I left Fez on December 24th, barely aware that it was, in fact, Christmas eve. My holiday season this year was marked with an absence of festive foods, decorations and music, though I did go to a cozy Christmas gathering at my director’s house in Rabat. To the sound of the famous Lebanese singer Fairouz singing familiar Christmas songs in Arabic, we exchanged gifts and decorated a Charlie Brown-esque tree with strings of home-grown red chili peppers.
Christmas could have come and gone without hardly a homesick thought had I stayed in Morocco. There was nothing here that would have reminded me of what I was missing at home. Instead, though, I spent Christmas in Paris, a welcome and wonderful change from Fassi life.
The land surrounding Paris was covered in snow and I could see the Eiffel Tower from the plane’s window as we landed, the spotlight at the top of the tower rotating like a lighthouse’s beacon.
Christmas and the day after I spent some time in Notre Dame.
We ate Croque Monsieurs, thick-sliced bread with ham, tomatoes and melted cheese, and drank strong coffee in Les Deux Magots, a very Parisian café known at one time for being the café of choice of the city’s intellectuals like Hemingway and Simone de Beauvoir.
A lot of places were closed because of the holiday, but we checked out the beautiful facades of the Pantheon and the Opera House anyway.
Two streets down and around the corner from our hostel in Montmartre was Cafe des 2 Moulines, the café that Amelie works at in the movie.
We spent an hour or so below the city in the catacombs. The underground tunnels used to be the site of the city’s stone quarry until the late 1700’s when the space was converted into a place to lay the remains of Paris’ deceased. The tour descends down a narrow spiral staircase and continues on and on through passageways lined with thousands of skulls and femurs arranged along the walls. The damp passageways drip water from the ceiling, slowly forming small stalactites. They are punctuated with monuments to the dead and quotes in French about death.
And of course, I couldn’t miss the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.
I suppose I’ll have to return to Paris someday, as there was no time for the Louvre. After just two full days in Paris, it was time to move on to Corsica.