Sunday, October 24, 2010
My press trip to Hotel Le Bristol in Paris continued to impress. The after-hours tour of the Louvre was amazing, and I couldn’t wait to see what other unique experiences the hotel could offer its guests. I didn’t have to wait long. The following day we were scheduled to meet with a personal shopper who would take us all over the Right Bank. Lacking any talent in the shopping department, I was excited to have an insider’s help in finding the best boutiques in Paris.
We met our personal shopper, Skall, in the hotel lobby, and he whisked us away down Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore towards the Place Vendome. We arrived on Rue de Castiglione and alighted from the car to start our day of discovering the best shopping in the city. Our first stop included visits to two boutiques: Rodolphe Menudier and Chine. The former was a shoe store with beautifully-made boots, flats, heels, and wedges, while the latter was a women’s clothing shop that featured Belgian designs.
Our shopping appetites whetted, we continued onto a place that I had passed a million times, but never knew was there: the Palais Royal. A beautiful palace and gardens right next to the Louvre, the Palais Royal was home to high-end boutiques, cafes, and Paris’ oldest restaurant. Our stop included a mix of the known—Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney—and the new—Pierre Hardy and Lefranc Ferrant. Pierre Hardy had us drooling over its gorgeous shoes, while Lefranc Ferrant’s pret a porter designer fashions had us wishing we possessed the same clothing budget as the well-heeled couple at the other end of the shop.
The real treat for me, though, was Mary Beyer, a designer of couture gloves. Her tiny shop in the Palais Royal was full of color. Each pair of gloves was hand-made, and the designs ranged from the simple to the fur-lined, the plain black to the vibrant fuchsia. With winter rapidly approaching and me being glove-less, I couldn’t resist the temptation to have Mary make me a pair. She traced my hand, measured my fingers, had me try on a few sample pairs, and told me that my own whould be arriving in two or three weeks. I couldn’t wait.
From the Palais Royal we were taken east to visit three more impressive shops. At Raphael Young we discovered an up-and-coming Parisian designer’s futuristic footwear, then crossed the street to a “secret” shop with no windows and no sign. Our personal shopper rang a doorbell, and suddenly we found ourselves inside a clothing store that could have doubled as an art gallery. L’Eclaireur was a beautiful space with men’s and women’s clothing and accessories. The highlight, though, was an even more secret space, which was revealed to us when one of the walls suddenly opened onto a low-lit room full of unique furniture, art, chandeliers, and mirrors. It was stunning.
Tearing ourselves away, we continued our Paris shopping trip with a visit to Marithe Francois Girbaud, a large shop that is known for its jeans as well as its futuristic-looking laser-cut clothing. I was glad we were pressed for time, because I knew that I would get into trouble if I stayed too long. Instead we made our way to a place that was the polar opposite of this geometric temple of fashion. We entered the soft, dollhouse world of Fifi Chachnil. A tiny shop painted all in pink, Fifi was a wonderland of fine Parisian lingerie. Lace, feathers, and silk abounded, and we left the shop feeling like we had just been in a dream.
Our final stop of the day was at Christophe Lemaire, a boutique in the Marais that felt more like someone’s apartment. The designs were beautiful, and in the back there was a selection of Lacoste clothing. By the time we left, we were exhausted and our personal shopper had to run to another appointment. We headed straight for L’As du Falafel to enjoy the best falafel in Paris, and rested our feet while we marvelled at the amazing clothing we had seen that morning. If all of my shopping trips could be as pleasant as a day with Hotel Le Bristol’s personal shopper, I might actually become the fashionista I never dreamed I could be. In the meantime, though, there was reality to face: the excellent cuisine of Hotel Le Bristol’s restaurants. To be continued…