Sunday, December 18, 2016

Holiday Season in Paris

Christmas in Paris goes over the top. You feel as if you’re being caught up in a swirling whirl of color, motion, music and activity. It is cold, and coat-clad shoppers, laden with gift-bags, throng the streets long past dark. Every shop window is a blaze of ingenuity and imagination, or, in the case of the bakers and confectioners, just plain overpowering deliciousness. When my hands get too cold to manage the camera, I stop at the roast-chestnut man’s cart to buy a paper cone of hot chestnuts to warm them, or at Santa’s gypsy caravan for un café.

Even with all the lights, shop windows, crowds and Christmas trees, Paris doesn’t forget the real meaning of Christmas. In French homes, churches, schools, and even on the streets and in the vitrines (shops windows), the Nativity comes alive in scenes like this, just as it has all over Europe since St Francis of Assisi created the first Christmas Eve praesepio (manger scene) with live animals hundreds of years ago.

Maybe Saint Francis left out the polar bears. After all, he did include live sheep and a donkey and cow. Polar bears might have been counter-productive (though ancient legends affirm that all the animals are at peace with one another on Christmas Eve).

A Ferris wheel at Christmas? Why not? If Ferris had invented his wheels in medieval times, they’d surely have had them at Christmas, along with the mummers and games.

It’s strange, though, to remember that the 3,000-year old obelisk on the Place de la Concorde comes from Luxor, Egypt. It stands where the guillotine once stood during the French Revolution. So much history, so many strands of human experience are interwoven here.

The Champs Elysees turns to ice! How Parisian cool can you get?

Children’s dreams – as close as you get to flying (safely strapped into harnesses!). Christmas angels, clowns, trampolines, wings, and dancing lights all rolled into one! Maybe they’re not so different from each other after all.

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Winter Views of Paris

View with the Tour Eiffel and the dome of Les Invalides. The gulls are everywhere, straight from the sea!

Only in December is the light like this, flowing like watercolor across the sky and everything it touches. When it comes, I forget the short winter days, the usual grey drizzle and chill that invades everything I have on. All I can think about is the light …

Statues at Parc de Bercy, a children’s paradise. Notice the frosty grass. At least these statues have some clothes on. Most Paris statues have to suffer through the winter in scanty, if not downright nonexistent, garb. I feel awfully sorry for them. Maybe I should start a good-old traditional Parisian protest march on their behalf. “À bas l’injustice! Vêtements d’hiver pour les statues!” (Against injustice! Winter clothes for the statues!)

Christmas decorations brighter than apples!

Bare trees and deep shadows at Pont de la Tournelle. Sainte Genevieve, patron saint of Paris, whose prayers at this site turned back the Huns, stands guard high over the city. And the Seine keeps flowing …

A well-clothed statue of La Rochefoucauld, famous aristocratic writer of the 17th-century, catches the evening light on the façade of the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall). 

What is he thinking as he stands there, looking over the river, watching the city grow and change? Does he ever wonder about it, figure carved from stone that he is now, but once so vital to the city’s life?

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