It’s the week running up to Christmas. I’m sitting, as I usually do, at my desk, staring out of the window as I continue to procrastinate writing my essay. Yet I find myself pondering something a little different. I’m confronted with the contrast of where I am today, and where I was exactly a year ago.
This Christmas, I’ll spend the holidays with my loved ones, in my parent’s home. Last year, I had just moved to Paris, and spent Christmas day with my wonderful American flatmate. And it has made me reflect, not just on my own experiences, but on how the two European capitals embrace the Christmas spirit in their own ways. Paris, with its style and beauty, and London with its many traditions and events. Both are wonderful and have a special appeal this time of year. It’s time we reflect.
Whilst I call London home, and perhaps because of that fact precisely, I am partial to a Parisian festive season. Albeit beautiful, the London Christmas decorations don’t even begin to rival those seen across Paris. I distinctly remember walking down the Champs Elysees, Avenue Matignon and Place de Vendome and being blown away by the size, grandeur and beauty of the lights. Ranging from elegant, repeated patterns to larger centrepieces, they overtake what can be seen on Oxford Street and around London’s West End.
That being said, I do think the London Christmas markets surpass the Parisian ones. I am told that one needs to travel to Strasbourg, or the regions bordering Germany, for the best Christmas markets in France, yet one need travel no further than Hyde Park or the London South Bank for a taste of the festive spirit in the UK capital. From Winter Wonderland to the Underbelly, London has much to offer in terms of festive events and markets.
And then there’s food. Usually, there is not even a debate for me when comparing French and British gastronomy. Surprisingly, though, at Christmas, I have to say that the UK is a strong rival for its counterpart across the Channel. In London in December, one is never far from international and multicultural Christmas food. Relying on German essentials, combined with Mince Pies, mulled wine and a traditional Christmas roast, it really is the best time to be in London. In Paris, one is never far from a delicious Yule Log, perfectly mastered by many boulangeries. Apart from this, though, Christmas classics don’t move far from their standard daily food choices – you’ll never see Parisians passing up their usually baguettes and croissants. Both cities, as such, provide a wonderful range of options at this time, catering to any palette.
Indeed, there are many pros and cons to both cities – you really can’t go wrong with either. But I’ll say, Paris holds a special place in my heart. At Christmas, it’s really magic.