Winter in Paris

Well, we made it through January. That was eventful, wasn’t it? I don’t think I slept at all on January 6th, while the siege on the Capitol unfolded. France and all Europe were also watching in horror, their news headlines decrying the “attack on American democracy.” They regard us as the gold standard, and this seemed to shake them almost as much as it did us Americans. I spent that night on Twitter schooling some of our elected “representatives” on the finer points of the Constitution. My mother’s patriotic heart beats in me.

Since that day, things have calmed down considerably here. We enjoyed some freakish spring-like weather, and then as is common after a warm spell in winter, some snow. We’ve had snow every year in Paris recently, something that was not always so common in the past. It doesn’t amount to much, nothing like the storm that pummeled the Northeast recently (this Buffalo gal was envious of you guys). In Paris, we get a few flakes, mostly wet snow, no more than a light dusting. An inch is a lot for Parisians. Four inches shuts the city right down.

As soon as I saw the first flakes early in the morning of the 16th, I threw on my boots and my warmest duds, and headed out, giddy like a little girl. “Snow!” I posted on my Instagram. “Snow!” on my Facebook. “Snow!” I cried as I headed out to play.

We had about an inch by the time I got outside, a pristine cottony cover on the ground and tree branches. It masked city filth, transformed cars into hillocks of white. My little neighborhood, with its two-story atelier buildings and 19th-century homes, had become an Alpine village. It lasted only a few hours. Rain came and washed it away before it could be sullied by city life. A precious and magical moment, one of many served up by the City of Light.

Place de la Reunion in the 20th arrondissement. There is a market here on Sundays. ©Lisa Anselmo
Snow has a way of silencing even the busiest of cities. ©Lisa Anselmo

Lately, we’re having mostly rain, typical for this time of year. The Seine is swelling and breeching its embankments, leaving little room for boats to pass under its bridges. It’s nothing like the flood of 2016, which had reached 6.1 meters. That happened due to a patch of intense storms in late spring when the run-off reservoirs had already been sealed off for summer. At this time of year, it’s not uncommon for the waters to rise. We watch with fascination more than anything. That seems to be good advice for a saner 2021: watch with fascination and worry about life’s floods only if and when they happen.

Seine waters rise. ©Lisa Anselmo

I actually love winter in Paris. It’s generally milder than New York, which can be bitter for days on end. Sure, New York has more sun than Paris at this time of year, but I don’t mind the clouds in winter. They make me feel cozier, the sky lowering itself to protect us from the freezing atmosphere above. The Parisian winter sky can be changeable, too, permitting just the right amount of sun to filter though, casting a soft coppery glow on the otherwise pale facades of Haussmann’s city. There is something about the light of northern France in winter that escapes description, but I will forever endeavor to find the right words.

Some wintery highlights in Paris:

The village-like feel of my Paris neighborhood is even more pronounced in the snow. ©Lisa Anselmo
Me, out playing in the snow.
One of my favorite cafés, the No-Name Café or Café Sans Nom (also sans clients because of Covid). ©Lisa Anselmo
A few signs of the holidays still linger in mid-January in Paris. ©Lisa Anselmo
A local restaurant selling take-out oysters (huîtres) as snow falls. ©Lisa Anselmo
©Lisa Anselmo
Rising Seine waters with a view on Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame. The crane is part of the church’s restoration effort. ©Lisa Anselmo
A park on the embankment of the Seine under water, Ile de la Cité and the bell towers of Notre Dame in the distance. ©Lisa Anselmo
The Seine, early morning, Feb 4. The light in winter in northern France is so beautiful. ©Lisa Anselmo

Read more of my Paris Lockdown Diary, here.

Subscribe to my series on Youtube, My (Part-Time) Paris Life, produced by Nomadic Frames.

For a daily dose of Paris, follow me on Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest

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6 responses to “Winter in Paris

  1. Thank you Lisa for this post it is always a treat to see Paris in any season. The romance with snow is short lived for me and we have plenty of it here in Alberta and more to come. I am dreaming of spring !!! Good luck with all your work shops.

    • I bet you have snow. Alberta is stunning that way. I went to Banff some years ago for a ski invitational (a fundraiser for the Waterkeeper Alliance) and never saw anything so beautiful as those snow-covered mountains. That’s also when I learned that Fahrenheit and Celsius meet at -40 degrees. Brrr.

  2. La grisaille. [sighs] It makes one appreciate the sun that much more.

    Of course, it doesn’t snow in LA. I remember one snowfall. One. I bundled up the kid and wheeled her around in her stroller to see it all. She was, as usual, unimpressed. She chose to go to the University of Wisconsin/Madison. After one very snowy winter (even by Wisco standards) she begged to transfer–to Boston University. We told her to stick out the semester and think it over while home for the summer. She stuck it out for all four years and had a great time.

    I knew she would.

  3. Great description of ‘Paris in winters’;Lisa ! I didn’t get a chance to enjoy the snow as I visited Paris in the month of September! Next time let’s hope we make it !Thanks for sharing the beautiful post👍

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