Paris: Smooth Sailing at the Big Winter Sales

Magical Mystery Tour on the "80" Bus Photos by Theadora Brack

All you need is love and a Métro ticket to ride the “80” Bus Photos by Theadora Brack

Peace, love and understanding on the "80" Bus

Peace, love and understanding on the “80” Bus

By Theadora Brack

Make no tips, hands or buts about it, “Les soldes d’hiver 2013″ are in full swing in Paris. They began on January 9 and will last through Tuesday, February 12. So this week, I’ve decided to wear my dark felt tour guide hat, and create a special excursion. Swagnificent miles, here we come.

Ticket to Ride

The “80″ bus line connects two of my favorite shopping districts in the city: rue des Abbesses in the 18th arrondissement and rue du Commerce in the 15th. Nestled in cobblestoned ’hoods with views to boot, both flaunt a cool blend of bargain bins, “indy” designer boutiques, funky shops, and trendy chains.

For the mere price of a Métro ticket, you’ll not only cruise between the shopping havens with the greatest of ease, but also boast about your first scores of the day while the panorama of Paris rolls by en route to the next shopping district. The “80″ is one of the most scenic bus lines so keep your eyes open and camera in hand!


We’ll first hit Abbesses (Métro Abbesses) in the morning. The neighborhood has a bustling village vibe about it, and is chockfull of shops, cafés, and hair salons. Even Louis Vuitton recently fell under its spell, and named one of their signature canvas messenger bags “Abbesses.”

Smooth Sailing at the Loft in Abbesses

Patrick Frèchen’s Loft Design By Shop in Abbesses

Layout of the Land: Chains sit pretty on rue des Abbesses, while most of the vintage shops and funky designer boutiques hold court on the side streets. On Sundays the area becomes a pedestrian-only and traffic-free district. (The shops in the Marais are also open on Sundays, by the way.)

Looking for fine vintage duds?

Dial back the clock at Le Caverne à Fripes at 25 rue Houdon. Here the inventory is eclectic, and may seem chaotic but don’t let looks deceive you. The collection is quite organized. After a few minutes, you’ll recognize the system: shirts to the left and skirts on the right, while party dresses hang coolly in the back!

On the make for a specific item? Don’t hesitate to ask proprietor Patrick Lambert. He once kindly tracked down a handsome “bachi” (French sailor hat) for me. Prices are reasonable, too.

Nadine’s Dam Dim Dom at 18 rue Damrémont also has a well-organized collection of clothing, alongside striking film memorabilia on the walls (watch out for New Wavers Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina!).

Here you’ll find affordable labels, along with high-ticket designer brands. I’ve got my eye on a Jean-Charles de Castelbajac scarf. (He also designed the current Eiffel Tower uniforms, strikingly stylish in olive green with bright orange piping and matching purses!)

Sue’s Matière à Bijoux bead studio and salon

Sue’s Magic Beads (Yellow was Vincent’s favorite color)

Brush with greatness

While trekking about, check out Van Gogh’s old third floor apartment at 54 rue Lepic. A plaque marks the spot where he lived with his brother Theo around 1886.

While in Paris, Vincent exhibited works at Julien “Papa” Tanguy’s  art supply shop on rue Clauzel, and hobnobbed with other artists like Seurat, Pissarro, and Bernard, along with Signac, Gauguin, and Toulouse-Lautrec.

Vincent wrote: “I saw Tanguy yesterday, and he has put a canvas I’ve done in his window. I have done four since you left, and am working on a big one. I know that these big long canvases are difficult to sell, but later on people will see that there is open air in them and good humor.” Good call, Vincent.

Tip: Stand with your back to Van Gogh’s house and you can see the very same view he painted from his window–it hasn’t changed at all (see below).

Paint your palette blue and grey

Feeling all inspired and starry eyed after the visit? Then pop by Sue Jaulent’s cozy Matière à Bijoux bead shop located directly across the street, and create your own work of art. Light weight and affordable, handmade bling is always the perfect souvenir in my book. Open for nearly a decade, Sue knows the neighborhood like the back of her well-accessorized hand. So feel free to ask for tips. She knows!

The Église Saint-Augustin de Paris brought to you by Haussmann and Victor Baltard (architect of Les Halles)

Next stop

After we shop ’til we drop in Abbesses, we’ll hop on the “80” bus. The bus stop is located at rues Caulaincourt and Tourlaque, just around the corner from Toulouse-Lautrec’s old atelier at 7 rue Tourlaque!

Oh, the places we’ll go

On our way to rue du Commerce, we’ll pass the Cimetière de Montmartre, Gare Saint Lazare, and the Église Saint-Augustin de Paris, along with the École Militaire and the unofficial Princess Di memorial at Pont de l’Alma.

We’ll also spy the Champ de Mars, the Eiffel Tower, and Le Mur pour la Paix created in 2000 by artist Clara Halter and architect Jean-Michel Wilmote. Here, the word “peace”  is inscribed in 49 languages. Grab a hankie. From our rolling catbird seats, we’ll also spot legendary fashion houses like Valentino, Dior and Jimmy Choo.  Armchair window-shopping just got easier!

Rue du Commerce

Signal the driver because we’ve reached our final destination. Like Abbesses, rue du Commerce rocks a village vibe. Here you’ll find Monoprix, Etam, Cameliau, Zara, and H&M—where, by the way, according to rumor, a pair”Jimmy Choo shoes for H&M” were once spotted here in the very back of the sale racks!


Monoprix on rue du Commerce at l’heure bleue


More Star Power

H&M isn’t the only chain to tangle with designers.  Monoprix has been featuring star-studded collections “Les-Invites-Createurs-de-Monoprix” for nearly a decade.

At the moment, sweaters by Alpaga du Pérou and “Visible” lingerie by Vannina Vesperini are available for sale. I’ve got my eye on a gorgeous green silk night gown with cobalt blue lace trimming.

Other collaborations have included American Vintage by Michaël Azoulay, pin-uppity lingerie by Fifi Chachnil, pop culture-inspired shirts and sweaters by Lucien Pellat-Finet, and handbags by Vincent Sartel, the former creative director at Louis Vuitton Moël Hennessy.

Trekking to Paris after the big sales? Don’t fret. Monoprix discounts their clothing throughout the year. They also sell everything from groceries and wine for your picnic, to sunglasses, and band-aids. It’s one-stop shopping for all your strolling needs. Tip: The location on Boulevard Sébastopol is housed in a Félix Potin building (a masterpiece!).

Film Buffs: Monoprix is where frugal director Jean-Luc Godard bought the iconic striped dress, worn by Jean Seberg in his classic “À bout de soufflé” (“Breathless”)!

Clipping from the classic French film, “Don’t use the brakes. Cars are made to go, not to stop!”


View of Paris from Vincent’s Room on the Rue Lepic, 1887

View of Paris from Vincent's Building on the Rue Lepic, 2013

View of Paris from Vincent’s Building on the Rue Lepic

BRACK Magnificent Miles 100

Beads and a Djer-Kiss Parfum by Kerkoff, Paris

BRACK Magnificent Miles 102

Bon Voyage!

58 thoughts on “Paris: Smooth Sailing at the Big Winter Sales

  1. Wish I were there…but I could barely get here to read the article. It came in the email, but none of the links worked. Not sure what that’s about, but just letting you know.



  2. Stop it!………for the LOVE, stop it! I will go mad before I get to Paris in the Spring! If you heard some squeeking behind you as you hopped from stop to stop it was the Tin Man trying to keep up with you in your maddness! What a lovely post, what fun you are!


    • You are TOO-TOO funny, Tin Man!! I’m in stitches. Thanks for the giggles. I did hear the squeaking!! But you kept up with us, didn’t you? YES. The sing-a-long on the bus was also much fun!! T.


  3. Of course, living in Chicago, I ride the bus an awful lot (or take the “L”)…but a bus trip such as yours would seem heavenly to me, Mlle B.! Ah, so much history, along with the bargains…what in this world could be better?

    And, of course, I love our Vincent…though didn’t like the way he ‘took himself out’! Such a ‘savant’, and they thought he was a nutter! Years ago (in 1978!), I visited the Art Institute here for the very first time. There were not as many guards around then and, as there was a van Gogh hanging right on the wall in front of me, I merely looked over both shoulders, saw I was alone, and caressed that painting very gently, whispering, “I wish I had known you, Vincent!” A cherished memory indeed, which popped into my head because of this fantastic post!

    Your bead images are very impressive…as are all your images, Mlle B.! It is wonderful of you to share so much of ‘gay Paree’ with those of us who are unable to be there, roaming all the lovely streets and shops by your side!

    Merci, Mlle, merci beaucoup!!!


    • Gosh. Darn it. MERCI. I loved your Art Institute of Chicago story. And I love the Art Institute. In fact, it’s one of my favorite museums on the planet. So many of my favorite works of art hang there. Lucky you! Vincent’s wonderful “Bedroom” is there. Have you read his letters to Theo? They’re fantastic. They’re amazing. He was quite frank, lucid and poetic. And witty, too. (After Paris, he headed to the South of France. Smart move!)

      The beads were fun to shoot. I liked how their color and texture were similar to Vincent’s buildings.

      Enjoy the weekend!!


      • Yes, I read it twice, years ago…but so very much of his writings ‘stuck’ with me. Such futility the poor man had to fight…just because he was creative–aaargh!

        The texture of his painting was so wondrous, Mlle B.! Little mountains and valleys of paint, so hard then, yet still feeling very fresh…had I dug in a fingernail, I’m certain it would have come out with his beautiful yellow!

        I visited the south in 1982, and ended up locked into a lower room in the cathedral with a Swiss gentleman. We pounded the door for twenty minutes and no one came, so we resigned ourselves to spending the night on narrow benches! About a half hour later, a workman came and opened the door (he had forgotten some tools), eh, voila! we were rescued!


    • Oh. YES. Do you have a favorite shopping nook? Forgive me if I’ve asked you this before! On the first day of the sales, I try to hit all seven Zara shops. I have the locations and bus and Métro stops mapped out on a scrap of paper. Works like a (good luck) charm every time! T.


  4. Paris had never been on my “Must Visit” list–or rather, it was low on the list. But recently, after watching Project Runway the other day and now this post, I have bumped it up to number 3! (Uganda and Dubai are 1 and 2.) Thanks for sharing!


    • I like competition! Maybe after next week’s post, Paris will get bumped up to number 2!! (Wink!) Thanks for your sweet words. It was great fun shopping with you!! T.


    • Well, thanks for joining the touring and shopping spree!! I’d love to find a vintage bus driver hat. Adding it to my Flea Market wish list. . . T. (Happy New Year!


  5. Hi t! Happy belated new year to you, R & miss kitty Had a few health scares & some surgery over the holidays – all good now. Starting grad school and teaching for kent state u his month – exciting! Han is working pt at a high end fitness club – progress! How are you? Vivian xoxo

    Sent from my iPhone


  6. Love the photographs, T. What an ace post! Monoprix sounds like shopping heaven – love the idea that you can buy your duds and your picnic in the same place (and they won’t look and taste like M&S) and have an impromptu new identity day out.


    • Thanks, Richard! Monoprix is a haven for hungry spies. It’d make a great short story. They even sell dark sunglasses. The shops are also great people-watching spots. Ah, I bet you would capture fabulous, timeless street portraits. Enjoy the week! T.


  7. Not a big fan of shopping, but a great fan of your posts. i especially like the “bus format” as i plan on doing something similar when i can! Thanks for the rise, it was a trip!


    • Merci, Paul! You can’t go wrong with the “bus format” in my book. I love the green tinted windows. Plus, it’s easy on the eyes and feet! T. (I’m looking forward to seeing your shots!)


  8. Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous. Now I REALLY can’t wait to go there with the One I love. And real soon, I hope!


    • MERCI, Martino. You are Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous! Enjoy the trip. I’m looking forward to reading your reports from the field. T. (Happy New Year, Sir!)


  9. Reblogged this on Whatever takes my fancy and commented:
    Dear readers, you cannot afford to miss out on posts from the delighful Ms Theadora Brack – this one makes me feel as if I am actually doing this shopping excursion with her – the fabulous photography , intelligent commentary and just plain useful information will draw you in too – if you are intending to visit Paris and love to shop, then this may be the post for you! While you are there, take a look at some more of Ms Brack’s engaging comments – they have the light-heartedness of youth about them, yet are obviously based on a thorough knowledge of, and love for, the city that captured my heart within minutes of arriving there. Whilst I am well older than this young lady, she has the ability to communicate her infectious love of The City of Light to one and all and I for one, am hooked….


  10. Great job! Though I’m not big on shopping myself, I’m always looking for good answers for that inevitable question posed by female family and friends who visit Paris: “Where do real Parisians go shopping?” Now I have another bunch of hot tips to pass along. Thanks Theadora!


    • Thanks for the swell words! Rue de rennes is another favorite shopping hot spot. It’s on the “95” bus line. The buildings are gorgeous. In fact, the Zara shop is located in one of the Félix Potin buildings. Say, do you have a favorite nook? Where do you send folks? Cheers! T. (Happy New Year!!)


  11. LOVE this post! rue du commerce is fab, of course. and thanks for the a bout de souffle tidbit – my fave from french film oh so many years ago!


    • Rue du Commerce is pretty darn FAB. Fun shops and it’s not too crowded, to boot. I also love “À bout de soufflé” (1960). Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo stole my heart. I tumbled flat. Another great quote: “I don’t know if I’m unhappy because I’m not free, or if I’m not free because I’m unhappy.” Wonderful line! T.


    • Ah, but you have the iconic “L.” Gosh, I love the sites along the “Loop.” I also dig your bus system. And speaking of Chicago, have you heard any updates on the historic Purple Hotel?! T. (Happy New Year!)


      • Happy New Year to you as well. I just did a little research on the historic Purple Hotel and from what I see a firm (KOO and Associates) purchased the building and are undergoing some serious renovations on the property.

        The ‘L’ is pretty nice as is the “Loop” but we have nothing as iconic as the Eiffel Tower. Isn’t that so true of anything – we don’t appreciate what is in our backyard while craving what is in our neighbors.

        Keep up the good work on the posts so I can visit Paris vicariously through you.


  12. Oh to be in Paris and hunting the sales. And at the end of the day the tired but triumphant huntress would glory over her trophies. Theadora I weep for the lost safari to Paris. Virginia


    • And then, and then, she pulled off her tall flat boots, poured a glass of red wine, and inspected the trophies and discounted price tags again and again and again. Embroidered black slacks. Sleeveless blouse in tangerine. And one art deco headband—perfect for my new bobbed hairdo. Clipping Anaïs Nin, “Good things happen to those who hustle.” Or hunt!! T.


      • And in the dark night the Victrola played a haunting melody. She danced under the velvet sky and dreamed of wondrous bargain filled hunts and the trophies she would capture.


  13. When we were in Paris, our first meal was at a cafe called Lepic Assiette across from Vincent and Theo’s place. I remember that roofline well! Thank you, Theodora!


      • Mais oui! I had the Salade Fromage, my husband the Salade Chevre…and, bien sur, white wine! (Happy New Year, too!)


  14. You’ve outdone yourself, Theadora!
    A shopping tour, an art and architecture ditto, insider fashion tips, what isn’t here!
    OMG, this is the most fabulous post. I want to go shopping with you —-


    • Thank YOU. I always love, love your positive energy. It’s contagious!! YES. Shopping + Art + History = Bliss (or guilt-free shopping!!) Abbesses is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the world. It possesses a hustling, bustling vibe but it’s also very village-like. Plus, the two cheese shops are fantastical. Enjoy the week! And thanks for shopping with us! T.


  15. Pingback: Paris Shopping: Rue de Rennes Steeple Chase « People, Places and Bling!

  16. Great post! I was in Paris with my sister three years ago and stayed at Mercure Haussmann which was a perfect base to the many nice places in central Paris. We also loved the fact that there were many Asian restaurants in the area. 😉


    • Thank you, Malou !! I’ve missed you and your fabulous photographs. I was so happy to see your recent post on Monet !! As always, you shared such beautiful photographs. Enjoy the weekend ! T. (And I agree! The Mercure Haussmann is the perfect place to stay. Great location. Did you have a view?)


  17. Hi Theo…Have you been to MA CAVE FLEURY on Rue St.-Denis? A friend just came back and loved this place.

    Tom Cathey


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