Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year’s Eve with a Baguette and a Lamp

So, this year we rented a ski chalet in a town called Chatel, just over the Swiss border, in France.  I confess.  I had an ulterior motive.  This is one of the places that Mr. Big and I are considering for The Great Chalet Purchase.  Why, you ask?

1.        It’s about ¼ of the price of a chalet in Switzerland.
2.       It’s a family-friendly ski resort and, as you know, I have a growing family.
3.       The food in the Haute Savoie (pronounced Oat Sahv-wah, not Sav-oye) is incredibly fattening and delicious.  It consists entirely of pork, cream, potatoes and cheese prepared in a million ways.  Occasionally, they throw in a duck liver for fun and so you will have something to spread on your cracker.
4.       It is part of the ginormous ski area called the Portes du Soleil which includes Avoriaz and Morzine, but not so crowded as those two villages.

Actually, when I first booked the vacation spot, I didn’t even know it was considered a “family-friendly” village.  I did notice a bunch of rug rats on the baby slopes, but that is normal.  It wasn’t until we inquired at the tourist information office about the scheduled New Year’s festivities that I learned just how much Chatel catered to families.

The fireworks began at 7 p.m.  On New Year’s.  Really, I think that’s cheating.  7 p.m. is barely New Year’s Dusk, let alone New Year’s Eve.  I hadn’t even planned on waking up from my pre-New Year’s nap by 7 p.m., never mind being out and about at that hour.

Here is a play-by-play to New Year’s Eve in Chatel, France:

5:00 p.m.  The DJ in the main place begins playing the ALWAYS WEIRD song selections that Europeans love.  No one is there to hear him except families with small children.  The FREE vin chaud and hot chocolate kiosk is running about 85% hot chocolate to 15% vin chaud.

6:30 p.m.  The ski school instructors ski down the mountain directly behind the village with torches, single file.  Really cool.  By now, other people have shown up and the ratio of  vin chaud to hot chocolate is improving.  This is when we arrive.  We are prepared.  We have festive, sparkly hats and multiple bottles of champagne in our bookbags.

7:00 p.m.  The DJ announces the beginning of the Feu D’artifices or Artificial Fire, aka fireworks.  By now, in this family-friendly village, my children in their sparkly hats with their plastic champagne flutes are attracting attention.  This village was not Chamonix, folks.  There were no costumes, wigs, men in kilts, people slugging magnums in the street, etc.   My kids really wowed the crowd when they whipped out their sparklers at this point.  Not one child was looking at the fireworks.  They were all coveting my kids’ sparklers.  Too bad, little five year old!  Get your own sparkler!  Come prepared next time, little dude!

7:05 p.m.  I notice a random Dad dancing in the crowd, holding a baguette.  Of course, I snap his photo.  Only in France do people stop on the way home from the bakery to catch a quick dance to “Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba-La-Bamba”.

7:08 p.m.  We all notice a middle-aged woman carrying a bedside table lamp.  And it is lit.  I do not understand how or why.  Is it battery operated?  Why does she have it in the first place?  Then, she spies our party with our champagne and our sparkly hats and she makes her way over to us AND ASKS US FOR SOME CHAMPAGNE! 

I’m like, lady, if you will let me take your picture with that crazy lamp, I will give you a glass of champagne.  And so she did and so I did.  You cannot pay for this kind of entertainment.

7:10 p.m.  All of the families depart for dinner, either at their own homes or for the early seating at the restaurants.  The rest of us depart back to our chalets to take showers and get ready for the “real” New Year.

9:00 p.m.  We arrive at the restaurant for the second seating at dinner.  The restaurant is mayhem.  The first seating people have not yet left and the management is tearing their hair out by the roots.  We don’t care.  We are already tipsy.

9:30  We begin our lovely 5-course meal which Mr. Big and I especially enjoy because it is only costing us a fraction of the price that we would be paying in Switzerland.  We’re like, “have whatever you want, kids!  Caviar, no problem!  Escargot with shaved black truffles?  Dig in!”  We feel like we are eating in the Dollar Store, compared to La Suisse.

11:53  The hostess passes out goodie bags to all the restaurant patrons.  OK.  We look inside.  Streamers.  Noisemakers.  And something that looks suspiciously like a pea shooter.  Upon closer inspection, it appears to be a tube through which one blows small, Styrofoam balls.  Ummm, OK.

11:56  The man at the table behind us casually drapes his linen napkin over the back of his head.  Why?  I have no idea.

12:00  The French people go berserk.  Quickly, the foreigners follow their lead.  Forget the streamers and the noisemakers.  Those are for amateurs.  It is a freakin’ war between the tables with the blow guns.  C’est incroyable!!!!  Everyone is shooting little balls at everyone else and ducking under the tables and standing up for a better position, etc.  Little kids FROM ANOTHER DINING ROOM ALTOGETHER were running into our room to massacre us.  So, so, so, so much unexpected fun.  Really.  In Europe.  Imagine.

12:05 a.m.  The men and the young people are scooping up discarded balls to restock their ammunition.  The moms are taking photos.

12:10  a.m. Small Son remembers that he was never served his cheese course.  Forget it, Small Son.  You are never going to see that cheese course.  The waiters, waitresses, chefs and owners are all having too much fun.  Look, there is one now under our table.  Well, hello, server!  Can I offer you a Styrofoam ball refill?

12:30 a.m.  We pay the hostess and thank her for a wonderful time.  We send Small Son, Ms. Yankee and Charming Daughter out into the no-longer-family-friendly village and its’ bars and wish them well.  My last words were “No French Police, do you understand me?”  Another twentysomething girl overheard me and started cracking up.   Apparently, parent-speak is universal.

4:30 a.m.  The children come home.  Mr. Big and I stir but do not rise.

12:00 noon on the 1st:  We wake up the children with much gusto just because we are evil that way.  “HEY, DO YOU WANT TO GO SKIING?  C’MON, C’MON, LET’S GO SKIING!!!”  No takers.   When they did finally awaken from their comas, they told us that everyone, to a man, tried to steal their sparkly hats all night long.

I am predicting that you see a lot more costumes and sparklers in Chatel ringing in 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, this is a great post. i was just wondering if you could remember the name of the restaurant?