well, well, well. i have just returned to berck after a few days in beauvais in the picardy region where guillaume’s sister lives. we decided to take the back roads on the way there rather than the highway, and that was a good decision. the french countryside is very charming with it’s it’s winding roads, farms, and little villages that look like no one has settled in for 500 years. the week before(because gui is on christmas break) we went to paris and had a drink at harry’s new york bar, the oldest cocktail bear in europe. we also went to the cinema and saw notre dame again while searching for books on the boulevard saint-michael. he is teaching the middle ages right now, so i am getting a crash course in romanesque and gothic architecture. but, back to christmas. on christmas eve day, we went shopping in beauvais, and madame brondy bought me a pocketbook. guillaume got a leather coat. we looked at the beauvais cathedral which is the tallest church in europe and was built in the middle ages. on christmas eve, we had an aperitif with his parents, sister and boyfriend, and his parents. we had pousse rapier, which is a liquor you drink with champagne that the muskateers used to drink. there were lots of vittles like apricots wrapped in bacon and mushrooms with a cheese spread. we then sat down to a dinner of foie gras, oysters, and duck. i refused to eat the oysters after gui showed me what happens when you squirt lemon juice on them. then at midnight, while i was on the phone to the states, they all started singing we wish you a merry christmas in english, so i would know it was time to open presents. i got some books, lingerie, cds, and tickets to a festival from gui. we also got red wine, i think one is a vintage 2002, and we have to save it for a special occasion. the next morning we went to nico’s uncle’s house for a traditional family gathering. there were so many people there. i’ve talked about this before, but i will never get over how much kissing you have to do. and depending on the region someone comes from it’s either 2 or 4, and sometimes you have to start on the right. we started with what i can only guess were screwdrivers, orange juice and vodka, and ate verrines which are little glasses with layers of veggies, cheese, and meat. then came the croquettes with potatoes and foie gras and a sweet white wine. i didn’t participate in the next course which was seafood. they opened the ten year old bordeaux superieur for the cheese course. and i ate way too much roquefort. there were other courses that i stopped paying attention to, then cake and champagne. after that, because we were in the north, we drank beer. i was so full and a little drunk. i understand why people get a prejudice about the french drinking habits because if you aren’t used to it, it seems like a lot of drinking. however, they always eat while they drink, unlike many americans, so they don’t get drunk the way many less refined drinkers do. after we went back to his sister’s, we watched et. i then sat up and read a book about french history. the next day we left to return to berck, again taking back roads. the houses in that region often have exposed wood beams on the outside, and some have been built with mosaic bricks and tiles with fleur de lis. it’s very quaint. we are planning a visit to azincourt this week to go to the museum. it’s a battle site from the hundred years war that goes down in history as near genocide, and has a lot to do with hostilities that plagued the british and french for the next 500 years. it should be interesting. merry christmas and happy new years!