Each year on the day after Thanksgiving, I congratulate myself on the wisdom of avoiding the hordes of shoppers who throng to the mall, the stand-alone stores, and our charming little downtown. I support shopping locally, I always have, but I am not a masochist. Most years, I've worked on this day, and when I did not work, it was because we were traveling.
This year I am home. In the kitchen. Making sense of leftovers and attending to residual cleaning chores.
In my mind, I am, of course, shopping in Paris. Given any place in that lovely, layered city to schlep from store to store, I am pretty certain it would be the Village St. Paul. Tucked away behind the hulking Baroque church of St. Paul-St. Louis and just west of Rue St. Paul, this labyrinth of small and quiet shops is seldom crowded.
To reach the warren of shops you must enter through small, inviting alleys. Inside are courtyards lined with antique stores, tiny artisan ateliers and gift shops. Nothing shoddy here, no little Eiffel Tower key chains. At one shop owned by a Scandinavian, I purchased a small ceramic bowl for a friend's birthday.
It was quiet the Saturday we visited and quiet again the weekday when we returned. Many of the shops were closed,perhaps because it was only mid-spring or perhaps because they had not flourished here.
Something about the Village St. Paul reminds me of the little country shopping centers of Wisconsin's Door County, nearly abandoned in the off-season but bustling during high tourist season.
But according to the book, Quiet Corners of Paris, St. Paul Village is routinely quiet. How sad, because it is a lovely little place, an oasis just steps from teeming Rue St. Antoine.
There are many other quiet spots in Paris and many places to shop. The Village St. Paul is both.
It is worth a visit, near some wonderful bakeries and cafés and very close to one of my favorite bookstores, The Red Wheelbarrow. My husband and I were quite taken with the place and I think on our next visit, we will spend more time there, perhaps grabbing a ubiquitous sandwiche jambon from a nearby bakery and finding a secluded place to share it. But that is a full 300 days in the future (yes, the next countdown has now begun).
Where are you today? In the kitchen or in a store?