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Paris in January


Malawry
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I haven't been to Paris at any time of year, but happy circumstances made it easy and inexpensive for my spouse and I to make our inaugural trip for 2 weeks this January.

I've been reading The Food Lovers Guide, saving magazine articles and nosing around this forum. However, I've not yet found a response to one of the biggest questions I have: What's the city like in January? Are all of the markets open, or do some of them shut down seasonally? What do people eat in January--what's seasonal, what should I look out for? What sort of weather should I be prepared for? I've read about what sun worshippers the Parisians are. What's cafe culture like when it's too unpleasant to be outside--are cafes as popular and vibrant in January? Are there any special events in January, or are all events and festivals effectively over when the holidays end?

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We go every year between Christmas and New Year's. Usually spend a week somewhere exploring a new section of France and the second week in Paris. Or vice versa.

It's EXTREMELY COLD!

I used to try to be somewhat in fashion, not I just wear my thickest, ugliest coat and wear t shirts under my sweaters and leggings under my slacks and look like the Michelin woman!

Of course, we walk and take the bus everywhere.

We're big on just getting on a bus line and exploring neighborhoods. For that reason, I recommend the 5 day or 3 day Paris Visite pass for the Metro/Bus. You can get off and on as much as you like. If you see a shop, get off. If you don't like the neighborhood, get back on!

The markets are generally open. We've done the market tour, and I'm sure someone on this thread has a link to which days which ones are going on. You'll see the "truffle people" at some markets. My favorite was a lady in a fur coat and hat, looking quite classy, selling truffles!

Vin Chaud is everywhere! It's delicious! It's warm red wine with a shot of, I think brandy or cointreau or something. Small shot. Cinnamon too, I think. Very warming to stop in a bar and stand at the counter (cheaper) and order one...(then you can use their bathroom!)

The Alsace places are good for winter months! Try Chez Jenny (or any of the others) and order any of their Charcroutre...sausages and sauerkraut. I usually only eat a bite or two of the saurkraut, but the different types of sausages and hams are great and warming. They even have fish charcroute!

The windows of the department stores are fun! Always clever and inventive and usually lines!

I'm sure there's other things we're missing...but maybe we'll see you there!

We're in the Saumur (Loire) for the first week and in Paris-first the Marais and then Place D'Italie after that!

Philly Francophiles

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It can be cold. Paris is humid and when it's cold, it's a biting cold that gets to your bones. The sun rarely shines in Paris in the winter. The sky is grey tinged with yellow or green and could stay that way for all two weeks. It's not the travelog city of smiling faces enjoying a beer in an outdoor cafe on a grand boulevard. It's far north and the sun sets early if it rises at all, but the city can sparkle at night and you'll understand why it's called the city of lights. If you'll miss the chance to bask in the sunshine in an outdoor cafe, you'll get the chance to escape from the cold and take a table far from the door and warm yourself with a hot chocolate in a cafe. With luck, you'll appreciate that it's a real Parisian experience that most tourists don't get. Every season in Paris has something wrong with it and Paris is overrun with tourists at what would be the best time to be there if it wasn't overrun with tourists. :biggrin: I think I've said this before, and maybe on this board, but if I don't think January is the best time to be in Paris, I do think Paris is as good a place to be in January as any other place. Obviously, I'm not a beach person.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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If I remember correctly, Paris is dark in January.

Please see Monthly Climatologies for Paris to get my drift. However, I go every year and just make the best of it.

Bux is correct, its a bone chilling damp much like Seattle, so I dress accordingly and go with the flow. You can also tuck into a cafe to warm up.

I believe the markets happen in the winter -- the Batignolles and Raspail ones are quite lovely. Have a galette and a cidre and warm up and then dive into a roast chicken. Yum.

My only problem with travelling in the winter is all the layers. Its great to have them when you are walking outdoors, but once you get inside, you roast. Ditto for the metro. I tend to walk as much as possible to avoid overheating.

You'll have fun no matter what you do, I heart Paris for its amazing ability to be beautiful in any season.

lalala

Paris bound in 13 days

I have a relatively uninteresting life unless you like travel and food. Read more about it here.

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I've been in Paris Januarys for years and everything above is true; it can be bitter cold, drizzly, grey but there'll always be a nice sunny warmish day and it's rare that the flakes of snow that occasionally fall ever stick. Markets are open, but supermarkets sometimes provide refuge from the chill. I agree with Bux, where else to be?

Layer up, expect the worst and you'll have a ball.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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I see the original poster lives in DC. I live in Baltimore. Paris in the winter months is no worse than either of those places. Actually, in Paris, city-stopping snowstorms are rare, unlike the MidAtlantic region.

On a cold arrival day, nothing like dissipating the fog of jet-lag with a bowl of onion soup at Brasserie Balzar.

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When my daughter and I were in Paris on Christmas vacation a few years ago, it was not nearly as cold as we had anticipated .. we had packed lots of heavy wool clothing and found that the museums and restaurants were very over-heated .. as was our hotel (where we kept the windows open to cool it down).

I second Brasserie Lipp for a warm meal to cherish and remember!

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Malawrey,

I am in Paris every 3 days during all year long. Sure it is cold at times, but today when I left it was 3 degrees centigrade and the sun was shining! Highly unsual but beautiful! In contrast last night walking thru the streets it was drizzling and same temperature, yes bone chilling, but to me it was still beautiful! Paris sera toujours Paris as Edith Piaf used to sing and there is always a beauty to it. Enjoy, enjoy enjoy! By the way, use Bux's recommendations for some great places.

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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Just a few added words about going from outside chill to inside heat (from Mr. TarteTatin): After our recent trip in November I realized that most Parisian men walk around wearing a shirt, a scarf and a heavyish coat - no sweater (if you wear a sweater, that's it, just a sweater, no shirt) otherwise you overheat when you go indoors. Get on a bus, on the Metro, the scarf is unfurled from the neck and maybe put into a briefcase or bag, the gloves go into pockets and the hat comes off as well.

We also notice that as soon as the sun comes out in Paris, even for a few minutes, people flock to outdoor tables with their coats on, park benches, etc.

Pack less than you think you'll need.

Philly Francophiles

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By the way, use Bux's recommendations for some great places.

Oops, I meant John Talbots' reccomendations, as he is our resident resto roi!!!

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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I second whomever said there's never a bad time to visit Paris - only worse times than others. I'll be there for four-five days, some time between January 26-Feb 2, anyone who wants to get together, PM me...Would be lovely to meet some new Paris-bound or Paris-based eG-ers.

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All the markets will be open - except obviously on New Year's Day. In January the only thing that's really a must is the galette des roi - puff pastry filled with almond cream AND a prize - the day to have that is the first Sunday in January - Epiphany - but you can find it all around town until the end of the month. My favourite for the pastry has been the chocolate one at Pierre Herme - but I'm a sucker for the favours at Fauchon and even Lenotre. Otherwise 'tis the season for scallops and white truffles in the gastronomic restaurants - just go with the classics in the bistros - pot au feu, boudin noir, coq au vin, etc. Like others have said it's a cold wet - but not as cold as DC. Cafe culture - there's always a cafe in just about every arrondissement that will keep their tables out year round - look in busy areas and around major Metro stations - some are even covered and/or heated now. And there are always events around town - look on the Paris Office of Tourism website. Have a great time.

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i can recommend something for that weather: silk long underwear. it's warm enough for a lot of weather, it's very thin so it layers under your clothes well, but it's not so hot that it'll kill you when you're inside. it usually costs $30-40 per piece, but you can find it at discount stores for much cheaper.

edited to say that i was in paris last thanksgiving and silk long underwear worked great.

Edited by mrbigjas (log)
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i can recommend something for that weather: silk long underwear.  it's warm enough for a lot of weather, it's very thin so it layers under your clothes well, but it's not so hot that it'll kill you when you're inside.  it usually costs $30-40 per piece, but you can find it at discount stores for much cheaper.

Several years ago when we were spending a lot of time in Great Britain in the winter, my husband went shopping for a pair of winter-weight wool trousers. Now, you have to understand that in San Francisco where we live you really can't buy true winter-weigh anything! Every shop had only one recommendation: custom. We were amused and delighted when one very dapper salesman at Wilkes-Bashford, one of our better men's shops, said, "Buy winter weight trousers if you must, but do realize that every gentleman that you see on the street in any cold metropolis is wearing silk underwear!"

My husband finally bought what he was looking for in Boston, but usually resorts simply to silk underwear. :laugh:

eGullet member #80.

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Funny, from what I'm reading here, Paris sounds like Saint-Petersburg of the North Pole. It is not. Our winters have been pretty mild these last years. Actually, it is getting slightly warmer every winter.

There are even days in January when the air is strangely tepid and you feel like Springtime is close. Don't be fooled, the worse is still to come (February). Paris is usually medium-cold and wet in November, moderately cold in December, irregularly cold in January, and the coldest month (with the odd snowstorm, which sticks to the ground roughly once in every ten years) is February.

March can be infuriating because it is, most of the time, an extension of Winter. But that's also when the Seine overflows (and it's beautiful!) and the warmer winds come in. In April, it does get nicer.

I'd suggest dressing on the light side but having a warm coat handy. Scarfs are a must. However I suppose that, if Parisian men usually wore long silk underwear, I'd know it by now.

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I think Paris in the winter is superb. There are no tourists (OK, next to none) and the Ile de Paris has the bird market (or did...).

Some snow, but geez folks, compared to Helsinki, it's positively balmy...

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My favorite description of Parisian winters is Baudelaire's simple use of "la grisaille" to describe not just the overall greyness of the color of the sky, but its general lifelessness.

Br. Lipp sounds like a great idea, or you can hit some of Hemingway's other favorite brasseries such as Le Dome, La Coupole, or La Closerie de Lilas (great people watching, or at least it was last time I was there xx years ago).

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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However I suppose that, if Parisian men usually wore long silk underwear, I'd know it by now.

Exactly the sort of corroboration I needed.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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My favorite description of Parisian winters is Baudelaire's simple use of "la grisaille" to describe not just the overall greyness of the color of the sky, but its general lifelessness.

Br. Lipp sounds like a great idea, or  you can hit some of Hemingway's other favorite brasseries such as Le Dome, La Coupole, or La Closerie de Lilas (great people watching, or at least it was last time I was there xx years ago).

And if one can experience Paris through the eye's and words of a poet, it becomes all that much more a pleasure to know the city even in the dead gray of winter.

Of all those cafe/brasseries, I'd choose the terrass at le Dôme, not for it's history or it's literary connections, but mostly for its oysters.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Malawry,

You may want to get this book which is supposed to be the definitive book on Parisians bakeries. Kaplan is American and has been hunting down authentic and delicious boulangeries for years.

Cherchez le pain : Guide des meilleures boulangeries de Paris

de Steven-L Kaplan, Marie-Christine Fabiani-Kaplan

I like wandering around non touristy areas like the 11th and the 12th --about a 10 minute walk west of the Bastille. There is a good market there several days a week and a great North African pastry shop with good coffee and interesting Algerian lunches especially a kind of pasta called Reshta. It is called La Bague de Kenza-- about half a block from the Faidherb-Chaligny metro station.

I also like the Aligre Market, but here are some other markets as ell http://www.jeanne-feldman.com/articles/look_markets.htm

Have fun.

Robin

I

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