We’re in France this year, celebrating Christmas and New Year in our newly-renovated house that we’re operating as a vacation rental property. It’s an absolute pleasure being here this year because this time last year, it was in a very different state than it is now. Without going into the (many) details, I’ll just say that you can get a lot done in a year (even from a distance) and we’re happy to see it all come together. This year (as well as, you know, furniture and a kitchen!) we even have a Christmas tree because, even though it doesn’t feel too Christmas-y in the 17˚C temperatures, signs of the season are all around. With trees for sale everywhere (especially really cute Charlie Brown-esque trees), it’s hard to resist. And it really made the house feel like a home.
The one thing missing, though, according to Neil was a Santa decoration for the exterior of the house (for someone whose middle name is “Grinch”, he really seems to be getting into the spirit of things this year…). At home, we are not the people who decorate our house (inside or out) for the holidays since we are most often away but somehow, here it seemed to be the right thing to do. And I mean, everywhere you look there are the little Santas climbing up the walls, into the windows or up on the roof . We figured it was going to be easy to find one since everyone had them so we started looking in every store we went to (we’re wont to look at all the aisles in all the stores we go into since our list of things we need for the house is a bit random and you never know where you’ll find them) to absolutely no avail. Not one “Santa à suspendre” to be found. Plenty of other decorations but not the one we wanted.
Everywhere we went, Neil would tell me to ask someone about them. And everywhere we went, I would refuse. Because, I mean, how embarrassing… “Where can I find the little Santa to decorate the outside of our house, just like everyone else has?” No better way to identify yourself from “not here” than to ask questions like that. We became convinced that it was some French secret knowledge (kind of like our last trip where we were on the hunt for the little lace curtains that all French homes seem to have but that we couldn’t find anywhere until we figured out that it was a material store we needed…) and yesterday when we met up with our (also not local) neighbour here for the holidays, we consoled ourselves when we realised that he didn’t know where to buy them either. And that he wanted one too. And that he was too embarrassed to ask about them as well. Hah! It wasn’t just us!
On our last trip out on Christmas Eve (to a giant hardware store no less, so much holiday fun there…), we kept our eyes peeled for places we could check out on the way back and spotted a promising-looking garden/ decor store that was having a 50% off Christmas decorations sale. Perfect. We had a good feeling about this. But when we went in, not a Santa to be seen. We vaguely toyed with the idea of buying a pair of Santa pants and putting them under the window to make it look like he was climbing in. But quickly decided that was a little too creepy. And finally, I gave in and asked the friendly lady in the store and no, she didn’t laugh at me. She commiserated that she didn’t have any more (implying that she had had some at some point) and we headed out of the store, sad at the prospect of our Santa-less house this Christmas.
Then, just before the checkout, eagle-eyed (and distinctly un-Grinch-like) Neil spotted them. The last two Santas à suspendre in the Gers/ Lot-et-Garonne. They were a little sad looking and small (and Santa looks like he’s been hitting the Christmas spirits) but there they were. It was a French Christmas miracle. At 50% off too!
Happy French Friday and Merry Christmas. I’ll leave you with a view of Nérac. Yes, it’s like living in a painting.