Friday, December 28, 2007

8 reasons to spend Xmas in Paris

1. At Christmas, London dies, but Paris stays alive and has fun. The Metro runs on 25 December and you can buy flowers, a sandwich or a steaming glass of vin chaud if and when you need to.

2. Nobody insists that you spend 25 December cooking or eating turkey, Brussels sprouts and boiled plum pudding that takes three days to digest. Instead, try a little foie gras, chevre, la bûche de Noël (Xmas log-shaped cake)...

3. You can experience some of the greatest wonders of the artistic world. For example, the Monet Waterlilies in the expertly refitted Orangerie.

4. Another was Matthias Goerne singing 'O du mein holder Abendstern'. There were a number of world-class voices on the vast Bastille stage - not all of them covered in red paint (more about this later) - but when Goerne opens his mouth, you're in another world. He has a unique gift for 'innigkeit' - the more quietly and inwardly he sings, the more it pulps your heart.

5. That's before we mention the orchestra and Seiji Ozawa, or the fabulous Eva-Marie Westbroek, let alone the production by Robert Carsen - a radical reinterpretation of Tannhauser which naturally some people didn't like but which I thought worked an absolute treat. A clue: the programme cover showed Manet's 'Dejeuner sur l'herbe'.

6. The easygoing atmosphere in Paris makes Xmas here in the UK look like one big ridiculous shoe-horn designed to stress the population to crazy levels, forcing them to overspend and binge-drink until their livers and bank accounts pack up. Across La Manche, it's not quite such a big deal.

7. The Eurostar from St Pancras to the Gare du Nord now takes only two and a quarter hours.

8. Paris is Paris. Given a choice, why be anywhere else?