We're in Argéles-sur-mer for Christmas, which is where we most like to be. It's peaceful, as there are relatively few people here through the winter, mostly locals, yet enough to be festive and cheerful.
The village has really outdone itself this year with a Christmas village, street decorations, parades, an evening soirée at our favorite café ... and the best part is that it's not at all commercial. There's not a shopping mall for miles. Just local merchants, whom we patronize as much as we can, and itinerant sellers of inexpensive goods who make the rounds of the marchés in the region. There are seasonal foods such as vin chaud, roast chestnuts, foie gras, mince pies from our English baker friend, and of course the bouche noel.
We have a Christmas/Solstice tree that's one step up from a Charlie Brown model. There are no lights to untangle or find the burnt-out bulb, just hand-painted wooden memory ornaments by my stepdaughter when she was three years old. She made the needlepoint stockings in the photo as well, when she was somewhat older. We'll open the presents in the stockings tonight on Christmas Eve while watching the classic White Christmas movie and save the gifts under the tree for Christmas Morning. We don't exchange anything expensive; we have everything we could need or want (and no storage left). But the gifts have great value simply from the affection that each package represents.
Our bed is adorned with a beautiful Christmas quilt made by my mother. Another, just arrived, blankets the snore room bed. Both are cherished heirlooms. D-L calls my mother "an artist in cloth." A local retoucher is repairing a treasured family quilt made by D-L's grandmother, completed after she had lost her sight; we bought cloth for the replacement squares at the country store in the States where my mother gets her supplies -- a perfect marriage of family traditions and American and European artisans.
We think of friends who are off in the mountains, those on an island, others back in Geneva, the UK, Denmark, Austria, around France, and elsewhere, family and family of choice in the States, and of those who are no longer physically with us but live on in our spirit.
A year ago, so very different. D-L did not have the strength to travel, so we remained in Geneva as she prepared for the final rounds of chemotherapy, including a quadruple dose which almost completely sapped her energy. Yet we did take a short journey on Christmas Eve, along the lake to Hermance, which has a peninsula park extending into the water. There too, in the solitude of a Swiss winter sky, we experienced a calm and peace that together we could and were dealing with a temporary adversity.
As we arrived at our door after touring the Saturday marché, the church bell tower, just a few steps down the street, chimed 12 times. We could still hear the brass street band quintet, its members dressed as a duck, a giraffe, and who knows what else. There's snow on the distant peaks of Canigou, but not down here on the plain, which is just the way I prefer it.
There's no place like being with your life partner and best friend for the holiday.
We hope you too have a peaceful and cheerful Christmas with someone you love.