Now as we pull onto the rocades, things seem to be going pretty well...until we get to our exit. Of course, traffic headed west is backed up to lord only knows. Well, we do in fact know. It was right around Cleunay. After a bit of finagling, we finally get onto the Rue National....only to end up in another traffic jam in Les Trois Marches. By now, we're only about 2 hours behind. So with the traffic, we made it there around 6. We stopped over at Taty's, but she was the only one there. It looked like Partner's father was celebrating a co-worker's retirement, so he'd show up later, which meant someone needed to pick up Partner's grandmother. Naturally, the most simple was for us to go get her, so back to the car....
We parked over by the Mairie and stopped by. Grandmother was delighted to see Partner and I! That's one of the best things about being there. Nothing makes her happier than seeing her grandchildren. Her smile could light up a room. She reminds me a lot of my grandmothers, especially my mother's mother. Kisses and hugs were exchanged, and we walked with her back to the car. Apparently though she had walked in the rain that day to pick up the bread. (It's Bretagne. There's practically no snow, but it rains buckets in the winter.) So her sack was soaked. It wasn't raining now though, but it was getting later. I helped her into the car, and we went back to his aunt's.
The evening was pretty great. We all exchanged gifts and we had a great dinner. Everyone was smiles and sunshine. Grandmother told some stories about Partner's father and aunt, and we had a bit of an aperitif before we ate. Oh, and how we ate. We started with smoked salmon, of which I could eat my body weight. Taty had also made some blinis, specifically for Partner as they're salty pancakes to me, and the rest of us had pain de mie. After that, coquilles-saint-jacques, and they were in the cutest plates, ever! They were ceramic plates shaped to be like scallop shells. Grandmother had made it yesterday, and oh, it was perfect. All warm and covered with gruyère. Heaven.
It was around this time that Father-in-Law showed up. He had eaten a bit before, so he wasn't feeling all that hungry. He had drunk a bit, so that might have had something to do with it. The next course; rosbif, which is nothing like an American roast beef, with pommes dauphine. Everything was really well done, but what we didn't know is that neither Grandmother or Taty were going to have any of the rosbif or potatoes either. So basically, Partner and I were splitting almost a kilo of potatoes and a rosbif that usually serves five. We tried, but there was no way we were going to finish it before we left. So we ate what we could and moved on to dessert.
No matter how much I eat, I will always find room for dessert. As tradition demands in France, we had Galette des Rois. With everything that we had eaten though, we split it in half and each had a small piece. It was really good, apparently the bakery it came from is nationally recognized for its kouign amann and galette des rois, but there was no way we could eat a whole galette after everything else we'd eaten. We took our time between courses and we ended the evening with a nice tisane. Partner is in love with everything fruits rouges, so of course, we had some loose leaf. We talked and drank a bit of tisane to help digest. All and all, it was a wonderful night. Most importantly, I had an answer to what I would wear for the Réveillion.
After that, we picked up mother-in-law and headed back to Rennes so we wouldn't have to come back West before we headed East. We talked the whole way about everything's that been going on with her, and how she was excited. She had a lot of small sacks that we had to be careful with. She, much like me, hates wrapping, and had all of the gifts wrapped in the store, so they were all beautifully done. Now, positive and negatives of that story are that they're all perfect, but all have ribbons that are easily crushed. So to avoid it, each has to be in its own sack. We made it back to Rennes unscathed, and got some much needed sleep.
Now, because Partner already felt culpable enough for letting the 25th slip by without the ability to study, he needed to suck the marrow out of the bones on the 24th and 26th. He had to study the morning of the 24th before we left, and would be studying the evening the 26th pretty much as soon as we got back. As a result, he was literally studying while putting the clothes he was going to wear for Christmas Eve dinner in the suitcase. He did get the studying he needed done on the 24th though, and we packed up the car and made the two hour trip East with Christmas music playing the whole way!
You know how sometimes when you go places, it's like you just instantly just kind of decompress? That's how it happens when we go to see sister-in-law's family. Probably what makes it best is the nieces. It's always great to see them, and we always have a great time, but it's just something about Christmas that makes it better. The best of all is the youngest niece. Shes' only 8 years old, so it's everything about Christmas is great for her. Pretty much the second we got there she was stuck to Partner. He is her partner in Pokémon crime. They play a lot of games together and all kinds of stuff like that. It was just so nice to be there.
Given the situation, sister in law, mother in law, and Partner all needed to leave to get some last things for that night. If I were to go along, I'd be hanging back like a little kid. To better avoid this fate, I was on the couch watching Cuisine TV with a kitty on my lap. I'm not big into decorating, much to my mother's chagrin, and I've learned that it's best not to have an opinion on either French decor or Fashion. So I hung back until it was time to help with dinner.
We decided to do a more simple version than years past. We made a lot of stuff for the aperitif, and just had mostly a lot of small dishes and the like. After that we had shrimp and salmon both marinated and smoked. We had oysters too, but really it's better just to have two or three. Of course there was wine and champagne, and lots and lots of cider. It's hard to explain how French cider is different, but, it's just better than any cider I had in the US. I was just happy there weren't any crayfish. It always makes me sad to see them lying there on a plate. (We had a pet crayfish, an ecrevisse really, when I was a kid and I swear we named it. We were geeky kids like that.)
Between the courses, we took a break to open presents. La Petite Niece was very much ready after waiting patiently until 10 pm. She started with the small gifts, surprise surprise all Pokémon toys, and then we had the plat. After the plat, we started with the big gifts. Partner and I hung back with Sister and Brother and Mother in law while the nieces opened their presents. It was wonderful. I have more video games than are necessary, and we even got some pretty nice decorations for the house. We got everything we wanted, and what we needed. We finished opening presents around midnight, and finally went to bed around 3 am.
The 25th was more marathon eating. The grandparents, brother in law's parents, came in from Tours. This time we had a few less plates for the aperitif, but a much bigger main dish. The maigret de canard was good, and so were the potatoes. We found it much better to do something simple than to gorge ourselves. Finally, more galette des rois and a bûche de Noël, as if we hadn't eaten enough. All things considered it was a very nice time, and a quiet night of gluttony. We capped it off with the first two Harry Potter movies. I still wish we had watched a third, because the third is my favorite, The Prisoner of Azkaban.
In an ideal world, we would have left around noon as planned. However; none of us really felt like leaving and trying to wake up Partner when he doesn't want to get up is unfun. Getting around the bags went pretty fast, and I managed to download 10 gigs of music from brother in law. He usually has a lot of good stuff, so quite a haul! We left Centre right around 2pm, so we were really not that far off. We came back to Rennes, had another small quiet dinner and went to bed.
Such was our Christmas odyssey. I think Partner and I are planning a very quiet New Year's Eve. I'll probably buy a bottle or two of cider and maybe some blinis. We have some smoked salmon, and I might try and make something a bit special to go with. I have to talk more with him to know exactly what it is he wants to do, exactly.
In any case, je vous souhaite une Bonne Année du fond de mon coeur! Be safe, be happy, and most importantly enjoy who and what you have!