Thursday, 13 December 2012

Lights, camera, Paris!

We've decided to do some Christmas shopping in style - so we've come to Paris - because what sounds better than "oh, we're doing our Christmas shopping in Paris"?

After missing this department store on our summer visit to this incredible city in July, we make a point of heading here this time.

The Bon Marché.

And the store is stunning - two buildings decorated up both for Christmas AND for their 160th anniversary. The store has a fabulous display in the walkway connecting the buildings that show all their historic logos over the years.

Each is marked with the year it was used, right up to 2012's anniversary one.

And back across the Seine to the two other department stores, Galleries Lafayette and Printemps. They have decorated the walkways and buildings with thousands of lights.

As well, Printemps had their windows decorated by Dior ("Hey Chris! Wanna deck the halls for us too?). The displays included moving puppets, ballroom music and giant hordes of people out front of each one.

Up the Champs Élysées the Cartier store was also dazzling in colour changing lights and brilliant white panthers perched on the buildings.

One end of the Champs has a huge lit Ferris wheel. The wheel was made up of enclosed we didn't freeze out little Canadian tooshes off...

...while being dazzled by the views over the city....

And up both side of the Champs (before the chic, mortgage-the-house-to-shop-at stores begin) is the Christmas Market. Hundreds of little white chalets sit side by side selling scarves, cheeses, candles, figurines, and a gallons of mulled wine to sip while strolling.

There's even a Canadian booth! So Parisians can stock up on maple candies, maple syrup and enjoy syrup on a stick....rolled right off some snow. It's the only 'country' booth - so obviously the French are enamoured with us....or at least our lumberjack shirts.

So we managed to put together dinner while we perused the wares. First we shared a bratwurst - grilled on a giant circular open grill you could have roasted a whole hog on. With the markets originating in Germany, much of the food is from the region.

The stand also had great condiment dispensers. You get food and a chance to milk the ketchup udder...

To warm ourselves up (as the temperature was around 4c) we split a ripping hot bowl of French onion soup. The stall had four giant copper cauldrons with gallons of piping hot soup. Once you ordered, your bowl was topped with big round croutons and a big scoop of shredded cheese. Soooo good....

For course one of our dessert selection we went with the Churros. The ones served here are shorter than the hockey-rink versions we're used to. But they serve them mini-donut style - they jam a paper cone full of big and little pieces and proceed to pore about a quarter cup of sugar on top of them.

Here's Cassie with her bouquet.

And to finish off with an intense hit of sugar - chocolate covered marshmallow towers. These were like the best Viva-Puffs ever. They come in different flavours including milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate-candy cane, gingerbread and hazelnut. Get the insulin darts out!

Another sugary option was "barbe à papa"...good ol' candy floss to us North Americans. We didn't personally take part, but did snap a photo of a guy who did. They sure don't skimp on the size in Paris.

While strolling along the market, you also get to see his sleigh...airborne. He and the reindeer are suspended a few stories up, on a zip line, so the sled appears to "fly" away after telling a story to the children below.

There is also a skating rink - complete with animatronic animal displays, club music and disco lighting as you circle around. Needless to say, being in France (where all kids play football) we looked like Brasseur and Eisler out there.

And our roundup of some unusual things seen in passing while in the City of Lights.

Chestnut roasting in shopping carts over cans filled with coal. The actual roasting of the chestnuts isn't illegal, but the selling of them (sans license) obviously is - so these guys had a look-out man who would give the signal and poof! they'd all skatter.

And if you really need a Nutella fix - the Bon Marché had you covered (probably from head to toe if need be)...

And one hip clothing store had a display of "American Food" - obviously imported directly from the USA. So if you need a toaster pastry fix while in prepared to shell out a ten'er.

And this is our final log entry...time to go home, pet our cat and see our families again. This has been an incredible experience (as if not working and making Europe your home for six months could be bad somehow). We've celebrated our birthdays over here and our 20th wedding anniversary.

Favourite memory? Too hard - there were so many incredible ones. Would we do this again?

Hell yeah.

Last food shot (couldn't resist) A/C's salmon in a buerre blanc sauce with creamy spinach (actually not too bad!):

Thanks for reading....
Cassie and Brad

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