These are pages from 2015 that we are sharing with you today. Pages from the Impertinent Parisian’s travel journal that we had not published yet…
But he went back on a new trip there at this end of 2016 and at the beginning of 2017, for the annual celebrations, and his silence, his ‘public withdrawal’ since then (that we hope to be only temporary) gave us the desire to share the words that he wrote then with you, transporting us to the heart of Russia, during the most festive season of the year, where he shared with us the celebration of this very special Christmas, but not only.
From Christmas Eve dinner to New Year’s Eve, through visits of inescapable monuments, Russian tea times and encounters on Red Square, Guillaume LELEU reports to us his last moments of 2015 in detail, as well as the first days of his new year that he had the pleasure to spend far away from Paris, under a shower of white flakes.
A journey to encounter the Slave culture, between traditions and discoveries, between smiles and astonishment, which he offers us through sumptuous pictures and authentic tales. A journal full of unforgettable memories, imbued with the warm and sincere welcoming that was reserved to him, but as well with sharing, histories of yesterday and tomorrow’s hopes, at dawn of New Year 2016.
(Just for pleasure.)
What if we spent Christmas in Moscow…
DAY 1: Russian Christmas
I will celebrate Christmas with a Slav heart…, at the heart of Russia, of its human warmth, enjoying its typical meals and pretty smiles.
In my heart and in my thoughts, there is everyone who matters so much to me, they are with me and if I don’t have the occasion to share their table tonight, those people more than any blood tie, are forever my family.
Merry Christmas to Evelyne, François, Pauline, Thomas, Francine, Édouard, Carlos, Paolo, Rocio, Rafe, Yu…, to Robin, Alix, and to all of you, whose friendship honors me.
DAY 2: A Christmas in unknown land
Here, Christmas will really be celebrated on next January, 7th, 13 days after ours; since the Russian Church has kept the Julian calendar although the State had adopted the Gregorian one…
But the Slav soul has seen there the pleasure to feast many times, to celebrate on December, 24th, on 31th, then on January, 7th and finally on 14th. Two Christmases, two New Year’s eves, just to add some poetry, some magic, to take some pleasure in gathering, in drawing a pretty digression in our daily life, which is far from being always cheerful…
Paradoxically, as many other things are in contrast here, modelled on this place of contemplation between two financial buildings, Russian people are very positive, warm, optimistic and surprisingly humanist people for their family and their neighbors, but as well for the stranger in the street.
So celebrating Christmas with them yesterday was simply a delight, made of unending discussions with many unknown people, talking to me in Russian, jabbering in English as far as I am concerned, which did not prevent us from talking at all…Maybe the small glasses of Vodka that I drank to honor my hosts, helped us with that.
But don’t misunderstand, all of this has indeed ended with a Russian… herbal tea!
DAY 3: Discovering Moscow
You can’t be in Moscow without visiting some inescapable places of this Russia, so much decried, so much fantasized.
Red Square is one of these places that you secretly have the burning desire to cross.
On this Christmas day, red was then a must, but being there, at this place, was like living a surrealist moment that it is difficult to describe, incredible…, majestic…, unique…
Among the many pictures which will remain of this journey, there is this special one of the cathedral of Vassily, very close the Kremlin… of an incredible beauty which makes you forget about all of those malevolent ones, who have tried so hard to make you lose your self-esteem.
It must be Christmas’ fairy, to be able to experience and admire the beauty surrounding us, here, in front of our eyes, as if it was the answer to all the rest.
And to polish that, I have had the intense pleasure to savor a tea of the house, a Theodor tea, here, on Red Square itself, where they are served in many places. That overwhelms you with pride, with a strange feeling reminding you that if no one is a prophet in his own country, there is, on the other side of the world, people who acknowledge your work, as well as your know-how, or they take the smile that you give them…
Short Christmas scoop
Here in Russia, it is almost considered the miracle of Christmas. For the 3 days I have been here, I have never seen them happier, they were only talking about this, about this unusual weather worrying them...
But here it is, it snows on Red Square, the flakes whiten the cobblestones and the roofs little by little, and yet the atmosphere has never been so welcoming, so I am sharing this joy with you.
See you tomorrow around a cup of tea!
DAY 4: A чаи breakfast
In the countryside… in Russia. Morning tea…
The quality of the black tea blend is CTC, but the leaves from different origins remain of a relative harmony for a чаи breakfast and offer on the palate this taste typical of the Anglo-Saxon blends.
Having no choice at hand, these leaves give me the pleasure of a cup which is essential to me, and these experiences of immersion are a great knowledge of our cultural, gustatory differences, which are part of our identities, here and there, so the smile is clinging to my face.
The essential is not to miss what we love
DAY 5: Immersion
From the soviet period, remains numerous tracks in the heart of Russian people, that they evoke with decency and with a look that seems to always say ‘the only regret that we had is that we missed our foreign friends’, this human warmth that we share together because we need it profoundly…
There remains also a few beauties, to honor some events, some pride of their History, through an amazing architecture that they see every day while taking the path which leads them to another daily life, maybe the path to another future.
I like the Russian philosophy to put all things into perspective, either their conditions, or what they already have and the hope of what they will have tomorrow…
By taking these paths in Moscow, this contrast between past, present and future is immortalized in many stations. In some of them, in spite of the hubbub and more than a tune of the red army choir, it is an opera by Tchaikovsky that cradles your steps…
… just like the cup of ‘Чай Krasпауа’ that I am enjoying right now.
DAY 6: Last moments of 2015
Some years are ending with more expectation than others, more impatience, more frenzy…
Years that make us want to turn the page, while only focusing on the lights it had offered us as well, because there were some, of course, for each battle through the defeats and the victories, the great and small pleasures, the disillusions but also the hopes for encounters.
Without making any assessment, my eyes have never been so clear-sighted, shiny, bright, as on the path that is still left to travel to give a few more smiles, as the one crossed of all the one received.
I will only remember that from 2015, this force of life carrying us towards the other, and if I am far away from those I would like to hold tight in my arms to thank them for being part of my life, they are so deeply in my heart that I know they will receive my embrace.
In tomorrow’s horizons, there are still many steps waiting for me, but I will climb them with the light pace of a man fed with tea, the one of a Yunnan, a Pu Erh, or even a Oolong, because the cup will be there, the one I like to share, as much in thoughts, as through exchanged looks… full of perspectives, more than retrospectives…
DAY 8: С Новым годом 2016!
2 hours in advance compared to Paris, the New Year has just begun in Russia, so it is time for me to wish you all a wonderful year 2016, rich in happiness, health, smiles, from the bottom of my heart…
To experience those few seconds here was very special as you can guess, I am sending you from this Red Square, this white snow covering Moscow such as flakes of softness and love, for you and your close family…
A wonderful evening to you all.
DAY 9: First day of a new era
To understand the other in order to better live with one… To understand the other through his story, his faith, his hopes…
The past has often more to teach us than the future and we can believe it as much to learn lessons from it as to build cathedrals of peace.
A first day of this new year here, cadenced with beauty, discussions, sharing and teas in blessed places, like here, in the cathedral of the Virgin and at the dome of the Archangel, in the region of Moscow.
This year will be blessed by a large blue sky, a cottony white mantle, it is for sure, I wish to all of us that it is full of peace.
DAY 10: A white awakening
Early morning in Russia, - 9.4°F (-23°C) today, but well wrapped up in a big wool coat, felt boots, a cup of hot tea in the hand… only the sound of my steps on the snow accompany this instant as the sun rises.
The large stretch of the Russian forest lines the curve of my horizon, this space is even more spectacular that I cannot savor it in what will be left in my memories… just the time of a tea, the bracket of a Souchong, such as points in suspension in this hectic life where we sometimes forget to stop.
Enjoy your breakfast!
DAY 11: Groping
To stay 1 or 2 more days? To do some shopping and to eat a few more mandarins…
Or to resign myself to go home…
The mandarin, this Christmas present of my childhood, which my grey-haired grandfather was placing under the Christmas tree… This fruit did not have anything to do with misery whereas with the idea of appreciating the smooth and sour taste of a season fruit, to share at the foot of the tree, and this wandering brings me back to unpleasant memories of 2015 …
Today, misery is to usurp the poverty of those who really are in pain, making people you want to extort money from believe that it will never be given back, that you sleep at Charles de Gaulle airport, playing with the humanity we all have within ourselves… It is, in addition to be a manipulator, to be a liar, a thief, but as it is not fashionable anymore to ‘sleep under the bridge’, not noble enough, nor to steal the merchant’s orange, the idea is just sourer, tastier and more miserable.
How did people get there, to stages of such miserabilism, while so many people still not have this perspective to eat at least a mandarin?
Will this Russian merchant answer me? Fortunately, a new year is the occasion to write on new blank pages, which we hope to be full of beauty, even if regretfully, those people will still continue to poison the life of many of us and to tarnish even the nobleness of the true poverty, and that must not put us off our humanity.
With this, I will stay for a few additional hours to enjoy those Slav souls, and I am leaving now to enjoy a cup of tea, because even if I don’t want to go home, I cannot wait to share in thoughts a tea time with my co-workers, already back at the office…
DAY 12: Head in the clouds…
Come on, let’s go home! While waiting for the next journey, I am going home. All the nice things come to an end, and well, going off to discover the ones waiting for you is exciting.
The plane of my favorite airline company has just landed on the runway, only my favorite stewardess will be missing for this return, and as no disturbance is planned on this flight, this trip above the clouds should be a source of inspiration. (Even if tea on board does not remain very audacious…).
Backa Backa Russia and thanks for all the pleasure shared together!