Monthly Archives: December 2012

Noël à Paris… Memories of [Parisian] Christmas past

Noël à Paris… Memories of [Parisian] Christmas past

Champs-Elysées, Paris

Les Noëls se suivent mais ne se ressemblent pas… (Christmas celebrations pass by, yet each one is different…)

Our family moved to Seattle in 1996, and slowly but surely, we settled into our new lives; building a career (le Husband) or a small business (Moi😉 making friends; exploring the Pacific Northwest – on land or on the water – and finally welcoming “Junior,” our bona-fide American son. Houses have come and gone. So have good friends, as many expat families moved back home after a few years. 

One tradition has remained: We have been fortunate to fly home once a year, without fail, for the last 16 years. This has always been very important to me, especially after Junior was born. He may live 8,000 miles away from his grandparents and the rest of the family: I was determined he would know them; spend quality time with them; and be able to communicate in French with them. And he does.

The first of many international trips…
Junior, 11 months.

Over the years, Junior has been exposed to the French (and the European) way of life. He understands it, and, at age 13, is already a keen observer of cultural and linguistic differences. His comments on French or American idiosyncrasies are often spot on, and entertaining.

The big challenge we face every year is to decide whether we should schedule our visit to France in the summer or at Christmas time. The Holidays are a special time of the year to be with family, and it has always felt a bit strange to be away from them then, as we were vacationing in a corner of the United States or British Columbia, or in sunny locales like Hawaii. It has been a juggling act, but we have made it work, I think, alternating the best we could. 

This year, we will not be flying home to Paris for the Holidays, but Paris is coming to us. Le Husband’s mom (my readers will remember Mutti,) will be landing at Seatac airport in a few days. Junior and his parents will be happy to share an American Christmas with her in the Pacific Northwest. 

It will be fun, and fast paced; just like the Holidays in Paris. Different too. We will miss the rest of the family. We will miss Paris at Christmas time. Amazing how much I remembered, as I browsed through old photos this week…

Noël à Paris… There is quality time spent with family. Two sets of grand-parents. My brother’s family (and for Junior, cousins.) There are long conversations, punctuated with laughter. There are serious moments, as we catch up, exchanging information about relatives and friends. There are heated arguments – this would not be a [Mediterranean] family without them – as we try to plan the days ahead, agreeing on a place to meet, on things to do while cramming four adults and a young child in a 700 square foot apartment. Good times.

Part of the family…
La Fournaise restaurant, Chatou.

Getting spoiled in Mamie Lyne’s kitchen…
and learning that not everyone lives in a spacious suburban home 
Getting spoiled, always, chez Mamie Mutti and Papy J.P.
Relaxing and watching French cartoons with Papy Zinzin…

Noël à Paris… Hanging out with les cousins and – for years – wearing matching sweaters, hand knit by Mamie Lyne…

Noël à Paris... Enjoying long, leisurely meals, in elegant or more relaxed settings, sharing animated conversation and French culinary delights…

Mutti’s Rôti de porc aux pruneaux (served with chestnuts) 

Jolie table de Noël…

Foie gras

Mamie Lyne’s Oreillettes (beignets)
Papy Zinzin’s “Escargots”:  For dessert,
or whenever Papy Zinzin feels like having them…

(photographer unknown)
Papy Zinzin’s (chilled) Pyrénéens… A French Christmas classic

And, bien sûr, une coupe of everyone’s favorite drink…

Noël à Paris… For Junior, experiencing Paris like a young Parisian…

Special exhibits in *cool* century old museums…

Museum of Natural History

Après-midi au Cirque d’Hiver… Winter afternoon at the circus…

Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione

A traditional French circus: The traveling Pinder circus

… Eating Barbe-à-Papa (cotton candy,) crêpes, and the traditional galette des rois (Kings’ cake.) 

… Spinning for hours on les manèges (carousels,) available in many neighborhoods…

… Navigating le Métro like a pro; climbing to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower and learning about Parisian landmarks from the top of “la Dame de Fer,” (the Iron Lady.)

With Papy Zinzin and Mamie Lyne

Show ‘them tourists how it’s done, Junior!
“That’s one big city!”

Noël à Paris… Finally, le Réveillon (Christmas Eve,) arrives. The family has gathered at my parents’ and celebrates early so little children can go to bed before midnight. My brother’s family will be off at the crack of dawn, to celebrate Christmas day with his wife’s relatives in Nantes, 250 miles away from Paris. 

After the traditional meal, the children get excited. “When will He arrive? Will we get to see Him this year?,” they ask. Le Père Noël. Santa Claus. “You need to look for Him outside, so you can welcome Him when he shows up.” the grown-ups reply. My parents’ apartment is on the fourth floor of the building, and my brother takes the children downstairs, in the cold Paris night, where they are told to be on the lookout for le Père Noël. Off they go, in their PJs and slippers, bundled up in their warm coats. 

Meanwhile, in the apartment, the adults scramble furiously to pull out of the three closets all the beautiful Christmas gifts, kept out of little prying eyes for days. Panique. Mayhem. We rush to arrange the gifts around le petit sapin (Christmas tree,) before the children return. 

After a few minutes, we hear them. Excited voices. The sound of little feet running out of the elevator. They come banging on the apartment door. We let them in. The children are out of breath, and seem disappointed. “We missed him. We did not see him. Has He been up here?” Then they hear my father’s voice, out on the small balcony: “Merci, Père Noël! A l’année prochaine! N’oubliez pas votre biscuit!” (Thank you Santa. See you next year. Don’t forget your cookie!) The children’s faces drop for a few seconds. They missed Him. Then they light up again. They get it: Santa is gone, but he must have left something behind… They push each other to get to the tree… and they see them, the beautiful packages. The distribution starts; children pass the gifts around, until everyone has received at least one. At long last, they go for it, and all we hear is giggling; excited voices; the sound of little hands tearing paper. 

“This one’s for you, Mamie Lyne!”

Noël à Paris… There is nothing quite like it. Famille, Paris, la Belle France; as always, it won’t be the same without you… 

Joyeux Noël! Joyeux Noël to all! 

A Bientôt.

Tuileries Gardens, from the Ferris Wheel
La Seine

Le Grand Palais

La Dame de Fer dans le brouillard
(Eiffel Tower in the fog) 

Eiffel Tower – Alexander III bridge

All photos, except otherwise noted, property of American Frog Photography.
Please do not reprint, copy, Pin, without permission.

French Girl in Seattle

61 Responses to Noël à Paris… Memories of [Parisian] Christmas past

  1. Junior is certainly fortunate to be part of two cultures. Chez moi, my husband is Jewish from New York, I am a country girl from Montana and our kids are little beach bums from California. It all just makes life so much richer. Your family and your meals are lovely. Happy Holidays!

  2. Hello Veronique

    I understand your predicament straddling the Atlantic ocean. Like you, I prefer to go to Ireland in summer time and it has been a very long time since I spent Christmas in Ireland. I still miss it and looking at your memories and photos through the years evoked my own memories.
    You have a beautiful family and I am sure your Christmas will be very happy

    Helen xx

    • Bonsoir dear Helen. Thank you for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment. I would wait until summer to visit beautiful Ireland, too 🙂 In fact, I am planning to do that soon. I have never been there, believe it or not. I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas in [warm and balmy] Florida!

  3. Wonderful pictures, all, Veronique! 🙂 And you DO look like your mother. It must be just like the line in the song.. ‘Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays!’ Paris looks splendid at Christmastime even more than any other time. (It always looks that way to me in pics.) I’m glad your mother in law is coming to you this year. I imagine she will bring a lot of Paris to you and your boys!

    • Dear Mary. Who wants to be away from their family when they sit around that pretty tree on Christmas morning? I certainly don’t, and have always tried to “spare” Junior that experience. Fortunately, our parents have always been willing to join us here when we could not take the long trip back to Paris. And yes, I am hoping Mutti is bringing a lot of Paris and France in that new suitcase of hers 🙂

    • Enchantée, Milsters, and bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle. I hope you got to pay le Cirque d’Hiver a visit while you lived in the République neighborhood… It is a Parisian winter tradition for children and adults alike, as you know… Come back soon!

  4. Dearest Véronique,
    You did bring back childhood memories for me with those beignets… My Mom used to make apple beignets for us for the year’s ending. So special and they did taste so well during cold, snowy and frosty weather! Miss them…
    You do have lots of great memories and also Junior has a deep insight into the two cultures. It is tough for loved ones for being apart during these special days though. Hugs to you,

  5. Every post of yours is like a love letter to Paris. I love that.

    What a wonderful upbringing your son is having! Traveling the world, and getting to see his dear family on a regular basis. Certainly something to be treasured and honored.

    Loved this post, Veronique!

  6. Ah, Noel à Paris..Moi aussi j’y “montais” lorsque j’etais petite, chez ma grand-mère , pres du bois de Vincennes.L’arrivée à la gare de Lyon, le froid piquant pour nous , les Sudistes.La joie quand parfois il y avait la neige!Les reunions familales avec les cousins, les grands repas,et les balades ensuite, “pour digerer” :o)
    Tout ça s’est terminé avec le decès de ma grand-mère . Alors, voilà, ton billet me donne une nostalgie pas possible, faisant remonter des temps oubliés.Oui, il faut profiter de tous ces jolis moments, ils sont si precieux et si fragiles.
    Tu ne seras pas en France, mais la France sera quand même un peu à Seattle avec et grâce à toi!
    Bonnes fêtes!

    • Bonjour Marie. Je suis heureuse que ma petite histoire de Noël t’ait plue. Décidément, nous avons encore plus de points communs que je ne le pensais… Tu sais que mes parents, mon frère et moi avons longtemps vécu à Vincennes quand la famille est arrivée à Paris? Oui, il faut profiter de tous les jolis moments, comme tu dis. Nous essaierons d’en créer quelques uns pour Junior et Mutti dans quelques jours…

  7. That is nice for your son to be raised in two cultures. He will be gratefull for that when he is getting older, I think. To have your family so far away must be tough sometimes, especialy with this holidays. Have a nice Christmas time.

  8. I enjoyed reading your lovely memories of Christmas with your family very much. Your son is very lucky you preserve a close family for him. Keep up the good work!

  9. What a wonderful post! How about taking the visiting relatives to Seattle’s new ferris wheel (I realize it won’t be as grand as being in Paris, but new memories are waiting to be made). And when those festivities get completed, lets get together!

    • Dear Jackie. I have not tried the Ferris Wheel yet. That is an excellent idea (as long as it is heated, of course 🙂 We certainly have a date in 2013. I won’t forget. Joyeux Noël in the sunny locale you are currently visiting…

  10. Oh my Dear Veronique, you have outdone yourself today. I loved every single photograph. How fun to meet your family and see Jr. having so much fun in Paris.
    Joyeux Noël to you and yours,

    • Merci Virginia. Will forward your comments to the photographer-in-chief, bien sûr. I know you have been lucky enough to see your own grand-children have fun in Paris too. Isn’t that the best? Thank you for your friendship this year. We have had fun thanks to the blogs and good old FB, haven’t we? 🙂 Joyeux Noël in Alabama, dear V.

  11. I don’t know…still looks cold outside! 😉 I love the tradition of sending the kids on a goose chase and pretending Père Noël just leapt off the balcony. I wonder if I can get the dog to fall for that one?

  12. Such a beautiful post. What wonderful childhood memories it evoked for me. I am completely at a loss for the right words (in two languages), which is most unusual for me……just ask my husband.

    Joyeuses fêtes et “big” bisous,

    Bizzzz, M-T

    • C’est très gentil. Merci beaucoup, M-T… et je te crois: Comme moi, tu trouves toujours quelque chose à dire 🙂 Donc, c’est un grand compliment que tu me fais là. Nous attendons notre voyageuse parisienne qui arrive jeudi si tout va bien. Joyeux Noël à toi et Dan (sans oublier les félins, bien sûr!)

  13. Wonderful, special family photos and fabulous pictures of Paris. It’s lovely that your son is ‘at home’ with both cultures – I love to hear children switch so effortlessly from one language to another. Your post brought back memories for me too of my visit to the winter circus many years ago and of my first galette des rois (when I discovered the fève in my piece!) Wishing you another happy, family Christmas… Bonne Année!

  14. Yes, it’s so nice to have these memories! I look back on them in an album sometimes … and forget about the fact that we lived in Sweden, later in Paris, that the grandparents repectively lived in London and south France … and that there always was a problem with delayed flights, strikes, lost luggage…, whoever travelled -mostly us. Now, grandparents are gone, I’m the grandpa and my kids and grandkids all live within 15 minutes reach! 🙂

    • Ah, Peter, the stories I could tell about our many international flights… The long trip gets harder and harder every year (and I am not a grandmother, yet! 🙂 You are lucky to have your family around you in Paris! Joyeux Noël, cher Peter. Rendez-vous en 2013!

  15. Wonderful Veronique. So generous of you to share your Christmas memories in France with your families. Junior is very lucky to know both cultures and to have such a loving family.

  16. Oh I love this post. Thank you for ‘having us over’ for Christmas! As I read about your Christmas traditions in Paris, I realize that after only one year here, many of these have already become our traditions blended with all our other British and American traditions. Les Gallettes de Roi, fois gras, walking through the cold streets of Paris admiring the lights and climbing the Eiffel Tower in the fog (we ice skated on the first floor there last year – this year the girls did their skating on the Champs Elysees!). I think I need to add Les Pyreneens to the list of traditions this year! Have a wonderful time with your family in Seattle. Joyeux Noël de Paris!

    • You’re welcome Nicola. I am glad to see your family has embraced Parisian Christmas classics as well. If you do get Les Pyrénéens, don’t forget to refrigerate them: They are quite unique in that sense and are best enjoyed chilled (like Champagne!) – Joyeux Noël à Paris!

  17. oh veronique..what a beautiful post! i feel so blessed to be here in paris for christmas..but at the same time..will miss our families so very much. i enjoyed reading your christmas traditions!
    it’s been wonderful getting to know you 🙂
    merry christmas to you and your family veronique! (and i took that same picture from the top of the ferris wheel this past weekend..only no snow here 🙁

  18. I loved this post. Because it made me teary eyed for a second. I think going home every year to where we come from is crucial in keeping us sane. Holidays are always so nostalgic when family is missing, oh well … C’est la vie 🙂
    Happy HOlidays

  19. Très en retard mais mieux vaut tard que jamais: Joyeux Noël à toi et à toute ta famille Véronique♥ Très belles tes photos. Elles respirent la chaleur et la joie d’être ensemble en ce jour sacré du 24 décembre…
    “Je filoche” (en cuisine) comme toi probablement!
    Gros bisous et à très bientôt!

  20. Such fun to view this post full of family and Paris at Christmas. What lovely meals on that perfect French table setting. I’ve long admired the French for the grace and elegance of their tables and the reverence they afford dining. Thanks for sharing your beautiful family visits through the years. My first trip to Paris was at Christmas. I want to repeat the experience someday.
    Happy New Year……..Sarah

    • Thank you, dear Sarah. I will forward your comment to Mutti, my mother-in-law. That was her table I showed here. Coming from you, the Mistress of table dressing, we take your message as a big compliment 🙂 Happy New Year to you and yours. Looking forward to seeing you back here in 2013!

  21. Oh my Veronique, this is such a wonderful post, and you have sort of helped me make up my mind about something..I hope to visit Paris again next year, wasn’t sure when, I think after reading this it may have to be around Christmas time, it sounds like something all those who love Paris, should experience at least once! I’m sure you had an equally wonderful time showing your French famille Seattle oui.

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New York, New York (Part 2)

New York, New York (Part 2)

Special celebrations call for special drinks, like le Kir Royal… A friend commented there was no French twist to last week’s story about New York. My stories ALWAYS have a French twist, she said… Zut. (Rats.) We need to fix this quickly, I say. Cheer up, friend: Plenty of French twists in this story. Plenty of friends,…

31 Responses to New York, New York (Part 2)

  1. Dearest Véronique,
    You had a ‘grande’ time in New Amsterdam! Looks like you inflated yourself with culture and energy for making it into the new year for quite some months. It is super for being able to meet with writer friends. You made me home sick to our Tom Pouce (mille feuille) again! That shows only how much French my Province was in its culture. Happy for you and now chillin’ cooling down for winter. Enjoy the Advent season, leading up to Christmas.

    • Merci, Mariette. I looked up the Dutch pastry named TomPouce, and I have had to say it looks suspiciously like its cousin the French mille-feuille. I guess I know what dessert I will be ordering next time I fly through Amsterdam (a favorite city of mine 🙂 The Advent season is looking good so far, with the exception of the dreadful weather, part of the Seattle folklore I am afraid…

  2. Any post that starts out with a Kir Royale is certain to be une merveille! Patricia Kaas sings Piaf??? What a dream! It sounds like you had a wonderful time. I’m always trying to find bits of France here in San Diego. You have inspired me to look a little deeper. French Girl you are the BEST!!!!!

    • I agree with you, Connie. Kir Royal is a favorite drink of mine. So pretty, so festive, and so delicious, of course 🙂 Let me know what you find out if you find bits of France in San Diego. I would like to return one of these days, and will likely be looking for them too…

  3. Curieusement, la France parait plus belle vue de l’etranger que de l’interieur.La faute aux medias, peut-être, ou alors ailleurs on ne montre et garde que le meilleur.ça fait plaisir de voir que notre culture est appréciée à l’etranger, et sous toutes ses formes , y compris les plus novatrices(ah, ce mille-feuilles et son glaçage latéral!)
    Les univers de Piaf et Kaas vont bien ensemble. Elle aussi (P.Kaas) semble etre maintenant plus appreciée ailleurs qu’ici, où on ne l’entend plus beaucoup.
    Un bel hommage, multiple, J. Baker avait deux amours;il semble que toi aussi! :o)
    A bientôt! bises!

  4. A delicious post in so many ways. Wonderful food and drink! Adorable pooches, and an exquisite songstress! I’m glad you had such a fabulous time, Veronique. So many wonderful memories and friends you made. 🙂

    • Merci beaucoup Mary. You might say this was a successful trip, indeed. I got to cross out most of the fun things off my pre-departure list, and there were some surprises along the way as well… A trip can’t go bad if you catch up with a friend or two (furry or otherwise…)

  5. So many wonderful things to comment on! I am a huge fan of Edith Piaf and the movie, although a sad, was excellent.

    Your trip looked like it was wonderful! The photos you took are fabulous and it looks like you really took everything in. Yummy food, great sites, and wonderful time spent with a special friend.

    Thanks for sharing!


  6. Hi French Girl in Seattle, For ages it seems I have ‘known’ you through comments you make at other blogs I follow. Today on a whim I thought I’d finally visit your blog – what a delightful way to start my day! Loved the tale and especially the part about your blogosphere friends. I’ve felt much the same way. Perhaps one of these days we will meet at this ‘new blogosphere travel friend’ of yours lives in Kirkland, just across that little pond called Lake Washington when not out exploring the world.

    • Bonjour Jackie and bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle. So happy you decided to stop by and leave a comment! I can’t believe you live in Kirkland. We are neighbors! I, too, live on this side of the Lake. Why don’t we plan to hook up after the Holidays– if we both survive the busy season? A bientôt! PS: I will start Following your blog so I know what you are up to…

    • I’ve become your newest follower! And what great news that we are neighbors – I see a blog post in the making about meeting In Provence via our friend Heather. . .and yes, yes, would love to get together after Christmas.

  7. A Joyful and uplifting post. Thank you for the kind words, Helen. This was a joyful trip indeed, with many joyful moments. Isn’t that what all trips should be? Come back and listen to the music. You won’t be disappointed!

  8. Hello Sandy. Thank you for being by my side as I was waiting to get inside the Carnegie Hall on November 20. It was fun to “speak” to you Live thanks to Facebook that night. 🙂 And yes, if I ever make it to the 4 corners (great name, by the way,) I would love to meet up with you! That’s – almost – a date! A bientôt…

  9. OMG, Ma chère Véronique, what a glorious post! I felt as if I were (re)living the journey with you. And what a great idea to start off with our two kirs royales. Although, I must say that I look much better as a basic black backdrop for the two glasses than in the full-length photo with my disheveled, wind-blown hair. (Note to Self: In future, avoid overhead lighting which casts unattractive shadows on the face.)

    That said, however, my husband looks très distingué holding the little bag containing the remnants of our fabulous poulet rôti from Benoit, which Victor and I polished off for lunch the very next day. Victor gave it two paws up.

    The moment we met, I knew I had found a dear old friend. You were kind enough to mention my sense of style, and, indeed, I do know a little something about the perfect fit. After spending an afternoon in your delightful company, I do believe I can say that we are a perfect fit.

    A la prochaine………….

    • Chère M-T, I wish we’d had a TAD less fun during lunch and we had remembered to take a couple of photos of “les convives” around our lively table… I agree the lighting on that last shot was not ideal, but you and Dan look good either way, standing right by “New York.” No matter, however, as memories of a wonderful afternoon à table remain…

      Thank you again for meeting me in the big city that day. It made the trip all the more special. Hugs to you and Dan (and Victor, the poulet rôti-eating cat) 🙂

      On reste en contact? Bises.

    • Bien sûr que l’on restera en contact. Cela va sans dire. La prochaine on prendra des photos des convives autour d’une bonne table. C’est promis.

      Gros bisous et à très bientôt j’espère! Peut-être au mois de mars? Un petit thé au Plaza pour fêter ton anniversaire? Hmmmm?

  10. Très chère Véronique,
    So many things to say..
    1) Your photos are fabulous as usual
    2) I feel jealous about the good time you had with MT and Dan. Good for all of you!
    3) These pastries are to die for. I almost ate my computer screen when I saw your pic of the mille feuilles (not sure a computer screen is that good though …)
    4) You are so lucky to have seen Patricia Kaas’s show
    5) Whoever doesn’t know what a kir royal is should try right away (BTW do you know this other version of the kir with pinot wine from Burgundy and “liqueur de cassis”. Great too)
    Your post was delightful as ALWAYS.
    Big bisous,
    Anne (Playing with Scarves)

    • Ha. Ha. Merci, Anne. So glad you did not attempt to lick the computer screen. You might have scared your poor children and husband, who are used to living with an elegant French lady 🙂 Yes, it was lovely to meet M-T and Dan in New York. We were saying the three of us should try and hook up somewhere in the United States. Wouldn’t that be fun? I foresee Kir Royal flowing that day… (I have always liked it better than the traditional kir with Pinot.) Merci pour la visite et a bientot…

  11. Thank you for following my blog, I bumped in yours by accident and I like the way you write and the interesting tours you make. New York is one of my favourites too and I like the way you vitited it by neighbourhood, after the touristic things we once did the same, you see so much more.
    Greetings from Marianne

    • Bienvenue Marianne, and thank you for being a faithful Follower of French GIrl in Seattle. As I have said before, you do live in a beautiful European city, lucky lady; one I would not mind returning to so I can, once again, walk all the beautiful neighborhoods…

  12. What a fun trip you had, Veronique! And so many French twists, too. I’ve been to Benoit in Paris, but not to the one in NYC. Next trip! Love seeing all of the furry Manhattan residents, too! XO

  13. Bonjour Elizabeth. I, too, enjoyed the Marion Cotillard movie. This was a performance extraordinaire from another favorite French lady of mine… Hope life is running a bit more smoothly for you these days and the “bad contractor” is leaving you alone.

  14. Although I lived many years on the eastern coast of Canada until my very early 20’s I never had the urge to visit New York. With a lust for food developing over the years as an “older” woman I would love to visit.

  15. Great article. Your trip seemed fabulous. I shall have to visit the restaurant tribute to Josephine. How interesting the numerous cultural things in New York. Being the mecca for immigrants entering the US years ago, it is alive still. I love NYC. It is such a fabulous place to visit. I see something different each time I have been. Question: why does Nutella seem so Special? Thanks for sharing. It brightened my day as always.

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