Den surprised me with a trip in late November, 2010, to go see the Christmas decorations and lights. This was our Christmas gift to each other and it really was the best present I could ever have hoped for. We got an incredible deal through Air Transat of $699 each, including taxes, for our flights, hotel for 4 nights, airport transfers and full breakfasts. It was too good to pass up, so we didn't!Here are all the gory details:
We landed at CDG around 10am and our shuttle driver was waiting for us. After dropping off some passengers at 2 other hotels, we arrived at the Quality Abaca Hotel on rue Vaugirard in the 15th around noon. The hotel is a 3 star with 72 rooms in a great neighbourhood. Our room was tiny, but the bed was comfortable, the bathroom was clean and we really had everything we needed for such a short stay. We really enjoyed the neighbourhood, which had many cafes, bars, restaurants, bakeries, cheese shops, and a great Monoprix 3 doors away. There is a great public market on rue Convention 3 times a week. The public transportation options were fantastic ~ Convention metro on line 12 was half a block away and we had access to great bus lines all around us. I would really like to stay in this area again, we enjoyed being in an area that was very Parisian without being touristy whatsoever. Prices reflected that this is not a tourist destination and our meals, drinks and other purchases in the area were some of the best values we've ever enjoyed in Paris.
After unpacking and checking out the rooftop view from our 7th floor room and grabbing a baguette sandwich from the bakery across the street, we hopped on the metro and made our way to the Madeleine stop. We then proceeded to walk for the next 5 hours ~ jetlag or not, we only have 4 days and so much to see! We visited Hediard and Fauchon of course and then made our way to Les Grand Magasins ~ Printemps and Galleries Fayette.
We marvelled at the wondrous Christmas windows and enjoyed the childrens' faces pressed against the glass, eyes open wide and grins on their faces.
There was a light sprinkling of snow while we walked along the stores which just added to the holiday atmosphere. The huge Christmas tree at Lafayette has to be seen to be believed!It's 4 stories tall and decorated with probably thousands of twinkling lights. This is one of the sights that stands out amongst so many wonderful things we saw this trip.
We had a quick dinner at the cafeteria at GL and Den went up on the roof to capture some night time shots of Paris.
We made our way back to the Madeleine metro, stopping to admire Opera Garnier and many little shops along the way. We were back at the hotel around 7pm and in bed by 8, exhausted but gloriously happy to be in Paris together at this wonderful time of the year.
We were up bright and early and after enjoying a filling breakfast at the hotel, we were back on the metro for another day of walking with our mouths and eyes wide open. We got off at Hotel de Ville because I wanted to see how BHV was decorated for Christmas ~ meh, not so much, expecially compared to the grandeur of both Printemps and GL last night. We walked down Rivoli a bit and then turned up rue de l'abre sec, passing the Spring boutique and restaurant as well as La Regelade St Honoure around the corner, bringing back memories of some great meals from our fall trip. We happened upon Mora, the great kitchen supply store and happily spent some time there imaging what we could buy to stock our kitchen if we lived in Paris.
We then walked to rue Montorgeuil, down rue Reaumur and over to Place Vendome, where we stopped to admire the very understated and classy decorations (and all the designer shops that we will never be able to afford!)
We stopped for a well deserved cafe creme at a little place on Cambon right across from Chanel and then continued on to Place de la Concorde where we got our first look at La Grande Roue.
We spend the next few hours at the Christmas market on Champs Elysees where we enjoyed a foie gras and duck magret baguette from one of the many street stalls set up for the market.
Now this is street food!We decided to walk over our favourite bridge, Pont Alexandre III and catch the metro back from St Germain. We stopped in at Le Petit Palais to admire its grandeur and took our time strolling through the 7th towards rue de Bac metro stop.
After a little rest in our hotel and a few drinks at a little bar down the street to fortify us, we hopped on the #80 bus which took us through the 15th, 7th and 6th arrondissements so we could see some more of Paris all lit up for the holidays. We got off on Avenue Montaigne which was beautifully decorated, both with Chrismas lights and some of the most exclusive designer shops in the world ~ Prada, Dior, Chanel, etc. We walked down the Avenue until we got to the Rond Point at the Champs Elysees, where we just stood in awe at the million lights strung on the trees on both sides of the boulevard. This is a sight that has got to be seen to be believed.
We strolled the CE for about 2 hours, up to the Arc de Triomphe and back down to the market, ending up at La Grande Roue all lit up.
We hopped on the Concorde metro and were back in our little neighbourhood in 20 minutes, giddy from our day and very hungry. We found a little Italian place near the hotel called Pomodoro and enjoyed some hot pasta, red wine and yummy desserts. We called it a night at around 11pm and were back in our cozy little room for a well deserved sleep.
We didn't get up quite as early today. After another great little breakfast (and did I mention free!),we walked over to the Sunday Convention market and strolled the stalls for about an hour. We then took the metro to Republique and walked down to Square de Temple for a Christmas brocante I had read about. There were many exhibitors spread out over about 6-7 blocks near the Square and along rue de Bretagne. We wandered around looking at all kinds of interesting stuff for a little while and then made our way down rue de Turenne, passing the apartment we had just stayed in last month. Ah, memories. We went into the Carnavalet Museum to see the Louis Vuitton exhibit (and to warm up). It was really interesting to see how the Vuitton family made their fortune with their innovative luggage designed to take advantage of the changes in travel during those years.
We stopped in at La Creperie Suzette on rue de Francs Bourgeois for a little warmth in the form of cafe creme and caramel crepes.
We then made our way to Ile de la Cite, where we marvelled at the huge Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame and the beautiful creche inside the cathedral. We wandered over the bridge to the 5th and strolled down along the river, decided to go to the D'Orsay Museum (for the art and to warm up again!). We spend about 2 hours revisiting some favourites, including the Van Goughs and the Latrecs. We also saw some of the new areas with Art Deco furniture, which was pretty cool.
We again took the metro back to our neighborhood and found a great little cafe on the corner where I had fantastic oysters and moules frites and Den had his ubiquitous foie gras and then a hamburger steak with a blue cheese sauce. We shared a creme brulee for dessert and it was off to dream land for two exhausted 50 year olds!
This was a walking marathon! We ususally walk our little tootsies off while we are in Paris and I didn't know how the cold weather would affect our habit, but we found that we walked just as much as we usually do, just a little faster due to the cold. It was about minus 5 celcius today with a little wind and there was a dusting of snow on the ground. Cars were covered with snow and ice, proof of a very cold night.
We took the # 80 bus right to the terminal at Jules Jeffrin. We waked in the quiet streets of Monmartre, enjoying the snow on the ground and on the trees, lending an air of calmness to our stroll. We walked up to the side of Sacre Coeur, where Den took many pictures of Paris down below.
We crossed over into the 9th and strolled over to rue des Martyrs, looking for a place to have a coffee and pastry. Believe of not, we couldn't find what we were really looking for so we kept on trucking and happened upon La Mere de Famille chocolate shop, a wonderful place full of old fashioned candy, chocolate and other goodies. They had beautiful Christmas windows and decorations and we splurged on some delicious chocolate bars.
We then decided to keep walking to rue Montorgeuil in the 2nd for a late lunch at Les Petit Carreaux. We had their daily special, Blanquette de Veau, which was meltingly tender and warmed up our cold bellies. A half litre of red wine also did the trick! We continued on to the Seine and crossed over into the 6th. I realized we had not really had any pastries yet (horrors!) so we went in search of the Laduree on rue Jacob in the middle of St Germain. Den had a religeuse with a decadent hot chocolate and I had a huge apple caramel macaron with tea.
We enjoyed both the food and the warmth and fortified ourselves to go back outside. We decided to take a bus back to see some last Christmas decorations on our last day and we found that the #39 had stops close by which would bring us back to the 15th. There were beautiful lights strung along rue des Rennes with St Sulpice in the background. The bus took us by Le Bon Marche department store so we could see it all lit up, as well as down rue Lecourbre, which was also strung with Christmas lights. When we got back to our street, we found that it was all lit up as well, a kind of final Christmas present on our last night.
We had dinner at another little cafe on the corner, made our last chocolate purchases at the Monoprix, and walked back to our room to pack.
6am came very quickly the next morning and our shuttle was right on time to pick us up. Our flight was delayed a little bit because they had to deice the wings!We were back home at 3pm, tired but also exhilarated at our spur of the moment trip to the city we love more and more each time we visit it.
I know how lucky we are that we could even think of a little trip like this and I take nothing for granted. Life is so short, we are making the most of it and we are grateful for everything we have.