Joyeaux Noel!

I am writing this from a net-cafe in Bezier, Languedoc, France, on a funky non-QWERTY keyboard (the most annoying difference is the 'q' being where the 'a' is on US keyboards. And you have to shift to use periods.

Our flights were all fine, all pretty painless – our row-mate, a woman from Rome, said we were brave to trust our luggage to Air France – we were half an hour late landing in Montpellier because of weather, and apparently they didn't feel like doing formal customs screenings yesterday, because we only had to walk through Immigration, where they give your passport the most cursory of glances, only.

After 16 hours of air travel, we were tired, and I have a cold, so my parents, who got here ahead of us plied us with onion soup, triple-creme cheeses, excellent wine, and cafe au lait, and then we went to bed.

The Tall House is seriously tall; with marble stairs that twist like the stairs of a lighthouse. Our room is on the 2nd floor, with the 'good' bathroom. The bathroom consists of a funky cast-iron tub with a hand_held shower, a sink, and a bidet; the toilet is in it's own room.

Today we breakfasted on fruit tart, cheese, and brioche, and then went to Bessan for money and gas. We stopped to take pix of a really cool castle, and then for cappucino and pear tarts. I speqk almost no French, but we're so close to the Spanish border that almost everyone speaks some combination of Spanish or English. The qdvent of the Euro has totally helped in shopping, because I don't have to have help making change.

We walked through a Christmas market on the way here, and bought chestnut torte for Christmas breakfast, and then through an open-air market where I bought aubergine and framboises (eggplant; raspberries), and was startled to find that the lobsters arrayed on ice were still squirming.

Tonight we're going to a dinner hosted by Bill & Ben, a gay English couple who own the bed and breakfast in St. Thibery, the town where we're staying. Tomorrow, we're cooking at home, and then going to the beach to bask in the frigid water of the Meditteranean in winter; and Friday we'll be exploring the ruins of Carcassone, the old Roman fortress.

Highlight of the day: Being more adept then my stepfather at reading French ATM instructions, and, despite my abysmal French, having the owner of the cafe compliment me on my accent.