If you’re playing Père Noël, shopping in Paris can be a pleasure. Here’s my list of presents perfect for those you love.
The city of Paris has just launched its very own online boutique. Among its 250 products are children’s voiliers (sailboats) just like those at the pond in the Luxembourg Gardens. Made by the firm of Tirot in Bretagne, one of these will make an amazing gift. But there are plenty of less expensive items, such as wonderful vintage postcards of Paris. Feel free to browse at boutique.paris.fr.
Adults as well as children love the vintage learning charts at Deyrolle. A city institution since the 19th century, its beautiful planches (posters) come in varying sizes. They include charts of flowers, foods, animals, geographies and histories—as well as lovely wine and cheese maps of France. There are also wall calendars, stationery and children’s books.
Paris is so femme-friendly, it can be hard to find things for your man. This holiday Guillaume Gibault, 28, has the perfect answer. It’s Le Slip Français, his line of patriotic skivvies. His proudly made-in-France firm is a fast-growing start-up with supporters like Agnès B. Look for a special version of his briefs in her boutiques. NB: Pairs come inside a very beautiful box plus, online, he offers women’s undies.
Speaking of the girls, the coffee-table tome Dior Glamour: 1952–1962 makes a real luxury gift. Recently discovered in the Dior archives, these photos by Mark Shaw are remarkable. The text is also by Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni, Paris-based daughter of Marie Antoinette author Antonia Fraser.
If your budget is smaller, head for the bookshop at Musée d’Orsay. There you can pick up the (bilingual) DVD L’Impressionnisme, éloge de la mode. Made for the museum’s show Impressionism and Fashion, this is a wonderful, intelligent documentary. Any female fan of Impressionism will love it, plus the DVD is all-region—it can play anywhere.
With CDs, of course, there’s never a playing problem. So if your list has classical fans, try the famous Melomania. Formerly known as La Chaumière à Musique, it’s at 38, boulevard Saint-Germain (in the 5th Arrondissement). It really has everything—plus, it’s open after 2 p.m. on Sundays.
Do you know an artist? Maybe he or she would like a real French painter’s smock, known as a blouse Corot. From Rougier & Plé, a woman’s ecru version is €49; the man’s, in black or ecru, costs €56. Either is available in its shops (108, boulevard Saint-Germain, in the 6th Arrondissement, and 13–15, Filles du Calvaire in the 3rd Arrondissement) or online. Rougier & Plé also carries a box of silicone stamps for children to emboss their Christmas cookies—with bilingual slogans like fait maison (homemade). From Artemio, these are €12.45.
If you’re on a reduced budget, here are a few easy options:
• The basement DIY department of BHV/Marais has a great selection of signs in French. For a kitchen or office, try Chantier interdit au public (Construction Site: No One Allowed). For the pet lover, there are many such as Chien lunatique (Crazy Dog) or Chat gourmand (Greedy Cat). At €11, less for plastic.
• Rhodia’s stylish orange-and-black notebooks, diaries and sketchbooks are in larger newsagents and papeteries. Give them with a card case or just tie two together with ribbon.
• Give a Can à Suc or S de Sucré box of French sugar cubes. They’re decorated with coffee beans, hearts or angels—there are even some with various Paris motifs. You’ll find them at La Grande Epicerie and large Monoprix shops.
• Finally, take a tip from M. Gibault. When you’re finished shopping in Paris, tie up those treats in French tricolor ribbon. All sizes are available at any mercerie, from the one in Le Bon Marché to that of the Marché Saint-Pierre.
The city of Paris’s online boutique
Le Slip Français
Dior Glamour: 1952–1962
L’Impressionnisme, éloge de la mode (in French and English)
Rougier & Plé
Can à Suc
La Grande Epicerie de Paris