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Welcome 2 France Newsletter December 2009
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December Newsletter Highlights

· A L'Étoile d'Or for Your Sweet Tooth
· Christmas Church Services
· Astier de Villate for Tableware and Gifts
· Galettes des Rois, a Holiday Tradition
· Outdoor Fun in December
· Plan Now for February in Paris
· Looking Ahead to January

This Month's Featured Apartments

This large two-bedroom, two-bath apartment is in a Haussmann building. It features floor to ceiling windows for lots of light. The Passy neighborhood features designer shops and quiet tearooms; it's close to the Musée Marmattan.

Passy-Virgnes Loft
You'll love this two-bedroom artist's atelier in the same neighborhood as the apartment above. The 20-foot living room ceiling and original stained glass lend a creative touch.

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December, 2009

Night comes earlier in Paris on the shortest days of the year, but that just gives the city more opportunity to sparkle. December in Paris is illuminated by the Eiffel Tower and the holiday lights on the Champs Elysées. Store windows glitter; street markets entice you. It's a grand time to be in Paris.

A L'Etoile d'Or for Your Sweet Tooth
Even if you don't frequent candy stores at home, this small shop in Montmartre, A L'Etoile d'Or, will have you loading up a shopping bag of treats.

The store's located on a tired-looking street lined with guitar stores. You get a glimpse of what's to come from the shop window, a cacaphony of candy and chocolate wrappers, posters and souvenir items. Step inside. It feels like you've walked into a kaleidoscope. Red, blue, green, yellow candies gleam in jars and shiny cellophane wrappers. The shelves are jammed with goodies. Even though the store is just one room, you quickly don't know where to look next.

And that's when owner Denise Acabo swoops over and takes you in hand. You can't miss her; she'll be wearing long blonde plaits, a snappy tie and kilt - and the broadest smile imaginable. She quickly pulls you over to the caramels made by Jacques Genin, the hottest new chocolatier in Paris. At a euro each, they were a little rich for my pocketbook, but you can make a pile of other caramels to take home; you won't regret it. They come in every flavor imaginable, from beurre salé (salted butter) to tarte tatin (apple pie).

Near the front is the altar to chocolate - a huge table stacked with chocolate bars you can't get anywhere else in Paris. Denise long ago persuaded Lyon chocolatier Bernachon to allow her to sell their bars here. The chocolate is made from scratch in Lyon, starting with roasting the cocoa beans. The thick bars come in many flavors; we snatched up Kalouga (caramel au beurre salé) and Créole, rum-soaked raisins. And then there was the crisp toffee bar covered in dark chocolate....

Mme Acabo is clearly a woman who loves her work. She lives behind the store and wants nothing more than to fill your arms with special treats. Her energy is infectious (and she's 73!). Before we knew it, she was showing us photos of her grandkids and posing for pictures with us. Don't you need some stocking stuffers? Here's the place.
A L'Etoile d'Or
30, rue Fontaine, 9th arrondisement, Metro Blanche or Pigalle

Christmas Services in Paris
With the city all lit up for Christmas, you just might start dreaming of Christmas carols and church services. For most visiting Americans, the two best choices are the American Cathedral and the American Church.

The American Cathedral
Located on Avenue George V, this imposing Episcopalian cathedral was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1886. The parish had been founded some time before by wealthy Americans living in Paris, including the Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, Harrimans and Biddles.

The cathedral has a regular congregation of English speakers from all over the globe. When I was there for Christmas a couple of years ago, the readings were done in many languages. In keeping with the august architecture, services here are what I think of a "high church," quite formal and beautiful.

At the time of this writing, the full Christmas schedule hadn't been published, but you might particularly be interested in the annual Messiah singalong at 4pm on December 13, or the Christmas pageant that morning at 11am. Many services are followed by coffee hour afterwards, so you can meet people who live in Paris and regularly attend the cathedral.
The American Cathedral
Avenue George V, 8th arrondisement, Metro George V or Franklin Roosevelt

The American Church
On the other side of the Seine, on the Quai D'Orsay, is the American Church, a nondenominational church with a more diverse, more informal feeling. The church is famous in Paris for its "Bloom Where You're Planted" program run by the Women of the American Church. "Bloom" publishes a very useful book for new ex-pats living in Paris, and conducts lots of other programs. The Women also host a welcome table every Sunday, so it's a chance to talk with people who know Paris well.

The church has both traditional church services in the morning and a more contemporary service on Sunday afternoons. Particularly popular is their Sunday Atelier Concert Series, every Sunday at 5pm. You can check their website for specific Christmas programs. And both the church and the cathedral host a number of English-language 12-step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous.
The American Church
65, Quai D'Orsay, 7th arrondisement, Metro Invalides or Alma-Marceau

A Different Place for Christmas Dinner
Many Paris restaurants are closed on Christmas Day. Those that are open often have special fixed price holiday menus - often a much higher price than usual. And advance reservations are a must.

Not long ago a friend and I found ourselves in Paris without a reservation for Christmas dinner. We didn't want a big fancy meal - but neither did we want to stay in our apartment and munch leftovers. The solution: the restaurant at the Grand Mosquée. It's open all day every day, so we dashed right over.

We celebrated Christmas eating chicken tagine with olives and crystallized lemons, meguez sausage couscous, and a serving of sticky baklava. The room was awash with warmth, from the richly colored fabrics on the banquettes to the swirls and scrolls of the pointed arabesque arches.

The mosque itself, the largest in Paris, was built in the 1920s in the Hispano-Moorish style of architecture. Even in chilly weather, it's worth a stroll into the central courtyard, surrounded by an arched arcade lined with brightly-colored tiles and mosaics. Besides the restaurant, open for lunch and dinner, there's a tearoom that serves mint tea and pastries from 9am - 11:30pm. And if you're feeling particularly adventurous, you might want to treat yourself to a warm soak and massage in the mosque's hammam.
La Grand Mosquée
39, rue Saint-Hilaire, 5th arrondisement, Metro Place Monge or Censier-Daubenton

Astier de Villate for Tableware and Gifts
I know people who wouldn't dream of going to Paris without making a stop at Astier de Villate, a small store on the rue Saint-Honoré. Alongside the contemporary storefronts of high fashion clothes retailers, their facade is distinctly of another century; it looks as though Marie Antoinette could have visited on one of her clandestine trips into the city.

Astier is well-known for its ceramic tableware - plates, trays, cups and other serving pieces, as well as vases that you'll admire for their beautiful lines. The ceramics are made of handmade terra cotta with a cool white finish, sometimes edged with pale grey, thin and delicate but strong. The pieces are inspired by patterns from the 1700s and 1800s. They're displayed in antique cupboards flanked by artfully flaking wooden moldings against dark walls. Even if you don't buy a thing, the store itself is worth experiencing.

In the front room, you'll find, in addition to the iconic tableware, smaller objects like paperweights and journals. It's all perfectly displayed. Or venture downstairs via a trembling spiral staircase to see some of their line of cabinets and other furniture.
Astier de Villate
173, rue Saint-Honoré, 1st arrondisement, Metro Tuileries or Palais Royale
Open Monday - Saturday, 11am - 7:30pm

Galettes des Rois, a Holiday Tradition
One of the great pleasures of renting an apartment in Paris is that sometimes you dine at home. In December, that means you can bring home a king cake to share with friends and family.

The galette des rois is traditionally served on Epiphany, January 6, but you'll find them all over Paris for several weeks before and after. The style of the cakes varies by region of France, but it's traditional in Paris that they're made with frangipane, almond paste.

Each cake has inside it a tiny figurine (it used to be a fava bean, but now it can be anything). There's a distinctive ritual involved in eating the king cake:

The youngest person in the room crawls underneath the dining table.

Above, at the table, someone slices the cake, piece by piece. With each cut, the person underneath calls out the name of who will receive that piece. Since you want someone to find the figurine, you cut the slices big enough that the whole cake is served at one sitting. (Just be careful not to break a tooth while eating!)

The person who finds the trinket in their slice is named king or queen for the evening - and they don the gold cardboard crown that comes with every cake.

My friend who lives in Paris serves king cake with a dollop of creme fraiche, to break the sweetness.

You can find king cakes all over Paris, even in the supermarkets. I'm no expert, but in the debate over who makes the best galette des rois in Paris, here are some of the contenders:

Stéphane Vandermeerch
278, avenue Daumesnil, 12th arrondisement, Metro Porte Dorée

Régis Colin
53, rue Montmartre, 2nd arrondisement, Metro Semtier or Bourse

Du Pain et des Idées
34, rue Yves Toudic, 10th arrondisement, Metro Jacques Bonsergent

La Fougasse
25. rue de Bretagne, 3rd arrondisement, Metro Temple, Arts et Métiers or Filles du Calvaire

Arnaud Delmontel
39, rue des Martyrs, 9th arrondisement, Metro Saint-Georges or Notre-Dame-de-Lorette

Pain du Sucre
14, rue Rambuteau, 3rd arrondisement, Metro Étienne Marcel or Rambuteau

Outdoor Fun in December
Tempted as you might be to hole up with a bottle of wine or cup of hot chocolate in December, there's lots to tempt you out of doors. Here are a few favorites.

Christmas Markets
Holiday markets spring up all over the city, usually white-tented booths that sell hand-crafted items, clothing and jewelry, toys, speciality foods and a fair amount of kitsch. Pere Noel makes his appearance at many. I particularly like to visit the markets in the late afternoon, when the sky is deep blue and everything is washed in light. Here are some of the markets you might want to check out. Most are open throughout December, except where noted.

La Défense.
The market in this business district is the largest in the city. Besides the shopping, there's usually live music, plenty of hot food and warm drinks. It's brightly lit in the evening, and the office worker crowd has gone home.
Open daily 11am - 7:30pm through December 27.
Located right outside the Metro station. Metro: La Défense.

Saint Sulpice
Beside crafts and lots of regional foods, this popular market includes a Village de Pere Noel for the kiddies.
Open 10am - 8pm, December 9 - 23.
Metro: Saint-Sulpice

Champs Elyées
Some say this outdoor market is getting too commercial, but it's a classic location for strolling, shopping and enjoying the lights.
Open 10am - 7pm through January 3, 2010.
Metro: Concorde

Place St.-Germain-des-Prés
The aroma of crepes will tempt you to pause in your shopping for gifts, crafts and specialty foods here.
Open 10am - 8pm, December 4 - 30.
Metro: St.-Germain-des-Prés or Mabillon

Place des Abbesses
This Montmartre market focuses on crafts and regional foods.
Open 10am - 7pm, through December 29.
Metro: Abbesses

Gare de l'Est
The market at this newly refurbished train station is focused on Alsatian speciality foods.
Open Mon. - Sat., 8am - 8pm, Sun. 9am - 7pm, through December 12
Place du 11 Novembre 1918, Metro Gare de l'Est

This market is for the foodies; it features all the French delicacies you and your friends crave.
Open 10:30am - 7:30pm, usually the entire month of December
Metro: Maine-Montparnasse

Christmas Lights
Huge department stores Galeries Lafayette and its neighbor Printemps go all out for Christmas, with washes of light and elaborate windows. But if you want to get close to those windows, be warned that the crowds are crushing.

The Champs Elysées is also well-known for its elaborate array of Christmas lights, so a stroll up this avenue might be fun - but again, you know you'll have crowds.

Ice Skating at the Hotel de Ville
I never get tired of standing at the Place de Ville at Christams watching the skaters glide past the historic facade. Entrance is free, but there is a €5 charge for renting skates. (There's also ice skating at La Défense and the Montparnasse Tower if you'd rather not be in the center of the city.)
Hotel de Ville
Mon. - Thurs., noon - 10pm, Fri. noon - midnight, Sat. 9am - midnight, Sun. 9am - 10pm
Metro: Chatelet

Plan Now for February in Paris
Not many visitors come to Paris in February, and that in itself is a great reason to be here then. I spent two weeks of this past February in Paris, with a friend who'd never been before, and it was absolutely delightful. We never stood in line for a museum; we could get into just about any restaurant where we wanted to eat.

In the first half of the month, the winter sales are still on. Since it's the end of the sale season, prices are slashed, and we picked up quite a few bargains on clothes we would never have afforded otherwise.

And if you're looking for a romantic place to celebrate Valentine's Day, Paris is the place to be. The chocolate shops try to out-do each other in coming up with the most enticing Valentine's creations. Romantic restaurants abound, but be sure to book early for a great table.

As for the weather, yes, it's cold, and, yes, it rains. But it's not bitterly cold; I find the weather much like it is in Washington, DC. And the sun shines more often than you might expect. According to the official weather averages, February gets less precipitation than March, April, May, June, September, October and December.

Best of all, because February has fewer visitors, you can get terrific prices on an apartment from Welcome2France. And chances are there will be bargains on airfare as well.

Note: all the times and fees we've quoted in this month's newsletter were accurate when we published, but things do change, so it's always a good idea to check before you go.

Sheila Campbell, Washington, DC Web:

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Calendar of Events, December, 2009

Through December 6
In Fragonard's Studio: Marguerite Gérard, Artist in 1789
Musée Cognacq-Jay
8, rue Elzevir, Metro Saint-Paul, Chemin-Vert or Rambuteau

Through December 13, 2010
Veilhan Versailles (Modern art sculpture in the courtyards and gardens of Versailles)
Chateau de Versailles

Through January 4
Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice
Musée du Louvre, Metro Musée du Louvre or Louvre Rivoli

Through January 4
Renoir in the 20th Century
Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais
3, avenue du Général Eisenhower, Metro Champs Elysées Clemenceau or Franklin Roosevelt

Through January 10, 2010
Deadline (Ideas of Mortality among International Artists)
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
11, avenue du Président Wilson, Metro Alma Marceau or Iéna

Through January 11, 2010
Bruegel, Memling, Van Eyck: the Brukenthal Collection
Musée Jacquemart André
158, Blvd Haussmann, Metro Miromesnil or St. Philippe du Roule

Through January 17, 2010
Chasing Napoleon
Palais de Tokyo
13, avenue du Président Wilson, Metro Alma Marceau or Iéna

Through January 17
Federico Fellini
Jeu de Paume
1, place de la Concorde, Metro Concorde

Through January 25, 2010
From Byzantine to Istanbul
Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais
3, avenue du Général Eisenhower, Metro Champs Elysées Clemenceau or Franklin Roosevelt

Through February 4, 2010
Art Nouveau Revival
Musée D'Orsay
2, rue Bellechasse, Metro Assemblée Nationale or Solférino
€5,50 - 8,00

Through February 7, 2010
The Dutch Golden Age
La Pinacothéque
28, place de la Madeleine, Metro Madeleine

Through February 20
Fauves and Expressionists, from Van Dongen to Otto Dix: Masterpieces of the Von der Heyt
Musée Marmottan-Monet
2, rue Louis-Boilly, Metro La Muette

Through February 28
Matisse and Rodin
Musée Rodin
79, rue de Varenne, Metro Varenne or Invalides

Through March 7
Isadora Duncan: A Living Sculpture
18, rue Antoine Bourdelle, Metro Faiguiére or Pasteur

Through March 8
Pierre Soulages Retrospective
Centre Pompidou
Place Georges Pompidou, Metro Rambuteau, Hotel de Ville, Chatelet

Exhibitions and Other Museums

Through December 13
Get Out of My Sun (furniture and household objects by Sylvain Dubuisson
VIA Gallery, Metro Gare de Lyon or Ledru-Rollin
29, avenue Daumesnil

Through December 31
Tales of the Eiffel Tower
First floor and stairs of the Eiffel Tower, Metro Trocadéro or École Militaire
€4.50 - 13.00

Through January 3, 2010
The French Revolution, Hidden Treasures of the Musée Carnavalet
Musée Carnavalet
23, rue de Sévigné, Metro Saint Paul or Chemin Vert

Through January 11
Gold of the Americas
Musée d'Histoire Naturelle (Galerie de Minéralogie)
36 rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Metro Gare d'Austerlitz, Jussieu, Censier-Daubenton Daubenton

Through January 17, 2010
Louis Comfort Tiffany: Colors and Light
Musée du Luxembourg
19, rue de Vaugirard, Metro Saint Sulpice

Through January 24
City of Gods: The Art of Teotihuacan
Musée du Quai Branly
55 Quai Branly, Metro Alma-Marceau, Bir Hakeim, École Militaire

Through January 31, 2010
Madeleine Vionnet - French fashion designer of the interwar years
Musée des Arts Décoratifs
107 -111, rue de Rivoli - 1st Arrondissement, Metro Palais Royale - Musée du Louvre
€6,50 - 8,00

Through January 31, 2010
Brigitte Bardot, the Carefree Years
Musée des Années 30-EspaceLandowski
28, avenue André Morizet, Boulogne-Billancourt, Métro: Marcel
Sembat or Boulogne Jean-Jaurès

Through February 7
Louis XIV: The Man and the King
Chateau de Versailles
Avenue Rockefeller - Versailles, France

Through July 11
The Art of Being a Man: Male Costumes in Africa and Oceania
Musée Dapper
35 bis rue Paul Valéry, Metro Victor Hugo

Music, Theater and Dance

Through January 10
Le Quatuor, Zany musical comedians
Théâtre des Variétés
7, blvd Montmartre, Metro Grands Boulevards
€16 - €46

Through January 17
We Want Miles: Jazz Face to Face with Its Legend
Cité de la Musique
221 avenue Jean Jaures, 19th, Metro Porte de Pantin

December 2, 6, 24, 25, 27, 29, 30
Platée (lyric comedy)
Palais Garnier
Intersection of rues Scribe and Auber, Metro Opéra
€7 - 172

December 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24
Andrea Chénier
Opéra Bastille
Place de la Bastille, Metro Bastille
€5 - 172

December 11, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 25, 26, 28 - 30
The Nutcracker
Opéra Bastille
Place de la Bastille, Metro Bastille
€5 - 87


Through December 29
Grande Ecurie - Grand Stables of Versailles
Chateau de Versailles
Avenue Rockefeller - Versailles, France

Through January 3, 2010
Crimexpo - Interactive display of crime scene investigation
Cite des Sciences
30, avenue Corentin Celtou - 19th Arrondissement
€7,00 - 10,00; Under 7: Free

A Look Ahead for January, 2010
Jan. 9 - 10: Paris Dog Show
Jan. 14, 17, 20, 23, 26, 29, Feb. 1, 4: Jules Massenet's Werther, Opéra Bastille
Jan. 22 - 26: House and Object Fair: Paris Nord Villepinte
Jan. 22 - 31: Retromobile Fair, Porte de Versailles
Jan. 25 - 29: Gregiev Conducts Tchaikovsky's Six Symphonies, Salle Pleyel
Jan. 26, 29, Feb. 1, 4, 13: Mozart's Idomeneo, Palais Garner
Jan. 28 - 31: International Circus Festival of Tomorrow, Pelouse de Reuilly

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Thank you for your interest and best regards,

The Welcome 2 France team
Tel. 1 (650) 267-4328
(free local call number in U.S. or Canada)

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