Mon Cher Peter,
I’m sorry, but calling you Pierre is going way too far.
So here I am, back home in Paris, the city that remains my spiritual home even though I sold my flat two years ago.
I’ve been back to Paris several times, of course, but this time seems the oddest because many of my old bus routes have been discontinued and some of my favorite stores are gone. (Bouchara next to Galeries Lafayette is gone—soon to be another branch of H&M!)
I thought the French said “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” but the only thing here that’s the same is the pulsating spectacle of the lights atop the Tour Eiffel when they begin to flash every hour on the hour after 7 p.m.
If you’re unfamiliar with le metro, the subway system in Paris, then you simply must read our complete guide to transportation in Paris. And if you think you know it all about transport parisien, you’ll learn more with Le Tramway and Beyond: The Complete Paris Transportation Guide.
I got into Paris for the winter soldes (sales) and prices were impressive. The dollar has regained some strength so the money-changing factor is no longer at the ouch-level and many items were marked 70 percent off.
I could actually get my passport around the idea of flying to Paris just to shop during the sales and promotional days. Among my most rewarding finds were the big sales up in Montmartre in the fabric markets dotted around Marche St. Pierre (metro: Anvers).
I bought fancy schmancy trimmings for 20 cents (eurocents, which means about 30 cents US) a meter—I use these to edge placemats that I buy in the U.S. at off-price stores.
There were rows of glorious tassels and curtain tie-backs (many could be fashion accessories) and bins of coupons, which is the French word for remnants.
At Reine, the fanciest of the fabrics supermarkets, I got a wool bouclé for €8 a meter. I got enough fabric to make an Eileen Fisher-style short jacket.
TO MARKET, TO MARKET
Actually, I did most of my shopping in the grocery stores which do not have sales. I have three regulars that I use each visit: Monoprix, Lafayette Gourmet (next door to Galeries Lafayette on blvd. Haussmann, over their Mens’ Store) and L’ Epicerie, across the street from, and associated with, Bon Marche on the left bank (metro: Sevres-Babylone).
I loaded up on lemon salt flakes, mango chili mustard, instant risotto mix, and chocolate batons (flavored chocolate-red pepper-chili) that you stir into hot milk for a memorable cup of hot chocolate. I saw a different version of these batons at the Fancy Food Show a few weeks ago, so this is obviously the new trend in food (click here to read about that).
We tried an experiment on hotels for this visit, since during the winter months there are all sorts of promotions of which savvy travelers can take advantage. The Best Western chain has always been a well-known secret as its hotels in France are invariably adorable three-star properties that are cozy and family-run.
Paris has several such hotels in excellent locations for shoppers and tourists. We chose one blindly based on location and price—just off the Champs Elysees at St. Philippe du Rolle metro; $175 a night without breakfast. (We went to Starbucks on the corner for breakfast each morning rather than pay $25 per person at the hotel.)
This particular hotel was a four-star in a three-star body but the room was large and the bathroom spacious enough. There was no doorman or concierge but the front desk staff was friendly and helpful. Internet in the room costs a whopping $32 a day extra based on a 24-hour purchase and at the lobby computer for shorter time periods a stunning $1 per minute (and was broken when I tried to use it). A Perrier from the mini-bar costs €4,65.
As part of the experiment, we wanted to know what you got for basically $100 a night more. We traded up slightly from that concept and chose the Hotel Pont Royal, one of the hidden gems of the 7e, right at the junction of the rue du Bac and the blvd. St. Germain, perfect for shoppers. Through Yellin Hotels (www.yellinhotels.com) we got a winter promotional rate in USD.
This is a boutique hotel that is not a palace hotel, but is in the deluxe category with doorman, concierge, breakfast included, and turn-down service as well as free Wi-Fi access in the room. There was a computer downstairs if you didn’t bring your laptop—a card for 45 minutes of Internet time costs €10. Our room had a view of both the Tour Eiffel and Sacre Coeur. A Perrier from the mini-bar costs €8.
Trying to decide which style fits you is a question all travelers have to face. I can just say that you felt every penny of the upgrade in the more expensive hotel. And I didn’t even take the bathroom amenities.
If you want a peek at future trends that will swim across the Atlantic, think about acid tones in clothes and accessories for spring (hot pink patent leather handbags, $125 at Galeries Lafayette) and innovative, soft-sided luggage that weighs little.
Maybe the most innovative idea was a concept from Karl Lagerfeld who showed a collection for Chanel of all-white clothing. He says that in as bad times as these, we need to wipe the slate clean and open to a blank page.
Pure white kisses,
By Suzy Gershman for PeterGreenberg.com. For 25 years, Suzy Gershman has written the popular “Born to Shop” series, now published by Frommer’s. Her most recent book, Where to Buy the Best of Everything, is available now. For more information, visit www.suzygershman.com.
- Suzy’s Postcard from Berlin, Germany.
- Suzy’s Postcard from the Fancy Food Show.
- Suzy’s Adventures in Las Vegas.
- Suzy’s Postcard from Seoul, South Korea.
- Suzy’s Postcard from Hanoi, Vietnam.
- Postcard to Peter: Santa Barbara Shopping.
- Suzy’s Bay Area Baubles.
- Postcard to Peter: The Wares in Buenos Aires.
- Suzy’s San Antonio Adventures.