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Christmas with teenagers - Paris or Sicily?

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Jun 26th, 2004, 12:34 PM
  #1
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Christmas with teenagers - Paris or Sicily?

Advice sought regarding pro's and con's of travelling with two teenage girls over Christmas week.. weather, activities, things open or closed.. we speak French and not Italian.
Thanks!
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Jun 26th, 2004, 03:37 PM
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I am surprised you have to ask. Paris, Paris, Paris. Street markets, Christmas decorations everywhere, the Eiffel Tower, fashion parades at Galeries Lafayette, cruise down the Seine, shopping and shopping, if they're anything like my teenagers. Watching other teenagers at Champs du Mars. Drinking hot chocolate and pain du chocolat. Mmmm. Check in advance as to opening times of restaurants etc. There is nothing worse than traipsing about in the cold to find that something's closed. My husband is Sicilian and we love it there but there won't be as much happening and it won't have the atmosphere.
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Jun 26th, 2004, 03:58 PM
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Although I've not been to Sicily, for teens it's Paris, hands down. I just got back with three teenaged girls, all of whom can't wait to take another trip. The shopping, the subway, the people watching, the museums...what girl wouldn't love that in their Christmas stocking!
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Jun 27th, 2004, 03:52 AM
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I agree.
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Jun 27th, 2004, 07:19 AM
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Without knowing your teenagers, it is impossible to say with certainty which of these outstanding destinations would be better for them. You have narrowed things down to two such wonderful options that I can't imagine that either could possibly be a bad choice, with a little planning.

All I can tell you is that for me, when I was a teenager, the better choice would have been Sicily. I would have been more excited about going to a place that was very foreign and culturally different from home, rather than a place that is relatively cosmopolitan. I would have been more fascinated with the ancient Greek sites, the partly Moorish architecture and decoration, the small ancient hilltowns, and the varied landscapes and seascapes of Sicily than with the charming streets and lovely bridges and fine architecure of Paris, which is not to say I wouldn't have appreciated the latter. I would have enjoyed the museums of Paris, but since I lived a relatively short ride from NYC, I was not exactly starved for excellent museums. However, I had never experienced anything remotely like Sicily. I was not interested in shopping, and would not have been given any freedom to go shopping anyway, so Parisian shopping opportunities would've been wasted on me. I think there might be more opportunity to have interesting, unusual, but not expensive, foods in Sicily, too.

From the point of view of learning experiences for a teenager, both Paris and Sicily are great, but Paris (and actually most cities) can't come close to Sicily as a place that can stimulate the imagination and expand a teenager's understanding of history and geography and complex cultural influences. Sicily has been dominated and influenced by so many different cultures--ancient Greek, Roman, Phoenician, Arab, Byzantine, Norman, Spanish, just to name a few. This influence is strikingly noticeable in so many things--the architecture, music, cooking, dialect, plants, folkways and mores, including things that are easily seen, heard, tasted and smelled by a casual tourist.

Maybe I should tell you that I did go to both Paris and Sicily as a teenager (long long ago). My father qualified for some very cheap flights the summer I was 16, and we went for a month to London, then Italy from the north down through central and southern mainland and down to Sicily and back through mainland Italy, then through France to Paris. I loved just about everything (except Milan). I definitely liked Paris and thought it was beautiful, and I was excited about seeing France because I had taken three years of French in high school, and because my father had always expressed admiration and affection for the French based on his experiences in France as an American soldier during WW2. However, without being free to wander a bit on my own, I think I missed out on a lot of the appeal of Paris. Sicily, on the other hand, especially visiting a small, fairly remote mountain town, was a life-changing experience, stimulated my imagination, and had an enormous effect on my intuitive understanding of history and Mediterranean cultures.

Maybe I should also tell you that I don't know Paris too well. I've been there just three times (including when I was 16) and the three visits barely add up to two weeks. I'm looking forward to spending a few days there again this fall, and will probably go there many more times, for just a few days at a time. I've been to Sicily four times (including the time when I was 16) and the four visits add up to about seven weeks.

All this said, if you speak French, and you don't speak Italian, it would be MUCH easier to go to Paris. Sicily would require a lot more planning and effort. And if your girls are studying French, Paris, or anywhere in France, would probably be an ideal choice. But I still say that Sicily is something extra special, and not even a great and beautiful city like Paris can possibly beat it.
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Jun 27th, 2004, 09:43 AM
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We were in Paris a week this past Christmas, not with teens, but what teens wouldn't love Paris!

Planning the trip I looked at historical weather data...it showed frequent rain, so we went prepared for that...and that's what we got. Usually it wasn't hard rain, just grey and misty which is sort of romantic in Paris. Temps were in the mid 40's--comfortable even for us Floridians with the exception of the evening at the top of the Eiffel Tower, numbingly cold.

Most museums were closed Christmas day, although there were a handful open. We planned on doing the Eiffel Tower that day, figuring the rest of the world would be home celebrating Christmas. Wrong! Lines were looooong. After that day, everything was again open.

Christmas Eve afternoon we were able to walk right into Notre Dame, but after that, again, lines were very long. Going to Paris between Christmas and New Years evidently is not a novel idea.

The decorations were wonderful, the Champs Elysee with white lights in all the trees, and at several larger intersections, little "Christmas tree forests", masses of firs, flocked and decorated with tiny white lights. Beautiful!

Downside to a Christmas trip. Rates are higher. Trees are leafless of course and many of the fountains are drained. Iffy weather. Other than that we loved it--a beautiful time to see the city. I've got pictures on a website if you are interested...and from them you'll see one day of real sun--and that was all we got. http://www.worldisround.com/articles/55278/index.html
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Jun 27th, 2004, 03:40 PM
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In my long post above, I forgot to mention the weather. I've never been to Sicily in December. I was there in November two years ago, and it was very pleasant--quite mild in most places (70s F, I think), but cool and blustery in the Nebrodi Mts. Except in some of the mountainous areas, I don't think it will be truly cold in December, but it may be more rainy than other times of year--not the best weather for Sicily, but probably a lot nicer than where most of us live.

I assume that winter weather would not interfere with your enjoyment of Paris. I prefer cities in the winter and actually hate big cities in hot weather.
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Jun 27th, 2004, 07:35 PM
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thanks so much for all these interesting replies.. we are leaning toward paris for all the reasons given here.. but now i am more persuaded to go to sicily too! i was wondering if things were so closed down around christmas that paris might be dull for the girls, but i am guessing that more things would be shut down in sicily and think paris might be the safer bet for picky teenagers.. but they can be picky about weather too and so all this information is helpful. my husband will be doing work in sicily, so we'll get there on another trip if we don't make it this time.. thanks again for all the input!
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Jun 27th, 2004, 07:38 PM
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p.s. I loved those photos! They make the case for Paris at Christmas time beautifully!
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Jun 27th, 2004, 07:38 PM
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Joyeux Noel!
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Jun 27th, 2004, 08:10 PM
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We spent last New Year's in Paris, (with our two children, ages 8 and 13) mostly moving from restaurant to restaurant it seemed! It was pretty raw weather, so that curtailed some of the strolling that most of us like to do in Paris. (Buying a week-long subway pass turned out to have been a very good idea, although I believe that you can travel on the Metro for free or reduced fare on some holidays like Christmas.)We found that the jet lag was a bit of a problem for our teen, so our ambitions to canvas lots of museums, after having invested in week-long adult museum passes, were never fully realized, alas. A highlight was very likely watching the informally arranged fireworks that people set off at midnight, from either side of the Seine. We were among a throng of people on one of the bridges, and it was very cheerful, watching the Tour d'Eiffel light up at midnight--a sparking spectacle. I found that the low airfare at that time made the trip much more affordable--that is, before I began to account for what was then, at the time, a record high Euro! However, it works out, I hope that you and your family have a splendid time!
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Jul 4th, 2004, 03:49 PM
  #12
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I'm curious whether any of the people who emphatically recommended Paris rather than Sicily for this trip have ever been to Sicily around Christmastime and found it not a good time to go. Or is there anyone else reading this who can comment on what it's like in Sicily around Christmas (and in what particular part of Sicily were you at that time of year).
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