Shop le French way: from Paris to Pyla in Blue Sky Style

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Paris is a city of neighborhoods, or quartiers. Every quartier has its own distinct charm. I  stay in the 6th or 7th arrondissements. Shopping in Paris has a different flavor than shopping in New York or any other city.  The individual shops in this area have their own distinctive viewpoints. There is not much sense to the way the streets run, and the shops tend to be very small, even the boutiques of the major brands are much more intimate and less cookie cutter.

Fontaine des Quarte Saisons in Paris
Fontaine des Quatre Saisons.

Walking out of my hotel to see what’s new in store takes me past historic architecture and intriguing buildings. The beautiful 18th c Fontaine des Quatres Saisons is on the rue de Grenelle, next to the Musee Maillol, and it’s the first thing I see after crossing the rue du Bac.  Not a bad way to start the day.

The Fabriano Boutique in Paris
Fabriano Boutique.

Paris is full of all sorts of things that you can’t find in New York. Fabiano is a case in point. The Italian boutique is a store for showcasing the written word. Need a small colorful leather bound book to hold all your passwords? Take your choice of 6 or so colors. Leather cases for colored pencils, folios, briefcases, pens, pencils, briefcases, journals and much more line the shelves. Shop local takes on a new meaning here.

Fall clothing from Celine
Fall looks from Celine.

Around the corner, in the distinctive 1927 building that used to house the Communist Party headquarters, is the Celine store, with its pricey, haute bourgeois fall collection. Miu-Miu and Hermès were previous occupants of the same space. On these streets big brands and small businesses adapt to different kinds of space, with often interesting pasts.

The Ami clothing boutique on the rue de Grenelle
Inside the Ami boutique.

Should you not want to spend a fortune at Celine, take a look in Ami. Alexandra Mattiussi  offers his chic suitings and city clothes at about a quarter of the price. Well made and stylishly displayed.

The inside of the Paul Smith boutique in Paris
Cats and photos decorate Paul Smith.

And just down the street is the Paris outpost of the British designer Paul Smith. There are hundreds of small elegant stores all over these neighborhoods. Online shopping exists in France, but not to the extent that it does in the US because the delivery systems provided by companies like UPS and Fedex  mostly don’t exist.

The Victoire store for men in Paris
The Victoire store for men.

Victoire has separate boutiques for men and women. Chic and relaxed clothing fills the store.

The Left Bank Kitsune store in Paris
The Left Bank Kitsune outpost.

A few blocks away is the Maison Kitsune shop for men and women. A Japanese take on BCBG French dressing does classics with a twist.

The Rue du Cherche-Midi Paris
The rue du Cherche-Midi.

Stores are hidden around corners on the small streets.

The Cherche Midi Droguerie on the rue du Cherche Midi Paris
The Cherche Midi Droguerie.

A droguerie is French for a general store. I love them. The shop on the rue du Cherche-Midi is one-of-a-kind. It has electrical appliances, seeds, closet and kitchen supplies, pans and plates, glasses and linens as well as baskets and small suitcases, sewing supplies, nails and hooks. In other words just about anything you might need for day to day living, as well as many things you don’t need but end up buying. The shopping here is more fun and real than simply ordering online.

A table of sweaters in the Brand Bazaar boutique in Paris
Brand Bazaar is full of casual clothing.

Nearby is a big boutique that carries many French and Italian brands. The store has the old Sentier, or Parisienne garment center atmosphere of stuffing as much as possible in everywhere. American brands are available at Brand Bazaar too.

Children's clothing on display in a shop window in Paris
Milk on the Rocks clothes for back to school.

Kids also have so many  choices as to where to shop.  From extremely proper to pure attitude. Milk on The Rocks is a French brand that serves up imagination with their clothes.

The So Punk display in the Bon Marche
Bon Marche celebrates So Punk.

Nearby is the Bon Marche, a very branche department store on the left bank. When I was there they were celebrating punk the French way. Rabbits with Mohawks sitting near pricey scents and candles might not be authentically punk, but the store features a lot of product with humor.


Balenciaga boutique in the Bon Marche department store in Paris
Balenciaga tailoring in Bon Marche.

Bon Marche also has a huge selection of designer and contemporary clothing for men and women. Their selection of Balenciaga is a tamer curated choice, more suited to their local customers.

A fancy food truck full of goodies in the Grand Epercierie de Paris
A fancy food truck full of goodies in the Grand Epercierie de Paris.

Across the street is a second Bon Marche. Le Grand Epicerie on the ground floor holds a slew of food delicacies, and upstairs is two stories of home and lifestyle goodies.

The Left Bank Hermes boutique in Paris
The Left Bank Hermes boutique.

Just up the block is the new Hermès boutique. They moved from the old party headquarters to a building that used to house a local swimming pool. Hence the soaring ceilings and creative displays. In Paris you adapt creatively.

The Hotel Hotel Lutetia in Paris
On the street.

“Which way do I go now” is a question that I often have to ask myself. I am not lost. I just can’t decide which stores I want to visit.

The iconic Deyrolle store in Paris
The iconic Deyrolle store has been restored.

Deyrolle, the natural history emporium, used to be somewhat more forbidding. Home to iconic taxidermy, it burnt to a crisp in 2008. The French government and the city of Paris joined hands  in helping to raise money for the rebuilding of the store. Christie’s  held an auction of donated artworks (sans commissions) to support the project. It was rebuilt slowly by its owner the Prince de Broglie. The amazing selection of creatures of the land and sea is upstairs. About  90% of the pieces were destroyed by the fire, but the stock has been replaced. Some pieces were donated back to the store by its customers. On the ground floor is a collection of designer gardening tools and accessories from le Prince Jardinier, a line created by M. de Broglie. It’s been a Paris must see and shop for generations.

Fairmont loafers in the Fairmont store in Paris
Fairmont loafers are a Left Bank Staple.

Fairmont is a neighborhood go-to shop. Reasonably priced drivers, loafers, moccasins and booties come in a ton of colors. They will even ship to the USA if you happen to have become addicted.

Casa Lopez boutique in Paris
Casa Lopez is full of novelty rugs.

I love this part of Paris as it is full of design stores both ancient and extremely modern. Near the Seine is the Carre des Antiquaires. Spread over a dozen or so blocks, are dealers dealers displaying odd and rare pieces. Design and home goods shops dot the area too. Casa Lopez sells an array of novelty rugs and other home accessories like lamps, dishes and glasses. You can order semi custom rugs mixing their patterns with your ideas.

Inside the Siecle store in Paris
Imaginative place settings in Siecle.

Siecle is a very small boutique that is full of simply chic objects for the table and home.

C.F.O.C shop on the Left Bank
C.F.O.C shop on the Left Bank.

Compagnie Francaise de’lOrient et de la Chine sells furniture, lighting and decorative pieces that radiate good taste.  It is owned and designed by Parisians, and crafted in Asia respecting its crafts people and the environment.

A boutique full of of china and silver in Paris
Elegant table settings.

There are small shops selling vintage and antique china, crystal and silver. Hotel particulier living can be easily be yours.

Modern pieces of furniture from R&Y Augousti in Paris
Modern pieces from R&Y Augousti.

A few steps down the rue du Bac takes you to the R&Y Augousti boutique. The modern sculptural pieces made from shagreen and metal. Pick up some accessories or order custom made pieces to fit your home. The pieces are made in their factories in the Phillipines and can be shipped to the States.

The Barthelemy cheese store in Paris
Some of the best cheese in Paris.

Take a deep breath and smell the cheese in Barthelemy from half way down the block. Normally it’s packed with customers. Why not join them, and take some away or take some home. Every quartier has its specialists. That’s Paris.

A fruit and vegetable boutique in Paris
A fruit and vegetable boutique.

In this neighborhood, even the fruits and vegetables are displayed to artistically.

The Boulevard St. Germain meets the Rue du Bac in Paris
The Boulevard St. Germain meets the Rue du Bac.

This trip to Paris is too short, as usual. It’s now time to head over to the Right Bank.

Inside the Verlet coffee store in Paris
The newly renovated Verlet boutique.

Located near the Palais Royale, Verlet is always on my must stop shops list. Verlet has been selling its coffees and teas since 1880. The shop and tearoom space were recently renovated and expanded. They roast their coffees and make delicious blends. Spices, peppers, dried fruits, candies and cookies are also for sale. The tearoom is perfect for a quick and interesting lunch.

In the Galleries of the Palais Royal
The Galleries of the Palais Royal.

It’s just as nice to sit or dine in the garden of the Palais Royale. The galleries that run up the sides are full of boutiques. Stella McCartney, Pierre Hardy, Rick Owens, Didier Ludot vintage, Acne, Serge Lutens, and many others have shops. Joyce Hong Kong also has a gallery that shows art and clothing.

The trees of the jardin du Palais Royal reflected in the windows of a small shop.
The trees of the jardin du Palais Royal reflected in the windows of a small shop.

Gabrielle Gepert is another store that sells less expensive vintage. There are also jewelry and home shops among the restaurants and cafes that line the garden.

Inside the new Jil Sander boutique
Inside the new Jil Sander boutique.

Head over to the Marais next. This is where the French aristocracy and wealthy bourgeois lived before they built the 6th and 7th. Grand buildings remained, and some fell into decay. The area was gentrified several decades ago, and it now hums with shops and shoppers. Jil Sander just opened a new boutique on the rue Malher. The brand has a pair of new designers who have brought it back from the edge. The clothes for men and women are chic and clean.

An eclectic jewelry shop in the Marais in Paris
An eclectic jewelry shop.

The Marais is full of eclectic boutiques filled with accessories. This one specializes in jewelry.

One of the many rooms in L'Eclaireur in the Marais.
One of the many rooms in L’Eclaireur.

Close by is the huge branch of L’Eclaireur. The store has room after room filled with the best Paris has to offer for men and women. Gucci, Balenciaga, and Oscar de la Renta and Off-White. Alexandre McQueen to Zimmerman. As well as a collection for the home that includes vintage and new Fornasetti and other modernist designers.

Collectible books and magazines in a bookstore
Extremely collectible books and magazines stacked high.

Comptoir de l’Image looks deceiving. It looks a mess. But crammed into its tiny space are some of the best and most collectible photography and fashion tomes ever printed. Vintage fashion and style magazines are stacked high. It’s a well known shopping spot for fashion lovers and insiders around the world.

The moon rising over the Bassin of Arcachon
Moonlight on the Bassin.

But is was soon time to head south to Bordeaux and then to the Bassin of Arcachon about an hour to the west. It is a huge bay surrounded by a town and many villages, and is connected to the Atlantic Ocean. The waters ebb and flow with the tides. It is home to 60% of the oysters raised in France. I made it for dinner  under a full moon in Cap Ferret, a chic village on the peninsula to the north. The Dune of Pilat and Pyla sit on the other side of the Bassin.

A view from the top of the Dune of Pilat
The view of Cap Ferret from the top of the Dune of Pilat.

The Dune is the largest in Europe, at 1 3/4 miles long and about 600-800 feet high (it varies all the time as it moves.). The air and water are clean, clear and full of salt air. Cap Ferret is on the other side of the channel. The village of Pyla is nestled in the pine trees below the Dune. The little ant-like specks in the sand are people hiking further down the dune.

The Monday market in Cap Ferret, with a display of home goods.
Walking into the Monday market in Cap Ferret.

Shopping in France is often defined by its markets. Paris has many, and so do villages around the country. Cap Ferret’s market is both indoor and outdoor. Clothing and decor are located in a large square above the water. Straw lampshades, tables, baskets and rugs from North Africa offer gypsy resort style.

A stall of a brocant in the Cap Ferret Monday market
A Brocant in the market.

Several of the stalls offer older haute flea market pieces.

Books and clothing for sale in the Cap Ferret market.
Books and clothing in the Cap Ferret market.

And as it is France, of course there are books. Books on art and design, children’s books and more. The clothing is casual resort wear for men, women and children. There are stalls for sandals and shoes too.

A dog in front of an oyster stall and a fruit stall in the Cap Ferret market
Stalls for oysters and fruits and vegetables. Dogs Welcome.

A large building is full of food vendors. Bakeries, butchers, cheese, fruits and veggies and more. Since it is on the Bassin you can get absolutely fresh oysters. Try them with some pepper and pate, the way the locals do. A counter around the corner sells plates of oysters and glasses of wine in case you want to dine on the spot. Everyone brings their dogs. It’s France.

Fish in the Cap Ferret market in France
Fish in the Cap Ferret market.

The selection of ultra-fresh fish, crabs, shrimps and sea life.

A beach club in Arcachon
On the beach.

There are calm beaches on the Arcachon/Pyla side of the Bassin. Beach clubs with restaurants serve meals beach side during the season.

Men's wear in Cap Ferret in a store
Bleu de Mer sells men’s wear in Cap Ferret.

There are also clothing stores on both sides of the Bassin. Cap Ferret and villages to the south attract surfers. There are stores that cater to them at many price points.

The Jacobs boutique in Arcachon
Bordelais beach clothes.

Pyla has a few restaurants and many real estate agents. There is a big pier in the village of le Moulleau. An allèe that extends up from the pier is full of shops and restaurants. Preppy chic reigns.

A concept store in Moulleau by the beach
A concept store in le Moulleau.

The shops sell clothing and relaxed home decor.

A clothing boutique in Le Moulleau near the pier.
A small boutique near the pier.

Life around the Bassin is extremely casual. The boutiques in le Moulleau and Cap Ferret have looks that go from prepster to boho, with surf and boating gear in between. Life is lived on and around the water.

A view of the Dune of Pilat
Looking South at the Dune.

At the edge of Pyla lies the Dune and its pristine beach. And yes, those tiny specs are people.

In a boat on the Bassin of Arcachon
On the water in the Bassin.

To truly enjoy the Bassin, experience it by boat. Whether you want to sail or choose to rent a pinasse, the gondola of the Bassin, join the locals and bliss out on the sea. Late summer early fall is the perfect time to go. The August crowds are gone, and the days are sunny and warm.

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