Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Paris Pastimes

In my experience, Paris is the greatest city in the world for shopping. Further (or rather integral) to this, Paris is the greatest city in the world for walking. Or even just getting around generally. The metro is reasonable (€1.10 per ride, versus £4.00 in London and $2.00 in New York). And brilliantly, the trains run every 4 minutes or so. Regardless of what day of the week and what time of day.

But I don't take the metro unless I have to. I prefer to walk, or rather, wander. I like to be what the French term a flâneur, a stroller or saunterer.

I find it helps to have a vague destination in mind, but I try to make my way there without maps, just heading in the general direction. And I stop by inviting shops along the way. Which can be dangerous, because as a flâneur you follow your instincts, and shopping by instinct is a great way to fritter away all your money.

Flânning about one day I discovered the passages, covered shopping arcades between buildings, perfect for whiling away a couple of cold hours in February. There are a whole series near the Grandes Boulevards, but others scattered throughout town, which I'll have to seek out on future visits.

For the crafters (inevitable that this would come up) there is a lovely embroidery and cross stitch shop in the Passages Verdeau called Le Bonheur de Dames, jam-packed with gorgeous kits. I've almost given up cross stitch entirely, but I was very tempted to purchase a project (unfortunately they are as expensive as they look).

I wander about this area quite a bit, drawn by Galleries Lafayette (and Printemps, to a lesser extent). I don't bother with the clothes, but the accessories department is usually worth a look (though there weren't any tempting hats this time). The real draw for me is Lafayette Maison. Four floors (or is it five?) of the loveliest housewares ever, for every budget.

I can spend hours rummaging around there, but this year I had a goal - a tablecloth. I've been lusting after a Jacquard Francais tablecloth for years, and now that I have inherited a proper set of dishes from Richard's grandmother (Royal Doulton Larchmont, which is, most appropriately, green), I can finally start building my table.

I went with the cotton damask, which proves that I don't ALWAYS have to get the most expensive things. Linen is better, but I didn't like the flowery damask patterns on offer. I somewhat nervously went with the beige Provence pattern, hoping the hint of gold and green would complement my dishes. I shouldn't have worried about the colour, it is absolutely perfect. The only problem is it's a bit too big for our table.

Fortunately we will not be living in St John's housing forever, so whenever we get around to buying our own furniture, I can just get a table to match the tablecloth. And in the meanwhile, I can acquire cutlery, glasses, and all the other assorted tablewares one needs to entertain properly.