a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘galeries lafayette’

what do tourists do in Paris???

Shop apparently!!!  I had no idea Galèries Lafayette is the second most visited tourist attraction in Paris (just behind the Louvre!)  Of course, I am shopping in Paris so totally understand the appeal.


It does explain why the ground floor at Galèries Lafayette is a madhouse – and why I stood in line for almost two hours to buy a purple Longchamp bag last year.  Never buy Longchamp at Galèries Lafayette!  Go to the flagship store on Faubourg St Honoré instead.


If you don’t have a lot of time, though, Galèries Lafayette is Paris shopping in a nutshell.  The temple to shoes on the -1 level is especially worth a visit – the best selection of the Paris department stores – and Pierre Hermé macarons as extra enticement (the tax-free desk is also conveniently located on this level 😉

wandering between banks :)

wandering between banks 🙂

I am wearing my funky new shoes as I type this.  They didn’t have my size at Galèries Lafayette but on my scoping mission I knew I could also get them at Printemps 🙂  They are from accessoire diffusion – fake snakeskin loafers stamped in lurid purple, fuschia and aqua – no snake looks like that of course but I am sure there is some young fashionista python out there wishing she looked like my shoes 🙂


There are two reasons I always shop for shoes in Paris.  The first is that you have a lot greater choice of wild styling.  The second is the assortment of medium-prized brands that deliver quality and style at a non-designer price point.  accessoire diffusion is one of my favourite mid-price French labels.  Others to look out for – parallèle, carel, JB Martin, Elizabeth Stuart, mirorquines.


These posts tend to have a mind of their own but this one has focused on shopping so I am going to stay there.  Paris is one of the world’s shopping meccas.  The others are London and New York.  Hong Kong might also fit that profile but I haven’t been there for decades, back when I had no spare cash so I generally got out of the six story malls as fast as possible 🙂

As already noted, if you don’t have much time, hitting one of the Paris department stores provides a mini version of everything the city has to offer.  I think it’s good to hit at least one department store to find brands that appeal and then you can look for freestanding stores to get more of a good thing.

Nowadays, most brands have a presence on both the right and left bank so you can choose.  The left was my first love and I would highly encourage you to explore it. The best things to buy in Paris are shoes, perfume, lingerie, food and alcohol (wine, cognac, armanagac…)

If shoes are your thing, check out rue de Grenelle and rue du Dragon (where I found a shop for annabel

how they look...

how they look…

winship – a new discovery and very worth checking out – I now own black suede peep-toe medium heel pumps strewn with multi-coloured stars and embossed in gold – Paris shoes for sure 😉  Rue de Buci will ignite your appetite.  Rue St Sulpice offers lots of options for cool Parisian chic that won’t break the bank.


Most of my greatest discoveries in Paris have come from wandering… the French do retail better than any other nation.  They know how to display goods.  The salespeople actually engage with the customers – and refold the sweaters immediately!  And each purchase is lovingly wrapped often with great fanfare.  It’s retail from a distant time when purchases were infrequent and memorable.

Paris is slow fashion.  It is retail as theatre.  It’s moments like the salesperson at Printemps admiring the shoes you are wearing – as you try on the python fashionista ensemble.  I said, “they are Kurt Geiger from London.  I have worn them so much there are holes in the toes.”  But it will be tough to throw them away.  I had a gay guy want to trade shoes with me in a wine shop one day.  Maybe he was a straight guy who really liked shoes 🙂  But gay guys admiring your shoes is much more fashion cred.


You, too, could have fashion cred.  Just buy your shoes in Paris 😉 Or London…

p.s. Kurt Geiger shoes are black velvet smoking slippers adorned with spikes that look like very chic medieval weapons…


croze-hermitage for the price of a beer!

It’s hard not to love Paris.  Of course, it helps when it feels like home 🙂  When the out of commission billet machine at Arts & Metiers station is no problem because you still have a ticket from your last visit eight months ago…

You pull out the map briefly to check if it is left or right from the hotel and in less than five minutes you

Paris sans instagram!!!

Paris sans instagram!!!

are on the incredible Paris métro.  You discovered last year the hotel is conveniently on the metro line direct to Printemps and one stop away from Galèries Lafayette.

In the past I have always shunned Galèries Lafayette and still think Le Bon Marché is more charming but, if you are into shoes, Paris is your city and the basement of Galèries Lafayette the perfect gateway drug…

Being famous for my shoes, I have shopped for shoes all over the world – how I discovered Paris was the best city.  And what is cool about Galèries Lafayette is that it represents what I love about shoe shopping in Paris.  There are famous brands with dizzying prices to match the killer heels around the periphery but there are also lots of creative, well-crafted, more reasonably priced options in the middle of the 21st shoe temple.

I have just arrived in Paris so this was a scouting mission.  Too many objects to lust over on just a brief visit but luckily I need to haul my suitcase through a few more train stations and airports before I leave Europe so some restraint needs to be exercised!

I am not yet sure in which order I will post my scribblings but I have two visits to both Paris and Amsterdam on the clock, neither of which has been fully reported.

Sadly I saw some cool exhibitions in Paris last year, which I meant to promote in the moment to encourage further visitation but the time has now passed so no taunting allowed.  One of the cool things I did last September CAN be repeated – and I am doing it so the endorsement is notable.

If you read my ramblings on a regular basis, you will note that I am very fickle 🙂  In life I am the opposite and have friendships spanning decades to prove my commitment.  But I love cities and interesting hotels.  So I am always trying to mix it up.  A new neighborhood.  A new design.  A new concept.

A hotel has to be pretty awesome to warrant a second visit 🙂  But last year I ran through Paris, primarily on Sunday and Monday.  I do not recommend it.

not a typical hotel

not a typical hotel

Jules and Jim is in the Marais, a neighborhood I have flirted with but never fully explored.  And the hotel is one of most memorable I have visited.  When you rock up at the impromptu front desk and the cute boy says in his charming English, “you must be Marla”, you wonder “is this the hipster Claridges?”


Pretty much.  The rooms are petite but perfectly designed.  You get Molton Brown products and free wi-fi.  I know from last year you can hang out at the bar with a serious budding mixologist who is thrilled to ply you with his innovative (and excellent) cocktail creations.  (His name is Antoine).

There is wall art in the form of shrubbery – and art installations worthy of the Pompidou.  It is a hotel where the hotel is part of your Parisian experience.  George V service at a fraction of the cost 😉

I am writing this in one of those ubiquitous Parisian brasseries.  The food was decent.  The atmosphere is historic (in a good way – retro ceiling fixtures, advertisements from the art nouveau period plastered to the walls and menus on chalkboards).

But the real treat is the wine.  There were options.  Normally I peruse the wine list with a discerning eye and maybe even a Wine Spectator vintage chart…

But what is so amazing in Paris is that generally there is no “vin rouge” but nor is there a specific wine producer, let alone a vineyard or vintage.

You order a Croze-Hermitage and see what happens.  A little magic it appears.  It came in a plain bottle.  I have no idea what it is – besides Croze-Hermitage.

But it’s delicious – and the same price as a beer in Amsterdam.  Paris, je t’aime 😉


le perfect mixte

For those of you not familiar with France, un sandwich mixte is just a ham and cheese sandwich.  But, like most things in Paris, “just” is not part of the vocabulary.  Having at least one proper sandwich mixte is always my goal in Paris.  The bread needs to have that perfect combination of crunch and softness.  The cheese needs to be sliced at just the right thickness with the perfect depth of flavour. And I don’t know what they do with the pigs in France but ham never tastes the same in other places.

This time it took three tries.  But when it finally arrives… on a sunny day, in an outdoor café, accompanied by a great glass of St Emilion, you say “oo la la” under your breath 🙂

I did try to squeeze a little culture in between the adventures in merchandising.  I had noted in the hotel’s tourist info that the Palais de Tokyo was reopening and doing some kind of 48 hour culturathon apparently.  The Palais de Tokyo is not for everyone but if you appreciate modern art, it is worth the trip to the 16th arrondissement.

The first time I went I was sick in Paris so only managed to drag myself there late in the afternoon.  Too late for the Musée d’Art Moderne but early enough for the young, hip open into the evening Palais de Tokyo.  Sometimes I look at really modern art and think, “OK, the artist is just making fun of us.  Or he was VERY high when he thought this was a good idea…”  But sometimes it’s provocative, inventive or just pretty.  My favourite piece this time was a little of each.  I’m not quite sure what it means but it was fascinating to look at – and very pretty.  I took a photo so you can decide for yourself.

The Musée d’Art Moderne was a bit more conventional but also included an

an installation that mostly just looked wild and crazy.  But maybe that is all art needs to be…  I would recommend a visit to both – and then a stop at the surprisingly great café right next to the métro.  If you are lucky, the sun will be shining, the light will descend on all that elaborate seventeenth century architecture and you will know there is nowhere else you could be but Paris.

And when it is time for dessert – or a snack – or breakfast 🙂  I have had them at all three times this trip.  My newest Paris obsession – macarons at Pierre Hermé.

It all started in 2003 when Sean requested macarons from Ladurée as “payment” for our free accommodation in London.  A sweet price to pay 🙂   At that stage in my life, I had some passing knowledge of a macaron but had never had one in Paris and knew nothing about Ladurée.  It wasn’t exactly knowledge one acquired in small town Manitoba.

For several years I thought Ladurée macarons were “la bombe” but then I read about some upstart called Pierre Hermé in a magazine.  And I started dissing Ladurée.  Not a very French thing to do…

It’s not that Ladurée macarons are bad.  It’s just that Pierre Hermé is that little slice of heaven on earth that is Paris at its finest.  I managed to sample almost all the flavours over my five days in Paris.  (Luckily you walk a lot in Paris.  The Paris métro is a cardio workout without having to put your gym gear on.)  The most dangerous part – and one of the reasons he has become so famous – is that the flavours are seasonable and always changing – so it becomes a classically existential totally Parisian question – can one ever try all the flavours of Pierre Hermé macarons?  Certainly not on one brief visit.

Conveniently (dangerously???) you can buy them at a number of different outlets 🙂  They even have an outlet on the shoe floor (yes, an entire floor!) at Galeries Lafayette – it’s almost a little too much pleasure to handle in such a small space 🙂

My favourite is the Infinement Vanille – vanilla taken to a level of perfection only attainable on French soil.  This trip I didn’t spend much time on food except for les sandwiches mixtes and macarons but on my final night I had a sublime meal at the Murano Urban Resort that reinforced all the stereotypes about French food and wine that I hold so dear.  Wildly it was the first time I ever had a well-done steak sent from the kitchen!  Normally you have to order it a little more ‘done’ than you would in North America and the risk is blood, not char.  Obviously, some miscommunication had occurred but I just had to show a piece to my French server and it was whisked away and returned in a perfect, slightly bloody form.  No self-respecting French person would have eaten it  🙂

I can still remember introducing my mom and my niece to the concept of crème brulée in Paris.  They were hooked from the first bite.  Paris does that to you.  Take a few bites in the right places and you will be hooked for life.  Paris will ruin you.  It will be like a youthful love affair you never quite recover from.  But never regret.  The things that change your life.  Make you a bit of a snob.  But allow you to experience life on levels you never even knew were there before some French speaking guy named Paul seduced you – and made you try his paté…  I’ve loved paté ever since…

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