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Shopping!? Bah – Humbug!

You might not believe this, but I am one of those rare women who hates to shop. If shopping is genetic, then that DNA somehow passed me by. Like a guy, I’d rather go into one store where I like the style, order up a complete wardrobe and leave feeling accomplished.

Nonetheless, on Sunday afternoon, after visiting the “Karl Lagerfeld, A Visual Journey” photography exhibition at the Pinacothèque de Paris, it made perfect sense to wander over to the department stores just a few steps away to see the annual Christmas windows and take a peek at what the stores are offering up for the holidays.

The exhibition was completely void of any other visitors. Seriously, our group of four were the only people at the Pinacothèque giving us the freedom to speak as loudly as we liked and roam freely to see it all. This is highly unusual for a Sunday afternoon, although it was the day of the regional elections in France, sending most people to the polling stations.

Lagerfeld surprised us all with his beautiful photography, although we shouldn’t have been. He’s such a genius on so many levels, that it would be crazy to think that his talents wouldn’t transcend to this medium. The exhibition doesn’t take long to see, but it’s well worth the trip, and don’t miss seeing the museum’s permanent collection in the basement — a random collection of well-known artists that is sure to impress you.

Just outside Printemps where rue Tronchet meets boulevard Haussmann, is a small concrete triangle that now has a hat kiosk adorably named “Mademoiselle Charivari.” It is owned by one of my daughter’s oldest friends, Clara Garcia, who has done so well with her hat business that this is her second boutique — the first one located at the bottom of the “funiculaire” in Montmartre (that takes you to the top and Sacré Coeur). It was here outside Printemps at the kiosk that I found old friend and favorite “mosaïste,” Véronique Husson selling hats on behalf of Clara. (Véronique is the artist who bejeweled all of my apartments with her gorgeous mosaic tile-work!)

Véronique’s daughter, Rokia, is one of Erica’s oldest friends. I met these girls when they were a mere 11 years old attending “collège” (junior high school) and ‘hanging out’ at our apartment. Now, they’re all grown up, having children, opening businesses and strange as it may seem, employing their mothers!

Rokia Mehdaoui is just as entrepreneurial, just having started her own restaurant on rue Vertbois (number 20, open daily 12 noon to 6 p.m.) in a space abandoned by Cédric Naudon when his ambitious “La Jeune Rue” project went belly up earlier this year. Last week, she served up a perfect Salade Niçoise, “fait maison” and hopes to create a thriving little business based on her gumption and smarts.

Before taking a deep breath to muster up the courage to enter any of the “Grands Magazins,” I took a stroll past the window displays, battling the parents-with-their-kids to see the windows up close. The display windows were more beautiful at Printemps (my personal opinion) which tell a story of a ‘magical and enchanting journey’ than Galleries Lafayette’s which were devoted to an ‘intergalactic world’ leaving me cold like outer space itself. (Perhaps it would be better to see them at nighttime when the lights are shining brightly.)

It had been a really long time since I’d ventured into any of these megastores and it was more a challenging experience than a fun one now that there is security at every door checking your bags. Be prepared to wait in a line to show your stuff to a security guard. In one instance, a guard warned me that my backpack was open and I should be particularly careful of pickpockets which was quite nice of him, but then he added a racist remark about “Arabs and gypsies, too” to which I gently slapped him on the arm in a gesture of disgust.

The recent terrorist attacks have deprived us of our freedoms in our need to protect ourselves from undesirables who wander the streets carrying automatic weapons or armed with explosives to blow up themselves and anyone else in their wake. (I prefer the pickpockets and gypsy thieves!) We all know that it really won’t matter in the end. The perpetrators will find other ways to attack and instill even more fear. This is their ultimate goal and they are winning the battle. The retailers will suffer from it as have all of us who can no longer be and feel free of this invasion of our privacy.

Once inside, the stores bombard you with ‘sensory overload.’ Beautiful things glisten with enticement, screaming “buy me, buy me” even if at a handsome price. The Christmas decorations are beautiful and worth the visit, but one can no longer visit the “coat department” or “shoe department” or “accessories.” It’s all about ‘branding’ now with small inter-departments each devoted to one brand, regardless of what they sell. I got lost simply looking for a belt to match a new holiday dress and gave up entirely. The crowds were not in the stores — many ‘departments’ were devoid of life.

For a Sunday it was an unusual thing to do or place to be…as it’s been only recently that many stores could legally open nights and Sundays. There are now 12 “International tourist zones” (ZTI) across Paris including the Champs-Elysées, Montmartre, Le Marais and Saint-Germain. The reform was part of the “Macron Law,” named after Finance Minister Emmanuel Macron who pushed this through Parliament in July of this past year.

Most of Le Marais has always been open on Sundays, thanks to the Jewish population whose establishments were closed on Saturday for “Shabbat,” then reopening on Sunday. Traditionally it’s been THE place to be on Sunday as a result, and has economically benefitted from its special treatment. Shoppers are thrilled with the reforms, but there is still a lot of opposition. Employees simply don’t want to work on Sundays while the rest of the country is having their ‘day of rest,’ even if it means earning more money. And those opposed claim that it isn’t an economic benefit as spending becomes redistributed rather than augmented. There are lots of studies on the subject, and whether it’s an economic benefit or not, I’m personally not complaining about having another weekend day to ‘take care of business’…even if it is not one of my favorite things to do!

Last night after a shopping experience that confirmed my dislike for the activity, news came that the National Front didn’t win one single region in France, even in the south around Nice where Marine Le Pen’s 26 year-old blonde-haired and pretty niece, Marion, was on the ballot against Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, who received around 54%. The Socialists were smart to drop out of the race in certain key regions (Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur and Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine) leaving the field wide open for the mainstream conservative candidates of the Républicains (former UMP).

Voters turned out and made it happen, with 10% higher turnout than for the first rounds (58.6% compared to 43.4%). They were at the polls, not at the exhibition, that’s for sure, nor in the stores shopping either. They had more important things to do…like ensuring that the National Front wasn’t out front this go-round!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group

(by Janet Hulstrand)

Respond to Adrian

P.S. “Nue York,” the book, is on its way from its publisher in Italy! All those who supported the campaign to fund the printing of photographer Erica Simone‘s first book will be receiving their limited edition signed and kissed copies. There are still some available for purchase through BigCartel for $95, as well as signed postcard sets…up until Christmas. (If you’re wanting one as a gift, please send Erica Simone a note so she can rush your order: [email protected]).

P.P.S. We will be filming another House Hunters International this coming April on the Riviera! I am seeking properties in which we can film that are approximately 30 to 40 square meters, studio or one bedroom, value of about 300,000€ to 350,000€, located between Nice and Menton, with a balcony and preferably a great view. If you have a property fitting this description and would welcome it being filmed for TV (about 3-4 hours with a small crew), please email me immediately at [email protected]


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