Ah, it’s Christmas time. In Paris, no less.
There is no other time of year that brings as much joy to me, and surely so many around the globe, than Christmas. It’s a time to spend with family and friends, creating new memories, reminiscing about old times past, and cherishing and being thankful for the good things in our lives. For me, the holiday season has recently provided a chance to explore how the rest of the world celebrates Christmas and the holidays. This past December my family and I decided to celebrate Christmas in the City of Love ~ Paris. While I have visited Paris before, every trip to the City of Light still feels like it’s my first. There is always something new to see, eat, smell, and experience. On this trip we found ourselves walking much of the time. Most of the public transportation was shut down across the country as French state workers were protesting against government plans affecting workers’ retirement pensions. Needless to say, both the rail system and taxi services were unavailable during our stay. Our choices were limited to a pair of comfortable walking shoes and the occasional Uber for longer distances across town. While you would think these circumstances would be unfortunate for a holiday, in hindsight it was the exact opposite: it was a delight! The situation forced us to walk just about everywhere from our home base at the Hotel Bienvenue in Paris’ 9th Arrondissement. We found the 9th to be the perfect location for exploring the city by foot. It’s central location provided walkable access to Paris staples like the Sacré-Coeur, the domed white church at the top of a hill overlooking the city to the south, the world-renowned Louvre and its adjacent Tuileries Garden, and of course the iconic symbol of France - the Eiffel Tower - and it’s adjacent Palais de Chaillot and Jardins du Trocadéro just across the Seine.
When you visit a global hot-spot like Paris, while you will certainly venture out to visit the iconic places that make it a top 3 tourist destination on this little blue planet, you will always come across new delights. On this trip in particular, we found our delight. It is the place our conversation keeps bringing us back to. Its images in our photo album, digital of course, brings our picture-flipping to a stop every time. Welcome to Galeries Lafayette Haussmann. Yes, this is a fancy Art Nouveau style department store near the center of Paris. However, the delight has little to do with the high-end shopping experience it provides across the street from the Palais Garnier Italian-styled opera house. The delight comes with how well Galeries Lafayette celebrates the Holiday Season. Upon entering from the Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin entrance, you are immediately welcomed by an air of elegance. Your eyes are drawn to a long line of high-end, luxurious brand name storefronts the entire length of the building itself in both directions. From handbags and wallets to extravagant watches, perfumes and jewelry. Every luxurious thing you could ever desire housed under this beautiful domed building. While you can shop ‘till you drop, more memorable to us was the 60-foot tall Christmas tree hung from the very center of the glass and steel dome. Elaborately decorated in blue and red hues, a giant floral arrangement is mingled with enormous ornaments as a clever composition of lights glimmer from top to bottom. Adorned atop the enormous Christmas tree is a beautifully-lit butterfly ever so gently flapping its wings.
The Christmas tree in Galeries Lafayette Haussmann commands your attention. I found myself staring at it from every which angle I could muster. It was truly stunning. After a bit of exploring the various floors of shopping at Galeries Lafayette, we discovered arguably one of the best views of the city you could ask for. As you continue taking the escalators to the very top floor you come across a roof-top deck providing an astounding 180° view of the Paris skyline. The deck provides extraordinary western, southern, and eastern views of the City of Light.
The view is dominated by the grandiose Palais Garnier - its bright gold rooftop statues unmistakable. To the far right (to the west) you’ll have a neat perspective of the Eiffel Tower, providing context to the size of Paris in its small stature. To the far left (to the east), and less noticeable, is the Cathédral Notre-Dame de Paris, which is currently being restored after a terrible fire consumed much of it in April ‘19. If you are in love with travel like I am, Paris will always be on your list. While a visit to the Louvre, Eiffel, Sacré-Coeur and Tuileries will certainly make their way onto your itinerary, make sure to include a stop at the Galeries Lafayette Haussman in the 9th Arrondissement for a view of the City of Light like none other.
My passport stands at the ready. Where will it take me next?
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