Monday, December 18, 2017

Holiday Lights in Paris

I have yet to write about Marrakesh or Essaouira, but one of the attractions of both these locations is that they offer cheap and easy flights to London and Paris. Also, one of the reasons I crossed the Atlantic so late in the year was because I'd never seen either of those cities all lit up for the holidays and I decided that this would be a good time to do so. Therefore, I took a week and did exactly that.

I went first to Paris, wandered around the city for a few nights looking for holiday lights, then took the Eurostar to London and did the same there. I'll show you in a few days what I found in London, here is some of what was on display in Paris.

As I've stated before, Paris is my happy place. It was wet and frigid the entire time I was there, yet I still hated leaving it again. However, I do have to say that I was surprised at how underwhelming were the city's efforts at holiday decorations.

The first place I went was the Galleries Lafayette department store, which is the most elegant department store I have ever personally visited. The store's atrium, topped by an exquisite stained glass dome, is a pleasure to see at any time of year, but I was very much looking forward to see how it was spruced up for the season.

It was certainly filled with colorful objects. And the tree itself was about as colorful as I think it is possible to be.

At regular intervals, all of the objects in the dome floated cheerfully downward. 

Colorful and cheerful were definitely the key theme. Maybe even playful. I was disappointed because I was expecting breathtaking elegance, but the spectacle seemed to receive a favorable reaction from the crowds taking nonstop photos.

Next up was the Champs Elysee. I felt sure that, of all the streets in Paris, that was where I'd find the most spectacular lighting in the city. And of all the streets I walked, none other came close. It was very lovely, no question, the trees were full of blue and white lights.

Still, I don't know that I would have called it spectacular, exactly. And it didn't seem to have much to do with Christmas. Unless blue is somehow associated with the holiday in France in a way that doesn't happen to be familiar to me.

I went to a couple of large squares that I thought might have something special. But the Place Vendome seemed to have only trees with white lights, though maybe they looked better in full darkness. I was there just before dusk.

Still, that was far better than the Palais Royal, which had nothing on the side that I visited. There may have been something on the other side, but since I went to where visitors generally gathered for photo ops, I assumed that's where the decorations would be. Since it was my last stop and I was both freezing and hungry, I didn't bother investigating further.

And that was by far not my only disappointment. The Eiffel Tower was beautiful as always, but also lit up just the same as always, with nothing special for the season.

Same with the Louvre, the double pyramids looking just the same as they do every other night.

And even those places which were decorated turned out to be very hit and miss. Les Halles at least made an attempt on a large patio. But while the individual pieces were quite nice, the grouping just seemed a bit random.

There were some excellent reindeer under the dome, but they also seemed a little random because there was nothing else to accompany them.

There also was not a whole lot on display in regular streets and businesses of the city. The Avenue Montaigne, off of the Champs Elysee had white lights in the trees which lined the street.

Of all the exclusive shops on the street, Dior seemed to have made the most effort. Although, again, I'm not sure how what seems to be a hot air balloon fits into the seasonal theme.

The Plaza Athenee on that road was very nicely decorated. 

The Westminster Hotel that I'd walked by the day before had also added some elegant holiday touches.

Still, as I said, nothing really took my breath away. And that surprised me.

But the biggest shock was the ugly tree in front of Notre Dame. It looked like something that belonged in a discount department store...or that you could buy in one. And being one of the most notable cathedrals in the world, I would have expected something more in the way of religious decorations than a tree. Maybe some angels or something.

Out of the entire city of Paris, my favorite holiday decorations were found on the entrance to a subway stop. 

As you can see in the photo at the top of this post, the Comedie Francaise was not decorated at all. However, the metro stop Palais Royal/Louvre was decorated not only better than any other metro stop I came across in 4 days of traipsing around the city, but also better decorated than most streets and businesses I saw. It was my favorite.

If it hadn't been so cold, I could happily have sat myself down on that seat and enjoyed being in the little square for quite some time, because it was so perfectly Parisian.

Oh well, a visit to Paris is never a waste. To me, anyway. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and look forward to returning when it isn't sleeting. 

Still, I'm glad I went there first. It would have been even more of a disappointment after seeing London, which seems to have gone all out, as you shall soon see.

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