Our first Christmas in France, but it’s not quite the same!

Joyeuses Fetes...Happy Holidays Joyeuses Fetes...Happy Holidays

So this is our first Christmas in France, or more specifically, our first Christmas in Chatellerault. I must admit we’re not feeling particularly festive this year. We’re trying though, we’ve got a pathetic Christmas tree sitting on the mantle piece above the fireplace. It’s only about 20cm high with a single decoration, a ball Jack made at day care last Friday, but we get a chuckle out of it. The tree is surrounded by about eight presents, some of which are bigger than the tree. Sarah and Jack have done some arts and crafts, making stars and stringing them together across the fireplace to add some Christmas cheer to our little stone cottage, and there’s a star hanging on the front door, blowing in the wind. Sarah has a great Christmas lunch planned which I’m very much looking forward to, the usual stuff you have on Christmas day…roast turkey, roast veges, fruit mince pies, cake, and all the trimmings…I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. I’m also looking forward to the Boxing Day sales, because I need to stock up on clothes as I’ve resorted to visiting the second hand store since moving to Chatellerault. I guess that’s what travelling on a budget is all about right? There’s a great men’s clothing store in town and there’s 40% off everything. I’ve already tried a few things on and the lady there has put them away for me until I collect them on Friday, which was very nice of her. So why aren’t we feeling very Christmasy? There’s a few reasons.

It’s cold

Sarah and Jack rugged up in Chatlellerault during Christmas time

Sarah and Jack rugged up in Chatlellerault during Christmas time

I’ve enjoyed Christmases in Europe before, as has Sarah, so we were prepared for the cold. But when you’re used to hot Australian Christmases, it’s a shock to the system when the temperature is hovering around 0º. It’s not snowing so there’s no real novelty to it, it’s just bitterly cold meaning we’ll probably spend the whole day inside. For someone who likes to go outside and enjoy the sunshine, either playing with any kids who might be around, or sitting around the BBQ with the adults talking about whatever might be the hot topic at that particular moment, it’s not going to be the same.

There’s no family around

Christmas at home in Australia, outside, with family

Christmas at home in Australia, outside, with family

Each year Sarah and I swap Christmases between her family in Melbourne, and my family in Tasmania. There are always plenty of people there, some of whom we mightn’t have seen all year, and of course there are kids running around being kids. There’s a buzz about and you can’t help but get into the festive spirit, I mean, most people love catching up with family and friends on Christmas Day and we’re no different. This year we won’t have any of that, it will just be Sarah, Jack and I in our little cottage. We’ll chat with our respective family’s via Skype, but it’s not quite the same as actually being there. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll still have a lot of fun. It’s going to be great watching Jack open his presents, throw away the toys and play with the boxes instead which he has a tendency to do. Lunch is going to be special and we’ll probably be having it again and again for the next 2-3 days, but there’s nothing quite like spending the day with family and friends to really get you into the spirit.

We’ve had a tragedy in the family

Jim and Jack sharing a nice moment together

Jim and Jack sharing a nice moment together

Sarah’s grandfather passed away just yesterday (Tuesday), and that has clearly had an impact on the occasion. He was a terrific man and Sarah was very close to him. We’d stop in and visit whenever we stayed at Sarah’s mum’s place on the Mornington Peninsula, about once a month, and it was always a lovely experience. We’d rock up to his front door and the TV would be up on maximum so he could hear it, we’d have to just wander in as there’s no way he could hear us knocking. He was always very happy to see us, and made us a cup of tea with a biscuit or a piece of cake to go with it. But he was 94 and it was time for him to go. He’d had a great innings, led a really nice life and simply drifted off into a deep sleep which is a blessing. Unfortunately circumstance has conspired against us and Sarah won’t be able to get home for the funeral, but we should be able to watch a live stream from a private online feed which is the next best thing. The wonders of modern technology hey?

Christmas in Chatellerault

Our little tiger got his face painted at the Christmas market

Our little tiger got his face painted at the Christmas market

We went into town a couple of weeks ago and you would have barely noticed it was Christmas. There was a tiny market, and the ice-skating rink had been setup outside the town Mairie in the main street. There were kids everywhere, and next to the rink there were a couple of typical town fair rides like a Mickey Mouse carousel, a game where kids scooped ducks out of a flowing river with a hook and picked a plastic prize, and a great big van selling all sorts of treats that were 99% sugar and 1% flavour. But there was hardly anyone about and we wondered if they celebrated Christmas very hard in these parts. However, we went in again on Sunday night and it was completely different, there were people everywhere. We had our photo taken with Santa, Jack had his face painted like a tiger, there were kids games to be played in a separate tent and from 7pm there was the most magical modern, contemporary circus act on a stage built in the middle of the car park in the main street. It looked an amazing circus because it was so unique, a bit like Cirque du Soleil, and without any animals being forced to perform for their survival. There was just one problem, we could hardly see anything because parents decided to block everyone’s view by plonking their kids on their shoulders. I personally think this was really rude, I mean, what gives their kid more right to watch the show than the hundreds of people standing directly behind them? I held Jack at my head height which I thought was fair enough, but given I could hardly see anything it meant Jack couldn’t see either. So after about an hour of trying from several different vantage points, we disappointingly decided to call it a night. A word of advice for the organisers…1) build a stage that is taller than the crowd so that people from about the 10th row back can see the show, and 2) create designated areas for parents who think standing in the middle of a crowd with their kids on their shoulders is not rude!

Our 'tree' and presents on the mantle piece

Our ‘tree’ and presents on the mantle piece

I’ve made it sound like spending Christmas in France is going to be a miserable time, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I always look forward to Christmas and this year is no different in that respect. I just wish it was hotter and we had some family around, that’s all, and of course there’s a dark cloud hanging over the day with Jim’s sad passing. But we’ll make the most of it. There will be some laughs, and probably one or two tears shed, reminisce about what an amazing year we’ve had and what our plans are for 2015. We have a lot to be thankful for and there will be a lot of people around the world doing it a lot tougher than us. We know how fortunate we are and won’t be taking that for granted, but it’s all relative and given what we’re used to, this year is going to be a little less exciting than most years.

Sarah, Jack and I want to wish all of our family and friends back home a very Merry and safe Christmas. We’re always thinking of you and we hope to chat to you all some time soon. And to the literally thousands of people who have swung by our travel blog over the past eight or so months, thanks for being part of our journey and we hope we’ve inspired you in some small way to follow your dreams and explore this big, beautiful, blue ball of ours. We hope you all enjoy our little video above showing you what Christmas in Chatellerault is about!

Joyeux Noel 🙂

2 Comments on Our first Christmas in France, but it’s not quite the same!

  1. I think the cold is what makes a good Christmas! Came to Europe for snow this past Christmas and was sadly disappointed! Great post and I can’t wait to read more! http://nomoneywilltravel.com/2014/12/30/24-hours-in-berlin-no-problem/
    Andrea recently posted…24 Hours in Berlin? No Problem.My Profile

    • I’m kind of glad there’s no snow, although I’m sure Sarah and Jack would love to see some. I don’t mind cold weather, but sub-zero temperatures I can do without! You’re right, there is something a little magical about a white Christmas and we should all experience one or two at some point in our lives, but I’m happy with a summer Christmas spent outside in the sun.

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