THE FRANTIC METRO STATIONS
Chatelet and Hotel de Ville were almost void of people on Christmas morning and when I approached Boulevard Haussmann to visit the large department stores, Galleries Lafayette and Printemps, it was equally as quiet.
If I said that I woke at the crack of dawn this morning, that would be lying, although I did wake up at 6.30am.
Maybe it was the child in me that had me up early, thinking that Santa may have found me in Paris. After all I do have a fireplace in the apartment.
In reality, I am probably still suffering from jet lag but waking up a couple of hours before daybreak was a good thing.
The lack of people made me doubt whether the Christmas windows would be in operation on Christmas day.
The flickering lights in the distance, reassured me and to discover furry colourful monsters prancing around in the shop windows without the usual Christmas crowd of every man, woman dog and child, pushing and shoving to catch a glimpse, was when I knew I had made the right decision.
A good idea – or ‘une bonne idée’, as they say in French.
Christmas morning is one of the rare opportunities to have a little piece of Paris to myself and this was fun and relaxing, no traffic, no sirens, no pushing and shoving.
Galleries Lafayette’s theme this year is Christmas Monsters, which the few little kids that were around seemed to love and Burberry is the sponsor for the Printemps windows and façade.
The Grand Palais website said it would be open every day from December through to January, I wasn’t sure whether to trust it or not but I had nothing to lose and it was so nice and relaxing without people around that I decided this would be a great opportunity to walk and snap some shots less the people and traffic along the way.
It’s moments like these when I am in my own little world, camera in hand, completely engrossed in my surroundings, trying to absorb every minute detail and of course in Paris there is plenty to take in. A decorative down-pipe, the details of a lamp, a pretty doorway and then bang, there is the magnificent Palais Garnier and an opportunity to photograph without a tourist bus blocking the view!
This caused for a celebration, over the road is the opulent Café de la Paix. Many years ago, I sat on the terrace and had an expensive coffee but had never ventured inside.
Hang the expense, it was open and I sauntered in grateful that I had made an effort to at least straighten my hair. Only wanting something to drink, didn’t allow me to sit in the plush dining room but it did give me an opportunity to view it on my way to my table.
Six euros for a very good coffee was worth it and after all, it is Christmas. Using the toilets, made me feel like an intruder but I think the tiny bit of French that I do have and that is simply to say hello and I would like something to drink, certainly generates a smile and a polite response but I noted the friendly maître d’hôtel’s attitude changed when she encountered bosy, English speaking tourists, demanding to sit at a table that wasn’t yet available. She snapped at them, if they want the table, they can wait in the lobby until it was free. They were still waiting when I left. A little effort, goes a long way.
Heading in the general direction of the Grand Palais, snapping photos along the way, I was glad that I had decided to walk.
Barely a soul around, just the odd Parisian loading food and Christmas gifts into cars but by the time I reached Place de la Concorde, with the Avenue des Champs-Elysées ahead – ah ha! I thought to myself, that is where you are all hiding.
Throngs of tourists, perhaps thinking that the Christmas markets was the only option for Christmas morning.
Swiftly, I headed for the river, I didn’t want to push and shove my way through the people, when it had been so pleasantly quiet.
As I approched the Grand Palais, I searched for the long queue to get in but couldn’t find it, only security men, guarding the steps. I felt a little disappointed that it must be closed or maybe I have the wrong entrance, the building is vast and this was possible.
The odd tourist was mulling about but no queue. I approached a guard, yes of course Madame he tells me, enter here, you want to go ice-skating, he asks – well yes but no.
That was too easy and I was so excited I almost felt that I could have skated through the entrance.
This is unique, the biggest ice skating rink in Europe they bragged but my main intention was to get in to the main arena of the Grand Palais – I didn’t really care what was on, I just wanted to finally see that massive glass ceiling from the inside.
Ticket in hand, bag check and bang – wow wee!
I had been waiting for this moment for many years and wouldn’t you believe it, at the precise time I walked through the entrance, the sky opened up and turned from a dreary dull grey overcast sky into a blue shiny Christmas day – what better present could I have hoped for, Santa could not have possibly have shoved that down my chimney.
Entrance to the ‘nef’ is only gained when there is an exhibition or something going on.
There it was in all it’s fine ancient glory, the magnificent glass ceiling with a bright blue winters sky, wow!
If I could explain the feeling I experienced, I guess I would be published by now.
Jaw dropping sounds silly but my mouth did fall open and I didn’t care who saw. I looked up in wonder with more expression than the very young children gleefully skating around.
I was dazzled. although I had wanted to see this ceiling for years and lazily gave up the opportunity before, obviously today, Christmas day with the unexpected blue sky was the day I was to see it.
My memory card in my camera filled up, and security guards kept a watchful eye on me as I explored and photographed rather than skated around like everyone else there.
But of course it gets better, remembering that I am in Paris, and it is not good enough for Paris to have the largest ice skating rink under the most magnificent ceiling they have a coffee shop set up and people are drinking Champagne – of course. Ferrero Rocher is clearly a sponsor and has an amazing water display.
This video may appear boring until you discover that the images are made from water droplets.
Droplets of water co-ordinated to music fall down from the vast space, creating reindeers, stars and a curtain of miracles.
If I was awestruck I wonder what the children in their stylish hired orange skating boots are thinking as they whizz around the ice, gasp at the spectacle as little old me looks like a five year old set loose in a candy shop.
Luck was on my side again today. The rink is open in intervals and somehow I had managed to arrive within this time bracket.
Elated, I reluntantly left the building, taking one last shot, one more glimpse and headed out to a glorious, sunny warm winters day.
What was the plan next? I didn’t have one. Simply to photograph anthing that is beautiful in the gorgeous light, and well, that is just about everything.
Paris with light is a present in itself.