Joyeux Noël! in Paris

It's day seven (for me) of the A-Z blog challenge! This month I'll be sharing all about my Christmas/New Year travels in NYC and Europe – providing insight into the places I went, reviewing the hotels I stayed at, and telling my story. Today's letter is J for Joyeux Noël or what we did in Paris at Christmas time! Feel free to follow along as I make my way through the alphabet this month! :)


When Justin and I arrived in Paris, I had a full itinerary of things I wanted to do. From trying the best croissants and drinking the world's finest hot chocolates to Christmas shopping and visiting tourist attractions, we had a lot on our to-do list. Unfortunately with jet lag, long lines at the airport, and less time in Paris than I expected we were only able to do a minimal amount of things that I had on my list. Oops.

Place Vendôme

Here's what we did –

After hotel check-in we were starving, but didn't have a clue where to eat, so we headed toward some department stores that were already on the list. I knew from the research I had done that at least one of the stores would have a small cafe or some food that we could purchase on the run.

We began our journey heading toward…

1. Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, & Le Bon Marché

All of which happen to be great places for Christmas shopping and learning about Parisian culture.

Our bags and pockets were visually checked by French security guards as we entered Printemps, the first department store we stumbled upon, making sure that no guns, bombs, or other threats to the Parisian way of life were coming in with us.

A tree at Printemps that I could actually fit in my camera lens! :)
Check this page out to see all of the beautiful window

Almost immediately we noticed the beautiful floral decorations honoring the 150th anniversary of the store. There were bright, colorful "Christmas" trees throughout the store displaying some of the most gorgeous lights I had ever seen. :)

And pink. Printemps used a lot of pink in decorating for this anniversary. If you were obsessed with the Hello Kitty store as a child, the decorations in Printemps would have made every childhood fantasy you ever had come true.

But even though we had come to see the Christmas decorations, Justin and I were starving. Food was of dire importance! Where was it and how fast could we get our hands on it?

The directory indicated that there was a small Café Fauchon in the basement, so we headed there where we ordered a bread and cheese plate, sparkling water, and macarons. It was a fitting first meal for our first day in France, don't you think? ;)

We explored Printemps just a bit more before moving on to Galeries Lafayette.

not my video

While Printemps was all about pink and flowers, Galeries Lafayette decorations focused on Star Wars and a robot who noticed Paris from outer space and decided to come down and go Christmas shopping at Galeries Lafayette. (Think Wall-E.) It was adorable!

Tree at Galeries Lafayette

Printemps, from what I could tell, was only one building while Galeries Lafayette covered three! There were whole floors dedicated to one thing or another – women's clothing, men's clothing, lingerie, shoes, purses, souvenirs, regular food, gourmet food, and, my favorite, an uncrowded, free rooftop view of Paris! And, if you are there during the Christmas season, be sure to check out the giant 68 foot tree in the center of the main store! (You can't miss it!)

rooftop view at Galeries Lafayette

We also tried chocolate-filled beignets, and hot tomato and cheese filled croissants there! Yum! :)

Did you know that they have an artist painting French scenes there? … As in for purchase? Yeah, totally bought one! :) (You can find the artist's station right next to the tourist gifts, bathroom, and a small café on the top floor right before you climb the stairs for your rooftop view, if you are looking.)

Beautiful decorations at Le Bon Marché

Justin and I didn't spend much time in Le Bon Marché, the third of the major Paris department stores. It is located in a different area of town and wasn't as easy to walk to as the others were for us. Le Bon Marché also has a variety of items for sale including books, housewares, food, and clothing.

No matter which store you visit, there is something for everyone at each.

In between Christmas department store shopping and exploring, we stopped at a few different places around Paris…

2. Trying all of the hot chocolate

Even though there are many places to get good (from my American perspective) hot chocolate in Paris, one stood out above all others: Angelina's.

Justin and I got up early to arrive at opening (7:30am) for breakfast after we saw a line there the night before. Unlike American breakfast places, however, Parisians (and tourists) must like to sleep in; we had no wait.

At first the prices scared us: 20€ for a breakfast of pastries and sweet drinks? No way! But as touristy as Angelina's may be, we decided to try it anyway, and boy, am I glad we did!


Like I said, we ordered the 20€ breakfast. It came with your choice of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate; orange, grapefruit, or lemon (??!) juice, plus a croissant, pain au chocolat, pain aux raisins, and bread roll.

Justin took a chance and ordered the hot chocolate instead of the coffee, a big risk for him, and he ended up, surprisingly, liking it. The chocolate was thick and dark. It came with milk, whipped cream, and sugar so that you could adjust it to your liking.

Let me put it this way: we bought the box of powdered hot chocolate mix before we left CDG on our way home. Angelina's hot chocolate was so good I didn't think it would be possible to recreate it and I knew I would never be able to find a drinking chocolate near as good in the US so the boxed powder was my last hope.


And guess what? The Angelina mix isn't as good at home. And I haven't found a drinking chocolate outside of Paris that even compares to Angelina's!

I guess I need to go back. *shrugs*

High tourist prices and all: Angelina's was (and is) well worth a visit. (Or two. Or three.)

Of course, hot chocolate wasn't the only sweet we enjoyed while in Paris; Justin and I were on a mission to…

3. Scout out the best macarons.


Here's what we decided:

Laudurée were the most colorful and easiest to find with tea shops located all over the city and even in the airport. Unfortunately, we found these to be overpriced and touristy; they were too similar to what we can already find in America. Plus, they charge extra for a box? The boxes are adorable, but… Isn't that like buying a Tiffany box without having any actual jewelry? What's the point?

Fauchon macarons are almost as equally findable as Laudurée. For starters, you can find them almost anywhere in Paris; they were in department stores as well as small shops and tearooms everywhere. The macarons were good and flavorful, but ultimately not our favorite.

Angelina's macarons were some of the most expensive. It was hard to pick a macaron from their store after having filled up on delicious croissants and hot chocolate at breakfast. ;) Nevertheless, we tried them and ultimately came to the conclusion that we liked another brand better.

• And finally, Pierre Hermé! These were the ones we ultimately decided were the best-tasting and worthy of being given as a gift to our friends when we finally got to Germany. Deliciously soft on the inside and just the perfect amount of crunchy on the outside. Plus there were plenty of mundane and crazy (like Ketchup?!) flavors to try.

When we were sick of sweets, we wandered into the the Sacré-Cœur side of town and stumbled upon a cute, small restaurant where we went in and tried…

4. Raclette

a delicious melty cheese the French serve under a hot iron (almost like fondue) and pair with potatoes, pickles, meat, and bread.

During the meal, we sat next to a German couple (who arrived after us) and tried to pick out words from their German while they tried to understand our English! It was both fun and hilarious! :) … I wonder if they knew we knew like we knew they knew? Hmm… :)

Following our delicious meal of raclette cheese and wine, we ventured to the…

5. Champs Elysees and explored the Christmas Market.


This is where I tried roasted nuts and hot mulled wine, neither of which I liked.

It was fun seeing all of the beautiful Christmas lights! But the Christmas market wasn't really my thing. If you've been to an arts and crafts fair here in the states, you'll know what I'm talking about. :) It feels cute and touristy … and nothing there actually seems worth the money they are asking for. Perhaps the market is better to avoid unless you are into that kind of thing?


Before the night ended we attended…

6. a concert at Sainte-Chapelle.


Was it worth it? Do I recommend it?

Honestly, no.

It was dark and cold. The church (if you can call it that) was weirdly laid out. And the "concert" was made up of a solo violinist who barely spoke a word during the whole hour long show.

In other words: it was boring. And with jet lag, we were practically falling asleep.

I had hoped for so much more. :-/

As if that weren't bad enough, I then had to give up my desire to see Vaux Le Vicomte when I realized train tickets would be upwards of $100 because we were so last minute booking them. To make me feel better and satisfy an item on Justin's own bucket list, we ventured into

7. Le Train Bleu

at the Gare de Lyon train station.

We had foie gras (ick!), a vegetable platter (meh),

and a beautiful vanilla créme brulée and pear tart (YUM!).

With the walls covered in murals, a gorgeous view of the outside, and an interesting (to an American) view of the interior of the train station on the other side, this restaurant did it's part to amuse and comfort me before we boarded the train for Strasbourg from the main station (not Gare de Lyon) later that day.

So, your turn.

Have you been to France during the Christmas season? If you have, did you do any of the things I did? And if you have not, would you consider going after reading this post?

Be sure to check out my list here of even more things you could do both during the Christmas season and not in Paris!

And this is a post that better explains my first day in the city of love. :)


  1. This is probably as close to France as I"ll ever get, so I enjoyed the trip very much! Hope you are enjoying the AtoZ!
    Revisit the Tender Years with me during the #AtoZChallenge at Life & Faith in Caneyhead!

    1. Aww! Glad I got to virtually take you there! :)

  2. OK, I only just "met" you, but I'm disappointed in you! You came to France, and you had cheese with sparkling water? Hahaha, how about a glass of wine?
    If you like raclette and macarons you have to come to Switzerland! Ladurée is pretty, I agree, I do have their bag charms (did check them out?) but "Luxemburgerli" from Sprüngli in Zurich are by far the greatest macarons to me!
    I had to laugh about the hot chocolate mix. It was kind of clear that it wouldn't taste the same at home. Isn't that the charm of traveling? And you are so right: it gives you a reason to come back!

    1. Hey now! I had wine with my raclette! That's got to count for something, right? Plus we had just gotten off the plane. Hydration is important! Then we can talk wine! :)

      I definitely want to come to Switzerland! I need to try fondue, for real! And if I come, I will definitely check out the "Luxemburgerli" from Sprüngli. Honestly I had no idea they made macarons in Switzerland?! They aren't exactly known for it … are they?

      Oh – but I sooooo wanted the chocolate mix to work! Do you blame me for trying? I was desperate! ;) And unfortunately, I can't buy a plane ticket every time I want to drink hot chocolate. :( That would be the life though! *le sigh* :)

    2. That would be the life, indeed!!!
      PS: I could not have wine for breakfast either. Just teasing you ;-)

  3. Didn't do everything you wanted to do in Paris? I guess you're just going to have to go back...

    Liz A. from
    Laws of Gravity

    1. lol. I guess so! There's just no getting around it…

  4. You really did pack a lot in, despite your miscalculation! Did you enjoy your time? I was in Paris last November and saw the huge tree in the Galeries Lafayette, but all the stuff in there is really expensive so I basically walked in, looked at the tree, and walked out again! Then retreated to a nearby cafe for a budget drink and snack :) I do love Paris though, I'd love to go back soon.

    1. You didn't go to the top floor for the view?

      I didn't think the food in Galeries Lafayette was that expensive, but I've also only been to Europe twice. Maybe the more you go, the wiser you become? Plus, we were just getting snacks for the most part. The cheese plate we bought at Printemps *was* expensive, but we were starving and didn't know where to go.

      Do you have any suggestions for budget cafes or places to get good snacks around Paris?

  5. It feels strange to read about Christmas in spring as I want to get as far away from it as possible to reach the sun, finally! Otherwise I'm sure you enjoyed your time in Paris over Christmas time. We spend our Christmas this year in Zürich, Switzerland. Also fabulous. #TravelTuesday

    1. Ugh. I dislike the summer. It gets too hot where I live. :-/

      I bet Zurich was really pretty during the holiday season! I love the pictures on your blog of the cloud covered alps! :)

  6. Hi Mandy! I have two pieces of good news for you!
    1) You CAN indeed make your own Angelina's hot chocolate at home!!! It's heavy cream and powdered sugar that really make the difference - no water! The recipe website I used for it in the past doesn't exist anymore, but I'm sure you can search it down somewhere.
    2) I don't know what kind of information you received, but Vaux-le-Vicomte is best accessed by taking the RER to Melun in zone 5, which is a set price ticket of around 10-14 euros. From Melun to V-L-V there is a tram in the non-winter months, so during Christmas, I would just take a taxi from the Melun station. All that to say, though, is transport tickets to V-L-V are set if you go there the way the French people do!
    Thanks for linking up with us on Travel Tuesday!

    1. Actually, I've seen where bloggers have claimed to make Angelina's hot chocolate at home, but I've been a bit doubtful as to whether or not they have actually accomplished it. I wish the site you used still existed; that would be super helpful.

      Also what in the world is RER? We were given those directions by the hotel in an email (minus the "set price" info) and still we could not figure it out! I thought I was doing it correctly, but obviously I was not… Next time I attempt to visit VLV I will definitely be speaking to someone in person about how to get there. I do not understand French public transportation! :(


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