For me, a trip to Paris is never quite complete without a stroll down “the World’s most beautiful avenue” – the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The majestic Arc de Triomphe stands at one end of the avenue (if you want a view fromt the top, then the 300+ steps can be climbed for a fee) whilst the obélisque de Louxor waits for you at the other end. The obélisque, which is over 3,000 years old, originally stood at the entrance to an Egyptian temple – however, it was moved from Egypt to France around 180 years ago when it was given as a gift to the French government.
At just under 2km long, the Champs is the perfect place to stretch your legs and people watch – if you’re not afraid of a bit of hustle and bustle and having consumerism thrust into your face. It’s a street where worlds collide and the activity of window shopping reigns supreme. Walking down the Champs, you’ll see all sorts of characters, from excited children on their first ever trip to Paris to little old ladies clad from head to toe in 1930s fur doing a bit of ‘lèche-vitrine’ whilst walking their poodles and pomeranians.
From Chanel and Louis Vuitton to Quiksilver and H&M, from Fouquet’s to Macdonalds, the Champs-Élysées has it all. The shops are all beautifully laid out – particular highlights include the Nespresso boutique (which has walls studded with gleaming jewel coloured Nespresso capsules), the car showrooms, which always have intriguing displays showcasing the latest must have luxury vehicle and of course, the piles of cakes and sweet treats placed alluringly in the windows at Ladurée. My favourite part of the Champs are the arcades and galeries – these areas feature stunning 19th century architecture and are tucked away under covered passageways sandwiched between the larger shops. Inside the galeries, chic boutiques, vintage bookshops, souvenir emporiums and James Bond-esque gadget shops nestle side-by-side.
So, with time to spare in Paris, it was only natural that I would be tempted to go to the Champs-Élysées – after all, window shopping doesn’t cost anything. After a breakfast of pastries in Villiers, I got on the metro and changed line a few times before arriving at my destination. I decided to walk the 2km along the Champs to the Louvre through les jardins de Tuilieries. As this was just before the festive madness, the streets were relatively quiet, and I slipped into a reverie, gazing at doubledecker tour buses, pastel green Ladurée vans and sparkly shop windows… until all of a sudden a giantess came into view.
I feel that if David Bowie, a Falconer and Kirsten Dunst were fused together and thrown into the Baroque era, then this statue would be the outcome. The theme for the holiday season was ‘Noël Barock’ which was conveyed pretty well through the outlandish décor. I have to admit that glam rock Marie Antoinette was quite alarming (i.e.terrifying) but I headed into Sephora regardless.
Inside, I was greeted with the sight of stuffed cockatoos and a vast 1,500m² cavern of cosmetics, perfumes and powders. Upon entry, I was duly spritzed with a Dolce and Gabbana scent by men (dressed as butlers) who were lurking just inside the entrance, waiting for unsuspecting shoppers to strut in from the street and down the red carpet. After checking out the new Ladurée makeup range, (originating from Japan, the cosmetics are sold exclusively in France by Sephora) I continued on my way and arrived at Place de la Concorde. Below you can see the obélisque de Louxor as well as la Grande Roue de Paris – a large transportable ferris wheel that has traveled all over Europe. I was particularly captivated by the mint green lamp post, which is quite possibly the most flamboyant LAMPADAIRE that I have ever seen.
Eventually I found myself back at the Louvre. Feeling a bit peckish, I bought myself a baguette from PAUL (www.paul.fr) which had a little van situated next to L’Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. PAUL does great sandwiches (including, in my opinion, the best sandwich of all time) however when it comes to bakeries in Paris, then you really are spoilt for choice. If you’re planning a trip to Paris and are looking for ways to budget during your stay, you can save money food wise by having picnics or by eating on the go. Fruit, cheese and baguettes (and of course, wine) from the supermarket are all relatively cheap and taste great.
Before I headed back to the deep dark depths of the Metro, I stopped to gaze at these giant bubbles that were being blown by a street performer just in front of the Palais-Royal. The buildings of the Palais-Royal are home to the Comédie Française (a famous state theatre group) the Minstry of Culture and a national library, amongst other things! La Place de Colette (named after famous French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, the writer of ‘Gigi’) is a particularly lively area, surrounded by grand hotels and antiquarian bookshops and has a very fancy metro entrance – the “Kiosque des noctambules”.
See that dapper chap bottom right? That’s Molière, France’s answer to Shakespeare. If you’ve ever had to study French Literature, then you’ll probably be well acquainted with Molière. His works always feature somewhere on the literature syllabus of the French Baccalauréat!
Bidding farewell to Molière, I left Place de Colette and headed to Chinatown, where I was reunited with Florence, copies of Vogue, Normandy apple tart and a mug of hot chocolate! All we had to do was retrieve my suitcase from Claire’s flat…
Coming up soon – Disneyland Paris, Place des Vosges and a recipe for galette des Rois!