Christmas in France
“I want to tell you about my Christmas in France volunteering at La Giraudiere”. I travelled to France with my husband Stephen from Melbourne in Australia to experience Christmas in the French winter countryside for three weeks, improve our French and work with volunteers from other countries, learning some new skills at the same time. We,The Christmas volunteers, have just had a fantastic Christmas and New Year at La Giraudiere. La Giraudiere is situated in the Charente region of South West France.
We, the volunteers, have organised and held Christmas events for us and the people in the village of Brossac. We have taken part in local events, visited the Chalais market, carol services, made bonfires, played petanque, been on sightseeing tours to towns and villages in the Charente, Gironde and the Dordogne. For a grand finaly was celebrating New Year together, as a group, in the beautiful city of Bordeaux. What an amazing experience! I have had.
Christmas Party Evening at La Giraudiere – Saturday 19th December 2015
La Giraudiere held a fantastic pre-Christmas evening in the newly renovated entertainment room, beautifully decorated with Christmas bows and lights. Over 50 people from the local Brossac village and surrounds came along and were treated to a three course meal, local wine and entertainment, including pool, darts and cards. Paul, the project Director at La Giraudiere, and Aileen, a volunteer from Phillipines, prepared the food. Everyone enjoyed themselves and the festivities continue well after midnight.
Chalais Carols – Sunday 20th December 2015
The group of us went along to the annual Carols evening at Chalais Chapel. A traditional choir from the village sang Christmas songs and hymns such as ‘Ecoutez le chant des anges’ (Hark the Herald Angels sing). There was a trumpet player, flautist and pianist to accompany the choir. Beautiful church and a great atmosphere in the small market town of Chalais.
Christmas Eve at Brossac – Thursday 24th December
We attended the Christmas Eve Mass at Brossac (Messe de la nuit de Noel). The 11th Century stone church is beautiful and luckily warmed with heating pads under the chairs as the night was cold. The children of the village walked down the aisle carrying candles at the start of the service. We sang hymns such as ‘Il est nè le divin enfant’ and returned to home to LG after 9pm in order to get prepared for Christmas Day
Christmas Day and Traditional Christmas Dinner at La Giraudiere – Friday 25th December
Christmas Day at La Giraudiere is especially for people from the village who would normally be alone at Christmas. Myself, Paul, Stephen and Aileen spent two days preparing the five course menu and divided up the cooking duties between us. I was responsible for the prawn cocktail entrée and cauliflower gratin. Aileen looked after the hors d’oevres and dessert. Paul had the important job of cooking the chapons and Stephen looked after the roast potatoes and vegetables. Aileen and I also made and decorated traditional gingerbread biscuits.
On Christmas morning we were lucky to have spectacular weather – blue sky and bright sunshine. Paul poured the traditional Pineau from the Charente as our guests arrived and we started serving the first course at 2.30pm. The meal was still going after 6pm! Highlights were the perfectly cooked chapons, meeting a real actress (one of our guests), the Bordeaux wine, great conversations with local people from Brossac and a magnificent new moon at night. Aileen from the Philippines had never seen Christmas crackers so we introduced her to this tradition.
Excursion to Perigueux Marché de Noel – Saturday 26th December
Paul took us on a day trip to Perigueux to visit a traditional Christmas market. We sampled hot food from the stalls – Belgian frites, roasted marrons (chestnuts) and of course vin chaud (mulled wine), watched children at the ice skating rink, visited the magnificent St Front Cathedral with its special nativity and stopped at a café in the Cathedral square. On the way back to Brossac, we toured the picturesque town of Brantome.
Excursion to Aubeterre and St Emilion – Sunday 27th December
Paul drove us all to see the historic town of Aubeterre sur Dronne. We visited the ancient Eglise St Jean which is a subterrainian church carved out of stone. The next stop was lunch in the square at St Emilion. This town is famous for its wine tourism and steep cobbled streets. Thanks Paul – it was a fantastic day out.
New Year’s Eve in Bordeaux – 31st December / 1st January
On Thursday morning we headed off to Bordeaux to celebrate New Year’s Eve, staying overnight in a local hotel. A magnificent three course lunch at Cafe Grand (Menu complet) was followed by a tour of the city. Bordeaux has an efficient tram service and its buildings are beautifully restored. Heading out for some nightlife to bring in the New Year, we found a series of bars at the Place de Parliament including Le Boucherie (Spanish) and the Governor (English) both offering the perfect atmosphere to welcome the new year . Bonne Annéé 2016! – Remember to budget for this excusion it is so worth it.