This week’s to-do list includes a visit to BHV and Galeries Lafayette for some holiday gift shopping. These stores are fantastic for one-stop shopping, but they do get crowded. And now I don’t have to go! This year I wanted to find some things that were truly original, with that certain Made in France je ne sais quoi. I found it quite by accident at the Saxe-Breteuil Saturday market, which runs along the avenue de Saxe (from the place de Breteuil to the avenue de Ségur) in the 7th Arrondissement, near the Sèvres Lecourbe metro station.
I was there for fish—the market has some of the best fishmongers in the city. But as I sped through, I enjoyed taking in the rest of the scene. Wild game was on full display at the butcher stands, while glossy tangerines added a joyous splash of color to the rather drab day. As I was observing all this, I became aware of a surprising number of stands selling the perfect holiday gifts for my family.
For my Dad I chose three of the French classic Opinel pocket knives that he loves for his garden. My brother will be getting a selection of French music CDs. For my sisters, there was no choice—it had to be the thin wool polka-dot scarf that every parisienne in the city seems to be wearing this season. The only problem was choosing whom to buy them from, as there were at least four different stands offering a variety of colors.
There were lots of other scarf options, as well as stands selling wallets, sweaters and even fur coats! There was one handbag stand that had only three bags. I watched as a lady walked up and admired a red bag. She was just about to inquire about the price (300 euros) when the salesman announced it was real snakeskin. It was as if the snake had come alive in her hands, the way she dropped that bag and ran for safety.
The options for chefs are equally exciting, with everything from Emile Henry cookware to local herb blends, olive oils and homemade jams. There is a honey stand with soaps, candles and châtaigne honey. If you’ve never tried it, this honey from chestnut flowers has a lovely flavor and is remarkably delicious.
If you are nowhere near the Saxe-Breteuil area, there are street markets throughout the city every day except Mondays—as well as special Christmas markets—and every one of them has a collection worth visiting for your holiday shopping.
Editor’s note: We have a wonderful DIY shopping guide for Paris called Walk and Shop the Marais and Bastille. All tours are under $5, downloadable and very easy to use. You won’t look like a tourist dragging around a heavy guidebook.