There really is something about Christmas in France. The twinkle lights go up, the “sapin noel” christmas tree sellers appear, markets are filled with wooden chalets selling christmas treats of all kinds, and the stores really go to town on the decorating. The garden centres particularly go berserk on the Christmas decorations and displays of giant stuffed animated penguins frolicking with singing polar bears. And yet somehow it doesn’t seem overly commercial here and I love it all.
This Christmas season has been particularly special for me as it is the first time my mum has visited us in winter. Having spent most Christmases sweltering through 35 degrees in Australia, we were on a mission for twinkle lights, christmas markets and roast dinners to be eaten in front of a roaring fire.
As soon as Mum arrived we bought our tree from a local garden centre that does a fabulous “Chalet de Noel” full of christmas displays and singing stuffed animals. Down from the attic came the boxes of christmas ornament ‘treasures’ we’ve collected during our travels over the years. Glitter highlighted Big Ben bought in London anyone? Or maybe a sparkly giant pretzel from Heidelberg? This years holiday travels added some delft clogs from Amsterdam, a babushka doll from St Petersburg and an elk from Helsinki. You’re getting the picture of how classy our Christmas tree is, right?
We headed to Paris via a two hour train trip and a short walk to the Open Top Bus Christmas Lights tour. Over two hours the bus whizzed us through the Place Vendome, up the Champs Elysee, along Avenue Montaigne (the twinkliest of streets in Paris), around the Arc de Triomphe, and then a stop in front of the Eiffel Tower just in time for the twinkle show. We took dozens of photos of the windows of the big department stores on Hausmann and rushed to get the last train back to Bayeux. Our legs were numb and our faces and fingers froze, but it was such a fun night.
Last night we zipped into Bayeux for another look at the lights and the cathedral all lit up before heading to La Rapiere for dinner. Its such a cosy and beautifully run restaurant. The young couple with Madame at front of house and Monsieur in the kitchen are such great hosts and the place was in full festive cheer with local and international guests. The room is booked out every night so book online in advance and wear your stretchy pants to have the full menu including the fabulous cheeses. Every time we go there the food and service just get better and better. You come to appreciate a blast of chilly winter air on the way home after such a great meal.
Happily home here in Arromanches there’s a long beach with only a few hearty walkers on it each day burning off the previous nights indulgences. Just two kilometres along the beach are the oyster farms that serve restaurants from here to Paris (and they are a bargain to buy direct from the growers!) I know I’ve got a lot of walking to do after my festive indulgences…. but I’ll worry about that next week.