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Monday, December 19, 2005

back where I belong

The other day an orange winged easyJet plane left Paris, took off into the heavens, and landed in the South of France.

I flew in the sky that I'd been staring at for so long, and landed on the runway of the Toulouse airport, where I was met by a smiling brother and father. We drove through the country for an hour, the fields now dead and barren, the air frozen, but as pure as I left it this summer.

Eventually we arrived in Castelnau de Montmiral, the small medieval town I've been coming to since I was four feet tall, and I was taken to our summer house, which I'm told is around 800 years old. I'll be staying here a week with my family, minus one brother, until we all head back to Paris, where they'll celebrate Christmas with me before going back to Canada.

It all sounds incredibly romantic. And it is. The house is old and crumbling, and although it's absolutely freezing, and not meant to be lived in during winter, I love it. My mother took me in her arms and I felt at home immediately.

Within minutes of my arrival, my brother and I ran down to the towns one small grocery store, the size of a living room, where I bought vodka so I could welcome myself properly.

I love my family. They are relaxed and easy. Everyone is allowed to be. Most arguments end in laughter, and everyone's opinion is always heard. It doesn't matter if my mother drinks red wine, my father drinks beer, and I drink vodka while my brother stays sober over dinner. We are who we are, and we all have our own tastes.

My second day here we took off to an old chateau, where you can book 24 hours in advance to have the owners prepare you dinner in the front room.

We drove for hours through winding roads to get there. Barren trees edges along the small country roads, which turned and turned, while we passed small country homes, smoke billowing out of the chimneys.

When we arrived, we walked around the frost covered grass and checked out the land. The owners rent out a lot of their property, and also raise lambs, which are always cooked up as part of the meals they serve.

Our meal was four courses. We were seated at a large table in front of a giant sized fireplace and greeted by the woman of the house, who shook our hands and brought us bread to begin with. We nibbled on bread, while red wine was poured freely, until the first course was brought to us.

First course was a crustless leek and salmon quiche. It was light, fluffly, and rich in flavour. It's all country cooking, but it warms the heart, and fills a hungry winter belly.

Next we were brought a large dish of scalloped potatoes, along with another dish of lamb and polenta stuffing. The meat was rich and tender, the stuffing light but savoury.

By this time we were all full, but were brought salad, to cleanse the palate, along with our own circle of goat cheese each. I wasn't in the mood for salad at this point in the meal, but happily dug into my goat cheese, eating its bitter skin and soft insides on its own.

By this time we were ready to burst. But on comes the real dessert. A tray of chocolate cake, laced with nuts, and a coffee cream sauce to pour over top. I couldn't do it. I didn't want the button of my jeans to burst. So I wrapped a piece in a red napkin, threw it in my purse, and finished off with an espresso.

Life here is different. It's slow. It's personal. The days go by quickly, and revolve mostly around the meals.

The town is freezing and mostly dead, nothing like the place I left this summer, but the winter light is beautiful, and I have my family.

It's far from the life I left in Paris, and a lovely escape. I'm catching my breath, as I huddle around the wood stove that heats our house, dancing to Christmas carols with my mom who attempts to pop corn on top of it.

As I write, my dad lies snoring on the bed behind me, after a large chicken dinner I produced, and Irish Christmas carols blast through the room.

I'm home. In some way or another. Back where the stars shine brightly, and the best memories of my life have been made.

Merry Christmas everyone, whatever corner of the world you're in right now.

chateau feast
leaving the chateau
my mentor Susan
miss Young


Anonymous Georgia said...

Wow, that sounds like a really amazing meal.

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Silvia Cassivi said...

Here where i am,brazil,the weather is completely different: rain and rain-rain-rain-rain....everyday....and all hot air a country can have if it not hell.....But it is good,besides the hot and wet air,people laughing and giving hugs to strange ones....and a big party on new years night....

Hope things are good there.
All the best

6:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gill - have a beautiful Christmas with your family, the idea of a chilly town basking in low winter light sounds fabulous.

I'll say Hi to the West Coast for you.
Jenn in NJ

8:30 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

your writing brings me there, gill, truly. who needs to travel when we've got you to simply write the experience? Merry Christmas.

2:23 PM  

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