My Favourite Things To Do in Paris, pt. 1

As an unfaltering Francophile/Parisian wannabe, I am often asked for my recommendations on my favourite things to do in Paris. I’ll leave it to your guidebooks to tell you all the obvious places to go, but here are a few of my favourite Parisian places and whimsies.

1. Get a sugar rush: I can still vividly remember the glee of my first visit to Laduree back in 2003 (I was travelling to Paris for the first time, all by myself, and it remains one of my fondest memories). Whether you go for breakfast, a pot of afternoon rose tea, a magnificent raspberry and lychee ispahan or a plate of jewel-like macarons, make sure you pay a visit to either Laduree or Pierre Herme for the best sugar rush you’ll ever have.

2. Stroll the Seine. I firmly believe that a long, aimless walk along the River Seine is good for the soul. Last time I went, I passed young lovers kissing, old couples dancing, tiny dogs trotting and the sounds of a French accordion floating on the air as the sky turned fairy floss pink at sundown. Magic!

3. Get a literary fix. For generations, the Left Bank has been the spiritual home for generations of French philosophers, bohemians and intellectuals. Take home your own piece of this history from the English-language Shakespeare & Co. bookshop, where there is always shelf upon shelf of new and second-hand books (they have a superb edit) and a steady stream of modern-day poets and academics.

4. Wander Montmartre. And to that other home of arty bohemians, beatniks and romantics; Montmartre. Pass the iconic red windmill of the Moulin Rouge, climb the hill to the foot of the Sacre Coeur (enter to pay your respects if you so wish) and just take a moment to enjoy the spectacular panoramic views over the rooftops of Paris. Find the big pretty pink wedge-shaped building, then walk down the gorgeous cobbled steps and stop at the bottom to take in the golden dappled light over a peppermint tea.

5. Leave a little bit more lovely. When in Paris, it seems only fitting to treat yourself to a few loveliness-enhancing luxuries. Stop by any number of boutiques or grand department stores that dot the city to buy yourself a gorgeous new French perfume, some silk lingerie, a new Chanel lipstick or some decadent truffles.

Part deux up next!

Love, Miss B xx

 

The Biscuiteers of London

I don’t know about you, but there are few things that make me smile in this digital age quite like receiving a really good package in the mail.

Recently, instead of the usual acknowledgement email or notecard, a lovely person sent me a gingerbread biscuit dressed like Her Majesty as a thank you card. It was so cute (and such a lovely surprise) that I nearly squealed with glee when I opened the package (and then smiled the whole way through eating her, with a cup of tea of course – it’s the only fitting way for a Queen to go). I may be a bit of a food snob, but there’s something so wonderfully silly about food that doesn’t take itself too seriously. 


I thought the idea (surprise edible thank you gifts) was so cute, I tweeted Biscuiteers to tell them. They so kindly sent me one of their Paris tins (regular readers will know how most things French make me swoon), and I couldn’t help but literally “oooh!” out loud when I opened it to find little chocolate iced Eiffel Towers, Moulin Rouge can can girls, and so on.

Because they’re (almost) too cute to eat, they warrant being savoured a little. So one rainy Sunday, the Clever Boyfriend and I decided to make the day a little more fun and made a pot of tea, set the table, put on Midnight in Paris and threw a little mini French tea party (any excuse really) just for ourselves, with these adorable biscuits in place of cake. They are just the right side of fun and silly, sweet but not saccharine, and such a cute idea for next time a friend deserves a ‘thank you’ or a little surprise mail to make them smile.

Thank you Barbara and Biscuiteers for the happy surprises to make me smile!

Do you love getting good packages in the mail as much as me?

Love, Miss B xx

Paris: The Vintage Chanel and Hermes Emporium, Les Trois Marches

Regular readers will know that I rarely blog about individual stores I visit on my travels, so when I do it means it’s a very special place indeed. When I was in Paris a couple of months ago, I met one of my favourite fashion friends on the Left Bank for what turned out to be the perfect Parisian afternoon. Being the lovely girl that she is (and knowing my penchant for Chanel and gorgeous vintage jewels), she shared with me one of her Parisian secrets: Catherine B’s vintage emporium, Les Trois Marches. It may look unassuming from the outside (in true Left Bank style), but I actually gasped when I stepped inside; so good is it that I just had to share it with you all here so that you may visit it on your next trip to Paris.

Stocking nothing but vintage Chanel and Hermes, this tiny boutique (divided into two neighbouring shopfronts) is almost too good to be true for any Parisian fashion devotee. Within its walls are shelves and shelves of Hermes Kelly bags in every colour imaginable, rows upon rows of Chanel boucle jackets, towering stacks of silk scarves and windows glinting with vintage Chanel jewels (my weakness).

Gorgeous accessories aside, my favourite part of the shop was the owner herself, the wonderful Catherine B. Instantly we bonded over our mutual love for all things Chanel (despite my rather dismal French skills), and swapped stories of our respective obsessive hunts for particular pieces from our favourite collections over the years. Such is her reputation in Paris that Chanel and Hermes themselves send customers to her when they’re after a particular vintage piece (and if she doesn’t have it, she can probably find it for you), but mostly I just kept thinking that she was so interesting and brimming with joie de vivre that I could have happily listened to her storytelling all weekend.

At one point, when I gazed upon the rows of Hermes bags telling her how I dreamed of one day returning to her shop to buy my own, she slipped behind a crimson curtain into the back room and emerged a few minutes later with a rather weathered looking Birkin bag. Laughing at my confused face, she explained that this was the very first Birkin bag ever made (yes, the very same one made for and owned by Jane Birkin – it still has her initials and her manicure set inside; fellow fashion obsessives will understand how big a deal this is) and that she now owns it herself. And this is exactly why I love Catherine so much; although she collects iconic and collectible pieces, she understands that rather than them being in a fashion museum, they should continue to be worn and loved by women who will continue to treasure them as they were intended.

I won’t pretend that prices are any cheaper in here than they are in mainline Chanel or Hermes stores, but everything is in pristine condition and a collectible treasure you will keep for the rest of your life. Catherine makes it her pleasure to match items to their perfect owner, and she sent me home with this vintage Chanel military brooch to add to my collection (and which now makes me smile every time I glance at it; as much for the memories it holds of my time in Paris and Catherine’s stories as for it’s appearance).

Have you ever stumbled upon a shop somewhere in the world that was so marvellous it felt like a wonderful emporium filled with stories? I’d love to hear about it!

Love, Miss B xx

Les Trois Marches de Catherine B, 1 Rue Guisarde Paris 75006, +33 14354 7418 (Metro: Saint-Germain des Pres or Saint-Sulpice)

P.S. All images (except first and last) from Alexandra Clamart (as you all know I always try to use my own photography/illustrations on here, but in this case I was so caught up in Catherine’s shop that I failed to take more than a single photo!) 

Paris: The Chanel Christmas Windows at Printemps

This year, Chanel have taken over the entire storefront of Printemps, that grand dame of the Parisian department stores on Boulevard Haussmann, for Christmas.

And given my adoration for all things Chanel, it was a given that a visit to the grand department store would go straight to the top of my Parisian ‘To Do’ list when I found myself in Paris the week after the unveiling of the windows.

And oh, what a fantastical vision these holiday windows are!

Within each of the 12 windows, Karl Lagerfeld has brought to life twelve miniature Chanel worlds – one for each of his favourite places (one can presume).

Some, such as those dedicated to Paris (where miniature Karl Lagerfelds swing from Parisian landmarks playing photographer extraodinaire) and Moscow (where tiny ballerinas leap and twirl and pirouette to the soundtrack of the Ballet Ruses) just invite passers-by to press their noses against the window to see the puppet show unfold. Others, like the Tokyo (Thunderbirds–esque puppets sailing past the Japanese skyscrapers in futuristic flying cars) and Los Angeles (where Pan Am pilots smooch the primping trolly dollies) will simply make you giggle out loud.

Each of the others were new manifestations of past collections, with some my favourite items brought back from the archives. There were treasures nestled beneath a giant red dragon in the Shanghai window (I could barely pull myself away from the sequinned Chanel takeaway noodle boxes, jade dragon brooches and China doll bags), an ode to glam rock Brittania (where bags were adorned with the Union Jack), Scandanavian deer merrily wearing jewels around their necks, and scenes from a grand Ventian ball (complete with fine china, glittering frog princes and a giant crystal chandelier).

So if I make one request of you all before the year is out, it is this: should you find yourself in Paris before Christmas (a happy thought in itself), then do go to Printemps, if only to press your nose against the magical Chanel windows!

Do you love Christmas windows too? Where are your favourite holiday windows this year?

Love, Miss B xx