09 December 2005

Lights? Camera! Action!

In high school, my friends and I were fond of driving around our small town in search of the tackiest possible Christmas decorations. This is a game that you can start playing as early as October, since Halloween officially kicks off the Christmas season. By December, the decorations are everywhere and candidates for our competition abounded. The true contenders always subscribed to a "More is Better" theory by buying every plastic decoration that Wal-Mart makes and packing them into their lawns. Apparently, nothing quite says "Christmas" like a giant inflatable light-up Frosty the Snowman blowing precariously in the wind, threatening to knock the light-up sillouette of Santa into the homemade light-up wooden manger.

In the spirit of this game, I have always enjoyed going out and looking at Christmas decorations. This year, I have been eagerly anticipating the displays in Paris. My neighborhood has done well with lights and whatnot, but I was certain that there was more to be found out there.

Enter a well-timed e-mail from a member of the French faculty at Michigan. Just as I was starting to scout out places to go, our friend Helene sent us a message about the official 12-stop circle tour of lights around Paris called Paris Illumine Paris. Each stop on this tour has a professional designer in charge of the "concept." So, this afternoon, we picked out four stops on the route for a Friday night tour. We called friends and invited them along. We ate dinner early. Finally, we leashed up the dog, grabbed the camera, and went to the top of the tour in the 18th.

Here's what we found:

Stop #1: Rue du Poteau - Porte Montmarte: la voie lactée (The Milky Way)

Apparently, the Milky Way galaxy is actually just a series of sphere-shaped projectors, not unlike the kind that most second-rate DJs use at junior high dances. The entire extent of this display included projections of abstract patterns on buildings. No strings of lights, no Christmas trees, no decorations of any sort. "OK," we thought, "Maybe this just isn't a good one. The next one will be better."

Stop #2: Avenue de Saint Ouen: la rivière de lumière de Saint-Ouen (the river of lights of St. Ouen)

This stop was the best of the four. The picture isn't great (heck, most pictures of Christmas lights aren't), but the strands of white lights in the middle turned off and on to simulate a "flow" of water down the street. It was nice - nothing spectacular or astounding, but a clear attempt to have real, themed decorations.

Stop #3: Rue Victor Hugo: Rive d'Or (The Golden Shore)

Colin and I couldn't actually tell that anything was supposed to be there while we were walking down the street. We didn't even see lights that weren't turned on.

Stop #4: Rue de Passy: Au Firmament de Passy (The Heavens of Passy)

There were several scaffold towers with projectors on them, but none of them were working. Had they been lit up, we understand that they would have projected stars on the buildings. So, it might have been slightly more impressive than stop number one. I had more fun looking in the store windows on the street.

By this point, Didge's tail was dragging and Colin and I were thoroughly baffled. "Maybe the lights don't start until next week?" we speculated. "Maybe they turn everything off at 8 pm?" We were at a loss for ideas, so we got back on the métro and went home.

Colin checked the website's details again, and we can find no explanation for our major disappointment. In fact, the only thing that we got out of the evening (other than a new blister on my left foot) was a worn-out dog. But, if Charles Schultz is correct that "Happiness is a warm puppy," then pure happiness is asleep on my pillow right now.


At 11/12/05 18:24, Anonymous Mary McClary said...

I think that that Harold's house beats anything in Paris!

At 20/12/05 04:32, Blogger Linda said...

I still remember the year that your dad and Scott just got all daffy with the lights and kept adding things. Everything in the yard was decorated! It was BEE-u-ti-ful!


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