America has its strip malls; Hong Kong, its streets lined with vendors till dawn. But nothing beats Paris for the variety and originality of its shopper haunts. Spring is the perfect time for an escapade to the numerous “villages,” the city’s self-contained terrains dedicated to antique objects and art, in particular that of shopping.
VILLAGE SUISSE The Village Suisse (78 av Suffren & 54 av de la Motte Picquet, 15e, M° La Motte Picquet Grenelle) was one of the attractions during the 1900 Paris World Fair. It later fell into disarray and was replaced by a giant Ferris Wheel 20 years later. Junk dealers recouped the site in 1937 and over time the stalls became more gentrified attaining their current upscale status. Today, nearly 150 shops sprawled over 21 000 square meters of space over two levels and nearby streets are open Thursday through Sunday, 10:30am to 7pm. Together they feature everything from 18th century to contemporary artwork and artifacts, period furniture, antique jewelry, books and quite a variety of curios. My favorite places to window shop include Jeanne & Jeremy situated at 45 allée Fribourg. Here, you’ll find collector dolls. Then head for Ghislaine Chaplier (65 av Champaubert), a treasure trove of silver thimbles, pocket sewing kits, mother-of-pearl compacts and sterling silver lipstick cases. D. Rousseau specializes in old model ships, while suits of armor, medallions, antique guns and canons are to be found at Aux Armes d’Antan (7 av de Champauret).
LA VALLEE VILLAGE Only 35 minutes from the heart of Paris via train, (RER A, direction “Marne La Vallee-Chessy-Parc Disneyland” to “Val d’Europe”), La Vallée Village (3 cours de la Garonne, 77700, Serris), boasts a hundred international brand of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing as well as chic accessories.. Moreover, prices are reduced and very attractive. Here, shoppers have a vast array of prestigious designer labels to look at; from Agnes b. to Armani, from Cacharel to Christian Lacroix, from Givenchy to Ralph Lauren, Kenzo and Versace, plus many more brands for kids and adults. There is an equally huge selection of gifts and articles for the home from the latest collections by Porsche Design, S.T. Dupont, Lalique, Longchamp and Villeroy & Bosch, among others. Plan to make a day of it. Breakfast at Bert’s café, then shop. Pause and have refreshments, and shop some more.
Situated in an area where 300 cloistered nuns resided in the 7th century, and later, from the 14th to the 16th, where the parish of the kings once stood. Today, the Village Saint-Paul is another well-known area for browsing or hunting down old objects. Open Thursday to Monday (11am to 7pm), the Village Saint-Paul (M° St-Paul) is a self-contained enclave in an enclosed courtyard with entrances at #7 and #9 rue St-Paul. The cluster of antique and secondhand stores here lines the cobblestone courtyard then spills out onto the rue St-Paul from the quai des Celestins to rue St-Antoine. It is a shopper’s paradise for all sorts of items, ranging from furniture and paintings to old cooking utensils and tiny collectibles.Livre d’Antan on the corner of rue Ave Maria and rue St-Paul, has a lovely selection of old books, toys and posters.
One of the more recently restored areas of the city is “Bercy Village,” situated near the Bercy Omnisport stadium on the Cour Saint Emilion (M° Cour St-Emilion). Until 1860, this tiny strip was independent from Paris and outside of police jurisdiction. Dancing halls and food vendors set up shop until the wine negotiants moved in and gave the area a new persona. It did not fall out of favor until the 1960s when the Bordeaux wineries began featuring wine bottled “au château” Today, it is a popular spot (particularly on Sundays) to meet for coffee, a bite to eat, catch a movie, or shop. At “Alice: Cultures Complice,” situated at #62, Cour St. Emilion, you’ll find books, CDs, DVDs and multimedia. Grab a quick bite to eat (or take-out) at her wine restaurant, “Alice Café.” If Manga, comic books, posters, T-shirts and other related goods are your passion, check out “Album” at #46. “Pacific Adventures” (#50) features gifts and angling equipment for your next fishing trip.