I am definitely not feeling festive yet (and it remains to be seen whether I will at some point), but last Sunday afternoon we decided to take Tadpole to have a look at the Christmas illuminations and windows at the Printemps and Galéries Lafayette department stores. The logic behind this early expedition was that the shops themselves have not yet started Sunday opening (although they will for a few weekends in December), so my theory was that the crowds would not be too overpowering. So much for that theory.
After half an hour of battling up and down flights of stairs with Tadpole+pushchair, slowed down by delicate manoeuvres through the ticket barriers (which annoyingly have grooved floors which jam buggy wheels) we emerged on boulevard Haussmann, enthusiasm already flagging somewhat, at around 5 m. It was already dark (or as near as it gets in the light-polluted capital), and the illuminations on the façades of the shops were indeed really stunning. Sadly a number of Parisians had clearly had the same bright idea as me and turned out with their extended families in tow.
This year Christian Lacroix has overseen the decoration of the Printemps department store, from the cascades of red lights and huge christmas tree baubles on the façade to the windows themselves. The ‘animated’ windows at Printemps were my favourites, especially those featuring the half-angel, half-devil characters* poking at the other figures with little glittery tridents. There was a cheeky naughtiness about them which I found very appealing.
Galéries Lafayette had a beautifully lit up façade – I can’t decide whether it reminds me most of a stained glass church window or a Moroccan screen design. Their children’s windows I found a bit disappointing. Moving teddies, more moving teddies, and yet more moving teddies. The humourous touches which made the Lacroix windows more entertaining (for adults) was lacking.
Around each window milled a crowd about 10 people deep, with kids hoisted onto their parents’ shoulders to peer over the top. Beneath the windows themselves there was a small, red platform for children to climb onto to view the windows. Obviously Tadpole is a bit too young to be let loose on the platform on her own, but I only made the mistake of getting up on there with her in my arms once – a volley of verbal abuse ensured that I promptly stepped off, cheeks-a-burning. Evidently there is an unwritten rule about the platform being for little people only.
Mr Frog pointed out a very distraught lady behind us who had lost sight of her 6 year old child in the crowd. I couldn’t look at her. It is one of my greatest fears that I take my eye off Tadpole for just two seconds in the supermarket and an evil child abductor swoops down to steal her from me and punish me for my lapse of vigilance. I think reading ‘The Child in Time’ by Ian McEwan was responsible for putting these morbid ideas into my head. I can’t read the passages where a child is abducted without feeling physically ill. I’m afraid I have no idea whether the woman found her daughter, the next time I turned around she had also disappeared from sight.
By the sixth or seventh window we had finally worked out that the best viewing strategy consisted of getting close to the platform with Tadpole still strapped into her pushchair (because once she is out, there is no guarantee that she will go back in without a fight) and hoisting the pushchair up to a level where she could see. Regardless of the reactions of the people in the crowd around us, as we were past caring at this stage. We were rewarded with little Tadpole saucer eyes and even a delighted ‘ook! pretty!’, so it was all worth the effort in the end. Or so I tried to tell myself.
Note to self: next year plan visit for 3am, take a taxi both ways. Approximate cost €30. Which is less expensive than therapy needed to get over trauma of last Sunday.
*Note to Mr Frog – these Lacroix soft toys are on sale for a modest € 29, and if you value your life there will be one under my Christmas tree.