Christmas Day In Paris: Movie And Chinese Food?
While we sadly watch tragic images of devastation from the massive earthquake in Southeast Asia on CNN and BBC, we lavish in the calm and beauty of Christmas in Paris.
Christmas Eve the streets were deserted except for tourists and a few party-goers. Independent restaurants were shut tight so the owners could be cooking for their families instead. Métro trains ran less frequently and the city had an eerie feeling to it. I was fortunate enough to have been treated to a sumptuous dinner at Gerard Depardieu’s new restaurant, La Fontaine Gaillon, situated in a beautiful “hôtel particulier” constructed by Hardouin-Mansart in 1672 at Place Gaillon in the 2nd arrondissement. The elaborate fountain positioned between two large doors was later added in 1707 and then restored in 1828. The building is magnificent, even if the restaurant is disappointing.
Christmas day, we did what any respectful non-Christians do…see a movie and eat Chinese food! Much of Paris (and France) fits this description even though it’s primarily Catholic, with about 6 million people of Arab descent, .6 million Jews, not to mention 4% of the population designated as “unaffiliated.”
In Paris, the Chinese community is quite large. I read estimates of up to 300,000 Chinese in Paris alone (although I found nothing to substantiate that), but there are thousands of Asian restaurants in any one of the “Chinatowns” of the city (four or more) — the area around Place d’Italie in the 13th being the largest. It was a perfect place to start with a movie on the “Gaumont Grand Ecran Italie,” one of the city’s few big screens, then a walk down avenue de Choisy to my favorite restaurant in the “quartier.”
“Les Fleurs de Mai” at number 61 is one of the few you will find filled with Chinese diners (while the surrounding restaurants are empty), the food authentic (one speciality is “langue de canard” — duck tongue) and very inexpensive (we spent 13 euros a person)…but, an intercom from the upstairs dining room to the lower level periodically blasts orders from the wait staff (they claim they bought the cheapest device and can’t turn down the volume) and you won’t find it spotlessly clean. Just don’t look. The food is great.
Sunday the sky turned a gorgeous blue and we headed up to Montmartre for a view of the city. The rest of tourist humanity did, too. Of course, nearby Place du Tertre is always teeming with artists, souvenir merchants and tourists, no matter how “Disneyland-like” it seems to be. The views are breathtaking, no matter how many times I see the city sprawled out before me in this way. If you start at the bottom near the Anvers Métro, take the Funicular up (inclined railway) unless you’re in shape for the steps (130 meters high) — one Métro ticket well worth it.
The RATP has good news for all of us out on New Year’s Eve — the Métro will be running all night long! Sixty-seven stations will be open supporting six Métro lines (#’s 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 14) along with two RER lines (A, B) plus the Noctambus bus service. Twelve hundred agents will be working that night to serve the city and transportation will be free between 5p.m. and 12 noon on January 1st.
For a complete list of stations and lines, visit http://www.ratp.fr/ or http://www.ratp.info/orienter/cv/cv_nuit_31/carteparis.php
I’m planning to see many of you on Wednesday at the Invest in France Conference here in Paris (we have a couple seats left — so, you can still register — email me at [email protected] or phone +33 (0) 22.214.171.124.59 before it’s too late), but that means you readers won’t be getting Wednesday’s Parler Paris Previews (community calendar) until next week on January 5th.
So, until the New Year, have a very, very happy one wherever you are.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.S. Vincent Dupont counts a few seats open for the Paris by Night tours: 2 seats Tuesday, December 28th and 5 seats Thursday, December 30th. For more information and to reserve your place, visit /frenchproperty/conference/IIF_Paris/IIF_Paris_by_Night.html