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CHRISTMAS

Six different ways to bring at little bit of France home for Christmas

Shopping for Christmas gifts is always a struggle, but fortunately France offers a wealth of options, from the high-end to the local and artisanal, not to mention the edible, as Katie Warren writes.

Six different ways to bring at little bit of France home for Christmas
Photo: AFP

Whether you're one of those done-and-wrapped-by-mid-November shoppers or one of those December 23rd procrastinators desperately looking for presents at the grocery store, there’s an abundance of options to bring a bit of your French life to friends and family back home. 

Here are our top tips.

Marchés de Noel

Photo: Colmar Tourist Board

Wandering the Marchés de Noel with mulled wine in one hand and a Nutella-smothered crepe in the other is one of the great joys of living in France at Christmas time. The markets can also be a great place to find Christmas gifts. Skip the crowds of tourists at the commercialized Champs Elysées Christmas market and instead look for smaller, local markets which are more likely to sell authentic, French-made products.

Each French region has its own unique gastronomical specialties. Christmas markets often feature the local products, such as foie gras in the southwest, honey in Corsica, Calvados apple brandy in Normandy, and nougat in the Rhone-Alpes. You can also find artisanal goods such as leather bags and the famous knives from Thiers in Auvergne.

This website is a practical guide to Christmas markets in France. You can also search Facebook for “Marchés de Noel” or “Marchés Artisanal” events in your area.

Find France online

Rather than trawling around Paris looking for a piece of France, it's often easier to get online. A new French start up website called Bring France Home, does exactly what the name says and allows visitors to Paris and of course those living here to find some real, authentic and original “Made in France” products to take home.

The site is the brainchild of Mathilde Bohrmann (photo left) and Nathalie Crouzet (photo right) who came up with the idea after struggling to easily find original and quality French gifts to take to friends when they went abroad.

“We were fed up seeing so-called French products made in the Far East and sold on the Rue du Rivoli,” Bohrmann told The Local.

So they did their own research and got in touch with French suppliers from around the country and brought them together under one website.

There are berets made by the only beret maker left in France, beer brewed in Paris, fishing net shopping bags from Normandy, wooden Eiffel Towers as well as mustards, foie gras, honeys and all the delicacies you imagine when you think of Gallic grub.

“We have selected products that you can easily take home in your suitcase and we deliver in a nice package with a hand-written message because we are not robots,” says Crouzet

The bonus of Bring France home is that they deliver to your hotel in the French capital and everything is geared to get into your suitcase.

For more visit: www.bringfrancehome.com

Saveur du Jour is a similar option that ships to the UK, the US, Australia, Mexico, and other countries.

French Pharmacies

French pharmacies are famous for their effective and affordable beauty and hygiene products. Bioderma micellar cleansing water, Klorane dry shampoo, and La Roche Posay skin creams are some popular French products that are expensive or difficult to find in other countries. They're also easy to stick in a free corner of your suitcase.

For bulk options and cheaper prices, it's worth checking out the super-pharmacy Citypharma, located in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, on the south bank of the River Seine in Paris.

Photo: Jeremy Brooks/Flickr

Department Stores

For high-end clothing, accessories, shoes, and perfumes, the famous department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps in Paris should be your go-tos. They're also well-known for the stunning holiday window displays and decorations.

Also in Paris, the BHV department store next to Hotel de Ville in the Marais features items of the same genre, including gifts for children, art supplies, books, stationary, and candles. If dropping €60 on a candle doesn't scare you, the Feu de Bois (wood fire) bougie from the luxury Parisian brand, Diptique, is a classic. 

The historic Rue Saint Honore in the first arrondissement is another prime shopping district for luxury French boutiques such as Chanel, Hermes, Chloe, Colette, and Longchamp.

Photo: adam5t/Flickr

Decadent Sweets and Drinks

Angelina

If you've ever had a cup of the luxuriously smooth hot chocolate at the Angelina cafe in Paris, you'll be happy to know that you can share the joy back home by buying it bottled from their épicerie or online store.

Photo: Benjamin Harrison/Flickr

La Maison du Chocolat

If drinkable chocolate isn't what you're looking for, La Maison du Chocolat, one of France's most famous chocolate houses sells a variety of gift boxes that can be delivered in Europe (except the UK) and Canada.

Photo: Everjean/Flickr

Macarons

A stereotypical French sweet treat, the best macarons are said to be from either La Durée or Pierre Hermé, both of which have several locations in Paris as well as online shops.  Take care when taking macarons home as they're fragile and should be eaten within 3-5 days. 

Photo: Alicia Griffin/Flickr

Mariage Frères

At this tea house found in Galeries Lafayette, the Marais, and several other places around Paris (as well as online), you can choose from more than 500 varieties of tea, as well as tea paraphernalia such as filters and canisters. 

Photo: Marco Polo/Flickr

Grocery Store Gifts

If Galeries Lafayette is out of your budget or if you just need to pick up a few last-minute gifts, your neighbourhood Carrefour or Monoprix can be a surprisingly helpful resource for Christmas shopping. 

Everyone knows the French love their Nutella, but the lesser-known Speculoos spread has a delightful gingerbread cookie taste and can be found in any French grocery store. Other potential supermarket gifts include jars of foie gras, terrine, mustard, jam, or typical French biscuits. 

Make sure to check customs regulations in your home country before trying to pack edibles in your suitcase. The US, for example, forbids entry of certain soft cheeses and meats.

Photo: new-york-city/Flickr

by Katie Warren

Another version of this story was published in 2015

Another version of this article was published in 2015

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WEATHER

Will anywhere in France get a white Christmas this year?

A white Christmas might be at the top of many people's festive wish list but will it actually come true for anyone in France this year?

Haut-Koenigsbourg castle in Orschwiller, eastern France.
Haut-Koenigsbourg castle in Orschwiller, eastern France. Non-mountainous parts of the country will not see snow this year. (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP)

If you’re in France and have been dreaming of a white Christmas, you are probably out of luck. 

It has been freezing in recent days with temperatures falling to a low of -33.4C in Jura on Wednesday morning, but the cold spell isn’t going to last. 

Temperatures across the country will hover around the 10C level in most of France by the afternoon on December 25th according to Météo France, with parts of the country including Brittany and some parts of eastern France experiencing rainfall. 

By the afternoon on Christmas Day, the chances of snow look extremely limited. Source: www.meteofrance.com

On Saturday, there will be some snowfall, but only if you are high in the mountains at an altitude of 1,800-2,000m. On Sunday, places above 1,500m could also see snow – but this rules out the vast majority of the country. 

Roughly half the country will see sunshine over the weekend. The French weather channel said that this Christmas could be among the top five or six warmest since 1947. 

Last year, Météo France cautioned: “While we often associate snow with Christmas in the popular imagination, the probability of having snow in the plains [ie not in the mountains] during this period is weak in reality.”

One of the last great Christmas snowfalls, outside of France’s mountainous areas, came in 2010 when 3-10 cm of snow fell in Lille, Rouen and Paris. In Strasbourg, 26cm fell. 

On Christmas Day in 1996, 12 cm of snow fell in Angers – ironically, this was also the day that the film, Y’aura t’il de la neige à Noël? (Will there never be snow at Christmas?) was released. It had been ten years since France had seen such snowfall outside of the Alps and Pyrenees. 

Météo France directly attributes declining rates of Christmas snowfall to climate change. Compared to 50 years ago, even the Alps receives the equivalent one less month of snowfall per year. 

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