Some days ago a swiss friend sent me a pirate video clip currently circulating on the net: old videos of riots that took place some ten or more years ago were edited and presented like images of an actual attack of immigrants on the capital of France. Violent street scenes terrorise a scared population with police incapable of handling the situation. The title was
“Paris occupied by immigrants – the media keeps silent”.
As streets in Paris don’t resemble at all these quite stupid false video clips, I want to show you today however what they REALLY really look like.
It is Christmas time in the world and in Paris too. The busy hustle and bustle of people line boulevards and streets, carrying festive parcels and buying gifts for their loved ones, as they all wish to mark like usual this traditional occasion.
Such is the mass of shoppers for example that on Boulevard Haussmann it is difficult to get a decent photo of the lovely seasonally dressed windows of the Galeries Lafayette department store. This year the theme is “Polar bears” made in paper by the italian artist Valerio Festi. In each window the bears animate a different yuletide scene with a common theme of travel such as riding trains, flying in paper balloons, navigating in paper boats. Around the large paper christmas tree inside the store, the bears ride a big paper carrousel as if watching the shoppers themselves animate the product displays and counters. Back outside, children stick their noses against the storefronts, eager to get the best view of the whole Christmas spectacle. And yes, ohhh ! adults and tourists take selfies.
However, I did eventually manage to take some photos, after waiting, waiting and even more waiting! Such is the throng of people, it is quite hard to move on the street.
In front of the famous department store a small mock ‘Christmas town’ proposes delicious cakes, warm mulled wine, a huge panettone with dried fruits, french cheeses, galettes, italian cannoli and of course, “crêpes”.
Rival store ‘Printemps’ has in as its window a different type of decoration: colourful moving scenes with various puppets. A profusion of light and joy fascinates people milling in and out of the store or just passing by. The all stop, children and adults alike, enchanted by the picture-postcard dressed window sets.
On the Champs-Elysées the Christmas lights were lit this year by the eight times world judo champion Teddy Riner. Despite the very wide pavements, even there, it is very difficult to walk as people hurry from shop to shop buying goods or taking photos of this beautiful ornate street and its fashionable stores. An indian family stop to ask me to take a photo of them in front of the Guerlain perfume shop. Others look in wonder at merchandise displayed in Tiffany‘s. Children head to the Disney store which is so full of people that at times it is even hard to get in! In front of the Louis Vuitton store the queue goes around the building – mainly tourists looking most likely for their perfect ‘Parisian’ Christmas presents.
I begin to get cold, I need a cup of hot chocolate. But before that I decide to take in exclusive and expensive avenue Montaigne with its high end “maisons de haute-couture” boutiques.
Staffed today more than usual but normal during high season trading, the shops are full with demanding clients, taking their time perusing & choosing before buying.
Back on the Champs-Elysées the Christmas Market is longer and bigger than usual – it covers more ground between Franklin D. Roosevelt square and right down to the Place de la Concorde. Amongst the ubiquitous places to eat and drink, one finds original gifts, Polish amber jewels, Russian scarves, French olive soaps and scented candles. The smell of freshly roasted chestnuts pervades the market stalls as children enjoy a tiny fun fair with different merry-go-rounds, little trains and other entertaining games. A plethora of decorations, lights, music and noise bring happy people together, relaxing and sharing in the festive spirit.
After visiting all these places, I feel too tired to push my way anymore through the crowds. It is a cold winter in Paris, and like always, commensurate with low temperatures is a kind of damp air that penetrates my coat. I buy a cup of warm wine (finally better than a hot chocolate) a few sips, and I already feel the benefit.
It is late now and I decide to return another day to buy gifts for my loved ones.
Christmas in Paris promotes a time of good will, joyful people of all nationalities, fabulously decorated stores, streets, markets and enough “crêpes” to cover the glittering Eiffel tower!
Happy Christmas, with everything going on in the world, let’s enjoy a moment of magic, peace and beauty.