Christmas in Paris
Christmas is making me so homesick for Paris.
Don’t get me wrong. After spending last winter travelling on two continents through two hemispheres, I’m very happy to be spending this holiday season in my own home with close friends and my family nearby.
But Paris at Christmas time is truly magical. Not a reindeer or Santa in sight, no muzak renditions of carols over store PA systems, no one staggering home loaded down with shopping bags stuffed with expensive presents.
Instead, Parisians turn their attention to food. Pâtisserie windows filled with elaborately decorated Yule logs that are more works of art than cake. Butcher shops with an assortment of poultry, feathers still attached, neatly lined up on beds of tinsel. People lined up three deep to buy oysters from make-shift stands set up night after night on street corners to meet the demand.
And the lights. Oh, I miss the lights! I used to think Vancouver looked so pretty in December with its light displays, but now…. Well, now I think it looks kinda … lame, actually, in comparison to Paris. The City of Light lives up to its name by stringing lights across streets, draping strands of them over trees, and running ropes of them up and down building facades. Cafés are tastefully wrapped in ribbon and baubles and evergreen boughs. We walked the length of the Champs-Élysées last Christmas Eve and not a building, not a tree, not a lamp post was bare. You could read a book by those lights.
And then there are the Christmas markets, which have their origins in Medieval Germany. We didn’t make it to all of the Marchés de Noël in Paris, but we explored the largest one along the Champs-Élysées, and smaller ones at Trocadéro and Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Vendors in wooden huts sell handcrafts and toys, but the emphasis is on the variety of food and drink available, including the biggest slabs of chocolate I’ve ever seen and piping hot cups of vin chaud.
There are also the outdoor ice skating rinks at Trocadéro and the Hôtel de Ville. And the carousels, one per arrondissement, which are free for kids the entire month of December….
Any time of year Paris glows. At Christmas time, it dazzles.