Paris Shopping Tips by von.otter
Paris Shopping: 859 reviews and 1,207 photos
Au Bon Marché, Entrance, July 2008
“For my part I believe that the Tower will possess its own beauty.”
— Gustave Eiffel, his response to critics of his Tower in a February 1887 interview with the newspaper Le Temps
Although Le Bon Marché is renowned for La Boutique Mariage, Wedding Boutique, and has a large and prestigious Beauty and Cosmetics Department, I am here to praise its ground-floor gourmet food market, La Grande Epicerie.
Stocked with thousands of products from around the world, such as mineral water from Wales, French artisan jams, and exquisite tomato sauce from Naples, La Grande Epicerie is a food lover’s delight. The quality of the fresh, prepackaged and prepared foods is top of the line. This department store is known for its quality; it has a reputation to consider. True, you will may a bit more than those small stands on the sidewalk, but the quality is worth it.
Founded in 1852, Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche was the first department store ever in Paris. Its present ornate Art Nouveau building was designed by Gustav Eiffel, yes that Eiffel! Because this is Paris, the store has a culture department that stages art exhibits and maintains a contemporary art collection. The store even sells real estate! And it was the founder of Hotel Lutetia, only a few blocks distant from the store (see von.otter’s Paris accommodation tip: “Hotel Lutetia: A Grand Hotel” for more about this wonderful place to stop while visiting the City of Light).
La Grande Epicerie came to our rescue the afternoon of my birthday 2003 when we were too late to be served lunch and too early to be served dinner in any restaurant. We bought olives, bread, cheese, salad, etc.; took it all back to our room at the near-by Hotel Lutetia; called room service for plates, utensils and napkins; and enjoyed an indoor picnic, with a view of %la tour Eiffel from our balcony!
What to buy: Le Bon Marché is reputed to have the best Spanish ham in Paris.
Address: 22 Rue de Sèvres, 7th Arrondissement
Theme: Food and Drink
Souvenir Hunting, Paris Quaiside, July 2008
In the 1980s some bouquiniste owners stopped sell books and prints in favor of tourist souvenirs. New regulations were introduced in the early 1990s to stop this unwelcome development. Only a quarter of the stalls are allowed to sell the cheap, mostly Chinese-made, Parisian-related souvenirs and postcards.
Do not waste your expensive euros on these poorly made items. If you must come home with such junk get a better price at the department stores, Au Bon Marche, La Samaritaine, and Galeries Lafayette. Postcards, too, can be bought at these department stores for a better price. Frankly, I would not buy anything at these stalls, even the books appear to be questionable.
Since the early 17th century the quayside of the River Seine has been an outdoor bookstore. Known as bouquiniste these green stalls, bolted to the sidewalls overlooking the river, sell mostly secondhand books. They are uniquely Parisian and a quaint city landmark, of sorts.
Over the years these booksellers, in addition to their legitimate wares, have sold banned books and pamphlets critical of the monarchy and the Church. After the misguided French Revolutionaries plundered the libraries of the aristocracy, some of those treasures were sold from these stalls.
Initially the booksellers of Paris wheeled their books about in barrows. In 1606, it was decided that the profession needed some regulation; the authorities allowed them to ply their trade for a few hours every day in a certain spot on Ile de la Cité. Not until the early 19th century were they recognized as a real profession. In 1891, permission was granted to set up permanent stalls. More regulation was ordered in 1952; when the boxes were painted the shade of green and a standard size was set.
What to buy: Nothing!
What to pay: Nothing!
Address: Les quais de la Seine
Directions: Center town, near the Seine
Ladurée Salon de thé, Paris, July 2008
“All that can be found anywhere can be found in Paris.”
QUITE A FIND At the least, we found sweet treats around the corner from L’Hôtel at Ladurée.
We say thank you to Louis Ernest Ladurée, a miller from France’s southwest, who founded a bakery in Paris in 1862. It was his wife Jeanne who had the idea to serve tea at the bakery, thus giving birth to one of the first salon de thé in town.
Charming with a French touch of formality (the clerks wear jacket and tie!) is the atmosphere at Ladurée.
The salon at the rue Bonaparte location is so lovely. Do visit their web site for photos of the interior and a full list of items for sale; but not on the web. You must visit a shop to experience these delicious treats.
All photographs were taken at the rue Bonaparte location.
What to buy: Macaroons! Macaroons! Macaroons! And more macaroons!
What to pay: What would you pay for a little bit of a taste of heaven?
Address: 21 rue Bonaparte and Other Locations
Theme: Food and Drink
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