It sounds so romantic doesn’t it? To be snowed in in Paris at Christmas. Yet Paris is a walking city, to know it is to walk miles through its radiating maze of interesting streets, and the thought of being stuck inside on my short visit was enough to make me cry into my steaming bowl of chocolat chaud. Mercifully, the luck that put me on the last Eurostar before the line was closed for days placed me in an apartment on Rue du Bac, situated directly above the Patrice Chapon chocolaterie, a block from an Eric Kayser bakery, Joel Robuchon’s wine cave and only a couple from Atelier Joel Robuchon. I was pretty sure I could make it that far for essential supplies even in several feet of snow – I could probably even reach Poilane if things got really desperate. Gazing out into the night, watching glistening ice dust (marron glacé flavor, I imagined) float ever faster past the comforting orange glow of cozy apartment windows onto deserted streets below, I began eyeing up the slick, lacquered Kartell coffee table to see if I could fashion a sled to haul vast quantities of emergency Burgundy from the Monoprix.
Alas the snow did not accumulate enough to thwart my left bank adventures, strolling through familiar, comforting places and discovering new ones. Wrapped up warm in boots, statement coat and de rigueur scarf, my favorite edible finds included the mousses au chocolat at Patrice Chapon, kouignettes at Maison Larnicol and the best chocolate chip cookies ever (aka Cookies Noir) at Eric Kayser. (Read more about the Kouignettes here and the Cookies Noir here)
In between my quest to outdo the Sugar Plum Fairy were magical yet frosty visits to the St Germain Christmas markets, punctuated by the aroma of marrons chauds, cinnamon and spicy, sweetly fragrant vin chaud, listening to hauntingly beautiful candlelit carols en Francais at Saint Sulpice, watching the universal awe for and anticipation of Père Noël that lights up little faces, and returning home each night to defrost my extremities and snack on the day’s food finds. I liked to think that the five or six flights of stairs up to my apartment helped negate some of the entire baguette and half pound of beurre cristaux de sel (Breton butter with crunchy sea salt crystals) that I seemed to consume in a daily display of decidedly un-French behavior.
A detour to the fabulously theatrical window displays, shopping and celebratory madness of Les Grands Magasins and the Champs-Élysées markets, left me longing for the calmer confines of “my neighborhood” in Paris. St Germain, and Rue du Bac in particular will always have a special place in my heart, and I never tire of staying there. For me it’s most perfect at Christmas – lively but not crazy, the air in the frosty streets filled with little clouds of sweet piney scent from the twinkling trees sitting outside the chic boutiques, the delicious temples of sugar meets design (Philippe Conticini) and quite possibly the strangest shop in Paris (Deyrolle). If you haven’t been, you should go.
Luck struck for the third time when I made it out of Paris at the scheduled hour, as snow continued to grace the sleeping city and the airport full of sleeping passengers.
I hope you had an equally enchanting holiday this year, and if you were unfortunate enough to get stuck in Paris/London/Frankfurt or anywhere else, I hope you made it home for New Year!
Bonne Année, Santé et Bonheur pour 2011!
Travel Note: If you’re visiting Paris, I highly recommend Vacation In Paris and Haven In Paris for apartment rentals. Both are great to work with and you get a lot more space for your money than you do with a hotel room. You also get to enjoy your very own kitchen which means you can cook with and store all the delicious treats you pick up on your travels around the city!
If you are all about the room service and only a hotel will do, the Montalembert is one of my favorites. Chic but low key, it’s in the most perfect location – perched on the edge of the left bank and within walking distance of just about everything.