Have you ever had the desire to be somewhere entirely different other than snuggled at home for Christmas? It would have to be some place spectacular. It would have to be some place so beautiful, your life would be transformed for a few days, and it's memory would last a lifetime. It would have to be some place so magical, you could forgo your traditional holiday just once, in return for an unforgettable time. Chances are you could bring your loved one(s) with you, too, be it your beloved husband, sweet children, close mom, or cherished friend. Have you thought about visiting Paris at Christmas time?
Paris, one of the most beautiful and elegant cities of the world, especially sparkles at Christmas time. Trees lining both sides of the Champs D'Elysee are lit up with tiny white lights the entire length from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triumph. The Eiffel Tower is a shimmering tower of sparkle, just like a Christmas tree. Everywhere it is decorated. The large department stores on blvd. Haussmann have magnificent Christmas window displays which can entice you for hours. The design couture houses like Dior, Chanel, Pierre Cardin, and others window showcase elegant evening attire for the holiday season. Paris can be dusted with a light snow at Christmas time, but more often it is a bit chilly and windy. It is a very joyous time to be in Paris.
Whether it is your first time to Paris, or you've stopped counting, you can customize your own itinerary. There is a Paris for art lovers, history buffs, heavy-duty shoppers, children, jazz fans, foodies, or should I say, Paris has something for everyone. For those of you who do not travel with an intinerary, just being in Paris, and experiencing it by simply walking along the Seine, exploring little streets, window shopping, people watching, or reading in a nearby cafe, is enough to be moved.
For almost 15 centuries, the French have celebrated Christmas. It is celebrated throughout France, like no other holiday. It is celebrated in slightly different ways and traditions amongst it's different regions. If you are traveling to France during the holidays, read up on some of their fascinating Christmas customs, songs, traditions, stories such as "The Three Masses" by Alphonse Daudet, "The Little Juggler" legend, and for us gardeners, "The Christmas Rose" legend.
There are over 300 churches in Paris alone. Christmas Eve begins with midnight Masses. After Mass, Parisians head home, or to a favorite restaurant for one of their grandest meals of the year, the jubilant "reveillon" to feast over many courses with friends and families. It is a very festive dinner and similiar to our New Year's Eve celebration. It is also the night that French children go to sleep, and anxiously wait for slender Pere Noel (Father Christmas) and his donkey to come and fill their shoes with gifts placed near their hearth or Christmas tree.
Some Christmas tidbits or gifts ideas, that I would like to share with you while you are in Paris:
1) Angelina Tea Salon for the "best hot chocolate" in the world. While you are there, you must further indulge and have a piece of their Mont Blanc cake, made with chestnut puree and cream. 226 Rue de Rivoli, Metro: Tuileries.
2) Maille Mustard. Place de Madeleine. Metro: Madeleine. Fabulous retail location for the famous 200+ year old mustard company. You can buy it fresh from their spicket (keg), or any of their packaged "mustard du jour" selections. Makes a great gift. Caution, there are long lines during the holidays. Place de Madeleine is a foodie's paradise. Besides, Maille Mustard there are specialty shops for truffles, caviar, and handmade chocolates close by.
3) Catherine, a fabulous discount duty-free store for perfume, make up, and beauty products. 7 rue Castilgione, Metro: Concorde. Small shop with lots of charm, and personal help in finding your next "sensational" perfume.
4) Louvre Museum Gift Shop. We all know about the Musee du Louvre art museum, but don't overlook their fabulous gift shop, especially around the holidays. There is even a separate gift shop for children full of puzzles, games, and fun things. 99 rue de Rivoli, Metro: Palais Royal, Musee du Louvre.
5) Hotel Ambassador's Lobby Art Deco Bar. Wonderful hotel and lobby bar with origins from the 1920's, beautifully restored in 2002. Great place to rendez-vous, or relax with a glass of French champagne after a hard day shopping the grand department stores along blvd. Haussman. 16, blvd. Haussmann. Metro: Chausee d'Antin or Richelieu Drout.
Joyeux Noel, everyone! Perhaps you will consider Paris at Chrismas time next year.
(I apologize for not being able to put in accents, etc on the French words. I do not have a French keyboard).