Monday we did a little sightseeing and headed west to Provins, but first we stopped to see Steph's friend JP. Armed with a Christmas bottle of Calvados and a fresh loaf of banana bread, the guys caught up for about an hour before we got back on the road. Steph and I have been to Provins before (I think that post even has a link to my old photoblog; that's a whole other story and I'll get back to that!) and it seems that we're always going in winter! This time we walked briskly through the old village and looked inside the church before heading back to the car. It was just too cold and wet to spend too much time outside!
Tuesday we went back to Troyes for more sightseeing. First we went to the hat and glove store downtown, because Dad wanted a hat and a better scarf than the one he brought. The man in the store was very odd; he kept referring to Dad as "the young boy" (now that's old-school, y'all!) and completely freaked me out at one point. The hat Dad chose was crushable, and the man kept saying "so when your wife gives you a hug, your hat will be ok!" and looking at me when he said it, so I kept responding "but that's my father!" Finally I realized that the word for "wife" and "woman" is the same in French, so what he was really saying was, "so when the women give you hugs, your hat will be ok!" *sigh* But when we walked out of the store, even Steph said, "wow, that guy is really weird," I didn't feel so bad! Then it was off to the tool museum. This may not sound like a barrel of laughs to most of you, but Dad absolutely loves anything to do with working with your hands and really enjoyed the displays of tools going back 400 years. We ended the day with a warm drink in a bar Steph and I go to often downtown before heading back home.
Wednesday was supposed to be the day my in-laws came for lunch, but we woke up to snow everywhere! It was bad enough that Steph's mom didn't feel comfortable driving here; even in Troyes the roads were covered in snow. Instead, Dad taught me how to make his clam sauce for pasta - he had brought me two tins of clams, since I can't find clams in a tin here! (If anyone knows where I can find clams in a tin, please let me know!) In the afternoon, we all walked around the corner and introduced Dad to another favorite past time - losing money at Rapido. Actually we didn't have a bad outcome this time - Dad won one Euro and we won six (thanks for the luck, Dad!). In the evening, Dad taught us contract rummy (and we learned that it is really easier to shuffle two decks of cards together when the decks are the same size!).
Thursday was the big cooking day, and the one I was most looking forward to. All of my life, my favorite meal was my father's tomato sauce and spaghetti. Before I got married I was pretty terrified of the kitchen but now that I've gotten a bit more confident I felt ready to take on this new recipe (my sister's already been making this for years now). All afternoon was spent making meatballs and crushing tomatoes - I'm sorry I can't tell you more, as it is at this point a family secret! In the evening we had a couple of friends over and everyone enjoyed it - I think Steph was pleasantly surprised as I think he was a bit skeptical when he saw what was going inside! The best part is that we've got lots of sauce in the freezer which will last us a few months!
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If you ask me, Friday was an absolute disaster but Dad swears up and down that he had a great time. Let me explain - Dad told me before he came that what he'd really like to see is some Gallo-Roman ruins in France. There just happens to be a Roman arena and an intact mosaic from the period not too far away, and everything I read online said that they are open during winter, so we picked up Steph's mom and off we went. First we stopped in Neufchâteau and went to the first restaurant we found for lunch. This ended up being the best pizza I've had so far in France - it was really a pleasant surprise! Dad and I stuffed ourselves with pizza while Steph and his Mom feasted on steak and fries. We rolled ourselves out of there and headed on to our first tourist stop, the house where Joan of Arc was born. Which was closed. Hm. A stone's throw away is La Basilique Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc de Domremy-la-Pucelle, a basilica dedicated to Joan of Arc. Good thing Steph found an open door, because there weren't any obvious signs that the place was open. I was really happy that was open, as I think that the paintings of the life of Joan are just gorgeous. It's definitely worth a stop if you're ever in that part of France. Then we were off to Dad's part of the tour, the arena and the mosaics! Which were closed. Obviously. I could have thrown myself under the car, I was so upset. But the day was not lost - we were then on our way to visit Doc and her family, bearing Christmas gifts. Doc's husband, Marc, warned us that it had started to snow at their house, but we were undeterred because, up until that point, most of the streets had been cleared of the snow that had been falling for the past few days. We slowly made our way there, trying to stick to the bigger roads, and the snow started to fall faster and faster. By the time we got the national road that leads to their village, it was falling so hard that we couldn't even see the road, and the executive decision was made to head to the auto-route and make our way home, and I had the unhappy task of calling with the bad news. I was inconsolable, and even on the auto-route - the toll-paying four lane highways that cross France and are the first to be plowed in a snow storm - it took us two and a half hours to travel what normally takes an hour.
To make matters worse, when we woke up on Saturday, all of the snow had melted. Damn it!
Saturday, of course, was New Year's Eve, and we were invited to attend the concert of Steph's niece, who plays the violin. We arrived in Troyes a little early, so we hunted up a bar to duck into before the concert started, and found ourselves transported back home! Well, Dad and I did, anway. As we walked in, we were greeted by the R&B classic "634-5789" and we knew all was gonna be right in the world, y'all. By the time the live version of "Viva Las Vegas" came on, however, Dad discovered The Truth about my husband - he ain't got no rhythm! It's tragic, I know. How anyone can just sit there when "Money (That's What I Want)" comes on, I just can't fathom. Then it was on to the classical concert (what a switchup!). It was a really lovely concert, which also featured the organist who played the organ in the cathedral on Christmas, and a string quintet. The bad part was that we all assumed it would only be an hour long, since it started at 8:00, but no, two hours later, and after an excrutiating audio-visual presentation on the parable of the prodigal son, we
Sunday, Dad's last day with us, was spent at my in-laws', where we were invited for lunch. We were joined by Steph's oldest brother Phillipe and his family. Phillipe and Dad got on like a house on fire and I had a great time acting as translator for the two of them. Dad announced that he wants to come back in the summer of 2007 (as we are likely going home for a visit this summer) and Phillipe invited him to see Europe from the cab of his moving van. God only knows what kind of madness the two of them could get into in Europe!
And of course, Monday was Dad's day to travel back home. I suppose I've always been lucky at Charles de Gaulle airport, as I've never had a problem myself, but we arrived two hours before Dad's flight and they told him that the flight was already overbooked! Then we had to run to the other side of the terminal to the Wait List line, where they told him that it wasn't a problem and they took his bags. Then, the lines to pass through the ticket and passport checks were insanely long, and Steph and I were running around trying to find the shortest line, and finally left him twenty minutes before his plane was scheduled to leave, but Dad told us not to wait and he'd be alright. The plane ended up not leaving for an hour, but that's a whole different story.
Whew! My god, did you actually read all of that? You are a champion! I wish that I had some pictures to share, but to my shame, we still haven't bought a camera so I don't have any photos to document his trip, so forgive me for being so detailed; I wanted to get down all that we did while it was still relatively fresh in my mind. It was absolutely wonderful having Dad here with us, and I'm looking forward to his next visit, hopefully in the summer, when we can really do some great sightseeing!