December is here. Despite the unprecedented challenges of the year the seasons have changed regardless. The skies of California are still cornflower blue, especially in the Tahoe mountains where we’re living for a few months, but winter has arrived. There’s not been much snow but the frigid night time temperatures are permitting it to be made and we’ve already had four days on the slopes! Bare tree branches dusted with frost and snow glint in the bright morning sunlight and the air is fragrant with pine. Having shed her crimson autumn gown Mother Nature is readying herself for her mantle of white. Christmas is upon us and excited small children trudge through the snow to cut down their Christmas trees.
As the end of the year approaches, one that will not be remembered fondly, it’s easy to become nostalgic. In the spirit of Charles Dickens’ beloved ‘Christmas Carol’, there’s comfort to be drawn reflecting on Christmas past, wondering how things will be this Christmas and perhaps pondering upon Christmas yet to come.
Our trip actually began in Germany, in a tiny picturesque village near Cologne where of course we visited its splendid Christmas markets. Glittering enticingly, Christmas markets have been held beneath the spires of the city’s magnificent cathedral for over one hundred and eighty years. I hope they are there this year too.
We then went to London. Bedecked with Christmas splendor London sparkles and glows at Christmas. The streets are festooned with lights, Regent Street being the most spectacular. The shops are at their most splendid and the West End theatres thrill audiences with their Christmas productions and pantomimes. The American classic ‘White Christmas’ in London was magical!
After the theatre and shopping we were in need of refreshment and no where could have been more atmospheric and authentic than Gordons. Tucked away down a small alley way near Charing Cross Station it is believed to be London’s oldest wine bar, still run by the Gordon family, who have been serving drinks since 1890. Sat beneath its vaulted ceiling in the cellar it felt like we’d stepped into a Dickens’ novel!
We spent Christmas the best way there is to spend Christmas, with family in North Yorkshire, just north of possibly England’s most beautiful city, York. We browsed for our Christmas gifts along the cobbled streets, exploring the antique shops crammed with treasures below the spires of the cathedral which dominate the skyline.
All the traditional English fare; turkeys, mince pies, Christmas puddings, chutneys and preserves were readily available. We found pheasants hanging from a butcher’s window and even spotted Father Christmas attempting an early descent.
We were really spoiled, a Christmas party in our honor, carols by candlelight at the church and a brisk walk on Christmas morning along the beach before a sumptuous Christmas lunch, roast turkey and all the trimmings!
We indulged in fish and chips a couple of nights before. The most delicious in the world really are from Yorkshire!
Many of us will be preparing for the festivities differently this year. Shopping will be mostly online, perhaps we’ll miss the excited bustle of crowded shops or maybe we’ll be glad to avoid it. Pantomimes and theaters productions won’t be happening, church pews will be empty, carol singers might not be gathering and Christmas markets will be a rarity. Saddest of all, many people will not be able to freely gather with family and friends but Christmas will still be celebrated even if the sparkle is missing. For some, because of this tragic pandemic, it will be particularly difficult, the first Christmas without someone they love……
I will be thinking of my fairy tale village in Provence where despite everything I’m sure preparations for le Fête Noël are underway. Even if the festive wooden chalets of the Marchés de Noël don’t line the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence I know the local people will do all they can to ensure their local traditions continue. Buying the delicious Calissons d’Aix and displaying the santons in their Nativity scenes. My family for one would like me to adopt the age old French custom of having thirteen deserts! You can remind yourself of Provence traditions here.
Christmas yet to be
Next year I’m sure things will have improved. The pandemic will be more under control and there will be things to look forward to again. Maybe we’ll even be in Provence for Christmas 2021. Sadly apart from a few days in January we haven’t been to Lourmarin all year. But as I’ve said before, ‘this too shall pass’.
We’re being optimistic and have reinstated our cancelled airline tickets to return to England and Lourmarin next May ~
However trying life has been, at this time of year there’s magic in the air. I hope it will be sprinkled upon you allowing you to enjoy the festive season. Happy Christmas my friends, and remember, good things happen to all those who truly believe………