Thanksgiving day in Paris is different than most, mainly because most Parisians have no idea it's a holiday. Of course, it's not a holiday in France, but those of us crazy Americans running around still do our best to consider friends and family at home or abroad, love and life and all things to be grateful for. Two years ago, I was lucky enough to spend the day with Brother, Sister-in-law and Nephew wandering around the palace and gardens of Versailles. Last year, Hot Blonde Cousin from London came over and we attended a real Thanksgiving feast at the home of some of my American friends who lived in a beautiful apartment on the Seine. This year, the family was back in town and we made sure to integrate the French culture with our American holiday thoughts all the livelong day.
The first time Nephew came to Paris, he was 3-years-old and under the adorable impression that Auntie La lived in the Eiffel Tower. Though he is now 5 and had left that grand delusion behind, he still wanted more than anything to head to the top of the Tower and experience one of the best views of Paris. Interestingly, I had never been to the top either, so we spent Thanksgiving morning doing the most touristy thing in town. To be fair, what with the elevators, the machinery, and the breathtaking panoramas, it really isn't an experience to be missed. We wandered from middle floor to the summit, taking pictures of the landscape and ourselves, relishing in the sights and sounds all around.
It was actually the perfect thing for us to do while my Dad and Stepmom landed at Charles do Gaulle to join us on the rest of our adventures. But before making our way back to Montmartre, we took a swift walk over to my neck of the woods in the 16th. I spared my compatriots the epic walk up my 6 flights of stairs and instead ran the precipice to fetch the device that would create the centerpiece of our afternoon feast: a lovely raclette machine.
When we finally arrived back in Montmartre, where my Father and Stepmother (let's call them Connecticut) would be Airbnbing as well, we found them casually waiting outside of Brother and fam's apartment (let's call them New York City). While CT settled into their own abode, NYC and I ran around the neighborhood in search of all the food and wine we would need for the evening. We were in search of not only raclette and accoutrements, but roast chicken, vegetables, an almost otherworldly amount of desserts, and of course more wine.
We dropped our purchases back at the home base and both parts of Northeastern America and I went off for one final activity before our holiday dinner: Marchés de Noël. Many parts of Europe are known for their Christmas markets, and France is no exception. While not nearly as elaborate as Strasbourg, the many booths and spectacles lined up on the Champs Elysées certainly hold their own. They sell the usual crafts and fried foods, with some gourmet fare and very strange animatronic animals interspersed, but the most important thing of all is the hot wine. Oh, the blessed hot wine. The wine that you are allowed to walk around with in the open air, Christmas lights hanging over head, boxed music blaring from the speakers, and the general feeling of merriment abounding.
Before leaving, Nephew and I went on the kiddie rollercoaster nestled in a corner of the market. To be completely honest, I have never really been on a rollercoaster (save a traumatic pre-teen experience on Thunder Mountain at Disney World). I decided that Nephew would be my guide as I faced the perils of what is probably the least scary coaster of all time. Once the ride got going, I actually had a blast while nephew feigned childlike fear and snuggled by my side.
At long last, we found ourselves back in NYC's apartment very cozy and tipsy indeed, ready to begin our raclette Thanksgiving feast. For those who may not know, raclette is a glorious Swiss invention, combining melted cheese, potatoes and charcuterie, though you can essentially use whatever you like. It's sort of a DIY cheesy wonder in the same family as fondue. You melt some cheese, pour it over a boiled potato, then add your grilled meats. It was the perfect family feasting frenzy. Along with chicken, brussels sprouts and our panoply of desserts, we all went to sleep very well fed, very well cultured, and very grateful for our wonderful time together.