More on Marches du Noel

My goal is to collect as many Marches de Noel as I can.  Won’t bore you with the list but I did add to it this year.  I returned to La Defense for theirs with my friend – we had gone last year.  Pretty much the same.  I didn’t buy much but I finally had the mixture of cheese and potatoes and sausage that I have watched the French eat in the streets at the other marches.  And miam miam.  Delicious.  I can’t recall the name…

In Lyon we also went to the marche.  I find the biggest difference is the color of the little boxy chalet each vendor has.  I have seen red, white, black and brown – several shades of brown.

Marches are on their own schedule.  Which is confusing.  Budapest started on Nov. 13.  Champs Elysees on Nov 11.  Aix en Provence Nov 22.  Yet when I went up to Montmartre, nope, nothing until Dec 15.  But it was pleasant in Montmartre – I would enjoy living there.  Until the tourist hordes arrived.  Then it is hideous.  But before the marche, the funicular was just a walk on, no lines.  And then coming back, I hopped on the tiny RATP minibus that serves Montmarte.  A normal bus could not make the twisting hills.  I wasn’t too disappointed.  It was a nice day.  I stopped in the church St Pierre – one of the few medieval churches I had missed.  And I realized I need to come back about 5 when the lights are on as it’s a beautiful place.

Even Dourdan, a tiny town at the end of the RER C line, about 90 minutes south west of Paris, they even had four chalets.  I went there to meet a friend who lives about 20 minutes to the west of Dourdan.  She’s an American who married a Frenchman she met in Hong Kong years ago.  And lived in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Denmark, Sweden and now retired in France.  She’s terribly interesting.  So we had a nice chat over crepes and a ramble through the chateau and looked at the marche for all of 8 minutes! It was so small.

2016-12-16-17-29-09Other areas of Paris have their own marches – the chalets are set up on the sidewalks.  We even have one at Neuilly sur Seine where I live.  I got a selfie there yesterday with Pere Noel!

 

LIGHTS!

I love fireworks and Christmas lights!  So when a friend said let’s go to Lyon for the Festival of Lights on Dec 8, 9, 10, I jumped.  But.  It’s not really Christmas.  There are nicely lighted streets.  And a light show on the cathedral like we saw at Chartres, and Orleans.  But most of the rest are art installations. 2016-12-09-20-20-21 Beautiful!  But not Christmas.  And that makes sense because the festival roots are a thanks to Mary for saving the town from a plague.  The residents put lights/candles in the windows.  This was normally in September but I think about 20-30 years ago, someone had the bright idea to move it to December… darker… timing for Christmas didn’t hurt.  One restaurant said that in 2013 they served over 3,500 dinners in one evening!  Yup.  Good for tourism.

The crowds are huge!  But they have crowd control down well.  And after the attacks of Nov 13 and Nice, they have cordoned off the entire downtown!  You get shuffled to the check point – just like cattle going on the cattle cars…  And there were police cars parked at all major intersections – no way was a truck going to drive in like in Nice.  The only time I was a bit unsettled was when we were directed around tiny streets to end up in front of the Cathedral for the light show.  I looked around and thought this would be a great place to be trampled if the crowd freaked.  I quickly put that thought out of my mind, watched, enjoyed and got out as soon as I could.

2016-12-09-13-14-09My first time in Lyons, I was introduced to the Bouchon….  2016-12-09-18-49-57The typical Lyonnais café/restaurant.  And had the most interesting and tasty food – honey cheese!  And pistachio sausage with potato sauce.  Something called pimatele or near that – again cheese and potatoes and sausage.  Miam Miam.

 

However, nothing rivals London as Queen of 2016-12-14-18-14-55Christmas Lights2016-12-14-17-00-41!  I went over for a day and evening just for the lights.  I recall as a child enjoying the lights in Regent Street – they were huge chandeliers.  This year – angles with wings!  And lights everywhere I turned on all the small posh streets.  Loved it!

A Jumble of Thoughts

I guess I am not a “real” writer: I don’t carry a notebook around with me – well, actually, I do – but I don’t jot down key and witty observations, or beautiful turns of phrase.  Oh, I have them.  But they dance away quickly.  Maybe flit…  I have tried using my IPhone Voice recordings and that works from time to time.  But then I forget to listen when I get home.  And forget trying to write a blog on the iPhone itself.  I do email myself notes from time to time but…

I mention “writer” because when I was going through British Border Patrol at Gare du Nord [let me explain – to speed up things on the border, you first go through the French checkpoint   and get your passport stamped and then 4 steps away you do the same with the British.  Although they require you to complete a “landing card.”  Much like you have to on the way into the US.  And on the other side, you have the reverse —   British then French…  That means when you get to the destination, you are legally there and you just set off to find a taxi. Or Uber. ]

Speaking of Uber, last Thursday when I set out for Dourdan, I discovered my go to buses were on “deviation” and when I headed for the Metro, I saw smoke rising in front of the Palais des Congres (not a Versailles – far from it – a convention center!) and lots of noise of honking cars.  Yup.  Clearly another dreaded manifestation.  I found out on my return that it was the VTC – the guys who drive for Uber and other limo services.  What’s with the French anyway?  Why do I even ask?

Back to the border patrol.  So the Brit officer and I had a bit of a chat.  No one ws in line.  She asked me if I lived in France so I explained…  and that I was going back January 11.  She winked and asked if I had finished my book?  LOL.  I said nope, never started, but I did take a lot of photos.  These officers live in France, it’s like a military posting.  But she said her French was terrible.  I was able to say mine had improved.

You are sick of my talking about my language skills, I know.  I long for the day when I don’t notice how well I have managed.  When it just seems normal.  And I am getting closer to that…  Instead of after every encounter, now it’s more at the end of the day that I think – wow I spoke.  I was understood.  I understood.

I doubt I will ever say that about the French culture.  Or parts of it.  I was castigated… maybe upbraided… by a friend because when I ordered my tea, the server asked if I wanted my milk hot or cold.  That’s such an English issue.  I really don’t care.  So I said – ce m’est egal.  It’s all the same to me.  I was told that I was impoli – impolite.  He could tell from the look on the waiter’s face.  Huh????  I apparently made him feel bad by saying it didn’t matter to me…  So when he came back with the milk, I asked whether it was warm or cold.  I forget.  But I then said with a BIG smile, tres bien! Merci.  To which my friend gave me thumbs up.  I had smoothed the ruffled feathers.  Of course, I asked another Frenchie who said that was no big deal and determined my other friend was bourgeois.  As in snooty, I believe.

Paris has hills.  I know that – certainly Montmartre!  And Buttes de Chaumont. But somehow I am always surprised when walking along to notice I am charging uphill – or suddenly going downhill.  When I am on the bus, the incline is not as noticeable.  But going down Blvd St Michel last week, I was really going downhill!  And yesterday walking back from the hair stylist, Ave Raymond Poincare was uphill to Victor Hugo and then down.  I traverse that on the bus all the time.  My new Fitbit – which does nothing different from the other one that broke after two years – is encouraging me to walk more.  Weird.

I stopped by Georges Larnicol  (food and pastries and chocolate) in Montmarte the other day.  While there, a woman – probably another worker – came in and went to the gal that had just waited on me and they embraced!  I mean, not faire le bise – a full on American style hug!  I was so shocked that I actually said to them it was the first time I had ever seen French people hug.  (In French!)  And they laughed and laughed.  And said, but we are not French!  One was Moroccan and the other Algerian.  Ha!   We had a good laugh and she offered me a macaron.  Yum.