The Pre-Christmas Program VII

photo: wheel at concorde
The big wheel with the big view, at Concorde.

Christmas and New Year's Eve Events

Paris:- Friday, 18. December 1998:- In France, for Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, there are five essential ingrediants - year in and year out. This may seem like a boring prospect to you, but after the run-up to the end-of-the-year's festivities, it's handy to have the menu memorized.

Also, this short and simple menu, is only ever had in its entirety on this occasion. Everything on it may have been had many times during the year - some people have Champagne for breakfast, don't they? But all at once, when you ready to have only the best - it is formidable.

Holiday Eats Treats

While the French can write 'Le champagne' as a headline, the producers insist that the rest of the world write it as 'Champagne,' with a capital 'C.' If the grapes weren't picked within the limited-area district, then the stuff in the bottle isn't allowed to be called 'Champagne.'

In anticipation of Anno 2000, the prices have risen. All the same, supposedly the best is Mumm's Cordon Rouge for 138 francs, andphoto: creche notre dame second-best is Brut Tradition de Jacquart, for only 88 francs. If the label means nothing, then the second will do the trick just as well.

The creche in front of Notre-Dame.

For something solid you then need 'Le Foie gras.' There are two kinds; either goose or duck. The duck version is less 'gras' than the foie gras, so it costs less. You don't want it looking a bit grey nor a bit pink. Consumer testing says that 'quality is rare,' but puts one at the top of their list all the same; that of Labeyrie for 1,200 francs the kilo. For the choice for foie de canard, the pick is Aux plaisirs de Fleurance, at 922 francs the kilo.

Generally, there is no fixed order, but oysters might come first. Classing them is difficult, but many swear by the specials of Marennes-Oléron. While the prices for all varieties of oysters vary from 25 francs a dozen to 30 francs, the Marennes-Oléron will be around 65 francs for 12, and well worth it.

Smoked salmon never loses its popularity, and the French may take more than their share of the world's production. There can be a lot of fiddle with the salmon, so you have to know what the label means or get a brand you know that has a reputation to defend.

This year's consumer-testing winner is Olsen's wild salmon from the island of Bornholm in the Baltic, where it is wood smoked. It is sold by the slice in many locations around Paris and will cost about 500 francs a kilo. This is all salmon; no packaging to pay for. Carrefour is supposed to have a nice Norwegian salmon too, for 175 francs a kilo.

If you get through all of the above, then comes the Le chapon. The chapon is a super chicken; practically hand fed and practically put to bed by hand out in some field every night instead of being locked up in some overcrowded coop.

Producers use all the tricks they can to produce the best tasting chicken in the world. For you it will weigh between three and four kilos, and will cost between 170 and 300 francs per kilo. This is pricey bird meat, but how sweet it is!

Gala Dinners and Festive Shows

More than 70 well-known restaurants and clubs offer gala dinners for under 500 francs and there are some in the 300-franc range. Usually these festive menus do not include drinks, so you can add quite a bit to your bill unless you are a hydraulic.

For a gala meal, one example is the restaurant chain Chez Clément, which has a reasonable multi-course menu for 200 francs, for either the evening of the 24th or lunch on the 25th.

Even the Hotel Prince de Galles is offering a menu for under 500 francs, but I'd watch thephoto: samar window parrots drink prices carefully here. There are a lot of other well-known establishments with offers in the under-500 franc range.

One of Samaritaine's Christmas windows.

New Year's Eve is generally more expensive, to cover the cost of funny hats, a bit of tinsel and some music. More than 80 places are in the 500 to 1000-franc category. Champagne is often a necessity for New Year's, so remember to bring an extra 500 francs for a couple of bottles of this.

Getting into longer menus and more music and more of everything brings you into the 1000 to 1500-franc area. La Tour d'Argent and the Villa d'Este are here at around 1351 francs, along with 30 competitors.

Over 1500 francs sometimes puts you over everybody's heads by being at the top of the Tour Montparnasse or in the Jules Verne on the second level of the Tour Eiffel, which sounds reasonable for 1800 francs to start. In this category there are also famous restaurants such as Le Grand Vefour and Ledoyen; both around 2000 francs.

Winners of the cost-is-no-object theme are Les Ambassadeurs at 2500 francs, Laurent at 2800 francs and Maxim's at 3100 francs. A bottle of Champagne could cost 1500 francs at Maxim's, but what the heck! You only live once and you may only do this once in Paris.

Cabarets also serve some sort of menu, but the main thing is the show they put on; some costumed and others less so. For an example, the Lido nightclub is charging 800 francs for dinner and the show, or just the show with Champagne for 550 francs; tip included. The point is, once in a place like this, it is hard to stop at just one half-bottle of Champagne.

The Villa d'Este, just off the Champs-Elysées, seems to be typical. With a cabaret, gala dinner - about 700 francs for Christmas Eve and about 1400 francs for New Year's Eve.

But before you say this is all too stratosphérique, you can always head for the Cabeau de la Huchette on the Left Bank - open since 1946! - and get some really good music; all for 130 francs to get in and drinks starting from 38 francs a pop. In this class there are also La Chapelle des Lombards in the rue de Lappe, Le New Riverside and the Slow Club.

Finally, for true Paris fans, the Moulin Rouge puts on a 'Formidable' show on New Year's Eve for 2400 francs a person, which includes dinner, dancing and Champagne with a date. In your diary, note Thursday, 31. December, at 21:00. By the time you get around to paying, they might be accepting Euros.

New Year's Day Parade

I have always wanted to see this big parade and every year in the past I've always found out about it too late. As you see, I know about it now, so I'd better be there.

This annual Montmartre affair will feature 3,000 paraders; some coming from Britain and the United States. It starts off at 14:00 on Friday, 1. January 1999, at the Rochechouart corner of Pigalle and the rue des Martyrs; and it winds its way up the Butte to finish about 15:30 in front of Sacré-Coeur.

Besides the pom-pom girls from the US, there will be London taxis, clowns, acrobats, marching bands and jingling bells. The route should be: rue des Martyrs, Abbesses, Lepic, Tourlaque, Caulaincourt, Lamarck, Sacré-Coeur, Cardinal Dubois, Saint-Eleuthère, Azais and Cardinal-Guibert.

Circus Time!

The 'Moscow On Ice' circus has excellent bear skaters. This show is half circus and half fancy ice-skating - trapeze acts on skates? Yes skates! - and trained monkeys too, in addition to clowns. Or maybe they are clowns dressed as monkeys? Or bears dressed as clowns? Until Sunday, 3. January, on the Pelouse de Reuilly in the Bois de Vincennes. Métro: Porte Dorée or Porte de Charenton. Info. Tel.: 01 49 87 32 32.

Pinder is the biggest circus, with a tent that can hold 4,500 spectators. Circus puro, with elephants and tigers, music and lights; and prices starting at a low 65 francs. Same date and location as above: the Pelouse de Reuilly. Info. Tel.: 01 43 44 09 09.

Alexis Gruss - is Arlette's father and he goes for 'classic' circus, elegant circus, circus with non-stop costumes and the main acts are done by dancing horses and lesser acts have lots of trained animals too. Until Sunday, 7. March; on the Pelouse de Madrid, in the Bois de Boulogne. Métro: Info. Tel.: 01 44 17 96 22.

Trapeze At Villette

The 'Arts Sauts Company' has reinvented the trapeze in a new imaginary aerial space, one that will give you an urge to fly higher than usual too. Until Sunday, 17. January, at La Villette. Call for exact location: Info. Tel.: 08 03 07 50 75.

Festival d'Art Sacré: - 'Les Femmes et le Sacré' is the subtitle of this series of concerts with singers, which continues to a midnight mass on Thursday, 24. December, with the Moscow Ice Circus, at their location on the Pelouse de Reuilly. Métro: Porte Dorée.

Reservations can be made by writing to thephoto: samaritaine brochure 'Festival d'Art Sacré,' 14. rue de Madrid, 75008 Paris. Tickets are also available at fnac and the Virgin Megastore. Info. Tel.: 01 44 70 64 10. The program is a big one, and you might find details for it on Metropole's links page, at the official Paris Web sites.

L'Ogre de Barbarie - comes in a roundabout way from Bertold Brecht, Kurt Weill and Fritz Lang, through the agency of the Petit Théâtre, and is for six year-olds and up. At the Théâtre Dunois, 108. rue du Chevaleret, Paris 13. Métro: Chevaleret. Playing on 20 and 23, 27 to 30. December; all at 15:00. For non-resident adults of the 13th, 50 francs; kids less. Info. Tel.: 01 45 84 72 00.

Sissi et la Reine des Neiges - is two alternating dance shows; one about the sweet Sissi and the other about the horrible Snow Queen. For six year-olds and up. At the Théâtre du Jardin, in the Jardin d'Acclimatation at the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, Paris 16. Métro: Sablons in Neuilly. Shows are on 23, 24, and from 26 to 31. December, plus 2 and 3. January. Each day at 15:00. Reservations recommended. Info. Tel.: 01 40 67 97 86.

Two Rudolf Nureyevs or None

Although a bit misleading, there's nothing better than to celebrate the end of this year and the beginning of next than with two ballets choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev. [See the poster on the 'Scene' page.]

'La Bayadère' is at the new Opéra Bastille and 'Don Quichotte' is at the splendid Opéra Garnier, which everybody simply calls, 'the Opéra.' The first, from Monday, 7. December until Sunday, 16. January and the second, from Thursday, 24. December until Friday, 15. January.
Opéra Bastille and Opéra Garnier; one Info. Tel.: 08 36 69 78 68. Métros: Opéra and Bastille.

January Sales Follow Sunday Shopping

All of the 'Grands Magazins,' which includes Samaritaine, BHV-Rivoli, Printemps, Galeries Lafayette and Bon Marché, were open on the first three Sundays in December. They are only allowed five Sunday openings a year. One of next year's may be used during the January sales.

'Paul' Carries Your Shopping is a Ville de Paris heavy duty shopper service available on Thursday, 24. December and the following Thursday, 31. December. The city has hired 200 shopping helpers to aid you with those really big or voluminous purchases. To reserve a 'Paul' of your own, call 08 01 06 06 06 right away. Available hours are from 8:00 to 20:00, but never on Sunday.

Beaux Sapins

'Le Sapin et Noël' are waiting for you at the Parc Floral in the Bois de Vincennes. This is a festive walk in the park, with its destination in the Pavillon de Noël - usually know as the Maison de la Nature.

From what I can gather, besides a lot of Christmasy items there is a Christmas Tree exhibition, which includes chimney decorations and decorations of all sorts, such as cakes and cookies in the form of trees.

The park is open daily from 9:30 to 17:00. In the Parc Floral de Paris, Route de la Pyramide. Métro: Château de Vincennes.

If you don't feel like going all the way out to the Bois de Vincennes, just walk down to the Rond-Point on the Champs-Elysées and see what's been done with it. This year's theme is 'White Christmas.' Other places to see trees are in front of the Panthéon, in the centre of the Place de l'Italie, the square in front of the Jean-d'Arc church in the 13th arrondissement and around the golden Minerve statue at the Porte Dorée in the 12th arrondissement.

Paris' 1998 Festive Program:

This year's Christmas program is below, and below it are the references to Metropole's own past seasonal features.

Events, Displays

Christmas Lights - Paris' Quarters:

From mid-November to January 1999:

Rue Royal - Opéra Quarter
Avenue Montaigne - from 15. November to 5. January
Champs-Elysées - from 26. November to 11. January
Avenue Vendôme - from 30. November to 5. January
Rue de la Paix - from 30. November to 5. January
Faubourg Saint-Honoré - from 1. December to 3. January

The city pays nearly five million francs for festive lights, and another 16 million-odd is put up by 140 local associations. These even have a competition. Winner of the best-decorated street this year is the full-of-restaurants rue Guisarde, Paris 6; métro: Mabillon. In all, 270 streets and boulevards are decorated, as well as 34 places or squares.

Hôtel de Ville Skating Rink - Patinoire - Eisbahn:

Place de la Hôtel de Ville: Christmas decor, with two merry-go-rounds at either end of ice-skating rink. No charge. Ice-skate rentals. Until 7. March 1999. Open from 9:00 to 22:00 daily.

Giant Ferris Wheel - Grande Roue - Riesenrad:

Place de la Concorde, Tuileries side. Panoramic view from the top. From 19. December until 3. January. Daily from 10:30 until 19:30.

Merry-go-rounds - Les Maneges de Noël - Karussel:

Two at the Hôtel de Ville, from 19. December to 3. January; daily from 10:30 to 19:30. No charge. 18 others are in various locations around Paris.

Christmas Windows - Vitrines de Noël - Schaufenstern:

Bon Marché, Rive Gauche, 'Peau d'Ane;' at Galeries Lafayette, 'Le Ciel de Noël de Christian Lacroix;' La Samaritaine, 'Le Chocolat dans tous ses Eclats' and at Printemps, 'Basile, Jouet 'Fetische.'' From November to January 1999.

Christmas Mangers - Crèches - Krippen:

Noêl aux 5 Continents:

From the four corners of the world, 120 crèches representing voyages full of fantasy. At the Forum des Halles, 1 and 3, Grand Balcon, level -1. From 10:00 to 19:30 daily. Closed Sundays except for 6, 13 and 20. December. Open from 28. November to 2. January.

photo: samar window teddies

La Crèche du Vieux Paris:

Find yourself in the Christmas of medieval Paris as if it were 1491. Notre Dame is finally finished, shops and houses on the bridges; apothecaries, barrel makers -with more than 400 actors, some of them robots, in period costumes to animate this replica of another time. With narration by Jean-Pierre Coffe. In a heated circus tent at the place du Palais-Royal; daily from 10:00 to 20:00. Starts Friday 4. December and continues until 4. January. Reservations possible: Info. Tel.: 01 40 21 40 21.

La Crèche de Notre-Dame de Paris:

Inside a big tent, errected on the place in front of the church; entry from the church side. Daily from 10:00 to 19:30; on Tuesdays until 22:30. Daily from 5. December to 3. January. Entry charge: 35 francs; under 12 years, 25 francs.

Marché de Noël - Champs-Elysées:

Exhibition - market organized with traditional handcrafted items and products from Alsace, including decorations, breads and spices. 'Avent crowns.' From 28. November to 24. December; daily from 11:00 to 19:00; until 17:00 on 24. December. Maison d'Alsace, 39. avenue des Champs-Elysées, Paris 8.

Christmas Concerts:

The Children's Choir of L'Ecole Sainte-Marie d'Antony, sing Noël under the direction of Père Giraud, with Georges Bassonnet on the organ. At the Saint- Germain-des-Prés church, 6. place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris 6. Performance on Tuesday, 22. December at 20:30.

Concertsolo - by the Choir of the Russian Patriarch. 'Un Noël à Moscou' features ancient orthodox chants, liturgical choir and traditional Russian chants. Direction by Anatoly Grindenko. At the Saint-Louis-en-L'Ile church, 19 bis, rue Saint-Louis-en-L'Ile, Paris 4. On 25, 27. December and 1. January at 17:00 and on 26, 28. and 31. December at 20:45.

Candlelight Christmas Concert - featuring the Alegria Ensemble, performing 'Les Plus Beaux Noël au Moyen-Age et de la Renaissance.' At the Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre church, 23. quai de Montbello, Paris 5. On Sunday, 26. December, at 21:00.

Christmas Masses

Midnight Mass - with the participation of artists from the world of showbusiness; the 'Masters of Paris,' under the direction of Patrick Marco. At the Pelouse de Reuilly in the Bois de Vincennes, Paris 12. On Thursday, 24. December, at 23:30. Info. Tel.: 01 44 70 64 10.

Christmas Mass at Notre Dame - Thursday, 24. December, Mass of the Vigil at 18:30, 'Eve of Noël' about 21:00 and Midnight Mass at 24:00. On Christmas Day, 25. December, there will be masses at 8:00, 8:45, 10:00, 11:30, and possibly one at 12:30, and at 18:30.

Festival d'Art Sacré: - 'Les Femmes et le Sacré' is the subtitle of this series of concerts with singers, which begins Thursday, 19. November and continues to a midnight mass on Thursday, 24. December, with the Moscow Ice Circus, at their location on the Pelouse de Reuilly. Métro: Porte Dorée.

Reservations can be made by writing to the 'Festival d'Art Sacré,' 14. rue de Madrid, 75008 Paris. Tickets are also available at fnac and the Virgin Megastore. Info. Tel.: 01 44 70 64 10. The program is a big one, and you might find details for it on Metropole's links page, at the official Paris Web sites.

Museums Put On Noël for Kids - various sorts of seasonal exhibitions or activities for little people are available at the following museums. Some of these events are for families and some are for the kids only. Entry fees vary.
Musée Cernuschi - on 22, 23, 29 and 30. December, at 14:30. For six year-olds and up. Reservations, Info. Tel.: 01 45 63 50 75.
Musée du Petit Palais - on 22, 23, 26 and 29. December, at 14:30. For four year-olds and up. Reservations, Info. Tel.: 01 42 65 12 73.
Musée Galliéra - on 21, 22 and 23. December at 10:00 and on 29 and 30. December at 14:00. For eight year-olds and up.Reservations, Info. Tel.: 01 47 20 85 23.
Maison de Victor Hugo - on 29 and 30. December; for six year-olds and up. Reservations, Info. Tel.: 01 42 72 10 16.
Musée Carnavalet - various ateliers and exhibitions, for various ages; on 22, 23 and 29 and 30. December, all at 14:30. Reservations, Info. Tel.: 01 42 72 21 13.
Paris' Musée d'Art Moderne - for 6 to 12 year-olds, on 22, 23 and 29 and 30. December, all at 14:30. Reservations, Info. Tel.: 01 53 67 40 80.
Metropole's Christmas Past in Paris:

Past Christmas' Season Features in Metropole at a Glance:

Anno 1997:

Metropole Issue 2.49 - 8. December 1997:

Metropole Issue 2.50 - 15. December 1997:

Metropole Issue 2.51 - 22. December 1997:

Metropole Issue 2.52 - 29. December 1997:

Anno 1996:

Metropole Issue 1.43 -
16. December 1996

  • Features: 'Shopping' on the Rue Saint Honoré,' 'Standing Around Waiting for Food' and 'Best Christmas Window Contest.'

Metropole Issue 1.44 - 23. December 1996

  • Feature: 'The Eating Season'

Metropole Issue 1.45 - 30. December 1996

  • Feature: 'New Year's in Paris'
The Last Word

Those of you looking for other New Year's ideas will have to check out the past year's URLs above. Otherwise, I expect it will be pretty much the same as always. The same old cabaret, Champagne, caviar and foie gras again. Year after year, but we never tire of it and look forward to it from the end of the summer holidays in August until now.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

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