Chris and I had decided that today would be our first serious, all-out shopping day in Paris. I barely slept the night before in anticipation of visiting my favourite Paris stores.
We started our day with croissants, pain aux chocolats, viennoiseries and café crèmes at Laduree (www.laduree.fr) on the Champs Elysees. This is a total find for us and a place we had previously avoided, put off by its tourist packed over-flowing tea salon and long line-ups. However, Laduree is one of the only places we have found in Paris that opens at 7 a.m. and early this morning we found one of its best secrets.
Upon entering from the Champs Elysees, go left past the tempting, patisserie counter, and push your way through a set of heavy double doors that open into Laduree’s bar which is not unlike what you would expect to find in one of Lewis Carroll's fantastical tales. The bar is all lavender, lit with lavender, and all of the furnishings and walls are layered with a thick, brushed silver spider-web like detail. Pockets of stain glass windows shoot splashes of colour through the lavender. Chris and I were virtually alone in the bar, with just two French businesswomen, leisurely tapping their Blackberries and drinking full cream chocolat chaud. Truly, I want every day of my life to start here.
Our marathon day of shopping was supposed to start at LV on the Champs Elysees but we had to bypass it as there was a line of tour buses depositing Japanese tourists to wait outside. We walked to rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore which becomes rue Saint-Honore. Like common, vulgar tourists we took a museum tour of Hermès and I was brave enough to actually, with the appropriate amount of reverence, trail my croissant stained fingertips across one of the Hermès' saddles. As Chris had bought me Quand Soudain in Cannes, for once in my life I really was just looking with no intention to buy, enjoying the spectacle, especially at the carré counter, in which the scene reminded me of the trading floor depicted in the original Wall Street movie.
On the opposite corner from Hermès is Longchamps (www.longchamps.com), another one of my favourite French staples and one that sincerely fits my budget, with no tuna fish from a can dinner substitutions required. Though Longchamps has recently launched some Kate Moss “designed” bags, I forgive them and happily ignore them in favour of all of their horse logo accessories. I left the store with one of their traditional totes in bronze; a black, patent leather, equestrian cuff; and a small scarf patterned with the Eiffel Tower in black and tan. It was then time for Les Grands Magasins.
Readers of my Blog will know that j'adore Galeries Lafayette. It’s a Paris institution that manages to be both incredibly French, and therefore a little bit fashion fantasy, but also manages to be accessible to honorary Parisians, comme moi. How can you not love a department store that has a Veuve Clicquot bar tucked behind couture gowns and lingerie? How can you not love a department store that sells Bonne Maman confiture and LV bags under the same roof? My heart was racing with all of the shopping possibilities; I was doing Euro to Canadian dollar exchanges in my head faster than I can say “Chanel”.
In less than an hour, I left GL with another imitation Chanel jacket (this one in pink wool with black ribbon and beading detail by K Derhy) and a pair of incredibly high-heeled, thigh high (yes, high to my thigh) black leather boots that I hope will somehow translate back to my real life in Victoria. I keep having mini panic attacks about the thought of wearing them at home, surrounded by all of the Croc-footed locals, and worried about someone yelling out,
“Why is that old lady dressed up as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman?! It’s not Halloween.”
I will have to be extremely confident when I wear them. Naturally when I showed them to Chris, he was extremely appreciative and supportive in that rare way my husband has of loving it when I spend money on quality, impractical items. He has also already told me that he will be "disappointed"should I "wimp out" and return them before our trip's end, something I have done before. I then treated myself to a guilty pleasure in the form of a grey, sequined Eiffel Tower t-shirt (shameless!) I found in GL’s souvenir department. While I would not be caught dead wearing it on the streets of Paris, I know it will become a weekend favourite at home, turning me into even more of the Paris lovesick caricature that I already am.
GL’s neighbour is the other grand magasin, Pringtemps, who is unfortunately embracing America – New York – and is selling a full range of in-house “I Love NY” products. I don't like it; Paris doesn't need New York. Just as I am not sure about the recently opened, massive Coach boutique on Pringtemps’ main floor. For shopping research, I took a tour of the boutique; which contains mostly entry level Coach bags, many at the same price point as LV starter bags, i.e. a small Speedy. I wonder if Parisians have ever heard of the Coach Outlets in Palm Springs?
I wasn't expecting it but Chris had planned to end our day of shopping at Chanel on rue Cambon. Over the years, I have I read several cautionary warnings in various travel guides about how this is one store that definitely doesn’t appreciate window-shoppers. Chanel is serious, another level of luxury. But even at the risk of embarrassing myself, I had to go; I love fashion; this is my fourth trip to to Paris and I had never been to Chanel, except for the make-up counter at GL. Plus as much I love LV, this past year I developed a bit of Chanel obsession after watching a fabulous documentary on Fashion Television, Signe Chanel. This 2005 documentary by Loic Prigent chronicles the making of one of the collections. I then read several Chanel biographies and watched another documentary, Lagerfeld Confidential. The result was I became Chanel obsessed and spent far too much time researching their entry-level bags, basically an oxymoron as entry-level isn't part of the Chanel vocabulary.
Chris and I toured - no other description for it - rue Cambon, speaking in hushed voices usually reserved for churches and trying not to make eye-contact with any of the salespeople who were so chic that we looked practically destitute wearing our $200 designer jeans. I grazed my fingertips across at 2900 euros traditional tweed and braided blazer that was so beautiful I wanted to buy it on the spot, wrap myself up in it and then spend the rest of my life sitting on the terrace of our Paris-Apartment-in-the-Sky, drinking pink champagne and painting my lips Chanel red. The reality is that I felt uncomfortably out-of-place and outclassed. I am not ready for Chanel.
Are you wondering about museums and other traditional forms of French culture? The weather has been stunning and the lines have been too long. Though we plan to visit our favourite museum, Musee Rodin, later this week. And to be perfectly honest, Chris and I prefer the kind of French culture you can savour, digest, drink..or buy.