Showing posts with label shopping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shopping. Show all posts

29 April 2008

Paris: A Visit to Galerie Vivienne

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 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?

23 November 2007

Paris: Shopping in the Village St. Paul

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?