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A Christmas Card From Paris by Calvin Davis

Nothing can compare with being in Paris during Christmas season.  Usually it’s a relatively mild time of year.  The temperature, energizing. Briskness tingles the air, but there are no freezing artic blasts or gusts that chill to the marrow. Snow? Seldom. But you can expect a frostiness that paint shop windows with coats of gray. It’s an excellent time for strolling while holding hands and observing other lover-strollers doing the same.

Along boulevards you whiff the scent of roasting chestnuts and crepes as you pass venders’ stands. “Crepe, monsieur. Une crêpe pour la dame, monsieur?” From cafés, the pungent and clean aroma of espresso coffee, rich and robust, pours across sidewalks in swells. The delicious aroma is spiced with the sound of café laughter and chatter.

And during noel, if you can visit Galerie Lafayette, the famed department store that’s topped by a dome which makes the structure seem more like a holy temple for worship than a center of commerce and fashion. Inside, the eyes feast on a delightful spectacle, for through the stained glass dome pours shafts of sunlight, painting the vast floor of merchandize with an impressionist’s palette rich in amber, scarlet and gold. Galerie Layfayette is a beehive of clerks, a sea of counters and display cases, plus row upon row of mannequins decked in the latest trendy fashions. Bottles of perfume are everywhere, and nearly as many clerks to sell them. “Perfume for your lady, sir. Perfume. Chanel, Dior, Hermes.” Amid this symphony of color, bustle and fragrances you’ll hear the hum of Christmas carols whispering from overhead speakers.

Meanwhile on the Left Bank, French families pack cafes, and amid lively conversation and laughter, sip bottle after bottle of vin rouge. And as the night ends they join voices in singing Yuletide songs, then toss their goblets over their shoulders and smile joyously as the glasses shatter.

Christmas in Paris? A banquet for the eyes. Bon appetite and joyeux Noel to all.

Calvin Davis is author of The Phantom Lady of Paris.

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