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Christmas Paris


christmas-1.jpgChristmas in Paris is usually without snow, with million lights, creative holiday decorations of the shops windows, catchy melodies in the shops, people phrenetically walking in the streets and buying the perfumes, duck paté "fois gras", oysters, smoked salmon, sweet buns. Butchers sell the roasted cocks, quails, stuffed turkeys, delicious patés and the flowershop owners sell small pots with hyacints, the flowering of which is exactly scheduled for Christmas and  pine trees with nicely smelling needles, being stocked in big quantities in front of the Parisian flower shops.christmas-2.jpg

Advent in Paris dazzles by the shop windows design, their elegant pretty contents having the only objective to make you take out your purses from the bags and the credit cards from your purses. Paris before Christmas is busy but at the same time people find the time for thousands of details for a perfect preparation of their Christmas holidays. We look for the real Christmas, without the commercial fuss and often we are deceived to get overwhelmed by the pulse of the city. And in Paris it is enough just to see and hear, the Christmas atmosphere comes from people to the streets and not from Paris towards people, it’s weaved from the mosaic of million details.

Christmas market under the Montparnasse scyscraper has a stand with plenty of plaster colourful little figures called "santons", representing the Saint family, shepherds, Epiphnany kings, all the domestic animals and village crafts. "Santons" are quite expensive and so the French like to build up thchristmas-3.jpgeir Bethlehem progressively during several years. On the Christmas market in Trocadero, among the wooden little huts offering pancakes, wafers, special meals cooked in the huge pans, scarfs, hats, sweet sugar "pommes d’amour" (in translation "apples of love"), you walk by the Hungarian stand with delicious salami and pickled vegetables and you find yourself in front of the inscription "Slovaquie", decorated ginger breads, straw dolls and a big pot of wonderfully smelling cabbage soup.

The afternoon of the third Advent Sunday we spend in the Montparnasse part and as a warming up pause we opt for the coffee place "brasserie" L‘Atelier. In spite of the fact that Montparnasse has its cult places, reminding its glory of the 20-ies and the personnalities such as Hemingway, Picasso, Cocteau, renown coffee places "La Coupole" and "Le Dôme", have their reputation but often their customers are attracted more by their past fame rather than the presenchristmas-4.jpgt quality. Right in front of the coffee place La Coupole there is less flaring coffee-restaurant L’Atelier. Except its coziness and pleasant service it has also a charming interior design in the "art deco" (new art) style, with big comfy chairs. The happiness of a Sunday afternoon is completed by a big triange piece of a fresh cheesecake, Richard brand coffee served in the nice white ceramic cups and the look on the waitors running around in the long white aprons, so typical for the historical coffee places in Paris.

The waiter immediately notices our children and before taking the order he brinchristmas-5.jpggs to our table pencils and colouring games. Before the entrance your eyes stop on the table with the cray inscription "chocolat à l’ancienne" – hot chocolate prepared according to the traditional recipe. Hot wine with orange and cinnamon or a dense milk chocolate in a white porcelain mug will bring Christmas to your mouth.
Being with children, an obligatory stop by the pancakes and sweet churros stand close the the Montparnasse metro station, the seller gives a hot pancake with chocolate to each of the kids, my husband pays and while leavinchristmas-7.jpgg noisily, the seller wishes us "bonnes fêtes" (Merry Christmas). You walk from a chilly street Boulevard de la Grenelle by the door of the shop selling the traditional bread and bakeries Poilâne and to your nose gets a smell of fresh bread and biscuits, which in this time of the year have the form of deers and stars and are also hanged on the thin long threads as a decoration of the shop window.
Sight from the metro line 6 on the cream shelter above the entrance of the coffee-restaurant "brasserie Le Pierrot", lighted with plenty of tiny lights. A beggar who sits daily in front of the Franprix supermarket close to the Eiffel tower, besides its box for money, on his worn clothes he has a Santa Clas dress and hat.
In the morning, walking in the corridors of the Denfert-Rochereau metro station, I have the impression that the music of the harpist has Christmas melodies.
Christmas is when we wish to the others good things. When people say "Joyeux Noël" and wish health, peace, love, good cakes and pretty Christmas tree or sweet bonbons. Do you know what the French say often before the Christmas holidays? "Soyez raisonnables, pas des excès." (Be reasonable, do not get to the excess with the meals.) And do you know what diagnosis they define after Christmas? "Ccrise de foie" (liver crises that is probably known only in France.)
Maria Danthine, Paristep



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