Christmas Day in Paris starts with a flight from Hong Kong landing much earlier than scheduled – just before 6am. Charles de Gaulle airport is largely deserted, with customs and baggage clearance taking less than 30 minutes. By 6:30am I’m waiting for the Roissybus, with a view to taking the airport bus and metro to Bastille. A deserted bus and deserted metro early on Christmas Day is the only time I’d bother attempting taking luggage on either, and with plenty of time to kill before I can drop my luggage at the apartment, the ‘scenic’ tour into Paris is a viable option.
The Roissybus arrives to collect 3 passengers including me, and after a tour of the CDG terminals fails to find any additional passengers, we’re on the road to Paris. Traffic is pretty light, and a hour later, it seems surprising to find passengers at Rue Scribe waiting to board the buses back to the airport. The number 5 metro line will take me straight to Bastille, and 15 minutes and too many stairs up and down to contemplate, I’m outside Bastille metro looking for a cafe to settle into to wait.
It has yet to reach 8am, and the two most likely cafe/restaurants have yet to open. It’s too cold (about 2 degrees Celsius) to sit or stand around waiting, so I trundle my luggage down Rue St Antoine, walking to stay warm if nothing else. A 5 minute walk finds Miss Manon, a bakery with seating open for business. An American family is sitting in the window, struggling with the language, otherwise the bakery/cafe is deserted. The Croque-Madame is fine, the accompanying salad drowned in dressing, and the ‘moka’ coffee perfectly undrinkable. By the time I leave in a hour, a few other travellers have been attracted by the lights and seating, and have taken refuge as well.
Happily I can leave my luggage in the apartment whilst it is still being cleaned, so by 9:15am I’m off on my first mission of the day – to photograph the Christmas windows of Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps whilst it is quiet. Early morning is the ideal time to go…families with kids are mostly not up and about by 9:15, but the crowds are starting to build by the time I leave an hour or so later.
This year, Galeries Lafayette‘s theme is the story of a family of polar bears that take refuge from the melting Arctic ice cap at Galeries Lafayette. It also features a Christmas tree made entirely out of paper inside the store. The decorations are overwhelming white, and strangely feature the occasional penguin, which explains why a lot of people expect to see penguins in the Arctic and polar bears in the Antarctic!
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Au Printemps has taken a completely different direction with it’s them, which is the story of two children who go to sleep and dream about their adventures in the department store. There is a lot of ‘product placement’ from Jimmy Choo, Bonpoint and David Yurman in their dreams :-). Full of colour and noise, Printemps windows are a clear winner over Galeries Lafayette. Disappointingly, there are no exterior light displays on the Printemps building as there were 2 years ago.
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Around the corner at the Printemps mens’ store, all the best-dressed reindeer, polar bears, snow leopards feature in the children’s’ dreams.
Elsewhere around La Madeleine, Guerlain‘s Japanese winter garden displays are simple but effective, and the mayor must have issued a decree to feature polar bears in displays where possible, seen below at Le Village Royal.
Later as it starts to get dark (around 5pm), the crowds are building again at the windows of Printemps – from less than 5 people per window this morning, to more than 50 per window a few hours later.
The decorations of Rue St Honore seem a little less prolific and austere than in previous years. Montcler has a funny window display featuring skiers, whilst some of the upmarket boutiques have beautiful, more traditional illustrations as part of their displays.
Along the Champs Elysees, the Christmas markets are doing a roaring trade. Too many people, forcing me to walk along the edge of the footpath to have any chance or getting away from the crowd. Tomorrow is another day in Paris!
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