"Maribeth is a first-rate tour guide."--Associated Press
"Part shopping guide, part travel guide, part cultural history...a rich mixture indeed for the francophile."--The New York Times
Long considered the epitome of all that is chic, glamorous, and desirable, Paris is every shopper's dream. But even the most indefatigable shopper is sure to be overwhelmed by the embarras de richesses. In The Riches of Paris, Maribeth Clemente shares her insider's knowledge of the choicest boutiques, restaurants, wine cellars, and auctions to help/i>/i>… See more details below
Long considered the epitome of all that is chic, glamorous, and desirable, Paris is every shopper's dream. But even the most indefatigable shopper is sure to be overwhelmed by the embarras de richesses. In The Riches of Paris, Maribeth Clemente shares her insider's knowledge of the choicest boutiques, restaurants, wine cellars, and auctions to help you find endless treasures. Whether you're looking for designer fashions, Limoges china, the finest perfumes, the best Bordeaux, or just browsing, The Riches of Paris is an indispensable guide for making your visit to Paris enjoyable and unforgettable.
"Part shopping guide, part travel guide, part cultural history...a rich mixture indeed for the francophile." The New York Times
Yes, it's true the bargains have not been earth-shattering in Paris these past few years with the less than favorable exchange of dollars to euros, but there's still some smart purchasing to be had. The following categories provide some guidelines, but know that there's much more out there than what you read below.
Beauty Treatments and Hairstyles and Cuts
You'll notice that I've accorded a good amount of space to the world of beauty in this book. To go to a spa or hair salon in Paris is truly extraordinary for all the obvious reasons, but these services are also quite reasonably priced, particularly in comparison to those in the United States. A sixty-five-minute facial at the renowned Institut Clarins, for example, rings in at &8364;75 — I pay considerably more than that here in Telluride, Colorado.
Wines and Spirits
You have to know where to go and what to buy to experience significant savings in wines and spirits in Paris. It's important to be able to trust your wine seller's recommendations in order to find a delicious wine that sells for considerably less in France. Go first to Les Caves Augé, where you will be steered in the right direction. Caves Taillevent also does a good job of pointing out smart purchases, and both of these establishments conduct Saturday tastings that are fun and informative. For spirits, however, my all-time favorite address is Ryst-Dupeyron. They sell a delicious armagnac in an astonishingly wide range of years, and you can also have the bottle personalized — terrific for gift giving.
Fancy and Not-So-Fancy Foods
It is, of course, more interesting price-wise and otherwise to buy truffles (not the chocolate kind!) at the Maison de la Truffe in Paris. But you can also purchase many ordinary French food products, such as Carte Noire coffee, hot and spicy moutardes de Dijon (just the regular mustards that the French pick up for themselves as frequently as we buy ketchup), cans of flageolets (a delicious bean almost like our northern beans, but green, which the French often serve with roasted lamb), and much more, from regular supermarkets. It's most fun to go to Hédiard and Fauchon (for high-end goods), La Grande Epicerie and Lafayette Gourmet, and, of course, the wonderful outdoor markets.
You'll still encounter tremendous savings (25 to 40 percent off) on luxury table arts from big names such as Bernardaud, Haviland, Christofle, Baccarat, Lalique, Gien, and many more. Go to "More Shopping" description here for the complete breakdown. The smaller tabletop shops offer originality and charm and many products that are also priced noticeably less than in the United States. Dîners en Ville is one such shop, and here I encourage you to purchase one of their stunning, vibrantly colored tablecloths from Beauvillé — I guarantee it will transform the whole look of your kitchen, dining room, or deck at home. Antique house linens also represent good value and fine craftsmanship.
Women's Fashion Accessories
Sure there's a great demand for stylish fashion accessories in Paris, but there's also a tremendous supply of high-quality, superalluring jewelry, bags, shoes, and hats that scintillate with a spirit that is fabulously French. Not all of the accessory shops that I feature in this book sell to the United States, but in the case of many of those that do, the prices are remarkably higher stateside. Not-to-be-missed shops include: Dominique Denaive, A la Bonne Renommée, Louise Gelinas, Mi Amor/Sic Amor, Hervé Chapelier, Marie Mercier, and oh so many more!
Scarves and Shawls
The overall quality of fabrics in France leaves a long-lasting impression. Nowhere is this more evident than in the jewel-colored silk scarves and shawls, most of which are confectioned in Lyons. Hermès comes to mind first, but there are other boutiques big and small that will seduce you with their silky creations. A trip to Wolff & Descourtis is a must — not only to purchase a scarf or a shawl sure to become a lifelong treasure — but also to visit the glorious galerie Vivienne.
Perfumes and Beauty Products
Perfumes and beauty products rank among France's biggest exports. The savings vary from great (as much as 50 percent with the tax refund) to small, depending on the product. You'll really get a handle on all this at Catherine, one of the most reputable parfumeurs in Paris. I also love the lesser-known fragrance emporiums such as Creed, Comptoir Sud Pacifique, Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, Les Salons du Palais Royal (Serge Lutens), Detaille, and P. de Nicolaï, where the prices and the unique products and places truly warrant a visit. Know also that French scented candles are of superior quality. They may cost more than their American counterparts, but they're worth it.
Antiques and Bric-a-Brac
Just remember that hordes of antiques dealers, decorators, and shop owners from the United States come to France every year to buy. Their hefty markups have to cover their trip, their efforts, and the cost of shipping and showcasing those goods back home. So while you're enjoying your travels in Paris, why not pick up that special memento of the Old World? Know also that the prices on certain old items such as silver are typically less than on newly made goods.
I always seem to spend a ridiculous amount of money at la pharmacie when I go to France. This is partly because I tend to become sick more often when I travel, but it's also due to the wide assortment of tempting products. I'm hooked on the candylike vitamin C comprimés that are also handy for travel and some of the special herbal teas (tisanes) available for all kinds of ailments. The skin-care products most pharmacies typically carry are among the best in France. They're not cheap, but they still cost less than in the United States. And there's always something new and different to pick up such as a lip balm with an inventive way of opening or a toothbrush that is hopelessly dee-zine (design). Most of the people working in the pharmacies speak English — especially in the more tourist-trodden areas — so if they're not busy, go ahead and ask away.
Treasures from the Five-and-Ten
I've never been big on buying cheap stuff in cheap places, but the French five-and-tens do have a certain attraction. Poke around at Prisunic, Monoprix, and — if you're really adventuresome — Tati to see what is new and different from what you find at home. My favorite five-and-ten gift purchases include Donge almond-scented soaps with a gant de toilette (a washcloth in the shape of a fingerless mitt — very French) and pairs of fashion knee-highs.
When to Go
Deciding when to go to Paris depends largely on what you want out of the city in terms of shopping, tourism, and, of course, weather. I consider spring and fall to be good times to visit the French capital: The weather is grey to great, the selections in the boutiques are full and fresh, and the city is not overrun with tourists. If you come in May, choose your dates carefully because most stores are closed on the three different holidays (the dates vary except for May 1) that take place during that month. Note that the other two are Ascension Day and Pentacost. During July and August you have to battle crowds of visitors at the museums and monuments, but it can be a good time for shopping because the boutiques aren't as crowded. Some shops close in August, however, so keep that in mind. Many close for one week midmonth, few actually close for the whole month. In July and August you can get in on the sales, while September offers the first glimpse of the new season's fashions. If you don't mind bleak, drizzly weather and little sunshine, January is an excellent time to go to Paris because the sales are fabulous. Christmas in Paris is a disappointment for many Americans, but those looking to get away from the commercialization of the holidays in the United States will enjoy themselves.
What and Where to Buy and Tour
The types of goods worth buying in Paris are not only those that cost less than in the United States but also those for which a better selection is offered in France. I also place a lot of emphasis on the places where you buy them. Ambiance is really important to me, and I'm sure it is to many of you, or else you wouldn't be in (or going to) France. Where and how your little treasure is purchased can make all the difference in the world. (Don't you think champagne tastes better out of a crystal flute than a plastic cup?) The majority of stores in this book will provide you with more local flavor — grand or rustic — than any Hollywood set designer could muster. I encourage you to leave your planning to serendipity; but if you prefer a few guidelines, consider the following themes, which also happen to coincide with the categories within each district.
Boutiques de Luxe
Today's luxury boutiques carry an increasingly broad line of products for men, women, sometimes children, and often for the home, as well. Savings vary somewhat depending on the products. As a general rule, you can count on saving 5 to 15 percent (20 to 30 percent with the tax refund) on most of your purchases. What is most exceptional about buying from these big names in Paris is that the selection of goods and overall shopping experience at the motherhouse far exceed anything you'll encounter in their other stores.
Keep in mind also that a lot of designer fashions sold in the United States have been manufactured with licensing agreements. (These styles are often different and usually less expensive than those of a better quality sold in France.) So the big names in Paris sell only their "boutique" collection — just make sure you always compare apples with apples.
Food and Wine Purveyors
The selection of gourmet foods, fine wines, and spirits in Paris is astounding, providing endless gift ideas in a wide range of prices. If you want to pick up a few gifts in the &8364;5 to &8364;10 bracket, it's best to consider smallish comestibles such as jars of fine-quality jams, mustards, or herbs from Provence — all welcome additions to anyone's pantry. More expensive items include foie gras, truffles, or a cocoa-brown box of chocolates from La Maison du Chocolat.
As far as wines and spirits are concerned, it seems a crime not to take advantage of your customs allowance and bring back a fine bottle of Château Margaux that will last you an evening, or a superb vintage of armagnac that will last you a year!
Table and Kitchen Arts, Home Décor, and Linens
The French home is generally filled with originality, much like the French wardrobe. You don't see many cookie-cutter interiors, and if a family has not been fortunate enough to inherit all kinds of interesting bibelots, you won't know it from the home décor. The stores in Paris are filled with legions of charming objets, most of which are sure to enhance your home, no matter where you live or what style you embrace. Think creative pell-mell. Also consider Paris's tabletop shops as a wonderful source of inspiration — you don't have to buy a thing to walk away with an abundance of ideas on how to put together what you have at home.
Art, Antiques, and Collectibles
Whether you buy at the flea markets, the auctions, from an art or antiques dealer, or in a curio shop, the selection and good value of art, antiques, and collectibles in France is for the most part unbeatable. In "The Districts," I indicate antiques stores, art galleries, and boutiques that, aside from being my favorites, tend to appeal to visitors who enjoy the thrill of unearthing something that is old, charming, or difficult to find at home. Those addresses only scratch the surface of the Gallic capital: There's much you'll discover on your own.
Jewelry, Shoes, and Accessories
This category includes fine and costume jewelry as well as women's and men's shoes, hats, bags, belts, and small leather goods. The variety and quality of these goods are excellent, and not all the brands I write about in this book have broken through stateside. Certainly the world's leaders in high-style costume jewelry, Paris's costume jewelry designers sell creations that range from chic to mod, and the value for your money on these pieces is excellent. Finely crafted leather (real and faux) shoes, bags, and small leather goods don't cost any more than their U.S. equivalents, and are priced about 15 percent less than their French counterparts in the United States. As far as French hats are concerned, there's absolutely no comparison!
Know that most of the shops I include within this category also sell women's accessories. Some might even sell women's bathing suits and lingerie, which is why I've grouped the pure lingerie stores under Womenswear as well. Most of the designers and labels I feature here are well liked by the French, but perhaps less known by Americans. Boutiques such as Lolita Lempicka, Chacok, and Popy Moreni offer selection, value, and a style that is typiquement français.
And you thought it was all about wearing a beret. Au contráire!
As chez les femmes, the bulk of the stores here feature both men's fashions and accessories. I think that French men are some of the best dressed on the planet, so I hope men will make good use of my shopping suggestions as well.
Women's and Men's Fashions
As the title indicates, you will find boutiques full of both women's and men's fashions and accessories under this heading. Some, such as Marithé & François Girbaud, are very well known internationally, while others are French favorites I thought you might enjoy.
Children's Clothing, Shoes, and Furnishings
Children's fashions tend to cost more in France than in the United States, but their quality and craftsmanship is superior. If you're looking for something special, Paris offers many beautiful children's clothing boutiques specializing in timeless styles. Clothing from Bonpoint, Petit Faune, La Châtelaine, and Tartine et Chocolat may be expensive, but it is cheaper to buy these brands in France than in the United States. As far as shoes and furnishings go, the places I highlight for these products will surely astound you.
Department Stores and Other Biggies
I often discourage people from department store shopping in Paris for several reasons: The smaller, more charming boutiques provide a more attractive setting for shopping à la parisienne, the salespeople in these same boutiques are friendlier and considerably more helpful than department store clerks, and, most of all, the merchandise in French department stores is not generally as attractively presented as in their U.S. counterparts. The Paris department stores do, however, provide you with the opportunity to see a tremendous amount of French merchandise together under one roof — a factor that is far from negligible, especially if you are in town for only a few days. I also want to emphasize that most of the major department stores of Paris have made strides in recent years to spiff up their images, and have invested bundles of money in creating departments (and in some cases whole stores) that have become major attractions. La Grande Epicerie at Le Bon Marché, Lafayette Gourmet, and the new table arts store Lafayette Maison at Galeries Lafayette make up the strong points of the Paris department store experience in my book.
If you do plan to go shopping in one of Paris's sprawling grands magasins and want to beat the crowds, I suggest you go early in the morning and never on Saturdays. The shopping system in Paris's larger stores differs from that of the smaller boutiques. Here, the salesperson only writes up and packages your purchases — it is up to you to go to the cashier (caisse) in a separate area to actually pay. Once this is taken care of, you go back to the salesperson to pick up your merchandise. Often the clerk is no longer at his or her post or is busy chatting with a coworker; this, of course, creates confusion, frustration, and a great loss of time. In order to minimize this sort of hassle and to avoid long lines at several different cashiers, you may want to accumulate all your purchase slips (or have all the purchases put on one slip) and pay everything together at the end. Totaling your purchases will also help you to attain the minimum balance required for your tax reduction.
Excerpted from The Riches of Paris by Maribeth Clemente. Copyright © 2007 Maribeth Clemente. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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