Vacation in Paris Blog

Paris In Holiday Dress

Places To Visit - Posted on Dec 10,2018 by JanSmi

Holiday season in Paris? It may not be springtime with blossoms and leisurely mornings in outdoor cafes, but it is one of the best and loveliest times to be in the City of Lights.

The Champs Elysees dons its glittering décor; under canopies of baubles, the department stores turn their windows into fantasy worlds; ice-skating rinks sprout up, and so do Christmas markets.

Not so long ago, the Eiffel Tower was lit up like a Christmas tree. Today, it’s just lit up, from top to bottom, in a dazzling display of lights that begin blinking to mark every hour. For the children, there are free rides on merry-go-rounds and other carnival attractions – an annual gift from city fathers.

Through it all, the happy smell of roasting chestnuts. Vendors on street corners cook the seasonal treat over cut-down oil cans and make-shift grills, then drop them into paper cones that keep hands warm, noses tingling and taste buds salivating.

And that’s just the beginning. Markets and shopping streets turn into wonderlands of products. It seems like there must be a hundred varieties of squash alone. Their colors – red and green, as well as yellows, oranges and some almost-blues – add to the festive look. Citrus fruits appear in all shapes and sizes but the juicy clementines are the stars of the show and heralds of the holidays. The best of these little round seedless fruits are sold with their leaves on. They keep well, so they make lovely decorations as well as delicious snacks.

More snacks appear in stacks. Stacks of chocolates, that is. Every chocolate company produces special holiday packages of their goodies, and the piles of them fill the supermarket aisles, tempting you at every step.

Only the champagne-makers exceed the chocolatiers in festive packaging. They bring in designers to turn their presentation boxes into everything from glamorous road signs to gilded cages. What’s inside is not too bad either!

With the hunting season underway, butcher shops and outdoor markets go into overdrive. Walking past them you’ll find pheasants, ducks, geese, and quail hanging from hooks waiting to be plucked and readied for customers. Perhaps that’s all to be expected, but some of their offerings - a whole deer hanging or, even more startling, a wild boar – may suddenly appear in front of you as you stroll along.

Every café sports an outdoor extravaganza of shellfish. Oysters, shrimp, crayfish, clams, mussels are all arranged on ice and watched over by a waiter who seems to be impervious to the elements. He’ll even open the oysters for you and pack them up so you can take them home for your feast.

Bakeries turn out their Bûches de Noël, Yule logs of sponge cake and creamy fillings and frostings. They get decorated with tiny woodmen and saws, as well as Christmas trees and sleighs.

Somehow all the goodies become part of a wonderful whole, a season meant to be enjoyed with all your senses and a tummy waiting to be filled. And, wouldn’t you know it?!! The French have a perfect way to wish everyone, no matter what they celebrate, seasonal joy. “Bonnes fêtes de fin d’année!”

Our latest guest bloggers - Don and Petie Kladstrup

Don and Petie Kladstrup are authors of two best-selling books, the first being Wine and War: the French, the Nazis and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure, a best-seller that has been optioned for a motion picture. Their second book dealt with World War I: Champagne: How the World's Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times. Both books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Don and Petie are former journalists. Don was a award-winning foreign correspondent for CBS and ABC Television News. Petie worked for several mid-western newspapers before serving as an assistant to the American ambassador to UNESCO in Paris. They are the parents of two daughters and have lived in Paris since 1978, splitting their time between the city and their country home in the south of France.

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