Monday, December 13, 2010
It's Ducking Cold
The French expression for really cold weather is "un froid de canard", i.e. a duck's cold. We asked some French friends at dinner the other night where the phrase came from and no one knew. Google suggests it refers to the weather at the time of the year when duck-hunting is allowed. What ever it is, you can believe that any smart duck has long ago left for North Africa. This is no place for warm-blooded creatures.
Last week's snowstorm is said to be the worst since 1987 and more snow is expected later this week, but yesterday was relatively warmer and today, although colder once more, was stunningly sunny and crisp, so it's not all bad. And, of course, it's the Christmas season in Paris.
There's not a lot of room in the city for the Christmas tree lots I'm used to, so most trees are bought from florists, all wrapped up in expandable string bags like a kilo of onions. They're also relatively small, which makes perfect sense given the size of apartments here. I imagine if you want a bigger one you have to order it in advance.
Wandering the streets you see a lot of luxury in the specialty food stores, including foie gras, Champagne, caviar and chocolates. Even supermarkets have displays of this sort of thing. In France this isn't a cookies and cider holiday; they go all out.
We went to the Champs Elysées the other night to see a movie (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; I've always loved the Narnia books) and had to battle the crowds walking the street. I assume these people are coming in from the suburbs or even from other towns to see the lights. Lots of kids and parents and long lines of people waiting to get into chain pizza joints; this is not fine dining but the Champs is no longer an upscale destination, although I understand it once was.
The Palais Royale on the other hand is filling up with more and more upscale shopping, including Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, Rick Owens and the king of vintage, Didier Ludot. There's also the gorgeous Shiseido perfume gallery, worth a visit for the mauve handpainted walls alone. The display window recalled Paris' long fascination with Josephine Baker, the young African-American who became the toast of the town dancing nude in the Twenties and spend the rest of her life in France. One of her famous songs is "J'ai Deux Amours", which claims she has two loves, her country and Paris. It's a song a lot of us can identify with.