I’d intended to warn all you savvy shoppers that August is NOT the month to come to Paris. It’s the time traditionally when the city shuts down and Parisians head for the country for the entire month. When we started our Paris life, this was one of the things that took most getting used to. How could merchants afford to simply close down and post a note on their door that they were on vacation, sometimes with the charming explanation “in honor of August.” In August Paris seems more like a village than a city and for this reason, the intent of this message was going to be “Don’t come to Paris in August if you want to shop.”
However, after thinking more carefully and savoring the pleasures, there are good reasons to come in August. The trick is to plan to avoid disappointments and know how to enjoy the advantages. It’s true that the smaller shops are likely to be shuttered and closed. The intimate little boutiques are best left for another time. But, fabulous shopping is still available in the grand magazines and selected shops. My own favorite, Le Bon Marche, is as chic as ever BUT without the crowds and Reciproque, a destination for vintage clothing and accessories is open for business. The distinctly Parisian tearooms so beloved by tired shoppers have tables ready with no waiting lines. That’s the beauty of August shopping, no jostling competition. You can roam crowd-free and enjoy undivided attention from attendants eager to help you find whatever you are looking for. There are even some items still held over from the summer sales. For example, a French friend going off for her mid August Club Med vacation told me she just bought a bathing suit for 7 euros.
Alain Zisul was a finance controller in a multinational corporation before he and his wife, Helen, a former English teacher, took over, Le Monde Du Voyage, the business his father started 30 years ago, and was the first to sell vintage Hermes. Today, in addition to Hermes luggage and accessories, Chanel jewelry and handbags, their Stand #15, Allée 3 in Marché Serpette (110 Rue des Rosiers) has perhaps the best collection of Vuitton trunks from the end of the 19th century until now, most from the 1930s.
A personal annual ritual is to add an Hermes vintage scarf from the Zisul’s vast collection (over 200 on site and an equal number in his private collection) to my own. It’s the easiest way to change the look of an outfit while traveling and adds no weight to luggage allotments. What better souvenir of Paris?
Alain told me a remarkable story that anyone may submit a potential design for an Hermes scarf and, if judged worthy by a panel of in-house design experts (a daunting feat) it is put into production. One outsider who made the grade was a postman from Texas, Kermit Oliver, whose American Indian design was not only accepted but became so popular he followed it with a series of western-themed designs for Hermes, signed by him, that are now sought by specialty collectors.
Keeping to the theme of travel, for those who have a special interest in memorabilia from the great ocean liners of the past, Zisul has a special display cabinet filled with nautical souvenirs and posters from the age of romantic travel.
Some of the celebrities who have left their names in the Zisul autograph book include:
Lionel Richie, Ben Harper, Donald Sutherland, Alain Ducasse, and Jackie Chan, among many others.
The produce vendors are artists at arranging their wares to look like Old Master paintings and they vie at having the most tempting displays. Grab one of the baskets stacked for customer use, gather your choices and hand the basket over to the seller to be weighed.
Knowing the fragrance someone chooses makes us feel we know them in a more intimate way than just their biographical information. Below are scents favored by some of France’s most famous women and it should come as no surprise that French fragrances predominate. Artists, entertainers, writers, business women, designers, royalty, and courtesans, all are represented in the list below. Some are French by birth, others adopted France as their home. All are endlessly intriguing and lend their own special “je ne sais quoi” to whatever scent they wear.
Catherine Deneuve: Chanel No. 22, Chanel No 5, L’heure bleue, Chamade, Chanel No. 19, Un Lys
Andree Putman: Nombre Noir
Annick Goutal: Passion (which she created for herself), Folavirl
Brigitte Bardot: Jicky, Vent Vert
Carla Bruni: Vol de Nuit
Chantall Thomass: uses her own fragrance, and also loves Serges Lutens
Carine Roitfeld: Opium for Men
Coco Chanel: Chanel 19 (created as her personal fragrance)
Edith Piaf: Bandit, Le Cinq de Molyneux
Empress Josephine: was so fond of musk that even permeated her rooms decades after her death
Empress Eugene: Eau de Cologne Imperiale, Jasmine Imperatrice Eugenie
Fanny Ardant: Jicky
Gertrude Stein: Jolie Madame
Ines De La Fressagne: Apres l’ondee, Ines
Isabelle Adjani: En Avion, Fantasia de Fleurs, Apres l’ondee, Eau de Camille, Eau du Fier, Heure Exquise, Passion, Ce Soir Ou Jamais,
Isabelle Huppert: L’heure bleue, Folavril
Jacqueline Bisset: Arpege,
Jeanne Moreau: Eau de Charlotte, Folavril, Aubepine Acacia
Josephine Baker: Joy, Sous le vent was created for her
Juliette Binoche: Cristolle
Madame Dubarry: Houbignant cologne
Marie Antoinette: Houbigant, Sillage de la Reine (recreated by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian who based his interpretation on Elizabeth Feydeau’s book, A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie-Antoinette’s Perfume)
Marlene Dietric: Angelique Encens (made for her) Bandit, Fracas, Tabac blond, Indiscent, Vol de Nuit
Miou Miou: Zeste Mandarin Pamplemousse
There are also some “make your own” mixtures worth noting:
Madame de Pampadour to seduce Louis XV concocted a love potion of 5 drops rose otto, 7 jasmine, 10 orange and 10 mandarin
Madame de Montespan to seduce Louis XIV: 8 drops ylang-ylang, 7 patchouli, 4 cinnamon and 4 clove
Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor: layered L’heure bleue and Mitsouko
In addition to various publications, sites, special thanks for the information above go to http://perfumeshrine.blogspot.com/, a fabulous resource for anyone interested in all things related to fragrance.
Travel is for fun, carefree, away from the real world experiences, right? That’s true until you wind up in a hospital and the doctors trying to take care of you need vital information you don’t have. This nightmare became a reality some years ago when my husband developed what we thought could be a blood clot after a long flight. We raced to a French hospital and struggled with trying to supply doctors with useful information about his medical history. After exhaustive tests our fear turned out, mercifully, not to be the case, but it scared us into constructing portable medical files containing every scrap of information we thought we might need to provide should another emergency arise in the future. This has worked fine – and “yes” it’s been helpful on a number of occasions — although adding unwanted bulk to our paired down baggage.
This time, for our upcoming trip to Paris, I’ve gotten smart. Each of us will carry our own USB Flash Drive containing all of our medical information including: emergency contacts for doctors and family, most recent medical reports, lists of medications and procedures (down to vitamins and supplements), insurance information and even our health care directives. Digitized records are not universal, so we asked our physicians for Xeroxed copies of the information they judge to be most important, scanned them into our computer and then transferred them to the Flash Drive. All this slips on a key ring and will be easily available at all times. Current prescriptions are kept in a small folding wallet that can be taken to be filled wherever we may be. If only we’d thought of this when we lost that pair of glasses in an Amsterdam café in the pre-medical file days and groped our way through the rest of the trip. (Caution: Not all medications are available outside the US, so be sure in cases where you cannot do without that you have an ample supply.)
Having your emergency and medical information available for any doctors who may be called upon to treat you is not a precaution just for people who have complicated health situations, it’s for EVERYONE. It could save your life – don’t leave home without it.
The French have given the world haute cuisine and haute couture but perhaps their greatest untapped gift is “haute civility.” Haute civility is not the gallant hand kissing the rest of us cannot quite get the hang of or that seductive accent that makes whatever they say sound great, it’s the way they treat each other – and us — in public places. That old stereotype that the French are rude and unfriendly is kept alive by people who simply haven’t spent time among the French. Take shopping for instance, French shoppers enter a boutique with a polite “Bonjour” to the proprietor and they leave with an appreciative “Merci” (which is reciprocated) whether they have made a purchase or not. A “bonjour” is routinely offered to fellow passengers when entering an elevator – no staring at the ceiling pretending you are alone, and other patients waiting in doctors offices are greeted the same way. Civility even extends to public transportation. In the Paris metro, elders can be assured they will be offered a seat no matter how crowded; and travelers routinely hold swinging doors open for the person behind them. Imagine that on a subway elsewhere. Recently, an American friend living in Paris told of riding a Paris bus and seeing an elderly woman defy the posted and commonly observed direction that passengers should enter through the front door and exist from the rear. Instead, this woman was making her way from her seat in the back against the stream of on-coming passengers. Not only were there no shouts of recrimination, the bus driver and some passing pedestrians stopped to help her make a safe exit. Hurray for the French fine art of social civility – we can all learn from it.
Since 1889, the bra was invented here by Herminie Cadolle, this legendary custom and ready to wear boutique has never been without its loyal devotees.
4 rue Cambon, 1
Saucy and seductive Chantal Thomass makes naughty very nice — always in luxurious fabrics.
211 rue Saint-Honoré, 1
Les Folies d’Elodie
The sweetest of sweet-nothings that turn every woman into a coquette.
56 ave Paul Doumer, 16
Supernova of lingerie with clients such as Madonna, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell and Catherine Deneuve.
73 rue des Saints-Pères, 6