The glittering Grande Roue (Ferris Wheel) at the Place de Concorde.
When I think of Paris, a series of unconnected words slips into my mind: éclat, happiness, magic, romance, elegance, refinement, mystery. . . Noël(!)
Then I say to myself, “Congratulations. You have mastered all the clichés, n’est ce-pas?”
Maybe. Maybe not. It’s not my fault that everything has already been said about Paris, and with profound eloquence. My words express, as best I can, the sentiments and sensations that reflect my Parisian experiences.
It’s simple, really: No matter who you are, no matter how you try to explain it, Paris changes you. It’s a magical place. It sparkles with hope and possibilities; it somehow, and I’ve tried unsuccessfully to understand why, makes la joie de vivre seem uncomplicated, obvious, attainable.
And at no other time of year does Paris shimmer and glow more brightly than during Noël. Its everyday, refined elegance is suddenly turned out in exuberant bursts of light and color, and even music in the streets. The entire city becomes a huge, over-the-top Christmas party. It’s virtually impossible not to be swept up in the festive splendor of the season.
I love Paris even more during the holidays. We, My-Reason-For-Living-in-France and I, always plan a romantic lunch in late December to shop, savor the sights, and celebrate. For our first Christmas together, he gave me a sweet bouquet of violets at table in the Hotel Ritz Hemingway bar. I had never seen one quite like it before. The next Christmas, he gave me an engagement ring. (You see what I mean about Paris?)
Those who claim to hate the holidays clearly haven’t celebrated in Paris.
Anyone coming here for Noël or to celebrate the New Year must not miss: the sophisticated-fairy tale windows at Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, the Champs Elysees (of course), and the boutique windows along Faubourg Saint-Honoré and the Avenue Montaigne.
Fairy-tale windows: Drummer Girls at Galeries Lafayette; Santas at Printemps; a tropical scene at Hermès.
One of my favorite sights in the city is the glittering 200-foot tall Ferris wheel, or Grande Roue de Paris, at the Place de la Concorde end of the Champs-Elysées. It’s gorgeous. The lights come on at 5 p.m. and stay ablaze until 2 a.m. On the 31st of December they will shine nonstop. Even though I’m enchanted by the wheel, I’ve never been on it, because I’m afraid to be all the way at the top when it slows and stops. I’m sure the view of Paris is spectacular, but I’ll just have to imagine it.
As Ernest Hemingway famously said: “Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris.”
In my opinion, Paris is the cure for just about everything, and that includes Christmas ennui. Trust me, after more than 25 years I’m an expert on the subject.
Un sapin de Noël illuminé beneath the majestic cupola at Galeries Lafayette.