Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Retail Therapy.

Never was one of those girls who got into recreational shopping. This could be due to lack of funds. Also never cared for the inevitable feelings of inadequacy that arose from trying on things that weren't meant to cover my body, either.

I do, however, appreciate the old-style department stores, from their central locations to their interior layouts (bargain basement to roof-top salon) designed to make shopping a day of adventure. Sadly, these stores are seeing a decline here: Buffalo lost Sattlers and AM & As years ago. More recently, Boston's Filenes gave up the ghost and their downtown location just like Jordan Marsh did a few years back. Rumor has it that a Target will be moving in.

What I'd seen in France before is a lot like here - Carrefour and Monoprix are their versions of Target/K-Mart/Walmart, and you'll find the larger stores like La Redoute or Galeries Lafayette in their versions of malls or plazas, the zones commerciales. However, in Paris, the grands magasins, loss-leaders perhaps in a more specialized, pared-down retail world, are still holding firm.

Of these, my favorite will always be Printemps.

Everything about this store is perfect and in keeping with its being a grand monument to commerce: the evocative name (springime, budding energy afer a long winter, excitement), the lovely, enigmatic jugendstil ladies

smiling down on passersby and even the counters that spill out of the store onto the streets, selling inexpensive (though not necessarily cheap) colorful, eye-catching stuff create desire where there wasn't any before.

Oh, and the windows: what a sight! I was lucky enough to get there when I did and to see the holiday spectacle*: a sort of melange of elements from The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Mille-et-Une Nuits:

Table-dancing pots and pans!

Seeing the sheer number of kids of all ages (from toddlers to teenagers) standing rapt in front of the dancing pots, pans, teakettles was very unexpected and quite heartening. It did a lot of good to see that even today in our plugged-in and zoned-out world, a Geppetto-type could still make a living.

Didn't want to go into the grand-gallery this time, as last time I ended up blithely plunking down two-week's worth of grocery money for a bottle of perfume (we all have our weaknesses: my two are pearls and flower scents). Though there are some other scents I'd like to try, I decided that it probably wasn't a great idea to go hungry for a month in order to smell good (even if one New Year's goal is to drop a few kg.) Besides, lunch hour was fast coming to an end and K couldn't remember whether or not the restaurant/tea room was still in operation (it is, and apparently is spectacular...next time).


*Boston's equivalent - the Jordan Marsh Enchanted Village - was put to rest this year. Sad, even if the automates were a bit long in the tooth.

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