While chatting with a friend in late autumn we mutually discovered that her visiting family was looking for a place to stay over Christmas, while we were looking for someplace to travel for the holiday. The plan was born.
Jack and Anna Grace suggested, “Anywhere but Tirol,” much to our sadness. Cozied up in an Alm with something warm after a long winter wander sounded like a perfect winter holiday to us, but alas, not to them. Their vote was for Lapland, but at such late date even melting igloos were rented. On a whim I tossed out “Paris” and the response was a resounding, “Oui!” Christmas was settled.
Jack arrived on 22 December, happy to have a week off from the pace of a young policy wonk lifestyle. Family time was the priority for the balance of the day, and we departed for Paris the following morning. CTF eyed us suspiciously as we rolled the Tumis out of the house; as it would turn out, the visiting family staying in our home more than spoiled him, and we were once again eyed suspiciously when we returned.
Backtracking a bit, on our way to collect Jack from the airport we encountered considerable traffic, and with the holidays upon us I decided to up the pickup time for the following morning with our driver. Of course there was no traffic for us, and we all arrived at the airport way early. Check-in and security took all of 24 minutes: I was tagged by the bored screeners to remove my shoes; turn on my laptop; and otherwise empty my tote for inspection. Soon thereafter we were all seated at Henry’s in Terminal 1 for overpriced eats and Prosecco toasts.
On board, safety instructions on AirFrance were in French only, no other language. OK, then. We were tossed a package of rosemary snack crackers and a beverage by the attendants, and then some 90 minutes later we were dropping into CDG for our tarmac arrival under rain-spittling skies before the bus shuttle rumbled us to the terminal. Our bags arrived promptly and within an hour we were ticketed and sitting comfortably on the RER B with a (terrible) rap-singing duo to entertain us for much of the journey. Emerging from the underground at Saint-Michel we walked the several paces to our flat, only to discover that the discourteous previous tenant had left the apartment both in shambles and, to our cringing noses, awaft in the aromas of an awfully unpleasant aromatic breakfast. The inglorious ingrate had also left behind their baggage well past the check-out time, so our greeter was trying to hunt him down, too. The very pleasant housekeeper, meanwhile, welcomed us and recommended that we enjoy a lunch and, “return in about three hours.” Had we arrived from a transatlantic flight and sought a nap, I might be writing a different start to this tale. Instead, we dropped our bags and followed our noses to…L’ Atlas. Touristy, yes, but still a most agreeable lunch. Around the table: two Terrine du Jour, simply presented with a side of crisp greens and a small tin of cornichon; Crocque Madame, pronounced light and flavorful; and a charcuterie board (Jack’s go-to, and he’s never met one he hasn’t loved). And a carafe of house wine. Best of all, it was enjoyed on the outside terrace on a mild winter day, because Parisians do not close their outdoor tables at the end of October.
Replete and happy after lunch, we were ready to divide and conquer the holiday grocery shopping. Tony and I walked first to Picards, a purveyor of gourmet goodies not unlike the American Trader Joe’s, except that everything is frozen. Because, where else to find the Christmas dinner lobster-sized langoustines? And mini foie gras burgers! And potatoes shaped like Christmas trees! And the all-necessary ice cream bûche! (It may not be traditional, but then again we are not French.) Tony took the perishables back to the apartment while I met the children at the Carrefour, where they reported no luck in finding a Tannenbaum.* In the store, Jack was dispatched to procure the Christmas Eve charcuterie while Anna Grace and I roamed about, filling the basket with all sorts of delicious comestibles to eat and drink and bring home. Tony arrived just in time to pay for everything—how efficient!
Another trip back to the apartment (the cleaning was almost finished!) to drop the groceries, and then a lovely wander to Notre Dame. The rain had long moved out, and the bright blue of the Christmas tree cast a gorgeous winter palette for the eyes and the camera lens.
Nearby, the lovely Marché Noël, a small and elegant Christmas market featuring artisanal foods and handcrafts. Perhaps a few Euros were dropped here for delightful goodies before indulging in light shopping (on a Sunday!) on our return to the apartment.
Tony and I passed this stall selling salami-cones and he remarked, “I’ll bet Jack bought one of those.” Of course he had.
The candied fruits were as delicious as they were photo-worthy.
The aroma of the Citron, a rugged member of the citrus family was intoxicating.
*Along the way to the apartment I recalled that we had forgotten a couple of essential grocery items, so Jack and I veered off to the Carrefour again while Tony and Anna Grace went home to start prepping dinner. Now, those familiar with this particular Carrefour know that it has two entrances, one along Rue de Buci and the other along Rue de Seine. Earlier we had entered and exited through the former; on this return we approached the latter doors…and along the sidewalk, guess what? Christmas trees! We selected a small evergreen (half priced at €8,50 🤣), gathered the groceries, and proudly showed off our discovery back at the apartment. The lone strand of lights we brought along were strung, and it was officially Christmas.
Dinner was Poulet Roti from Carrefour (the Traiteur we used to frequent is no longer there, replaced by a lame buffet salad type place. Sigh.) and luscious gratin potatoes from Picards. By the light of the tiny Tannenbaum, of course.