By Theadora Brack in Paris—
Recently one of our Cheapo readers asked us for a few shopping tips. Emily plans to visit Paris with her teenage daughter in July, which is the parfait time because “Les soldes d’été 2011” (the big summer sales) kick off on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 and last through Tuesday, July 26, 2011. Now that’s planning.
So in celebration, I’ve fashioned a special day tour for the voguish mother-daughter team. This week, let’s visit one of my favorite shopping districts, the always hustling, bustling rue de Rennes. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock!
Make your entrance at the Métro Rennes (line 12) sortie. Don’t forget your flats, sunscreen and sunglasses, too.
Thanks to Haussmann, this super-wide boulevard was made for non-stop walking, gawking and talking. Stealing from Capote, just like at Tiffany & Co., nothing ever “very bad” could happen to you here, but do keep a tight grip on your bags. Pickpockets like to promenade, too.
Layout of the land
Rue de Rennes stretches from the Montparnasse Tower to Boulevard Saint-Germain. Truth be bold, rue de Rennes has always been one of my favorite hot spots for window-shopping. Cheapos, I dig the mix. For the love of juxtaposition, here the trendy chains and boutiques coolly mesh with classic Parisian shops.
Documentary photographer Eugène Atget would have had a field day. Wait. Stop the presses. Actually, Atget shot a dragon here ’round 1900 at 50 rue de Rennes. Today the façade has dramatically changed, but the dragon still frolics in a land called “Paree.” Look for the perfect blue door.
Where else in this world is it possible to fall madly for a spectacular turban window display after trying on gorgeous maillots de bain (bathing suits) at Etam? And yes, feeling all pin-uppity, I bought both (in noir, of course, Mr. Wilder. How could I not?).
Cinematic buffs, Billy Wilder made his directorial debut in Paris. Can you name the film? Hint: It wasn’t “Sabrina.” Guess again!
Designs on you
Here you’ll also find affordable chains like Etam (135-139 rue de Rennes), Zara (two boutiques, at 45 and 140), and Naf-Naf (143-145), along with Kookaï (155) and Darjeeling (152).
Zara zealots! The Zara location in the Félix Potin building is a personal favorite because it usually serves as one of last stops for the chain’s closeout clothing sales. Also, the fair sight of the stunning Art Nouveau dome topping off the bargains inside is heaven. So gaze up, but do look both ways before crossing!
Need a soda pop or a sturdy bag for your purchases? There’s a Franprix grocery store (71), along with a Fnac (136). Pronounced “fuh-nack,” the largest French entertainment retail chain discounts their inventory of books, including the latest exhibition catalogues.
Fnac also carries cameras, camera chips and batteries (not to mention DVDs, CDs, and tons of French comic books, an art form all their own). For the love of Julia Child, three other practical and whimsical shops definitely worth a pop-by are La Vaissellerie (85), Culinarion (99), and Plastiques (103), where the umbrellas are the cat’s meow.
Here’s your hat
After strolling your heart out up and down the rue de Renne, make a beeline to Saint-Germain-des-Prés for some high-ticket boutique browsing.
Need a special gift for an equally special garçon? Check out the splurge-worthy cotton hats at the très cool agnès b shop on 6 rue Vieux-Colombier. Now in lavender, olive and black, they’re hard to find outside of France and terribly expensive online. Designer/founder Agnès Bourgois Troublé has also created inexpensive unisex red scarves (€15). Available in cotton during the summertime and wool during the winter, the profits go to various humanitarian causes, including the fight against AIDS.
La vie en pêche
Afterwards, grab a café and a fromage Cantal sandwich at the Café de la Mairie at Place Saint-Sulpice.
Next door to this famous but reasonably priced café (with a view!), you’ll find one of the Annick Goutal perfume shops. Again, difficult to find outside of France, Mimosa (with a hint of peach) is this year’s featured scent. A fan for a decade, I usually buy the body cream because it’s less expensive and the scent isn’t as strong but still possesses staying power. Ask for their carte de fidélité. Return visits are rewarded!
Still in the mood to shop ’til you drop?
Well then, jump on the “95” bus line and take it to any of several other lively shopping meccas along its route, like the Carrousel du Louvre or the ’hood surrounding the Opéra (wannabe Black Swans, Répetto is just a hop, skip and a pirouette from the Opéra Garnier!), or the grand magasins along Boulevard Haussmann, or the funky boutiques, vintage shops and bargain bins in the Montmartre-Abbesses area. Pinch yourself! ALL these happy-hunting-grounds are on the scenic “95” bus line. It’s another “win-spin.”
Emily, thanks for a great question! So, Cheapos, do you have other Paris shopping questions? Ask away in the comments section!