Christmas Day this year was cloudy, but patches of sun broke up every now and then. Ruth and I ate our nontraditional lunch at a Chinese restaurant, then caught the Metro to Place de la Concorde. It hadn’t been our plan to ride on the giant Ferris wheel erected there, but its gleaming white arms and silent movement through the air drew us in.
This wheel, named the Grande Roue after one at the universal exhibition in 1900, was built for the millennium celebration in Paris. The modern version, 60 meters high, has traveled to the Netherlands and Bangkok. This year, it’s set up in Paris only in December and January for the winter holidays. The wheel has been placed so that it faces the Arc de Triomphe at the other end of the Champs Elysées.
At the foot of the wheel, little stands sold hot wine and sausages. Street vendors roasted chestnuts and whirled cotton candy (called barbe de papa here – daddy’s beard).
The wheel’s passenger cars are large; each one holds six people and is enclosed in glass – and heated. The wheel rose slowly and all of Paris was visible below us. Over there Sacre Coeur, the white church on the hills of Montmartre. Below us, dogs raced in the still green grass of the gardens of the Tuileries. Beside the Seine we could see the Louvre, the Musée D’Orsay, the Grand Palais rising above the trees.
Apparently this peripatetic wheel has generated a bit of controversy between its owner and the city of Paris. I’ve read that the operator refused to take it down after the millennium, so it stayed an extra year. I just hope it keeps coming back for Christmas – and that I do too.