There's a little voice in the back of my head which is always ready to pipe up and reinforce my natural inclination to procrastinate by saying,"Don't worry, you can always do it later/tomorrow/next year/etc." But since we won't be here next year, another voice has been making itself heard, and it subverts the other one by warning, "Hey, you've only got one chance to do this!" So this week we heeded the second voice and plunged into holiday activities with wild abandon. Here are pictures of some of the events.
Wednesday afternoon, Mike's music class sang during an outdoor Christmas market at his school.
Thursday night we attended a concert of 14th and 15th century carols from Italy, Catalonia and Spain in the Eguilles community center, but I forgot the camera. Friday afternoon Mike's school had their Christmas pageant, and his choir performed again, but I didn't really get any good pictures.
Saturday night we went into Aix to attend a concert by a youth choir in an ancient chapel, Chapelle des Oblats, which is located at the top end of the Cours Mirabeau, the main street. We were early so we walked around the festive byways for a while. This choir is a rigorously trained one and it seems that the kids have already decided on careers in music. They were accompanied by a harp, and sang interesting stuff: some Rig Veda hymns (!) by Holst and the Ceremony of Carols by Britten, with a Debussy piece for harp in between. They were fabulous! Chills up the spine, and all that. Even Mike was impressed.
The statue is of the legendary Good King Rene of Provence, who made Aix his capital.
On Saturday, we drove a few miles north to the village of Rognes for the truffle festival, along with several thousand other interested spectators. There were dozens of vendors selling everything you can imagine, including traditionally prepared pork (I couldn't resist this photo opportunity) and, of course, the festival's raison d'etre, truffles. As you can see from the sign beside the basket, demand for the "black pearls" is outstripping supply, and the price had been adjusted accordingly. Yes, that's 1400 euros (about $2000) per kilo, a mere $900 or so a pound. We stuck our heads in the baskets and inhaled deeply, for free, (the smell is so earthy and rich that it's almost like eating one) and ate scrambled-egg-and-truffle sandwiches for 7 euros each. We ended up buying a block of chocolate with hazelnuts, some tapenade, biscotti, apples, brioche and probably something else, so we feel we did our part to support the local economy.
We decided to forego midnight mass tonight, but in penance we attended an earlier mass in the village church in which local children act out the story of the nativity. The place was absolutely packed to the rafters with at least three generations of Eguillans and overflowing out into the square. There was no choir (they're saving themselves for Midnight Mass) but the congregation sang several hymns, in which we were able to join because the programs included some of the words. The priest spoke vigorously and with humor (or so I deduced from the chuckling around me), the kids paraded before us clad as the characters from the manger, communion was offered, carols were sung, etc. I haven't been in a catholic church for probably 40 years or so, but I'm glad we went.
We want to offer our best wishes for happy holidays to everyone, with the hope that we will all see more peace on earth and goodwill in the days and years to come. And we hope that you have something as sinfully delicious to indulge in during this season as the buche noel shown below, just moments before it was sliced up and sacrificed to our ravenous appetites.
Lois, Tom and Mike