Shopping in Paris - She Gets the Best Deals
I bet there are a lot of people
who still believe that Paris is the most expensive city in the world
(not true!) and that there is little or next to nothing that they
can afford to bring home, apart from an Eiffel Tower key chain and
a bottle of Chanel No.5.
I can prove to you that by taking
tips from the French themselves, visitors to Paris can come home
feeling both chic and happy knowing their checking accounts haven't
gone into the red.
While it's certainly true that
you can limit your shopping to the posh streets of Paris and stick
to such global brands as Hermes, Vuitton and Dior, you will only
end up buying what you find in other major financial capitals, and
you certainly won't have the kind of fun that comes from venturing
off the beaten track.
and timing are crucial aspects of shopping for the best deals in
Paris. Some of the best deals are in the least expected places.
For instance, if you shop at an open-air food market, it's a good
idea to go mid-week, when it is less crowded and the prices are
lower. Make a point of shopping a half-hour before the market shuts
down (12:30 p.m. instead of 1p.m.), because the stall keepers will
often offer some great bargains to unload leftover merchandise.
My favorite food market is the
near the place de la Bastille, the most lively and animated market
in Paris. If you love mushrooms, they have the widest array in the
city including wild cepes and chanterelles. They also have a little
United Nations of takeout food, including specialities from North
and West Africa. Yum!
The Paris Flea
you shop the Paris Flea Market,
go early in the morning when you get the pick of the best merchandise.
(This is when the dealers tend to go as well). The best day of the
week to shop is on Monday, when dealers want to unload all the weekend's
unsold merchandise. If you don't speak French and don't know your
way around the Flea Market (the largest in the world), it's a good
idea to go with a professional shopper who will negotiate and later
help ship your treasures home.
The Paris Flea Market remains
the best place to buy antiques in Paris. It is virtually a "free-trade
zone" at the gates of Paris, in a working-class district, where
the rents are low, and the merchants manage to avoid paying lots
of taxes. This is because they run a primarily cash-driven business.
Don't want to walk around with a wad of cash? Have no fear -- you
can go to various change outlets, and obtain cash against your bank
P.S. Do bring a tape measure
to the market, as well as swatches of material from home that will
help. This way, if you decide on a wonderful find, you'll know that
when it arrives at your house, it fits into your decor and doesn't
overwhelm the room.
When it comes to small items
that you've purchased, it's a good idea to carry them on the plane
with you. Always remember to pack a smaller suitcase within a suitcase
- so you have room to carry your treasures home.
Buying wine for
open-minded when you shop in Paris. You never know when a bargain
will turn up, much less where. For instance, you don't have to buy
your wines at the most expensive shops in Paris -- you can easily
find delicious Bordeaux wines in the
Monoprix chain, or at the Carrefour
or Auchan hypermarkets at the
gates of Paris. There are also wonderful market streets in the city,
such as the Rue Mouffetard and
the Rue Montorgueil, where you
can find specialist wine shops with wonderful vintages. I know of
one, where the merchant has a lovely poem tagging each vintage that
he has tasted! The name of the wine store is the Repaire
de Bacchus (literally, the retreat of Bacchus) and it's
right on the Rue Mouffetard.
Fashion finds at
markets are not just for selling food -- they also have merchants
that sell wonderful fashion accessories, including handbags
and carry-on luggage, as well as scarves and even cashmere pashminas.
Last year, I purchased a lovely lined raw silk turquoise tunic
and a shocking pink cashmere and silk pashmina at my local market
on the Boulevard de Grenelle,
for less than half of what I might have paid in a department
store. Many of these merchants import directly from India and
Nepal, bring back the merchandise in a suitcase, and sell it
in an open-air market, thus saving on a middleman or two. Okay,
so it isn't the Galeries Lafayette -- but isn't this more fun?