Inside Les Galleries Lafayette Paris. Sourced from wikimedia
Are you just a casual souvenir shopper who just wants to bring home something special from your trip to Paris? I can imagine that fashionistas or die-hard shoppers will have a very different list of go-to places, but if you are just an average tourist looking for something to remember Paris by, this list is a good place to start.
6 – Bonpoint and Gibert Jeune
Bonpoint Store, from their website and a Google Map capture of the Gibert Jeune in Saint Germain de Pres.
Honestly, I was more interested to shop for my son, than to shop for myself. I must have entered every children’s clothing store we passed and sneaked into a number of toy stores to buy Dylan a couple of wooden playthings. My favorite shop was Bonpoint which featured the most adorable clothes for children. My usual lament is that girls usually have more designs to choose from. But in the case of Bonpoint, the boys’ designs were just as precious as the girls’! Some of those clothes were worthy to dress a little prince. We had to take care to buy something that my son can actually wear back in the Philippines, so we chose from the summer selection. We found a long-sleeved shirt for him, and a pair of silver-starred jammies. I have to admit, it was expensive. My son’s loot cost us about 120Euros. But this was my something precious for Dylan, and I still feel it’s worth it.
I got most of my son’s toy souvenirs from Gibert Jeune. It’s a children’s bookstore, but 99% of the books are in French. So I just bought a pop-up book about Paris landmarks (you don’t have to speak French to admire the beautiful illustrations), a wooden robot, a couple of wooden dice and a little postcard.
5 – Get your Art Fix in Montmartre
Montmartre (which means Mount of the Martyr after St. Denis who was beheaded there) is known to be the pulsing, artsy, charming core of Paris. Many of Paris cause-celeb artists used to have studios here such as Salvador Dali, Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso. You may also have seen an exaggeratedly whimsical version of it in the French movie Amelie, but believe me, the real place is not so far off.
Place du Tertre is the open plaza where the street artists gather and paint and sell their finished works.
What I loved about Montmartre are its small streets. You’d think you’d feel suffocated by the nearness of it all, but instead, you feel nestled in. Lining the streets uphill are countless of little souvenir shops selling various knick-knacks. This is where we got most of our souvenirs for friends back home. Little sachet of perfumed beads, cute mirror purses, Le Petit Prince merchandise, and music boxes of various make and size. You can haggle especially if you are buying a number of items. However, I only picked up a few kitsches here and there, so didn’t bother to negotiate.
This is also where we bought most of our art souvenirs. Just behind Sacre-Couer is Place du Tertre where there are actual artists painting plein air and showcasing their wares. We spent some time watching them work and found a few pieces we just couldn’t live without. We walked around some more and found more shops selling what you would say is commercial, cheap artwork. But my sister and I aren’t snobs. If it sparks joy, then by all means, acquire it. Here are some of Ella’s great finds.
Meanwhile, my sole purchase came from the artist I featured above and his lovely dainty depiction of the Seine and Tour Eiffel for 40Euros:
It now occupies its place of honor in our bedroom where I could look at it anytime and it will take me back to that nice day in Montmartre.
4 – Let Your Inner Bookworm Roar
My holy grail -- voila!
It was almost like a pilgrimage to me --- I need to go to Shakespeare and Co. as much as I need to breathe air. This small, almost crumbling bookstore found at the Left Bank of the Seine has the glorious history of being the haunting grounds of some of literature’s greats. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Anais Nin, and of course, Ernest Hemmingway, included. Outside, it does look like a quaint little bookshop, forgotten by time. Inside, however, is the best part. It was maze upon maze of rooms full of books up to the rafters.
The newer books are downstairs, and I was able to get myself a couple of books as souvenirs. Upstairs are the older books, and most of them aren’t for sale. Photos weren’t allowed inside, and like a ninny, I followed the rule even if I saw a couple of Koreans snuggling and taking a selfie in one of the prettier window seats at the upper floor. Really, it wouldn’t have hurt if I just broke the rule once. Sigh. In any case, I went away a happy girl with 5 new books and a souvenir tote bag.
Beside the bookstore is a newly opened café bearing the same name. It was very trendy and hipster-like, so I only got a fruit shake for take-away. It did have pre-loved books though, and I happily divested them of 2 of these old books to go as well. In total, I spent about 80Euros in the bookstore, and I consider it money well spent.
3 – Upscale Fashion Shopping at Les Galleries Lafayette
We actually changed accommodations on the last day from Trocadero to a George Sand hotel just to be near this place. Be it known that my sister adores shopping, and so does my husband. This was their holy grail. I loved this mall or at least the concept of it. Everything felt luxurious and gilded with a veneer of sophistication. Did I buy anything? Nope, no way. Most of the things there were beyond my budget and I have no love for the branded stuff. I did make sure to go to Angelina’s branch in the mall so I could taste the famous Chocolat au chad. I wish I could’ve taken photos of the lovely little macarons and the nice omelet we had. But I didn’t want to look jologs (low-class) --- that’s how intimidating the mall was. This is where I got my food souvenirs though --- Angelina’s hot chocolate mix and some chocolate bars for friends back home.
It was nice to walk through and window shop. And if you have money, you could actually buy stuff here. Here we are while my sister was deciding if she will buy a bag or not.
Mommy, this is boring! I know son, but we must persevere!
If I were you though, window-shop for trends here, then proceed to the mall right beside it to actually shop --- Printemps.
2 – Fashion Trend Hunting at Printemps Haussman
If you are from the Philippines, you can compare it to a Rustan’s Department Store. Still classy, still a little expensive, but you have actual spending power here. There were a lot of brands I recognized, and a big plus is its great upstairs cafe at the very top which has one of the best views in Paris. It’s right across the Paris Opera House.
Both the Galleries Lafayette and Printemps are considered Haussman style buildings. Which probably means grand and lavish from the looks of it, and it's the signature style of architecture in Paris.
The lay-out was a little confusing, and the mall was huge. It was very accessible though, so we had no problems navigating our stroller inside. If you are looking for fashion finds not yet available in the salons in Manila, this is the place to go.
1 - Monoprix and the local Pharmacie
Monoprix is not just a convenience store. It’s actually a big franchise and there are branches that have supermarkets and department stores. This is where I got the most of my food loot. It’s inexpensive, tourist-friendly, and practical. Most are French products, and more importantly, even French people shop here. You won’t find top brands but if you are not that snobbish, the produce and stocks here are perfectly acceptable.
Another thing worth checking out is the local pharmacy store. If it’s beauty products you are after, some good brands could be found just around the corner. You’d be surprised that the average pharmacy in France stocks high-end products such as Lanvin, Avene, Nuxe, Caudalie and Bioderma. These products are put in locked glass cases here in Manila, but it’s just another pharmacy item in France. Don’t believe me? Check this article out.
This is our last post on Paris and it had been a blast for me to put all these things down on paper (errr, blog, rather). Next week, we will have a short breather where I will feature some local places to visit and try out in the Philippines. After that, we will jump off to Switzerland for a trip of a lifetime!