It seems that, despite the colder weather, Paris is still a very popular destination for the Christmas and New Year period. The buzz in the streets, the magical lights and sounds and the gentle hum of a city enjoying a patch of warmer weather all combine to make this a fine time to be out and about amongst the throng of humanity from all over the place.
We had pre booked dinner for Christmas Eve at Brasserie Thoumieux with a set menu, a promise of elegant dining and a pianist to provide the soundtrack for the night. We weren’t disappointed and it was a lovely way to ease into Christmas in Paris. As is the European style, many family groups were out to celebrate Christmas on the Eve; exchanging small gifts and enjoying excellent food and wine.
From just outside the restaurant in Rue Saint Dominique, 7th Arrondissement, it was possible to line up the real Eiffel Tower with the LED version suspended above the street. Throughout Paris, lights are festooned in streets like this adding a sense of magic to the streetscapes and creating a special vibe for the season. Lighting on private dwellings seems limited to the balconies of apartments in apartment blocks that are typically five or six stories high.
On Christmas Day, not sure of what we would find open we set out to explore further. We’ve found that while the Metro is quick and effective in getting about the city, it has the disadvantage of not allowing for any sights above ground. Today’s outing was, therefore, planned by bus; firstly from Place Monge and then on to Chatelet before walking around the fringe of the huge Westfield shopping centre at Les Halles and on to Rue Montorgueil where, after a coffee stop, we headed up the street under the canopy of beautiful balloons
Along the way we came across a small protest in the square around the Fontaine des Innocents where Iranian flags waved and voices were raised to protest in favour of the rights and freedom of women in Iran. It reminds all of us that while some around the world enjoy this season as a time of reinforcement for love and understanding there are many who suffer at the hands of ideas and actions.
We wander back to the Seine and across the bridge to find the vendors on the left bank who sell all manner of things; having begun their existence many many decades ago as traders of second hand books and artworks. We have a particular Christmas gift to ourselves in mind and end the afternoon in possession of something to add to our house at home. Lynette holds up our new number that will eventually remind us of this Christmas in Paris once installed facing the street back home.
Leaving the river and the throngs of tourists milling about for last looks at the Notre Dame and a quick rumble through the jumble of goods at the Christmas Markets, we head Westward to one of the many iconic cafes on the Left Bank in Paris.
A happy Santa greets us as we wait to cross the street to the Deux Magots, a cafe famous for its popularity, earlier last century, with philosophers and writers. Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean Paul Sartre along with a long list of others.
The cafe is warm and relaxed. We chat with a couple from Michigan as we choose our meals under the figures of the Deux Magots: a pair of Asian gentlemen sitting on chests of probable riches, as, beside us, a more contemporary senior gentleman pens a letter in longhand while occasionally pausing to accept the handshakes and homage from a variety of waiters and staff. He’s clearly well known and a regular.
Having enjoyed this lovely end to a Christmas Day we rustle up an Uber and head home along the Boulevard Saint Germain: our Parisian Christmas experience complete.