There was just no way to avoid them — so if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!
On our first night, over dinner, a Frenchman told us to go to Paul to try their chocolate at least once while we were there. That wasn’t going to be too difficult as they were found pretty much all over the city. The deciding moment happened by chance a couple of days later when we went down into the metro and were stopped in our tracks. Here it was in front of us, Paul Patisserie with its doors wide open, so why not finally try it. As I started taking photos of the place, one of the women behind the counter motioned me not to take pictures. Even if there wasn’t really much to shoot (it was’t that big a shop), I just had to let out an audible ‘whhhhyyyy?’ (in French of course). She didn’t bother answering.
It was a nice break as we sat down and enjoyed some delicious, thick, hot chocolate; cannelé; and pan de chocolat. Heerlijk! as the Dutch would say.
It wasn’t long after that we were on the subway in the direction of the Prada store, on the incredibly luxurious stretch of Avenue Montaigne. It was easy to see the stores on this street did good business because they occupied not just a floor or two but whole buildings! It was one unbelievable luxury-brand mansion after another – I’d never seen anything like it. PC Hooftstraat in Amsterdam is nothing but a side-alley compared to the shopping streets in Paris. Even Fifth Avenue in New York I find to be a little bit more reasonable in comparison. Counting parts of Champs Elysees, most of Rue de Faubourg St Honore, and the area around St Germain-de-Pres, Paris is undoubtedly a luxury shopper’s wet dream, and quite intimidating to the semi-uninitiated like me.As to our reason for being there, my friends were on the hunt for a special pair of shoes, and having failed in an earlier attempt that morning at another store, they came out victorious in this one.
As we exited the store and walked away into the sunset (literally-speaking as we were walking westward in the late afternoon), I felt exhilarated from the whole transaction. It was for me a different reality, and a worthwhile learning experience. I saw how people behaved in that rarefied world and can now say I’m a little less naive and a tad more worldly-wise. As an experiment, I thought to carry the Prada bag over my shoulder to see how people would react. My conclusion — Parisians are absolutely blasé to visiting nouveaux riche wanna-be’s like me. And that’s just how it should be.