Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Christmas in Paris

Happy New Year everyone!

It feels great to be sitting at my computer again and getting back into the swing of things.

I couldn't tell you before for fear of publicly announcing our absence over the holidays but...


Jim, Jack and I spent Christmas in the City of Lights with my brother, my sister and her family.

We stayed in the 18th arrondissement near Montmartre...the area made famous by Moulin Rouge, the Sacré Coeur basilica and by the many well-known artists who lived there in the 19th and early 20th century.

Our "house", which slept all 9 of us comfortably, was at the end of this plant-lined street...


It seemed that, in addition to our hostess who was a photographer, there were other artists living on our "street" as well.

We arrived early on Christmas Eve and noticed immediately the lack of visible signs that it was Christmas time. I had heard that Christmas in Paris was understated but I was surprised at how understated it really was.

In comparison to the States where we are bludgeoned with the consumerism that has become "Christmas in America"...

The lack of shopping fervor, bright lights, Christmas music, tinsel, wreaths on cars, trees on every corner...was palpable.

Frankly, this little yarn-bombed tree with its candy-cane stripe was the perfect decoration...


A little yarn...an unexpected place...*sigh*

Since it was Christmas Eve, many places were closing early so that Parisians could spend the evening with family and friends enjoying their Christmas Eve feast...the Réveillon de Noël...a highly anticipated culinary event.

So we set out on foot to explore our neighborhood...


And to climb the hill toward Montmartre and Sacré Coeur...


The streets were quiet. Yet, as we climbed, there were definite signs that it was Christmas timebut the decorations were subtle and tasteful like the trees outside this restaurant...


And many of the windows of the bistros and brasseries were painted quite skillfully...


When we reached the top of the mount surrounding Sacre Coeur, there was a Christmas market...



With stalls selling foods, wines and all sorts of goodies...




It was a festive atmosphere...sipping spiced hot wine while walking around...but the emphasis of the market wasn't overtly on ornaments like the German markets. And there was most definitely an emphasis on food.

Christmas food in Paris is a whole other blog post so I'll save that for later. Suffice it to say that the food was phenomenal in both taste and in appearance.

I was beginning to like this version of Christmas.

Later that evening, we all went to Notre Dame Cathedral to attend Midnight Mass.


By showing up three hours early, we were able to get seats only five rows from the front. Unbelievable.

Lucky for us, the Cathedral was prepared for a crowd seated for three hours before Mass, so they showed a movie on the history of the cathedral from 10-11, and from 11-12, a Children's choir sang carols in French until the grand Mass began at Midnight.

It was magnificent.

We didn't get to bed until 3am but it was worth it.


Not only is Notre Dame a stunningly beautiful Cathedral, but so are the hundreds of other churches, chapels and basilicas that seem to be scattered on almost every street corner throughout Paris.


And each one was resplendent in Christmas glory...


With a creche on display in every one.


Each more beautiful than the one before.

We found ourselves popping in to as many churches as possible to see and visit their creche.

And my brother Mark lit a candle and said a prayer in every one...


So after only one day, I had a sense that Christmas in Paris was much less commercial than the American counterpart. That it was a religious day. That the focus was on family, friends and food.

And it was the discovery I made the next day on an early Christmas morning walk in the neighborhood that drove the point home.

I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

I can't wait to hear about your holidays and your New Year's resolutions. I'll be around to the blogs as soon as I can.

Bonne Année!


34 comments:

Dolores said...

How wonderful for you and your family to have a much different, much quieter Christmas. Looks like the weather co-operated too.

Linda H said...

Looks like you had a wonderful time, as I knew you would. Paris is such an awesome city anyway, I can just imagine it at Christmas. And yes- they do it right - we are far too commercialized here in North America...
Beautiful photos- thank you for sharing them with us...

Catherine said...

Your post left tears in my eyes! That is the simplicity and reverence I long for in My Christmas! Thank you so much for sharing, I'm definitely looking forward to reading more about your trip!

Suztats said...

Sounds like you had a marvelous time enjoying a gentle, softer, community Christmas.
Looking forward to more wonderful posts.

Cindy Minick said...

Beautiful photos! Your post brought back so many memories of former trips to the "city of lights". Just wanted to add thanks for the great chocolate cake recipe you posted before Christmas. I made the cake twice during the holidays and everyone loved it and wanted the recipe.

FlowerLady said...

Dear Susan ~ How wonderful that you were in Paris for Christmas. Those are beautiful pictures. We were in Paris in the spring, 1973. Our hostel was a few blocks from the Notre Dame and we stayed in Paris for 6 days. DH had just gotten out of the US Navy, we were living in Spain, and we toured Europe by Eurail with backpacks, cameras and canteens, and our travel guide, How to Travel in Europe on $10 a day. We met a couple on a train somewhere during that trip who thought they were doing good spending just $100 a day.

Paris in the spring was beautiful, I can only imagine how wonderful it must have been at Christmas with the spiritual aspect and being low key. The US is too commercial which takes away from the true meaning of Christmas. We had a simple Christmas this year and it was really nice, less stressful.

Thank you for sharing this and I look forward to the next installment.

FlowerLady

Lisa said...

How wonderful! I can't imagine you in a more perfect place! Love hearing about the differences between Christmas in the US and there in France!

Cindy Caraway said...

Magical! Thank you for sharing your wonderful trip with us.

Whenever I am lucky enough to find myself in Europe, walking is the best way to travel. My feet transport me from one church steeple to the next. The history, artwork and architecture found in those magnificent places is awe-inspiring!

Vicki W said...

What a fabulous trip!

Ingrid Mida said...

WOW! Susan, this must have been like a dream... I never thought of going to Paris at Christmas time but it sounds heavenly. I will be waiting for your posts with bated breath!

Mouse said...

ohhhhh Notre Dame for midnight mass just wonderful ... and it was lovely to see it so understated over there ... glad you had a fab time :) love mouse xxxx

Gerry Krueger said...

I studied every photo twice and then got DH and we went through them all again... Fabulous... I'm going to print off the bakery one to put in my kitchen so I can think of you there... Hugs Ger

black bear cabin said...

what a glorious adventure...i cant wait to read more about it! The photos are lovely as always! happy new year! :)

Sheila said...

How wonderful is that?!? Wow! What a beautiful way to spend your Christmas! And with some Sibs, too. What lovely photos. You bring Paris into our living rooms. Glad to see the sights through your lens, and hope the flight to and fro went well. I'll look forward to seeing the rest of your adventure unfold. :) Happy New Years!

Carol said...

Well, I knew you were up to SOMETHING good, but I didn't expect something FANTASTICO!!

I'm surprised Christmas is so understated there. I'd like to experience that. BUT I MUST have lights!

Gosh, Susan in Paris. You were in Heaven, weren't you.

verobirdie said...

How wonderful! I heard a chord singing in Notre Dame. It was quite an experience... The atmosphere and the beauty of it would have made me religious. Those who built Notre Dame were genius.

LisaBelle said...

How wonderful! That's the kind of Christmas I like! Perhaps I should pack us up and take us to Europe next holiday season.

I hope you got a chance to eat some chocolate crepes from the street vendors. I know it's criminal when there so much food to experience in Paris, but that's practically all I ate while I was there! Of course, I was a struggling college student at the time, so my waistline could handle it, and so could my pocketbook. LOL

Wendy said...

What an amazing way to spend the holidays as a family! So glad that you had a safe and wonderful trip. Cannot wait to hear more about your awesome trip. Welcome home and Happy New Year to you and your family...

Coeur de freesia said...

Very interesting point of view ! I spent a week-end in London at the begining of december and I was stunned by the amount of decorations everywhere. Christmas wreath at each door, trees, music everywhere...
But is it really because christmas is for us a religious day ? I am not sure...

Sophie said...

It is very strange for me, to read what a French Christmas is, this is exactly what I am used to! Yes, Christmas is a religious and familly celebration. Decoration is inside, each familly sets a creche and Christmas tree for which we do not have to buy everything each year, we have the familly stuff inherited from previous generations. Christmas meal is different in each region of France.

coral-seas said...

I thought that you were probably away but imagine that you were so close and yet still so far away :-) Even closer when Jon and I drove through Northern France on our way to Amsterdam!

Loved reading about and seeing Paris at Christmas. It brought back memories of our honeymoon their and I could close my eyes and imagine at the places I had visited also.

Looking forward to hearing the rest of your tale.

Welcome home and Happy New Year.

Teresa said...

What a wonderful trip. Wish we could be a little less commercial and more about the holiday.
I am sure some of your sights will turn up in one of your wonderful stitching projects. Can't wait to see.
Teresa's Heartfelt Stitches

flower friend said...

What a lovely idea and it sounds just right to me. We managed to get to Bruges in Belgium just before Christmas and the markets were great with an ice rink in the main square. All the decorations were traditional and subtle plus we enjoyed the variety of beers on offer and brought back fantastic chocolates to give as presents.
Looking forward to your next post.

Kim

Rachel said...

And Bonne Annee to you!

The area around Sacre Coeur is my favourite part of Paris, the part I always want to share with friends. Among all the magnificent churches, did you find the Sainte Chapelle?

M&Co. said...

Those pictures are stunning and that Christmas looks fabulous.

Nancy said...

What a wonderful trip you had!! Wish Christmas was more like that here...the French are such a special people! Christmas Mass in Notre Dame must have been so amazing! Can't wait to hear more about your trip!

MosaicMagpie said...

Thank you for sharing the photos with us. What an absolutely wonderful trip. If only Christmas was celbrated that way, here in the states.
Deb

Judy S. said...

Sounds like an absolutely perfect way to spend the holidays. Happy New Year, and welcome home! Thanks for sharing your trip...great photos, Susan! (It's a wonderful experience to sing in those lovely cathedrals, too!)

Createology said...

What a beautiful way to spend the holidays. I had no idea the lack of commercialism that exists elsewhere...how refreshing. Your post really put meaning back into such an important celebration. Blissful and Creative 2012 Susan Dear...

JoWynn Johns said...

What a wonder-filled life you have, Susan! Like everyone else, I much enjoyed your post; and I also appreciate your new winter header.

Ati. said...

Such a fantastic place to celebrate Christmas time together with your family!

Anonymous said...

Hello
Happy New Year
Beautifull pictures!
Looks like you had a wonderfull time in Paris
Best regards from France
Françoise

Hélène said...

Happy New Year Susan !

I love the way you see things, always the artist eye and the loving eye.

Have you ever beeen to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs ? They have a permanent display of jewellery and usually fashion displays (it's not far from the Louvre - for your next visit)

Kerstin Gren said...

Lovely pictures with a lot of mood in them. I was wondering what the name of the place you where staying in is called? Was it a B&B? We are going to travel to Paris next spring when it is my birthday and we are looking for a cosy small place to stay.

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