I know this is a few weeks late but I want to take the time to write about my holidays in France. This was my first Christmas spent without my family and it was lovely, thanks to some amazing people.
I have been working with the daughter of a family friend of one of my colleagues at Renoir, giving English lessons. The family has been extremely welcoming and kind over the last few months, and invited me to spend Christmas Eve with them. I was initially unsure about accepting the offer because I didn’t want to intrude on family time. I quickly realized though that spending Christmas Eve with a family was something I couldn’t pass up. Every year my family and I go to my Grandma’s house for Christmas Eve to spend the night with my mother’s side of the family. I knew I would be missing this tradition, thus spending the night with a French family seemed to be the best way to make up for it.
Alain picked me up from the train station and brought me to his house. I arrived to find a beautifully set table awaiting the evening’s meal. Emilie and Alain’s home is beautiful, but on this day it was stunning. The Christmas decorations, table set and decorated with homemade floral centerpieces, and the dimmed lighting set a gorgeous scene.
A few hours after putting my things way and getting settled in the guest bedroom, a family friend arrived and the evening began with the traditional apéritif (before dinner drinks/snack). This evening’s apéro consisted of champagne, shrimp with homemade Dijon cocktail sauce, toasted bread slices topped with a traditional Corsican tapenade, olives, and pistachios. We spent well over an hour enjoying conversation, drinks, and appetizers.
You may remember my apprehension before my first meal with a French family in their home. Surprisingly, despite knowing that I would be trying foods I don’t normally eat, I wasn’t nervous at all this time around. The first course was none other than la reine des fêtes – les Coquilles Saint-Jacques (also known as scallops). I have spent all 25 years of my life declaring that crab is the only shellfish I eat, but this was about to change. The scallops were baked with a cream sauce, mushrooms that were marinating on the counter when I arrived earlier that afternoon, and topped with shredded cheese. I never imagined myself even trying scallops in my lifetime, and I can now say that I thoroughly enjoyed eating them!
Next came the main course; salmon with a lemon herb glaze and spinach and cheese ravioli agnolotti tossed in oil and garlic. Again, I have spent my life eating salmon in nothing but pâté form, but absolutely loved the way it was prepared for this meal. The main course was followed by salad, 4 different types of cheese, and bread. I will admit I haven’t taken to the cheese as well as I have with some of the other French cuisine. Nothing but mild, soft cheese for me!
Dessert was an adorable igloo shaped ice cream scoop with vanilla on the outside and chocolate on the inside. We followed this up with coffee, tea, and a basket of clementine’s and litchi (lychee). Litchi fruit was another first for me and yet again, I enjoyed it.
When all was said and done it was nearly 2 am. My brain was a bit fried after speaking French for nearly 10 hours straight, but I was happy and extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to experience a true French fête.
I woke the next morning to find that Papa Noël had visited me as well. On top of being so kind and welcoming by inviting me into their home to spend the holidays with them, Emilie, Alain, and Margaux had gotten me gifts to open as well. Anyone who says that the French are generally unkind and unwelcoming clearly havs’t spent enough (or any) time in France. My experience here thus far has been beyond anything I could have imagined and I am so thankful for it!
After returning to Nice around noon on Christmas Day, I had a friend and fellow assistant come over. We spent the day wandering Nice, then returned to my apartment to cook dinner together.
The Christmas Market Ferris wheels never get old for me. We also happened upon several very talented street performers around the city.
Despite the rough start, dinner turned out very well! A fitting end to a fun day.
Joyeuses Fêtes mes amis