Saturday, December 18, 2010

December in Paris

December in Paris, not something you hear often.  When my grandmother and I picked our dates to go people thought we were crazy.  Everyone kept saying why don't you wait until the spring! April in Paris is beautiful!  We just shrugged, it was the best time for us to go and anyway Paris is Paris! The last time I was there is was a dozen years ago in June and it was raining and overcast and it was still gorgeous so I figured December would be just as great.  I was wrong, it was so much better.  Before we left we checked the weather for the days we were going to be there.  Cold. Rainy. Snowy.  Snow? in Paris?!  Great, justtt great we thought-and most importantly HOW DO WE PACK FOR THIS WEATHER!?  It actually didn't turn out to be that terrible.  For the most part the weather didn't deter us from seeing anything I wanted to see (except Pere date with Jim Morrison will have to wait until my next trip) And Paris in the snow was amazing.

My only complaint about December in Paris is that this time of year from DC there are only two flights a night on Air France.  One gets you in at 5:45am and one gets you in at 11am.  So it was either waste half a day in Paris by landing at 11am or land at 11:45pm DC time (5:45am Paris time) and then have to stay up all night.  Well we took option A.  NOT something I would recommend.  Having to stay up all night like that was like getting drunk on irish coffee-you're still awake when you come down with your hangover. 

We stayed in a charming hotel in the 6th called the Hotel Lenox Saint Germain, my grandmother actually stayed in the same room when she was 19 for $1 a day...oh how times have changed!  It was a perfect location and the rooms were great.  I would absolutely stay there again.

After we checked in we began our food and art tour of Paris.  Throughout my many years of school I have studied SO much art and french history that I was eager to see the paintings and places that I had heard about and seen on power point presentations.   I think we hit just about every art museum and historical/tourist site in Paris (except the Monet exhibit at the Grand Palais-there was a 3 hour wait outside in the cold and snow)

My favorite day of the trip was the day we spent at Versailles.  I had never been and it was better than I could have ever imagined. 

outside Versailles (in my new Hermes scarf! bought
at their store on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré) 

 I loved the Hall of Mirrors.  All the pictures I've seen in no way did it justice.  The attention to detail all throughout Versailles amazed me.  I couldn't believe how much was accomplished during the days without the technological resources we have today.

While I adored the palace, my favorite part was the grounds. Though admittedly, I'm sure they would be spectacular in the spring and summer and it would have been great to see the fountains going-but I've seen pictures and used my imagination.

I took these two photos from inside the Palace.  I think the way sun is hitting the building, the perfectly winter blue sky and snow on the ground makes them look almost like they are fake or a painting

What I was most excited to see was the Hamlet (I truly dragged my grandmother all over Versailles-I really don't think she knew what she was getting herself into...)  I knew that Marie Antoinette built herself an Austrian village to play in but oh my goodness was I not expecting it to so incredible.  I figured it would just be a house or two but no-she had built 5 houses (I think!) all with gardens and around a lake.  Then, a 3 minute walk away she had another area where she had another house and a whole barn where she kept animals.  You can't go in any of the houses since they are no longer structurally sound for that much traffic.  I hope one day someone donates money to restore the insides it would be very cool to see.


I also enjoyed the Louve way more than I thought I would.  I love the artist Jaques-Louis David, and seeing his paining the "Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and the Coronation of the Empress Josephine in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris on 2 December 1804" (one of my all time favorites) in person was incredible.  I think it so elegantly captures one of the greatest acts of narcissism in history.  I bought a magnet of it for my fridge-I'm still very excited about this purchase.  The exhibit on Napoleons III's apartments is also a must see too-and don't miss the crown jewels of France at the end of that exhibit! 

The outside of the Louve is gorgeous as well, though every time I see it now I think of the book the Da Vinci Code :)

Okay enough about history and art.  Lets get to the good stuff.  FOOD.  We absolutely ate and drank our way through Paris.  Our best meals were are restaurants owned by Jean-Louis and Gilbert Costes, we went to three of them during our trip l'Avenue, George and La Société.

La Société was my favorite of the three.  It was right by our hotel, there is no sign on the door (from the outside you can't even tell it is a restaurant) the food is delicious, and it is no doubt a place to see and be seen.  I loved looking around the restaurant at the decor and all of the people enjoying their Friday night out. 

L'Avenue we went to for lunch during a day of shopping.  It is located on the corner of the Avenue Montaigne and Rue François...basically the Paris equivalent of NYC's Madison Avenue.   During the middle a weekday it was packed with business men and women, models, fashionistas, and ladies-who-lunch.  It was so fun to sit in a little table in the window while drinking my wine and chocolat chaud and watching people stroll in and out of the designer boutiques on Avenue Montaigne.  

Avenue Montaigne decorated for Christmas

We ate at George on our last night in Paris.  It was the perfect place to say fair-well to the city.  Located on the top floor of the Centre George Pompidou it has glass walls that provide panoramic views of Pairs. 

With my grandmother at George

Though April in Paris may be lush and green, in December you get to see it decorated for Christmas.  The whole city was elegantly decorated to a level that I have never seen in any city (including New York)  It wasn't just certain areas, the majority of the center part of the city was festive.

The Champs de Elysee decorated for Christmas

Along a good part of the Champs de Elysee there are these little white boathouses that are open in the afternoon and at night that sell vin chaud, crepes, tea, soap etc. We had the best time walking along there and enjoying a crepe!

Notre Dame at Christmas

Paris is an incredible city and if you've never been I would make it a point to go at sometime in your life.  I had a wonderful time especially being with my Grandmother.  It was something I'll never forget.

PS I'm having a lot of formatting issues with blogspot...anyone have any suggestions?

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