Archive for the ‘Paris Shopping’ Category

Paris Street Markets: rue Mouffetard (5e)

September 3, 2012

Get your little string shopping bags ready for the rue Mouffetard

Dear Readership you must wonder where we’ve been all summer.  Nurse underwent the first of two knee surgeries in July and we’ve been working through her rehab and adjustment to being home again.

So we delved into the archives to bring you a short report from a visit Melinda and I made to market in the rue Mouffetard.  

At home, the Experienced Travelers endure the weekly food shopping.  They clutch their coupons and wheel the grocery cart through crowded aisles, wishing they were treading the cobbles of a Parisian street market instead. (note: coupons for items you need are *found money*!)

The rue Mouffetard market is one of the oldest in Paris.  But like the holy grail,  it eluded the ETs because we couldn’t actually find it.  Somehow we always wound up near the Mosque and settled instead for a delicious couscous lunch which is very affordable at it’s restaurant.

So I was bound and determined that Melinda and I would overcome my faulty map reading and get from the Place Monge metro station to the market.


But determination doesn’t guarantee success.  Soon we were dazed and confused in a maze of cheap Greek restaurants and second-hand stores.

Another wrong turn

Melinda relieved me of command and in very short order we were poised at the top of the rue Mouffetard with stalls of tasty goods arrayed before us.  I was confounded again, but delighted to see what lay before me.

Anyone have a cracker? Cheeses at the Fromagerie Vernon

Once the Roman road to Italy, the rue Mouffetard is replete with everything you’ll need for a five-course meal and something to wear as you serve it up.  Hemingway lived nearby at 74, rue du Cardinal-Lemoine, and like the fantasy in the movie Midnight in Paris. We hoped he would appear so we could help him with his shopping which we assumed meant getting drunk, debating the meaning of art, and having fistfights.

Baguettes, gros pain, pain au levain, pain de ménage. How to choose!

Many French families shop every day – even office employees who go first thing in the morning, and again after work.  During the day, you’ll meet an army of dapper ladies, nannies with strollers and retired gentlemen who can browse at their leisure thanks to the generous French pension programme.

Knowledge and experience at your service.

Anyone who leaves the rue Mouffetard hungry must be an ascetic in an extreme state of self-denial.  I was lost again – lost in my hungry thoughts of those scallops, that loaf of bread, and this bottle of wine.

A little something to keep the ancient Romans from getting thirsty on the road

I think that the Romans chose the rue Mouffetard for their road because they could pick up tasty victuals for the trip on their way out of town.  While all roads may lead to Rome, this road will also satisfy any appetite, ancient or modern.

Generations of dedicated shop owners and purveyors of fine foods have kept the rue Mouffetard vital. Salut!

So What’s for Dinner?

June 25, 2012

Everyone’s doing the shopping – what’s on your menu tonight?

The Experienced Travelers have all the flashing Eiffel Towers, Montmartre sno-globes and “I Ate Snails” tee shirts we’ll ever need.  So we are left to apply our considerable shopping energies toward something with immediate benefit – the fresh food on offer in the irresistible Parisian food markets, that will be destined for our rental apartment kitchen.

Nurse in the kitchen after she has given me a job to do elsewhere that is more suited to my talents.

I believe that because it’s French food and a French kitchen, our humble victuals will automatically transform into haute-cuisine, no matter how badly I prepare them while Nurse is out of the room.

When our friends Barbara and Chris arrived jet-lagged, dinner at home was the way to enjoy good food and have an early night.  We drew up our dinner strategy over chocolat chaud.  Barbara, Chris and I had assigned courses to buy, while Nurse directed our forays.

Imagining a hot skillet and a little butter, Christine chooses carefully.

Christine was in charge of veggies, and applied her business acumen to the rows of attractive fresh vegetables.  The French have come around to the practice of self-service.  Years ago, you had to wait for the Produce Man to choose, bag and weigh for you.  This was never an inconvenience because the Produce Man was often attractive and flirtatious, making it a pleasure to part with a few francs.

Faced with a myriad of choices, Chris decided some plump and pretty white asparagus would grace the table admirably.  We’ll have to ask her if she thought the Produce Man would grace the table admirably too.

This is a long way from Betty Crocker. Barbara casts a knowing eye over the dessert choices.

Barbara had the enviable category of dessert and found a small pâtisserie in the rue Cler.  The hardest part was deciding among the calorie-laden choices.  Despite her jet lag, Barbara called upon her Sacred Heart French and did an admirable job communicating with the assistant behind the counter.  Nice work, Pal!

With cunning, I chose the main course so I could procure one of the roasted chickens that turn slowly in special chicken ovens strategically placed outside many bûcheries.  Equally cunning, these ovens waft the enticing smell of roasting bird into the nostrils and brain synapses of passing shoppers.  Those ovens deliver a real return on investment.

Hard at work choosing the main course. Photo by Chris

There is purchasing protocol at the bûcherie too.  I discussed with the butcher the merits of each chicken – size, price and worthiness.  After choosing our chicken, he gave me a ticket to take to the cashier at the back of the store.  I paid, then brought the receipt back to the butcher and collected my prize, wrapped and ready for the table.

Meanwhile, I trusted that Nurse was creating calligraphy menus and place cards, and letting our complimentary bottle of wine breathe.

Barbara and Chris weren’t too jet-lagged to stop at Cantin for a lovely smelly bit of cheese to have before dinner.

If you’re staying in a hotel, visit the charcuteries, where you can buy ready-to-enjoy foods prepared by the the talented staff.  The butcher will cut your chicken and the  local wine shop will be happy to uncork your bottle.  All you’ll need are utensils and a pleasant spot to eat.

A most important assignment for Christine

So under Nurse’s supervision, we set to work in our apartment kitchens.  In short order, we were dining en famille on the fruits of our shopping – and at a very reasonable price, leaving Found Money for our adventures the next day.

Confounded by two unfathomable French corkscrews.

Dear Readership, don’t be shy about shopping at the local stores in your neighborhood.  If you’re uneasy about speaking French, rely on the international language of pointing, gestures and smiles.  It’s an affordable way to dine and there might be a handsome Produce Man to make it worthwhile.

The colors of happiness. Photo by Christine

Paris QuickPics: Couture Moments

September 11, 2011

Retro is always in; in the ET closets, that is..

The Experienced Travelers aren’t poised on the cutting edge of fashion, but we certainly appreciate the style gene in others – especially Parisians.   Here are a few couture moments to enjoy—

Les chaussures for sale in the Marais.

With a little courage and a good sense of balance, you can be stylishly shod.  The ETs’ admired the audacity of these shoes, shortly before our vertigo kicked in.  Young Frenchwomen wear them, and what’s more amazing, they traverse the cobbled streets at an alarming speed.  You’ll still see older elegant ladies in sensible pumps, but if you want to live dangerously in style, these are the ones for you.

Perfect for your next Royal Wedding but beware high winds

Parisians are not great hat-wearers, but that’s not to say you can’t statisfy a hankering for a stylish topper in the rue St-Louis en Île.   Melinda –  clearly the au courant ET – hurried into the crowded shop for a look round.  The proprietress had everything from simple sunhats to more extraordinary creations that perform no observable “hat” function.  Our Melinda emerged in a dandy white straw number to keep the bright sun out of her eyes so she could see shop windows more clearly.  It was a very successful detour!

Poodle hats? Even Toby the Boy Prince would draw the line at this.

It’s no surprise that there are clothing stores throughout Paris. A casual stroll will take you by numerous fashion establishments that beg for further exploration.

Fashion for the rest of us in the rue Mouffetard

The ETs are strong believers in buying quality – even if it means bringing home fewer goodies.  But sometimes a girl wants something cheap and cheerful, and Paris has clothing stores that cater to every whim.

Melinda (in her fetching new hat) eyes some comfy cotton pants in the rue Mouffetard

Telltale racks of cotton clothing in a street market are a sure sign of less expensive goods that are made for Found Money – treat yourself to something!

Shop window in the rue St.-Sulplice - there's are those scarves again

We found several interesting windows in the streets between Pl. St-Germain and St. Sulplice.  The French are crazy for scarves, as these warm weather ensembles demonstrate.  In fact, the dominant fashion accessories we observed were scarves and dark tights with funky boots.  We can do the scarves, but funky over-the knee boots…oh dear me.

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We're pleased that the French maintain their interest in lingerie

Ladies, there are opportunities galore to take home some new lingerie.  The ETs admired the multitude of styles and colors, but gone are the days when our figures would accommodate such ambitious infrastructure.

Even an 18th century fashionista has choices

Even more dramatic dressers can find something to take home with them.  This period clothing store near the Odeon metro stop had the ETs wishing and hoping for an invitation to a masked ball.

Nurse demonstrates functional fashion at work

But it all comes down to what works for you.  The ETs will  never be fashion doyennes but after a few of these kirs, we’ll rise above the disappointment and enjoy the couture parade as it passes by!

Drawn swords at E. Dehillerin

June 27, 2011

Brillat-Savarin might have shopped at E. Dehillerin

The Experienced Travelers had some serious shopping to do at E. Dehillerin, the world-famous cookware store in the rue Coquillière since 1821.  Dehillerin caters to top chefs, and offers everything they could need in huge quantities under one roof.  Dehillerin stocks the tools which produce the soufflé, sole meuniere, mille-feuilles and pâtés en croûte that earn Michelin stars.

E. Dehillerin caters to the most discriminating chefs

It’s an atmospheric place that’s not for the claustrophobic.   I’m sure that dust from the boots of  Louis-Napoleon’s chef is extant in Dehillerin’s basement.  It’s an Alladin’s cave of copper cookware, molds, cast-iron pans and mysterious accoutrements, stacked on floor-to-ceiling shelves from that must date from the Belle Époque.

Melinda is truly Nurse’s daughter;  Dehillerin was one of her first requests the day we arrived in Paris.  Since I’m a better dinner guest than cook, I’m overwhelmed by the scope and complexity of Dehillerin.  I usually send Nurse in ahead of me so the intimidating clerks get to her first.  This time, I held the door for Melinda and followed meekly behind as she navigated this cluttered, dusty Disneyland of cuisine.

Those knives caused drawn swords

Melinda was a woman with a mission;  Knives.  Fortunately I can recognize knives, so I hoped to be helpful.  There were hundreds of them – paring knives, bread knives, fish knives, serrated knives and several machetes in case you must slaughter a fatted calf for a State occasion.

Melinda chose two deadly kitchen knives and asked a clerk for the prices.  There followed a heated Franglais exchange – the clerk didn’t want her to buy those knives, she should buy *these* knives instead.  It was a face-off;  she likes the balance of her knives – he insists his knives are superior (but they are ALL his knives, yes?)

Melinda and the clerk duel over knives

I nervously watched two armed combatants vie for the superiority of their knives, and one of them is French for whom this was a matter of la gloire.  How did they know who was winning?  Melinda speaks no French and the clerk knew only a little English.  There were declamations, explanations, arm-waving, head-shaking and finally, resignation.  The clerk gave a Galic shrug and Melinda prevailed.

If you're expecting the Regiment to dinner, Dehillerin can provide the tools.

We slinked off to look around.  Browsing is an exercise in “name that tool”.  Each of these things is necessary and must do something, but I’m not savvy enough to know what.  I did see a lovely copper container that would do nicely for my final resting place on the mantle.  I recognized the melon-ball scoops (about 8 different sizes) and the madeleine pans, the shelves of wire whisks and walls of stainless steel cookware.

Had they been arguing over these whisks instead of razor-sharp knives, I wouldn't have worried.

The longer I lingered, the more I wanted to buy some of these beautiful,  amazing things.  This is when Nurse pulls me out into the fresh air and reminds me that I can’t cook.

Inevitably, Dehillerin made us hungry.  Besides, we had to celebrate Melinda’s victory, which called for onion soup and oysters around the corner at Au Pied de Cochon.  It’s not often that the ETs triumph over French reasoning. Melinda texted Nurse to trumpet her success.  Nurse responded “Did you get Julie out before she bought a fish poacher?”

If you want to leave Paris with a duck press, a copper-lined turbot kettle or a pot large enough to sit in, then Dehillerin will delight you and all who dine with you.

"Just deserts". Melinda earned her oysters - and her knives!

The Indomitable Hermès

June 16, 2011

Hermès emits rays of chic on the rue faubourg Saint-Honoré

The Experienced Travelers know that when life’s trials loom large, a girl needs an article of unparalleled exquisiteness that inspires her to overcome adversity.  We assure you — no accessory rises to the occasion like an Hermès scarf.

From the moment we landed in Paris, there was a giant ET magnet drawing Melinda and me to 24 rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré, the home of Hermès since 1880.  What began as a harness and saddle workshop in 1832 has become one of the premier luxury brands for silk, leather goods and fragrances.   We took in the rarefied air – a combination of new leather, perfume spritzers and smoldering American Express Centurion cards.

A stairway to heaven for any girl with a sugar daddy

The interior is classic French chic that suggests a Dior-ed Zsa-Zsa Gabor (“Lovely to Look At”, 1958), or my hero Audrey Hepburn as Gigi, *after* the Paris finishing school.  I was completely out of my league, but the polite staff overlooked the obvious and behaved perfectly.

She is laden with bags, and still goes for the scarf!

The scarf counter did a booming business in luscious hand-screened silk squares that made my eyes water.  I admired a scarf ring which would complement the Hermès scarf that Nurse gave me for my 50th birthday.  It was pretty.  It was chic.  It was about $170US. For a scarf ring.  (Nurse : u r at  hermes. so what. get a 2nd mortgage )

But I summoned my strength and passed on the purchase.  Immediately I made a quick ET calculation and converted it to Found Money.  These emotional decisions form the foundation of the ET Found Money strategy, and they build character.

The new Hermes - it's not just about horse motifs anymore

It was just kismet that we found the newest Hermès store in the rue de Sèvres and we had to investigate.  Maybe the aura of wealth would adhere to our ET molecules so we could float through Paris on a wave of privilege.  Well, we didn’t float, but we were completely awed by the modern, sophisticated style of the store.  If Hermès in the Faubourg is headquarters for the doyennes of Paris, then the rue de Sèvres is it’s trendy equivalent.

It's strangely similar to the chair we got at Big Lots - but maybe not.

If you long for an Hermès living room ensemble, or an Hermès tray, set with Hermès china for your breakfast in bed with Hermès tea, this is the location for you.  Though I didn’t find Hermès paper towels it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  I’ll check with Melinda, but I think I recall Hermès cocktail stir sticks for your Hermès martini.   It’s replete with air and light and Found Money of all denominations pouring into cash registers.  They’re all living the Hermès life.

A text message from Command Central (i am hungry. send food pics) jolted us from our dreams of wealth.  We left Hermès for the Cafe Flore to make a dent in that Found Money. Even in the 70-degree sunshine, we spotted Hermès scarves around chic shoulders.  We knew that those ladies would have to never stand down in the face of adversity.

Melinda inaugurates the 14 glasses of wine we relished on that first day in Paris

Paris QuickPics

April 10, 2011

We had a real shopping day on Friday through the Marais and down the Ile St. Louis. We recharged at this cafe with a fantastic view of the Ile de la Cite.

Introducing Associate ET Melinda! Admire her new French hat! She's on the phone to her mother, Nurse, reporting on her purchase. The ETs all agree - hats are a *sensible* way to invest found money!

Alors, Les Soldes!

January 9, 2011

Les Soldes! A Found Money bonanza. Photo by Heloise Flickr Creative Commons

Now that Christmas is over, Parisians resume daily life, enduring grey January skies in the City of Lights. No French bureaucrat wants a complaining wife and a bored mistress for the duration of the winter.  So, in their capacity as elected officials, they spring to action to create a diversion that will restore domestic equilibrium, attract tourists and bolster the French economy.  Voici Les Soldes

Might the ETs spend Found Money here? Photo by Heurtelions, Wikimedia Commons

The bi-annual Soldes are six-week Government-authorized periods – one in winter and again in summer – when stores across France hold sales with price reductions of up to 80%.  This year the winter event starts on January 12 and continues until 15 February. Prices fall over time – but so does inventory!  Café chatter changes from the usual complaints about taxes to informed discussions on getting into ultra-exclusive events.

The ETs scout the territory. Photo by Andreas Praefcke Wikimedia Commons

Everyone has “Soldes exceptionnels”, from the smallest Left Bank bookstore to world-famous houses on the Avenue Montaigne.  Housewares, accessories, designer suits – it’s all on sale thanks to the French government.  The Experienced Travelers can already feel the kinetic energy of les fashionistas emanating across the Atlantic.  We wondered how Parisians look so chic with prices so high.  Now all is revealed.

The French economy improves by the minute Photo by Gryffindor, Wikipedia Commons

The ETs have a plan in case they land in Paris during the sales.  We’ll scout the inventory, then set GPS coordinates for the items we want.  The goal is to buy during the second markdown to get the best price.  Proper shopping attire is one layer with no hooks, buttons or other time-wasting accoutrements that impede a fast change.

On The Day, we’ll arrive well before opening, employing knees and elbows to reach the racks before the competition.  Nurse is not above using a cane to deter rival shoppers and I can be fleet-of-foot when a jacket depends on it. 

And remember:  if we love it enough to buy it at full price, but we wait and get it at half-off – the difference is Found Money!  So shopping the Soldes is a great use for Found Money and actually *adds* to the FM account as we shop.

Gentlemen: This beautiful Charvet cuff helps justify the investment Photo by Myself, Wikimedia Commons

The Paris Perfect newsletter tells us how to get to events that the ETs can only dream about :

  • Hermès Sale: Jan 20 to 23 at Porte Maillot. The event has become so big that they could not longer hold it in the flagship Faubourg Saint-Honoré Store. Women line up the day before at dawn to make it in for the opening.
  • Chanel Sale: Starts January 6 at 42 Ave Montaigne, 75008 Paris
  • Dior Sale: Jan 9 to 12 from 10 am to 7 pm at Artcurial, Address: 7 rond-point des Champs Elysées. Easy, stroll across the river from the 7th and walk three blocks to the Rond Point intersection. Takes 15 minutes and you can stop for tea at the Four Seasons on your way home!  (Paris Perfect rents beautiful vacation apartments in the 7th.) 

    Trip the light fantastic (or just trip) in these splendid gold shoes that the ETs found near the Palais Royal

And the Paris Office of Tourism is right on top of things:

“Romantic, festive, cultural, as well as sporting, musical and… good food loving! The shopping capital has more than one string to its bow. Everyone will find something they love here and discover lots of exciting things to do. So, you just need the right addresses … Welcome to shoppingbyparis!”

The ETs are excited by shoppingbyparis’ Shopping Guide PDF.  It’s 112 pages of ads and store information.  It’s worth waiting for the download, and it has English translations that will make the $US fly from your designer pocketbook. 

The ETs don't have the bone structrure to shop at Pucci, but perhaps you do? Photo by Deuxl Sarl Wikimedia commons

Working diligently at our research. we found out how to shop Les Soldes from our couch in the US. thoughtfully links to  1000 Bonnes Affaires and L’internaute so we can shop online from those stores which will ship to the US. 

The ETs aspire to the ranks of the truly gifted, who get in early on the first day, so the best items are hanging in their closets by noon.    If we go into training today, we could be ready to compete in July!

La Mode Parisienne

October 13, 2010

La Mode Parisienne

Experienced Travellers watch the whirl of life around them.  Though I’m not a fashionista, here are a few observations about what people are wearing – and buying in Paris.  

Everyone carefully orchestrates their clothing, shoes and makeup, even to run the shortest errand.  It is a matter of national pride that the ensemble is right – whether it’s understated elegance or chic grunge.

Count the coats in this picture. It was in the high 60s and yet the coat is paramount.

Jackets and coats – preferably leather –  come out immediately following the rentree in September.  And wool scarves by early October.   No matter that the sun is blazing and it’s 75 degrees, the coat and scarf make a statement to the world, and they are mandatory attire. 

The legs matter!

Stockings and tights were a prominent accoutrement.  Ladies of every age and build made the most of them.  They were often the only splash of color or design.   And I saw lots of black tights under knee-length jersey tops finished off with a sporting pair of boots.  Lots and lots of boots on the streets…

They are all made for walkin' - and showing off those hose

What amazes me is the number of small, independent clothing shops featuring one or two designers, particularly in the Marais and around the Place St. Germain.  Each shop has a unique style and the clothing is paired with jewelry, handbags and accessories.  It’s a “one stop outfit” in an artisinal style.   ETs like this strategy because it gets you to the cafe faster.

That certain "je ne sais quois"

I loved this twirling shoe diplay in the Marais.  Gentlemen if you’re in the market for a red shoe with a chunky heel, there are plenty in stock.

Red shoes at morning / sailors take warning

Any style works, as long as it’s well-executed.  In this case, if you’re got it; flaunt it.  Jacket.  Boots.  Handbag.  It’s all there.

Retro works!

So how do ETs decide what to pack for Paris?  They are resigned to the truth.  They’ll never look like French ladies, so comfort is paramount, and black is best.  But that doesn’t mean a girl can’t shop for a dishy new jacket and top while she’s in Paris.  Besides, it’s research for the blog.  

If Foucault were alive today, he would be studying the physics of platform stillettos on cobbled streets.  And he’d be a happier man for it!

No matter what they wear, or what they're doing, Parisienne women are chic

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