Thursday, January 16, 2014

Les Alpes | Noël | A French Christmas

It took 6 hours to get from Dijon to the little city of Aussois (including a layover in Lyon). It wasn't hard finding my connection train in Lyon because it was the only one marked with "LES ALPES" in huge letters. Everyone sitting around me was already decked out in their new ski attire. Apparently this train only stops at the big ski stations in the Alps. Between naps I would glance out the window to see snow-capped mountains on every side. Aussois was the very last stop, and what a beautiful sight it was...



I arrived a couple hours before the family was going to get there to pick me up so I walked across the street to a café to kill some time. They happened to have free wifi, which was a little shocking, so I was able to let my family know I had gotten to the mountains safely ;) Even more shocking, however, was their idea of a bathroom...



I'm sure you can imagine the look on my face. Pure horror. I'm not exactly the "roughing it" type of girl. I mean, I own a purse that says "I love not camping." Indeed, I love not camping. And this..this brought back some dark memories from the only camping trip I've ever been on in my life. A camping trip that my family refers to as a "vacation." Haha. A relaxing camping "vacation." That may have been the reason I wore a pink velour sweat suit, and brought the entire Harry Potter series in hardback. THAT sounds like vacation to me. Little did I know we would canoe miles upon miles, portage all of our things (canoes, tents, the entire Harry Potter series in hard back), then canoe many more miles, to finally reach our magnificent destination: a scenic stretch of dirt that happened to look very similar to a scenic stretch of dirt about 15 miles, and 3 portages back. Did anyone else notice that? No? K. I'll just be silently weeping over here in my soiled velour sweat pants. Looking back on it, I'm actually shocked I survived that experience.. 

Anyway. The toilet. Which was not actually a toilet, made me curious about what my living conditions would be like here in Aussois.. 

The family arrived a few hours later and it was so fun getting to see them! Antoine is well above 6 foot now and even has some facial scruff! It seems impossible. As we got into the car I realized that there was literally not an empty square inch in this tiny French car.. It was seriously packed to the max. So 10 minutes later, there we were: Mathilde, Antoine, and I squished in the back with my huge suitcase squished over top of us. Comical doesn't even begin to describe it. 

When we drove up to the lodge it was after dark, so I couldn't see the mountains at all. The apartment where we were staying turned out to be so so cute! And even had a real toilet;) We went to sleep early that night. The next morning, I immediately ran downstairs to peer out the window... I lost my breath. 



That was my view for the week:) 

That morning we went to pick up our ski gear and I signed up for some ski lessons. When the lady asked me what level I am I told her intermediate.. For some reason I was sure that I was a good skier. Looking back on it, I'm not sure exactly what made me think that seeing as how I had only been skiing one other time and it was when I was really young. My first lesson was in a couple hours so I got geared up and headed towards the bunny slope to warm up. We got in line for the ski lift, the type where it's just the pole that you hang on to and it pulls you up the slope. You're supposed to hang on until the very last second, but I got nervous and let go early, thinking that I had enough momentum to fling me over the bump. When I let go I started to slide backwards down the slope, colliding with the next 2 people coming up behind me. I was a star you guys! A skiing rock star. 

Fast forward to my first class! As I said before, I was convinced I was a decent skier so I was placed in a pretty high level class. The instructor started us out on the bunny slope and this time I made it through the ski lift phase beautifully. However, the descent was not so graceful. I fell approximately 5938 times and as I approached the group, fell one last time, sliding the rest of the way on my face. The instructor just looked at me. Then looked at another group that was coming down the slope behind us. He motioned to their instructor and explained that I would be a perfect fit for his level 1 group. Youch. I guess one ski trip about 15 years back doesn't cut it for the intermediate level.. Hahah Ahh but I was so happy to be with other skiers as bad (and worse!) than I was. There were 8 of us, all girls. I was the youngest, and I'm pretty sure the only one not married with children. And all we did was laugh. Our instructor had to have been so annoyed by the end of the week.. But we had so much fun! And we really did improve! By the last day we skied a red slope at normal speed without anyone wiping out! 
Obviously taking things super seriously hahaha



It was sunny like this almost everyday! 




One day was absolutely gorgeous so I spent the afternoon just taking pictures. 










Is it just me or do these look absolutely fake? And this last one was taken with my iphone!
Le Montana! The restaurant with the best view. And the best vin chaud ;)









Enough about the mountains! Let's talk about how the French celebrate Christmas. The first thing you should know is that for about a week, nearly all conversation centers around food. Delicious, rich, heavenly French cuisine. And it is a serious decision-making process in which every member of the family participates.

The Tartiflette is a dish they typically make in the winter. A mixture of potatoes, cheese, and cream, and sometimes meat. It's heavy, delicious, comfort food, so perfect after a long day of skiing! You can find a million Tartiflette recipes on Pinterest :) 



Another food they always have in the winter is Raclette. It requires a Raclette machine, which almost every French family has. I actually sent one to my family for Christmas! :) It's basically just a round stove for grilling cheese. Raclette is a type of cheese that's cut into thick square slabs. Each person takes a little personal tray (which comes with the Raclette machine), puts a piece of cheese in their tray, then sets it on the Raclette stove. While the cheese is heating up, everyone peels a boiled potato and takes whatever charcuterie they want to eat with their Raclette. Hot cheese over potatoes :) It's pretty delicious. Apparently my sister found Raclette at Trader Joe's so that's good to know!

At midnight the night before Christmas, La Bûche de Noël is served. It's a specific type of cake that is apparently really difficult to make. This is the one we ate :)



Foie Gras is always always eaten on Christmas day, it's a French tradition. And always served with a bottle of super sweet white wine. 

OK! Enough about food! I feel like that's all I post about! But honestly, that's 80 percent of the experience here, I don't really have a choice. 

Presents are done on Christmas eve after La Bûche is served. It's so sweet, everyone opens their presents one at a time and each time you bise (the 2 cheek kiss) the person who gave you the gift. It was so sweet, Mathilde and her mom had stamps made for me using pictures of me and my family! It made me cry! 

I was soo excited to open my gifts from home :) They laughed so hard when I opened my stocking. Apparently that is only an American thing. I never would have known! 

I loved everything, but I have to say, my favorite had to be opening this hahahaha My very own monogrammed Christmas pickle. 



A Christmas I will never forget. 



2 comments:

  1. Chloe! Beautiful pictures as always and I loved reading about your adventures. Thought of you as I shopped at J Crew the other day and wondered about the incredible experience you're having. Your ski stories made me laugh out loud and my mouth is watering at the sound of the food!

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  2. This is so good, I want to make tartiflette since it looks like the alps outside...almost. I wish there were some pics of Antoine and Mathilde! :)

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