Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Be Ethical and Generous During the Holidays

Paris abounds in 'Concept Shops'. A great way to highlight coming trends and very contemporary fashion, design, homewares and more, concept shops add to that incomparable Parisian 'buzz'. "Ethical Concept Stores" are a welcome new addition to this universe of the hip, cool and contemporary. Essentially these shops are distinguished by attention to solidarity based, artisanal and organic means of production, responding to 'ethical' and sustainable interests of customers.

Merci, located in the Marais, is a great example. Merci was created by the owners of Bonpoint, the upscale children's clothing firm. The store is designed to resemble a house, and it is a house chock full of all manner of beautiful and useful objects chosen for their adherence to principles of solidarity. There is even a florist and bookseller-café included in the mix! And, a portion of profits are donated to aid disadvantaged children. 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, Marais.

House of Organic is another terrific shop. International designers sell creations that are made solely of natural and nonpolluting materials. There is ready to wear, design and cosmetics included in the offerings. 7 rue Mahler, Marais.

Boutique Talents-Ateliers d'Art de France is a hybrid of a shop and an art gallery offering 100 plus works from 85 artists and craftsmen. 1 rue Scribe, Paris 9.

Happy shopping!

ICY and Artistic in Paris!

It is cold in Paris during these pre-Christmas weeks of 2009. So, bundle up and go enjoy Ice Magic, an exhibition of 50 ice sculptures of famous French monuments and cultural icons. The Eiffel Tower, Rodin's Thinker, Notre Dame and its hunchback, Mona Lisa, the Hotel de Ville, Johnny Halliday and Django Reinhardt illumined in very cool pink, blue, and green lights. Quite remarkable. The detail is amazing and this is fun!

It is not a free event but is worth every chilly euro for the admission. You can always warm up with some chocolat chaud or tea at nearby Laduree or stroll down to Jean Paul Hevin's tea room on rue St. Honore for some of the best hot chocolate and chocolate patisserie in Paris (and that is saying something!) Happy holidays!

Ice Magic
Runs through December 28th, 2009
Admission 14 euros or 12 euros under 25
Open 11AM-11PM. Where? Jardin des Champs Elysees
Avenue des Champs Elysées, 8th arr. Metro: Concorde

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Holiday Lights in the City of Light!

Paris-lovers often ask me where to see holiday lights in Paris. This always festively illumined city pulls out the stops during late November and December. Here are some great tips:

The Eiffel Tower: The tower is celebrating 120 years of age and looks better than ever. From now through December 31st, the wizards who illumine the tower are offering a special light show four times each night, at 8 p.m., 9 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. You can see the show up close or in any of the zillion distant views of this iconic tower all over Paris.

The Champs Elysées is a veritable wonderland of lights from now through the New Year, with every tree strung with jewel-like lights along this stunning avenue. Parisians join with visitors during the holidays to stroll up and down between Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe, admiring the holiday window displays and reveling in the warm glow of the lights. With the early winter darkness, a stop in Ladurée for a pot of hot chocolate or tea, and a macaron would be a nice addition.

At the eastern end, just off Place de la Concorde, you can climb aboard the "Grande Roue" (Ferris Wheel) until 10:30 p.m. everyday until January 20th, 2010. The view is worth every bit of the 10 E fee for adults, 5 E for children, under 3 free.

The windows at the "Grands Magazins" along Boulevard Haussmann are always a treat with their remarkable design and lighting effects. Printemps sports an exclusive new creation featuring a shower of stars and snowflakes, capped off with red flowers on the facade. At Galeries Lafayette, enjoy the multicolored lights by artist Valerio Festi in the windows and go inside to see the 20-meter high tree decorated with gingerbread, lollipops and candies. You could stop in the splendid Galeries Lafayette food halls if all those goodies are just too tempting.

Finally for a more homespun but not less sophisticated holiday lighting reverie, the city of Paris also encourages neighborhood holiday lighting as part of "Paris Illumine Paris". Check out rue Vielle du Temple in the Marais for example, but over 75 merchants associations all over the city get involved. You may be delightfully surprised.

Happy holidays!