An English taxi dispatcher, the right way to kiss, a chic restaurant near the Eiffel Tower . . . here’s some New Year’s know-how for your Paris vacation from villa specialist Annie Flogaus and her team at Just France.
For a country that loves to celebrate with food and wine, the French unsurprisingly adore extravagant New Year’s Eve dinners and fêtes. If you are not lucky enough to have an invite to some Parisian friends’ festivities for “la Saint-Sylvestre,” as it is commonly called here, join in the holiday spirit at a restaurant. The French take family time very seriously, and many restaurants close for the holiday, so be sure to secure yourself a reservation well ahead of time. Most of the restaurants that do stay open will be offering a special prix-fixe menu. Indulge in some of the traditional holiday favorites like foie gras, oysters, and smoked salmon while toasting with Champagne or sparkling white wine—be sure not to confuse the two!
In Paris, the metro will be running but expect to bump elbows with French and tourists who may or may not have celebrated a little too much. Taxis in the street will be a challenge after midnight, so you may want to arrange one from the warmth of your restaurant. G7 has a line with English-speaking dispatchers: +33 (0)1 41 27 66 99. The ideal scenario is to find a restaurant that will allow for a leisurely stroll home, preferably with a view of the sparkling Eiffel Tower. If that means an apartment in the area around the seventh arrondissement, preferred by many American travelers, chef David Toutain and his namesake restaurant will start off your year on the best possible foot with his clever cuisine in a chic yet relaxed ambiance.
On the stroke of midnight, the French celebrate with exclamations of “Bonne année” and the exchanging of les bises. While the number of these small kisses on the cheek depends on where in France you are visiting, if you are in Paris, you will be safe with just two. Keep in mind that New Year’s well wishes are commonly shared until the end of the month of January.
To go to Paris and not engage in some sort of cultural activity is practically a sin, and the holidays are no exception. Tickets to a multitude of events, including those on New Year’s Eve, are available online at www.classictic.com. If looking to get into the festive spirit, consider a classical music concert featuring holiday music by the likes of Mozart and Bach while surrounded by the towering stained-glass windows of La Chapelle. There are two concerts featuring holiday music by Mozart, Schubert, Bach, and Strauss. If you have had your fill of holiday music at this point, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is playing at St-Eustache, which has the largest pipe organ in France. On the dance end of the spectrum, La Bayadère by Nureyev will be playing at the Opéra Bastille and a contemporary dance performance is scheduled at the Palais Garnier, which was founded under the reign of Louis XIV.
If you are lucky enough to be in France through the feast of the Epiphany on January 6, you will have your pick of galettes des rois in just about every pastry shop. In most of France, the king cake is a round, glazed puff pastry filled with frangipane. In Provence, the galette is a bit different: a sweet brioche shaped into a crown with candied fruits on top to look like jewels. Wherever you may be, there will always be a hidden fève, or charm, which will designate its finder as the lucky king or queen for the day. Bonnes fetes!
Just France specializes in luxury villas throughout France. Its properties range from penthouse apartments to country estates. Madeleine Franconi, the Paris specialist for Just France, contributed much of the insider info for this post.