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Christmas in Paris

Joyeux Noël

semi-overcast 6 °C

We have had a succession of busy days trying to work our way through the "to do" lists.  We have managed to:

- breakfast in some wonderful nearby cafés that were recommended to Fran by a work colleague;

- visit Shakespeare and Co, the famous English language bookshop on the left bank which seems to have been the prototype for the kind of ramshackle and atmospheric independent bookstores that are found in places like Melbourne;

- lunch in a variety of good cafés, always with a pichet of decent red wine;

- spend an incredible amount of time shopping in the Marais and Palais Royal areas without actually buying anything (this applies mostly to Frances and Sonia - I felt a great sense of relief when Fran eventually made a couple of purchases after several hours);

- visit the Palace of Versailles which was magnificent in a completely over the top kind of way. The weather was very rainy and a lot of the massive garden areas were shut for the winter but we saw enough to understand the overstated opulence of the era and why the French decided to have their revolution. As an example, we walked through a section that was a complete re-creation of a piece of English countryside, including village buildings and farm. Apparently Marie Antoinette awoke one morning and decided that it would be nice to have one of these that she could see from the window of her chateau. This is the chateau that was built for her in addition to the other one nearby that she could have stayed in and apart from the enormous palace up the drive past the extensive lake and canal system;

- take Frances to see the views from the Eiffel Tower at night;

- hire a Velib and ride to the Père Lachaise cemetery while Sonia and Frances did some more research in the shops. Here I saw the graves of Chopin, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde .... and a couple of other ones as well;

- buy the wines and other supplies for Christmas Day. Buying fruit and vegetables in the more traditional little green grocers is interesting. It seems that you don't select the produce yourself. When it is your turn, one of the many attendants will select and wrap each item for you. They even give an impromptu French lesson where required ... Non Monsieur, en français on dit "c'est tout" quand on est fini .... pas "c'est complet" ... I find the French quite friendly and very service oriented in their day to day dealings. There is, however, quite a formal process for everything and as a visitor, one needs to "look and learn" to some extent;

- revisit the Mosquée and attached tea house with Fran;

- enjoy a Matisse and Picasso exhibition at the Grand Palais. The exhibits were from the collections of various members of the Stein family and Fran was able to give me some lessons in art history;

- visit the historic St Ouen flea markets;

- check out the ice skating on Christmas Eve at the Hôtel de Ville. The waiting time for skates was a bit long so we only observed the proceedings;

- buy some small pine tree branches to serve as a Christmas tree in the apartment. Not the same as retrieving a cypress from the Sand Paddock but hey ....

Posted by Neil-Sonia 02:08 Archived in France

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