Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year
to one and all …and apologies from a slacking blogger. The holiday ship set sail for Paris on December 11 and has yet to find its home port. I had thought we were safely berthed back in Provence this week, but find myself, Flying Dutchman-like, compelled to Les Trois Valles on Tuesday for a few days of skiing with the Tarpeys of France. Sadly, the Big Man must make his way back to Portland, so I’ll drop him in Marseille Tuesday morning then drive to the TGV station in Avignon to make my way north.
Where to begin? The holidays started with a Paris Meet-Up with Daughter No.1. We spent an incredible four days there, which must be the subject of their own blog post – to follow. The only thing missing was Daughter No. 2, who is having her own amazing adventure in NYC.
Robb, Liz and I headed up to Geneva on December 23 to spend the holidays with John, Dona, Jack and Harry. (Robb and I had spent a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend with them, full of wine tasting and Indian food – which, for me anyway, is infinitely preferable to turkey. We hoped a return visit in such quick succession wouldn’t label us “The Things That Wouldn’t Leave” or, even worse, “The Things Who Kept Coming Back.”)
We were greeted by the Majestic Miss Maggie (here she is) who welcomed us with a holiday prance and her stuffed quail. Stockings were hung, larders were larded, champagne was chilling and all was ready for the arrival of St. Nick. We took some delightful walks in the lovely town of Divonne, including one to the cheese shop, where John spent an hour in consultation with M. Fromage. A fine selection was made, including a Brillat-Savarin with truffles. Oh my. Christmas Eve was spent walking through Geneva old and new, enjoying the lights and bustle, and searching for a little vin chaud to stave off the cold. Delightful.
Post-Christmas activities included a visit to the thermal baths – quite different from the ramshackle wooden hot tub variety we’ve experienced in Oregon. Like Canadians, the French take their “cures” seriously. Water is piped into several massive pools and bubbles away. Just so you don’t get bored, there are a variety of activities, including my favorite, “The Escargot,” which is basically a gale-force current that sweeps you around a spiral with lot of other people. To escape, you need to grasp a steel bar as you are swept by. Sometimes it takes a few tries… You’ve got to be there, I know, but it’s hilariously fun.
The next day, we skied in the shadow of Mt. Blanc, at a place called Les Contamines. We were intrigued by the name, sure that it had something to do with the plague or at the very least a tuberculosis sanitarium. I looked the word up in the French dictionary I keep in the car, and all I could find was “contaminer,” a verb which means to infect or contaminate. This provoked further discussion (dare I say excitement?) about the possible former life of this lovely 19th century town at the top of the Alps. We debated all day as we skied, and looked for clues throughout the town, with no luck. Our imaginations ran wild with speculation. When we returned that evening we looked to Wikipedia to provide an answer. That answer was sadly pedestrian – the Latin root of the word is the same as condominium, and the name of the town had something to do with landowners rather than the victims of pestilence we had conjured up. Why the plague is so fascinating, I don’t know, but, determined to find some evidence of it, Robb and I spent today, New Year’s Day, hiking along “La Mur de la Peste,” the Plague Wall in Fontaine de Vaucluse that will be the subject of my next post.