A Parisian Christmas… Looking Back

December 5, 2012

I am trying to remember my most favourite Christmas?


Conjuring up memories… reminiscing over years gone by and slowly re-tracing time and picturing the celebrations as they were.

The friends, the family… the fuss and the fanfare… Truthfully, it is a jumble in this mind of mine… a kaleidoscope of glitter, tinsel and sparkle… The scrapbook of memories looms large as the holidays approach.

My first and only Christmas in Paris happened long ago… long before I had dreams of a French life… long before Europe was home… it was a time when all I knew were hot Christmas days.

My Aussie Christmas was tinged with blues and mauves… of the Jacaranda trees, the Agapanthus and the Hydrangeas.

Chestnuts roasting and snow laden pine trees were the stuff of fairytales… Until I went to Paris.


looking back… towards les invalides…


Looking back… twenty eight years to be exact, I can still remember the feel of the cold on my face and the freezing sting in my fingertips.

I can picture what I was wearing… the sweater, the pants, the coat…my hair… I can see the handsome face of my husband… we were two kids starting out in life on a great adventure.

I don’t think we knew just how great back then.

There is so much wonder in the unknown… we just didn’t realise.


looking back… the jardins des tuileries…


When we wandered in the Jardin des Tuileries that Christmas day we didn’t know that so much of our lives would be spent in France.

We had no anticipation of the emotional investment we would make in that foreign land.

How could we have foreseen that Paris would be a city that we would grow to love, that would hold special memories for us?

From the top of the Eiffel Tower, looking out, we had no idea that we would have three children, that they would speak French and that the home they would spend most of their Christmases in would be in France.

Falling in love with Provence?  Unimaginable.


looking back… towards the seine…


As we cruised down the Seine on one of the Bateaux Mouches, how could we predict that the main ‘tourist attractions’ of Paris would become familiar landmarks to us.

On that day we were filled with wonder for Les InvalidesNotre Dame, for the Louvre, Le Sacre Coeur and the Arc de Triomphe… for the glory and grandeur that is Paris.

Now those places are like old acquaintances…we see each other from time to time… we enjoy the moment and yet we are not compelled to be in constant touch.


looking back… towards the louvre…


The tastes of that Christmas were also firsts.

All that is so familiar now… so routine… so much a part of my shopping list… was new and different.

I have acquired a European palette… an appreciation for the importance of season when it comes to eating.

I have adopted the traditions of the northern hemisphere. Who would have thought?


My passion for decorating and my desire to create a festive atmosphere over the holidays could well have stemmed from that Parisian Christmas.

The joy of witnessing that which had been purely folklore to an an Aussie girl was nothing short of miraculous.

My eyes were widened and it would seem that they have stayed that way ever since… xv


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  • Belle Inspiration Magazine says:

    You’ve said it all perfectly. I think it is best to discover life little by little – that way we can be surprised and enjoy each new adventure. And aren’t we lucky to have discovered so much in France with the one we love!!
    Here’s to many more lovely Christmas memories!

  • Nancye Visser says:

    A wonderful account of your journey and adventure,the beauty and innocence of being young,eyes wide open,ready to take on the wonderful world of the unknown,the interesting stories come with a brave sense of adventure and a passion that keeps me inspired daily…thanks for another beautiful story..

  • Catherine says:

    I just love your posts, Vicki…you write so beautifully…I too have such a passion for festive decorations…I think I get more excited every year ;-)
    Thank you for popping by…always lovely to hear from you.
    Wishing you a very Happy Christmas full of JOY.

  • simone says:

    I love your description of how you & your husband had no idea that day of what France would become to you, isn’t that incredible?! Who knew! Love your photos of Paris too.

    Thinking of you & wishing you well Vicki XX

  • What a wonderful morning read. I can only imagine but it is so wonderful to have all of these blogs in order to go “imagining” along. Those memories but be absolutely incredible. Merry Christmas to you and your ‘french’ family!

  • Pamela RG says:

    Wow, what an adventure. Most of the time, we really do not know where life will take us. We just have to take the leap of faith and make the best of it. Wonderful pictures of Paris.

  • Veronica says:

    Hi Vicki

    Reading this sounds just like a magical fairy tale imbued richly with layers of beautiful memories!!! If I would want a Winter Christmas the one place I would love to experience it in would have to be Paris!

    Sending loads of festive cheer for a wonderful season of Christmas!


  • Anita Rivera says:

    Ma chère amie,

    Like you, I grew up in a hot climate….in Los Angeles, California, where Christmas could reach up to 90 degrees F. I always dreamt of living somewhere where it snowed for Christmas, and I got my wish when I moved to Boston with my husband. Now we live in Minnesota, another snowy place, however, this year we are still waiting for a real downpour.

    There is nothing however, like Paris during Christmas. The expression of the season through the fairytale images, the lights, the FOOD and the people….it is so special and the afterglow seems to give Paris that patina that is part of her landscape all year round.

    Roasted chestnuts, les friandises, oh my. Enjoy yourself dear one, and THANK YOU for coming to visit and to leave a comment. I hope you listened to the music for without it, my post makes no sense!

    BON MARDI! Anita

  • This is a beautiful post, Vicki. I especially love what you say about those key tourist attractions becoming like old acquaintances with whom you no longer feel compelled to be in constant touch. That makes so much sense to me as your connection to the city has deepened. I feel this way even about London, though I only spend a few weeks there every year or two. The wonders that were once the main draw for me are now the beautiful backdrop to the richer and deeper connection I have to the city. I also love how you talk about just starting out with your husband, and what you couldn’t have imagined at the time. Just a lovely piece of writing. xo Gigi

  • Nicole says:

    Paris changes you forever, doesn’t it?

  • Amy Kortuem says:

    I love your retrospective musings here, Vicki. Isn’t it amazing to do that to your life and to see how certain events stand out and seem to fill in the puzzle pieces of how your life is now?

    I’m glad Paris was a part of your “plan!”

  • Cynthia says:

    It is good to look back sometimes. I love the pictures in this post, I have never been to Paris, always wanted to go there maybe someday.


  • I guess I’ve never taken the time to ponder just HO many things change for someone when you pull up roots and move to an entirely different country…You have embraced it all so well…One of my favorite images ever, is of your living room at Christmas, (i think) with the huge glass vases filled with candles everywhere…Are you doing that again this year? Have a great day. Mona

    • Vicki says:

      I don’t know what this year will bring yet Mona… but definitely loads of red and silver and lots of candles… I will post some pics once I get down there and get organised… My decorations are always the last minute it would seem… :)

  • Vicki, thanks for sharing your lovely walk through Christmas past with us. I can imagine the sights, sounds, smells and tastes you experienced that first Paris Christmas, and am so glad they’ve lingered in your life in such a beautiful way. Isn’t life a wonder? So many twists and turns and surprises. I’m glad you landed in France and that you’ve so graciously shared your experience with us in your books and blog! XO

  • Sounds like you have a lot to be grateful for-start a graditude journal. I have one + love to read what I was grateful for on a particular day. You write so beautifully. Happy Tuesday from S CA. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

  • A story of history in the making, an ironic accounting of your visit to France which was the predicator of a lifetime journey. Amazing, Vicki. Poignant, another word for the style of Vicki Archer. Have the happiest & merriest….

  • A lovely post Vicki about your adopted country and traditions………they both suit you so well! Who is that handsome man looking out over the river, I think I might recognize him. xx

  • Once one has experienced Paris, the heart has an altered beat and the soul a joyful refrain. Living in France is indeed a dream realized, full of memories looking back and looking forward in anticipation.

    • Vicki says:

      I do enjoy looking backwards but I also like not knowing what is ahead… Surprises… and sadly they aren’t always good… but many times they are… that’s the spice of life…

  • Cathy says:

    The lingering memory I have of my first and only Christmas time in Paris – something I had never seen in the US, is the roasted chestnuts being sold on the streets outside the Grand Magasins. The image, even the smell is a treasured memory.

    • Vicki says:

      I love the smell too… actually I think the smell is better than the taste sometimes… but that cannot be said for glacé chestnuts… :)

  • mary says:

    Hi Vicki, The wonder of life well-spent. Have a wonderful Christmas season this year of 2012. xoxo

  • cynthia woodyard says:

    The most brilliant thing about your beautiful story is that you were the important ingredient in this delicious success. Your intelligence, fearlessness, curiosity, energy, along with a great husband equal a gorgeous, inspiring life. Thankyou so much for sharing it, and Paris, with us! X

  • Brace yourself for something horribly corny but well-meant from your very American friend: this is the essence of French Essence. Yes, I said it…because it is true! Once our eyes have been opened to such singular beauty, well… You have such beauty in your life and yet you never take it for granted, the best of Holiday gifts to hold dear all year ’round…
    Gros Bisous.

    • Vicki says:

      Thank you Heather… I try never to take for granted the beauty or the people in my life… I know sometimes we slip up… but never on purpose and always with the best intentions…:)
      See you soon… can’t wait….

  • Kelly S. says:

    What a lovely post! It takes me back to my very first visit to Paris, just before Christmas. It was bitterly cold, and I could barely afford the cost of a cafe creme, but I was utterly enchanted from the start. It’s been some time since I was there last, but your blog keeps France beautifully in mind, and keeps hope alive that maybe, just maybe…. Merci!

  • Jacqueline says:

    Dear Vicki,
    Your first Christmas must have been SO magical for you to have remembered every detail with such affection. A very magical time for you. Wishing you and your family another magical time for 2012 . XXXX

    • Vicki says:

      Thank you Jackie… I think all Christmas times are magical… but I suppose it was hindsight that made me feel so nostalgic… :)

  • Gina says:

    I loved reading this and looking at these wonderful photos!

  • What a fun post! You are so right, it’s nice not knowing what possibilities lie just ahead. Your images make me dream about them from sunny California.
    Enjoy your holiday season.

  • Marielle says:

    Lovely post. Just lovely. I’ve had a couple Paris Christmases and your post makes me remember. Thank you.

  • Ok, Vicki! How does each post, each description of Paris get better than the one before? This was spectacular in every way! Merry Early Christmas! I can’t wait to enjoy a Christmas in Paris through your eyes! Thanks for sharing it all with us!

  • I love reading about your life and experiences in France, Vicki. I think another book is in order. I’ve already read the first two cover to cover a few times. Perhaps something fashion oriented? Regardless what you choose your topic to be, it will be a fabulous book.

  • dianedevine says:

    …Enjoy revisiting Paris though your eyes, my best christmas was experienced at Notre Dame with my grand children at the christmas eve family service. Words can”t describe the experience but it was powerful,and once in a lifetime high.

    • Vicki says:

      Diane, I am sure having your grand children with you added that extra meaning… Christmas and children… and Paris… how wonderful…

  • KATHYSUE says:

    Vicki! What a lovely trip to Paris!! Having just gone for the first time this year, you helped me remember my beautiful two weeks in Paris. So beautifully written, thank you for sharing your sweet memories, Merry Christmas,

  • What a lovely post. Thank you for sharing it with all of us! I feel as if I were there (and young again!).

  • miss b says:

    What a lovely post which sent me day-dreaming to my past Christmases and how they have changed over time. Christmas Day has to be frosty with candles and fires lit(and hopefully snowy but certainly not raining!) So true when you said ‘there is so much wonder in the unknown…we just didn’t realise’

  • trish Murphy says:

    I really enjoyed reading of your special memories of your first Christmas in Paris.It must have been so magical I am yet to experience a white Christmas.I do remember the beautiful decorations in Europe and I still have the ones that I bought in 1978 while driving around with a girlfriend.I would love a Christmas in Paris with my family.Thank you for sharing your lovely memories and thoughts.xTrish

  • Kaaren says:

    Last reading this post but as usual you brightened my morning. My brother and sister in law leave for Paris on 13th December . They were going over 26 years ago but a little baby boy changed all that. I am so excited for them . As we say Travel changes you forever . Have a beautiful safe Xmas . Looking so forward to your decorating with candles etc…

  • noreen says:

    what beautiful images and eloquently written words transport me from a hot windy southern hemisphere city to elegant Paris, yes i can smell the chestnuts, feel the fresh winter air on my face and hear the beautiful Christmas carols. Thanks for always sharing the such beautiful posts.

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