Happy new year!
For the first time ever, Tim and I went away for Christmas and New Year. So no family, no slaving over the oven, no silly party games in front of the fire. It was Tim's idea, and he chose France and the alps, partly because he thought snow would be seasonal (and of course we could have stayed at home for that!), but mostly because there were three particular alpine bird species that he needed to see. Since I met him our holiday choices have been dictated by the gaps in his bird list and we've gone to some strange and unlikely places as a result.
This choice was inspired. 2009 had been a busy year and I was fraught and fractious - not helped by Air France losing both our bags on the trip out. But this has probably been the most relaxing holiday I've ever had - certainly I've never slept so much. In the alps we stayed in the magnificent Château de Picomtal in Crots. I'd found the place on the web and was disappointed when Jacques the owner said they closed the castle to guests in the winter. Then he took pity on us: although he and his wife would be away for Christmas we could stay in the annexe if we agreed to pay a bit extra for the heating. So we had two rooms built into one of the towers and reached through a locked courtyard - a perfect setting for a locked room mystery... And the chateau all to ourselves.
It's people that make places special. Jacques and his wife Sharon were delightful, delaying their own holiday to give us a conducted tour of the chateau before they went, bringing a bottle of wine to share with us on our last night. And they introduced us to other people - Christien from the National Parc des Ecrins, who pointed Tim in the direction of his target species (and had an injured but still scary golden eagle in a crate in his office). And the wonderful owners of Chez Pierrot, the restaurant in the village of Crots, who squeezed us in for Christmas lunch, along with all the local families.
After a week we moved on and took the train to Paris, where we spent new year. Belfond, my french publisher, put me up in the Hotel de l'Abbaye last year and I loved it. It's a small gem of a place, hidden in a narrow street close to the Luxembourg Gardens, within easy walking distance of the Seine. We went shopping (our bags still hadn't turned up) and stared with everyone else at the extraordinary Christmas windows of Printemps and Galleries Lafayette. We did the tourist stuff - the boat trip on the river - and took in the Tiffany exhibition in the Luxembourg. And we saw in the new year with the crowds in the Champs Elysees.
Now we're home. Our cases turned up two days after we did. I'm rested and ready for a busy year, with two new books out in the UK, the radio play of RAVEN BLACK later this month and the ITV film of VERA in the autumn. And a book to write. I can't wait to get started on that... Did Tim see his birds? Only one of them - alpine accentor in the fortified town of Mont du Dauphin. He's not too disappointed though. It means we have an excuse to go back.
I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year and I look forward to reading your books and hearing about the books you've enjoyed throughout 2010.