Being in Paris for the third straight Christmas is a gift unto itself yet today Christmas day, we continued to receive gifts that nourished the heart and the spirit -- and yes, the stomach too!
Mother Nature gave us the first gift of the day -- a morning filled with sunshine -- cold but sunny and dry. The forecast was for 60% chance of rain for Christmas day but when we walked out of the apartment, this was what greeted us. Sunlight! A great Christmas day present!
We had decided to hear Christmas Day mass at a different church, one that we could walk to. St. Germain de Pres is the oldest church in Paris but since we had heard Sunday mass there, we walked right past.
What glorious weather for Christmas morning! It was bitingly cold but the sky was blue and the sun was out -- again bathing the city in what I call "Paris glow".
We were on Rue Sevres and facing my favorite store -- Bon Marche.
But not today, we were headed for a small church that we had discovered a few days ago.
Eglise Saint Ignace is the Jesuit church in Paris and is hidden inside an ordinary building. If you did not look up to see the small sign, you would walk right past it.
But the minute you go inside the building and open the inner doors you come face to face with this beautiful church.
It dates back from the late 1800s when the owner of the building donated space for the Jesuits to build their main church. It has since been covered up by the commercial building that now surrounds it but inside is this peaceful, serene haven of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Fourteen Jesuits concelebrated Christmas day mass. The smallish congregation of regular mass goers sang accompanied by the full tones of the pipe organ. Such an uplifting experience.
We both felt so lucky and humbled to have heard mass on this day, in this church dedicated to St. Ignatius de Loyola.
The mass ended past 12 noon and we decided we would continue to walk to our next destination. The 6th arrondissement has most everything in close proximity to each other -- from churches (St. Germain de Pres, St. Sulpice, Miraculous Medal, St. Ignace and more) to streets that are crammed with the best and the trendiest stores.
Rue du Cherche Midi is a long road that extended from the St. Germain area all the way to Montparnasse. It's a very old and aristocratic neighborhood but that isn't why my heart skipped a beat when I saw the street sign.
I knew that this street was home to Poilane -- french bread and pastry maker nonpareil. I had read so much about this shop and had been wanting to try it for myself. Poilane supplies most of the best restaurants in Paris with their bread and they usually have long lines in front of their stores. Their have been known to run out of their specials quite often.
But again -- here was a gift for Christmas Day. Poilane was open -- to my great surprise. And there were only a few people in the store. I didn't even have to stand in line.
Poilane of course deserves a post to itself so let us leave this for the meantime.
We continue our walk down Rue Bonaparte. The streets are almost deserted -- people are probably sleeping off the excesses of the previous nights reveillon.
From Rue Bonaparte, we turn and stop by one of my favorite churches in Paris -- Eglise de Saint Sulpice. There's something about its towering yet simple majesty that I just never get tired of. The church seems to be undergoing cleaning and restoration -- portions of the structure gleam in the noon light.
St. Sulpice leads us to the back door of Jardin de Luxembourg, our favorite public park in Paris. As usual, we forget to pack a picnic lunch so we'll just stroll and relax and enjoy the beautiful day.
Favorite Paris pastime -- sit on one of the green metal chairs and put our feet up. The bright sun does little to dispel the wind and the cold but we turn our faces to it -- soaking up what warmth we can feel. The gardens are almost bare of flowers but the grass is green and lush -- you would not think it was the middle of winter.
It is past 2 pm when we reluctantly take our leave of Jardin de Luxembourg. Pan frolics and plays his flute near one of the entrances -- it's been such a happy day, I feel like doing a dance of joy myself.
Before walking home -- a 20 minute leisurely stroll from the park -- we duck into a corner brasserie -- Le Luxembourg. Time for a late lunch -- and it's always time for my favorite beer! We sit outdoors and the wind whips through the plastic awnings -- thankfully the waiter turns on the heaters above our table.
The brasserie caters to park visitors, tourists, locals alike and the menu board has a pretty good line up that range from sandwiches, appetizers, salads to full meals.
We enjoyed looking out at the Jardin de Luxembourg but were glad to be semi-inside. The temperature had dropped since the sun had gone behind the clouds.
The plate of assorted hams and dry sausages plus a very good pate are perfect with the beer.
It's light for lunch but quite a filling snack -- enough to tide us over till the evening.
Just before dusk, we head out of the apartment again to attend the fourth of the concerts I had booked online. We crossed the Boulevard Saint Michel and I looked back at my favorite, my very own bridge with my initials N and N. This is Pont Au Change. Of course N stands for Napoleon who must be rolling in his grave because of my perfidious thoughts.
We head for the Pont d' Arcole which links Notre Dame Cathedral with the Hotel de Ville -- which is not a hotel but is really Paris' city hall. From afar, we can see it all lit up, twinkling with lights. It looks like a huge fairytale castle, something straight out of Disney. The entire scene -- the beautifully lit buildings, the reflection on the Seine and an almost full moon above -- such a gorgeous, magical Christmas night in Paris!
Even from the side, the Hotel de Ville is brightly lit -- illuminating our walk as we head for the Eglise des Billettes -- the site of the Christmas concert we had tickets for.
All the past concerts we had attended had featured classical music -- tonight's program however would be an evening of Gospel Music with the group Gospel River. Jay loves this kind of music and I thought it would be a great idea to surprise him with music that he really enjoys -- after all, he had been listening to my choices the past days.
And we were both not disappointed -- Gospel River turned out a foot stomping, arms waving, joy inducing show -- as only gospel singers can!
After the hour and a half concert, it was time to head back to apartment. Since the walk takes about 20 minutes, there was no real need to take the metro. On the way back, we stopped in front of the Hotel de Ville again to watch the skaters on the special rink the city had constructed for the holidays.
It looked like everyone was enjoying their Christmas evening!
We passed by Notre Dame once more on the walk back to the apartment.
Such an awe inspiring and exalting sight!
As we ended this Christmas evening, I felt we had been given this wonderful gift -- to take home and keep in our hearts and minds for always.