Fri 01 Jan 2010 21:08 GMT
We ended 2009 with a marathon fortnight of socialising, eating, drinking and French culture. We spent both Christmas and new years eve in the company of some very good French friends and their families. We could not have been made to feel more welcome and have certainly learned a few things about French customs, revelry and gastronomy!
Christmas in France is typically celebrated on the evening of 24th December when all gather for an evening meal, to open gifts, etc. We started with aperitifs at around 7:30pm which included 'champagne soup' - a dangerously refreshing cocktail of cognac, cointreau and champagne. Fortunately it was not far to the dinner table where I soon lost count of courses, though I do remember; oysters, smoked salmon, foie gras, escargots, frogs legs, beef, yule log, chocolate mousse and a different wine for almost every course...we waddled away from the table at about 2am, marvelous! New years eve was much the same and started with another champagne soup concoction - no wonder we all found ourselves dancing in the kitchen until the small hours!
Whilst we did have a white Christmas, snow has been pretty scant thus far this December, intermittent rain has meant that there is much less about than this time last year. Bad for ski resorts but it has allowed us to have a few unexpected bike rides.
Last Sunday I rode along the Tarentaise valley in the Savoie region. Although there was snow on the high peaks, I stayed low and south facing so enjoyed sun for most of the morning. I rode among vineyards for the good part of the ride - it was like a ride along the shelves of Oddbins; Chignin to Chateauneuf. After the vineyards I continued on from Albertville on a beautiful cycle path, along the 'Olympic Valley', past some of the sites of the '92 winter Olympics, past the foot of the col du Madeleine and on to Moutiers. At this point I had lost the sun and it had started snowing so I was glad to meet up with my knight in a shining minibus, Guy, who whisked me away for a hot chocolate and to be reunited with my new Christmas gift of a down filled jacket!
Our new year was spent in the south of France, near St Tropez. By the time we had driven through Gap we had left the snow behind and on our arrival at the coast it was a good + 10'C more than it has been here. Despite packing overshoes, skull cap and windproof leggings, these did not get an airing as we were able to ride in shorts. What a novelty in December; sea, sand, boats and harbours. Like my last ride there were some more vineyards (Cotes de Provence) but unlike my last ride I was not the only cyclist on the road and there was not a snowflake in sight!
2010 - I have certainly started as I'd like to go on; friends, family, fun, food and cycling!
Happy new year to you all from us.
Helyn & Guy