This heading was actually inspired by a conversation I had with my server the last night I was in Paris. I treated myself to a drink and dinner at the Murano Urban Resort. It’s a little pricey so I was too cheap to stay there but it was only a few blocks from my hotel and I needed a more upscale place to wear my new outfit. And the weather was terrible so I wasn’t willing to drag myself all the way to the George V.
Both places also have memories for me as I took my 16 year old niece for a cocktail at each one on her “this is Paris” trip. The old, regal Paris – and the new, hip Paris. She was pretty blown away by both locales but she definitely had a crush on our friendly bartender with the dreadlocks at the Murano who was willing to even speak English!
The boys my night not so much… but they were friendly and charming. And both food and drink superb. I must learn to speak French better so that I can flirt with Frenchmen. They really don’t do English the way the Nordic guys do. But, hey, they didn’t used to even try to speak English – and they are doing better than Italian men. Of course, Italian men can generally get you to fall for them even if you don’t understand a word they are saying 🙂
I am actually going to manage to tie together the heading, our conversation and a gorgeous Italian man named Federico!
The subject began when my appetizer arrived, beautifully presented as one comes to expect in Paris. We both agreed it is one of the reasons it is such a pleasure to wander around Paris. You don’t need a specific destination to be caught up in the glory of it all.
If you have any interest in shopping, you should definitely come to Paris at least once in your life. The Parisians take the art of merchandising to a level that turns it into art. Hence, the concept that walking the streets of Paris is like visiting lots of tiny museums of carefully curated treasures.
I hate shopping but the Parisians have won me over. My general goal in life is to acquire goods with as little time, fuss and interaction with salespeople as possible. I used to just feel flustered by all the attention I received in Paris.
But my goal in traveling is to leave ethnocentricity at home and try my best to embrace whatever local culture I am in. So I have learned to say “bonjour” to all the sales assistants. To slow down and let them “help” me. They won’t be able to sell me something I don’t want but I can let them hope 🙂
And sometimes you meet a sales associate who is so good you just want to BUY something from him. That would be Federico this trip. He told me I was killing him when I told him I was a Dolce and Gabbana kind of girl in the Empori Armani store. But he was Italian so he understood.
A devastatingly handsome Italian man who speaks English is a retail weapon of deadly proportions 🙂 Federico could sell ice to the Eskimos. Of course, because he is Italian and selling ice in Paris, it would be tinted just the perfect shade of aquamarine and it would be wrapped in a navy icebox with silver ribbon curled with an expert hand.
But instead of ice I bought a silk skirt with a multicolour graphic pattern that screams spring 2012. I have Federico’s card. If I need it altered, I can ship it back to him and his expert seamstress in Paris. He actually conned me into putting on an entire outfit – not just the skirt but a matching top, a crazy Obi-style belt – and shoes so high I could look him in the eye. I had to admit the whole outfit was pretty inspired – but I knew I was just buying the skirt 🙂 And would have my local tailor make any alterations I needed. But Federico turned my Paris souvenir into an entire experience rather than just a hurried purchase.
My VISA card was screaming at me to get my money’s worth out of my call to VISA pre-trip so that they wouldn’t cut it off and I would have to make an expensive long distance call to finish the purchasing process. So I hopped on the metro and was off to likely my favourite shoe store in the entire world since Patrick Cox went out of business. For any shoe fanatics out there, it’s Rodolphe Menudier. I even found it without checking the website for the address!
The staff now speak English so it was more entertaining. It took some restraint but I only bought two pairs of shoes. One pair has faces on the toes! I will have to take a photo and add it to the post. Once again, really superior sales skills. He will ship any shoes I want to Canada!
While the French definitely know how to sell, what has always astonished me is their skill at merchandising. You must set a budget before you come shopping in France – because everything looks so good you will want it all!
I noticed it on my very first trip. Window displays caught your attention. Racks are not crowded with merchandise. Sales associates actually re-fold items immediately and keep all the goods displayed at their best at all times.
And when you make a purchase, it will be wrapped with loving care, generally in a special bag, sometimes with pomp and ribbon. Your purchase will feel special, not just something shoved into a plastic bag.
As I mentioned, I was writing this at the Murano, having my best meal in Paris, a stellar end to the trip. Thinking about the previous visit reminded me of wonderful example of French salesmanship at its finest.
I had taken my mom and my niece to Place Vendôme because everyone should see it on their first trip to Paris. My niece was very impressed with one of the fancy shops and snapping photos of it. I was smiling because we were just about to go into the fancy shop because I had decided she and my mom should have some French perfume to take home as a souvenir – and what better place to take them than Annick Goutal?
We got really lucky. Our saleslady spoke a very charming English with a strong French accent. She loved the idea of the three generations in Paris buying French perfume. It was a long process since my mom was a lot more fussy about scent than I had realized. But at the end of the delightful process, we came away with bottles of perfume, bags with ribbons and all sorts of free samples. And my dad loved the way my mom smelled 🙂
If you don’t have any money to spend, you can still come to Paris. My first visit I only window shopped. But try and save up a few euros (the exchange rate is fantastic right now :)) And spend them in Paris. On something French… a candle at Diptyque… perfume at Annick Goutal… or simply some macarons at Pierre Hermé… You don’t have to spend a lot. But the Parisians will make sure it feels like an event, not just a purchase.