Somehow I thought staying here for the holidays would ease the tension of this time of year. I’m not not traveling during peak season. There’s no panic of last-minute Christmas shopping.
But ease the tension? Yeah right!
I think it’s just the nature of December that elicits a certain measure of stress: days grow shorter and colder, the year is careening to its end. We’re checking our lists twice. What have we done with 2011? And are we ready for the New Year?
So yes, I’m staying put in Paris, but I feel busy just the same. That’s why I was relieved when I received an offer of a guest post this week. Yay – someone else will write the content! Gives me just a wee break.
I was also happy to see the subject pitched as Paris and London, two lively winter cities. It helps give me some perspective when all I think as I make my way through the streets is gray, rain, and cold: brrr!
Actually, it’s a beautiful time of year in both these cities, even if it is chilly. London also seems to keep popping up on my radar; I think a trip on the Eurostar may not be too far in my future.
For now, enjoy Leah’s guest post. I hope you’re staying sane as we wind up the year.
Enjoy time with family and friends!
Guest Post: A Tale of Two Winter Cities (London and Paris Events and Festivals) by Leah Prendergast
London and Paris are two European cities that capture the attention of tourists every year because of iconic landmarks, world-famed museums, adventurous cuisines, outdoor activities, boutique shopping and vibrant nightlife. With so much to see and do, both cities make for popular destinations. Traveling in both cities is a breeze with mass transit.
The bustling city of London is home to a plethora of renowned museums. One of the most popular is the British Museum, showcasing exhibits from prehistoric to modern times. Some of the main highlights include the Parthenon sculptures, the Rosetta Stone and the mummies in the Ancient Egypt collection.
Another favorite, located on the banks of the Thames River, is the Tate Modern. This national museum features contemporary art by top artists from Gauguin to Damien Hirst. The gallery in the museum has a restaurant that offers panoramic views across the city. It’s a wonderful way to soak in the culture of London.
The British cuisine is comfort food at its best. From fish and chips to syrup pudding, London boasts a plethora of restaurants to delight the palate. Located near the Buckingham Palace, the famous Boisdale of Belgravia is renowned for its potatoes and whiskey. From riverside gardens to rooftop terraces, there are plenty of venues to dine al fresco in London. Terence Conran’s Boundary features a rooftop terrace with magnificent vistas of Canary Wharf, the Gherkin and the red rooftops of East London.
The festivals throughout the winter season in London mark the city’s enduring love of the arts, music and tradition.
This is the capital’s most festive winter event and runs from November through January. Christmas markets, fair rides, observations wheels, a Santa’s grotto, along with the biggest ice skating rink decorate the park with a magical feeling of the winter season.
Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree
The lighting of the tree in Trafalgar Square marks the beginning of the Christmas festivities in London. Thousands attend to join in holiday shopping at the Trafalgar Market and caroling throughout the season.
This lively event is hosted in March and is highly attended by both locals and tourists. Attendees have opportunities to learn the culture and history of whiskey. During this event, samples to test and try hundreds of whiskey brands are offered.
Known as the City of Light, every step in Paris reveals its cultural romance with architecture, art and sumptuous cuisine. One of its most recognizable monuments, the Eiffel Tower, is breathtaking to behold. This architectural wonder of iron artwork stands over 300 metres, and one can walk the steps to the top or take an elevator. Once on top, a wondrous scene of this beautiful city is revealed below.
Emerging from the 12th century as a medieval fortress, the Louvre has evolved into the globe’s most popular museum. With over 35,000 exhibits of artwork, the museum has a mammoth collection dating from antiquity to the early modern era. Masterpieces from European artists such as Rubens, Da Vinci , Vermeer and Delacroix are on permanent display. Roman, Islamic and Egyptian artifacts abound throughout the exhibits.
No visit to Paris is complete without exploring the Notre Dame Cathedral. This marvel of Gothic architecture is the most beautiful cathedral in Europe, revealing the past personality of medieval Paris. Statuary, dramatic towers, stained glass and spires grace the tower. Steps leading to the top of the north tower provide a stunning view.
Not only does Paris feature a wide range of attractions, the city celebrates its love of the arts and tradition with special events during the winter season.
Every year, the city of Paris celebrates winter with its 9,000 square foot skating rink in front of the grand Hotel de Ville. There are professional instructors to supervise and skates can be rented. For children, there’s a smaller rink and a great sled run. The rink is open from December through March.
Lined in traditional clusters of wood chalets, this is Paris’s largest Christmas market. Holiday treats like specialty sausages, mulled wine and gingerbread are served throughout the market. Whether you’re looking to take in a scenic winter stroll or stock up on handcrafted toys, a visit is sure to be enjoyed. Open from November to January.
Through-out December and January, Notre Dame recreates the nativity story on the cathedral’s steps every half hour. There are mystery plays and Latin masses to add to the season’s delights.
With so many historic landmarks and winter events, both London and Paris offer a great vacation for any winter traveller. If you have to choose between the two, you may have to flip a coin.