Seven Paris Writers Tell Why They Like Paris in December
The December holidays are just around the corner! We asked the members of the Paris Writers’ Connection to tell us what they like in particular about this month. Happy holidays and happy reading!
Whimsical creativity and the fine French aesthetic are what makes the capital city so entrancing. Nativity scenes – “les crèches” – in Parisian churches delight both believers and non-believers. At the majestic Madeleine Church, a contemporary artist is commissioned each year to create the manger – this year it’s sculptress Pauline Ohrel. Miniature figurines carved in traditional Andalusian style on display at the Eglise de Bonne Nouvelle in the 2nd are a particular thrill to children. At the St Joseph Artisan Church in the 10th, 300 figurines re-enact the birth of Jesus in a virtual museum. And this year, Notre Dame Cathedral challenged its parishioners to a “stable-making” contest. All will be unveiled on the first weekend of Advent, November 28 – 29.
Rosemary Flannery is an author, photographer and tour guide. She arrived in France in1989, just in time for the bicentenary of the Revolution and the inauguration of the Louvre museum and its Pyramid. Passionate about Parisian architecture, she wrote Angels of Paris: An Architectural Tour of the History of Paris, celebrating the illustration of angels in the city’s facades, fountains and rooftops. Released in 2012 by The Little Bookroom NYC and distributed by Random House, her book is now available in French as Les Anges de Paris: Voyage au coeur de Paris, by Editions Exergue.
I love that the Christmas season doesn’t start too early in Paris (unlike in the US where decorations go up before you’ve even had a chance to finish eating your Halloween candy) but once it starts, it’s glorious. The French don’t shy away from festive decorations, and nearly every street has some sort of display. As you walk through the City of Light during the holiday season, you can’t help but be dazzled.
Vicki Lesage proves daily that raising French kids isn’t as easy as the hype lets on. She penned the Paris Confessions series in between diaper changes and wine refills: Confessions of a Paris Party Girl, Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer, Petite Confessions, and Christmas Confessions & Cocktails. She writes about the ups and downs of life in the City of Light at VickiLesage.com. Buy now: http://www.amazon.com/Vicki-Lesage/e/B00HUZQUI4
Leonard Pitt, author of WALKS THROUGH LOST PARIS
Paris at Christmas is perfect for Americans. We don’t have to get caught up in the madness of the holiday and can enjoy it for all the best it has to offer. The holiday atmosphere permeates everything everywhere and provides the perfect background for the cafés, restaurants, a little shopping, and visits with friends. The city scintillates with light and joyful anticipation. If you get a chance to do Christmas there, don’t pass it up.
Leonard Pitt is an author, actor, and teacher. He lived in Paris for seven years in the 1960s and learned nothing about the city. It was only much later, in the 1990s, when he became shocked upon learning what he did not know that he started reading and researching everything he could about Paris and its history. As someone once said, “If you want to learn about something, write a book about it.” Leonard has written three books about Paris. His first, Walks Through Lost Paris was a bestseller in the French capital. In addition he has written, Paris, A Journey Through Time, and Paris Postcards, the Golden Age. His new book, My Brain On Fire, Paris and Other Obsessions, is a memoir. It will be published later this year by Counterpoint Press.
My favorite part of Christmas in Paris is the holiday lights sponsored by the local businesses. On a wet night they not only light up the sky overhead but also reflect off the wet pavement. A street with lights is so much warmer and gay. I honestly feel that people are happier on those streets. In 2014 rue Lecourbe in the 15th arrondissement was my personal favorite. The ribbons of lights that zigzagged down about 600 meters of rue Lecourbe were stunning. Standing at the top of rue Lecourbe where it intersects with avenue Pasteur and looking to the south the effect of the light ribbon was as if it were a continuous canopy over the street. I sure hope they do this display again this year!
Lisa Vanden Bos, originally from New Jersey and in Paris since 1989, is co-owner of FUSAC, the magazine and website for English speakers in Paris. She has created three volumes of the Speak Easy Puzzles book which helps people to learn French and English idiomatic expressions in a fun way. She also collaborated on the book 90+ Ways You Know You’re Becoming French. Lisa never tires of exploring Paris and its outskirts, France and French language and culture.
All three volumes of the Speak Easy Puzzle book are available on the FUSAC store
Christmas in Paris is the most peaceful season of the year. Because many Parisians leave the city to reunite with relatives during the holidays, those who stay behind enjoy a noticeably reduced tempo of automobile and pedestrian traffic on the streets. This makes Christmas a time to relax and enjoy the city! My wife and I particularly appreciate the traditional, seasonal confections that are available in the shops. Examples include bûche de Noël, a rolled sponge cake that is decorated to resemble a Yule log, and candied chestnuts. We also enjoy strolling about to see Christmas decorations in different neighborhoods. The enormous Christmas tree that stands in front of Notre Dame Cathedral each year is particularly inspiring.
Tom Reeves has been a confirmed Francophile since he first took an unpaid sabbatical in 1975 to travel to France to learn the language, see the country, and pursue a diploma in French language, literature, and civilization. Returning to California in 1978, he eventually realized that while he had left France, France had never left him. He moved back permanently in 1992. Reeves’ latest book Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light helps Paris-bound travelers understand French dining customs so that they feel comfortable when entering into a French restaurant for the first time. Buy now: http://amzn.to/1nkgCyu
The best part of the holiday season in Paris is the shop windows. Bakeries, charcuteries, candy shops (Oh, especially the candy shops, and especially the chocolates!), caterers with their sculpted ducklings in feast-day fields of greens, produce-merchant pyramids of pommes, cheese vendors. Even fishmongers! You think what the French do best is prepare food? What they do supremely is display it. Let the Louvre be closed on Tuesdays—go out and pick up an end-of-year-holiday baguette and you’ll have all the art you need.
Shari Leslie Segall, is the author of France-themed books and articles. She teaches English and cross-cultural communication at the prestigious Institut des Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po) and at the French Military Academy. She is the founding director of Foreign Affairs, which provides linguistic and cross-cultural training and creates English-language documents for executives. Among her other works is 90+ Ways You Know You’re Becoming French, a just-for-fun little gem full of perspicacious cultural observations. The palm-sized book, illustrated with beautiful watercolors, is an amusing way to measure acquired “Frenchness” for those who have lived in France or studied its language: such as, “You know you’re becoming French when your holiday menu would not be complete without foie gras, oysters, and glazed chestnuts.”
The holiday season is one of the most magical times of the year in Paris. Although the days might be darker, Paris truly becomes the City of Light, but also that of joy and community. There’s a true village feel. Each subdistrict within each arrondissement proudly displays its own street lighting, shops decorate with care, residents express and indulge in extra joie de vivre which encompasses so much of the essence of Paris; good food, wine, laughter, and enjoying the moment with loved ones, something that will be especially poignant and highlighted this year.
April Lily Heise is a Canadian writer and romance expert based in Paris. Her writing has been featured in the Huffington Post, Conde Nast Traveler, Frommer’s, City Secrets, and DK Eyewitness Guides and other local and international publications. She is the author of Je T’Aime, Me Neither, a lively novelized memoir on her romantic misadventures and continues to share dating tips, stories, and travel features on her blog www.jetaimemeneither.com.