Blog 13 : Joyeux Noel
And so, we are winding down towards the end of my journey here in France…PART 1 that is! I cannot be more than ecstatic to go home for the holidays, but I am also so thankful that I have next semester here to look forward to. Before I go home, however, there are just a few things that I need to soak in right now. First, the holiday season (bien sûr!) If I haven’t mentioned this in almost every blog already, I will just say again that the Christmas Market in Strasbourg is something that people look forward to all year. The beautiful lights, the smell of hot apple cider, and the mob of people that I run into on a daily occurrence really make this town that much brighter. I could almost stay here for the holiday season! (Ok, let’s not take things too far now). However, I have to compliment my host mom for all the wonderful holiday activities that I would have not had the opportunity to experience at Holy Cross. For example, I walked into the kitchen today to find not just a plate but exactly 14 Christmas tins; all of which were filled with a different assortment of home-baked Christmas cookies. I look at this as just another major food group to add to my current diet: bread and cheese. She also made this beautiful wreath all on her own, which I was extremely impressed about, which she incorporated hand-picked leaves, fresh dried oranges, and candles that she bought at the market. While France doesn’t get as Hallmark about Christmas and the Holidays as the US does, I am still happy that the true Christmas spirit still exists ,which of course is not just about the presents, the wrapping paper, and the holiday movies. (However, I keep bugging my host parents every night to watch a Christmas movie and I think it’s officially safe to say that they think I am a deranged fan).
I also promised I would explain a bit more about the Marché de Noel. Basically, there are several things to look out for when dodging through the hustle and bustle of Christmas Cheer:
1. Vin Chaud (Mulled Wine): Honestly, a bit too sweet for my liking but people really should try it once and keep the great little souvenir cup. I preferred the hot apple cider which was just as festive and better smelling (maybe that’s also my nostalgia for my apple-orchard loving farm town of Glastonbury).
2. The dreaded Tarte Flambée Baguettes: The Alsatian specialty, “La Tarte Flambée” (I’m sorry I cringe whenever I think about it) is basically just a flat pizza with cheese and lots and lots of bacon. You see now why I’m more than enthused. Well, they created the wonderful idea that they should incorporate this into a baguette with cheese and bacon….and yes; people do come from all over France to taste these phenomenal hot sandwiches (Instead of me trying it, I’ll let you all just go eat a bacon pizza and tell me how it is.)
3. I am, however, an extreme fan of the vast displays of Christmas Ornaments, Christmas tea booths, Pain d’epices (Christmas spice Bread), Wood-crafted Strasbourg Christmas trinkets, and Christmas Candy EVERYWHERE! (Yes, it’s necessary to put Christmas in front of all of these words to really accentuate the CHRISTMAS cheer). Unfortunately, I have not yet seen anyone dressed up as Santa…
While the Christmas spirit is upon us, I must be honest and say that I haven’t just been focusing on Christmas…last week I celebrated my 20th Birthday in Scotland! Instead of boring you with all the Scottish details, I just made a trip to Saint Andrews, met up with several Holy Cross kids, explored the town, and even got to see the dorm room where Kate and Will stayed in when they attended the University (Def, the highlight of the trip). I also really thought it would be a break from the usual French language barrier, but to be perfectly honest, I had absolutely no clue what the old Scottish bus driver was trying to say to me. So, as another naïve American, I learned that Scotland is definitely a foreign country in itself. Besides my last voyage of the semester (except if you count the most exciting adventure back home to America in T-8 days), I have also been suffocating under the massive weight of finals weeks….To be blatantly honest, it is not as bad as Holy Cross finals because they are spread out in three weeks, and I have not been nearly as stressed (there is absolutely no correlation between the stress and the amount of gauffres I have consumed in the past week). This could also be because all of my finals are in French (besides German of course) which makes the impact of the “finals signals” less real. I have also had a little bit of downtime to go to work (yes, still working at the boy tech school who made the mistake in telling me that they have never seen “How the Grinch stole Christmas” before), watching the Miss France Pageant with my host dad (It is exactly what it sounds like…Congrats to Miss Bourgogne!), and volunteering at the hospital. For my ICIP (I am actually still not sure what this stands for but it’s something along the lines of a cultural project one must do while studying abroad) I decided to volunteer at the hospital, which in France you can only do so by joining the hospital’s Catholic chaplaincy (Shhh, they don’t need to know I’m not Catholic). What I can do, though, is become a visitor and have conversations with people who are in the “Internal Medicine” section of the hospital. I never thought how much fun this could be until last week, I went into the hospital, got lost, and walked into a random room to which I wasn’t exactly assigned. The best part of this was that I met this very sweet woman from Alsace, got to practice my French with her for over an hour, and promised I would return and visit her again this coming week!
Other than that, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to practice my German at the Opera which we all attended with Malou. This was also my first Opera attendance and although it was a modern interpretation of Mozart, I felt very special to dress up for the occasion and hear songs that I was somewhat familiar with (there are people like Mozart who really make music universal to every language). I also must throw out there that before I go home, there are two more things I am overly excited about: these include a Cookie-making Slumber Party, a Christmas Dinner, Malou, Rachel, and my French-American sisters (the Strasbourg 5). I wish everyone else who has to endure finals or the madness of last minute Christmas shopping “bon courage” and I hope to see all you Americans next week!! May everyone have a safe and blessed Holiday! Tis the Season!
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