Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Les Soldes

Remember when I used to write about shopping?  It wasn't too many trips ago when my main priority in Paris was shopping.  I still love saving and splurging on a couple of beautiful, "made in France" items but long gone are the days when I would load up my suitcase with finds from Zara, Naf-Naf and Pimkie.  Seems no matter how much posting trot I do or how many 10km runs I complete, I can't fit into those brands!  But today was the start of the summer sales in Paris and not even awkward European sizes were going to keep me out of the stores.

I arrived at Galeries Lafayette just before the store opened at 8.  There were already busloads of tourists in line wearing white plastic visors and thick soled rubber shoes.  It sounded like a full coop of clucking chickens and a roar erupted when the doors opened.  The main floor was chaos as shoppers ran to get into lines at their favourite boutiques.  I saw people playing tug-of-war with tote bags at Longchamp while another woman casually stacked leather bags on her left arm like candy coloured rubber bracelets.  As I moved up through the various floors to shop for clothing, it became much less busy.  It was the same in Printemps and Le Bon Marché; not too chaotic once I escaped the handbags and accessories.

I tried on dozens of dresses, blazers in all fabrics and shapes and drooled over shoes.  Nothing screamed "Paris"; I want classic, well-cut items with just a bit of an edge so they work in my real life but also don't look like I bought them in a suburban mall.  I can't be running around the office in a flowing teal mini dress and a silver leather blazer so I just ended buying a pair of 3-inch navy blue patent leather heels.  Chris and his impeccable taste arrive next week so I expect we will make the rounds again. 

I received excellent service everywhere with offers to speak English and indulgent smiles to my request to practice my French.  There was always a vendeuse near the fitting rooms, willing to grab sizes, hunt for the perfect shoes and give their expert opinion.  I almost bought a dress at Comptoir des Cotonniers until the vendeuse informed me it was "trop grande" and gathered the extra fabric at my hips.  One of the things I love most about Paris is that daily activities are quite formal and ritualized.  It was interesting to observe that these standards survive even during the chaos of les soldes.

Two beautiful places with two personalities...

The Eiffel Tower and the surrounding Champ de Mars park have two distinct personalities.  There is the area around the base and Trocadéro choked with tourists, everyone's face hidden behind a camera lens, terrible posing and the non-stop metal rattling of vendors hawking Eiffel Tower key chains.  Then beyond the base, stretching towards École Militaire, is where Paris lives.  This is where families bring their children to play, dogs run off leash, older people doze with their legs wide on park benches and teenagers lie in passionate embraces on their claimed four foot patch of grass.  Instead of key chains, vendors cross back and forth selling wine and beer.  There are hidden playgrounds and you can smell roasted chickens being unpacked from picnic baskets.  Dogs bark excitedly and children squeal as they kick soccer balls.   

Les Soldes' customers behaving badly...

I lined up to browse the Chanel sale.  It had to be done.  The woman in front of  me, wearing a fuzzy leopard print coat and carrying a LV bag even dirtier than mine, tapped the huge security guy on the shoulder and asked for water.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing!  Even more shocking was that he smiled and dashed off to get her a miniature bottle of Evian.  

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