Shopping for gifts in France is a pure delight any time of year, but that’s especially true during the Christmas season! Not surprisingly, the French expression for window shopping is “leche-vitrine” – window licking, a nod to enticing displays of food, fashion and must-have treasures. Every French city and village seems to tap from a deep well of creative artisans, farm-fresh delicacies, regional wines and cherished keepsakes from every age and era. You’ll gain equal pleasure from searching rural shops, local markets and sophisticated salons of the city.
Let’s begin with a little shopping escapade in Paris. At the lively square surrounding Sacre Cœur, artists display oils and acrylics, pastels and watercolors with every price and subject range. You’ll also discover their talent for salesmanship, as you pass one customer after another posing for an on-the-spot portrait.
After you have explored art and souvenirs, literally step down to the base of Montmartre to shop for out-of-the-ordinary gifts. You will find yourself in the center of the textile district with more elegant and original fabric choices than you could imagine. Choose rich brocade for your sister’s favorite chair, or an intricate jacquard for a friend’s table. Pleated silks, handsome tapestries, delicately jeweled fabrics and simple cotton lace panels deliver every color, texture and taste to satisfy your search.
In the Marais district, tiny boutiques and delightful brocantes provide the designer touch to purses and kitchen accessories, jewelry and hand-crafted papers. Clothing selections present the distinct flair of French creators who are not the least bit afraid of mixing humor with rule-breaking design elements. If your budget allows, the haute couture salons along rue St. Honoré du Fauborg and Avenue Montaigne showcase Hermès and Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel and Christian Dior.
The rest of France also stands ready to answer your gift-shopping needs. Throughout Provence in the South, think vivid color, lavender scents and fresh bee honey, olive oils, truffles and pungent mustards. You name it, and the French have surely perfected the use of their many resources from the land.
Table linens and pottery (faience) reflect the colors of the countryside. In local and artisan markets and in petite shops from Nimes and Aix-en-Provence to Bandol and Gordes, bright colors and designs splash across tablecloths, curtains, kitchen ware and serving pieces. Moustiers-Sainte- Marie, Giens and Quimper (in Brittany) are among the faience and porcelain masters with designs dating to the 17th and 18th century and beyond.
Finally, there’s nothing quite like turning here and there along country roads to find the next little town or village with local products. You can pick up precious porcelain, books, brass or lace at the small antique shop in Bracieux. A shop in Vouvray sells antique wine glasses along with their fine table wines, and tourism offices can point the way to special artisans and shops in their distinct area. Without question, shopping for gifts in France will offer more pleasure to you than to your fortunate gift recipients, especially when you present your unique shopping stories with your gift!
And if you happen to be looking for French-themed original gifts, we would love for you to shop in our boutique!