Friday, July 24, 2009

France: Noelle!

I started a little series some posts back on our son's great gift of France to us via his 11th grade year spent there. If I can get some help from The Lovely Daughter later, I'll try to scan in some photos. In the meantime:

Of course, the rest of us went to France for Christmas. We spent the first few days in Rennes, where our son lived with his wonderful family: Marithe, his French mother, her friend, and her two sons, one a couple of years older and one a couple of years younger than Chicago Son. Marithe is a nursing home administrator and had to work on Christmas Day, but she welcomed us on Christmas Eve with an extraordinary meal that went on for hours. It was such a joyful and festive evening: reunited with our son after three months, meeting his family and enjoying an evening of food and wine and gifts Francais-style, all of us so delighted to meet one another and laughing over our limited communication capacities. Geoff, his mother's companion, and Thomas, the oldest son, were both excellent English speakers, and Chicago Son could manage quite well in French by that time, so all was not lost.

After a few days in Rennes, which gave us a chance to get to know Chicago Son's family and city a bit and visit the coast of Normandy, we headed for Paris. Three highlights of that trip:

Chartres, of course. Although we had rented a car to travel in Brittany, we took the train to Paris and then, still uncertain about our movements, took a day long bus tour to Chartres. Anyone who has read much of my other blog knows that I fell in love with the city as soon as we began to ride through its narrow streets and with the cathedral as soon as it loomed before us. I had a moment of apprehension ~ it was absolutely freezing in France that holiday season, with temperatures seldom out of the teens, and it suddenly occurred to me, sitting in the toasty coach-style tourist bus, that an 800-year-old building was unlikely to feature central heat. Sure enough ~ we spent a very cold few hours there, but they were enough to lure us back a few years later (in the summer!).

New Year's Eve on the Champs Elysees. I don't much care for crowds and you couldn't get me to Times Square on New Year's Eve for anything. I would have been happy with a tiny cafe in a deserted neighborhood. But everyone else wanted to go outwhere the action was that night and I figured, What are the chances of ever again celebrating New Year's in Paris? What incredible fun we had! I don't know how many hundreds of thousands (literally!) of people from all over the world crowd the Champs Elysees on New Year's Eve, many of them carrying freely-flowing champagne, but it was really, really, wonderful! (And very, very cold!) A bank of clouds settled in around the top of the Eiffel Tower at about 11:55, so we couldn't see the fireworks at midnight, but it didn't matter. It was completely exhilarating to be out partying with all those people who had found their way to such an extraordinary spot.

And a small memory, one of many. We stayed
here, which has become our favorite Paris hotel. A couple of doors down is a creperie, and it took us about five seconds to discover its chocolate crepes, which became standard fare for us as we were left or returned from our various jaunts through Paris. When my husband and I were back two summers ago, we smiled immediately at the thought of our three teenaged children dashing out the door to the creperie window in the mornings.

We were so incredibly fortunate to have those ten days all together in France.


Karen and Joe said...

Exquisite, precious memories. One day there will be another reunion like the one that beautiful night in Rennes, with laughter, hugs, joy, wine and good food. Till then, God grant you strength for the journey.

karengberger said...

I'm thrilled that you have these memories. That's the sort of feeling I have about our recent trip. It's hard to explain, but I can tell that you understand.

Those memories are treasures, and I am SO thankful that Chicago son was allowed his "wings to fly" and spend that year as he did. You are obviously wonderful, generous parents.