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Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Christmas in France 2017

Hello and welcome to the new year! I hope you had a fantastic holiday season, full of family and fun! Just getting back to my desk today after a wonderful week off and I wanted to take the time to share pictures and highlights from my second Christmas in France!
When last I wrote, I was signing off from work, and starting to lean into the holiday season. It wasn't difficult, there was a lot to make me excited; Christmas and New Year's celebrations, and most noteworthy of all, I had some friends visiting from Canada!

My girlfriend and I celebrated Christmas a little early this year. Since our friends were showing up just before the big day, we decided to open our gifts early so we could have some time, just the two of us. It felt weird, at first, opening gifts on the 22nd, but we're adults and time is arbitrary!

Unfortunately, my gifts for my girlfriend had not arrived yet, nor have they arrived at the time of writing this post. I understand that the holiday season is the busiest, and my gifts were coming from overseas, but I felt bad about her having an empty stocking. Of course she was fine with it, she's amazing and she understood, and most importantly, we both just appreciated having time together, with no distractions, and no work. 

I love this LED tree lamp that doubles as our Christmas Tree!

My girlfriend knows me too well because as I opened gift after gift, I kept saying, "Oh wow, I needed this!" which is about as close as I get to jumping up and down with excitement.

The arrival of our friends took a little longer than expected. Jet lag and hopping between planes and trains took its toll and, unfortunately, they missed their train to get to Strasbourg. Visiting us was just one part of their adventure as they were finally taking the time for themselves, for their honeymoon. As you can expect, it was nearly impossible to find other accommodations, that close to Christmas, but they managed to rent a car and make the drive from Brussels. This was seen as insanity, by the way, to the car rental agency; as I've said before, In North America, 200 years is a long time, but 200 km is nothing, whereas in Europe, it's the opposite.

In any case, they arrived, checked in, and we had a lovely few days together. We explored Strasbourg's Christmas market, had dinner on the town, and spent Christmas day itself just lounging and enjoying each other's company. With time zones, busy lives, and most people's propensity for a lack of robust long-distance communication, I felt disconnected from my friends, and so it was very nice to catch up, spend more than just an update's worth of time together, and feel like nothing important had changed between us. After visiting us, they continued on to Italy and I look forward to hearing all about their adventure soon.

"Come on out to Strasbourg, have a few laughs!" Any Die Hard fans out there?

Christmas Eve dinner was at another friend's home. She and her boyfriend were back from the US, spending the holidays in her hometown, Colmar. Fun fact: Colmar is the hometown of both my girlfriend, and Bartholdi (designer of the Statue of Liberty), and also was voted the 2nd-best Christmas market in Europe this year! Strasbourg was 5th, falling quite a way from its usual place, and Zagreb, Crotia was 1st, so good for them!

Just before dinner, we all caught the final Advent Calendar ceremony in Turckheim. Each year, the town sets up a faux village, with doors opened on each day, along with singing, hot wine, and hot chocolate. Sorry, no pictures this year, but I'll do my best next time!

The dinner and evening were quite lovely. Again, it was good to catch up, and I found that my French had much improved since the year before. The meal was delicious, and lengthy, and while we had a long drive back, it made for a very nice night.

It has been over a year now since I was back in Canada, since I've spent time with my friends and family, but once again I found myself thankful that I could video call people back home. I was also glad that my parents had time to go visit my sister, who herself was unable to go home for the holidays due to work. All that to say that while we weren't all quite in the same place, we still enjoyed the holidays together. 
Between Christmas and New Year's Eve, I fell into the same phenomena that hits many of us, where time has no meaning and no one knows what day it is. I was fortunate. I didn't have to work, and I could afford to take time to relax. It felt like being a kid again, with no school, and I was happy to fill my days with games, and a refocus of my priorities.

My girlfriend and I saw Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle in the theatre, and we enjoyed it! I had been wanting to see the movie for a while, to just see something fun. I am glad that the local theatre/cinema is large enough to not only have all the latest movies, but to offer them in their original language, with French subtitles. I often find myself reading the subtitles, not only to learn the language, but to catch how conversations and phrases differ between French and English.

New Year's Eve (NYE) is my sister's birthday, so after wishing her a happy one, I found myself feeling a little out of place. For the longest time, NYE was just about my sister's birthday. I'm not the biggest fan of the typical NYE party and, for me, my own birthday marks my personal time of refocus and progress. Thankfully, once again, my girlfriend and I were happy to just spend time at home, relaxing, and even playing Cuphead up until the final moments of 2017!

There is one new tradition that I have enjoyed these past two years for NYE, that I look forward to seeing again. Each year, Paris lights up l'Arc de Triomphe and tells a story on its surface. It's always a celebration of the French culture, of the year before and a look to the year ahead, and I think it is very, well, cool! Here it is, if you're interested in checking it out for yourself!

And now, it's January 2nd, 2018. I've officially gotten back to work, and I'm looking forward to the year ahead. In my next post, coming soon, I will talk a little more about the new year, about my various projects and some of my goals.

Until then, thanks for making it to the end of this post. I hope you enjoyed my pictures, my prose, and I hope you had a truly fantastic holiday season! No matter the case, always hope for, and work for the best, and I'll see you out there!    

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