Tips for a Post-Christmas Parisian Winter

As I write this blog, I am hugging a mug of tea against myself, and counting the minutes until I can justify turning the heating back on. The rain is attacking my single-glazed windows with their poorly insulated frames, and I am contemplating putting on a second jumper. This, ladies and gentleman, is a Parisian winter.

As a lifelong resident of the UK (until last September, at least) I am used to the wind and rain that accompanies winter (and spring, and autumn, and summer). When I was younger, I used to love the rain. My parents called me a water baby, and any time rain clouds started to gather, I prepared to run outside as soon as the first drop arrived. But, at some point in one’s life, dancing in the rain becomes unacceptable, so we have to find coping mechanisms (and other ways to expend energy).

Anyone who has ever visited Paris between November and March knows that it can be an exceptionally bleak time. Leading up to Christmas, gaudy decorations and flashing lights do their best to brighten the place up. But in January, it’s a different story. The grey pavements reflect the white sky, and the beige buildings surround you on all sides.  Unfortunately, it’s not quite socially acceptable to hide at home all winter. So, one must find ways to enjoy the city, whatever the weather! Here are my tips for surviving a Parisian winter.

1. Prepare yourself.

With the Paris soldes in full swing (they started on 8th of January, and will finish on the 11th of February) now is the time to invest in that perfect winter coat. Mine is from Zara, and my friend Thérèse tries it on every time she comes round. I’m almost sure it’s the only reason she’s friends with me. I will lament the day when it is too warm to wear my coat: it makes me feel like a true Parisienne, and therefore was worth every single penny.

Also, don’t be afraid to spend a bit extra on an umbrella. Those €5 brollies from the street vendors may look incredibly attractive when your hair is dripping and your whole body is shivering, but they WILL break, usually within about five minutes, and you don’t want to be caught out in front of a crowd of camera-wielding tourists like this poor couple.

Umbrella couple

2. Take advantage

Those attractions which are normally bulging at the seams with tourists are now relatively tourist-free. For an example, I spent last Friday at Versailles. When I first visited the château in June 2013, the combination of stifling heat and a conveyor belt of tourists transporting you through the house made for an overwhelming and frustrating trip. In January, however, the place was near deserted. We didn’t have to queue at all (compared to the 45 minutes I spent in June) and we could stand in wonder in each room for as long as our hearts desired. Plus, the obligatory hall-of-mirrors selfie had far fewer awkward loiterers in the background.

Now is the perfect time to take that picture you’ve been desperate for since you got here – maybe holding the tip of the Pyramide du Louvre between your fingers, or looking pensive on a bridge. Snap it now, because the tourists will soon return.

3. Change your perspective.

The tourist-less places and rues mean that you can take a clearer, wider look at things.  I’ve never seen Place de la République as glorious as last week, when the Lady Marianne of the Republic held her head high despite the rain on her Phrygian crown. The redeeming feature of those grey pavements is that their shining clean surfaces (as ensured by the cleaning trucks assaulting Paris’ streets every morning) reflect beautifully in the rain. It’s the only chance you’ll ever get to see all your favourite monuments twice.

Statue of the République

Marianne, Lady of the République, holding her own in the rain.

What are your top tips for winter in Paris? Let me know in the comments!

Nuit Blanche – Republique Fog

Taken on Nuit Blanche in Paris.

Taken on Nuit Blanche in Paris. Nuit Blanche is an annual cultural event where galleries and studios open their doors, churches let the artists in, and installations are set up all over Paris. In this one, a giant fog machine pushes Place de la République into a cloud, with eerie shapes emerging from the opaque white. Walking through this felt incredible, a thin mist of water obscuring your vision, people appearing in front of you then disappearing again in a few more steps. Very weird. Very cool.

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