Sunday, July 25, 2010

book review: "chic shopping paris"

I hope no one is tiring of my seemingly endless posts relating to Paris and France. I can't help it; I am smitten.

Today I'll review a wonderful book I picked up at the Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City. They had a table full of cookbooks and travel books on sale. You can imagine how long I toiled over this table. So many books to choose from! I picked up this great little book called Chic Shopping Paris.

The book features the author's bonnes addresses (a personal list of one's favorite shops) arranged by Parisian arrondissement. Paris is arranged into 20 neighborhoods, or arrondissements. Each has its own unique culture and shopping. For example, the 4th arrondissement is home to the Marais district, with a lively gay culture and the center of Paris's Jewish community. the 18th arrondissement, my favorite, is where Montmartre is located and known as the artists district.

This book contains lively descriptions and beautiful photographs, highlighting some of Paris's greatest shops. Each shop featured lists an address, nearest metro stop, phone number, hours, and website (if available). The book was published in 2008, so it may be somewhat outdated, but it makes a great coffee table book if nothing else. It's a handy size, easy to pack in a suitcase and carry in a purse. There is also an index in the back listing shops by type, making it convenient to find whatever you're looking for. Since it is a bit outdated, I would recommend looking the shops up online before visiting them.

While skimming Chic Shopping, I really noticed how specialized shopping can be in Paris. Astier de Villatte sells only rustic, white dinnerware. Causse sells only handmade gloves. Laguiole sells knives. La Petite Robe Noire focuses on "the little black dress". Alexandra Soifer is a store that sells only umbrellas. Cire Trudon is a candle shop that was once the royal purveyor of candles for Louis XVII. I could go on and on. Shop owners often pick one thing they do well and stick to it. It's an idea so far removed from the big box stores and concrete shopping malls that are part of the American culture. It feels distinctly European.

This book has reawakened my desire to go back to France. I recommend it to any lover of France, anyone traveling to Paris and anxious to shop, or those who are just addicted to shopping.

I just had to add some photos of the inside of the book to highlight the beautiful photography.

A two-page photo of the little black dress shop.

A children's shop.

And here's an example of the information provided for each shop.

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