Shortly before heading home to the States for the holidays, I took a long walk in Paris, soaking in the Christmas décor.
My first Christmas in France, I went to almost all the Christmas markets in the city (there are about a dozen). I strolled around the decked out department stores. I saw the impressive Nativity scene at Notre Dame. I attended a couple of Christmas parties. My friends and I had a Christmas dessert fest and exchanged presents. In the middle of the week, a friend and I took a day trip to Strasbourg, where the Christmas market originated. We also went to Lille and saw the lights and decorations.
This year, I have been busy at work and either prise in the evenings or tired and ready to go straight home and have dinner. I still visited the main Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées one Saturday night at a friend’s prompting, where we shuffled alongside the crowds and enjoyed the outdoor Christmas music (in English!) and a glimpse of the Père Noël. I certainly gazed at the streetlights whenever I passed by them on bus or foot. I attended one lavish party and one wonderfully homey one. However, on the whole I certainly didn’t devour Paris at Christmastime as I did two years ago.
Hence, the Saturday before Christmas, I ventured out in search of festivity. I started in the Marais, the oldest part of the city, to check out French artist Mathilde Nivet’s lit display at Hôtel Jules & Jim. The hotel is so inconspicuous that I passed it and doubled back to find the entrance. Inside was a lone receptionist in a quiet and deliberately dim compact woodsy lobby. Nivet’s work was fun and international.I continued to the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) where figures built of Christmas balls adorned the façade. This girl looked ready to party.The Hôtel de Ville is really quite something. It dates from the 14th century.I hopped on the metro and got off at Sèvres-Babylone to see the decorations at the department store Bon Marché and watch the crisscrossing escalators.Outside, the sun set over the illuminated city. The lights and sparkle and spirit were still there this year, I just needed to go find them.