How to Prep for Christmas when you are Sick, in Paris, and on a Budget

How to Prep for Christmas when you are Sick, in Paris, and on a Budget

posted in: Awkward, Daily Life, Paris | 3

And not really into it…

I guess it’s probably pretty normal that in a pair, one person can be more into the holidays than the other. Well it definitely isn’t me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy holiday festivities, but I just don’t get crazy about them. And I’ve been pretty sick this past week, so I’ve been particularly uninterested.

S has been talking about getting a tiny Christmas tree for our tiny apartment ever since we arrived here. But as we’ve been checking them out at markets over the last couple weeks, we realized – they are expensive. So sadly, we scratched that notion. He suggested instead that we buy some lights and tinsel, etc. and decorate the apartment a bit (a plan we’ve executed in the past over the years when we didn’t want to or couldn’t get a Christmas tree). Plan B sounded fine to me. I don’t know where Parisians normally go to buy Christmas decorations, but he found a specialty Christmas store, so we headed there to buy some festive items. Well, as will probably be surprising to no one, this stuff is even more expensive and for almost nothing. I know everything is petite here, but buying tinsel one meter at a time is a little ridiculous. This wasn’t going to work. We needed a another plan.

We walked back home brainstorming what other materials we could use to decorate. Maybe something with construction paper or paper plates? All of our ideas were either still too expensive or we weren’t sure where to buy the materials. Well, somewhere along Rue de Sèvres, we remembered that Le Bon Marché – a large, high-end department store near our apartment – has stacks of nice catalogs near the entrances. It wasn’t a fully formed Plan C, but it was a start…

And this began a varied weekend of trying to get better, trying to get into the Christmas spirit, and trying to bring a little Christmas cheer into our tiny apartment…


  1. Head to Le Bon Marché and casually lift four catalogs
  2. Start to feel particularly sick, but decide that I can’t go the pharmacy because here in Paris that almost certainly means having a conversation with a French pharmacist about symptoms, etc.
  3. Come up with my own prescription: Oreos + Chai (this is a combo that works, by the way! but not in the sense of curing an illness)
  4. Cough so much all night that I lose my voice


  1. Wake up and feel miserable.
  2. Go to Angelina’s for their famous Chocolate Chaud – which is pretty much a cup of melted comfort. It is thick, so rich, and definitely feels like Christmas.
  3. Buy glue, tape, and scissors from a nearby Monoprix – equipment needed to execute Plan C
  4. Realize that given how much I’m struggling to communicate simple phrases in between coughing fits and having no real voice, consider that maybe I should go the pharmacy
  5. Go home and start googling French terms for cough, sore throat, etc.
  6. Come across this funny and terrifying blog post about going to the pharmacy in Paris for sore throat medicine and coming back with (well, you’ll just have to read it) and re-think the decision to go to the pharmacy, since I have neither the French skills nor grace to negotiate an interaction like that
  7. Struggle through a phone call with an HR recruiter in NYC to complete a reference check for a previous team member. Have her tell me I sound “terrible” and recommend a lemon-honey-water mixture.
  8. Explain to her my dilemma about going to the pharmacy and then for some reason…summarize the terrifying blog post I just read for her (I blame this on the lack of human interaction I’ve had). Hopefully that aside didn’t hurt my team member’s chances.
  9. Resign myself to going to the pharmacy. Practice newly learned French terms for my ailments along the way.
  10. Have a completely non-dramatic exchange with the pharmacist, and procure two medicines without any of the freaky business.
  11. Head to the Christmas Markets on Champs-Elysees. Have Marron Chaud (roasted chestnuts) and Vin Chaud (hot wine). I want to love these things, but I do not.
  12. Ride the Thriller ride, where zombies are guaranteed on all 3 levels
  13. Go back to Le Bon Marché to lift a couple more catalogs
  14. Flesh out Plan C on the way home: decide we’ll make a Christmas tree using the catalogs.
  15. Take medicines
  16. Sit in bed and watch Memoirs of an International Assassin and Mr. Robot while crumpling the pages of six catalogs
  17. Stay up until 4am coughing incessantly.


  1. Start playing Christmas music
  2. Begin assembling a Christmas tree out of the crumpled up paper balls. This project reminds me a little of building bridges out of popsicle sticks in high-school physics class.
  3. About twenty percent of the way in, realize that the original plan would take forever. Abandon original plan C, and try a simpler approach that requires far fewer paper balls.
  4. Fashion star out of two cards that we picked up near the catalogs.
  5. Stick the tree on the wall. Put the star on top.
  6. Admire our work.

Now for those of you with a discriminating eye (i.e. eyes), you may recognize that this is just trash – literally, just trash on a wall. But, I kinda love it. And for 8 euros, it’s a steal.

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3 Responses

  1. “Casually lift”

  2. Love it! So creative 😉

  3. I love the tree! …and I hope you are feeling better.

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