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Holiday decorating for Parisian café

So…… I am living, as you know, in Paris. I am living in the 1st arrondissement across the street from the Louvre. My apartment is in a 19th century building. Everything is old, old, old. There is a café at the entrance of the building and I have made friends with the owner. He casually asked me one day in November if I had any ideas for his Christmas decorations for the café. Boy, did he open Pandora's box. My eyes lit up like an inferno. Why? Here's why… Decorating is my life. Especially Christmas decorating. I was not going to let a little ALS dash my opportunity to decorate my first Parisian café. Mind you, I am completely paralyzed from the shoulders down so this was not going to be an easy feat. All I have is my bossy mouth to work with. The café is very old school so I thought that the Christmas theme should be very old school Parisian Christmas. The owner of the café had four requests… Use red, gold, stars and do it on a €200 budget. Let the fun begin. In the United States, I could do this with my eyes closed and do it within a day. Not the case here in lovely Paris. My first obstacle was the garland. Garland is not readily available here. I went to about 400 places to look for it. No one was selling it, and no one would tell me where to get it. It was like a French Garland secret. Finally, finally, finally I found a florist who had some sticking out of his truck. I pounced. I begged him to sell me some. €125 for 5 meters! I was able to negotiate it down to €100. There goes half the budget. Jesus. Okay, garland solved. Next, the lights. Another problem. I hate LED lights. Why is everyone using LED lights? They are so ugly. Trying to find regular, exterior, green cord, natural glow, non LED lights is like trying to ask Brandy on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills not to call Joyce , "Jacqueline." It's not easy. Again, I went to about 400 stores to find them. No one had them. I had to order them. Another problem. I placed the order, expecting the lights the next day. No delivery. I called the store and they said they had to have proof of residency for delivery. Oh my God. So I had to fax a copy of my lease immediately. They arrived the next day. Okay, lights solved. Whoops, not so fast. French lights do not self connect to each other to make a continuous string of lights. What is wrong with these people? So I had to first learn how to say, "extension cord" in French, and then go find one. Okay, lights solved. Next, red and gold balls. I ordered those as well, super cheap. I ordered big, medium, and small balls in shiny, matte, and glitter. I also managed to find gold star ornaments. I'm already over the budget, but whatever. Okay, balls solved. Next problem? Explaining to my straight Nepali male caregiver how to decorate this garland. This proved to be the biggest challenge. I became a decorating bitch. "To the right, to the left, don't crowd the balls, don't wrap the lights so tight, not so many gold balls together, not so many red balls together, stop crowding the balls!" I thought he was going to quit. Finally though, in the end, he did a great job and he is now gay. Just kidding. The next obstacle was getting the garland downstairs to the café. It took three people to carry the garland downstairs and six Frenchmen to put the garland up in freezing cold temperature. After all of our hard work, I didn't have the energy to tell the guys that they put the Garland up crooked and too far to the right. Choose your battles. My reward? The owner of the café made me a delicious hot red wine with a slice of orange with cloves. So good, I am now addicted.
A truck full of garland. God, I look ugly.
Red and gold balls. They were plastic so they were cheap. When we dropped them, they just bounced
You have to wrap the garland with lights first…duh
Red balls first
Next the gold balls...
Next, we tied a little trio of small balls together
We added in the little gold bells…
And the little gold stars next…
This is the finished garland waiting to be installed…
The owner of the café wanted the garland installed on the awning…
Here is the funny part… The workers put the garland up uneven and then someone cut two strands of lights the next day so that is uneven as well. Jesus. Like Martha Stewart says, " If you want anything done right, do it yourself."
A vin chaud was our payment. Good enough for me!


  1. I stumbled onto your blog today, Ellie, and just wanted to say how much I've enjoyed it! I look forward to checking back in on it for regular doses of your keen eye for chic, good humored snark, and (positive, I just know it!) health updates. Wishing you all the best from Boston.

  2. I loved this story. You in all your glory! :)