I heard the Bells (of Notre Dame) on Christmas Day
Trip Start Jul 01, 2009
61Trip End Jul 01, 2010
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Where I stayed
Flat in the 15th Arrondissement
A lot of the week was spent slowing down. After weeks of moving from city to city and hostel to hotel to hostel, it was nice to just settle down for a week. It was also nice to have our own kitchen, dining room, living room and bedroom (OK, so all 4 of those "rooms" comprised the same 10x10 space, but still, it felt like 4 different rooms). We ate in every night, and it felt good to cook, even if all we had were 2 burners
We took advantage of “free” wi-fi in our flat as well (when you live in a large apartment building, among the 52 secure wireless networks, there’s going to be someone who doesn’t secure his, so we were grateful to “apple” for letting us borrow his network). We watched many Christmas specials on line (Rudolf, Charlie Brown, Frosty, The Year without a Santa Claus). The connection allowed us to Skype and call family and friends during Christmas as well, which was really important to us. We continued our tradition of listening to Kings College Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (from Cambridge, England) on December 24 through Minnesota Public Radio online. We also listened to all of the Christmas music we had downloaded onto our computer before we left – we had iTunes playing almost the entire time we were in the flat. We also own a copy of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “White Christmas” on our computer, so we were pretty well set for nesting. We should note that we got to see “A Charlie Brown Christmas” dubbed in French twice – a great way to practice our French.
That is not to say, however, that we didn’t go into the city. You can’t be in Paris around the holidays and not see what the City of Lights has to show off for Christmas. It was truly spectacular. All of the trees along the Champs Elysee were lit up and many of the store fronts had colorful window displays. The Eiffel Tower sparkled and shone like a gigantic sparkler
On Christmas Day itself, we took the Metro to the Ile de la Cite and walked across a bridge to the Town Hall. They set up a skating rink there and hundreds of people were skating in front of the beautiful, ornate Hotel de Ville – a real Currier & Ives with a French accent. On our way to Notre Dame, a motorcycle police escort with full sirens blaring escorted Santa Claus all the way around the tourist section of Paris. We then walked to Notre Dame and we heard its Bells on Christmas Day. They pealed for most of an hour – it was pretty remarkable. We had gone in earlier that week and the line to enter on Christmas Day (just to visit, not for mass) was extremely long, so we just enjoyed it from outside. We walked along the Seine all the way to the Eiffel Tower. It was crisp, clear and beautiful. We had all our layers on, but we were comfortable.
We spent time that week up at Montmartre and Sacre Coeur as well. It was quite foggy that day, so we didn’t have a great view of the city, but it’s still pretty amazing up there. We bought a painting for our friends in Germany (we are heading there in a few days), and we then wandered down to the Moulin Rouge. It’s still pretty seedy in that part of the city, but interspersed with nice restaurants, a museum, and a Starbucks or two – the French know how to do a red light district.
So, Christmas week was wonderful. We enjoyed one of our favorite cities at one of our favorite times of the year. We were able to rest, recharge the batteries, hibernate a little, reconnect with family and friends, and not feel too homesick for all of the rituals and festivities of the holidays. It truly was a Merry Little Christmas and a Joyeux Noel.