Friday, October 22, 2010

If I were in Paris... Friday, October 22, 2010

The weather in Paris is still crisp, er, cool? 51-35 degrees Farenheit. Yikes, with a coat!

Today, I'd visit all the good museum shops in Paris so that I can be indoors. Here they are.

The top three:
Musees des Arts Decoratif: decorative arts, fashion, and the craftspeople & artists to know. Superb.
Musee d'Orsay: 19th-century Paris, in all its tremendous glory, plus the best knick-knacks and small/soft goods to take home to friends who love Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, etc. Best jewelry and scarf selection, without hugeness of Louvre (same selection here, mostly). Good for kids, too. Fantastic bookstore.
Cathedral de Sainte-Chapelle: Medieval Paris, in all its glory. Best CDs, best gifts and postcards, least number of crazy people (for a cathedral gift shop!). Wonderful tapestries, pillows, etc. Bonus: you have to see the cathedral to shop here, which is a huge upside to any day!

What I consider the basic or middle-tier five:
Musee Carnavalet: Good bookshop with material that ranges throughout the history of Paris and from kids' books to scholarly tomes. Good tzochkas, small-change gifts and clever stuff about Paris. Good bookstore for material about Paris's history, famous people, and so forth without being academic. Very small and crowded, however, with erratic hours.
Musee Louvre: Huge, with much "stuff" from Louvre junk to academic/excellent books on the ground floor, and "gifts" on the first floor, with everything from jewelry to sculpture to prints and coasters. If in doubt, also visit the kiosk right outside for notepads, pencils, etc. or the shops in the alleyway from the Carrousel to the Louve lobby proper for postcards, notepads, pencils, and other small gift items. Why make yourself crazy in the actual shop? And the kids' shop in the alley is excellent: lots of great stuff for kids up to teens.
Musee Rodin: small, tight shop focused on Rodin and his cronies. Small but good selection of postcards and books relevant to same. Some worthwhile stuff on 19th-century.
Centre Pompidou: Modern to contemporary art, video, and digital stuff. Wide range of books, postcards, and materials. Excellent coverage for 20th-21st century art and artists.
Musee Cluny: excellent site for medieval goods. Small, hot, crowded shop... usually... which detracts from its charm. But I've found some good (overpriced) things here that I love.

Small bookstores that are only okay:
Musee de la Vie Romantique: tiny space not properly called a bookstore. But the connection to the tea garden is worth it. When they have a good book about an exhibit, it is GREAT! Ditto jewelry selection here, when it is present. Only a handful of postcards, ever.
Opera Garnier: Again, small kiosk, erratically open, but great selection of CDs, DVDs, and print material about opera and ballet: best in city. Don't go out of your way, but the location and the opportunity to visit the museum/opera itself is worth a trip. Nice selection of stuff for young girls who are ballet-mad, including jewelry.
Cathedral de Notre Dame: I find this bookstore (and the one at Sacre Coeur) annoying on several levels. The space is too small and always over-crowded, the merchandise is poorly displayed, the clerks are haphazard int heir desire to help or to sell to you. Sigh. Too many crazy people looking for a holy item--sorry, but that's not for sale here. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but the fact is what they sell are CDs, rosaries, and postcards, not the bones of St. Peter. Unfortunately, I've been elbowed by too many people who think they're fighting me over a piece of the True Cross to even waste my time here.

Finish with a hot chocolate in an outdoor cafe with heaters or the Galleries Lafayette cafe overlooking the rear of the Opera Garnier. Perfect!

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