First Trip to Europe, Day 3 – Christmas Day

Our second full day in Paris was Christmas Day. I was a little apprehensive about this when we booked our trip. We went back and forth about renting an apartment or a hotel with a kitchen so we could cook and hang out at “home” on Christmas Day, but we decided to test our luck and book regular hotel rooms instead. We didn’t bring gifts with us to exchange on Christmas morning, since this trip was our Christmas present. In hindsight it probably would have been nice to sneak a small gift into my luggage for each of us to have something to open, but by the time I thought about this it was too late. I woke up early on Christmas morning to the sound of Notre Dame’s bells ringing. I read that they only ring the biggest bell, the Emmanuel Bell, on special occasions and holidays. I opened the window and listened for quite a while before dozing off again. It was a perfect lazy morning, and I honestly didn’t miss the gifts.

The hotel offered breakfast for 13 euros per person, so when we finally got up and dressed, Josh and I went downstairs to eat. The hotel breakfast was about what we got the day before, with a little extra. They had sliced ham and salami, cheese, yogurt, cereal, hard-boiled eggs, coffee, and juice laid out buffet style. There was fresh fruit as well. The attendant brought us a fresh pot of coffee, a pot of hot water for Josh’s tea, and a basket of hot pastries and bread to our table. Mom and dad didn’t hear us go down, so they ended up eating after we were finished.

Inside Saint Severin church

Inside Saint Severin church

Once everyone was showered and fed, we decided to head over to see Saint Severin Church across the street and Notre Dame. The back up plan was to find out if the river cruises were running that day. Saint Severin was pretty inside, but in need of restoration. There was a massive crowd at Notre Dame of course, so we walked just a short ways down to Pont Neuf to see about the boats. Mom had purchased river cruise tickets for us before we left the States, and they were good any time that week. Much to our surprise, the boats were running! The company was Bateaux Vedettes du Pont Neuf and I think it was 10 euros each purchased in advance. The Seine River cruise had a live guide narrating the sights along the banks of the river. Of course we saw museums and the Eiffel Tower, and the guide told us about the many bridges and their history. The boat was enclosed (the roof was retractable for nice weather), and we had a great view of everything on both sides of the river. If you do this cruise, make sure you purchase drinks and snacks before you board the boat. There is a snack counter near where you purchase or redeem your tickets.

After the river cruise, we walked around Ile de la Cite and then headed back to the hotel room to rest and get ready for dinner. Something I haven’t talked about is that I actually had a terrible head cold during our first few days in Paris. I was a little congested the day we left the US, and I think going 32 hours without sleep did me in. Luckily I brought tons of Sudafed, Mucinex, and ibuprofen with me to keep my symptoms at bay. I stopped in at a pharmacy to buy cough drops and saline nose spray (that was a fun conversation… Let me recommend asking for salt water nose spray to speed things along), but in general I was just exhausted from the head cold, the cold weather, and walking several miles. Thankfully everyone let me have a restful day on Christmas, and it didn’t slow me down too much over the following days.

We made Christmas dinner reservations online back in November at an Alsatian restaurant called Chez Jenny. It was one of the restaurants recommended on ParisByMouth, and it turned out to be a great dinner experience. We took a taxi from the taxi stand near the hotel, and arrived right on time for our reservation. I had to point to my name on the computer screen because the hostess couldn’t understand me, but the restaurant staff was very friendly. A young guy came to take our drink order and didn’t speak any English at all, which led to laughing all around. Then an older man came to help out and he also took our dinner order. They were serving the full menu, but there was a section of Christmas specialties as well that we ended up ordering from. I had the traditional turkey, Josh had scallops, Mom had foie gras, and dad had oysters if I remember correctly. We all enjoyed our food, but I was feeling pretty miserable with my cold and didn’t eat much. I did enjoy the wine though, and miraculously (haha) started feeling better after a few glasses. I also enjoyed a scoop of pistachio ice cream for dessert, as part of my dad’s 3-scoop ice cream dish.

Overall our Christmas was very low-key, which I really enjoyed. I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to find things to do or anywhere to eat, but as we walked around near Notre Dame and Pont Neuf, tons of shops and restaurants were open. There were also a lot of people out and about that day. I would recommend making a dinner reservation well in advance, but don’t stress too much about finding breakfast, lunch, or activities.

Coming up in the next post: Musee Marmottan (Monet), Musee Rodin, Napoleon’s Tomb, and the Louvre!

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