Paris

Shopping at the Louvre, Orsay, Luxembourg, and Versailles

Visiting museum shops is one of my favorite pastimes, especially when abroad. Lately, I’ve been visiting the stores in person and checking their websites after the initial visit to see if anything was overlooked. Sometimes, a follow-up trip is necessary; I’m unbothered by having to make another. My perusal of the online shops corresponding to le musée du Louvre, le musée d’Orsay, le musée du Luxembourg, and le musée des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon yielded the following results.

Works Sighted

tea towel // fan // bracelet // magnifying glass // book (Versailles revival)

book (Marie-Antoinette) // party decorations // paper cups // paper plates // Monopoly

book (James Tissot) // writing set // avocado vase // chai // hand cream

Wine Tour de France in a Cozy Private Wine Bar: An Airbnb Experience

I booked a wine tasting last minute in the 9th Arrondissement at a bar à vin/caviste called Archibon. Wine Tour de France in a cozy private wine bar was hosted by Henri, who opened the establishment in 2016. He’d previously worked in the business sector but later decided to pursue his passion for wine full-time.

The bar is intimate. Mirrors line the walls. Stacked crates are stocked with bottles of wine. I visited on a Sunday afternoon and found Rue Rougemont quite quiet. Archibon is located at number 13.

I was the first guest to arrive. Henri and I chatted about my acquisition of the French language while we waited. I also tried — successfully, I might add — to refrain from eating the baguette, cheese, and charcuterie that had been placed at my table. Class began promptly when the other two guests arrived. One of them had studied wine, which, as I suspected, made for robust conversation.

The Airbnb experience was unique. It struck the perfect balance between formal wine class and casual tasting. Henri is skilled at making complicated information on wine production accessible. As a memoirist, I enjoyed hearing Henri tell the story of how he started his business and maintained it through 2020 and beyond. I also had the opportunity to put my senses to the test; we discussed the tasting notes of each of our six wines in great depth.

Although I took a few notes, I fully embraced the casualness of the occasion. There was plenty of room for questions, thoughts, disagreements, and personal stories. I left having connected with another sommelier in one of my favorite cities. One can never know too many people in the French wine industry. Needless to say, I plan to return.

Airbnb Parisian Flea Market Experience

Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen is the biggest and best flea market I’ve ever visited. It’s located to the north, just outside of Paris. I took metro line 4 and disembarked at Porte de Clignancourt, meeting my guide and the other four members of our group just above ground. Mariana Diamantino, host of Parisian Flea Market Experience, is an expert at uncovering vintage finds. Initially, I’d considered exploring the market on my own, but I later realized that would have been a mistake.

Although my French is good enough to garner compliments, being accompanied by a French speaker was essential in this instance. Mariana was able to negotiate prices on my behalf; I’m not skilled at doing this in English, so I don’t think I’d be successful at it in French.

I don’t usually strike gold on thrifting trips, but I did on this occasion. Our last stop was what Mariana fondly calls the “down and dirty.” This is where the best bargains are found. Acquiring them requires searching through piles of clothes and boxes of accessories. I uncovered a navy trench coat and two sweaters at a stall. Actually, Mariana may have spotted the trench coat.

The vendor asked for 35€ for all three items, but Mariana was able to negotiate the amount I was able to pay, which was about 32€. Like most vendors, he didn’t accept credit card. Not only was I glad to have Mariana by my side to negotiate but also as a friend when the conversation with the vendor turned a little inappropriate. Some things were said in reference to all Americans supposedly being rich. I learned afterward that it is common for vendors to hike their prices for US visitors.

I highly recommend Mariana’s experience. Other tips: bring cash and a lightweight, foldable tote, secure your belongings, let any negative comments roll off your shoulders, and don’t engage with the men selling cigarettes by the Porte de Clignancourt metro stop or AirPods under the Périph.

Shoe Shopping at Chanel: What to Expect

If I’ve entered a Chanel store in the past, it has never been with the intention of buying something…at least not until now. I recently visited two Chanel locations in Paris, 31 rue Cambon and 51 avenue Montaigne. My purchase took place at the latter. The fashion advisors who assisted me at both stores were welcoming, excellent conversationalists (we spoke in French), and made my experience memorable. I was also showered in bouquets of white roses for International Women’s Day, which opened beautifully when I placed them in a vase at home. Someone left a bouquet of tulips from Ferragamo behind, so I added those to my collection. Thus, I concluded March 8 with my first Chanel item and three bouquets of flowers. Here’s what to expect on your initial visit to a Chanel location in Paris.

  • Someone will ask you what item(s) you are shopping for the moment you enter the store (after the bonjours and bienvenues of course). It’s a good idea to have an answer prepared. I’d planned to buy a pair of classic ballerines in black and even went so far as to try them on for size at Bergdorf Goodman beforehand.
  • When you arrive, you’ll be put into a queue. At Cambon, I was asked to wait for a fashion advisor in the shoe department on a cushioned bench; one became available within 30 minutes. At Montaigne, I waited at least 90 minutes for an advisor and went to Dior and Ladurée in the interim. I opted to receive a notification via text message when it was my turn. You may schedule an appointment in advance online provided there is availability.
  • You will be offered a drink at the beginning of your shopping session and may choose from either still water, sparkling water, juice, or Champagne. At Cambon, I settled on a bottle of Evian. I asked for Champagne at Montaigne but they’d run out by then; I was there past closing time after all. Also, chocolate wafers from Angelina appeared along with Evian at Montaigne; I’m not sure if they are a staple among Chanel’s refreshments or if they were for International Women’s Day like the roses. If you know, comment below.
  • Everything isn’t on display. Just because something isn’t visible doesn’t mean it’s out of stock. I learned this on a walk around the shoe department with my style advisor at Cambon. To my amazement, she pushed aside several sliding mirrors to reveal shelves upon shelves of shoes not otherwise visible.
  • The display shoes have a price sticker on the bottom. I deduced that the ballet flats I tried on at Cambon had been on display (at some point) from the price sticker on the bottom. They were the last pair at that location.
  • The advisors wear all black. This makes them easy to spot on the sales floor. However, you shouldn’t need to go searching for anyone; your advisor stays with you the whole time.
  • Your advisor will need your passport to prepare the paperwork that will allow you to receive your VAT (value-added tax) back. Please note: it is not advisable to wear the purchases from which you plan to receive VAT on the flight home. In case of inspection, they should look like purchases. Place them in your carry-on.

Works Sighted

Meridame II (navy/ecru stripes) // J.Crew Martie pant (black) // Chanel classic ballerines (black)

Paris: 20 In-Person Airbnb Experiences

Hugging a poster for Brassaï exhibition in a Paris metro station (2014)

I’ve been to Paris many times online, in books, and through movies but only once in person. While I believe in armchair traveling, I must stress that it isn’t a substitute for first-hand experiences. I’ve noticed that a few of the Airbnb hosts I met via Zoom in 2020 have dispensed with some or all of their virtual experiences and are back to conducting them in person. I was left with no choice but to book a trip to Paris. My anticipated arrival date is March 3, 2023. Surveying in-person experiences is a pivotal part of the planning process. Here’s my curated list of 20.

Work Sighted: Expressing my love for Brassaï (January 2014)

French Revolution Interactive Journey: An Airbnb Online Experience

A Zoom call with Parisology's Thierry Collegia.

Thierry Collegia’s “French Revolution Interactive Journey” melded my love of Paris with my passion for history. The two other guests (an American couple) visited Paris right before worldwide travel restrictions were instated, and they couldn’t wait to return. There are few things I enjoy more than discussing my interests with people who share them. I was fortunate to find myself in such a likeminded group. The participants asked interesting questions and the host answered every one.

Thierry, the founder of Parisology, is a skilled storyteller. His extensive knowledge of the French Revolution and his experiences living in the U.S. and the U.K. give his tours a unique perspective. Thierry’s complete list of in-person and virtual tours is available on his company’s official website. I’ve bookmarked the following online historic journeys for my future consideration:

I’ve been pleasantly overwhelmed by the abundance of online learning opportunities that have sprung up due to the current state of things. Finding time for all of the experiences that interest me has become an issue, but I press on. I’ll be wrapping up our month-long virtual journey to Paris with “Taste French Wines with a Parisian” next week. (I’d originally planned to complete “The Story and Secrets of Perfume” too, but it’s not available at the moment.) Bonne chance with all of your Thanksgiving preparations. Remember: there is always something to be thankful for. If you’re reading this, I’m thankful for you.

Works Sighted: J.Crew funnel neck pullover (old; funnel neck removed by me)