It has been now almost 7 years now since I left France for Australia and last time I spent Christmas with my family was in 2003! Though I have always been surrounded by great people in Australia at that time of year, my Aussie family in Brisbane and Melbourne or my partner’s family here in Sydney, I always have a little knot in my stomach from being so far away from my parents and sister…
That is why I decided to fly to France last December and have myself a traditional cold and white Christmas “à la française”!
After a pretty smooth going 24-hour flight, I arrived a few days before Christmas at Charles-de-Gaulle Airport. The whole ground was covered in snow, which, combined with that very peculiar winter dawn light, gave the atmosphere a very eerie feel. Add to that the already well installed jet-lag and it all felt a bit like a dream…
I was soon brought back to reality as I had to buy a RER train ticket to the city. I was certain, now that my credit card was adorned with a beautiful chip, that I would finally be able to use the vending machines and avoid waiting in line at the counters… to no avail! I ended up joining the queue, together with a few British refugees stuck in Paris due to the snow blocking Heathrow Airport… I stopped complaining to myself and thanked my good luck!
My childhood friend and her husband were there to meet me at Gare du Nord, and we walked to their home a few blocks from there in the 10th Arrondissement, not far from the notorious Rue Saint-Denis. The snow made it quite difficult to negotiate the slippery pavements, and we witnessed several near-falls from other pedestrians on our way!
A basket full of pastries, chocolate croissants, raisin snails and fresh baguettes was displayed on the table for my arrival… what a nice welcome! It was good to be home 🙂
We didn’t linger too long, as I was starting to doze off and hear the sweet call of the couch! My friends were hosting Christmas at their place this year with a dozen guests and they still had a lot of shopping to do! They chose me as their guinea pig to test the dishes they had planned for Christmas eve, including Duck breast cooked in salt crust and a “Bûche glacée” (ice-cream Christmas log) from the famous Parisian ice-cream maker Berthillon… I was only too happy to oblige. That’s just the type of friend I am 😉
We first went to Berthillon, where even in the heart of winter, tourists queue in order to taste the famous ice-cream! However most people were locals ordering their “bûche glacée” and there wasn’t much left to choose from already! We therefore left with an Apricot & Gingerbread Bûche.
Back at the flat, my hosts left me sinking into the couch while they were cooking the duck. I could hear faraway in my dreams some dramatic exclamations and shouts from the kitchen, which made me fear something bad happened to the duck, but it came out perfectly cooked, see the little video below!
We had the bûche for dessert, which was really delicious! I would probably never go for Apricot & Gingerbread if other flavours like Chocolate or Vanilla had been available… and that would have been wrong, because it really was a great match!
The following day was dedicated to more food shopping, including a trip to the shop of famous Macaron master Pierre Hermé.
The picture policy of the shop was quite strict, as I was only allowed to take 2 pictures unless I contacted Pierre Hermé’s PR department… We saw Hermé’s best-known macaron, the Ispahan, but didn’t buy it, which I now regret! It was difficult to chose from all the lovely flavours, but finally set our choice on a box of 12 macarons.
The flavours we chose were: Rose, White Truffle & Hazelnut (very fragrant!), Quince & Rose, Milk Chocolate & Passionfruit, Chestnut & Green Tea, Chocolate, Salted Butter Caramel, Crème Brûlée… I couldn’t recommend one in particular, they were all delicious!
We then walked to La Grande Epicerie de Paris, located in the same building as Le Bon Marché, which was buzzing with BCBG (“Bon chic, bon genre”) people doing their last Christmas shopping. There was an opulence of fine food all over the shop (poultry, foie gras, truffles, caviar, smoked salmon, all kinds of seafood, chocolate… you name it), and hundreds of customers trying to make their way between the shelves… it was a bit oppressive!
We finally made our way out and walked along the windows to admire the Christmas displays and lights.
The hues in the windows were changing every few seconds and all the streets were illuminated… Paris at that time of year is really beautiful, there is a sort of magic about it!
Some friends and their little girl were expected for dinner that night, and a nice raclette was planned for the occasion. The raclette set means each guests fries their own cheese under the grilling machine at the centre of the table, and pours it on boiled potatoes, accompanied with ham, smoked ham, salami, cornichons… it is very convivial and perfect for that type of freezing weather!
A bit of melted cheese action below…
I think the pictures speak for themselves!
Once more jet-lag got the better of me and I was soon unable to keep my eyes open and string a sentence together. I dug deep down to find the strength for a glass of “digestif” though, a delicious Armagnac, which finished the job of putting me to sleep!
And thus unfolded my last evening in Paris… Another trip, albeit shorter, was awaiting me the following day: I was taking the T.G.V to return to my hometown, yay!