This year, inspired by our ever-popular “I Heart My City”
series on Intelligent Travel, we’re reveling in the holiday season by asking our readers to share their favorite ways to celebrate in their cities. Today’s city-lover is D’Arcy Flueck a writer for the website www.chicsetera.com, sharing what she loves most about Paris during winter.
We’ve put together a festively-themed fill-in-the-blank questionnaire, and we’d love to hear your responses. So cut and paste the list, fill in your answers, and e-mail us your picks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Please include links and photos if possible). We’ll be featuring your “My City Celebrates” posts through the New Year, click here for a list of cities we’ve featured so far. Happy Holidays!
My City Celebrates: Paris
When I need a dose of holiday cheer, I always head to the Place de la Concorde. From the Hôtel de Crillon there is an amazing view onto the square, which has a huge Ferris wheel at this time of year. If you decide to take a ride on the wheel there is a stunning sight of Paris during the day, but especially at night, when the Champs-Elysées is lit with festive lights and lined with colored ice sculptures. (Entry 10€ for adults, 5€ for children under 10. Grand Roue de la Concorde, The Ferris Wheel at the Place de la Concorde, November 20th 2009 until January 20th 2010.) Place de la Concorde, 75008, Paris. Métro: Concorde.
The best place to grab a cup of cocoa or chocolat chaud, as it is known in Paris, is Angelina’s. Founded in 1903, this classic Belle Epoque tea room was a favorite of Proust and Coco Chanel. The difference between American hot chocolate and the French chocolat chaud you ask? The French drink real chocolate mixed with milk. The whole process is akin to an art form, and will surely have you melting when you try this thick delicious brew. Angelina’s 226 rue de Rivoli, 75001, Paris. Métro: Tuileries.
If you want to find great sledding you have to head to the Charléty stadium (I know, sledding in Paris? Mais oui!). The entire stadium is covered in snow, allowing a multitude of winter activities like downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, sledding, trampolines, igloo building and more! Suitable for ages 3 and up. Free entry. “Charléty sous neige/Charléty under the snow,” December 19 to 31, 2009 (closed the 25th). Stade Charléty, 99 boulevard Kellerman, 75013, Paris. Métro: RER Cité Universitaire. T3 Stade Charléty.
Strap on your skates at the Hôtel de Ville
and enjoy the view of the historic City Hall overlooking the Seine river. A sure holiday favorite for all ages, the skating rink at the Hôtel de Ville offers a large area for adults and a small learners rink for young children. The lights and decorations flashing on the city hall make skating here a truly memorable experience! Free entry. Skate rental 5€ per person. Ice rink at the Hotel-de-Ville, December 18th 2009 until March 6th 2010. 1 place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, 75004, Paris.
Métro: Hôtel de Ville.
For a classic holiday photo op, be sure not to miss the Eiffel Tower, which is celebrating its 120th anniversary with a special LED light display. We’ve seen the Eiffel Tower lit and glittering but never before have we seen these spotlights, which cover the tower from top to bottom, showcasing a sequence that goes from a shower of lights to strobic color changes. Simply spectacular! Eiffel Tower, 120th anniversary light show. October 22nd until December 31st 2009. 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, and 11pm. Champs de Mars, 75007, Paris. Métro: Bir Hakiem, Duplex or Trocadéro. RER: Champs de Mars-Tour Eiffel.
A great place to take the kids during the season are the “Jours de fêtes” at the Grand Palais. This building is an amazing 19th century construction with an enormous glass ceiling.
For the second year in a row, they will be opening a huge fairground, mixing many rides and games with gypsy jazz musicians, plus stands for delicious crêpes, Belgian waffles and cotton candy (which the French delightfully call “Barbes à Papa” – literally “Father’s Beard!”). “Jours de fêtes/Holiday days”, December 18th 2009 until January 1st 2010. 5€ for adults, 3€ for children. The Grand Palais, avenue Winston-Churchill, 75008, Paris. Métro: Champs-Elysées Clémenceau.
For all of your gift-giving shopping in one store, check out Le Bon Marché on the left bank. While still a large department store (excellent selection for all ages, plus a great book shop, children’s section and food store) the crowds tend to be considerably more civilized here, meaning less jostling and last-minute desperation. Always chic and always a pleasure. Le Bon Marché, 24 rue de Sèvres, 75007, Paris. Métro: Sèvres-Babylone.
Place St Sulpice in Saint Germain des Près has my favorite Christmas market in Paris. Handmade gifts like sweaters, sheepskin accessories and toys are sold in little wooden chalets lining the square. “Père Noël”
(Father Christmas) will be visiting on December 19th and don’t miss viewing the enormous nativity scene built by the French Friends of the Crèche. Free entry. December 10th until the 24th. Place St Sulpice, 75006, Paris. Métro: St Sulpice.
No holiday meal in Paris is complete without champagne! The French appreciate any opportunity to break open the bubbles, but during the holidays champagne is de rigueur! Three star Michelin chef Yannick Alléno, of Restaurant le Meurice recently said one of his favorite champagnes is Pommery’s Blue Time, which he helped to create and recommends pairing with a Yule log dessert. Restaurant Le Meurice, 228 rue de Rivoli, 75001, Paris. Métro: Tuileries.
My favorite holiday tradition in Paris is the galette des Rois. This dessert is one of the oldest cake recipes in France, and can be eaten before and after the Epiphany, which is on January 6th. The tradition has the youngest person climb under the table and designate who receives each piece. Whomever discovers the small porcerlain figurine (the “fève”) baked into the galette becomes the King or Queen for the evening. Traditional galettes are made of frangipane and are sold with gold crowns – buy yours at Du Pain et Des Idées. Du Pain et Des Idées, 34 rue Yves Toudic, 75010, Paris. Métro: Strasbourg-Saint Denis.
Locals know to avoid the throngs of the Grands Magasins (the large department stores) and find the real magic at small private sales and markets. One of my favorite this year is the Christmas sale at Denmark House (Maison du Danemark). While political leaders are in Copenhagen working out the details of a global environmental treaty, the Danes have brought some extra Christmas spirit to Paris with their mulled wine and a super selection of bio and ethical food, beauty products, childrens toys and clothes. Free entry. Maison du Danemark, 2nd floor. 142 avenue des Champs-Elysées, 75008, Paris.
The best part about Paris during the holiday season are the lights! Paris isn’t called the City of Lights just by chance! Leading up to the holidays even the smallest market streets are sparkling. This year I love the stars lining the boulevard des Ternes in the 17th arrondisement, and the hanging blue globes along the rue de Rennes in the 6th arrondisement.
Photo: SETE – C.BAMALE