The plane landed at Nantes Atlantique Airport on time at 15:35 and once through passport control and the queue for the bathroom, I followed the signs through arrivals and found a Lisa waiting on the other side! Yet Léa had wandered off in fear that I had ended up somewhere else in the tiny airport so the movie reunion moment was, again, not as smooth as intended! Nevertheless, the joy of seeing my French friend was not dowsed.
It still amazes me at how meeting with people who I haven’t seen in so long makes me feel like I saw them almost yesterday. Friendship is a funny thing.
We headed out to where Léa’s dad was waiting for us by his car and jumped in, heading for their home in the North-west of Nantes. The journey didn’t take long and I found myself completely at ease with being on the other side of the road when normally it takes me a bit of time to orient myself. We pulled into the street and parked outside a white painted house with a little front gate and made our way in! Charlie, a little jack russell, shot out of the door to greet us with his tail wagging furiously. He is such a friendly and gentle dog (although he did manage to find his way to my secret stash of chocolate flake logs I had brought….. fortunately he wasn’t ill and I was not to be responsible of a trip to the vet!)..
Lisa and I both had our own bedrooms – belonging to Léa’s sisters’ who were staying at her mum’s house. I unpacked and handed Léa her birthday present and card from both Lisa and I (she’s a 24th December baby). It was a sign for her a room in Paris (where she’s studying) that says “don’t let the muggles get you down” 😀
Once we had had a cup of tea, Lisa and I assisted Léa in making a pastry appetiser for dinner later at her Uncle’s house. She cut the rolled out pastry into a tree shape and we spread two different types of pesto and mozzarella cheese alternating between branches. Then we twisted the branches which made it look quite fancy, used the leftover pastry to make more, then put it in the oven!
Léa had told us that her family like to dress up nicely at Christmas so she went off to put on a dress and heels while both Lisa and I ‘ummed’ at our dorky Christmas jumpers and ‘travellers’ clothes. In the end, we settled with what we were wearing: jeans and a jumper but did put tinsel in our hair in an attempt to look festive!
The kitchen started to swell with the gorgeous smell of cooked pastry and once the tree was out of the oven, we headed to Léa’s Uncle’s house. A short car ride later, we arrived, and were met by Léa’s Uncle, Aunt, two year old cousin Hugo, and their Grandmother. The table was laid out beautifully and the tree glittered in the corner.
The French Christmas tradition is that ‘Papa Noël’ (i.e. Santa Claus) comes by on Christmas Eve. We were told that when Léa and her two sisters (and other cousins) were little, they would be put in a room in front of a movie, whilst the adults put out all the presents as a surprise for the kids when they returned.
Disclaimer: Santa is real folks. (I’m a true believer!)
With little Hugo to entertain, he was taken to put his pyjamas on to give Santa the chance to deliver his stock. Once Hugo returned, it was present opening time. But just for him as he was to go to bed before we ate. Once presents opened and dancing to some pop songs, it was bedtime for him and dinner time for us!
That’s when the first Christmas feast commenced:
Starter: oysters, fois gras, smoked salmon, fresh baguette
accompanied with white wine
Main: beef wellington (I felt rather british in this moment), puréed pumpkin, water chestnuts and green beans wrapped in bacon
accompanied with red wine
[Pause for opening of the Christmas presents – this is tradition in France unlike the British who open on Christmas Day]
Third Course: cheese and bread
accompanied with red wine
Dessert: a raspberry ice cream log (so refreshing)
and lastly, macaroons!
We eventually finished and nursed our food babies around 1am.. heading back to the house at 2am and crashing into our beds falling into a desired sleep. Especially Lisa, as she had been awake since 4:30am to catch a train from Germany to Nantes that morning!
Next instalment of A French Christmas coming soon… ^_^