Five years ago I sat in a hospital cafeteria while my husband, a relatively young man, had bypass and carotid artery surgery on the same day.
I was terrified, and had taken some medication to dull the terror. To keep my mind off the ordeal, I read - or tried to read - the then-current issue of "Paris Notes."
We so often recall so vividly the details of life-defining moments, and this was one for me: I was reading about Paris' indoor shopping galleries and wondering if I would ever visit one. It seemed unlikely at the time.
With each visit to Paris, I have learned more and seen more and experienced more. Finally, last year I visited Galerie Vivienne just north of the Palais Royal. We stumbled upon it, actually, in our search for Le Grand Colbert.
This L-shaped shopping area was built in the 1820s, but their popularity waned once the big department stores emerged.
For me, there is something elegant and indulgent about shopping at such a place. I imagine buying frothy lingerie, heady perfume, a slim volume of 19th century poetry.
I love shopping, and it usually takes only a few small purchases to make me happy. In my student days and student-loan-paying days, my shopping was pretty much limited to Saturdays on State Street in Madison. I'd buy coffee, bagels, cream cheese, and vegetables at a small market, and then dodge into an old-fashioned Woolworth's for toiletries and household supplies. I adored Woolworth's as a child and I came to appreciate its variety and low prices as an adult.
I have yet to shop extensively in Paris, except for food and trinkets to bring home to family and friends. But when I am missing Paris and feeling empty because of it, I have a local shop that gentles and soothes me. It is a large boutique located on the lower floor of a big old-fashioned department store that has been restored and made into apartments.
Here I find silk scarves and beaded purses and textured jackets and glitzy necklaces cheek-by-jowl with Tiffany-style lamps and furniture from Asia and India and rich leather jewelry cabinets and the most delicate china. I try to visit once a month or so and I am always amazed at how the inventory turns over.
Recently I bought a silk scarf from Paris there, and knowing where it came from soothed me on a bad day.
A bit like a visit to lovely Galerie Vivienne.
Now that I've found this enchanting place, my next goal is a enjoy a meal at one of the galerie tenants, A Priori Thé, a restaurant savvy enough to serve desserts in half portions. Why can't more restaurants do this?