Monday, 5 January 2015

New Year in Petite-Bretagne

After Understanding Frenchman's immersion in British festive traditions, it was my turn to share some celebrations with his family. We had a quick turn around in Paris when we got back from the UK, then went out west to celebrate New Year en Bretagne.
Our train arrived in Rennes and we met up with some friends for a drink. We went to a bar à jeux , a wonderful concept that I've only ever encountered in Rennes but which my friends assure me exists elsewhere in France. A bar à jeux is just what it sounds like - a bar or café where you can order drinks and sit and play board and card games with your friends. The staff are often very knowledgeable about the games and can give recommendations or explain how to play. As our friends had their children with them, we mostly played Penguin Slide, My First Farm and Les Lapins Crétins, but they actually have far more games for adults than for children, and these bars are popular with students.

On our first day out in the country, we woke to find that the entire landscape was covered in thick frost. Luckily I know Understanding Frenchman's family well enough now for them not to find it weird that the first thing I wanted to do after breakfast was go out and take photographs of bits of their garden and the surrounding fields.

New Year's Eve was quiet but pleasant, as we stayed in and ate the traditional meal with Understanding Frenchman's parents. They keep things relatively simple, but that nevertheless meant apéritif with little toasts, foie gras for the starter, duck and roast potatoes for the main course, cheese and pâtisseries from the baker's, so we certainly began the new year with full stomachs!

On New Year's Day, Understanding Frenchman and I worked on creating our latest tradition and drove to the coast to look at the waves. Last year we were treated, purely by chance, to the spectacle of magnificent Atlantic rollers crashing on the cliffs of the Côte Sauvage. This year, despite our best efforts to arrive at the optimum moment just before high tide, the waves were less impressive, but we had a lovely walk and finished up the afternoon watching a beautiful sunset on the western horizon.

We also spent lots of time with Understanding Frenchman's nieces and nephews, which was great fun. They are 4, 5 and 7 and full of beans and joie de vivre. Watching the 4 year-old open his presents from us was better than receiving any of our own, and when the two little boys hid under the table to share out the galette des rois (we were a bit early because you're not really supposed to have it until the 6th of January), it was hilarious to hear them making their choices. (The galette des rois commemorates the 3 kings in the Christmas story, and has a little fève (usually a tiny figurine) hidden in it. The person who finds the fève gets to wear a paper crown, and the tradition is that the youngest person hides under the table and says which slice is to be given to which person to ensure that everyone has an equal chance.) This year, the fèves were actually found by Understanding Frenchman and his brother, but they quickly slipped them into the boys' portions when they weren't looking, ensuring even more delighted laughter. When the 7 year-old found out what they had done, instead of being upset that she didn't get one, she was even happier than the boys because she got to be in on the adults' secret!

I haven't made many resolutions this year, but I have decided, not for the first time, that it would be a good idea to work a bit harder on my French. When we're in Brittany, speaking French nearly all the time, I definitely learn new words and feel more fluent, but on an average day in Paris, I speak English for a large part of the day and French is usually restricted to a couple of hours at most. The result is that I find myself searching for words that I do actually already know and making grammar mistakes that I recognise as soon as they slip out of my mouth, and it's really annoying! I'm still trying to work out exactly what my strategy will be to fix it, so more on that later.

And finally, 2015 is to be the year of a big and extremely exciting project ... but more on that another time too!

1 comment:

  1. That coast line is almost cornish there! Love the frosty pictures. I wanna know your exciting project now!!