Christmas in Paris

By - December 14, 2005 (Updated: July 2, 2017)

I just don’t get it… I’ve been to Paris three times now, granted they were for short periods of time, and I just don’t understand why so many people say that Paris is dirty and Parisians are rude.

I can’t be that lucky can I? Each visit has been great for us and we’ve never had anything less than good service. Sure, there are rude people everywhere, but I’ve never found that Paris has any more than anywhere else I’ve been.

As for dirty… I just don’t see it. Sure there are run down areas (just like every other major city in the world). Paris is an old city that has survived some pretty hard times, so of course there would be a few battle scars.

I guess it is just one of those cities that you either love or hate… and I love it.

So as you can tell by my little tirade, we had a great visit to Paris on the weekend. We set out early Saturday morning. I was a bit concerned about driving to Paris with a hang-over but I was ok after I had a bit of breakfast in me.

It still amazes me how quickly you can drive from Brussels to virtually anywhere in Europe. It takes a whole day to drive from Halifax to anywhere…

We arrived at our hotel a little after 1. It was another in our series of free Holiday Inn Express stays (the last for a while as we used the last of Andrew’s points). While the hotel was nothing to write home about, it was a place to stay and we were only there one night. We did end up with a nice balcony view from the top floor.

Our hotel was on the outskirts of the Latin Quarter, an area of Paris we had not yet had the opportunity to explore. We didn’t have any set goals on this trip, other than to walk around and enjoy the Parisian holiday atmosphere. In that, we were successful.

The Latin Quarter is a warren of little streets and narrow alleyways. There are little shops, cafés, restaurants and bars. There are no big chain stores here and there is a lively vibrant atmosphere.

We strolled through a lovely market area, where we stopped for an espresso and some chocolate. We popped in to a few of the shops, but mostly we just walked and looked and took pictures.

The Christmas tree at Notre Dame

We finally ended up at the Seine and crossed the bridge to Notre Dame. We strolled from the back to the front where there was a huge Christmas tree. On the other side of the cathedral was a Christmas market with flowers and ornaments and trees.

We had to laugh at some of the tiny Christmas trees that were only about 2-3 feet tall and 30€ a pop. To my Canadian friends… don’t take your beautiful trees for granted this year.

We then crossed to the other side of the Seine, to the middle of pre-Christmas shopping madness. This is chain store heaven and the streets and shops were packed. I ducked into Sephora but the crowds were too much for me. Our shopping didn’t last too long before all of our afternoon’s walking caught up to us.

We headed back over to the Latin Quarter for supper. We found a cozy little bar/restaurant, Le Contrescarpe, which had an old library feel. We had a lovely supper (a goat cheese pastry and salmon for me) and finished with some Irish coffee (to warm us up of course).

We strolled back to the hotel along Rue Lacepede, the same route we had taken down earlier in the day. The street was still bustling and now light up with Christmas lights. The restaurants and bars were lively and the holiday feeling was everywhere.

We finally collapsed back in our beds after a day of walking only to get up early and head out again the next morning.

The Siene at night with the Eifle Tower in the background.

I wanted to visit Le Bon Marché, one of the oldest department stores in Paris. The building is beautiful, as are the clothes, but unfortunately well out of our price range. We did have a nice stroll around, looking but not touching, and ended up in the Christmas shop. I caved in a bought a few more ornaments and then we headed back out to the street.

Around the corner was a gorgeous produce market. Everything was locally grown and much of it organically produced. It was what all such markets should be. We bought some delicious hand made soaps and admired the produce that we wouldn’t be able to take with us.

We had brunch at a café nearby and the set out to find our next hotel, Les Etangs de Corot. This one was out near Versailles and was booked for its proximity to Andrew’s Monday morning meeting. After we drove by it twice, we finally found it and it was a far cry from the previous night’s accommodation. It was four star luxury (thank God the company was paying).

Andrew found his co-workers and worked for a few hours, then we all had supper together in one of the three restaurants. The Lobster bisque was so good I had it again the next day for lunch. I also had a yummy roast chicken breast and a decadent chocolate desert. I dare say we polished off a few bottles of wine as well.

The gorgeous blue skies of the previous two days were gone by Monday. As Versailles was closed for the day (as many things are in Europe on Mondays) I enjoyed the lovely hotel room for the morning, until Andrew’s meeting was over.

We had lunch at the hotel and were back on the road by 2. About an hour outside of Brussels my body decided it had had enough excitement on the weekend and I came down with a spitting sinus headache. I’m finally fighting the worst of it off now I think so I apologise that this blog was a while in coming.

There aren’t a whole lot of digital pictures, as I was busy with my Nikon, but you can find the ones we did take here.If all goes well, the last of our holiday expeditions will be to Germany next weekend. Hopefully soon we’ll also have time to check out the Brussels markets, which are supposed to be superb.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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