Saturday, November 22, 2008

More Christmas Stuff

Back along the Champs again, while drifting towards a bus stop, I took a look at some of the decorations on the avenue Montaigne, where all the top clothing designers have their flagship stores, and I visited the “Christmas village” along the Champs itself (below the Rond Point, in the parkland areas), which is something of a novelty, as I don't recall seeing it before.

The decorations on the avenue Montaigne (which branches off the Rond Point des Champs-Élysées, just like the Champs itself) were red rather than blue, and perhaps a bit more restrained, but I don't know who pays for them or how. They still looked nice.

The Christmas village was interesting. A number of these pop up around Paris during the Christmas season, but this is the first time I recall seeing it on the Champs. These villages are actually just rows of little wooden huts, usually designed to look like ski chalets, in which many merchants ply their trade. Usually they are selling stuff related to Christmas, or things that one traditionally sees only at Christmas, like special holiday foods. There are always a few, though, who are clearly itinerant merchants selling the same stuff all year long in many different venues, the only difference here being that their stands look like ski chalets.

As you might expect, foods sold in this village reflect local holiday tastes. I tried a cannelé, a kind of cake shaped like a small dome with ridges (like a tiny Bundt cake). I've seen them for years but have never tasted one. It tasted like a vanilla cake with a caramel topping and a texture like marshmallow inside. Tasty but nothing to write home about.

There were lots of other foods, of course. The theme of this particular village seemed to be globalization, as each chalet flew a flag of a different country or region. Some of the countries represented don't really celebrate Christmas, but I guess that's not important when there's money to be made. In addition to the usual foods stands, there were stands selling those cheap little handicrafts that seem to haunt just about every temporary exposition in the observable universe, stands selling household goods, stands selling bizarre gift items that are impossible to move at any other time of year, and so on. There were even some midway games that apparently got lost and drifted from the nearest country fair to the Christmas village.

The village seemed to be attracting a ton of people, despite the somewhat chilly air, but since it's on the Champs, that's only to be expected. Down at the bottom of the Champs, that eyesore Ferris wheel is up again, blocking the view of the Louvre and making huge amounts of money for its owner, who must be rubbing his hands with evil glee at this time of year. I thought that wheel was supposed to go away forever, but like a vampire, it keeps coming back and sucking life from the avenue.

I understand that French actress Marion Cotillard turned the lights on in some sort of Major Media Event when the avenue was lit. I didn't see her, but that's no big deal. She's a cutie, and she won an Oscar for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in the movie La Môme (La Vie en Rose in English), but I'm not into movie stars, I'm afraid (and by the way, the real Edith Piaf was never even remotely as cute as Cotillard, although she didn't look too ugly when she was young).

Anyway, I eventually got to my bus stop, and from there I went home.

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