I tried. I really tried to spend money in Paris while attending a week-long women’s writing retreat this month. After all, at my age, there aren’t many years left to treat ourselves to something we’ve always wanted. This summer is a big deal in our house. I turn seventy-five; my husband turns eighty, and we celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary so I thought a splurge on something special for myself was not out of line.
The thing is though, by the time we reach this age, there isn’t really much we want or need. Our lives are simpler and fulfilment most often comes from being surrounded by friends and family or enjoying activities we never had time for during our working years. Hence, the trip to Paris. I signed up two and a half years ago for a Women’s Paris Writing Retreat but COVID kept postponing it until finally in June 2022 I was able to go.
On June 2nd I hauled my giant suitcase (I never learn about overpacking) through two airport terminals at departure (hubby dropped me at the wrong one) and a further three terminals upon my arrival the next morning in Paris, tired but undaunted.
From Terminal 2 at Charles de Gaulle, I had to take a train to another terminal to collect my baggage (who in the name of humanity designs airports these days . . . sadistic Olympic athletes?). After two hours of waiting, we were informed that half the plane’s luggage had been left behind in Toronto and would not be arriving until later the next day.
Then, I had to take the train to a third terminal in search of a non-existent kiosk to pick up a non-existent French SIM card I’d ordered online to allow me to communicate with my fellow retreat participants and the rest of the world. Never found the kiosk; never got the SIM card. No luggage. No SIM card. Not a joyous start.
Back to my shopping issues. Where else in the world would an old boomer have a better time shopping than in the retail pot of gold —Paris. Even saying the word sets off sparklers and fireworks in my brain. Specifically, my destinations would include Hausmann’s Galeries Lafayette, that cathedral-like multi-level shrine to all things beautiful and expensive. There’s also the Champs Elysées which is now, sadly, a tract of boring American retail chains, and all the lovely little shops and French boutiques along Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré.
With time out from my writing workshops and group sight-seeing, I embarked on my journey of retail reconnaissance. If you’re a woman, you know that shopping does not necessarily mean buying. Sometimes we just enjoy the thrill of being able to look, touch, inhale the atmosphere and fantasize. But, when you’re in Paris, shopping is elevated to another dimension. I was only there for a short period of time and considering my age, I recognized this might be my last shot at achieving any level of fashion divineness.
As I walked along Rue de Faubourg St. Honoré in my special old lady Fitflop™ sneakers with the industrial-strength arch supports, I marvelled at the sugar plums dancing in all the shop windows. Gowns, jewelry, handbags, shoes, shoes, and more shoes. Does anyone other than Elton John actually wear green iridescent platform heels with three-inch soles? Absolutely everyone I saw in Paris wore sneakers. Only once in two weeks did I see an actual woman wearing high heels.
No shopping trip to Paris is complete without a visit to Monoprix, that marvelous combination grocery store and department store. They had fabulous linen tee shirts for only nineteen Euros (about $25.00). I wish I’d picked up a couple. Joe Fresh Parisienne style.
I did manage to pick up a few little gifts for friends in the Fragonard fragrance store. Ten years ago I toured the Fragonard perfume factory and museum in Grasse in the south of France and have loved their products ever since. They’re difficult to source in Canada.
The bottom line is that whatever you would like to buy in Paris, you can probably get it here at home. Why bother spending your Euros and dealing with cranky customs agents when you return if you can lighten your load and buy locally.
I once hauled a giant hand-painted bubbled-wrapped ceramic pasta platter all over Italy so I would have something special to bring home. I paid the equivalent of around one hundred dollars for the piece in San Gimignano, only to return home and find practically the same thing in Home Sense for $29.00.
Further along Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré, I encountered a lineup outside the Chanel boutique waiting for permission to enter the sacred inner sanctum. The outside temperature that day was in the eighties (F) and I overhead a Chanel representative advising the people standing in the hot sun that the wait would be more than two hours. Ya’ gotta really want that handbag.
Don’t these people know that Coco Chanel was a die-hard Nazi sympathizer who moved to Switzerland where she lived with her Nazi officer for ten years after the war? The only thing that saved her from the fate of other collaborators was her personal friendship with Winston Churchill. Fortunately, a Jewish family took over her business.
A similar lineup stretched along the sidewalk in front of Hermès on Avenue Georges V. Customers were permitted entry only when another one left. Personally, I prefer Amazon Prime for shopping convenience and price, don’t you?
Save your money; save your strength; save your sanity. Think twice about buying things when you travel. Chances are, you can let your fingers do the walking on Amazon Prime and buy the same thing while sitting in your comfortable LaZ-Girl chair in your living room while binge-watching Netflix. Although, I do wish I’d picked up that linen tee shirt at Monoprix.
Even though I went to Paris and all I bought was a few bars of soap, I came home feeling completely rejuvenated and ready to share the joy of my trip with my very special BoomerBroadcast readers. After two years of lockdown, it was wonderful to be out in the world again, meeting new people, seeing new sights, savouring new restaurants and cafés, making new friends. Â bientôt mes trés chères and stay tuned for more views from A Broad in Paris!