One very early alarm and a quick snooze on the train, and before I know it I’m blinking sleepily into the bright Paris morning outside Gare du Nord, ready to start my retail marathon. As every great athlete knows, carb-loading is a key pre-race ritual, so I dutifully head directly to cult Parisian brunch spot, Holybelly, a short walk away in the 10th arrondissement, for poached eggs, hash browns and an artisan iced coffee. Refuelled and ready to go, the shopping officially begins at canal-side art and design bookshop, Artazart, where I emerge with a bag full of quirky cards. Launching into a tour of nearby Parisian concept stores, I start with new brands at Centre Commercial, and haute designers at Broken Arm, then onto minimalist homewares and stylish knits at Merci.
Tearing myself away from the marblepattern plates, it’s straight to the Sentier neighbourhood for French fragrances from the appropriately-named, Nose, and organic wines from Frenchie Caviste. With no time to spare and plenty of the city left to cover, the moment has come to re-acquaint myself with the Parisian ‘Velib’ bike rental scheme, load up the bags, dodge dicey French drivers and cross the river (quickly pausing to Instagram Notre-Dame, naturally) for a mid-marathon sprint around Le Bon Marché. Founded in 1838, Le Bon Marché was the original modern department store and now houses luxury fashion brands from around the world as well as French lifestyle brands such as Kerzon.
A whole day could be dedicated to the many épiceries, fromageries, and boulangeries of Paris, but locals with no time to spare (and money to burn) find it all at Le Bon Marché’s sister shop next
door, La Grand Épicerie de Paris, which is technically a ‘supermarket’ (in the sense that The Ritz is technically a ‘guest house’). With two floors dedicated to the finest French and international foods, it’s the ultimate spot to stock up on prime cheeses, cured meats, sweet treats and high-end booze, as well as truffled delights from Maison de la Truffe. What’s more, if you visit during one of the city’s bi-annual Fashion Weeks, there’s a high chance you’ll seek the likes of Anna Del Russo and co. shiftily packing their baskets with biscuits.
With the southern portion of my retail marathon complete I’m beginning to flag, so it’s back over the river to the charming Palais Royale for a matcha latte and a cookie on the terrace of Cafe Kitsuné whilst eaves dropping on unsuspecting tourists lost en route to the Louvre. Suitably revived, I explore the nearby shops, starting with quirky t-shirts at Maison Kitsuné and concept
collaborations at Colette, before browsing the boutiques of Galerie Vivienne, a relic from Paris’ retail past with its neoclassical arcade and quaint cafes.
Window shopping complete (or ‘window licking’, as the unnecessarily literal French say), I head north to Pigalle, the once seedy red-light district which has since turned into a trendy neighbourhood. Here, I struggle to choose between the gold origami animal necklaces at the lesser-known jewellery and design store, Thanks, before a gluttonous stroll down famous foodie street, Rue des Martyrs, for a selection of choux à la creme from Popelini – a worthy successor to the over-hyped macaron.
Laden down with bags and in need of liquid refreshment, my retail tour is finally complete – so it’s time to make the most of my last hour in Paris with artisan cocktails and steak tartare at Anouk. Located in the garden of boutique hotel, Amastan, this little gem is beloved by the fashion crowd and tucked away behind the Champs-Elysées. Vowing to stay overnight in one of their chic rooms next time, I reluctantly jump into an Uber and speed to Gare du Nord, getting through security with just enough time to stock up on luxury chocolate bars from La Chocolat Alain Ducasse in the departure area. From there, I walk onto the Eurostar and settle into my seat for a well-earned nap, dreaming of cashmere knits and chilled champagne while hoping no-one notices the distinctly cheesy odours emerging from my shopping bags.