In my hometown in New England, we always had an event in mid-December called the « Christmas Stroll ». It was a a time for the residents and those of neighboring towns to come and enjoy together the Christmas ambiance that was always so well exemplified in the decorations. The town (a village really) had a tiny little central « place » that housed the tall Christmas tree and the crèche de noël, and all the black and white façades of the boutiques on Main Street were spruced up with fir greens and red bows with pretty little white lights to accentuate the falling snowflakes that always arrived just in time. The shops opened late for the Christmas stroll and served or sold their best and most festive holiday wares. It was a place to run into your old school teacher, or meet up with past classmates, see old high school pals or towns people that you know and recognize for years.
While that may never happen to me ever in Paris, I did get to experience a different, perhaps more glamorous type of Christmas stroll and although there was no small town charm or reminiscing, there was plenty of holiday cheer and happiness shared between me and a darling friend who was enjoying it all for the first time. I couldn’t have felt a warmer Christmas glow if I had been at the foot of that New England village Christmas Christmas tree.
Here’s what we did :
We began, since we were close by, with a visit of the Hermès boutique in the 6th, where we oggled the Petit h pieces and the charming holiday décor. Nothing is as glamorous or as delightful at Christmas as a visit to a boutique of dreams such as Hermès can create…
After our eyeful of gorgeous luxury, we headed off towards the heart of the 6th for, per request of my friend, to have a hot drink in front of a fireplace. I had researched where to find such a delight in the city, which was not easy, because starting in January 2015 a new law prohibiting burning fires has forced a lot of restaurants and establishments to attempt to make changes to their current fireplaces in order to accommodate the law yet retain the charm, with gas fueled installations. Villa Madame, a darling boutique hotel on rue Madame is way ahead of the game and already has theirs installed and running. In a lovely corner of their salon, we sat on a plush couch, sipping cappuccinos and inhaling the odor of so many fir and pine branches used to create all the mini Christmas trees that were scattered around the room. It was like we were sitting in a Christmas tree. And if that wasn’t enough, their courtyard had been turned into a mini winter wonderland of white flora and a small wooden cabana acting as a mountain ski hut. We were enchanted!
We tore ourselves away from this most delightful experience, to head up town towards something completely different. Bright colors and silly scenes of a Monsters’ holiday in the Christmas windows of the Galaries Lafayette gave us that child-like smile on our faces as we softened to let our inner child giggle at the silliness and picked our favorite characters in each scene. It was also a lovely place to see the excitement on actual children’s’ faces who were ecstatic at watching in awe at the mechanical movements of these animated and lovable monsters.
We headed inside for a good look at the enormous Christmas tree that is upside down this year and as bright and colorful as I have ever seen it. And a skip up to the rooftop for a good look at the rooftops of the city and the Eiffel Tower not too far away… this always makes me catch my breath.
We strolled down by the Opera Garnier, and rue de la Paix which was a vision of perfection when it comes to holiday decor. Not a leaf or light was out of place. We found a cozy spot on the rue Saint Honoré for a bite to eat before heading over to the Tuileries garden and our next little adventure, the Grande Roue de Paris…the giant ferris wheel. The biggest one in France! Up at the top and over looking the beautiful city of lights just as the winter afternoon sun was settling to sink below the skyline, was absolute beauty. I tried to distract myself from my slight vertigo as we gaped and snapped pictures from every angle. Three times around and I had calmed my vertigo just as we were descending from the giant wheel.
The next step in our stroll was really only steps away… the Champs Elysées and the Christmas market. It was charming and the decorations and lights gave off a glow, but I didn’t feel any authenticity oozing out of the booths that had put on display their wares that all seemed to be made in China. Perhaps only one or two of the stands were selling something that I might possibly purchase for a Christmas gift from Paris. The rest was not interesting. But at least there are plenty of food stands to pick from. The best one we found was on the corner of Avenue Montaigne. They were serving up amazing heaps of sautéed potatoes and duck confite among other incredible smelling dishes. We satisfied ourselves with a cup of apple cider as were were not hungry after a late lunch.
Our final stop on the Christmas stroll was at the ever so glamorous luxury hotel, Le Meurice (where I had an amazing afternoon tea this past Summer), for an opulent pot of hot chocolate. In a glowing room, and perched upon plush chairs we were served with all the grace in the art of four star service, two silver pots of thick steaming hot chocolate that we mixed with equally rich hot milk. We were surrounded by elegant and tasteful holiday decor in green white and gold, perfectly executed service, and the reserved calm of a grand Parisian establishment of luxury.
What else could you want to end the most perfect Christmas stroll in Paris?!? I guess all we could have wanted was giant fat snowflakes to fall as we headed outside in the darkness of evening highlighted by the glow of the city of lights and the joy we felt at having spent such a delightful day together.
I hope you are all enjoying the warmth of the holiday season, that glow that comes only from sharing moments like these with someone special, or by being together with loved ones. Because that is the best part of the holidays. Not the lights, not the luxury, not the gifts or the meal on the table…but the company of people with whom to share it all.
✵ Happy holidays mes chéris! ✵