At the end of this post, I am going to dazzle you wish some stats about the Virtual Advent tour! I bet you can't wait!
Given that I have been pretty obsessed with Paris and all things French for the last six months it seems fitting to share my memories of a Christmas Eve spent in Paris.
I have mentioned several times on my blog that I used to live in the UK. I was over there for 5 years in the late 90s and came home just at the before the end of 1999. At the beginning though I spent a month in the US, and very nearly didn't want to leave, and then a month travelling around Europe before I arrived back in London, at which point I was broke and needed to start working again.
My one month tour around Europe started in London early in the morning of 23 December and our first stop was Paris, which means that we were in Paris on Christmas Eve (the way it worked out we were in Nice for New Years Eve but that's another story). It was a bit of shock for this Aussie as I had only ever had hot Christmas celebrations but it was cold enough that Christmas Eve that there was a few snow flakes around the place. Bearing in mind that I had only seen snow for the first time a couple of weeks before that at the Grand Canyon and you can possibly imagine how exciting that was.
After spending time visiting all the usual sites, we went out for dinner on Christmas Eve to a restaurant where we were given the choice of snails or frog's legs for starters (I chose snails) and then I can't remember what else we ate. One thing I do remember is that the tour director gave us each a small gift which I thought was a nice touch. I got a bookmark and a Swarovksi crystal keyring which I used for years. I was gutted when it broke. After dinner, Paris by night and then back to our hotel for an early start the next day as we were due to go to Chartres cathedral and then onto Spain the next day.
However the highlight of Christmas Eve in Paris wasn't part of the tour. When we got back to the hotel some of the group started talking about going to midnight mass. I had done that before with some Catholic friends before, but it wasn't part of my normal Christmas rituals, but seeing as we were in Paris on Christmas Eve it seemed like something different to do.
It was amazing. We just went to a local church. We barely understood a word that was spoken during the service, the whole place was in darkness except for the candles that were lit, the music was familiar but with the words sung in French obviously and the atmosphere was just beautiful.
A couple of years later I spent some time in Lille during the festive season as well. I know that I am lucky to have been able to have this kind of experience twice, but it doesn't stop me from wishing I could go again at some point.
The video below is the French version of Silent Night showing the Christmas lights of Caen but it fits my post so I am still sharing it.
And this is as close as I am going to get to Christmas in Paris this year.
I have already said thanks to everyone over at the Virtual Advent blog, but I do want to reiterate that here, especially to those people who commented on the quotes that I was posting here too. Special thanks to Kelly for co-hosting the tour with me, and to Alex for the gorgeous blog redesign and matching buttons.
Just for fun I thought I would finish up with some stats about the Virtual Advent tour. It originally started in 2006 with 16 people participating over a two week period. The next year we toured for the 24 day period for the first time with 30 participants, and this year has seen our growth continued with more than 110 individuals signing up to participate. With some people not posting, and others participating more than once, we probably had that many individual posts this year.
Over the years there have been more than 250 individuals sign up to participate. With lots of people participating in more than one year, we have now had more than 470 posts as part of the tour.
I should mention that all these figures are approximate as I went through to try and collate them all, but I might have miscounted along the way.
To Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings who has been with us since the beginning, to my co-host Kelly and to everyone who has participated since the tour started ..... THANK YOU!
We are already thinking about what we can do differently next year, so if you have any ideas or suggestions we would be happy to hear them, or feedback on what we did this year (particularly the quotes - did you like them, loathe them?) we would love to hear about that too.