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Welcome 2 France Newsletter December 2008
Hello !


* Christmas in Paris
* Chateau de Vincennes - Out of the Way, But Not Too Far!
* Calendar of Events - December, 2008

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Please click on the following link to our recent press release for more information.


A correction to my November issue: I mistakenly named Louis XVI as the son of Louis XV. He was his grandson. My thanks to S. Lybrook who took the time to leave this information on our "Comments and Suggestions" link, which can be found on the bottom of each month's issue of the Newsletter.

Our staff reads the Comments and Suggestions and acts upon them with haste. If you have an idea of what you would like to read about here, please let us know.


We spent an entire month of December in Paris recently. Everyday, in various parts of the city, there appeared more and more fir trees (over 1000) installed in roundabouts, barges along the Seine, and in other surprising areas.

Some of the trees were sprinkled with artificial snow (Champs-Elysees roundabout had 300) and some were covered in ornaments (in front of Cathedral de Notre-Dame). They were evident around official buildings, too. Place de la Bastille had 200. It was magical, even when the trees were left in their natural green.

We learned that the trees were purpose-grown in the Jura district by the French government and that they've been doing this lovely custom since the 19th century.

For the ultimate in decorated Christmas trees, visit the Designer Christmas Trees Display at the InterContinental Paris le Grand Hotel at 2, rue Scribe (9th Arrondissement). Students from Duperre Fashion College create original trees. It is free and very fun.

For info on another designer Christmas tree display, see my Calendar below under "Other".

These, like the trees, spring up all over Paris in December. The Square-du-Temple hosts the "Maneges de Noel", with traditional carved horses - painted up like clowns in an array of off-the-wall colors.

You will find them in Place Saint-Sulpice and Place de l'Hotel-de-Ville, also.

Not just for kids - we spent our 30th wedding anniversary spinning around on a fantasy ride. And, they are free. Only in Paris can gaudy be beautiful!

While I've never seen NYC's famous Macy's windows at Christmas, I wonder if they can compare to those of Galeries Lafayette or Printemps department stores.

They are absolutely fabulous displays of animation and whimsy. Children can get a good view via the wooden ramps provided.

See my Calendar below for dates and addresses.

We were surprised that just about each Arrondissement, and they all consider themselves a village within Paris, decorated their main streets with strings of lights stretched across them.

Candles danced along Rue de Rivoli. Stars flew along Aveue du General LeClerc in the 14th Arrondissment. Charming.

But, of course, the main event is the Champs-Elysees. The trees are alight and the whole effect is like diamonds sprinkled along this most famous of all avenues in the world. We couldn't see this too often and it became a nightly trek for a cafe creme on
the ave - no matter how tired we were!

Every half-hour, all through December, the Nativity story is told in light and sound in front of Cathedral de Notre-Dame. Visit the website at for full details on times. It is free.

By far, our favorite is the one at La Defense. It was amazing. Tons of booths, foods, gifts, clothing, souvenirs, ornaments, household goods and restaurants. It was mostly covered, thank goodness, for it was snowing lightly the day we went, so we stayed dry.

The ones at Eglise Saint-Sulpice and around Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Pres are smaller, but just as lovely. The sounds and smells are very Christmasy. All of them offer Vin Chaud (hot wine) - mmm, good!

What a lovely idea - to set up a temporary ice rink right in the middle of Paris on Place de l'Hotel-de-Ville! A huge white igloo entrance and plenty of room in the rink for even the novices to struggle along makes this not only fun to do, but to watch. It is so fabulous to sit in front of that incredible city hall and watch the skaters. We noticed last year that they had set up a small toboggan run for children under 12.

There's another temporary rink set up below the Montparnasse Tower. Find it at Place Raoul Dautry in the 15th Arrondissement.

At both 'patinoires' admission is free, but skate rentals are €5,00. Skate rentals for children are free.


During all of our visits to Paris, without exception, we have come upon unusual and surprising finds as we explore the most beautiful city in the World. Chateau de Vincennes was just one of those serendipitous discoveries.

And, what a bonus to find it outside of the Peripherique, yet still extremely close to Paris and still on the Metro line. In Paris, the ring road that surrounds the city and defines its 'center' is the Peripherique. Everything outside this road is considered suburbs.

Using Metro Line 1, which cuts Paris just about in half and travels from the west (La Defense) to the east (Vincennes), one can reach the Chateau barely realizing that you've actually left Paris. You simply get off at the last stop of this Line at "Chateau de Vincennes", and emerge from underground facing a Medieval castle, complete with moat! What an astounding surprise!

The castle includes a royal chapel, dungeon, acres of woods (Bois de Vincennes), and two lakes that have graced this location for six centuries. Children will feel like they've arrived in a fairyland, yet it is all real, and far better than any Disney creation. It is my husband's favorite excursion.

You will enter by crossing over a drawbridge than spans a very deep (now dry) moat and walk through the Village Gate (Tour du Village) onto the grounds. The massive wall is 3609 feet long. There once were nine towers, each 138 feet tall, along this wall. People lived in these towers, which were primarily defensive matters. Only four of the towers remain today, thanks to Napoleon who tore them down when he converted Vincennes into a military stronghold.

Once through the Village Gate, you will see the ticket office, gift/book shop and restrooms located in a building to your right.

Just recently opened, the most outstanding structure on the vast grounds has to be the Donjon (the Keep) which is impossible to miss. A huge square tower, flanked by four corner turrets, is divided into six floors with rooms whose archways rest on a single skinny central column (an architectural feat). It is 164 feet high and is the tallest Medieval Keep in all of France. Very impressive. It, too, has a wall and dry moat surrounding it.

Inside the Donjon, which was built quickly and at great cost by Charles V (husband of Jeanne de Bourbon) in 1370, one can easily imagine life in a Medieval castle. You will see the giant fireplaces, deep well in the kitchen floor, latrines along the walkways of the outer walls, the king's chambers, his treasury and marvel at how they survived the elements and threats of invaders.

While the kids are racing through the chambers, you can enjoy the vista from on high. But, do be sure to note the details in the handmade wrought iron door hinges and pulls and the intricate slate works of the roofs. We loved the intricate sculptures above the windows on the second and third floors of the Chatelet terrace.

This is how the wealthy high and mighty lived. It will seem so very crude by today's standards since it was built with defense in mind first, and as a home second.

There is another set of restrooms on the ground level of the Donjon, just to the left as you enter it, in a separate building.

The bell tower at the top of the entry contains a copy of a clock bell (1369) - the first clock to be used on a public building.

You will note that the entire structure is surrounded by a Medieval wall. You enter through a building called the Chatelet. This puts you inside the wall and the only way to get to the Donjon, itself, is by crossing the footbridge that connects them. Easily defended, this style of entry to the main Keep was classic in the Middle Ages.

You can rest and view a short film in the Council Room (originally used as a reception room for the king). The film tells the history of the castle in Charles V's time. Note the archways covered in thin strips of wood - all original. From here, you can ascend a wide staircase used exclusively by the king to his second floor quarters.

The king's bedchamber has a beautiful fireplace. See the window recess to the west? That's where the kept his chest full of his finest manuscripts. A separate room nearby was his closet, where his valets slept on the floor. This is the only medieval royal residence still in its original layout.

As you walk through the northwest turret, you will first come to the treasure room (housing Charles V's sacks of gold) with his personal latrine nearby.

The keep's prison is located on the ground floor and it dates back to the 16th century.

Sainte-Chapelle stands across the wide yard from the Donjon complex. Built in 1379, it is a replica of Sainte-Chapelle on the Ile-de-la-Cite in Paris. It has only one floor, which is surprising considering its height. The king sat on the left, the queen on the right. The tiny building connected to it in the back is the treasury.

So, who did live in this legendary place? A brief list:
12th century: Capetian monarchs built it as a hunting lodge (same origin as Chateau de Versailles).
1350-1364: John II (John the Good) at the start of the Hundred Years' War established a manor here.
1364-1380: Charles V (John's son) put up the wall and towers.
16th-17th centuries: Many troubled monarchs took refuge behind the walls. In 1610, Catherine de Medici (frightened after the death of her husband Henry IV) built a long palace in the southwest corner of the enclosure where her son, Louis XIII, spent his entire childhood.
1643-1715: Louis XIV built more and more onto Vincennes until he opted to settle at Versailles, so Vincennes ceased to be a royal residence.
1753: It became a military school and, oddly, a porcelain factory.
1756: Vincennes used primarily as a jail. Famous inmates included the Marquis de Sade, Mirabeau and Diderot.
1796: Became the arsenal of Paris and its beginning as a military installation.
1936: Became the General Headquarters of the Army.
1940-1944: German Nazis occupy it. Upon leaving, they bombed almost all of the buildings. It takes 30 years to rebuild most of it.
1948: Becomes the location of the Army, Navy and Air Force History Service.
1988: Restoration begins.
1994: Open to the public.

Outside the Chateau-de-Vincennes, you will find the vast Bois de Vincennes. Be sure to visit the Parc Floral with its unusual plants, manicured lawns, bonsai pavilion and miniature golf for the kids. To get there, walk out the southern end of the chateau and cross avenue-des-Minimes.

Or, walk east along avenue-de-Nogent and turn right towards Lac des Minimes. Take a nice stroll around the lake or rent a rowboat (northern end) to best see the islands. Bikes are also available.

Also, inside the Bois (woods), is Parc Zoologique - a zoo home to 1200 animals, including rare species such as the Aye-Aye and Eld's deer, along with the usual elephants, lions and giraffes. A great place for the kids.

The Bois is huge. There are pony rides, a hippodrome, restaurants, the Paris Farm and theaters. Please refer to our July, 2008, issue of the Newsletter for more information on Bois de Vincennes. Find it in the section, "The Woods of Paris". A link is available at the bottom of this Newsletter.

Jean E. Arnevick. Olympia, Washington, USA

CALENDAR OF EVENTS in PARIS - December, 2008


Until December 21
"Photographing America" - Photography Exhibit by Walker Evans
Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson
2, impasse Lebouis - 14th Arrondissement
€ 3,00 - 6,00

All of December - January 4, 2009
"Ingres" - Exhibit of Drawings and Sketches
Musee de la Vie Romantique
16, rue Chaptal - 9th Arrondissement
€ 3,50 - 7,00

All of December - January 4, 2009
"La Photographie a Dusseldorf" - Photos of Dusseldorf, Germany
Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
11, avenue du President Wilson - 16th Arrondissement

All of December - January 5, 2009
"Mantega" - Renaissance Italian court painter
Musee du Louvre
99, rue de Rivoli - 1st Arrondissement
€ 9,50

All of December - January 11, 2009
"Le Plaisir" - Raoul Dufy
Musee d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
11, avenue du President Wilson - 16th Arrondissement
Phone 01 53 67 40 00 for prices

All of December - January 19, 2009
"Bronzes Francais" - Exhibition of French bronzes from the 16th to 19th century
Musee du Louvre
99, rue du Rivoli - 1st Arrondissement
€6,00 - 9,00

All of December - January 25, 2009
"Van Dyck" - his European 17th & 18th century portraitures
Musee Jacquemart-Andre
158, boulevard Haussmann - 8th Arrondissement
€7,30 - 10,00

All of December - February 1, 2009
"Le Mystere et l'Eclat" - Pastels from 1850 through 1914
Musee d'Orsay
1, rue Bellechasse - 7th Arrondissement
€5,50 - 9,50

All of December - February 2, 2009
"Picasso et les Maitres" - How he was inspired by the great masters
Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais
3, avenue du General Eisenhower - 8th Arrondissement
€8,00 - 12,00

All of December - February 2, 2009
"Picasso/Delacroix" - How Picasso used Delacroix work as his inspiration
Musee du Louvre
99, rue de Rivoli - 1st Arrondissement
€6,00 - 9,00

All of December - February 9, 2009
"Abilgaard at the Louvre" - 18th century Nordic artist
Musee du Louvre
99, rue de Rivoli - 1st Arrondissement

All of December - February 9, 2009
"Jackson Pollock et le Chamanisme" - Exhibition featuring the artist's interest in shamans
La Pinacotheque
28, place de la Madeleine - 8th Arrondissement
€7,00 - 9,00

All of December - February 22, 2009
"From Miro to Warhol, the Berardo Collection" - Cubism, Surrealism, Pop-Art
Musee du Luxembourg
19, rue de Vaugirard - 7th Arrondissement

All of December - March 2, 2009
"Delacroix et La Photographie" - How the artist used the camera
Musee Eugene-Delacroix
6, rue de Furstenberg - 6th Arrondissement
€6,00 - 9,00

All of December - March 15, 2009
"Par Amour Pour Les Poupees" - dolls from the Odin collection
Musee de la Poupee
Impasse Berthaud, near 22, rue Beaubourg - 3rd Arrondissement
€5,00 - 7,00


All of December - February 1, 2009
"Paris au Temps Des Miserables" - Paris as featured in 'Les Miserable'
Musee Carnavalet
23, rue de Sevigne - 3rd Arrondissement
€3,50 - 5,00

All of December - February 1, 2009
"Masques, de Carpeaux a Picasso" - The role of the mask in art
Musee d'Orsay
1, rue Bellechasse - 7th Arrondissement
€5,50 - 8,00

All of December - February 28, 2009:
"L'homme Expose" - A Perspective on the History of Man
Le Musee de l'Homme in Palais de Chaillot
17, place du Trocadero - 16th Arrondissement
€ 5,00 - 8,00; Under 4 = Free

All of December - March 15, 2009
"Honneur et Gloire: Tresors de la Collection Spada" - 15th-21st century decorative arts
Musee National de la Legion d'Honneur
2, rue de la Legion d'Honneur - 7th Arrondissement

All of December - April 30, 2009
"Atmosphere - Le Climat Revele par les Glaces" - Climate changes & the Polar ice caps
Musee des Arts et Metiers
60, rue Reaumur - 3rd Arrondissement
€3,50 - 5,50


December 9
"Elton John - The Red Piano" - in concert
Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy
8, bd de Bercy - 12th Arrondissement
€73,00 - 194,00

December 12
"Raphael" - in concert
Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy
8, bd de Bercy - 12th Arrondissement
€37,50 - 47,50


Until December 20
"Festival d'Automne" - Autumm Festival of opera, film, dance and performing arts
Various locations in Paris


December 5 - 7
"Paris International Showjumping Competition" - Top horseriding jumpers compete
Parc des Expositions - Hall 7/2, 7/3 and 4
Porte de Versailles - 15 Arrondissement
€8,00 - 12,50; Under 6: Free

December 5 - 14
"Paris Boat Show" - Boats in every size, shape and type
Parc des Expositions - Pavillons 1,2,3,4,5 et 6
Porte de Versailles - 15th Arrondissement
€7,00 - 13,00; Under 16: Free

December 6
"Arthur - Le Legende" - Spectacle of horsemanship, circus arts, comedy, tournaments
Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy
8, bd de Bercy - 12th Arrondissement

December 6 - 21
"Les Feeries d'Auteuil" - Christmas festival and Nativity Scene
Fondation d'Auteuil
40, rue la Fontaine - 16th Arrondissement

December 9 - January 4, 2009
"Les Sapins de Noel des Createurs" - Trees designed by big names in fashion
Ministere de la Culture et de la Communication
182, rue Saint-Honore - 1st Arrondissement

December 12 - 14
"World Arabian Horse Competiton" - Part of the Salon du Cheval
Parc des Expositions - Hall 7/2, 7/3 and 4
Porte de Versailles - 15th Arrondissement
€8,00 - 12,50; Under 6: Free

December 24 - 25
"Family Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Mass
Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Pres
3, place Saint-Germain-des-Pres - 6th Arrondissement
Eglise de la Madeleine
1, place de la Madeleine - 8th Arrondissement

December 28
"Basketball All-Star Game" - All-Stars of France vs All-Star Foreign Team
Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy
8, bd de Bercy - 12th Arrondissement
€16,00 - 35,00

Until December 31
"Christmas Windows" - Department Stores
Galeries LaFayette and Printemps
40, bd Haussmann - 9th Arrondissement

Until December 31:
"Circus - Diana Moreno Bormann" - Wonderful for kids
Place Skanderbeg
112, rue de la Haie Coq - Porte d'Auberviliers - 19th Arrondissement
€ 10,00 - 35,00; Under 3 = Free

Until December 31
"Christmas Lights" - all along the greatest boulevard in the world
Champs-Elysees - 1st Arrondissement

All of December - January 11, 2009
"Georges Rouault Workshops" - Circus themed for children
La Pinacotheque
28, place de la Madeleine
€7,00 - 9,00

All of December - January 31, 2009:
"Big Wheel" - Giant Ferris Wheel
Place de la Concorde
Between the Jardins de Tuileries and the Champs-Elysees - 1st Arrondissement
€ 8,00

Jean E. Arnevick. Olympia, Washington, USA

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The Welcome 2 France team
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