Ah, Paris, where poets, artists, lovers and tourists alike marvel the grandeur of the City of Light with its parks, museums, landmark structures and monuments. The first time we were in Paris, it was Spring time in 2008 and the time was spent on a regimented schedule to visit as many museums, churches, and landmark buildings as possible. And yes, we had a grand time in doing so, getting close to Mona Lisa right after the museum opens, or strolling in Jardin des Tuileries on a crisp morning, or marveling the view of the City of Light from above the second level of the Eiffel Tower at night. The Paris Museum Pass was worth it although we could not possibly visit all the 60+ museums and attractions offered within that 6-day period. This time was Christmas. We arrived on Christmas morning after a long red-eye flight from Los Angeles. Roissybus was the easiest transportation and only costs us € 10 per person to get to Opera Garnier, just blocks to Place Vendome, where our hotel is located. Our fear that no restaurant was open on Christmas day was unfounded as we found a bustling café where we had our lovely Christmas meal. Richard and I both had steak frites and they were delicious! Then we walked all the way to Notre-Dame Cathedral to attend the last Christmas Mass. Although I am not a Catholic, attending a Christmas Mass at the most famous cathedral in the world is really a wonderful experience. Richard however, kept falling asleep and I had to nudge him several times to wake him up during Mass. Yes, it was a very tiring flight, I said, as he protested silently. This was one of my memorable moments of the visit. Another one is to visit the cafes in Paris in different locations at different times. We found that they most will likely speak English to us after we greet them with “bonjour” or “bonsoir.” Hey, they know that their beloved city is a magnet for tourists, so they will spot us as non-natives. And we don’t speak French either (maybe we should start learning). We also found that they are indeed proud being French and they want to speak their language mostly and won’t really speak English if they cannot speak it well. Sadly enough, skyscanner.net did a survey that France is the nation where the rudest people are. We really don’t think so and with this general perception already drilled in our head, finding French people being friendly and talking English to us was really a treat :-).
Christmas in Paris found to be more subdued than in the US, at least the way we see it. Decorations are everywhere but they are subdued with less red and green. Mostly white and at times some blue. Gallerie Lafayette, the famous mall with several floors was bustling with people after Christmas. A huge Christmas tree was prominently displayed in the middle, reaching the top floor. And the weather? Well, the sun did not come out until 9:30am and the sun sets at around 5pm. It was very cold and cloudy for our taste since we are from Southern California, but we managed :-). Our next blog will feature more of our visits at other landmark buildings, food and walking the streets of Paris.