So as you know, Dad arrived on the 22nd of December after not getting any sleep at all on the plane, so we decided it was better to leave Paris for another time and head straight home. I'm rather happy we did, as not only did he pack too many clothes for such a short trip (but he knows better for next time!), but he also brought every single thing I'd asked for. I'd sent him a list of foodie things I've been missing, telling him to choose a few that would fit alright in his luggage, and damned if he didn't bring every last one. He nearly pulled his shoulder out trying to drag them up the stairs in the metro. Thank god we were only going to one stop!
So the rest of the day was travel and rest in the evening. The next day, the three of us walked around the Friday market and picked up a rotisserie chicken for lunch and Dad chose some flowers to bring to my in-laws for their first meeting. Lucky for us, the guy at the flower stand told us that the flowers he had chosen were traditionally used to place on the graves of loved ones! Steph and I had no idea, but his mother sure would. Happily we avoided this international incident and headed to Troyes after lunch for the momentous meeting. Afterwards, we walked downtown for a bit and Dad had his first look at Troyes, which he liked very much.
Saturday was Christmas Eve, and we headed back to Troyes to celebrate with the whole family. We were sixteen altogether, with Steph's oldest brother and his family spending Christmas with his partner's parents. All the food was amazing - youngest sister Corinne made some amazing hors d'oeuvres (she even stuffed the cherry tomatoes!), followed by a delicious zucchini soup, and then the escargot which Steph's father had prepared by hand. There were 180 of the delicious things and nephew S. ate 25 of them! This was followed by the main course of guinea fowl with vegetables. Poor Dad passed on the cheese course (there was really an insane amount of food!) and we finished with the traditional desert of Christmas, a cake in the shape of a yule log, whose name escapes me at the moment.
Finally, it was time to open presents. As always, my French family showered gifts upon their extended American family, and Dad received lots of gifts, included chocolate (of course!), a beautiful beau livre, or coffee table book, about Aube (the departement where we live) with English captions, some more chocolate, and finally the big gift from Steph's parents and us: a gorgeous carving knife and fork with bone handles in its own wooden storage case. Since Dad really loves to cook and takes a lot of pride in his cookware, it was a perfect choice from my in-laws and Dad was really touched. In turn, Dad gave my in-laws some beautiful hand-made goblets from the Southern Highland Craft Guild. Happily, they made it overseas intact and my mother-in-law pronounced that they were "vraiment beau!"
Christmas Day was mostly spent recovering, but we were able to stumble out the door in time to make it to the annual organ concert at the Cathedral in Troyes at 5:00 in the evening. As always, it was actually colder in the Cathedral than it was outside, but we were able to hang in there for half an hour before we gave up and ran outside. From there we headed downtown and, since it was a bit early for dinner, we ducked into a bar for a quick drink. We were just in time, as we had found one of the only bars open on Christmas Day and we had about forty-five minutes to warm up before they closed (and man, did the waitstaff look ready to head for home!). Unfortunately, our favorite restaurant was closed on Christmas, but we found one open on the same street, which turned into one of the "happy accident" surprises of Dad's visit. We were among the first to arrive for dinner, but the place quickly filled up. It was a really wonderful dinner and we all enjoyed our meals very much. Also, we were pleased to learn a little about the history of this restaurant in the back of the menu - it seems that one of the recent proprietors of this establishment recently traced the history of the owners of this restaurant, and it turns out that it has been a running restaurant in one form or another in the same building for over five hundred years.
I'm going to wrap up this part of the visit here or I'll ramble on forever. Part two should show up some time tomorrow!