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Excuse Me But Your Cheese Is Touching Mine.

Yes, we are all suffering from that Christmas rush. The festival holidays are in full swing like everywhere else in the western world.  In the main square of Nice there is a typical Christmas village with various vendors, an ice rink and plenty of vin chaud (hot wine).  The city has done a nice job of displaying lights throughout the city.  Interestingly they stay away from themes or characters so the light displays are more abstract and bring a more sophistication to the layout of the city.  You don’t see any smiling Santa Clauses, weird elves or snowmen; just designs that remind you of a wintry scene of ice or snow.  The coloring usually is of white, silver, blue or red; nothing too alarming.  There is also a ferris wheel in the city center that went up at the beginning of December.  I have been told this ride will remain up until Carnival before Ash Wednesday.  With the abnormal cold temperatures we have been having, I lack the desire to ride up in the brisk air.  You would think they would have the ferris wheel out in the summer time, but they don’t.

Open Longer for Christmas

Open Longer for Christmas

Normally the stores in France are closed on Sunday but this month is full of ouvert exceptionnelle signs to accommodate the influx of shoppers.  CAP 3000, a mall not far from me reported a week ago Saturday was the busiest day on record since its opening in 1969.   Not bad for just surviving a global recession and having our neighbors Spain and Italy struggling to keep afloat.  But the French do know how to save and be economic so they don’t have to sacrifice when it comes to gift giving.

My work has been busy as everyone is trying to wrap up projects before the end of the year.  Luckily a lot of colleagues with families will already be starting their holiday vacation this week since schools are now closed.  Consequently this week should be a breeze and traffic almost non-existent.

Raclette: French or Swiss?

Raclette: French or Swiss?

Naturally there has been a lot of social gatherings. I had the pleasure this week to participate in a raclette.  Raclette refers to cow cheeses that can easily be melted and/or a dish where the main component is cheese.  You may have the instinctive reaction of fondu, but it is not quite the same.  It is wintry delight that everyone gets excited about providing a great excuse to invite friends over for the evening.  First you must get a raclette grill, something I never saw in the States but go to the local Darty and you will see several electric models to choose from.  It is nothing more than a round grill with mini-shovels that sit nicely underneath the heat.  There will be a huge plate of cheese and everyone takes a slice.  Then we place the cheese on your own personal shovel and put it underneath the grill.  It mimics the scene of a campfire.  Then you wait a few minutes until the cheese is all melted and then you scrape it on your plate for consumption.  Of  course there are other gastronomic items to accompany the cheese.  You will have a plate of charcuterie (various meats), potatoes and pickles.  You can even go further with some vegetables if you like but you have to understand it is all about the cheese.   It is a very hearty casual dinner and comforting as you know it is so cold outside.  There is debate where this meal originated.  The Swiss say they did it first but naturally the French claim as their own.  Personally just say it came from the Alps and you are playing it politically safe.  All in all, it was a very delightful evening of experiencing new cheeses and meats.  I’ll have to put a look out for another invitation as the long months of January and February approach.

As for my own personal Christmas, I will be staying in France and more specifically in my home.  Those of you who know me well will not be surprised by the fact I already have plans for that long weekend.  My Venezuelan colleague at work invited me to his family dinner on Christmas Eve.  On Christmas Day, some other colleagues and I are cooking a lunch together (another American and a Canadian).  Later that same evening I have a dinner with some new friends in Nice.  Through the entire weekend I will be hosting a Venezuelan student who resides in Paris via Couch Surfing.   So I will be busy and definitely not alone.  I return to work on the Tuesday after.

Joyeux Fêtes!

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