So, if three crafty friends arrive in Paris shortly after lunchtime and check in to their hotel in Les Halles, where is their first destination?
Surprisingly quiet. So much so that for the first time ever, an assistant approached me and asked if she could help! Altogether different from the times when the queue has been out of the door and a whole morning has been needed to make the simplest of purchases.
Anyway, it was a great way of warming ourselves up and getting our brains into French (un petit peu). Next stop Mokuba for a drool over their luscious ribbons. Decisions were bravely taken to resist buying any of the gorgeous ribbons and braids, whether they were of the €7/m or €75/m variety. We reminded each other of all the little packages of such things were still in drawers at home in spite of so many good intentions and satisfied ourselves that we were leaving them for someone else to enjoy.
As we walked though the streets towards Le Louvre, we found ourselves dipping into almost every other shop like excited children. We were drawn into the Arcade Vivienne by a million twinkly lights as dusk fell, and by the time we reached Le Louvre, the brightly coloured afternoon had transformed into a deep blue and gold evening.
Aperitif time, then and a quick change before dinner. Difficult to believe the fun had only just started.
We'd decided to get to Le Grande Halle in the Parc De la Villette early on Friday morning, and joined a long queue about fifteen minutes before the show opened. But organisation was non existent, and shortly after the doors opened, we found ourselves in a huge scrum reminiscent of boarding a school bus. The French woman in front of us turned to apologise "Sorry, we French don't queue like the English".
It was ridiculous really - grown women who were quite capable of seeing there was room for only two people to go through the door at one time, having queued for half an hour or more in an orderly line suddenly lost all sense and took the "every woman for herself" strategy, taking far longer to achieve their goal in the process. There was all kinds of pushing and shoving too - this was no patient shuffle.
Oh la la.
Once inside, we were treated to a beautifully classy set of stands, the understated theme of which appeared to be red and ecru - a touch of Christmas, a traditional stitched style which was completely different from the wildly creative, riot of colour we experienced at the Ally Pally recently.
My favourites included the stand shown above, which had such a lovely range of buttons and things imaginatively used. The Maison Sajou collection was a fascinating variety of beautifully packaged bits and pieces and the Briteafil stand was a great example of the simple technique done well.
And of course this was one reason why we were interested in coming here. So fascinating to see a fresh, new set of ideas, especially displayed with such style, such taste - so chic!
The room sets created from the projects in the latest edition of Marie Claire Idees were fascinating, giving a glimpse into how these articles come about. The styling here was more adventurous, more colourful and though not always to our taste, it was lively, colourful and the exquisite items were beautifully staged.
The crowds did not always behave in a similarly impeccable fashion. At times, we gave up and moved on, thinking we could return when there was less of a scrum. Refreshed by a good lunch at a Brasserie across the road, we returned after lunch with renewed energy and it was almost 4pm when we decided we'd had enough and armed with a few more bags than we'd started with, we returned to our hotel for a bit of a rest before aperitifs and dinner.
Our return tickets were for the 1615 train, so we had plenty of time to spend a morning exploring Les Grands Magasins and though I was determined to keep this blog Christmas-free until December, I can't resist sharing this magnificent tree in the centre of Galeries Lafayette.
We poured ourselves onto the train after a great lunch by Gare du Nord and enjoyed a last bottle of champange as we sped under the channel. A train full of football and rugby fans to Swindon soon brought me back to earth!