Ahhhhh, Paris! We had a simply wonderful time in the City of Lights this weekend, cramming an entire holiday into a few short hours. We’ve both already been to Paris a few times, so we didn’t feel the need to do the touristy stuff all over again. This left us with an entire weekend to devote to eating and shopping, and socialising with our friends Sat and Sarah (who I’d not met before this weekend, but I now feel like we’ve been friends for years!). As is my habit when I go away, I went fabric shopping so I can now share those shops with you…
As Isabelle says in her guide to Paris fabric shops, the bulk of the fabric and notions shops are in Montmatre, so if you’re pressed for time, head directly to the Abbesses metro and head east (which, conveniently passes right by a branch of my favourite-ever perfume shop, too!). There are a few other fabric shops in the same area that I didn’t pop into, plus a giant notions shop with more buttons than you could possibly imagine, so Montmartre really is your one-stop-shop for fabric, lining, interfacing, zippers, trim – the lot! Everything in Paris shuts down on Sundays, but happily, nearly all of the fabric shops are open on Saturdays which is convenient if you’re only in town for a weekend like us!
3-5, Place St Pierre
Mon 2-6:30, Tues-Fri 9:30-6:30, Sat 9:45-7
This place was made famous by Project Runway’s Paris episode, and they really do have nice fabrics, which are sorted by fabric type and very clearly labelled with the price and fibre type on every roll. They had pretty much everything you could think of, from denim to chiffon to tweeds to Liberty to bridal lace to silks, but the prices didn’t seem great and I could get most everything there in London, so I didn’t buy anything.
Their website breaks down what’s on each floor, but the ground floor is just so big I didn’t feel the need to drag poor, non-sewing Sarah up to the other floors (though she insists she really enjoyed fabric shopping!).
They have a separate shop next door selling 3m coupons of their fabric, but their prices didn’t seem much cheaper than in the main shop (I got all excited over a stack of coloured leather skins until I saw they were 80-90€ each!!) and it was crazy busy in there. With the heat, I just didn’t fancy wrestling with a hundred other sweaty ladies all hopped up on fabric. Under those conditions, you know things could turn ugly fast!
Marché Saint Pierre
AKA Tissus Dreyfus, 2 rue Charles Nodier
M-F 10-6:30, Sat 10-7
This is another massive store right across the street from Tissus Reine, but with a bit more of a bargain feel. Fabrics are all grouped by fabric type and laid out by the roll, but piled high enough that you could have a good rummage and get the “thrill of the hunt” that’s missing from Tissus Reine. Most individual rolls are unmarked, but there are plenty of signs in each section saying the price per metre and the fibre content, so it’s not as mysterious as some stores I’ve been in. The ground floor has a huge variety of fabrics and the biggest bargains; I was surprised to see that the first floor was nearly entirely bedding and towels, but go up another floor and you’ll find the luscious silks and expensive bridal laces on the 2nd. The English version of their website goes into more detail on what’s in each floor, but I spent enough on the ground and second to not bother going any higher!
The cutting and buying process was a little unorthodox here so I think it’s worth explaining. If you see something you want, stand near it and get the attention of a roaming employee (seen with big metre sticks!). Get them to cut up everything you want from that floor, and they’ll fold everything up nicely and write out a receipt for you. You then take the receipt to the cash desk on that floor where you pay for it. The process is not well signposted (my French host had to ask for me), but you have to pay for the fabric from that floor only. So if you want something on the ground floor and something on the second floor, you need to have the ground floor stuff cut and paid for, and then go up and get the second floor stuff cut and paid for separately. Don’t mix fabrics from other floors!
I ended up buying all of my fabric here, and the following cost me about 50€ in total (for 7m of good stuff, so I feel triumphant!).
Printed silk charmeuse – 22€/m so I only bought 1m, but I fell head over heels for it and just had to have it
Black bemberg lining – 8€/m and I bought 2m for a specific project
Super super soft stretch laces! OMG I never see these in London, and they were so cheap! At 5.90€/m I just couldn’t go wrong. I bought 1m each of the green and cream to make lingerie, and 2m of the grey to overlay on another colour jersey for a stunning dress. Even the cutting guy remarked on how nice these laces were and how similar they were to the really expensive stuff upstairs…
Modes et Travaux
10 Rue de la Pépinière (very near Saint Lazare station)
This is mostly a crafts store, with a bunch of knitting, crochet, and cross stitch supplies on the ground floor as you walk in, but head to the basement where they’ve got lots of 3m coupons at cheap prices. I found it frustrating to browse, though as there’s no discernible organisation and everything I pulled out was polyester, which sort of dampened the fun (but at least the lengths are well marked with the price and fibre!). Downstairs they also have a ton of notions, buttons, Gutermann thread, trims, etc, and a big box of Burda patterns. You can get a better idea of what they stock from their website, though, really.
Down with the ribbon trims were several boxes absolutely stuffed full of intricate motifs on netting that you can put right on your own clothing, for 5.90 or 7.90 € each.
I just loved this motif, made mostly from thin metal chain and beads and mounted on turquoise netting. I think this would even look amazing just on a rtw teeshirt. Has anyone used motifs like this? I’m guessing I handstitch around the edge of it to attach it to my garment, then trim away the excess netting, but what do I do with the netting in the design itself? Just leave it?
Here’s my handy google map of my favourite Parisian stores or you can view a smaller version emmbedded below:
View Paris Shopping in a larger map
What I wore
It wasn’t until we were halfway there until I realised that absolutely everything I packed had been sewn by me! This doesn’t normally happen, I do tend to mix up my own stuff with RTW, but in this case I just favoured my own!
On the drive down on Friday I wore my faux-wrap jeanskirt and Prada trompe-l’oeil sequin cowl top. For Saturday’s Montmartre fabric shopping, picnic, and St Germain shopping I wore my new Beignet skirt and bias cowl top, and then after a nap and shower, I changed into my nude sheath dress for dinner (we had a funny moment when my Parisienne host and I both emerged wearing the same pale pink-coloured dresses!). I brought along my silver tweed jacket in case it got chilly after dark, but it was just a hot weekend that it stayed super warm well past midnight so I left it at the flat. For Sunday’s market shopping and the drive home I brought out the faux-wrap jeanskirt again, this time paired with my tie-front teeshirt.
A note on footwear: just because you’re on holiday doesn’t mean you have to look like it! I regularly walk 6km+ around London in heels, so why wear sneakers just because I’m in a different city? So I brought along two pairs of comfortable heels plus a pair of emergency flats, and this was exactly the right decision. My feet ended up swelling a bit in the heat, which made the shoes tighter than normal, but I’m happy to suffer a little to look fabulous (and there are no full-on blisters, I’m happy to report!).
What we ate
Maybe it’d be easier to say what we didn’t eat?
Breakfasts – The hour time difference meant our friends naturally woke up before we did, and a table heaping with croissants, pain au chocolat, and baguettes magically appeared when we emerged each morning! I’m normally a muesli and fruit girl (or a toasted bagel at a push), but nothing beats a fresh, flaky pain au chocolat when in Paris.
Following our little fabric shopping outing on Saturday morning, we rang up the boys and had them buy provisions for a picnic (how jealous am I that mobiles work on the metro in Paris!!). We then met up and headed to the Jardin des Plantes where we claimed a double bench and tore into baguettes, meats, cheese, fresh figs, and macarons followed by fresh mint tea in the gorgeous, shaded courtyards at the nearby Grande Mosquée de Paris (next time I simply must plan ahead and visit their hammam!).
After a round of shopping on the Boulevard St Germain (including stops for macarons and fresh marshmallows at both Laduree & Pierre Marcolini) and a well-needed nap and shower back at the flat, we headed out for dinner at La Rose de France on the Ile de la Cité where I had my utterly delicious escargot (I cannot, simply cannot go to France and not eat escargot!!), followed by duck breast with fresh berry sauce, and a nearly orgasmic chocolate cake with molten centre topped with hot fleur-de-sol caramel. OMG.
Then on Sunday morning, as if we hadn’t eaten enough the day before, we headed to Sat and Sarah’s local market to buy a bunch of food to take back home with us (an advantage of driving was that we could bring back as much as we wanted, including filling two coolers!). Their own little market was actually massive and full of gorgeous, overflowing food stalls, and having local guides meant they were able to tell us which places had the best chicken, which had the best produce, which cheese stall was their favourite, etc. Exactly the sort of thing you need when presented with so much choice!!
…produce – cherries (2kgs at 2.95€/kilo!! We pay £4ish/kilo in London!), donut peaches (2€ for a dozen. and we can’t buy these in London!!), fresh forest mushrooms (2€ for a giant bag)
…cheese – two types of chevre, chaource, cantal, brie, camembert, and… Moulé à la louche, which the cheese stall man said was “better than chaource” and is, without a doubt, the most amazing cheese either James or I have ever tasted in our entire lives. Holy crap. I’m giggling with joy just thinking about it.
…plus three types of sauccisson, two types of coppa ham, and rotisserie chicken with those little potato balls you can only get at French markets (one hot to eat for Sunday lunch, and one cold that we brought back with us!), and three dozen pre-prepped escargot from the escargot stall (where else? What, you don’t have an escargot stall on your market?). Oh, and fresh eggs and gorgeous, salty French butter from the cheese man.
The road trip
Everyone in London keeps asking us if we went via Eurostar, and frankly, hell no! For a quarter of the price of the passenger train (and that’s taking the petrol into account), the two of us drove down to Folkestone, got the Eurotunnel (aka “the car train”), and James got to have two hours of fun driving on the French autoroutes and the Paris peripherique (no, I’m not sarcastic, he loves driving!).
The Eurotunnel is actually a great example of simplicity in automation – they have the entire process down to a science. When you drive up (within two hours either side of your booked time), cameras recognise your number plate and you pick a departure time. A little sign with a big letter is printed out for you to hang over your rear view mirror and you park up and go into a terminal to waste some time in duty free-type shops or the toilets until your letter is called (no more than 15min we found). Then you drive through passport control and into a queue before you go down the ramps and into the train itself, driving along the length of the train until it’s full in front of you. Then they shut some doors and you can laze around in or out of your car as it whisks you to France in about a half hour or so, then you drive right off onto the French motorways. With no crappy delays at any stage, really, unlike the ferries, which are always getting held up by something or other. Seriously, we heart the Eurotunnel, it’s the quickest, cheapest, and most efficient way across the channel.
On the way down, we wanted to get there as quick as possible so we just drove the most direct route, and the only hiccup was the lack of dinner. All of the autoroute restaurants and petrol station shops shut exactly at 10pm. That might sound reasonable to you, but remember that it’s still light outside at 10, there were like 30 other people wanting their dinner, and there was nothing else around. And did they really have to lock up the toilets and the vending machines at 10, too? Now that’s just cruel.
In any case, on our way back on Sunday we took the slightly longer coast route home, stopping in the charming seaside town of Etaples (though it was a bit of a ghost town on a Sunday afternoon) and the awesome roadside services at Aire de Baie de Sommes (near Abbeville on the A16). We kept lamenting “where was this place when we needed it on Friday night?” because not only did it have several restaurants, an ice cream stand, and a petrol station stocked with tons of fresh filled baguettes, salads, quiche, slices of pie, and sauccissons (with an included knife!!), but they also had a lovely wetland centre with places to walk around, a playground for kids, a picnic area separate from the car park traffic, and a motorhome hookup area, too! Honestly, this was the nicest roadside service area I’ve seen in any country!
Other Paris resources
- Isabelle’s guide to Paris fabric shops – I didn’t make it to all the shops on her list, so there’s something to look forward to next time!
- Not Martha’s recent series of posts on her Paris trip – covers all the touristy stuff and her plane journey, too, which weren’t really applicable to us (but might be for you)
- Lonely Planet Paris iPhone app – worth the money alone for the fact that the map and all the listings work without a pricey roaming internet connection!!
- RATP iPhone app – it’s quicker to load up their Metro map than to whip out a guidebook!
- Ten Delicious Things in Paris – where I discovered that Pierre Marcolini’s Paris store stocks the marshmallows that the London stores used to carry!
- French ETC – fantastic colloquial French language podcasts for brushing up on your French if it’s been a while, like me…