In search of gifts that my husband and I could easily pack on our trip back to S.F. we spent today scouring Paris for small unique presents. No one wants a present from the Gap or Amazon when you're coming from Paris– everyone wants a little piece of the romance, et pourquoi pas? It's fun to give unique gifts. Paris is magical this time year with each arrondissement festively lit up and all the shop windows decorated.
We started off in St. Germain de Pres and weaved our way through the little cobblestone streets. Russian dolls are in everyone's window this year in varying size and detail.
At the St. Germain La Duree, the famous bakery and salon de tea, is now featuring beautiful little chocolates with designer decoration like Anna Sui's famous butterfly. Or how about some gilded chocolate macaroons to go with your tea? Macaroons in France are not made of coconut like they are in the States. They are delicate flavored biscuit sandwiches filled with buttercream– and they melt in your mouth. Flavors include: caramel with fleur de sel, citron, chocolate, fraise, fleur d'orange, etc. The line to get Anna Sui chocolates was out the door and down the block, so we cabbed it to Il St. Louis to our favorite mustard and jam boutique...
In Il St. Louis, the oldest part of Paris, there is a tiny shop with a pretty blue front called L'Epicerie that is filled with jams, mustards, salts, and sugars. The mustards take up one whole wall. Flavors include: champagne, anchovies, truffles, rose and cassis, bloody mary, orange, roquefort (my fav!). There are over 70 flavors to choose from. On the facing wall are little jams equally interesting. I like the framboise avec violet, but my husband wanted to try something new so we got the strawberry with mint and chocolate for home. Sounds complicated, but worth a try.
Rumor has it that Even Bill Clinton couldn't resist some tasty treats to bring home from L'Epicerie. I wonder what flavors he chose...hmmmmm. All the condiments are made by the store and are only sold through the shop. A truly unique and tasty present without breaking the bank! Mustards and jams run about 4-7 euros a pop and they do pretty holiday packaging. L'Epicerie: 51 rue St-Louis-en-L'Ile, 4e, metro Pont Neuf Phone: 01-43-25-20-14
We left Il St. Louis and walked over the Seine to the Marais, the old jewish quarter now shared with the gay community. We went in search of hip and fashionable presents (and a falafel–they're so good in the Marais–addicitive!). The boutiques in the Marais are one of a kind and, in my humble opinion, where fashion is at in Paris. There are many emerging designers from all over the world like Barcelona's Custo as well as small parisian start-ups like Anne Elisabeth (both on Rue des Rosiers, metro: St. Paul).
To please the mom's in our family we first stopped at a little boutique that handmakes accessories called Nadine Delephine. Her romantic/nostalgic pieces are feminine and pleasing. She carries everything from handcrafted jewlery to one of a kind purses and scarves and sometimes you can see her workshop in the back. The staff is friendly and English speaking. (also located on Rue des Rosiers in the Marais)
I know that perfume is a personal thing but what present could be more Parisian (okay, maybe lingerie)? L'Artisan Parfumeurs have incredible perfums and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable. They have stores all over Paris, but I think the shop in the Marais is the best. We chose one perfume called Figuier (very popular right now in Paris) that combines all the scent of a fig tree including the wood and the leaves for a favorite relative and another called the Mure et Music which is their most popular consisting of blackberry and wood (very seductive). They also carry little sachets and good smells for the closet and house which make easy travel presents. www.artisanparfumeur.com
Finally we ended our trek across Paris to Galleries Layfayette, not to shop (too crowded), but just to see the window displays. The whole store is lit up and they have marionette windows depicting holiday partying and fashion. Kids pressed their faces to the windows to watch the little puppets. Very sweet. I've always felt that the holidays should really be for children anyway...of all ages.