The 12 Pubs of Christmas à Paris

12 pubs of Christmas a Paris - Auld Alliance by Expat Edna

There are few times you can look back in your life and point to an exact moment and say, There. That’s when everything changed.

For me, that was … a pub crawl.

12 pubs of Christmas a Paris - Rollins Pub by Expat Edna

My first year in Paris, as most people know, was solidly blah.

I didn’t like the city, I didn’t get the city — and had I left at the end of that year (as my original contract stated) I would have done so with a wholly unimpressed, zero-net-gain outlook on Paris.

12 pubs of Christmas a Paris - Pub Zero by Expat Edna

But two years ago today, I decided to join a pub crawl — on a last-minute invite, hosted by an Irish couple I didn’t know, who were relatively new friends of a very new friend.

That day, I was introduced to the people and places that would shape, define, and totally make my second year in Paris. (thank goodness I got that contract extension, hey!)

12 pubs of Christmas a Paris - St Paul, Marais by Expat Edna

I didn’t know it then, but the hosts’ apartment in the Marais — and that view of St Paul — would become like a second home to me; over the next few months it saw numerous impromptu parties (including my not-as-impromptu 24th birthday), Arrested Development marathons, or nights we’d just call in for a cup of tea.

12 pubs of Christmas a Paris - Notre Dame by Expat Edna

I took this photo on our way to the first bar thinking, “Man what a view!” (Living out in the 16th meant the îles and Notre Dame were a minor commute to reach.) I never would’ve dreamed that six months later I’d move onto this island: this would be my neighborhood, my daily picnic spot.

By the time I left Paris I had about 3058190 photos of this view.

12 pubs of Christmas a Paris - Andy by Expat Edna

Andy would become the good friend who always said yes to things like spontaneous roadtrips to Belgium, late-night couch crashing, sanity-saving visits to small-town Italy, beer expeditions — and was the one person who shared my love of terrible, awful, just-the-worst puns.

(What does a nosy pepper do? Gets jalapeño business!)

12 pubs of Christmas a Paris - Marina by Expat Edna

Marina, who was strictly manning the 12 Pubs rules and clipboard that day, would turn into the friend I could always count on for a laugh, some culture (because I have the art knowledge of a bored kindergartener), and the best-decorated parties — which means I can’t wait to attend her wedding next summer!

12 pubs of Christmas a Paris - Sara and Kerri by Expat Edna

And Sara and Kerri became the friends who were always up for a picnic, always put me up when I needed a place to crash, always there for everyone — even to this day I still email, text, Skype them regularly: these are two of the most supportive people in my life. So it’s pretty awesome that I met them wearing these sweaters.

12pubsgroup021 by Diane, A Broad

I won’t go on, but there are so many I met that day (clearly, look at how many people fit in these photos) that changed the course of my Paris life — the girl who became my roommate, the guy I’d end up traveling the world with for over a year — so that I grew from indifferent to loving the city a disgusting amount, and now talk about it like every other clichéd Paris-obsessive out there.

It all came down to 12 Pubs.

12pubs group by Diane, A Broad12 pubs of Christmas a Paris - between stops by Expat Edna12 pubs of Christmas a Paris - Bombardier by Expat Edna12 pubs group from Diane, A Broad12 pubs of Christmas a Paris - outside Bombardier by Expat Edna12pubsgroup031 by Diane, A Broadr

The Long Hop: where two months later I’d get a crazy asthma attack and bonded even more with the group as they gave me helpful pointers on breathing

And that’s also why I don’t mind writing up this post that isn’t relevant to anyone but myself and the people who were there. (by the by, the fun wasn’t just due to the 12+ hours we spent at bars — I wasn’t even drinking that night and spent all of it sober!) It was the start of what would become an extraordinarily fun and special time in Paris, and so 12 Pubs is dear to our hearts.


Pub Zero

So for the Paris gang, enjoy the photos and the memories. I miss you guys something fierce.

12 pubs of Christmas a Paris - March 2014 find by Expat Edna

March 2014: fifteen months later, and some of us still find we’ve kept the pub crawl certificates…

For everyone else, the TL;DR expat lesson is: it’s always the people who make the places. 


And for those interested (’tis the season!), our 12 Pubs of Christmas à Paris:

The Route (start around noon, approx 50 min each):

The Auld Alliance: Christmas Attire
Rollins Pub: No Names + Fake Accents
(Finnegan’s Wake/Connolly’s Corner are also options)
The Bombardier: Left Hand Pub
The Long Hop: Swapsies
Le Gentleman: Straws
FOOD BREAK (this is important!)
Le Galway
The Great Canadian
The Highlander
The Frog & Princess

The Guidelines:

Christmas Attire: wear something Christmas-y. Holiday jumpers are the ideal uniform.
No Names: Do not use names, must find alternative means to communicate with fellow participants
Fake Accents: Each person must pick an accent and converse in this way for the duration of the pub
Left Hand Pub: Can only drink while holding with your left hand
Swapsies: Participants must swap an item of clothing with someone else for the duration of the pub
Straws: Participants will be provided with a drinking utensil to aid their consumption

Participants who are found to breach the above guidelines will choose from the forfeit options listed below

The Forfeits/Concessions/Penalties:

– Sing the chorus of Where’s Me Jumper (which will get stuck in your head for the next month)
– Drink a shot
– Drink 2-4 fingers’ height of your beer
– Do an Irish dance!

non-marked photos via
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  1. Ha, what a coincedence, I walked past the Bombardier and the Long Hop today, unfortunately I’m already back on British soil but I love that area of Paris!

    • How funny! That’s actually not my favorite part of Paris and I try to stay on the other side of the bank, except for when my friends and their pub crawls bring me back, of course! :)

  2. Edna, I’m dying. This is the best post ever.
    That was such a special day, and there have been so many wonderful days since :)

    • Aww thanks Marina — it was! I’m so glad to have met you then and for all the adventures that followed :)

  3. Oh what fun! I wish I had this list of pubs last year when I was in Paris. Guess I’ll have to give them a try next time around! Thanks for sharing!


  4. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy this post made me! We must have became good friends immediately because looking back, I can’t believe this is really the first time I met you! You are so right – part of the magic of the day was having an event to facilitate us all hanging out for 12+ hours straight in Paris – what an epic day! So thankful for all the friendships that came out of 12 pubs!

    • We did — next time we saw each other was Marina’s birthday party and the rest, as you know, is history! I’ll always be so grateful for that day and all of you guys, Paris wouldn’t have been Paris if not for any of this!

  5. PS. I’m glad you met me while I was sporting my Christmas jumper :-)

  6. What a lovely story!

  7. Miss you! I love this story of yours :)

  8. Hmmmm, somehow I’m not surprised that your defining moment was on a pub crawl ;)

  9. paris and i arent best friends, but im certain that if something like this was in our lives, we would become best friends :)

    happy holidays edna!!!

    • Paris and I wouldn’t have been friends at all if not for this pub crawl!! If you’re ever back in the city let me know and I’ll point you to the right spots and people :) Hope you had a great holiday Megan!