lundi, janvier 04, 2010

Noël au Berval, la Vallée de l'Automne

MIL's House, Le Berval

Hub didn't grow up in this house as he, like his older sister, left home at a pretty early age to further his studies and only returned to visit when he could. FIL died 5 years ago so MIL is now alone in her beautifully and lovingly-restored old stone house - something that can be found almost everywhere in this region about an hour north of Paris.

The village is called Le Berval. It is very French, set amongst green fields, lovely forests and land filled with abbeys, castles, churches and old stone houses. People still hunt in the area and in autumn, you can pick mushrooms in the forests and seek permission to fall your own trees for firewood. And that just slightly more than an hour away from Paris.

Church in ruins in the nearest town Crépy en Valois

When Hub's parents bought the house, it was in ruins. They restored it stone by stone - having had the experience of restoring even larger houses behind them. MIL has a green thumb and could make almost any plant grow and when FIL was still alive, they grew their own vegetables and fruits and shared the meat of a whole cow with a few friends. I can still picture the FIL playing billards with his friends on the gigantic pool table in the old grange. Smoking and drinking away.

Very good pastries and chocolate from this pâtissière at Crépy

Now widowed, the vegetable garden has been abandoned and the larder is almost always empty. Spiders and their webs, and the fur and prey of the 2 remaining cats reign. But it is still a lovely old stone house, I am very fond of it.

The meat section of the Intermarché - most supermarkets in France are amazing

We spent Christmas with MIL and SIL. We brought the bulk of the food, the crazy kids and presents that we would have to drive back to Italy with again. MIL now heats the house with this amazing pot - like in the olden days - and it works really well. I do not know what other French families eat for Christmas, but us, we eat mainly seafood : Raw oysters, smoked salmon, crabs, lobsters, prawns, langoustines, crevettes grises...

Le traditional plateau de fruits de mer

We also had Foie gras on toasts, 150-euro bottles of Dom Pérignon champagne, dry white wines, sweet white wine, dry red wines, cheeses...and the traditional Bûche de Noël. In other words, we ate alot.

Last bottle of Baumard's Quart de Chaume

Gongonzola direct from the producer in Milan (no, I don't eat this)

The Christmas Logs (Chocolate & pear, Berries & lemon)

When we were living in Stuttgart, we would return to visit MIL pretty often, but now, more than 12 hours away by car, it could no longer be done. As a result, I also have to cut down my French internet shopping - since I could no longer collect my purchases from the house like I could in the past. On this trip, I still managed to fill up the car boot with my shopping though the most valuable were the 2 little round certified diamonds (0.3ct each, G SI1) that I bought for Baby Girl and that didn't take up much space, fortunately.

Do you still keep up the traditional tale about Santa Claus? I have modernised it abit with the Babies, telling them that Santa is too old and fat to make his rounds and has found a way to contact the parents and let them know if the children deserve a present or not. Also, he provides the gifts, of course, we strictly only provide the wrapping paper.

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