My aunt had created a spectacular setup as you can see below.

I think we were about 35 people around the table. They had a table map and everything. With everything else going well so far, this was probably my biggest complaint on the weekend, as they put me on the side of the table with the oldest generation. People were intermingled freely, alternating sexes, but it wouldn't have been my first choice of seating. I made the best of it however. The meal was great, and we ended up with this cake for dessert, of which I had 3 servings. The third serving was with a large slug of Calvados, which had been made locally and was like firewater. From there, everyone descended to the main barn where they had set up a dance floor, complete with huge speakers, laptops running iTunes, and everyone danced for the next 3 hours. The French have this dance, le Roc, which is great to watch, and aggravates me because when they are doing it, I can't go on the floor because I would look like an idiot. Of course, I probably look like an idiot anyway... Finally crash at 1AM.

The next morning was the gift opening for the under 10 set. The prior night, the parents had set up stacks of gifts in the main room by the tree, with a shoe identifying whose stack it was (a shoe from each child). After breakfast, the kids descended and opened all the gifts in no more than 15 minutes. It was a total madhouse. Keep your hands AWAY from the area, or you might lose them. And right now I'm about to go outside and hurt myself playing soccer. Now THIS will probably be the last one before I get back. Let me see if I can dig up some more pictures.

Oh yeah, one of my cousins had to catch up on his flying, so he buzzed us at the house around 11AM on Saturday. Picture below.

And finally, the dancing


Post a Comment

<< Home