City of Light

I very rarely get the idea to flit off to France for a quick five-day visit. In fact, for me, not being of the Taylor Swift branch of the family and all, it’s pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime kind of whim. But that very thought crossed my mind recently, and that’s how I found myself in Paris last Friday, going “Huh?”


Paris in its holiday bling can be perplexing.

The famous department store Galleries Lafayette went with a “Christmas From Another Planet” theme this year…yeah, I don’t get it either…and they went all out to put up a huge Cosmic Christmas Tree in the center of their main floor, under their famous stained-glass rotunda:


I think those are supposed to be either atoms, or planets, or carbuncles of silicone-based life forms, bubbling on the surface of the cone/Christmas tree-shaped object:


You might already know how this store was constructed around that enormous open space in the center — which means that you can gander at the Cosmic Christmas Tree from every  floor:



Dyed mink from Fendi:


Yeah…I don’t get that either.

Down the road from the Galleries, the other famous department store of Paris — Printemps — was celebrating its 150th year in business:


The interior of Printemps only allows for a three-story exhibit, which includes a mock-up of the store’s facade…


…and a traditional Xmas tree — bedecked with this large, bug-eyed metallic creature with a flower-like pustule growing out of its head:


It is in typical French earthiness that this creature’s head-canker includes globules in the exact color of pus. That mutant Pillsbury Dough Boy is the mascot of Printemps 150. Do you sense that the running theme of this post is “I don’t get that either“?

The outside of Printemps is laden with the flowers that have, presumably, been exploded out of the craniums  of millions of metallic mutants:


Under this canopy of blossoms are the store’s famous Xmas windows, each one sponsored by a fashion brand. This is the Burberry window (note the sneakers on the kid on the right — and the antenna on his hat!):


In France, sneakers are called baskets. When you think about it, calling them baskets is not a whole lot dopier than calling these kinds of shoes sneakers.

This window is Sonya Riekyl:


Those little dolls moved like go-go dancers. Very Christmasy, you think?

Guess where the other grand explosion of Xmas cheer is? Here’s a hint:


Right: The Champs Ulysses!










These Christmas Villages run almost the whole length of the Champs — and if you look real closely at the background (below) behind these ice skaters (there were several rinks set up on the sidewalk of the Champs Ulysses — how cool is that??)  you’ll see the REAL Eiffel Tower, lit up like gold:


In general, though, Christmas decorations in Paris are rather low key. I was sure that the ultra-luxury shops around the Place Vendome would be all a-glow for the make-or-break shopping season, but I was wrong:


Yes it’s tasteful, but I like to be WOWed. Here’s some other random decor I found along my ambles in the City of Light:



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That last picture was taken in the Canal Saint-Martin area, at a cafe called La Bonne Biere:


At the Bonne Biere on November 13, ISIS killed five people.


The cafe has recently re-opened in defiance: Je Suis en Terrasse I am on the Terrace — is how Parisians mock the terrorists with their joie de vivre (which includes cafe culture…sitting out in the open, on terraces). I made it a point to have lunch at the Bonne Biere because, although I do not like sitting out on the sidewalk (it’s the smoking section, now that you can’t light up indoors any more), to give my personal Fuck You to ISIS.


La Bonne Biere serves decent, 2-star pub food. I just wish the pasta hadn’t come garnished with dandelion greens. Even when you push them aside, they leave trace bitterness on the plate. It’s a Princess and the Pea situation. I have the same problem with cucumbers. Just can’t stand them.

Yes, there is still a make-shift shrine to the innocents of November 13 in front of the Bonne Biere…


…but the main shrine to all 129 innocents is at the Place de la Republique:



Meme pas PeurStill Not Afraid — is playground French, something that kids say to a call the bluff of a bully; it’s like blowing a raspberry in ISIS’ face. It’s also very silent and sad here, the way I remember it was on certain street corners in New York City after 9/11. All those innocents…yeah; I just don’t get it either.

Ah, Paris. Beautiful and beguiling even on an ordinary day on the cusp of Winter…



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Just goes to show you that Paris does’nt need the glitz of Xmas in order to shine…





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…she already, and always, glows, just being herself.

OMG, look at the time, it’s getting late and I haven’t even told you about the real reason I went to France. Well, Dear Readers, that will have to wait until we meet here again, next Friday!



17 Comments, RSS

  1. Patricia

    Who wouldn’t want their mink dyed to match their macarons? Well, other than you or me? I love holidays, especially Christmas/Festivus we celebrate here. A bookclub friend celebrated Festivus and reportedly it got ugly during the ritual airing of the grievances…

    So you’re going to leave us hanging a whole week? All I can say to that is (to be continued next week).

  2. Casey

    I’ve never been to Paris in winter but now I feel that I can say I have. Mmmmmm…such a great tour, with stops for laughs and reflection. But I think you could make a visit to Scranton (home of Dunder Mifflin) seem like a trip on the light fantastic.

    I didn’t get to comment last week but I loved your impulse buys!!!!! And now that the Holiday That Shall Not Be Named is upon us I wonder how many people out there are off-loading their buyer’s remorses onto relatives and Secret Santas???

    I am dying to know what you wore, ate, drank, and drew while in GIVERNY…yes, I can read Tags and put one and one together. I have a feeling that my Xmas Eve will be a whole lot special because this year after I read part 2 of your trip.

    I should say this every week: Thank you for being here every Friday.

  3. I hope your rousing “FUCK YOU, ISIS!” was loud enough to convey that sentiment for all of us.

    I’m so glad you carried a bit of American defiance to Paris.

    Thank you for making the trip, and for sharing it (and your gorgeous river sunset pics!) with us.

    Moi, aussi, je suis en terrasse.

  4. janet b.

    what a lovely blog today ~ i can always enjoy a little time in paris, and this morning was no different. while the holidays have gotten more difficult to handle as i learn more about the world and loss, it is easy to celebrate LIFE in a town so exquisite. so thank you, vivian, for this little dose, and for allowing me to see it again, through your eyes. oh yeah, and a big FUCK YOU ISIS from the mid-hudson valley.

  5. Monica

    OMYDOG. Beautiful, beautiful Paris!! Never been there in December.
    Vivian: I’m sooo glad you went ASAP and came back in 6 days to report.”How I Make Mountains Out Of My Molehill Life””HA ! MOLEHILL LIFE? —I don’t THINK so.
    You deserve your wonderful TopCat. He wanted you to see Paris at Holiday time, and he is waiting to hear of the next book, as we are.
    You didn’t miss much here: just tell us Penelope, Cindy, Candy, Taffy, Licorice, Coco, Bibs,Steve, whoever else, …..are all glad to see your return –AS WE ARE; your faithful readers.
    Is this gushy or what…..

  6. I have dreamt of whims like this..
    I always thought part of me was just hasn’t surfaced.
    The Ebay whim however..(comments were closed)..I have given into and sometimes w/ the same regrets.
    What a great idea..Paris
    touching.. festive,larger than life..and December..perfect month.
    The greeting is lovely..

    PS I hope you saw our friend Carol.
    Happy Holidays~

  7. Megan

    Well it looks lovely. I have to say the things you didn’t get I didn’t get either, aliens on the Christmas tree…?

    Did you catch up with Carolg while you were there?

    Love the watercolour, can’t wait for the next instalment.

  8. Kirra

    Fabulous trip! Beautiful post! As others have said thank you for sharing your quick Paris trip as well as writing posts for us every Friday. I hope you have a merry Christmas with your lovely cats and TopCat. We are busy melting in Australia so hopefully I make it to next week so I can read the post about your next project!
    Je suis en terrasse
    Meme pas Peur
    Cher Paris

  9. Laura

    And I thought your surprise 5 day trip to a world capital that required boots would be Cleveland to see the “Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse” exhibition at the art museum. I suppose Paris was a worthy alternative. In fact, it has been a dream of mine to spend winter break in Paris and your post took me closer to fulfilling that whim. Some day.
    The glitter and glow of Paris is reflected like brush strokes in the Seine – Paris constantly paints itself.

  10. And you wonder why the critics label your writing as whimsical? Because you live a life in celebration of whimsy. Who decides to go to Paris one day and gets on plane the next?

    Only the Queen of the land of Whimsy. And we, your loyal subjects here after known as the Crew of Serendipity, live in awe and admiration of our Queen.

    Thank you for your lovely card and especially for that gorgeous picture of yellow light reflecting in the canal….won’t that be fun to paint?!

  11. bunny

    All I can say is merci, for taking us with you on your weekend get a way. But we want more, we want to know the real reason why you jetted off for a quickie trip.
    Your Holiday card is beautiful, how can I sigh up to get one, personalized by vous?
    Looking forward, already, to next weeks blog. I can’t wait!

  12. What a time to visit Paris — and you are right, they don’t need the special lights to shine; Paris always shines. (Although I have to say the Gallerie tree is sort of pretty — if you don’t think about the cosmic element — I don’t get that either!). I’m inclined to think the Champs might be a little more Christmassy and a little less commercial!

    Merci for going to Le Bonne Biere and sitting on the terrace. Message received!

    And thank you, even more, for all the great gifts you give us every single Friday (or whenever we get online!). Painting lessons, good chuckles, something to think about. Here’s to a wonderful Christmas for you and Top Cat and your meowing menagerie!

  13. Reta Kenter

    Well everyone has already expressed my thoughts and wishes.
    So I will just say a BIG


    for all the beauty and joy in your blogs.
    Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year to you.

  14. Thanks for the trip through Paris at Christmas time. It was both “sparkly” and sobering. After looking at the wonderful photos and reading the funny comments in the post…..I have to say it again….sometimes
    “I think the French are a little nuts!” LOL LOL LOL

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


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