Christmas in Paris
When growing up, Christmas was one of my favorite times of the year. Not only for the obvious reasons, but every year in November we'd receive an ornament and advent calendar from a foreign country. Thanks to our subscription to The World Book Encyclopedia, my brothers and I would eventually fight for opening rights to the package and the individual doors on the calendar. This was my first exposure to holiday celebrations overseas. Now that I'm living the experience, it's a bit different than expected.
In France, the Christmas tree has never been popular. Instead, the Parisians opt for a traditional nativity set, or creché that serves as the focus for the Christmas celebration. And if they do display a tree, it's most likely flocked black, pink or white and stuck in a stump. That, or they form one from wigs, feathers, wine bottles and cheese logs. In addition, it's not about green and red. Rather, the Parisians utilize the color spectrum with oranges, blues and purples. Leave it to the French to stylize Christmas.
A French Christmas also isn't about jolly old men, flying animals and little people with special gifts that make toys. They focus more on the family aspect of the holiday. Loved ones come together to worship, share and enjoy the time of being together. Not that this view of Christmas doesn't exist in the states. It does. But can you imagine a Christmas without Rudolph, Santa and Herbie the Christmas Elf?
So to you, Chris and I send holiday cheer from Paris. I've included a few shots below of areas around our home including the Champs Elysee, windows at Galleries Lafayette and one of our favorite streets, Rue Montogrueil. Have a wonderful holiday season. And when you're watching the 25 days of Christmas on ABC Family, think of me. "You put one foot in front of the other...and soon you'll be walking out the door!"
(Galleries Lafayette at night)
(Holiday windows at Galleries Lafayette)
(Printemps outdoor holiday decorations)
(A holiday assortment of French pastries)
(Rue St. Montogrueil at night)
When walking down the street, few people try to avoid a body collision. They run right into you. No "sorry." No "excuse me." Nothing. I used to weave in and out as I walked to the Monoprix - hoping to skirt disaster. I'm over that. Now I barrel down the sidewalk bumping into everyone along the way - except for old ladies with canes. When in Rome...or Paris that is!
The Seedy Side of St. Denis
I’m not sure who St. Denis is or what relevancy he has to the French community, but I’m almost certain he’d roll at least once in his grave if he knew what his name represented on the streets of Paris.
While looking for an apartment, we were told to avoid anything near or close to St. Denis. With sex shops lining the streets, “It’s more suitable for those in their twenties looking for a good time,” they said. So, as directed, we opted for a home in the bustling premier arriondissement. However, after stumbling across the heart of St. Denis today, I can safely say it’s so much more than a haven for horny heterosexuals.
As I turned right onto St. Denis, I saw a sea of gentlemen with dollies lining the streets. Most were stationed on corners – exchanging words with a laughter thrown in for good measure. “Why were they standing in huddles,” I thought. “And with dollies?” Once I made a second passing I concluded they were waiting for imported cargo to arrive. I can only assume that when a truck full of imitation fashions and accessories stops to unload, they rush the vehicle like brides at a gown sale hoping to secure one load and its resulting tip.
But it wasn’t until I reached approximately the third block on a stretch of five or seven that I noticed middle-aged women holding court outside numerous doorways. With cigarettes in hand and furs on their back, these overly garnished females were looking for a good time. With excessive blue eye shadow, spritzed hair and skirts barely covering their essentials, they tried gaining the attention of possible suitors as rush hour foot traffic dashed by their storefront. It was hard not to stare. But God forbid if I made eye contact. Then again, with my highlighted hair, I’m sure they knew they’d be barking up the wrong tree.
So who knows if St. Denis would approve. Based on what little knowledge I have of the church, it would be safe to presume he’d have issues with the activities displayed along the boulevard. Then again, those types of assumptions can make an “A-S-S” out of “U-M-E.”
Look - It's Bubble Boy
My visit to the gym tonight drove home an unsettling feeling: sometimes I feel like bubble boy. It’s as though I’m looking out into a French world I can’t truly enjoy until I master the language. It’s a challenge. I identify this challenge. I accept this challenge. I comprehend this challenge and all that it brings to our adventure in Paris. However, it doesn’t reduce my anxiety when there’s a room full of people and I can only say "hello," "how are you," "goodbye" and "the cat is on the table."
Everyday I look forward to my workout. Not only do I listen to the latest tunes I’ve received via my Promo Only subscription, but I have the opportunity to socialize amongst the trendsetters. More importantly, the hot men in Paris. But as tonight demonstrated, I’m still not used to having communication issues. Even worse, I realized these language barriers add to my insecurities about myself. Again, I identify this challenge. I accept this challenge. I comprehend this challenge. But what can I do to overcome this challenge?
It all started when I tried saying goodbye to my new friends Lorenzo and Nikolay this evening. They were in a sea of pumped-up homosexuals – throwing bits of conversation to the right and left. Then there was me. As I muddled my way through the testosterone and eye glances on my way to bid adieu, I shriveled. Not only could I barely say goodbye to Lorenzo and Nikolay, I realized I had nothing to add to any conversation around me besides "bonjour," "comment vas tu?", "au revoir" and "le chien sur la table." So with my confidence broken, I darted for the locker room, showered and returned home with mounting frustration. Once in my safety zone, I began analyzing my behavior – all to manage the unwanted stress growing in my brain.
If anything, this process is educating me in ways I never imagined. It’s forcing me to examine my self-image and the unrealistic expectations I place not only on myself but others. It’s showing me that I can’t always control the situation – something improv training should have taught me years ago. It’s demonstrating again why we accepted this adventure – to grow. All easier said than done I'm afraid.