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Shopping in Paris - She Gets the Best Deals


Journeywoman Rachel Kaplan is a graduate of the Ly��e Fran�ais de New York and a permanent resident of Paris. She is the author of six guide books including "Best Buys to French Chic in Paris." We asked Rachel to share her shopping expertise with our readers around the world. She writes...

I bet there are a lot of people who still believe that Paris is the most expensive city in the world (not true!) and that there is little or next to nothing that they can afford to bring home, apart from an Eiffel Tower key chain and a bottle of Chanel No.5.

I can prove to you that by taking tips from the French themselves, visitors to Paris can come home feeling both chic and happy knowing their checking accounts haven't gone into the red.

While it's certainly true that you can limit your shopping to the posh streets of Paris and stick to such global brands as Hermes, Vuitton and Dior, you will only end up buying what you find in other major financial capitals, and you certainly won't have the kind of fun that comes from venturing off the beaten track.

Timing is important...

Location and timing are crucial aspects of shopping for the best deals in Paris. Some of the best deals are in the least expected places. For instance, if you shop at an open-air food market, it's a good idea to go mid-week, when it is less crowded and the prices are lower. Make a point of shopping a half-hour before the market shuts down (12:30 p.m. instead of 1p.m.), because the stall keepers will often offer some great bargains to unload leftover merchandise.

My favorite food market is the Marché Richard-Lenoir, near the place de la Bastille, the most lively and animated market in Paris. If you love mushrooms, they have the widest array in the city including wild cepes and chanterelles. They also have a little United Nations of takeout food, including specialities from North and West Africa. Yum!

The Paris Flea Market...

If you shop the Paris Flea Market, go early in the morning when you get the pick of the best merchandise. (This is when the dealers tend to go as well). The best day of the week to shop is on Monday, when dealers want to unload all the weekend's unsold merchandise. If you don't speak French and don't know your way around the Flea Market (the largest in the world), it's a good idea to go with a professional shopper who will negotiate and later help ship your treasures home.

The Paris Flea Market remains the best place to buy antiques in Paris. It is virtually a "free-trade zone" at the gates of Paris, in a working-class district, where the rents are low, and the merchants manage to avoid paying lots of taxes. This is because they run a primarily cash-driven business. Don't want to walk around with a wad of cash? Have no fear -- you can go to various change outlets, and obtain cash against your bank card.

P.S. Do bring a tape measure to the market, as well as swatches of material from home that will help. This way, if you decide on a wonderful find, you'll know that when it arrives at your house, it fits into your decor and doesn't overwhelm the room.

When it comes to small items that you've purchased, it's a good idea to carry them on the plane with you. Always remember to pack a smaller suitcase within a suitcase - so you have room to carry your treasures home.

Buying wine for less...

Be open-minded when you shop in Paris. You never know when a bargain will turn up, much less where. For instance, you don't have to buy your wines at the most expensive shops in Paris -- you can easily find delicious Bordeaux wines in the Monoprix chain, or at the Carrefour or Auchan hypermarkets at the gates of Paris. There are also wonderful market streets in the city, such as the Rue Mouffetard and the Rue Montorgueil, where you can find specialist wine shops with wonderful vintages. I know of one, where the merchant has a lovely poem tagging each vintage that he has tasted! The name of the wine store is the Repaire de Bacchus (literally, the retreat of Bacchus) and it's right on the Rue Mouffetard.

Fashion finds at food markets...

Food markets are not just for selling food -- they also have merchants that sell wonderful fashion accessories, including handbags and carry-on luggage, as well as scarves and even cashmere pashminas. Last year, I purchased a lovely lined raw silk turquoise tunic and a shocking pink cashmere and silk pashmina at my local market on the Boulevard de Grenelle, for less than half of what I might have paid in a department store. Many of these merchants import directly from India and Nepal, bring back the merchandise in a suitcase, and sell it in an open-air market, thus saving on a middleman or two. Okay, so it isn't the Galeries Lafayette -- but isn't this more fun?






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