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Who doesn’t like shopping? Whether it’s for clothes, shoes, perfumes or food, everyone likes a spot of retail therapy. And with this popular recreation being one of the main draws for a trip to Paris, the city remains a sought after shopping destination. I went along to a trip to the French capital for an indulgent few days and to experience the buzz it creates all year long.
Paris has some 17,000 shops with major department stores, iconic luxury brands and famous shopping districts. But if you want to stand out from the crowd then you need to head to Le Marais. Here you can find shops selling edgy clothing in underground designer boutiques which has given the area that avant-garde reputation.
Strolling around the streets looking at one-off designer pieces was a pleasant experience not least because streets like Rue des Rosiers are pedestrianised, but because you can find items which you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. Merci is one of those stores where you can literally shop till you drop with its range of goods from electrical to furniture to clothes, bags and shoes. And you can always take the weight off your feet with their in-store coffee and bookshop which is lined floor to ceiling with books which you can exchange and read in the cosy café.
And little ones aren’t forgotten either. Nearby BonTon is dedicated entirely for sophisticated and chic children which boasts their very own cute salon. Watching these Parisian children getting pampered was a hand-on-heart in awe moment. If you have a little more change to spare, you can spend it in L’Eclaireur in rue de Sevigne, the ultimate concept store in Paris which is home to the best selection of luxury designer and trendy fashion for men and women with discerning tastes.
Le Marais has a thriving gay community who really know how to set the scene with its buzzing atmosphere from the concept stores and café culture in the day to the restaurant, bar and nightclub by night. Everyone who is someone flocks to this end of the city because it really is the place to be when it comes to trendsetting and guaranteed good vibes all around.
Department stores don’t get bigger and better than LE BHV MARAIS, dubbed the Parisians’ favorite department store which celebrates 160th Christmas in true Alpine Style throughout the store including with its magical roof top bar, le Perchoir Marais. Located in the heart of Paris, facing the Hotel de Ville, and Notre-Dame, in the most touristic, trendy and cultural area, LE BHV MARAIS is one-stop-shop under one roof. It was founded by François Xavier Ruel in 1856 and today has a retail space of 45,000m² and five floors where you can go wild buying everything you could ever imagine like fashion, beauty, homeware, food, leisure activities, DIY and more. And if you love truffles, then you must lunch at the Artisan de la Truffe on the fifth floor. It’s a truffle lovers dream.
Impressively, just a stone’s throw from the main store, LE BHV MARAIS L’HOMME has 5 floors dedicated entirely to men’s fashion, ranging from street-wear to designer collections, including suits and accessories.
Like our shopping trip, our gourmet food trip, lasting three hours, was led by a guide. Just as well, otherwise I would have just ended up in chocolate shop after chocolate shop. But there is a plethora of other foods and drinks to be discovered and devoured. You can literally eat and drink your way through the different regions of France, one adventure at a time, while sharing in the culinary heritage and of French gastronomy.
And our guide Carole from la Route des Gourmets really knows her food. With Paris food always under the spotlight thanks to artisans, chefs and renowned food producers, Carole had sought out some of the crème-de-la-crème of places to visit and taste food in Saint-Germain. We tasted practically every delicacy in sight including meat, sausages, pastries, chocolate, jams, spread, macaroons, tuna, cheese and more. I was totally bewitched by Kouignettes, a doughy pastry which I had been told to try before my trip. Why I have never eaten them before is beyond me. And to balance it out I decided to try some vegetable based macaroons from Macaroons Gourmands. Personally I would have eaten a straight tomato than the tomato one but the carrot one was pleasant.
Talking of less than common flavours, at chocalatier Arnaudlarher I gave the Basilic chocolate a shot. This 70 per cent dark chocolate was infused with basil herb tea. Wasn’t sure if I liked it at first but when I proceeded to have two more, I was persuaded. Mindful eating sprung to mind at this shop because one small square piece of chocolate can set you back one whole euro.
I love perfume so I was delighted that a perfume tour around the city had been scheduled as part of the trip. After learning all about the history, facts (who knew between 60-70 ingredients are used to make perfume?) scents and oils by the knowledge Emmanuel from Candora, I stuck right in to create my own fragrance aptly named Sabi Chic. I chose vanilla as my base, vetiver as my middle base and topped it off with oud (means wood in Arabic) to create my fragrance. The result was sensational. I know that because I was able to bring my perfume home in a cute bottle and it’s been attracting a few men already! My next visit to Paris will include a trip to the newly opened Le Grand Musee du Parfum which is to be dedicated to a world of sensory experience and emotion.
With Paris attracting tourists in their hoards all year round, boutique hotels have been multiplying in numbers. We took refuge at the delightful Hotel Baume which is chic, elegant and stylish like everything else I associate Paris with. We were awoken to the smell of fresh bread from their breakfast offerings which was a mixture of buffet and menu choices while the evenings lured you into their honesty bar with a selection of alcoholic drinks and snacks. Although we didn’t dine here, we did head off to their sister hotel, La Belle Juliette for canapés. And despite taste tasting throughout the trip, we ate extremely well in a few restaurants including Café Georgette and La Regalade Paris. But for me it was the French toast with salted caramel which topped my taste buds at Les Bistrotters restaurant. I seriously have never had a pudding that tasted so good. The saying ‘a moment of the lips and a lifetime on the hips’ has never rung truer. But it was worth every single mouthful.
For more information, visit grandmuseeduparfum.fr.