Chapter 3: Life in France Part One

Paris Night Lights

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I’ve always wanted to visit Paris or London for Christmas. The thought of either of those magnificent cities decked in holiday lighting is thrilling.

Since I’m only two hours away by fast train to Paris, I decided I’d check out the Paris lights at Christmas. London will have to wait for another year.

To find a place to stay, I turned to AIRBNB. If you haven’t used the AIRBNB website to find vacation rentals, you must. You can find just about any type of rental you could possible want — from an apartment to a whole house, to a sleeper sofa, to a berth in a sailboat — all around the world.

For my two-day visit,  I wanted a reasonably priced place that would be convenient to the Champs Elysees and to the Louvre. That ended up to be a private room in the home of an American ex-pat, her French husband and college-aged daughter. Their centuries old apartment is a stone’s throw from the Paris Loop (the giant ferris wheel), the Obelisque and the Tuileries Gardens. Everything I wanted to see was easily within walking distance, including the Eiffel Tower.

The only bad thing about my choice of apartments was that it was up six flights of stairs — no elevator. That was a feature I had read about on the AIRBNB listing, and when I booked it I wasn’t concerned. With 55 steps to climb everyday at my own place, I should be used to stairs.  It wasn’t until I had walked around Paris all day that I began to dread the spiral staircase each night.

A surprise on the Champs Elysees

If you’ve ever been to Paris, you know the Champs Elysees is pretty fancy. It’s where all the “handsome men and dazzling ladies” hang out to shop and dine. So I was more than surprised to find a “Christmas Village” with hotdog and sausage vendors, beer and wine stands, and cotton candy peddlers all along the avenue. Not that I’m complaining, because I love junk food and “chaud vin” (warm wine); nevertheless, I wasn’t expecting it.

Nor was I expecting to see a real-life Santa in his sleigh streak across the sky.

A two-day visit to Paris is certainly not enough time to take in all the places I wanted to see. Yet it gave me a taste for the city that makes me want to return again soon.

Here are some of the night scenes Parisians and visitors are enjoying this holiday.

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