Sunday, October 9, 2011
A matter of articles and prepositions
Le Bon Marché is one of those historic stores you have to have visited at least once, if not for the merchandise, then for the beautiful architecture. Most tourists visiting Paris will pass by les Galeries Lafayette, and forget about Le Bon Marché. We were at Lafayette last winter (we were lucky enough to be invited to celebrate New Year's Eve with some awesome French friends), and while the lights and the lights outside are pretty and the glass cupola is even prettier, the sheer size of the thing is a bit overwhelming. Also, it's really overcrowded. I'm not a big fan of crowds (who is?), so squeezing through tons of shopping bags to get to the MAC stand isn't my ideal shopping trip. On top of that, two incredibly arrogant Russian ladies tried to cut in line right in front of me. I'm not one for generalising, but most Russian tourists I've encountered the last few years were distant at best and downright rude at worse. What's up with that?
Anyway, none of this at Le Bon Marché. It's known for being the first department store in France. Actually, while researching it a bit just now, I discovered that it inspired Émile Zola to write 'Au Bonheur des Dames' (translated in English 'The Ladies' Delight'). (I loved Nana, so I'm going to try finding it at the library first thing tomorrow.)
The atmosphere at Le Bon Marché is one of relaxed luxury. You could probably spend an entire day here without ever getting bored. There's fabulous clothes, ranging from very very upscale to slightly more affordable; a beauty supply to guarantee you a 100 wrinkle-free lifetimes; perfume stands that feature some lovely niche brands; shoes; accessories and enough interior design to furnish a few small castles. In short, it's the epitome of a pleasant shopping experience. If you should find yourself on a subway in Paris and passing the stop Sèvres-Babylone, get out. I assure you you won't be dissapointed.
For those not so fortunate to live in Paris or visit it on a regular basis, Le Bon Marché has a namesake in Gent, called Au Bon Marché. I'll give you the adress - Hoornstraat 4 - because the shop's so old school it hasn't even got a website. It still closes for an hour at noon, too (13h-14h), so keep that in mind. In size, it's nothing like Le Bon Marché, but it gives you that same feeling of tradition and standing. That would be a little intimidating - at least it used to be to me for a lot of years - but there's too many treasures inside to let that stop you. There's lots of jewellery (bling, colourful, romantic ánd sophisticated), purses, scarfs, wallets, gloves and trinkets that'll make your heart beat faster if, like me, you're a material girl. There's also a lot of cute notebooks and diaries for more profound activities; kitchen stuff and photo frames. And the best thing of all: they've got a LOT of Annick Goutal perfumes. (They have these at Le Bon Marché as well, by the way!) I bought my very first perfume here, and last year my boyfriend gave me another one for Christmas. (Best gift ever.) The owner is sometimes nice, sometimes a wee bit stuffy, but I don't really care as long as she guarantees my sporadic romantic shopping fix.