As we know, all the really interesting shopping is well away from the Champs-Élysées. I have mentioned quite few retail delights in other of my Paris posts but in this post I am going to revel in the various markets and arcades we visited or at least, in some cases, tried to visit because unfortunately it was a public holiday for Armistice Day when we went exploring 19th century arcades and some were closed. Sacré bleu!
On one of our walks we had passed by a huge antiques market alongside the Port de l’Arsenal which was all under cover in tents which we didn’t feel like spending time on but we did make a special trip to the Marché d’Aligre which is centred on the place d’Aligre and is really three markets all squashed together. There is the original covered Marché Beauvau in the centre which is surrounded by fruit and vegetable street markets jostling for space with the flea market, Marché aux Puces d’Aligre. The latter we thought a bit of a let down but the others were a great insight into authentic Paris street life as they were full of local people doing their normal food shopping.
After the obligatory coffee sitting out on the pavement watching the world go by we went in search of arcades but not before we came upon this ludicrously archetypal bit of French entertainment.
It takes all sorts doesn’t it and they looked very happy. Anyway, on to the arcades that were open. Of some seven listed by Lonely Planet only two were fully open and accessible. Some we could peer into through locked gates only. What we did see reminded us of the splendid old shopping arcades still to be found in our own Melbourne which was spectacularly wealthy at the time that some of these Paris “galerie” were opened.
Here is Passage Jouffroy from the street. This was the last major passage to be completed in Paris in 1847. It has a waxworks and the M&G Segas where, apparently, Toulouse-Lautrec bought his walking sticks. Probably the prettiest though was Galerie Vivienne which dates from 1826. Have a look at the gallery to the right.
Charming as these galleries are for sheer over the top spectacle I don’t think there is anything to compare with the Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann. As it was mid-November it was already Christmas as far as many shops were concerned and Lafayette was no exception. The extraordinary stained-glass dome would be a magnificent sight at any time but now it was transported to a new level of lunacy by a huge golden Christmas tree suspended from its centre surrounded by cascades of gold and silver decorative balls. Feast your eyes on the gallery.
Just to cap things off the Paris Opera is right opposite Galeries Lafayette. It requires something as grand as that not to be overwhelmed by the temple to consumer goods.