Last Thursday Inma & I spent the day in Paris shopping. We had such a great time. Inma is from Madrid, Spain so even though her English is really good she prefers to speak Spanish with me. I was happy to practice but after speaking Spanish for over 15 hrs. my Spanish started to sound more Spanglish. lol!! Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun and I look forward to taking more day trips with her.
Inma & I both enjoy crafts & needlepoint work so our intention was to spend the day going to craft, paper, and kitchen stores. Neither of our husbands are too excited about spending hours shopping for fabric, thread, and paper so it worked out perfectly for everyone.
Our first stop was a visit to the Mariage Frères tea shop. I'm crazy about their tea. It's such a beautiful little shop too. It reminds me of an apothecary with all the big black tin cans of fragrant tea. Plus I love how all the men (and it's always men behind the tea counter or maybe I've just been lucky. lol!) wear suits... it makes purchasing tea so much more of a serious transaction. I choose two boxes of tea - their Imperial Wedding tea with hints of chocolate & caramel for myself and Jasmine Mandarin for Blonde K who asked me to bring her a box back with me. I've tasted both and they're absolutely delicious but the Wedding Imperial is really lovely. The chocolate is really subtle but you can really taste the caramel. It's perfect.
I also bought two bags of Casablanca & Chandernagor loose tea which are my favorites flavors. The experience of buying loose tea was quite fun. I gave the salesman an idea of the flavors I usually enjoy in tea and he made a few suggestions. The MF Frenchman pulled the can from the wall, opened it, and let me smell the leaves. These cans were huge! Every time I smelled the leaves I felt like I could put my whole face inside. lol!
Inma & I then made our way to Le Bonheur des Dames, a gorgeous little shop dedicated to needlepoint, embroidery, and patchwork near Opera Basille.
The samples in the store were stunning. I especially enjoyed the pieces that had items attached to them like little wooden skis, a kitchen pot, or a miniature wedding dress.
There was one particular design that looked like a Turkish rug cross stitched on linen. I joked with Inma that the person who made this piece gave up her eyesight to make it. lol! The details were incredible.
Most of the items were a bit pricey. Some of the cross stitching kits were over 80 Euros. The most expensive one I saw was about 130 Euros. They also had a wonderful selection of books. Looking back I wish I would have bought a book or even a small cross stitch kit. Next time. After spending about 2 hours at the shop we left with a variety of linen fabrics, glass beads and thread. Even though I can purchase these items online for much less there is nothing like being able to feel the fabric or see the actual color with your own eyes.
As we took the metro to our next stop we saw a group of people playing classical music in the metro. For me hearing musicians play in the streets, metro, and on the train is just one of the things that makes Paris so special. I love it. Paris wouldn't be Paris without these street entertainers. There's nothing like walking in the metro and hearing lovely music echo through the station. If you'd like to hear what I heard in the metro that day, click below.
Afterward we went to a small knitting and jewelry shop. They had a gorgeous selection of ribbons too. Many of them with vintage patterns. I wanted to buy some beads but the salesgirl wasn't especially helpful and told us we had to wait in this extremely long line even though we saw her help other customers measure their beads. I don't know if there was something lost in translation but we were a little put off so we left.
We had plans to go to E. Dehillerin, a cooking shop that has been selling high quality kitchen and pastry utensils to professional chefs since 1820, but there just wasn't enough time. But after finding this article on the shop I'm actually glad we didn't go. Next time I'll be prepared and put my New York face on and walk in with an "in your face" attitude. lol!
Paris' Oldest Kitchen Equipment Shop ~ FXcuisine.com
"The Dehillerin shop is famous for its range of copper casseroles, sold in every shape and size with either the traditional tin coating or the more durable stainless steel interior. But that's only about a fifth of their inventory. You'll find there every possible contraption used to cut, mash, wash, filter, boil, steam, mold or serve food. These are not the designer tools found in high-end kitchenware shops but rather super resistant, streamlined, giant sized tools used by actual French chefs. No surprise the place is such a magnet for amateur foodies!
I assume Dehillerin must have been featured in wealthy housewives magazines in Japan and North America because they flock here on sunny Paris afternoons, a bit ill-at-ease in the manly bazaar ambiance. The shop has been selling kitchenware and cookware to professional cooks for two centuries, so tourists are clearly not a priority. If you are a foreign chef you'll be treated decent, but amateurs and tourists are put on the back burner.
See for yourself. A scene is repeated every other
minute in the shop. One of the tourist clients would ask the price of
some saucepan. One of the attendant, clad in blue overalls, gives him a
nasty grin and says "You can read, can't you? Well then, it will be
easy since you're so smart. You take the saucepan's reference number,
here #5439795844 and go at the end of the aisle to see the price sheet.
Understood? Attaboy" or words to that effect. You can see the price
list in the middle of Mr Brodeck's pictures above. A really easy and
user friendly system. Hard to understand why a hundred clients a day
ask the question. They could put a large sign in English and French but
they would miss the fun.
And if you need help, then God helps you. On an earlier visit, I saw this gigantic dented knife on a shelf and asked the attendant if he could get if for me. "What do you want to use it for?" he asked sharply. "To cut roasts, I guess" I answered. He put the knife back before I could even touch it. "This is not the knife for you. This one is used to cut slices off whole salmons. Here is a roast knife" he said, handing me the right knife, an ugly asparagus of a knife. I was quite disappointed but it became clear that they would not sell me the 'wrong' knife even if I insisted. End of story. I had bought about all I could carry, and the shop employee gave me his business card, explaining that he worked on commissions. This shows some economic rationale for the better treatment awarded to chefs who probably buy large quantities.
Parisians are not bad people. Not worse
than New-Yorkers at least. But they just have more respect for the man
who is almost rudely aggressive than for the one who is apologetically
looking at his shoes. That's their culture. After about 2 decades of
visiting Paris I've come to almost enjoy dealing with the Parisian
in-your-face attitude and now manage not to be treated like a schmuck.I still wanted my knife and devised a little plan to get a better treatment next time I visited the shop and buy my knife.
About a year later, I arrived and my guy was busy mouth-trashing one of the tourist clients. I came right behind him and said loudly "Alors Monsieur [man's last name], tu me fais un enfant dans le dos?" ("So Mister, are you making me a child behind my back?", a highly colorful expression implying that the man did not recognize one of his old and trusted clients and was serving the tourists instead of dropping everything to come to me). It worked like a charm. The informal 'tu' used by professional cooks between themselves was the finishing note. The guy turned round, red in the face, like if I was some famous cook he could just not remember. He escorted me to every corner of the shop, kindly offering to look prices up, making jokes, carrying my stuff for me. I decided to try my chance with the knife again ans asked "You wouldn't have a salmon steak knife by any chance?". He stopped to think for a moment, raced to the knifes aisle and came back proudly with the knife in hand "You are lucky, we are the only one to stock it in Paris."