The Sales in Paris started today, I had been hanging out for this day, careful not to do too much shopping. It was raining, what else can a girl do?
The pretty Christmas windows have been removed and SOLDES signs are up everywhere, neon signs in fact. Paris is pretty serious about it’s post Christmas sales and so was I!
Pushing and shoving, leaving piles of unwanted goods in the ‘cabins‘ changing rooms, is the norm, no regard for the poor shop assistant trying to keep up with the mess or for the fellow shopper who wants to use the ‘cabin‘ next.
I got into the swing of things, although I couldn’t bring myself to leaving clothes in the ‘cabin’, so I just bought them.
Bazaar Hotel de Ville, or BHV as it is more commonly known, is a dangerous 121 steps from my apartment, yes I counted them. This is where I started, then headed over to Galleries Lafayette. If this shopping mecca of 7 flights of mostly fashion was busy at Christmas time, now it was even more so and this, is only women’s fashion, the men’s clothing is located in a neighbouring store.
Shoppers rushing around, in a frenzy like manner, lines of Japanese tourists wanting to get into the Chanel shop, more lines for Louis Vuitton and Mui Mui. The upscale brands, have a roped off section with security guards, controlling the crowds, so you can buy your €3,000.00 bag in comfort.
The full floor of make up and perfume sits under the dome, now less the giant Christmas tree. Normally there is a crowd, looking up and taking photos, people were more interested in what was on the racks today.
I had never bothered to take advantage of the tax free shopping before. This time I made the effort, which it didn’t take much effort at all. The multi-lingual staff have a very organised system, when you pass through from one counter and after a short wait, are invited to take a seat, while your claim is filled out.
The guy who looked after me, was so friendly, and whether he was trained to do this or not, he offered, if I decided to buy more, I could jump the line, wave at him and I can push in. How encouraging!
Next I headed over to the area of Les Halles. I don’t particularly like this area, it is a bit seedy and has a strange vibe to it, but it is home to one of my favourite brands.
Armed with a pile of clothes, I asked if I could try them on. My French is bad, I can get to the hello, could you help me, my size, can I try it on but that is about as fancy as it gets. He tells me I have too many items, hands me half and keeps half aside. With a few key words and body language, I understood or did I?
Standing in the unusually large ‘cabin‘, in only my underwear, the curtain is flung open, and there I stand, almost naked for the entire store and passersby on the street to see!
Oh ‘pardon’, says the tiny, middle aged French woman. I mumble some obscenities under my breath, now, dressed, I walk out of the cabin, for the assistant to adjust the clothing and take a look in the mirror, as I glare at the French woman, standing nearby. He offers something quick in French that I don’t understand. I have to give in to English and tell him I don’t understand. Oh, I thought you spoke French, he says and then continues, I did try to warn you that this is a shared ‘cabin‘ – oops, I shyly smile at the French woman, and offer apologies.
Before I knew it, we became great mates, doing a tag team in the cabin and commenting on what outfits suited one another, until eventually, we changed in the ‘cabin‘ together.
Rushing out the door, with a pile of clothes and a tired credit card, I was late for my appointment to meet The French Translator.
I met her at Jim Haynes, the Sunday before, just as she was about to leave, we sparked up a conversation and exchanged details. She invited me to see a photographic exhibition at the Maison Européenne de la photograhie, which, I learned from her, is free on Wednesdays.
Arriving late, she had already entered the exhibition without me, but kindly, took me around, pointing out photographs of interest. Afterwards, we slipped into the nearby, charming bistrot, La Tartine and nibbled from a fine plate of smoked duck breast, warm goats cheese and salad. The French Translator, a very charming and interesting lady, mentioned that she thought I was brave to come all the way to Paris, alone, unable to speak French.
Well I guess I get by, I may from time to time, order half raw kidneys, thinking I was going to get veal steak, and I may find myself, half naked in changing rooms for the half of Paris to see, you could call it stupid, ignorant or perhaps brave. Which ever the case, it is never going to stop me coming to this beautiful city, savouring the wonderful food, sipping on fine wine, shopping till my credit card can’t handle it anymore, and doing my bit for injecting funds into the French economy. I love Paris, and hopefully soon, I will have a better grasp of the language, until then, I continue to muddle along, talking to anyone who will take the time to try to understand my little French.
It is all worth it, just to be, in Paris.