Here are some photos that I took while on Christmas vacation. I went to Gourdon again to spend the holidays with some friends. They live out in the country and so I had many opportunities to go walking through the woods or along quiet roads. On Saturday, I went to the market and bought some things that we needed for our Christmas dinner including several cheeses. I also got to visit one of my favorite shops called Un certain...Regard which was all decked out for the holidays. The only thing I bought was this cute decoration. At first I thought it was a dead clown but then I realized that it was a child's stuffed toy recreated in glass. On Sunday, I thought Mass was going to be at Notre-Dame des Neiges and I decided to get there by walking along the country paths. Unfortunately I was wrong about where Mass was going to be held but at least I got to take a nice walk and the doors to the church were open allowing me to take a look inside and get some nice photographs. The chapel was orignially built during the 12th century and enlarged in 1646 due to its importance as place of pilgrimage for people living in the Bouriane. The interior is designed with a wonderful Baroque altarpiece built in 1690 by Sculpteurs Tournié de Gourdon. Just in front of the chapel is an old moulin and lavoir. I don't think anyone lives there anymore. Later in the afternoon, I drove to the Christmas market in Sarlat. Sarlat is one of the most beautiful old towns in the Dordogne with many old stone and timber frame buildings lovingly preserved including its stunning cathedral dedicated to Saint-Sacerdos. I wish that I knew how to ice skate. There was a large patinoire set up in the middle of the Christmas market which looked like a lot of fun. Another interesting building is the Maison de La Boétie. Normally, there are so many people present for Christmas Eve dinner. This year, it was a much smaller affair with only six people. That wasn't a reason to skimp on the traditional fare or to leave the table undecorated. We went all out and enjoyed our feast which lasted until midnight. Earlier in the day I went for another walk and picked some greens which I used to create this fantastic table display. Isn't is nice ? For those of you who are wondering, I am trying to grow my moustache back. I regretted shaving it off in the first place ! It looks rather thin and adolescent right now but give it another two or three weeks and it should look a lot more mature. I'm hoping to have it back the way it was before I shaved in September. After a small aparatif of Kir, made with a measure of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped up with white wine, we started our first course of the night, oysters. I ended up buying too many and each of us had 8 to 10 before moving on to our next dish of smoked salmon and my personal favorite, foie gras. Mmmmm !!! The main course was a pintade (guinea hen) cooked with a simple sauce of chestnuts, onions and garlic. Along with that we also had potatoes with wild cèpe and girolle mushrooms picked by hand in the nearby woods. We washed it all down with a nice red wine that my friend's father has been saving since 1998. Some Rocamadour cabécou... J'adore les mandarines ! Someone brought a huge box of Calissons d'Aix to share with everyone. Despite all the sweets, we also had a dessert of ice cream bûche de Noël. After all of the food, we started to open our Christmas presents. I got a lot of things this year and I am so thankful to everyone who went out of their way this year.
I received four sweaters, several Blu-Rays, some books, an electric mixer to help me with my soup recipes, Amazon.com gift certificates and a nice calendar from some Camino friends from New Zealand. It was a truly grand Christmas and I am so thankful for everyone and for all the good things that I have in my life. I am back in rainy Cherbourg as I write this...I wish I could have stayed a lot longer with my friends in Gourdon but it wasn't meant to be. I drove back on Christmas day and had the highway all to myself. I stopped in Châtillon-sur-Indre to eat my packed lunch. The city is famous for its castle built between 1160 and 1185 by Henry II. All that remain are towers of the north gate along dilapidated ramparts. Another big draw to the town is la collégiale Saint-Outrille, today the church of Notre-Dame which was founded in the 10th or 11th century to house relics of the saint. The church of Saint-Outrille lost its name and became Notre-Dame before the Revolution. Apart from some old statues, the church is known for its remarkable capitals including these over the central portal which were restored in 2002 and 2006. The Romanesque iconography represents birds, monsters, griffins, dragons, mermaids, angels and a depiction of Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden. Sadly, the interior was way too dark for me to get any photos of the even more impressive capitals of the nave. When I got home, my mailbox was overflowing with Christmas cards. I would like to thank my friends and family for their holiday greetings especially my mother and father who sent me these cute tree decorations. I hope everyone has a Happy New Year !