Paris part 1.
We caught a train into Paris, and managed the metro to find the 19th Arrondissement. This was an outer suburb of Paris, full of immigrants. On many travel webpages (this is a reasonably nice one), it is listed as a ‘don’t stay here’ area, which put me on edge a little, but I had no trouble with the local homeless or vagrants. It was a rough neighbourhood though- on a particular night after watching vampire movies, D rolled over and fell asleep leaving me quivering under the bedding as a fight broke out on the street below, topped off with what I hope was a car backfiring.
As D travelled down to Orlean on the first day, and Luxemberg on the second for business, I was left to my own devices. I had heard a lot about consignment stores or designer depots in Paris and went in search of some. A simple Google search came up with many options if one is willing to click links to Vogue forums and Google translate the findings. I marked several on my map, but my first day of venturing turned out to be the most rewarding. Reciproque is a series of stores along a street, each dedicated to different products. I started in the handbag store and quickly realised how out of my price range I was. Divided by designers (Prada, Marc Jacobs, Chanel, Burberry, well you get the idea) the handbags hung on multiple rails, ensuring they didn’t touch the floor. Some were in better condition than others, and the prices adjusted accordingly. The cheapest price I found was in the proximity of 80 Euros but the bag was small, and not a designer I cared much for- I would be buying for the sake of buying. A number of Louis Vuitton or Birkin bags locked in a cupboard fetched several thousand. I felt uncomfortable with the staff in this store, who must have sensed I was not a wealthy collector. Usually I do not shy away from stores out of my range, and do not feel judged but these French sales assistants turned their noses up at me and did not tell me there was a second floor for me to explore.
The next and biggest store was a little friendlier. These were the clothes, and the collections were vast. Again a double storey store, the top floor was dedicated to the big designers and here I tried on a few Burberry blouses, a beautiful Thierry Mugler skirt (this tempted me and I very nearly bought it, but it was too dramatic for frequent wear), a Marc Jacobs dress and skirt, and a beautiful McQueen dress which alas was too tight in the bust (a frequent problem between designer clothes and I). Down stairs was the shoe collection which has an impressive collection of snakeskin boots, and rows of more high street finds or designers more affordable collections. It was here I found my win of the day- a Calvin Klein grey dress which flattered me in every possible way. Its only fault was a loose button, and at 125 Euros, I could easily fix it. After all- I’ve had dresses in this style before and found them incredibly versatile. In the time since, I have worn this dress enough to justify the price.
After a brief stop for an average sandwich which cost me too much (Paris is expensive!) I found the home wares and accessory store, which surprisingly didn’t have much to tempt me, and the menswear store which had a belt I would have bought if it were not far too big.
The Lafayette Galleries boast that they are the biggest department store in the world, so after my depot-diving, I headed here for some shiny racks and new things to look at- even further out of my price range. Paris is very strict about their sales periods, confining merchants to two periods during the year only. It was sale time and LaFayette was packed. I entered into the handbag/luggage section, where I was met with a queue and security guard for each separate designer consignment. Wow. The jewellery was slightly less crowded, especially in the lower end section and I bought some beads for my Pandora and a pendant watch from Agatha. I then spent several hours wandering the clothing ‘galleries’ upstairs where they stocked everything from American Apparel and Juicy Couture up to Karl Lagerfeld and Miu Miu. I had a lot of fun eyeballing the beautiful clothes, and even tried on a few within the upper end of my spectrum, but did not buy any. As D and I organised to meet at 6, I did not discover the entire floor of shoes until it was too late.
The most notable thing about the next day was that somehow I was an hour ahead of myself all day. As most stores close between 12.30-2, I walked to a designer depot at what I thought was 2, only to find it still closed. By 3, I gave up and headed back to our hotel, which is about when I realised my mistake. Silly me. The depot was in a area mostly occupied by childrens clothing and toy stores, so I had a little fun shopping for my niece and nephew- Spud and Pod.
As our location was less than ideal, D and I struggled with dinner each night. By now the novelty of eating out was wearing off, and expenses were building up. In our local area, we had a few expensive Japanese options, a lot of Turkish options, a Sicilian place which had questionable reviews, an African and a McDonalds. We ate Crepes from a Turkish place on our first night, then sushi, pizza from the Sicilian place- far more expensive and not comparable to Italian pizza – and then found a Turkish burger place at which we ate the last two nights. Not ideal French cuisine.
With D now free from business, we wandered through the French centre, meandered up Avenue des Champs-Élysées, around the Arc de Triomph, and down to the Eiffel Tower. We ate lunch at a sidewalk restaurant- D opted for a burger, but I chose a more French dish Salmone Tartare– a daring choice for me. Later we ate crepes in the Trocadero looking out over the tower. The Eiffel Tower itself was cool, but slightly overcrowded- as expected. It was accompanied by the usual swarms of merchants who had miniatures of the tower strung along a coat hanger who would shake them in your direction. Others had them set up on blankets, for an easy ‘pack up and run’ when the police came. The police were walking around with big rifles, which shocked me a little, it is not common place to see men so heavily armed- I would expect it in a less peaceful country, but not the middle of Paris.
We did not go to the top of either the Tower or Arc de Triomph- the lines were too long, and we figured it was one ‘touristy’ attraction we could skip.