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So far, I haven’t done tons of shopping. Some, but mostly on my way to somewhere else. I didn’t come to Paris to shop; I can do that at home. And I’ve been disappointed in my gift shopping until this week because I haven’t been able to find any items that said “Paris” to me or that were unusual, just mostly cheap crap. Or expensive crap!

In my wandering around, I’ve found that there are cool shops, but rarely clustered together. And by good shopping, naturally I mean being able to find the kind of items I personally like:  great quality, something unique about it, at decent prices. I hate cheap; I really do. I’d much rather pay $300 for a great handbag than $10 for a cheap one. But I also think many things cost way too much, especially clothes. Which is why I do so much shopping at home at TJ Maxx:  I love Moschino and Nanette Lepore, but I’d never pony up retail for them. So now that you know what my general approach to shopping is, I’ll add another two rules I’ve instituted for shopping in Paris … it must be French and it can’t be something that I could get easily at home.

Here are some of the areas and/or shops I’ve hit in the past week.

Rue Alesia, 14th — There are quite a few discount and outlet stores here, but I found Rue Alesia rather lackluster. Yes, some of the stores were on holiday for August. There’s a Sonia Rykiel store, but it’s still very pricey. The rest of the stores, meh. There were some nice lingerie stores, but I’m not sure the prices were discount. Anytime panties are $50, I don’t think of that as discount shopping. There was a cool antique furniture store at 117 Rue Alesia, though. A plaster bust I might have bought there if it wouldn’t also be a fortune to ship home.

Reciproque in the 8th, Rue du Pompes. Best vintage store ever. Top, high-end vintage clothing and also more some bridge lines. Prices are high for vintage, but it’s huge and there’s absolutely zero crap. It’s also thoughtfully organized, sometimes by designer but also sometimes by size, which I found more helpful, since my size 42 (10-12) is less common in Paris. Reciproque is spread out over about 5 small store fronts, sort of a complex. Men’s in one building, women’s in another, handbags in another, etc. I scored a pair of Prada sandals and an Escada handbag, both at 30% off their vintage/used price. Still thinking about a dress I found there. Excellent service, too, despite the fact that they spoke not a lick of English. Even though I asked in French if they were open on Saturday, the guy in the men’s store acted out their hours for me with hand gestures showing sleeping on Sunday and Monday. Which made me smile, and say, “Vous n’êtes fermé le dimanche?” (You’re closed on Sunday?) I couldn’t resist. But he was so sweet!

Rue Beaurepaire, the 10th, off Republique square. This was a pretty good cluster of clothing shops here. Ekyog, Liza Korn, IDDK, etc. Many of them were closed for the August holidays, but there’s a great little gift shop, Ideco, where I got some items. Also one of my favorite shops so far in all of Paris, Bazar Ethic at #25. A mix of items from women’s and men’s clothing, women’s shoes, baby items, accessories and more, with all items being eco-friendly. Best of all, the owners just have really good taste. Everything is unusual, well-made and cool. Prices are not cheap but they’re reasonable, especially by Paris standards. I scored a really unusual casual dress for about $130 American. And there was a very cool rubber briefcase for about $200, just to give you an idea. They also had some of the same baby line that Kate Middleton chose, and it was really nice baby stuff. Whimsical and classy; not cloying or cute at all. A woman and her 25ish daughter own this store together. They are both friendly and kind. No pressure, very helpful, plus they both speak very good English.

The Marche Creation (the Bastille Artists Market), border of 11th and 4th. Located just off the Bastille Metro Stop on Boulevard Richard Lenoir, same place as the Bastille food market. I was at first disappointed to see that probably 2/3rds of the stands were empty. That whole August-in-Paris thing. Supposedly they’ll be back next week. But there were still about 20 stands open, so I decided to hit them anyway. Glad I did. Some of the best stuff I’ve seen in Paris for gifts, all handmade and original. Not all of it was to my liking, but there was zero cheap crap. I’ll be giving more details after I get home, but I don’t want to spoil my gifts. Great, great stuff, though. Exactly what I’ve been looking for. And I met a couple amazingly talented women artisans there. Even if I hadn’t bought anything, it would have been worth the visit to meet them and talk about their work.

The Kookai outlet, 82 Rue Reaumur, the 2nd. Nice store. Big. Discount items from last season mixed in with the current collection at regular prices. Some good deals on the discount stuff, but it seemed pretty picked over. Much cooler items in the regular store. This could just be because of the time of year, though. Pretty late, even for discounted summer stuff.

Rue Oberkampf, the 10th. Maybe I missed the “trendy” area, but I walked for quite a ways on Rue Oberkampf and didn’t see any shops that I thought were all that hot. In fact, I barely saw any shops at all.

Galleries Lafayette, the 9th. Actually liked this department store far better than the Bon Marche. Better selection. Just as pricey and less snotty. Plus the ironwork was done by Louis Marjorelle! Biggest selection of shoes in one place I’ve ever seen anywhere in my life … like, a whole football field’s worth of shoes. But I didn’t buy anything; too expensive. Some gift/souvenir items on the top floor but they didn’t seem special and they also seemed overpriced.

Also, see my earlier post on the excellent shopping on Rue du Rosiers in the Marais.