Oops I've made a bit of a blog botch up... this story should have followed directly after TRES BON but now you are reading it in the wrong order (The lead story can be found below if you click the links or scroll down a bit further) ... Anyhow whilst I was sniffing out the good stuff in Le Grande Epicerie the lovely Solenn Gubri kindly selected a small basket of products a Parisian might take home for dinner and some special items a tourist might take home and give as a gift. Olive oil packaged like perfume, a delicate peppermint Kusmi tea, handmade Financiers, berry jam packaged like your Grandmere had just made it, French sea salt, a selection of local speciality cheeses, divine pesto, the best spanish jamon and a gift box of Daniel Mercier's chocolate spoons ... if my photography skills were better I'd include a decent pic of them all (really I just point and shoot and hope the camera does the work). Special thanks to Solenn and LBM's PR team who were so helpful during my visit to Le Bon Marche. Merci beaucoup!
Le Bon basket
An American in Paris
The minute you step through the building’s cobbled stone entrance you know it's going to be special. Located in a 16th century Hôtel, the new flagship Ralph Lauren store on Boulevard St Germain embraces the classic French facade and delivers an absolutely divine interior in the Rococo style. The ground floor bar and dining, with its club like leather seats and French oak beams, suggests one should be on their best gentleman-like behaviour, order a cognac and light up a cigar. The interior courtyard, originally stables for carriages and horses, is a charming alfresco seating alternative if you prefer something a little lighter in your dining decor (see story below). At 2135 square metres it is the American label’s largest flagship store in Europe and showcases a full range of men’s and women’s collections, accessories and watches (the 30,000 Euro divine dark navy Ricky bag was not on my shopping list!) Ralph Lauren has delivered the most exquisite attention to detail and luxury with a capital L. Ralph Lauren, 173 Boulevard St Germain, 75006 Paris.
Ralph's is the very chic and rather relaxed restaurant on Boulevard St Germain. After an 'eye spy' of the store earlier in the day I was lucky enough to secure a table for one that very evening. On a balmy autumn night in October I dined al fresco in the cobbled stone courtyard. I found the staff to be completely charming and the food good. I had heard rumors about how 'outrageously expensive' it was to dine here but in my experience it offered value for the euro I parted with. I also expected it to be full of Americans but non! I was surrounded by tables full of tres cool Parisians. Bookings are essential. Ralph Lauren, 173 Boulevard St Germain, Paris.
I love Printemps
Printemps was loving their New York designers last month. I was loving their windows (although I was not loving the amount of time it took to get these pics ... I think I snapped about 30 shots of each window to try and get at least one without a passer by in the frame). Printemps, Boulevard Haussman.
Le Grande Epicerie is the fabulous and tres delicious food hall of the department store Le Bon Marche. I remember being wowed when it first re-opened about 8 years ago and it remains a serious foodie destination in Paris. The lovely Solenn Gubri looks after the PR and she kindly gave me a guided tour and some quick stats on this Parisian icon. Here is the express summary: 8000 people visit the food hall daily and around 1/3 of these visitors do most of their weekly food shop here. Another 1/3 come in for specific products and exclusive lines or are tourists (approx. 12%) and the remainder come in daily for a ready to eat lunch. The hall covers some 3000m2 with another 3000m2 in the back of house which includes 4 production kitchens or 'laboratories' which include the largest bakery in Paris, a full butchery that breaks down the entire carcass under the paddock to plate philosophy, a fantastic pastisserie and a prepared meals kitchen. Like the best food halls around the world LGE has exclusive lines and works in partnership with artisan producers to develop new product for Le Bon Marche. Can A Suc were commissioned some years ago now to make specials sugars and invented the sugar heart for LBM, they are now a global brand and make the most stunning formed sugar "decorations" as a result of this partnership. Daniel Mercier is their star chocolatier of the moment producing exclusive treats just in time for Christmas. If you're planning a trip to Paris then this foodie heaven should be on your 'must do' list.
I'm working off the assumption that not every reader has been to Paris so I've decided to include the fabulous and very famous ceiling of Galleries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann. Whilst this grand old dame is looking a little tired in places I love the old world charm of the lifts, staircases, Juliette balconies that stunning ceiling. Whilst I've 'been and seen' this store a few times before it never fails to impress.
Pool to luxury cool
Little did I know what was hiding behind the Hermes hoarding that caught my eye on the Rue du Sevres when I was in Paris last month. Last Thursday they snipped their signature ribbon on a stunning new store that was once the bottom of the Hotel Lutetia pool, its past use referenced by a shimmery new mosaic tile floor. In what sounds to me like a complete luxury shopping experience, the product ranges from the familiar Birkin and Kelly to leather sofas and dining tables, backgammon sets, folding screens and upholstery fabric. Three large sculptural wooden pods showcase different product categories. This super mod store also features a tea salon, bookshop and a florist. I really like what the MD said about their latest store "If we are not full of surprises and audacity, then people will not be interested any more", a philosophy that has seen the brand enjoy sales growth during the GFC. Designed by RDAI agency, Hermes remains a family owned company. Via: My on line research to find out about this stunning space lead me to a well written article by The Australian's fashion editor, Georgina Safe, it's well worth reading if you want a succinct overview of the current status of the Hermes brand.
Lost for words
If you actually know me then you know I'm never lost for words, but I doubt I can do justice to describing the taste of this St Honore. "Simply stunning" is the best I can do. I had read about., and seen plenty of photos regarding, the shop fitout for Patisserie des Reves but wasn't sure I would like it. Well, there is nothing like going and seeing for yourself is there? To wander along a Parisian street and then arrive to find this colourful cute window, stand in the shop, smell the brioche, drool over the chilled dome covered works of pastry art, have a chat to the charming staff, make a selection and experience the wrapping process ... I'm sold! Of course beautifully presented and packaged means nothing if the product doesn't live up to the promise. Believe me it's worth sitting on a plane for 24 hours to taste one of Phillipe Conticini's creations. This particular shop is on the tres groovay, Rue du Bac.
Quay to going green
Each year I try to visit a couple of new cities, or ones I haven't been to for quite a while. Merci and Quay Branly were two of the reasons I put Paris on my 2010 tour (it had been 8 years since I had taken a peek at Pari). After experiencing Patrick Blanc's vertical garden at Trusardi cafe in Milan I decided I wanted to see his work on a bigger scale. Musee Quay Branly is a gorgeous green surprise located right by the Seine ... an eclectic museum of modern art that includes a significant Aboriginal collection amongst other things. And just for the record... you can look at all the pictures you like in a magazine or online but there is nothing like standing in a space and soaking it up. This side trip was so worth it. I'm happy about that.
This display dances
One of the upsides of a city on strike is that you get to walk and see a lot more than you might have had you caught the Metro instead. With not a taxi to be seen and the Metro going nowhere I didn't cover as much ground as I had hoped in Paris... but on the positive side I got to see things I might have otherwise missed. I loved this simple, yet striking, window of the famous ballet shoe store, Repetto. This is their flagship near Opera.