The Champs Elysees at The Arc de Triomphe
The Grand Roule Ferris Wheel at Place de la Concorde

The City Of (Christmas) Light - Paris In Winter

     I held off as long as I could, but as Christmas decorations are being installed everywhere, it's hard to resist.  Paris is surreal and idyllic on the worst days, so you can imagine how magical it becomes when the Christmas lights are draped on trees and the stores begin to dress their windows for the season.  It's a sure sign that Christmas is on the way when you see the arrival of the big, lighted ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde, at the top end of the Champs Elysees, near the entrance to the Tuileries.  It's a magical addition to an already sensational place.
     The air is beginning to bite a little bit, and the smell of roasting chestnuts is pleasant as you walk from store to store along the avenue.  It's funny how sounds and smells can be just as powerful as a view to get you into a holiday mood.  The sounds of cathedral bells tolling in the background while Christmas music escapes from the open doors of the stores is a pretty elegant way to be ushered into the season. 
     Paris, like other metropolitan cities, is pulsing with cars and people.  As often as I've been to NYC, I never seem to feel independant of the cars and the crush of people when I am there.  Somehow, I'm always aware of the madness about me.  It's different in Paris; the city has a way of keeping everything in its place. The traffic hums along and you certainly have to be aware of it when crossing the street, but it's so easy to completely ignore the cars and be swept away by the lights, culture and ambiance of the city.  I never quite understood how such a large city could have ambiance.  Paris is special that way.  I suppose it's the intricacy and softness of the architecture as well as the sense of antiquity in Paris, rather than the cold modern skyscrapers common to other large cities.  I love New York, Seoul, Tokyo and several other large cities, but I love them for their madness and exhiliration.  Paris offers that same busy exhiliration, but like Amsterdam, Venice or Monte Carlo, Paris seems eternal - as if she stands above the swarm.  The Christmas decorations and twinkling lights just add to the mystery and beauty.  Perhaps it's subjective.  Maybe others visit Paris and find themselves very distracted by the cars and crowds.  I tend to forget they are there.  Christmas lights makes it even easier to forget.  They're like jewelry crowning the beautiful, old city.  It's like another time and place.  
     I'll try to post some photos of other areas of Paris in the coming weeks.   The Champs Elysees and Place de la Concorde are very festive, but other parts of the city are also decking the halls and stringing the lights.  There really isn't a terrible time to be in Paris, but winter is truly something special.  From neighborhood to neighborhood the city starts to shine.  I'm not a big lover of snow, but when it snows a little earlier than usual, it really makes the city sparkle.  Nevertheless, if I'm going out, I much prefer the cold without the snow; dry feet are warm feet.  Paris usually reserves the worst snowfall for after the new year, so the messiest weather generally stays away during the holiday season.  That's nice when you want to stroll through the Christmas market that comes to the Champs Elysees each winter.  Between the Rond-Point and Place de la Concorde, under the plane trees, there are over 100 small chalets selling products from the French countryside as well as ornaments, food, wine, toys, souvenirs, costumes and art.  It's just one more destination that transports you out of the bustling city and reminds you that Paris is timeless, and for a couple of months, more than any other time, it really is La Ville Lumiere   -  THE CITY OF LIGHT.


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