Forget Christmas for a moment: Fall is by far my favorite time of year. The lack of major change in seasonal weather has definitely been perplexing for me since I've moved to France; I do sometimes miss the crisp, cool midwest days, even if they don't last for long.
I was happy that we experienced a mild autumn season here in the north of France this year before the winter rain (and - spoiler alert - snow) began. In addition to enjoying Starbucks' pumpkin spice latte multiple times, I was able to venture just outside of Lille for an afternoon to the Ferme du Paradis with friends to pick apples and buy other local produce.
And autumn in Paris? Dana and I got to spend a perfect weekend there; we went for a Boyce Avenue concert that Dana had suggested months earlier at La Cigale - a nice and comfortable venue in Montmartre - videos 1, 2, and 3 will take you there for a moment.
That same weekend, we walked a lot (as one does in Paris), stopped at la Gare de Lyon for Halloween Vampire Frappuccinos, and then (feeling so fall-ish and basic) posed shamelessly on rue Crémieux, one of the most-Instagrammed places in the world.
From there, we continued walking along the Seine and eventually up to the Galerie Lafayette to see their Christmas display. Despite visiting a couple of months early for the Christmas season, it was the first time I'd seen the inside of the mall and it was well worth it; I'd recommend it even if you're a grinch and/or hate malls and/or Christmas! After, take the elevator or stairs all the way up to the open rooftop for a view and a drink, as Dana and I did.
|View from the rooftop of Galerie Lafayette|
|The new Paris Philharmonic building|
It actually works! At least, it does for me, the best solution I've found yet for irregular sleep, even when I turn off the lights but my brain won't shut off. If you're having trouble sleeping and want to try, here is the link for the entire eight-hour playlist. Open up your laptop, get comfortable, and press play eight hours before you want to wake up (but do set an alarm if you really need to get up at a certain time!). The music should seem a little too loud for sleeping at first; just focus on the sound; it will get quieter and lull you to sleep. The last movement, in contrast, should be a gentle "alarm" to help you wake up gradually. At the Philharmonie, the lights gradually changed color to mimic a sunrise during the last hour.
One of my fellow flute choir members, a Portuguese flutist, connected me with a community band called the Jeune Ensemble Harmonique (JEH) in Villeneuve d'Ascq, a suburb of Lille. It has nothing to do with being jeune (young); the band is mostly made up of adults in a very relaxed atmosphere, and they are the perfect example of the north-of-France stereotype: people are warm, friendly, and easy to get to know.
|Marché de Noël à Paris|
After Thanksgiving, I kicked off the Christmas season with some snow, sleet, and ice in Lille and a day trip to Paris to see my high school friends Kirsten and Devon who finally made it to visit Europe! I tagged along with them to Versailles in the morning; after lunch we visited Notre Dame and then took a long walk complete with window shopping and a Christmas market in the square next to Les Halles mall. It was a nice surprise to run into as the large market along the Champs-Élysées has apparently been shut down for good, but there are a few smaller markets here and there throughout Paris. We enjoyed piping mugs of vin chaud and sampled plenty of fromage and foie gras, as we had apparently run into the Swiss/Alps-themed market.
With that, it seems winter has arrived in the north of France.