A Perfect Christmas Eve

October 2012 - paul

After being told that December snow is rare in the area — and being from South Florida — my wife and I were thrilled to awaken Christmas Eve morning at Gibeau to a heavy dusting that accented the  beautiful stone farmhouse.

We bundled up in seldom-used coats and scarfs for an early-morning walk to enjoy the crisp, clean air and the beauty of the winter landscape: harvested fields lying fallow, bare limbs of plum trees and grape vines, deer crossing from one tree line to the next and, farther north, a clear view of the hilltop town of Duras.

Our single chore for the day was shopping for le Réveillon – the traditional Christmas Eve late-night meal. We were glad to see the Friday morning public market in the lovely nearby bastide town of Monsèguropen for business and drawing a lively crowd of locals.  Everything we needed was there -- stands selling meat, poultry, cheeses and vegetables. Especially popular were the local women dressed as Père Noëloffering fresh-baked breads and pastries. Oysters are a customary part of Christmas eating in the Aquitaine, and we were happy to see the huîtriers, in their thick cable sweaters and high white aprons, shucking and selling oysters harvested fresh from the Bassin d'Arcachonless than two hours away.

We provisioned ourselves for our miniature feast and bought a last-minute gift from an antique shop on the town square. Then we stopped into the cafe next door to warm up with a cafe crème, and watched a table of local townsmen trade gossip over cards.

Back from our adventure, we built a crackling fire in the fireplace and settled in for the day. We decorated Gibeau’s long wooden table with greenery and red berries plucked from the shrubs around the farmhouse.

As bookends to our stay at Gibeau, we spent long weekends in Paris, the "City of Lights" even more spectacular when lit up for the holidays. But for a Christmas Eve that truly is a silent night, holy night, there could be no better place than Gibeau.

Tyler Treadway and Sheri Walker

Stuart, Fla.

Gibeau. An authentic country home for vacation rental in Southwest France. Inquire about availability