Christmas villages with their chalet-type stalls are all over the city this time of year. I hit the ones in the Latin Quarter, St. Germain and the Champs Elysees, but do my best shopping at the grand-daddy of them all at La Defense. The merchandise ranges from the artsy to the kitschy to the ethnic. If it slices, dices or chops and has a patent pending, chances are you can get one here.
Lots of vendors from Russia (people here are nuts for anything Russian right now) and the Near East. Scarves, of course, Wool Lap hats, gloves and booties. Handmade toys. Hand-carved Nativity scenes and santons (figurines of saints and country folk). And, of course food, glorious food: pain d'epice (sort of like a chewy gingerbread or spice cake depending on how it's made), jars of every type of honey imaginable, ditto for mustards, huge sausages and wheels of cheese. Then there's the food to eat on site: huge bowls of sausage with sauerkraut, potatoes tossed with a big wooden oar into cream sauce and ham (see photo). Ham and brie panini. Foie gras. The Tex-Mex stand has a huge crowd although, to me at least, it looks/smells neither Tex nor Mex. I give it a wide berth.
Although it's well before noon, everyone is sipping on a big cup of spiced wine to cut the chill. I must say it goes down well.