While living in Spain, we want to be sure we can see as much of Europe as we can. We usually take advantage of school holidays to take a trip. This holiday was time to meet up with Grandma and spend our Christmas in Paris. We had a full week to enjoy the city and fall in love with it all over again (Alan and I) or for the first time.
Christmas in Paris Accommodation
First order of business was to be sure we had a place to stay. We all went back and forth between the convenience of a hotel vs an apartment. In the end the apartment won out as it is much more affordable, far more spacious and we could live like locals for a week. Three bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen and good-sized living/dining area.
We loved the place and we were just on the edge of the city in Clichy. It was close to everything we desired to do/ see and it felt like a home. From our south-facing terrace we could see the top half of the Eiffel Tower. From the North side of the apartment we could see Montmartre. Just out the back window on the streets below, you could see the outdoor ice skating rink for Clichy.
Let the Exploration Begin
When we travel to a new place, we like to do our research in advance and then have some internet access handy to fine tune on the fly. This trip was no exception. We know the sites we would like to see, but don’t have it all planned out by the minute or even the day. We checked the weather often and let that help guide us with our choices when we wanted to go and Explore the city. Friday was no rain, so the best day to walk around.
Friday afternoon we decided to head over to Montmarte and soak up that neighborhood. Lars and I raced up the stairs to Sacre Coeur, trying to beat the others riding in the Funicular. We would have made it if I didn’t stop to take pictures, (I really needed to catch a quick breath). It was a beautiful sight at the top, just prior to dusk. The city was gorgeous and they had loads of Christmas booths set up like a market. There were fresh hot crepes, mulled wine, champagne and many other things including gifts, hats, etc.
It was great fun roaming around the area and admiring the buildings and ambiance. We wandered into what looked like the “Garment District” with bolts of fabric piled high in the windows. Each full of color and style and all different materials everywhere you looked. I can think of a few of my good friends that would have loved this area. We stopped off in a little café for some Chocolat Chaud (Hot Chocolate). Oh, that sure hit the spot. It helped warm our bellies and fuel us for our next adventure.
Avenue des Champs-Élysées
It was now getting a little dark out, so perfect timing to go to Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and see the Christmas Lights. A quick metro ride and there we were, right in the heart of things. They too had a Christmas Market on both sides of the Avenue. The lights were incredible and the energy was in the air. It is great to have 5 city lovers on a trip, because we all love the vibe.
We walked from one end of the Avenue to the other and enjoyed the Arc de Triomphe as well. The bears were getting hungry so we had a lovely dinner at an Italian restaurant. We were up on the second floor with a window view to the Avenue and all of the lights. It was really magical and the food was perfect. We could not have planned and better evening out.
We had a wonderful time on Sunday and Monday exploring The Louvre and Christmas Eve Day at The Eiffel Tower. We will write more detail about those in another post.
For a couple of months, I had been anxious about what the weather would be like for this Holiday. I know Paris can be bitter cold with the winds in the winter. Since we are living in Southern Spain, we aren’t prepared for “real winter” weather. I waited to view the 10 day forecast to determine if we needed to purchase any extra items to keep us warm. We lucked out, the forecast was upper 40’s lower 50’s the entire time, with a little rain here and there. We can tolerate that with a few layers of clothes, no problem.
We arrived Thursday afternoon and it was dumping buckets of rain. This wasn’t a problem, as we planned to stay in and get settled this day. Waiting for Grandma’s arrival early the next morning. The forecast for Friday was about 52° F and partially cloudy, but it was 90% chance of rain on Saturday. So we used this as our guide to ensure we did our outdoor walking around activities on Friday. This meant that Saturday, we could have a recoup/recharge day “at home”.
That is exactly what we did. The kids made gingerbread houses, cookies and a fabulous dinner with Grandma. It was very low-key and just what we all needed. (more on this below in the “time to eat” section. The rest of the trip was perfect. We could not have asked for better weather and we managed to see all of our top sites with no weather issues.
Time to Eat
Most people go to Paris for the food. As you know from some of our previous posts, the entire family aren’t really “foodies”. So we weren’t sure of “The” restaurants to hit, but there were so many to choose from everywhere we looked. We didn’t eat out too much because we did have an apartment with a kitchen and the best chef we know was staying with us, Grandma!
In between bouts of rain on Saturday, we headed out to do a bit of grocery shopping. Grandma and Lars were going to make a French dinner at home (Beef Bourguignon). We had so much fun and felt like locals. Just 2 blocks away was the butcher where we stopped to get the Beef. Then just a bit further was the produce stand and then the small market. On the way home, we stopped at the Boulangerie for some fresh bread and incredible pastries for dessert.
After returning home, Lars and Grandma were in the kitchen making the magic happen. She was sharing her secrets with him and he was just beaming the entire time. He felt so grown up! Wow! What a meal! We all devoured it and there was a little left for a snack the following day. YUM! We did eat in for breakfast each morning and often ate lunch out while we were exploring. We did eat dinner out a couple of times, including Christmas Eve.
We found a nice place for dinner, that was open for Christmas Eve, so we made reservations at Sebillon. That night we all dressed up and headed out for our reservation. Easy peasy, it was just one metro stop and then a change to the RER train for 2 stops. That is exactly what we did and when we came up from underground we couldn’t find the restaurant! We had 10 min until the reservation and it was nowhere to be found. We asked a passer-by and they said we needed to go 2 more metro stops.
This can’t be, I was sure this was the correct stop. Well, there were loads of nice restaurants right in front of us, so we chose one and had a fun dinner there (Chez Clement). Of course when we arrived back to the apartment that night, I had to double-check and it was the correct stop. We were just on the wrong side of a huge roundabout. In fact, a few days later when we were leaving town on the shuttle to the airport, we passed it. Oh well, it turned out very nice.
While waiting for our food, Anya excused herself to go to the restroom. After quite a long time, I started to get up to check on her. Then at the same moment she appeared. We asked what took so long and her reply was “I was walking past the mirror and looked and myself and had to just stop and really take a good look. Then I had to twirl around and dance.” Oh, girls!
As you know we have been living in Spain to focus on learning Spanish. Well, now Spanish isn’t going to do us much good in France. I took 2 years of French in high school, but that by no means makes me fluent. I can recognize words and at a minimum be polite and ask directions. Well, the kids wanted to learn as much as they could, so we covered the basics with them.
It is amazing what sponges they are. They had no trouble using what little they know in conversation. We had good manners, knew how to ask for tourist things and could count! That is more than I expected from them, but we managed to use our French. Now Lars and Anya would like to grow up and become “exchange students” to live in France. They love the language and can’t wait to learn it better.
We also gave Lars the Metro map and he planned all of the routes for us to follow. He got us everywhere we needed to go without any problems, so kudos to Lars. It is always great to learn navigation skills and now he should be able to figure out most cities with public transit. I think this was one of his favorite things for sure.
The Last Full Day
The day after Christmas, we needed to say good-bye to Grandma. We walked around the block from our apartment to the taxi stand and said our thank you’s and good-byes. The kids were a bit sad, and the ice skating rink was just behind us…. So we let the kids ice skate to raise their spirits. It was their first time ever and they did very well. A few belly plants and bottom bumpers, but other than that they had fun. It was much colder this day, so they lasted about an hour or so. Then back to the apartment for a warm bath and some hot chocolate! That evening we went back to the Eiffel Tower one last time, as we were heading home the following day.
We had the best Christmas in Paris and now the kids would like to live there.
Christmas in Paris Photos