Thursday, December 23, 2010

Guestage: Girls Guide to Paris - Scrooge's Guide to Christmas in Paris Part I

The Champs Elysées, in Paris, aglow with holiday lights
© Nicolas Laverroux

Cross-posting from Girl's Guide To Paris...
I’m one of those holiday nuts. December 26 begins a countdown to my very FAVORITE time of year! I break out the decorations and CDs way too early. I shop year-round for gifts. Though I’m ashamed to admit it, I actually own a pair of tacky reindeer horns. Bref, I go off the holiday deep end. I have so many wonderful memories with my family that it’s a time of year I really cherish.

After five years in Paris, I consider myself very lucky to have gotten to see my family every year. Every year except THIS year, that is.

The Job-Gods have conspired, and I’m pretty sure that it’s just not gonna happen. (Insert ridiculously long string of swearwords here.)

No giant Christmas trees. No caroling off-key. No yards decorated with power-draining life-size Santas. No baking until my thighs look like two enormous tubes of cookie dough. Worst of all—no family. It was bound to happen. Le sigh.

Needless to say, my inner Scrooge has come out and bitten me on the ass.
To combat this Christmas crisis, I’m going to pull out even more stops than usual. I’m going to fight fire with twinkle lights.

In case you’re in the same boat, or if you’re lucky enough to vacation here for the holidays, here are a few things to fill your days with the cheer and charm of Paris at Christmas.

The Eiffel Tower, in Paris
© Nicolas Laverroux
1) Lécher les vitrines! (window-shopping, or -licking, as they say here)
The window displays at Galeries Lafayette, Printemps
and Fauchon are not to be missed. Even the most stone-hearted grinch will ooh and aah at the sight of these beautiful works of holiday art.

2) Marché de Noël des Champs Élysées
The Champs is so gorge this time of year you may have an involuntary bowel movement. Lights are in every tree down the lane, and you can smell vin chaud, or mulled wine, cooking a mile away. A must-see for sure! There are loads of stands where you can buy gifts, but I’ve never been tempted to. Unfortunately the website is 1995 GeoCities tricked out, but all the info is there!

3) Ice-skating at the Hôtel de Ville
This one is a classic I’ve never done. Though I’m sure I’ll fall flat on my face a half dozen times, the Christmas spirit will cure my black eyes and bloody nose! It’s free if you have your own skates; you can also rent them for 5 euros. More info here.

4) Notre Dame Christmas events
Those of us who live in the city rarely stop by this old pile of bricks, but if you can brave the crowds, the holiday display is lovely. There’s also a holiday concert on Monday, December 20.
Paris has many ways to help you enjoy the holidays
© Hervé BRY

5) Gift shopping
Though some of my friends think it’s too close to the “halles” experience, I like to grab a buddy and get my shopping done on the rue de Rivoli.
If you’re on a budget, hit the Marché aux Puces for original gifts like brooches, watches or gloves. Or you could get the classic gifts: berets and scarves. They make wonderful presents for the winter season and are very “in” whether you’re in Paris or Wisconsin.

6) Events at the American Church in Paris and the American Cathedral in Paris
Every year the American Church in Paris has loads of holiday events, including Christmas Eve services, but the candlelight Christmas concerts are by far my favorite. The music is beautiful and completely worth the trip. Plus, Christmas caroling at the end is a blast!
The American Cathedral in Paris has a beautiful midnight mass ceremony. Though the details haven’t yet been published, I hear from the cathedral’s office that there is caroling, and it’s a lovely way to celebrate religiously. The festivities begin around 10:30 p.m. Check the website for more details.

7) Take a tour
A couple of my top picks for Paris tours are Context Travel and David Lebovitz. A tour is the best and easiest way to see Paris the way YOU like it whether you be a chocoholic, a cheese addict, a wino or simply a lover of the beautiful Parisian views.
What would you add to the list? Share your suggestions in the comment box below.

Scrooge’s Guide to Christmas in Paris: Part II is coming soon, with even more tips and tricks to enjoy your holiday!

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