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  • Shelley Dark

27. Avenue Montaigne etc

No trip to Paris would be complete without a day strolling along the haute couture streets would it? Window-shopping, admiring, trying things on. It’s such fun to go into the smartest shops as if you wouldn’t dream of shopping anywhere else. And we were meeting Monique for lunch.

In years gone by, in stores like Dior or Chanel, I was often met by elegant staff member’s hyper-critical glance which started at my feet and swept up to my face. The implication being that madame might be out of her league. Or was that reserved for me? :-)

Not any longer. Today's Paris haute couture stores, at least the ready-to-wear, seem to welcome visitors and happily ooze warmth.

We strolled across the Pont Alexandre, admiring it’s statues and its gorgeous gold decoration, looking back at that fabulous axis ending in Les Invalides.

I'd like to pretend I took my life in my hands to stand in the middle of the road for you, but I was on a traffic island.

Past both the stunning Petit and Grand Palais, across the park on the corner of Avenue Montaigne - a tasteful jumble of pink and grey.

This narrow manicured hedge and gravel parterre right at the beginning of the Avenue Montaigne set the style.

Finding parking in Paris is so boring. This should do the trick.

Cally saw a bag she fancied in Jil Sander, our first stop. After much discussion, she decided that the leather tie at the top would be a nuisance. I loved the stool - leather on wood, joined by mortise and tenon, brand unknown.

Spotted a modest little trinket at Ralph Lauren. Black gloves and you’re ready for the opera.

Actually I did quite fancy this one.

Chloë boots have gone all yeti-furry. The shop had a wall of pearls - great idea, but my control-freak stylist alter-ego thought it might have been more effective if they were hanging down from a horizontal plane somehow rather than drooping off a wall. I've always got to be redesigning the world. Tough gig.

Dior. Sigh. It’s always such a joy to visit. I loved your your recent visit, Jenny Rose-Innes, and couldn’t wait to see it again for myself. Typically, it's the fit-out I love admiring as much as the stock.

Dior has my favourite chair in the world. It’s circular and based on the leaves of the gingko biloba tree. Last time I saw it, it had a huge display of white hydangeas inside. Today they were pink. I couldn’t get a full shot of it as there were people sitting on it. I almost asked them to move for you. Almost.

Please forgive me if you already know the information I give you.

It was designed by Claude Lalanne, the wife and artistic collarborator of Francois-Xavier (1927-2008). He was famous for his animals, particularly sheep. Claude, born in 1924, was more fond of botanical things. She also did a single version of this chair. One sold recently for about $50,000. And others. Two-seater etc.

I fell in love with this table at Dior too. Having been a fairly traditional furniture girl all my life, the cutting edge stuff appeals to me now as a counterpoint. I asked the attendant in French if I may photograph it. Usually a better response when you speak in French, however fumbled.

He said, Désolé, ce n'est pas permis, Madame. (I'm sorry, it's not allowed) I replied, Would you be prepared to turn your back, s’il vous plâit Monsieur? Voilà! He smiled and turned.

It was designed by André Dubreuil, who lives alone in his family’s 18th century mansion in the Dordogne. He considers himself not a designer, but an artisan in metal. He works from a barn on his estate with his employees, and doesn’t make two of anything. His is the spine chair.

Isn't this part of the Dior floor fun?

love this sculpture too

As we walked out the door of Dior, Cally's lovely neckpiece bought the day before at Cécile Jeanne, fell to the floor - not done up properly. The doorman gallantly came to her assistance: picked it up, fastened it, and adjusted it so it was centred properly. Cally asked him if he'd like to come home with her.

We thought we'd duck into the Plaza Athenée for a quick peek. No time for morning tea. They're having an exhibition of Julien Marinetti's whimsical animals at the moment. (I know this because on Instagram I follow @dorchestercollection, and Alpana answered my question toute de suite!) A rather large dog was guarding the front door. The maître d' of the dining room said certainly I may take photos if I were discreet about it. I'm very discreet.

crazy shiny silver alcove banquettes!

I wonder how many of these tiles are set into the footpath on Avenue Montaigne - we only saw two. They must have done a series on the oldest fashion houses. Would have been fun to search them all out. No time!

There are so many labels I don't know. Liked this window, Akris, a Swiss fashion label founded in 1922.

I was in Paris a few years ago when the Abercrombie and Fitch store opened. They had two very similiarly looking young men in exactly the same outfit standing at either side to welcome customers. It was very eye-catching as they looked like twins. It still looks as immaculate. What an entrance! those hedges!

We had crossed over the Champs Elysées and on to Rue Faubourg St Honoré. Couldn’t pass Le Bristol without a little wander to make sure they are maintaining their standards…

Lobby flowers: ✓ ✓

Gardens: ✓ ✓ ✓ (also with a modern sculpture twist)

a neat staff uniform: ✓ ✓ ✓

Snootiness of resident cat Fa-Raon: ✓ ✓

On our way we drank everything in with our eyes: Italian labels like the new Fabiana Filippi store, Brunello Cucinelli, also Sylvia Rykiel, on and on, you know them all, name after name...... So much to look at, so little time to do it!

We were disappointed that the Ritz is still closed having its renovations done. We had thought we’d have a champagne there. It’s taking much longer than expected. Watch that space.

Opera Gallery. A chainlink woman sculpture. And the great contrast of soft butterflies in polished metal on a happy face without features.

Time for lunch at Colette. Monique arrived at the same time and we found a queue for the downstairs restaurant stretching right up the stairs. We took it in turns to shop while one of us held our place.

They have so many different types of water that the restaurant is called Water Bar. Monique was thrilled to find that we were served a Swiss water - happy co-incidence as she is Swiss, nice bottle! I thought the base of my wine glass was fun too.

This is the Assiette Colette. All the food was excellent, buzzy atmosphere. Worth the wait.

We saw a woman with one of the new Celine bags. Great colours, but they’re a bit big for a normal-sized person handbag.

And this jewellery upstairs got a thumbs up too. Price: thumbs down.

After lunch we went for a wander with Monique on the Rue St Honoré, and the Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré. Her to-do list: her favourite Kiehl body cream and having Hermès change her watchband. We admired the way her eyeshadow stays perfect all day: made by Le Terry, Smoky Nude palette. (promotional photo from By Terry)

Past Roses Costes. I couldn’t resist going inside. The fragrance! This is the charming man who runs it.

In Hermès we were shocked to see the queue to buy handbags. Monique said it’s like it EVERY day. You can’t order bags any longer. You just have to take what’s on the shelf. The golden goose story? There was a similar queue flowing from inside the Christian Louboutin shop, out along the footpath. Crazy!

Thankfully we were ushered upstairs to a quiet room while Monique’s band was changed. I needed a new watch band as well. I thought I'd better not have a ride on the rocking horse. I might be reconsigned to the queue.

We said goodbye to Monique late in the afternoon at the Champs-Elysées Clemenceau Métro stop. She finds it easier to take public transport in Paris these days and only uses her car to go to the country. In the end we decided we’d walk home. This girl was taking photos on the Pont Alexandre but happy to pose herself.

The Boulevard St Germain was the perfect diagonal to take us home. Nice tiles at the Métro stop Assemblée Nationale.

Love this house on the corner - if you had an apartment in it, you’d need triple glazing (is there such a thing?) for the noise, and I don't know where you'd put your furniture. But what a position. And what architecture.

A rosy commode at Moissonnier.

And a look at the Ralph Lauren courtyard just as the shop was closing at 7pm.

A teeny bit of energy left to duck into our famous local boulangerie Gérard Mulot for a dinner to eat at home: quiche, crème brûlée, and langues de chat. And un petit peu de chocolat. Hand-made. You choose what you want from the display cases, are given a ticket for it, go and pay, and then come back to collect from the same girls who gave you the ticket. It's a long way of doing it, and the girls behind the counter were laughing at our inability to comprehend the process when we first went in there.

And a glass of a cheeky little Sancerre. The end to another perfect day.

Oh I forgot to tell you a funny story about Monique. When she was younger, she was once served snails at a lunch. She abhors them. So she surreptitiously took the meat out of a few shells as she chatted, and pushed them all into one full shell. Repeated the procedure, till it looked as if she only had a few left. I call that lateral thinking.

Au revoir mes amis. Bisou.

(Did I tell you this already? Laurence, the very French woman who welcomed us to our apartment, said that kids these days are texting instead of talking, and instead of actually doing a physical double French mwah, they call out to each other, 'bisou'.) I'm such a kid.

lots of love

ps. I’ll send the last trip post asap: the most mesmerising museum of all, perfume class, and lunch with Helena, @paris_scribe. I'm going to be so sad when I've finished! But that won't be the end....

shelley dark, writer 

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