Christmas in Paris
I have been to Paris one time during the Christmas Season. I had just started a company called French Bee Travel and was meeting a friend who owns Camelback Odyssey Travel in Phoenix, Arizona. We met in Paris to review boutique hotels. We arrived separately and she recommended I try a “meet and greet” service, you’ll love it. I did not realize this service was available to travellers.
When I stepped foot out of the door of the plane in Paris, to my surprise there was a well-dressed man with a sign with my name on it! He introduced himself as Reda, he took my carry-on out of my hand, led me straight to the front of the line at customs, picked up my luggage, waited for me to purchase Euros at the exchange window and lead me out the door to my car and driver. Wow! What a treat! Reda now works for City One Service VIP and I use Victor Cabs 4 U for my transportation to and from the airport, in the city, Versailles, Giverny and more.
It was dreary and cold this trip to Paris, but it’s magical anytime of year. We stayed at the Hôtel Fouquet’s Barrìere and spent 3 days looking at other hotels to recommend to our travel clients. It was exhausting, informative and fun. When traveling alone to Paris or with friends my number one rule is find a safe hotel! Being an Interior Designer, I am attracted to traditional classic motifs. Friendly staff, English speaking, close to the métro, shopping and restaurants are my main criteria. Hotel Esprit Saint Germain fit all my needs and is my favorite for a reasonable price.
(click on photo to enlarge)
When arriving at Hotel Esprit Saint Germain, you are greeted and asked to sit in their salon to enjoy a glass of champagne or wine while they check you in. The salon has a fireplace, comfortable furniture, leopard carpeting, silk drapery, interesting art and accessories. Behind closed doors is an extensive collection of English speaking DVDs for your use. There is a bar in the Salon and in the breakfast room. Wine, champagne, mixed drinks, non-alcoholic beverages and a few nibbles are available when ever you wish, it is included with your room as well as a delicious Parisian breakfast of breads, salamis and cheese or an American breakfast of eggs the way you like them served with bacon, etc. The table is set with white linens, beautiful flowers and sterling silver. You are greeted and served juice, coffee or Mariage Frères Tea, which is my favorite. I enjoy Wedding Imperial, which is a chocolate caramel tea, which has reminded me of Paris every morning since my first visit in 1996. I buy a years supply at a time at Galeries Lafayette Department Store.
My friend went on to the travel conference in Cannes and I stayed behind to visit my friend and collaborator in French cuisine Daniel Hudry and his family. Christmas decorations in the city were beautiful but not as commercially overdone as in the US. It started to snow that morning but I wanted to see if there were any new Chanel eyeglass designs at the Grand Optical on the Champs Eysee. By the time I left the shop it was snowing so hard I could not get a taxi cab anywhere. I was told it was the first time taxicabs were not available in Paris for 10 years. I ended up riding the métro back to the Saint Germain area for lunch at Ralph’s, located at street level of Ralph Laurens Boutique, it had just opened. I sipped champagne with fried olivesserved in a silver bowl. I enjoyed a wonderful lobster salad while watching it snow and finished with a cup of tea and Ralph’s own tradition of caramel corn. The snow was now about 4” on the umbrellas outside in the courtyard. I thought I’d better walk back to the hotel. It was snowing so hard that my map had desinagrated to the point I could not read it! Lesson learned: always take a laminated plastic map to Paris! I had to rely on Parisiennes to guide me back. Always carry a business card for your hotel so you can show pedestrians and cabbies your address, they do not always understand what you are trying to say. Everyone was so helpful! I finally made it back, soaked from the knees down.
The next morning the hotel sent me off with a treat of cookies from Poilâne Bakery and bottled water with an Abientot! (Which means see you again soon). My driver picked me up at the hotel front door and dropped me off at the airport where Reda met me curbside. He took my luggage, handled the detax for my purchases (applications for VAT value added tax refund). I was flying economy but he checked me in at the first class desk. The plane was full and we weren’t sure if my flight would even be able to leave, the Heathrow Airport in London, was already closed. We went thru security without standing in the long line and on to my gate. Reda waited with me until I was able to board. Reda has met me with my friends or family many times since. It’s always nice to see a friendly face when you arrive in Paris.
The French use the Christmas holiday season to celebrate with family and friends whether at church, a meal, or just being together. Yule logs are becoming a thing of the past but traditionally are burned from Christmas Eve to New Years Day. French Children place their shoes by the fireplace or outside by the front door in hopes that Père Noël or Father Christmas will fill their shoes with candy, fruit or small gifts. Mistletoe is hung above the main entry door of their homes to bring good fortune throughout the
coming year. The Crèche (nativity scene) is also a very important and you will find them displayed in homes and churches. The “sapin de Noël” or Christmas tree is the main decoration in French homes. The Nordmann fir is the most popular tree used. The first Christmas trees in homes became popular in the 16th Century and were decorated with red apples. Today trees are decorated with lights, ornaments and tinsel like we do.
A French Christmas Dinner may start with champagne opened with a sabre for flair. Oysters, foie gras, with a desert called La bûche de Noël or yule log which is a log-shaped cake made of chestnuts. In Provence, in southern France you might celebrate by having Treize Desserts (13 desserts) which consist of candied, dried and fresh fruits and pastries. La Galette des Roi (cake of the King) is served on Epiphany. This round cake served in wedge shaped pieces by a child, who has been hiding under the table. Whoever finds the charm or “la féve” hidden inside the cake is King or Queen for the moment.
We hope you will have a French inspired Joyeux Noel et Bonne Anne (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year) with your family and friends!
Karen & Terre
City One Service VIP 011 33 1 48 16 94 22 24 hour phone number 011 33 6 64 49 80 20 www.regul.vip@CITYONE>FR Ask for Reda to meet you
Victor Cabs 4 U Paris, Versailles, Fontainebleau, Giverny, Normandy, Burgundy… Victor’s Cell : 011 33 6 62 79 31 18 or 011 33 6 59 83 73 18 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: blog.taximan4u.com
Camelback Odyssey Luxury Travel 4518 North 32nd Street #206Phoenix, Arizona 602.266.4000 www.camelbacktravel.com
Hôtel Fouquet Hotel 46, avenue George V 75008 Paris France 011 33 1 40 69 60 00
Hotel Esprit Saint Germain 22, rue Saint Sulpice 75006 Paris France
011 33 1 53 10 55 56 www.hotel-esprit-germain.com
Mariage Frères Tea Tea Emporium, Museum, Restaurant & Tea Salon
30 rue du Bourg-Tibourg 4e Paris France 011 33 1 42 72 28 11 www.mariagefreres.com
Galeries Lafayette Department Store 40, Boulevard Haussman 75009 Paris France 011 33 1 42 82 36 40
Grand Optical 138, avenue des Champs Elysées 75008 Paris France
011 33 1 40 76 00 13
Ralph’s 173 Boulevard Saint-Germain 75006 Paris France 011 33 1 44 77 76 00
Poilâne Bakery 8 rue du Cherche-Midi 75006 Paris France 011 33 1 45 48 42 59 www.poilane.com