Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Shopping in Paris

Paris? Shopping? Shoes?
Twenty-four hours in Paris, and we've seen the famous sights before - what to do? Go shopping, of course. Galeries Lafayette beckoned - the flagship store on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement. This upmarket wonder dates from small beginnings in 1895, and now occupies three sites clustered together. The first owners commissioned the architect Georges Chedanne and his pupil Ferdinand Chanut to design the store at the Haussmann location, where a glass and steel dome and Art Nouveau staircases were finished in 1912.

The sedate store facade hides ten floors of merchandise
and an extraordinary Art Nouveau dome.
Wow! From 1912.
We bustled into the store with a large and seething crowd of shoppers after lunch on a Wednesday. After forging our way through dozens of merchandise displays emblazoned with big brands we emerged into the centre of the ground floor - and were surprised to find ourselves under a beautiful and blazing confection of stained glass and wrought iron: the famous Art Nouveau dome of Galeries Lafayette.

The floors rise up around the dome.
Art Nouveau detail.
Looking down on the brands.
We spent some serious shopping time inspecting the incredible display of highly-priced brand-names: Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior, Cartier, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Tiffany....finally settling on some reasonably priced jewellery and a practical backpack. Yes, we managed to buy something at Galeries Lafayette without courting bankruptcy.

Fragrance, jewellery, handbags, watches, cosmetics, fashion, shoes...
Looking upwards.
I have since discovered that it is possible to emerge on the 5th floor and take in a view of Paris which is apparently spectacular -- so intent on finding that perfect purchase, we missed this. I should have read the Trip Advisor reviews first:
We heard from a couple different sources about the free view from the roof. We went up there twice in two days. You can see almost every site Paris is famous for. You can stay up there as long as you like and just relax. A great find!
If had consulted good 'ole Trip Advisor, I might also have been a little more prepared for the loads of bussed-in tourist-shoppers who are seemingly keeping Galeries Lafayette and its expensive brands afloat:
The building is stunningly beautiful. The wide balconies that circle the grand foyer are awash in gourmet foods and luxury fashion designs. The piece de resistence is the domed stained glass roof. The department houses collections of the best designers in the world. However, the department store encourages bus loads of tourists to shop there. The last few times I've visited the store I had to maneuver my way around countless numbers of buses just to get into the store and when I finally made my way into the building I found it so crowded with tourists that I had to leave. I then walked down the street to another grand department store that was equally lovely without the impossible crowds. I would advise travelers to Paris to only visit this establishment in order to see the gorgeous interior. Don't plan on shopping there. (Trip Advisor review).
We were stunned to find that about 90% of our fellow-shoppers seemed to come from Mainland China -- I understand that the big brands can be more expensive there, but queuing for half an hour to buy a handbag? My shopping companion and I opted for a little break at the champagne bar.

Champagne break. So French.

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