When I was sixteen, I had a pen pal in England, and when I went to visit her and her family, my mother sent me off with a specially selected gift. According to my mother, who is the consummate gift-giver, it had to be something wonderful, beautiful, for my pen pal's family's home (as a house guest never goes empty-handed), and it had to be "made in the U.S." She chose a hand painted mantel style clock, which was purchased from local artisans in an artsy-fartsy section of Bucks County, PA. Likewise, when my pen pal came to stay with my family, she came bearing a wonderful silver gift, "made in England."
Fast-forward 34 years. I am in Paris, and one of the hardest things to do is shop for gifts to take home.
You may be wondering, "How could that be? Paris is full of wonderful shops ..."
Visiting those shops was, I am sad to say, not part of our 8-day itinerary. Because I stuck so squarely to the group itinerary, I never ventured off on my own to get to the really really wonderful boutiques or flagship shops of the great French designers and crafts people. Instead, my shopping experiences were relegated to:
1) Chintzy souvenir shops where everything is made in China (no offense, China - but I am in France ...)
2) Shops of questionable quality goods within the Latin Quarter, which was close to my hotel. For instance, one shop had Vivienne Westwood boots - but which season or YEAR were they from? And again, she's a British designer. I'm looking for something made in France. Another shop had the type of stuff you'd find on sale at an outdoor flea market in the US. I'm not a big fan of flea markets.
3) Gift shops at the many points of interest we visited as part of the group itinerary.
While others in my group were happily buying sequined change purses that screamed "Paris" and polyester boxer briefs emblazoned with Eiffel Tower graphics at the souvenir stands, I seemed to be walking around in circles.
But all was not lost.
One place where I WAS able to find the coveted made in France label was in Giverny, at Monet's House & Garden gift shop. I found this lovely barrette. There were an assortment of barrettes depicting different designs taken from Monet's artwork. The price - extremely reasonable.
These made wonderful gifts to take back home!
And then there were the pastry shops. I did buy a box of mini macarons to take home. I wish I had bought more! I remember setting the macacrons out and Mark ate them like gumdrops, popping one after the other in his mouth. "These are awesome! What are they again?"
"Like $2.00 a cookie! Save a few for when my parents come over, I'd like them to try them too!" was my reply.
On the last night of my trip, at the last minute, sort of desperate but not senselessly so, I did get myself a silver-toned, modern style charm bracelet, with pretty pink mother-of-pearl shells and pink and gray (Austrian?!) crystals - supposedly made by a French designer who lives near the ocean - at least, that's what the shop owner at the far end of the Latin Quarter told me. It wasn't cheap. I showed it to one of the ladies in my tour group who sported a Prada handbag and HAD gone to the flagship shops on her own. She said it was lovely and worth what I paid. I'll show you that in another post.
And I broke down and did get my neighbor a sequined Paris keychain and Eiffel Tower charmed zipper pulls from a Latin Quarter souvenir shop that possibly sensed my desperation and possibly overcharged me ...
Hermes? Louis Vutton? Chanel? For now, I'll have to buy that online. Or in NYC. But oh, how wonderful it WOULD HAVE BEEN to have bought them in Paris. At least I have something I must do when I go to Paris again. Shop!