As the days began to get shorter and the air started to become colder, the realisation that Christmas was upon us hit me rather quickly. Upon my return from swelteringly hot Monaco, I was greeted to a breezy chill in the wind, coupled with the littering of towering Christmas trees complete with flashing decorations and beaming lights. It was a rather beautiful sight.
All around Paris you could spot these enormous, sky-scraping trees, Christmas markets being set up with dozens of stands, and ice rinks beginning to appear for keen visitors to strut their stuff on the ice. Paris was the last place I ice skated in fact, 9 years ago, and after that experience I concluded it wasn’t best for me to try it ever again. Mulled wine was everywhere, definitely not my thing, but hot chocolates topped with whipped cream were my go-to after a long slugging of work at University or when the temperature started getting a little too cold to feel my face.
Regular trips to the Lindt café in outside the Opera Garnier, a beautifully bewitching opera house centrally located in the city, were visits I thoroughly enjoyed. You can pick up a hot chocolate, whether that be milk, dark or white is your choice (go for white), as well as shots of pure chocolate which are delicious but NOT to be had with a hot chocolate. Your stomach will feel like it’s reaching the point of explosion, something I learned the hard way when I felt like I was going to vomit the entire way through a football match which I made the journey to attend shortly after a Lindt café cameo.
Opera Garnier’s vicinity consists of many boutique stores for avid shoppers, and during Christmas the busyness was insane. Even away from that area, the Louis Vuitton shop on the Champs Elysees regularly had lines all around the block and around the street on a weekend, I had never seen the city so busy in all of my life. My regular city walks? Well they were best done on weekdays now, otherwise I’d have absolutely no chance of even getting down a road without being trapped inside a cocoon of visitors, with flocks of people coming over with British and American accents as covid restrictions began to be lifted (albeit prematurely).
The University’s “buddy programme”, in which internationals could get paired with a SciencesPo undergraduate, offered wholesome Christmas events and meals for students subscribed to the initiative, and I feel tremendous guilt for not taking part in more of their events as the buddy I was paired with is the sweetest person you could imagine. If you are to go here, I highly recommend signing up to the programme as it will help you form connections with fellow students, as I know making new friends is probably the most difficult part of the early stages of University, and having to do it twice is a daunting experience.
Christmas, or Noel as it’s referred to by the French, is just as widely celebrated as it is back in the United Kingdom, with many of the traditions being the same. Presents, advent calendars, trees and German-style markets are all crucial aspects of Christmas tradition even in France, whilst those who celebrate it religiously have similar practices in some of the many stunning churches Paris houses, from the famed Sacre Coeur to other smaller venues. It is a great shame the Notre Dame is not currently open, as it was a beautiful Christmas setting when I visited the city In December three years earlier, but the Christmassy feeling is undoubtedly felt.
Alas, it was time for me to return home the week before Christmas, flying home shortly after watching the opening showing of Spider-Man No Way Home (I forgot to mention French cinemas are vastly cheaper than British ones), and following a mix up with the test results I landed back in Manchester safely to enjoy Christmas with my family.