Actually, I only do small trips during Advent because I always volunteer at the Vienna Nativity Show during this time. Since it had to be cancelled for the last two years due to corona, I got used to a quiet Advent and bigger trips. (Besides, I didn’t expect the exhibition to take place this year). So I have booked an Advent trip to Paris.
Before it gets pre-Christmas, I make amends to the airport in Frankfurt, because what I experienced both on arrival and departure at Terminal 1 in Paris has fortunately never happened to me in the 40 years I have now been flying across 5 continents. If anyone is looking for the centre of chaos, incompetence and stupidity, a flight to Paris will get them there. There are signs to the train that lead to closed lifts or to security zones but not to the train. Staff who haven’t the faintest idea where they are and send you onto the motorway instead of the shuttle train, and departure areas with 10 gates where 20 seats are allocated for each gate. Yes, the passengers, sit there on the floor while their flight is stubbornly concealed from them that their flight will depart from another gate with a 40-minute delay. All in all, experiences that one would only want to inflict on the people in charge and their employees at this airport.
I used to visit Paris regularly. At some point I was through with the sightseeing programme, visiting Versailles, the Asterix Park and naturally Euro Disney, which of course I had to visit again. For no apparent reason, these excursions to the French capital stopped. A good 25 years after my last stay, I wanted to explore Christmas Paris, which supposedly has a very special glow. In fact, the Christmas market in the Tuileries is dazzling. It’s actually an amusement park, with extensive culinary offerings and a few stalls. Everything, really everything – even the ghost train – is trimmed for Christmas. It’s not atmospheric Advent magic, but it’s a lot of fun because of the overabundance of Christmas kitsch. The absolute highlight are three reindeer. (If you watch the video to the end, you’ll understand why.) Montmartre has a tiny Christmas market, but it’s beautifully located. Hungry people find fulfilment in the big tent at the Gare de l’Est. Although it’s called the Alsatian Christmas Market, it sells almost exclusively food from Alsace. Since Notre-Dame is still being restored, the traditional market moved from the square in front of the cathedral to the Square René Viviani. On the one hand, there were very nice handicrafts to buy there, on the other hand, the charming quarter around the nearby church of St-Julien-le-Pauvre invites you to take an extended stroll. The density of restaurants ensures that you are guaranteed not to go hungry.
At some point, even I had had enough of the pre-Christmas season and made a detour to the Musée d’Orsay. I’m always impressed by its collections and its architecture. Although I’m not that enthusiastic about the Impressionists, it’s one of my favourite museums.
If you’ve never been to Paris, don’t go in winter. The city unfolds much of its magic when you walk along the Seine or sit outside in a café. What looks rather bleak in the cold season is magnificent to behold in spring. However, Paris is also a city of lights in winter, as only the highly praised Christmas decorations in the Galeries Lafayette department stores' were really disappointing.