Novice visitors to Paris scour the internet, craft a basic itinerary of the major sights to see in the city, buy their airline tickets online, and make reservations at a hotel.
Great. Good for them.
But you’re no travel rookie. You’re no newbie.
You use your phone to buy your airline tickets…with Hopper. (Just download the app and save around 50% off the price of your airfare.)
The second thing you do is skip the hotel, where rooms can be closet-sized, service hit-or-miss unless you’re going tres lux, with unapologetic prices to top it all off. Get an apartment, cher.
Get a nice apartment, your apartment in Paris. Be a local for a week or two, and pay weekly rates for accommodations, not nightly rates for just a room. Split the expense with a friend and double the fun.
Shop at a local market. Cook a meal at home. Have some (new, French) friends over for dinner or just drinks. Settle in, if only for a brief period of time. Let the idea of coming back…again, and again, and again…cross your mind.
In coming posts, we’re going to profile companies here in Paris that offer charming apartments for rent at reasonable prices in historic neighborhoods.
So pull out that calendar. Add up that vacation time. Let’s make some plans…
Last month, we had a chance to spend a moment with the lovely folks at L’Eau de Cassis in the Marais.
We returned to the shop recently and discussed the fragrance company’s plans and history in a little more detail with Luca, the shop’s owner, and son of Fabrice Cicot, the company’s head…and nose.
A ‘nose’, in this context, is not just something you cut off to spite your face. A ‘nose’ is an expert in recognizing and composing the various ingredients and scents that make up a particular fragrance. It is a particular French concept, and it is a rare and highly respected talent.
It is also, from what we understand, an ability one is born with. If it is there, the skill can be developed and expertise…even mastery…attained. But if you don’t have it, no amount of training or study will deliver it to your door.
In our last conversation, Luca waved a dismissive hand at the idea of the L’Eau de Cassis brand becoming a global behemoth. With only a few well-placed boutiques in France at present, and only tentative plans for a new shop in Belgium, it’s not likely that you’ll find the fragrance on sale anywhere but in France for the foreseeable future.
And to this we say, Good. Because it’s not just the unique and vibrant fragrance that Luca, his father, and this family offer: it’s the experience. Family-owned, artisan quality, personal service.
Officially, BHV (Bazar de L’Hotel de Ville) is an upscale department store in Paris, often visited by tourists who want to see how a Parisian department store compares with the experience back home. (The answer: quite well, merci beaucoup).
Unofficially, BHV is something far more unique and important: when you need something, and you don’t know where to find it, BHV is the first place you go…and they probably have it.
For expatriates, fresh from baggage claim, struggling to learn a few phrases in French and get the electricity turned on, stumbling all over town for a corkscrew, coffee cup, or oscillating fan (all necessities in Paris, by the way) BHV is a lifesaver.
The store in the Marais offers artisan olive oils, fine wines, bed linens, books, notebooks, as well as men’s and women’s clothing, and innumerable household items that you don’t really think about until you don’t have them.
Customer service, like many places in Paris, can move at the pace of an escargot, but that simply requires a little patience in order to gain a fresh perspective: when the BHV sales clerk takes twenty minutes with the octogenarian in line in front of you to find her just the right diary for her nephew in Normandy, you can rest assured that same clerk will take the same amount of time with you to get you exactly what you need. So the fatigue at waiting is buffered by the care that is taken.
It’s that way very often in Paris, and, as a visitor from another country where it’s all about how fast you can get things done–regardless of how impersonally that same transaction can be done–you’re just going to have to dial it back, bring it down a notch, and ease into this way of doing things.
It’s all about attention to detail, mutual respect, and of course, more than a little patience.