Florence at Christmas time – December 2015

Duomo at Night

TreeFlorence, Italy is just a short trip from Lucca, so some friends and I decided to spend a full day there, enjoying the holiday festivities. The Duomo or main Cathedral in Florence is spectacular on a normal day, but it sparkles at night now with the large Christmas tree in front of it. I don’t know if I have ever seen anything so beautiful. There is also a large nativity scene in front of the cathedral as well (pictured at the bottom of this post).

The streets were all decorated with lights, and we were pleased to discover a few light shows throughout town as well. The one pictured below we just stumbled upon, but the big one is displayed on Ponte Vecchio. Don’t be fooled though. Just because it is the holiday season doesn’t mean that the light show will have a holiday theme. However, it is remarkable nonetheless and shows a deep appreciation for art. Pictures or videos just don’t do it justice. You have to experience it.


We managed to catch one of the last nights of the Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce. It was a great place to try different holiday foods like Hungarian Chimney Cake and German Apple Strudel. You can wash it down with some mulled wine. When you have eaten all you can, then it is time to shop. There were so many unique gifts to be found there.

There is nothing like Christmas trees, lights and markets to put one in the holiday spirit. Buon Natale!



PARIS, FRANCE (December 2013)

Eiffel Tower

My husband had some business to attend to in Paris, so I went along just to explore a bit. I had been to Paris before but had had limited time to do everything that I wanted to do.  I also had gone to Paris with little preparation the last time. This time I had ideas of what I wanted to do and planned accordingly. Paris is amazing in December before Christmas. It isn’t overcrowded with tourists and the Christmas decorations are stunning.


Louvre Museum: Last time I was in Paris, I made the gigantic mistake of not knowing that the Louvre was closed on Tuesdays. I figured museums would be closed on Sundays or Mondays. That is a very incorrect assumption. This time I arrived at the Louvre on a Monday morning when it opened at 9am. I got in quickly and made my way immediately to the Mona Lisa. It was a fantastic plan, because the area around the Mona Lisa was pretty much empty. As it is a very tiny picture, it is hard to view when there are crowds in front of it. I had a perfect view. However, by the time I made it to the Venus di Milo statue by 10:30am, it was significantly more crowded.

Shakespeare and Company: As a huge lover of books, I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to check out one of the most famous independent bookstores in the world. It was adorable. However, it is tiny, so if you have more than 20 people in there, it can be hard to move around. They have everything from used and new books to a library that can only be read inside the store.

Musee d’Orsay: I can’t believe that I never went to this museum before. I am a huge fan of Impressionistic art. I love artists like Monet, Degas, and Renoir. I preferred this museum over the Louvre actually. I had never seen so many Monet paintings in one place. It was breathtaking. This museum also included some famous paintings by Van Gogh, Matisse, and Pissaro. I found works of art that were new to me that I enjoyed immensely including Henri Gervex’s “Madame Valtesse de la Bigne” and Millet’s “Le Printemps.” I also became a fan of works by Sisley, Cross, Luce, and Signac. I did tear up when I saw Degas’ “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” and Monet’s “Coquelicots.” If you get there right at 9:30am when the museum opens, it is not too busy. I recommend heading straight to the 5th level. That area is crowded later in the morning as I found out. This museum is closed on Monday. I believe this has been my favorite art museum so far, and that is saying a lot after loving the Smithsonian, Rijksmuseum, and the Met.

Mona Lisa (Louvre)

Musee d'Orsay Collection


  1. Starbucks: It is surprising, but I do miss Starbucks. There is no Starbucks in Lucca, Italy, so when I travel elsewhere, I do try to enjoy at least one beverage from Starbucks. Fortunately, there was a Starbucks conveniently located inside the Louvre Museum. I got to enjoy one of their Christmas blends.
  2. Rue du Petit Pont: After going to the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, I went to a nearby restaurant where I could have a hamburger. This is another food item that reminds me of home in the States that I rarely can get in Lucca, Italy. I had a glass of French wine with the burger. The meal was unimpressive, but the waitstaff was fantastic. I was in and out of the restaurant in 30 minutes. Everything was so efficient. It allows me more time to enjoy the sites when I don’t have to sit and wait forever to be served or for my food to arrive.
  3. Chez Marc: This is a Lebanese restaurant in the south of Paris that my husband’s boss took us to. For 25 Euro a person, we had endless plates of food, about 3 bottles of wine, and a round of Anisette (French liquor). The food was absolutely amazing. I am normally a pretty picky eater, but I ate everything that was passed around. I would highly recommend this place!
  4. Crepes: If you have never had this French specialty, you need to. I had never had one before and tried the Caramel crepe. It was so delicious that I probably could have had ten more.
  5. Fajitas: Near our hotel, there was a Mexican restaurant that we had to try. I think finding good Mexican food is the most rare thing in Italy, so we really were hankering for good fajitas and margaritas.  We were not disappointed. The meat and vegetables were fantastic, but they also had refried beans which was a welcome surprise as we haven’t had refried beans in a long time. It was a perfect way to end our lovely in Paris!

Christmas Markets

My favorite part of Paris during December is the amazing holiday lights, decorations, and markets. There is a large Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame. Right next to Notre Dame on the other side of the Siene River is a little Christmas market. One can’t miss the Christmas lights and market on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées by the Arc de Triomphe. The market supplied us with amazing food and beer, Christmas music and gift items, displays of Christmas lights, and even an appearance by Santa in his sleigh.

I don’t think I would want to visit Paris at any other time of year. It was perfect!

Arc de Triomphe