Happy New Year! Bonne Année!

We returned to Paris on New Year's Eve afternoon after two weeks in the Vaucluse with the whole family and a number of our cousins. By and large, the weather was perfect, sometimes cold and clear, occasionally rainy, though I think we managed to get out for walks or bike rides most afternoons. In October the hills were full of colour; at this time of year they are more monotone, blacks and browns of vineyards and fruit trees, and the grey-greens of olive trees, and groundcover like thyme and rosemary. It's different but also beautiful.

We had the whole family, including cousins, for the traditional Provencal 13 desserts: two buches, various sweets, plus fruits and nuts and champagne, on Christmas late afternoon. My sister-in-law collected everyone at their house the following afternoon, and another cousin had a smaller group (without the kids, tired of socialising by then) the following day. Then our children began to trickle off back to Paris and England or the US, and for the last couple of days we were alone again, with a heap of laundry and a collection of leftovers, and our books and walks. One day it was sunny and windy and the sheets dried in no time (only ours, the kids had done theirs).


Back in Paris, where it is wet, though yesterday we got out for a long walk along the Right Bank Quai. I've just finished reading a very long Balzac novel (Splendeurs et Miseres des Courtisanes), whose last book or two take place in the Conciergerie, the old prison (where Marie-Antoinette and Sade were held) on the Isle de la Cite. Balzac gives a detailed explanation of the French Justice system of the period, and describes the prison from the inside and I wanted to stare at it from the banks. I probably should revisit it, but not this trip. The last time I read Balzac, a lot of Balzac, was a long time ago and we were living in Marseille. It is quite a different experience when you know the city well and appreciate how much Balzac had to know to write the book--not just about the physical city and its institutions, but also, of course, about every level of society, from thugs to princes.