Yvette: “Would you be interested in a buying trip to Paris?” said the text. My 50th birthday had just passed and my present was supposed to be a stamp on my passport. These trips rarely happen since my husband is not a big traveler. So, to feed the creative beast in Ocean Springs, Mississippi where we now reside, I curated a five location pop-up art show of my photography to celebrate the bittersweet event. For me, it was time to put some adventure into an otherwise simple life. It took me about a day to decide to sign up for the excursion which I fondly refer to as SHOP-A-PALOOZA. In the design center of the universe – Paris. Brilliant idea, this shopping trip to Paris. I was pinching myself, do people really do this?
Week by week friends and sisters jumped on the trip. The twelve of us really did not know each other. I knew Yvette through the friendship of our husbands, and Paula was my big sister in Tri-Delt at L.S.U. and Linda is my sister. But, I just trusted that the group would have fun. I signed up for a trip to a country and sponsored by a fine art gallery, neither of which I had visited, organized by four women I had never even spoken to. “Oh, heck, I’m sure they are nice people,” I thought, so I called them up and paid for the trip.
ALSACE APARTMENT – CHEZ MOI!
We met on the balcony of the Margaux Paris apartment across the Rue, so close to the Eiffel Tower, we felt we could touch it. As I looked out over the Avenue de la Bourdonnais, centuries of guillotines, revolutions, poets, philosophers, monarchs, spoiled queens and dictators played out in my head. Photographers call it “a sense of place.”.
With champagne glasses clinking, everyone was happy to be there and … to shop. That was our mission and we were ready for the public transportation expedition and the treasure hunt.
SHOPAPALOOZANS EN PARIS.
In the states, we would call them flea markets. In France, they are called puces. of which, we visited three.
Meg Gives a Mission De-Brief: Logistics of the METRO.
I suppose the commuters were not as enthusiastic about taking public transportation as we were, but, then again, we were going shopping.
Yvette wanted cocktail shakers, but found a chandelier.
Cathy swore she would not buy anything, because she really didn’t need anything, but bought she did! Cathy got a pastry table for her covered terrace in Mandeville, and a fancy ring, among other things.
Sherry found a crazy chandelier which, to me, resembled the big bang of white delicate flowers, and Sharon found some woolly looking chairs; each for their prospective maisons in Alys Beach, FL. Paula was in search of a pastry table, but she found some charming paintings.
M.L. procured a set of rustic, moss green dishes, while buzzing about checking off wish lists for her friends in Ohio.
I found a 15th century statue of St. Barbe from an old church somewhere in Provence and a
peacock blue calf- length suede coat with purple buttons and a blue mink collar, which Yvette said
I just had to have.
Of course, she would never lie to me, so I ran to the ATM and purchased that fancy little Monteau. (I will add that my attempts to converse with the merchants in my rusty French, resulted in significant discounts and lagniappe – a little something extra. Although, I never asked for a discount.)
The college French classes seemed like they happened in another lifetime and my memory was put through its paces at the markets. However, our encounters with the French merchants were pleasant and fun. The Huff Harrington crew had our backs and were promptly at our side when summoned. A sense of confidence set in and we were prepared for the challenge.
Paula and Sharon getting their gamefaces on at Chatou.
Les Belle Choses de Chatou.
The lunches were just as much a part of the experience. We dined in quaint cafes and charming white tents, constructed for the markets.
Le Petit Navire in the giant Puces Clingancourt which is located in the rather unglamorous transportation district of Paris, was delightfully quaint. At the time, I thought it was perfectly normal that this little hole in the wall would serve delicious French Faire, and perfectly matched red, white and rose’ wine. Now that I am home I am especially impressed that this place with a hole in the floor for a toilette was especially fine at keeping the champagne buckets loaded and glasses full.
A Day in the Life of a Shopapaloozan.
The mornings started with a view of the Eiffel tower and a walk around the corner for the best croissants, ever at the Eiffel Tower Boulangerie and fresh squeezed jus de fruit oranges, along with a couple of cups of jet-lag-fighting coffee that set the tone for each day.
Since this was my first trip to Paris, and everyone else had seen the sights I set off to tour. Armed with Uber at my fingertips, I figured I could do anything. So, I made the trip my own. While the group previewed the Puces Clingancourt,
I went to the 19th century train station-turned museum, the Musee D’Orsay.
It was a mini-louvre with priceless treasures like I have never seen. I am an avid museum-goer, and have worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I have spent countless days in the museums in New York, D.C., L.A., San Diego, and San Francisco, to name a few and have even served on the Executive Board of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art.
My Parisian friend, Sandrine, Facebook messaged me and suggested I take the Batobus. I found the hop-on hop- off acrylic domed boat outside the Museum on the Seine. My camera and I soaked in every sight and visited the Notre Dame and the Champs Elysees that day.
Notre Dame from the BatoBus.
I had an idea of what to see, because the day we landed, I walked to the Eiffel tower and hopped on the BIG BUS to get an overview of the history and the highlights of Paris.
I was able to find the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal where St. Louise de Marillac and St. Catherine Labourre’s bodies lie incorrupt in state. I would recommend the Big Bus and Batobus to anyone who wants to see Paris. Total sensation overload was repeated in Paris at the Saint Chapelle, Saint Sulpice,
the indoor sculpture courtyard of the Louvre,
the Louvre courtyard at night,
and when the Eiffel Tower sparkled every hour.
Whenever I noticed my feet tiring, or fatigue setting in, a stop into a small café for a fresh crepe citron cooked, tout suite, on a hot buttered slab and a shot of espresso offered the encouragement I needed to continue my journey.
I booked a photography at night tour, for which I was the sole student. I am a self-taught, photography workshop junkie, who produces fine art photography. But, my low light night skills were lacking.
The Seine, captured during my photography class.
Three hours with Clara, a charming Lebanese transplant, and a professional fashion photographer in Paris, advanced my skills to a new level. I now have a collection of those iconic Paris postcard shots in my repertoire, for which I will be eternally grateful.
Everyone experienced Paris in their own way. Yvette took a pastry cooking class and provided an assortment of delights for dessert the night that we all stayed in for dinner. Sharon and Sherry had to hit certain boutiques to obtain those belle chose that were not available in the states. Although we were together, we had plenty of time to enjoy Paris on our own.
The Mesdames of Shopdom: Huff Harrington
The Huff Harrington hostesses had the trip under control and we could just enjoy ourselves.
Ann was the mastermind behind the scenes. She was in charge of the business details. She overlooked the group with her watchful eye and made sure we never ran out of rose’, white and red. Attentive to our needs and the consummate hostess, she possessed a special knack for making champagne appear at the appropriate moments.
Meg, was the cheerful old pro who taps into her worldly experiences accompanied by a down-to-earth knowledge of the lay of the land of Paris to make her guests feel at home in a very different culture. She was always ready with a funny story and bravely led us through the mazes of the metro, the markets and the menus.
Linda was our galpal who just flat-out gets Paris and where we are in the whole picture. She dragged us about with everything you might need in her giant bottomless magic Lonchamp bag. You’re lost? Need a key? Want a haircut? Looking for an electrical converter? Call Linda. She also speaks terrific French and ain’t afraid to sport that crazy draped rockstar style.
Allison is the dear friend of the Baton Rouge contingency on the trip. Her eye for detail and nurturing nature helped us choose the items that spoke to us, the most. She was the invaluable liaison.
Promising myself that I would return made the departure a little easier to take. I still have to ride the Ferris Wheel,
and see Versailles.