November 2016 has certainly had its ups and (soul-crushing) downs, but thankfully today included all the elements necessary to put me in a joyous, Christmas-y mood: great friends, delicious food, fantastical shop windows, Michael Bublé, and one seriously out of control Christmas market!
It all started with a lunch that reunited my friend Miriam and I with two of our favorite UNESCO people – Inel and Anaïs! Inel made us a reservation at a Thai restaurant called “Holy Bol”, located in the beautiful Passage Verdeau, and it was so nice to catch up while eating what I consider to be a very healthy meal of curry fried rice and curry chicken. I am continually amazed by how quickly my year at UNESCO has passed, and how many kind and caring people I have met as a result of being there!
This restaurant also has some very elaborate drinks; Anaïs got a delicious-looking “detox” juice and I really enjoyed my warm coconut bubble tea with real coconut shavings!
Next we explored what turned out to be a series of three covered passageways: the Passage Verdeau, the Passage Jouffroy, and the Passage des Panoramas. This last one, the Passage des Panoramas, is actually the oldest covered passageway in Paris, constructed in 1799! Together these passageways are home to everything from restaurants to toy shops, photography studios, antique shops, the Musée Grévin (Paris’ wax museum), and the most jam-packed Christmas shop I have ever seen. Another reminder that I will probably be stumbling upon new, beautiful corners of Paris for as long as I live here!
Our next objective for the afternoon was to visit the Marché de Noël des Champs Elysées, the largest Christmas market in Paris. Along the way, however, we decided to take our Christmas experience to the extreme and visit the Christmas windows at the snazzy Galleries Lafayette as well! As per usual for a Saturday, the sidewalks were absolutely packed, but it nonetheless brought back lots of happy Christmas memories of going to the Marshall Fields department store in Chicago, where my siblings and I would eat lunch under the giant Christmas tree, have our heads sprinkled with magic glitter by the resident Christmas fairy, and gaze at the magical Christmas windows.
Next we turned towards the Champs Elysées, stopping into WH Smith – a toasty English-language bookshop on Rue du Rivoli – to warm up for a bit and gaze longingly at all the books.
When we arrived, the Champs Elysées had been transformed into a scene of Christmas chaos, with innumerable stalls selling Christmas gifts (hats, scarfs, soap, Russian nesting dolls…) and, most importantly, food and drinks! The Marché Gourmand has everything you need to get through a French winter, including vin chaud (mulled wine), hot chocolate, Christmas beer (?), fondue, sausage, cheese, snails, omelettes, raclette, hot dogs, waffles, chestnuts, churros, donuts, and much more! I don’t think I have ever smelled so many smells at one time!
With all this excitement, in addition to the chilly air and piped-in Christmas music, I think we all felt like the holiday season was, thankfully, finally here! I can’t wait to spend the next month in much the same way as I spent today – bundled up, surrounded by my friends, drinking warm drinks, and listening to lots of Christmas music (with an emphasis on Michael Buble and Josh Groban!) 🙂