parc des buttes chaumont

Literally across the frontdoor of my building in Paris is one of the biggest, least touristy parks you’re likely to find in the city: Le Parc des Buttes Chaumont (click here to get an idea of my location relative to the park).  I took a quick look at it once before, but today I gave myself plenty of time to explore.  I spent 2+ hours and still didn’t get to see everything.

The view from my window.  Those trees are all part of the park.

There was an Asian couple taking wedding photos.  They were smiling, but I’m pretty sure they were freezing, too.

If you can’t tell, the lake was definitely frozen.

Can you spot the cats?

Shrine? Temple? Glorified gazebo?

Overlooking Paris

Overlooking the park

The park often feels like a maze as you’re stuck choosing between paths.

The cavern area where there would be a waterfall if it wasn’t winter.

The bridge that was closed.

What I loved most about today was that I got to see something that’s hard to see in the more popular areas of Paris:  genuine Parisiens going about their normal lives–running laps, walking their dogs, playing with their kids,  etc.  As excited as I am to go to the more notable attractions of Paris, I’m not looking forward to be met with the crowds of tourists (even as I also add to that issue by being here).   That’s why I think I’ll wait til after Janurary rolls around to go to places like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower and let the rush of New Year’s visitors migrate out of here.  Til then, I’ll just be figuring out how to ring in the New Year here in the City of Light.  Oh how stressful life is right now…

joyeux noël

Never did I ever imagine that I would be spending Christmas somewhere out in the hills of Brittany, France surrounded by donkeys and goats and whatever furry farm friends you can think of and yet, here I am.  I see no colorful lights, no wreaths on frontdoors, no giant Christmas trees spotted with ornaments.  I hear no silver bells, no carolers out in the streets, no teenage Michael Jackson telling me he saw mommy kissing Santa Claus.  There are no malls filled with last-minute shoppers, no peppermint mochas at coffee shops, and no Charlie Brown Christmas Special on TV.  These typical sights, sounds and smells haven’t crossed my way and therefore, Christmas has made no blip on my internal holiday radar this year.

However, I’ve never felt closer to the reality of the event from which this holiday finds its origins.  There were no lights and decorations surrounding baby Jesus, no choir and band to grandly welcome him into the world.  If anything, it indeed was a silent night for the baby who found himself displaced from home, lying in a contraption that is made to feed livestock.  And as I sit here thousands of miles from my home, able to hear the whinnies of horses echo into the night, I am more reflective upon the simplicity that is at the core of Christmas.   Being away from all the glitz and glamour that I’ve become accustomed to as being a part of the Christmas holiday, I feel that I can more intimately appreciate Christmas as one of the deep traditions of my faith.  The holiday season is not about generosity, sharing gifts, or spending time with friends and family, though those are all good and important things.  Ultimately, at least for those of us who believe all that Christianity stuff, it was the day hope entered into the world as flesh to begin the process of guiding humanity from its brokenness and pain. So while this year I have no gifts to exchange or special church services to attend, I find myself wondering if I’m closer to the real “spirit of Christmas” than I have been in the past.  It is in this way that the most uneventful Christmas season I’ve ever experienced will probably be one of my most memorable.

Merry Christmas everyone!