More or Less

photo: galeries lafayette, saturday

The light! the color! - here only a pale hint.

Noël 2OO2 in Paris

Paris:- Tuesday, 10. December 2002:- The holiday season is celebrated in Paris, but I can't say whether this is more or less than in other places. If Paris puts on a few more lights than normal - this is a lot of lights and is for the enjoyment of its own residents. As a visitor you get to share this bonus.

The main thing to remember about Paris during the holiday season that it is 'open.' Although Christmas is a family affair in France, there are many Parisians who think Paris is part the 'family.' The city returns the affection.

The fireworks at the Tour Eiffel are not scheduled for New Years Eve until the year 3000. However, the tower's sparkling lights from 2000 were also popular and these are getting a permanent reinstallation, but will not resume their nightly sparkle show until sometime next year. Be prepared to see fireworks at the Tour Eiffel next year on Monday, 14. July 2003.

Free public transport on New Years Eve, lasting until noon on Wednesday, 1. January - also means that métros, buses, RERs and some suburban trains will be running all night. See below for details.

Paris Lights Up

The following list only contains Paris' BIG LIGHTS and does not take into account all of the local quarters that put up their own lights too, to take the climatic gloom off the season and basically make the food look better and more irresistible. The same thing goes for shop windows - many merchants dress them up for you and the fête.

  • Avenue des Champs-Elysées, a vast lightshow until Saturday, 4. January. From the Etoile tophoto: champs elysees, poster Concorde, with 135,000 colored lights strung along 2.5 kilometres of Paris' Main Street. The lights come on at 17:00, until midnight. From Thursdays to Saturdays, the lights start at 16:00 and stay lit until the following morning.
  • Rue Royal, until the 2nd week of January
  • Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, until Monday, 6. January
  • Place Vendôme, Rue Castiglione and Rue de la Paix, until Sunday, 5. January
  • Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, from Rue Royal to Avenue Montaigne, until Monday, 6. January
  • Place des Victoires, Rues Montorgueil and Petits Carreaux - during December
  • Montmartre Quarter, on the Butte and in the Rue Lepic-Abbesses areas, during December
Christmas Windows
  • La Samaritaine's window theme is Santa's suit revisited by the students of the Berçot school. Until the end of December. At 19. Rue de la Monnaie, Paris 1.
  • The Bon Marché on the Left Bank has ten animated windows showing how the 'Boule de Noël' is made. At 24. Rue de Sèvres, Paris 7. Until Wednesday, 1. January.
  • Printemps, Haussmann, until Tuesday, 7. January. Themes - most display windows are decorated to the hilt. 64. Boulevard Haussmann, Paris 9.
  • Aux Galeries Lafayette, until Monday, 6. January. The whole building has a stunning dress of light. The window themes, designed by David Belugou, are traditional children's fables. At 40. Boulevard Haussmann, Paris 9.
  • At the BHV, from Monday until the end of December. A spacy theme - 'La Forêt Imaginée,' featuring three major designers, with a 6th floor expo-sale of objects by one of them, DuPont Corian. At 52. Rue de Rivoli, Paris 4.
Christmas Markets - Marchés de Noël
  • L'Alsace, at the Gare de l'Est - from 9:00 to 20:00, until Sunday, 15. December
  • Village de Noël Montparnasse, near the Place du 18. Juin 1940 - from 10:00 to 20:00, until Tuesday, 31. December. The skating rink is in front of the Gare Montparnassephoto: printemps, saturday,
  • Marche de Noël, Place de la Nation - from 11:00 to 20:00, until Tuesday, 24. December
  • Le Chemin de Lumière, Les Halls en Fête - until Sunday, 29. December. This may also be called the 'Trois Marchés de Noël,' and include the area of Beaubourg. From 11:00 to 20:00 and until 21:00 on Friday and Saturday
  • Marché de Noël, at Palais-Royal - from 10:00 to 20:00, until Tuesday, 31. December
  • Marché de Noël de l'UNAPEI, at Saint-Sulpice - from Thursday, 12. December to Sunday, 15. December
  • Marché de Noël, Ménilmontant - from Thursday, 12. December to Sunday, 15. December, from 8:00 to 20:00. Place de Ménilmontant or Place Maurice Chevalier. Also a 'live' crèche from Friday to Sunday in front of the Eglise Notre-Dame de la Croix
Crêches in Paris

Crêche - the big one is at Notre Dame cathedral, continuing until Sunday, 2. February with the theme of 'Angels and Peace.' Daily from 8:00 until 19:00. Cathédrale de Notre-Dame, 6. Place du Parvis-Notre-Dame, Paris 4. InfoTel.: 01 56 56 44 22.

200 Crêches - these are from around the world, made by everybody. On view until Sunday, 12. January, from 10:00 to 12:00 and from 15:00 to 18:00. At the Paroisse Saint-Joesph Artisan, 214. Rue La Fayette, Paris 10. Métro: Louis-Blanc or Jaurès. InfoTel.: 01 46 07 92 87.

Paris On Ice - the Hôtel de Ville's outdoor ice skating rink is back in the place in front of Paris' main city hall. The rink is open daily for twirling - from 12:00 to 22:00, from Monday to Thursday, and from 9:00 to midnight on Fridays, Saturdays andphoto: bon marche holidays. Closed exceptionally on Monday, 16 December and Thursday, 19. December. Until Sunday, 23. February. Métro: Hôtel de Ville. Smaller rinks will also operate from 9:00 to 20:00 at the Place de Stalingrad in the 19th arrondissement and in front of the Gare Montparnasse in the 15th arrondissement. Skates are available for rent.

The Bon Marché on the left bank.

La Défense On Ice - info is scanty about this but it happened last year in December too. Near the skating rink, open from 10:00 to 19:30, a huge cluster of wooden huts housing a vast Marché de Noël located on the much larger wind-swept prairie of the 'Parvis,' overlooked by the Grande Arche. RER 'A' and métro: Grande Arche de La Défense. InfoTel.: 01 47 74 84 24.

La Parade des Petits Soldats - is an exhibition for kid's dreams with 5000 lead soldiers that were once for play but are now only seen in collections. This exhibition has musical accompaniment. From Tuesday, 17. December until 30. March 2003. From 10:00 to 17:00, except for the 1st Monday of the month. At the Musée de l'Armée, Hôtel des Invalides, 129. Rue de Grenelle, Paris 7. Métro: La Tour-Maubourg or Varenne. InfoTel.: 01 44 42 37 72.

The Merry-Go-Rounds

Merry-Go-Rounds - are in most of Paris' 20 arrondissements. The two in front of the Hôtel de Ville will keep on twirling from until March. Rides are free for kids. All of the other merry-go-rounds - 'manèges' - operate from Saturday, 21. December until Sunday, 5. January. Daily from 10:30 to 19:30.

"Le Cirque" - celebrates the 150 years of the Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione with all the stops pulled out, including a special anniversary evening on Wednesday, 11. December with Michel Serrault. Continuing until Sunday, 26. January. At 14:00 and 17:00 Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday plus daily during school holidays from Sunday, 22. December untilphoto: my favorite paris bag Sunday, 5. January. At 20:30 on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. No shows on Monday and Thursday, except during school holidays when the show must go on. At the Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione, 110. Rue Amelot, Paris 11. Métro: Filles-du- Calvaire. InfoTel.: 01 48 05 48 70.

Jules Verne l'Odyssée 2001 - or, 'Je ne voyagerai plus qu'n rève.' This double-named show is put on by the Cirque Joseph Bouglione, which only has one famous name. Only one date is given for this - Tuesday, 31 December, at the two times of 14:30 and 20:30. Located at the Square Alexandre-et-René-Parodi, which used to be named the Square de l'Amiral-Bruix, but most people just call it 'Porte Maillot.' The circus ground is on the opposite side to the Palais des Congrés, which has also had some name changes lately but is still basically the same place. Paris 16. Métro: Porte-Maillot. InfoTel.: 01 45 00 59 28.

Tzar - is merely the Russian Imperial Circus, featuring the 9th edition of the 'Stars of the Circus.' In the Russian tradition, the largest herd of camels and llamas in the world! Cossacks too. Apes on trapezes. And bears - you have to see the bears. Special show on Wednesday, 25. December. Beginning on Saturday, 23. November and continuing until Sunday, 5. January. No shows on Monday, Thursday and Friday - but with two or three showtimes on the other days, some starting at 10:00. See Cirque des Tzars for complete info. At the Pelouse de Reuilly in the Bois de Vincennes. Paris 12. Métro: Porte Dorée. InfoTel.: 08 25 03 90 40.

Le Tradition est Notre Culture - is a bulky name for the Cirque Diana Moreno Bormann, which performs all year long on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 15:00 with an additional Saturday show at 20:30. Most likely like real circus. Find it at 9. Boulevard du Bois le Hêtre, Paris 17. Métro: Porte de Saint-Ouen. InfoTel.: 01 64 05 36 25.

Année du Cirque - The 'Year of the Circus' taking place in 150 locations around France. See the Année du Cirque Web site for complete details.

Balloons Away! - the tethered Eutelsat balloon flights at the Parc André Citroën take place, weather permitting, from 9:00 until 30 minutes before the park closes. At the Parc André Citroën, Rue Cauchy, Paris 15. Métro: Javel or Balard. For flight conditions call InfoTel.: 01 44 26 20 00.

Opéras - are in full swing in Paris atphoto: window, bon marche their locations in the Palais Garnier and at the Place de la Bastille during the holiday season. For both opera and ballet names and dates, check the Web site, or call Toll number InfoTel.: 08 36 69 78 68.

Paquita - with the stars and first dancers of the ballet corps. Performances begin on Wednesday, 18. December and continue until Wednesday, 1. January. Times are usually 14:30 and 19:30. At the Opéra Palais Garnier, Place de l'Opéra, Paris 9. Métro: Opéra. InfoTel.: 08 92 69 78 68.

Sylvia - with the stars and first dancers of the ballet corps. Performances begin on Friday, 20. December and continue until Tuesday, 14. January. Times are usually 14:30 and 19:30. At the Opéra Bastille, 2 bis. Place de la Bastille, Paris 12. Métro: Bastille. InfoTel.: 08 92 69 78 68.

Mariana Pineda - flamenco ballet with choreography by Sara Baras and music by Manolo Sanlucar. Opening night is Saturday, 21 December and the show continues until Sunday, 5. January, with times usually at 15:00, 17:00 and 20:00. At the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, 15. Avenue Montaigne, Paris 8. Métro: Franklin D. Roosevelt. InfoTel.: 01 49 52 50 50.

La Cenerentola - is what Gioacchino Rossini called 'Cinderella,' but it's the same story. Directed by Jérôme Savary, featuring great opera stars. Staring on Saturday, 7. December, with various dates up until New Years Eve. Times are either 15:00 or 19:30, except for 20:00 on the year's final evening which is supposed to be 'exceptional.' At the Opéra Palais Garnier, Place de l'Opéra, Paris 9. Métro: Opéra. InfoTel.: 08 92 69 78 68.

Turnadot - is by Giancomo Puccini and this staging is by Francesca Zambello, featuring Andrea Gruber, plus the Opera's orchestra and chorus and the kid's chorus for good measure. This starts on Saturday, 23 November and has various dates until Monday, 30. December. Either at 19:30 or at 15:00. Opéra Bastille, 2 bis. Place de la Bastille, Paris 12. Métro: Bastille. InfoTel.: 08 92 69 78 68.

Die Frau Ohne Schatten - by Richard Strauss, is directed by Robert Wilson and features Susan Anthony and Thomas Moser. Play dates are from 9. December until 8. January. Either at 19:30 or at 14:30. At the Opéra Bastille, 2 bis. Place de la Bastille, Paris 12. Métro: Bastille. InfoTel.: 08 92 69 78 68.

Le Coq d'Or - by Nikolaï Rimski-Korsakov, straight from Saint- Petersburg's Marinski Theatre, under the direction of Ennosuke Ill and an all-star Russian cast. Beginning on Friday, 13. December with a performance at 19:30, at 16:00 on Sunday, 15 December, and at 19:30 on the 19, 23, 26 and 28. December. At the Théâtre du Châtelet, 1. Place du Châtelet, Paris 11. Métro: Châtelet. InfoTel.: 01 40 28 28 40.

Moscow's Sirine Chorus - will be presenting a traditional 'Russian Christmas' a bit early, under the direction of Andrei Kotov. At 17:30 on Wednesday, 25 December, at 20:45 on 26 and 28. December, at 17:30 on 29. December and at 20:45 on 30 and 31. December, and again at 17:30 on New Years Day. At the Eglise Saint-Louis-en-L'Ile, 19 bis, Saint-Louis-en-L'Ile, Paris 4. Métro: Pont-Marie. InfoTel.: 01 44 62 00 55.

Le Dindon - is a turkey of a play that is on every year at this time. Georges Feydeau wrote hits in his time and that's why this one plays all the time at this time. It should be called 'Le Dindon de Noël.' Stays around until next May, just like a Christmas turkey. Playtimes are usually at 20:30 but there are some 14:00 matinees too. At the Comédie Française in its Salle Richelieu, 2. Rue de Richelieu, Paris 1. Métro: Palais-Royal. InfoTel.: 01 44 58 15 15.

Ruy Blas - is by Victor Hugo, France's favorite dead author of the year, with direction by the live Brigitte Jacques-Wajeman, helped out by a good cast. Continuing until next May. Alternating with 'Le Dindon' at the Comédie Française in its Salle Richelieu, 2. Rue de Richelieu, Paris 1. Métro: Palais-Royal. InfoTel.: 01 44 58 15 15.

Sacred Music - concerts organized by the Festival d'Art Sacre de la Ville de Paris continue until Tuesday, 17. December. InfoTel.: 01 44 70 64 10.

Nuit d'Ivresse - anything by Josiane Balasko is worth a detour, especially when the cast includes Michéle Bernier and Francis Huster. Already playing for a long time, the hours are at 20:30, and 16:30 and 20:30 on Saturdays. Days off are Sunday and Monday. At the Théâtre de la Renaissance, 20. Boulevard Saint-Martin, Paris 10. Métro: Strasbourg- Saint-Denis. InfoTel.: 01 42 08 18 50.

Concha Bonita - is a big and extravagant musical comedy by Alfredo Arias and René de Ceccatty, which just happens to have the extravagant Catherine Ringer in it. Continuing until Sunday, 2. February. At 20:30 and at 15:00 on Sundays. No shows on Christmas Eve, New Years Day and 15 and 16. January, plus no show on any Monday. Special performances are planned for the blind, and for the deaf - on different dates. At the Théâtre National de Chaillot, Paris 16. Métro: Trocadéro. InfoTel.: 01 53 65 30 00.

Le Petit Prince - is a musical comedy based on Antoine de Saint- Exupéry's little fable, staged by Jean-Louis Martinoty, with fancy costumes. Until Thursday, 30. January. At 20:30, at 15:00 and 20:30 on Saturday, and at 16:00 on Sunday. No show on Mondays. At the Casino de Paris, 16. Rue de Clichy, Paris 9. Métro: Saint-Lazare or Trinité. InfoTel.: 01 49 95 99 99.

La Vie Parisienne - it seems to me that this forever favorite by Jacques Offenbach was playing last year too. Highly recommended by Café Metropole Club members. Musicalphoto: window, bhv direction by Gérard Daguerre and staging by Jérôme Savary. Until Tuesday, 31. December, usually at 20:00 and at 15:00 on Sunday. On Christmas and New Years Eves, at 19:30. No show on Mondays. At the Opéra Comique, Place Boïeldieu, Paris 12. Métro: Richelieu-Drouot. InfoTel.: 08 25 00 00 58.

Emile Jolie - book, orchestra and direction by Philippe Chatel, with dance steps by Florence Clavaizolle. Already started, and continuing forever. Playtimes are at 20:30 on Tuesday and Friday, 14:00 and 17:00 on Wednesday and Sunday, and on Saturday at 17:00 and possibly at a later time. No shows on Monday or Thursday. At the Théâtre Mogador, 25. Rue de Mogador, Paris 9. Métro: Trinité. InfoTel.: 01 53 32 32 00.

C'etait Bonaparte! - story verified by Alain Decaux, this is another big show by Robert Hossein. Already started, and also continuing forever. Weekday playtimes are at 20:30, on Saturdays at 15:00 and 20:30 and at 15:00 on Sundays. No shows on Mondays. At the domed Palais des Sports, at the Porte de Versailles, Paris 15. Métro: Porte de Versailles. InfoTel.: 08 92 69 18 02.

In France the 'Christmas dinner' is usually consumed with gusto on Christmas Eve. For people who have done this with a bit too much 'gusto,' many restaurants are also proposing a 'Christmas brunch,' on Christmas Day.

The events magazine 'Pariscope' publishes an annual guide, featuring restaurants with Christmas Eve dinners, and places that have New Years Eve parties. In general, the establishments mentioned in this 'guide' are also advertisers. A glance at this guide reveals thatphoto: boulevard haussmann, saturday many of the better-known restaurants have not raised prices over the 2001 levels.

The main problem with 'Pariscope's' guide is that it contains few restaurant names usually found in normal guides. This does not mean these others - some hundreds of them - will be closed on Christmas Eve.

Surprisingly, some very fancy places with traditional French menus have them for 100euro 3 sign or less - much less. However, keep in mind that drinks are usually extra and if you are as festive as the occasion these could double the tab.

At the other end of the scale, Christmas Eve dinner at Le Ritz in the Place Vendôme will set you back 260euro 3 sign. Several other high end places have prices in this range. In contrast there are well-known bistros with menus in the 35euro 3 sign area.

The Auberge Nicolas Flamel has been mentioned here in past years. This restaurant in Paris' second oldest house is getting more attention - slowly - so it has upped its seven-course menu to 78euro 3 sign. Fair enough - this place has excellent wines at fair prices. At 51. Rue de Montmorency, Paris 3. Métro: Rambuteau. Tel.: 01 42 71 77 78.

Instead of putting in more than one of 'Pariscope's' choices, I will only suggest that many restaurants mentioned favorably in all the other guide books will be featuring special Christmas menus. All you need do to secure a table is make a reservation. This will save me from making hundreds of phone calls.

Public transport in Paris and its suburbs will be free from 17:00 on Tuesday, 31. December until 12:00 on Wednesday, 1. January. The lines and services that will be operating during the night from 01:30 until 05:30 are listed below.

  • Métro line 1 - La Défense - Château de Vincennes
  • Métro line 2 - Porte Dauphine - via Barbés - Nation
  • Métro line 4 - Porte de Clignancourt - Porte d'Orléans
  • Métro line 6 - Etoile - via Denfert - Nation
  • Métro line 9 - Pont de Sèvres - Mairie de Montreuil
  • Métro line 14 - Madeleine - Bibliothèque François Mitterrand
  • RER line 'A' - Saint-Germain-en-Laye - Marne-la-Vallée and Boissy Saint-Léger
  • RER line 'B' - Aéroport CDG or Mitry-Claye - Saint-Rémy-lès- Chevreuse.
  • SNCF surburban trains will be operating from these stations - Gare Saint-Lazare, Nord, Est, Lyon, Austerlitz, Montparnasse and Invalides
  • Noctambus, other night buses - for the first, there are 16 routes running, mostly from Châtelet out to Paris' near suburbs. The exact number and routes of other night buses will be announced, but many routes will link to train stations.

All-night and free public transport was road-tested for the last Fête de la Musique. Security services will be on hand for this occasion when it is expected that a million passengers will use the offered services.

La Fête

On this evening, the emphasis shifts from food to party-time. Some restaurants with Christmas Eve menus cut back on the food a bit, add a DJ and a half-bottle of Champagne, stay open later - and hike the tab by 50 percent. This could go higher if you order any drinks after the initial Champagne has quickly evaporated.

The way to look at it is, it's only one night a year, and it may be only once in your lifetime. Even Le Ritz gets in the act. Their bill for this special evening, with a complete menu, will begin at 950euro 3 sign, with a 12-piece orchestra, and wine included. It might be the bargain of your life! Tel.: 01 43 16 33 72.

Maybe a little bit more romantic is Maxim's idea to get you out of the stuffy Rue Royale and onto their 'Bateau Ivre' for a little Seine cruise lasting from 20:30 to just after midnight. Huge menu and wine included, for a reasonable 410euro 3 sign. Tel.: 01 42 65 27 94.

The other thing to do is spend the evening at a famous Paris cabaret. Here the food will be secondary, with the show being the main thing. This can start out at 99euro 3 sign at the Bistrot de la Gaité, and end up at the Lido, where everything will set you back 530euro 3 sign, with a bottle of Champagne included.

If this sounds kind of tame, then there are at least three 'guides' available for you to decipher - the weekly 'Zurban' with its 'Nuits' section, 'Nova' with its 'Hot Guide,' and for music-only fans, there is the free 'Lylo' that can be found at music outlets and in almost any public library. Look for its next number on Tuesday, 17. December.

Prêt-à-Porter Du Luxe

photo: samaritaine, nightMaybe all of the above will be too exciting or you will be jetlagged on account of mis-timing. You might have at least gotten a room with a view, but without room-service.

Some of Paris several upscale grocers have just what you need - take-away feasts. Some of these, like Dalloyau, Joubin Traiteur, Hédiard and Lenôtre have these in kits - called 'packs' in French, if there were portable phones. Hédiard has a three-course one for 24euro 3 sign plus two others at 41euro 3 sign and 58euro 3 sign respectively. Lenôtre even has one for kids, for 21euro 3 sign. All of the other famous ones have à la carte selections, but they are just as good.

New Years Day Parade

The 'Grande Parade de Montmartre' - normally on New Years Day and formerly on Montmartre, since 1993 - is an orphaned 10th anniversary event at this time. After its detour to the Grands Boulevards in 2000, it seems to have moved out of town to Disneyland Paris. The parade starts at 13:00 in the amusement park on Wednesday, 1. January. There is a full-dress preview of it in Chantilly on Tuesday, 31. December.

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