February 6, 2011

Shopping in Paris

In addition to being the City of Lights and home to the Eiffel Tower, Paris is a fabulous city for shopping. It is home to grand department stores, beautiful shopping arcades, and unique boutiques. There are clothing, shoe, and chocolate shops. There are bookstores and fantastic little food shops selling wonderful edible delicacies. And there are little shops and boutiques on almost every street in almost every neighborhood.

While in Paris we visited some of the standard tourist shopping destinations, but also went to several out of the way shops as well. Unlike neighborhoods in the majority of American cities, neighborhoods in Paris still have little speciality shops. Coming from a country with grocery stores and mega shopping outlets, it is refreshing to see little local shops where transactions have more personal meaning. There are shops that specialize in many different types of merchandise - mustard, truffles, chocolates, drawer pulls, travel books, and (of course) fashion.

I have always enjoyed visiting the little food and gourmet shops while in Paris. Almost every neighborhood has a cheese shop, at least one wine shop, a charcuterie shop, a butcher shop, a bakery, and several shops selling fruits, vegetables and pantry items. Part of my Paris fantasy is to live in a small flat and stop by my neighborhood shops to purchase cheese, fresh bread, wine, and other tasty items on my way home every day.

Of course, Paris does have department stores too - fabulous department stores. Housed in fabulous old buildings, these stores sell everything from designer clothing to gourmet foods. Normally the food halls are on one of the first floors with fashions and accessories above. My favorites department stores in Paris are Galeries Lafayette, Le Bon Marché, Le Printemps, and BHV (or Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville). Each of these stores first opened its doors at least a century ago and at least their main buildings are beautiful and historic.

Yes, Paris is a shopper’s paradise. However, it can be overwhelming and often requires a bit of digging to find what you want at a good price. And in Paris shopping often requires a great deal of walking either between shops or through the maze of departments in places like Galeries Lafayette or Le Printemps. So, it is important to remember to stop at a cafe from time to time for refreshments and relaxation.

While in Paris we purchased fashion and gifts to bring home. And between shops we frequently stopped at a local bistrot for lunch, afternoon tea, or a glass of wine. For lunch I often ordered salad with chèvre on toast - a simple and light meal. Like dinner, lunch at Parisian cafes is a leisurely affair. It is a time to sit, relax, and enjoy your food. It is a nice respite from the intensity of the stores and city streets. After some time in a cafe or bistrot you are ready to visit the next shop.

No comments: