Paris Christmas


The world economy might have taken a nosedive, but you'd never know it when it gets dark on a late December afternoon in Paris. The lights come on, the streets are jammed, the cafes fill up and the cash registers ring merrily in the stores. There's a skating rink in front of Hotel de Ville and a ferris wheel ("La Grand Roue," Gallery II) at the end of the brightly lit Champs-Élysées (left and Gallery II). In the neighborhoods, lighting displays are few and tasteful (mostly blue and white) and there's not a lot of overt commercialism, reflecting the Parisans' typically low-key approach to Christmas.  But everywhere you go there's great, cheerful energy and lots of "bonjours" and "bonsoirs." It's not perfect -- some very un-Parisian prefab seasonal retail booths have sprung up in a couple of areas where they shouldn't be -- but Paris still has to rank among the best places to be for holidays.