Europe 2010: Faire de Shopping

Rarely in Paris (actually probably never) have I had the time to just wander about and shop to my heart’s content. In fact, come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever spent much time wandering around Paris on my own. Well, I’m certainly getting lots of opportunity now. Gregg will be sitting the show every day for the week and so I’m pretty much on my own. Of course, that suits me—I like nothing better than to wander around a new city with my camera at hand and my purse firmly clenched under my arm.

I ended up at Le Printemps –a large and famous department store that takes up several buildings over a few blocks. In the women’s fashion building, six floors of designer clothes with designer price tags spiraled upwards. Whenever I saw something that looked promising, the 400+ euro price tag was enough to move me smartly onwards. There were many people thronging the store but I have to say I rarely saw anyone actually buying anything. But I’m sure someone must—I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large volume of posh clothes in one place in my life!

I wandered across the road to the C & A department store where the prices were low but the clothes hung on me like sacks. Well, so much for clothes shopping in Paris (at least for today). I ended up in the housewares section of le Galeries Lafayette.

Mon Dieu! I have a scene in my novel (Love Among the Recipes, which for those who don’t know, is about a cookbook author who comes to Paris) where my main character goes shopping for cooking implements to stock her rental apartment. I wrote the scene without having actually been in a Paris cooking store but fortunately I wasn’t far off. Here’s an excerpt from the novel:

I anticipated that a rental apartment would lack the quality of cooking utensils I needed to test recipes, but I did not expect to find a kitchen almost completely devoid of anything even tangentially connected with the culinary arts. Most of the drawers and cupboards contained little more than fluff and a scattering of brown pellets that I think may have been mouse droppings, but I wasn’t about to pick them up and sniff. All I could find in the way of cooking equipment was a single twisted frying pan caked with the muck of a thousand dinners, a battered little saucepan with its coating long stripped, and one knife warped into a corkscrew.

As a result, the bulk of the bags weighing me down bulged with some of the sexiest kitchen utensils available on the planet. While I still maintain that the days I gave birth to my two children were the happiest of my life, the day I just spent browsing the Parisian kitchen supply stores came a close second. The shelves positively pulsated with gastronomic promise. I swooned over gleaming ranks of spoons, whisks, ladles, and mashers, caressed heavy black cooking pots, hefted perfectly weighted frying pans, and fought to resist a glossy aluminum truffle grater.

And the huge floor of the le Galeries Lafayette was just as Jennifer described!

I spent the rest of the afternoon walking and walking and walking until finally I ended up down at le Place de la Concorde—arguably one of the most iconic parts of Paris where in one 360 degree sweep of the eyes you see the Louvre, the Tuileries, the Musee d’Orsay, the Seine, the rue de Rivoli with its posh hotels, the obelisk in the center of the place, and the Eiffel Tower. C’est merveilleux!

I rested awhile with a bottle of water in the Tuileries gardens and then on the way to the metro saw a bus go by with Montparnasse as the destination. Well, perhaps it was time to try using a bus to get from A to B in Paris rather than the Metro. I highly recommend the busses! They are fast, easy to find, and just as easy to navigate as the metros. An added bonus is that you actually get to see Paris whiz by rather than stare bovinely into space as the metro clatters through its dark tunnels.

In no time, I was let off at the gare Montparnasse just a ten minute walk from our place. On my way, I passed an outdoor market selling the ubiquitous scarves available all over Paris and a must-buy for any woman trying to look approximately French. In the tourist areas, the scarves sell for around 10 euros and up. At the market I picked up a snazzy number for 2 euros.

I’ll be back…