Wednesday, February 10, 2016

trois fêtes de France

So far, we are 41 days into the new year. Don't ask me how that's possible. I feel like I just wrote my last post and that was 2 weeks ago! But no complaints here. I'm thrilled that time is flying by so quickly. It means winter is passing by faster than I could have hoped. These past couple of weeks have been kind of a bummer because of how cloudy, rainy, stormy, and windy it has been. I don't mean overcast, but tolerable, but rather very foreboding clouds that practically mandate that you stay home in the warmth and protection of your house. Which is precisely what I've been doing for the most part. Having to walk a mile the other day in rain and 20 mph winds to pick up G from school and not being able to use an umbrella because it keeps blowing inside out isn't exactly a picnic. I'm so over this season.

But on the more interesting side, France has celebrated 3 specific holidays or festivals since ringing in the new year, none of which are widely celebrated in the U.S. the way they are here. The first was Three Kings Day, also known as Epiphany, which was celebrated on January 6th. This is the 12th day after Christmas and essentially celebrates the 3 biblical magi visiting the Christ Child. It is not strictly a religious holiday, and is primarily celebrated by eating a galette des Rois or King Cake.  The name for this cake and the type of cake varies by region and even by country (this isn't just a French festival). In northern France, the galette des Rois is a round, flat pastry with a la fève, a small figurine, hidden inside. They also come with a paper crown.These galettes are sold in every single boulangerie by the dozens all throughout the month of January. From what I understand, the galette is cut and the children hide under the table and call out the name of the person who gets the next slice. This is to keep things fair, because the person who ends up with the figurine in their slice gets to be "King" or "Queen" and wear the paper crown. The King or Queen is responsible for buying the next galette at the next party. My host family bought a couple of these galettes, and I ended up Queen with the last one. Huzzah! Mine came with a cute little snowman figurine. Definitely keeping it and the crown as souvenirs.

The second festival was La Chandeleur or Fête des Crêpes celebrated on February 2nd, 40 days after Christmas. La Chandeleur is also known as Candlemas. This religious background of this holiday is to commemorate the presentation of Jesus in the temple. But today it's mostly know as the day the French eat a lot of crêpes. No complaints here. My host family made a stack of crepes and we ate them throughout the day. My favorite crêpes are with ham and cheese (jambon et fromage) but since these were made with a sweet batter instead of salty, I opted for some nutella or jam.

The third festival was Carnaval de Paris, which took place this past Sunday on February 7th. This is similar to other Carnaval celebrations around the world, and is essentially a giant parade with costumes and music from around the world. I had just found out about this the day before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. A little online research told me which metro stop to go to and what time. After church, me and a friend went, but since we were a bit late, we never did find the full parade that walked along an established route to Place de la Republique. However, we did find several groups that were stationary and we enjoyed sitting and watching the costumes and the men and women playing drums and dancing. I was a little bummed though because a friend of mine was playing with one of the groups, but I couldn't find her, and I never did see the entire parade which would have given us the full Carnaval de Paris experience. It was still fun though.

On Saturday, after my sad but honest FB post about being a bit homesick and missing Lynchburg, my French friend Isabelle invited me to hang. We drank tea, watched The Parent Trap and chatted about life, then she took me somewhere I had never been, Bercy Village in the southeastern corner of Paris. I loved it there! It will definitely be somewhere I go more often. It was this really pretty cobblestone street with small stone buildings on both sides, filled with stores, restaurants, and even a pet shop which we visited to look at puppies. :) On the end is a movie theater, so it is a perfect spot to chill on a Saturday night. She took me to a place with amazing cheesecake, and after we devoured slices of the raspberry flavored ones, we headed to a movie with another friend of hers. We saw The 5th was bad, don't waste your time.

Other than that, my church's life groups have started for the spring. They finally have one that's specifically for au pairs since our schedules are so abnormal. I went to the first, but somehow completely forgot about the second week since it was so gloomy and I was having a homesick kind of day. But it's good to have something to look forward to on Fridays.

I've also started brushing up my French skills with Duolingo. I haven't scheduled my private French lessons yet (hoping to start those next month), but sitting down with my old notes from last semester hasn't really helped me determine if I've really learned the material. But I've been flying through Duolingo's lessons and it has boosted my self-esteem a little in terms of what I am grasping.

Next week G's two weeks of school holidays start, and I will have him during the first week and I will be free from the 20th to March 1st. I'd like to get out of town during that time, but I'm not sure it'll happen, so we'll see. If it doesn't, I plan to use that time to really cross a lot of things off my must-do list. Since my vacation is only a week and a half away, and by the time I'm back to my normal schedule it'll be March already, I imagine this month is going to speed by. Not complaining though. Every day that passes is another day closer to warm weather and longer days. *sigh* I can't wait.

Well, that's pretty much all that's been happening the last couple of weeks, hence the shorter post compared to the rest. I haven't been able to get out much during the week, but I have been able to catch up on a little R&R and was able to chat with a couple of friends I've been missing. Hopefully, things will pick up and I'll have a lot more to share once I'm on vaca.

À bientôt!