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PRINTEMPS, THE DEPARTMENT STORY

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I’m crazy about Printemps. Not the season, the department store in Paris.

Crazy is the operative word here in light of what I am about to confess. But I bet I’m not alone. Would all closet Printemps addicts please come forward and tell your story?

Mine begins with the booking of my airline flight. I must arrive in Paris on a Thursday, not on Monday, nor on Tuesday. Sunday won’t work either. A mid-afternoon arrival is perfect. I get settled in my hotel, clean up a bit and hop on the Metro. Destination: Havre Caumartin station.

Do you get the picture, see where I’m going with this? Thursday happens to be the day that Printemps is open late, very late, until ten, in fact. Is there a better way to detox after eleven hours in the air? I don’t think so.

First stop is the tearoom, Laduree on Level One of Printemps de la Mode, for some exquisite caffeine and something sweet. I call it fortification.

Now it’s time for exercise. There are three buildings to explore, connected by indoor walkways. Figure five hours of shopping, burning approximately two hundred calories per hour. The number varies according to how much “trying on” you do.
Some women never make it out of Printemps de la Mode. Seven floors of classic, chic, traditional or trendy, hot, quality goods for females.

I sometimes blow half of my allotted shopping time on the ground floor alone, committed to a thorough examination of all Accessories. American women could learn a thing or two from the French about accessorizing. Take scarves, for example, a wardrobe staple every season in France. Printemps has an exceptional scarf department. My first card-swipe of the day is usually done here. A silk Marc Rosier or luscious blue Pashmina. Yummy clothing for the neck. Gloves? These are really cool but will I ever wear them back home? Probably not. Let’s move on to purses. This may take a while, but don’t get stuck. It’s time to take the escalator up.

Oh, before you do, a word to the wise. If you need new underwear, plan to come back another day, because there is a whole floor of it called Lingerie. Undergarments is another area in which the French excel, but you need real time and patience to comb through the vastness of the selection. Shopping for bras in Paris is a very cool thing to do.

Back to the escalator, I know exactly where I’m going, directly up to floor six, no matter what grabs my attention while gliding up past one, two, three, four or five. This is the shoe floor and my undoing. Around and around and around I go, assessing, caressing and slipping on thirty thousand square feet of footwear. I generally don’t buy anything the first pass. I make mental notes. I think about it for a day or two, trying to decide which of the twenty pairs of shoes I am obsessing over, I should buy. I do set limits, but rarely adhere to them. What is the right amount? As many as you absolutely can’t do without.

I average four pairs a trip. That doesn’t sound excessive, does it? Especially when you take into consideration the fact that I have two grown daughters and our feet are close in size. At least one of my purchases always ends up in someone else’s closet.
Shoe shopping of this magnitude invariably leads to exhaustion and it could be time to have a bite to eat in one of the Printemps restaurants. How about some third-floor sushi at Baramaki or standard French fare under the 1924 Art Nouveau cupola.

By now I’m sure all this is beginning to sound like a very decadant experience, but believe me, you get used to it. This is the time to pace yourself and ask the question, “How much quality shopping time do I have left in me, before I succumb to travel day brain-fry?” Maybe it’s better to stop now and come back fresh another day.

It might be easier to breeze through the clothing floors after a good night’s sleep, then pop over to Printemps de la Beaute et Maison. Skin care and beauty products don’t really do it for me, but the amount of square footage devoted to this sector suggests that I might be in the minority. However, the home furnishing floors I find charming. Crystal, porcelain, silver and linens, cottage-style crockery, Provencal placemats, coffee cups and cake-cutters and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Now don’t you feel smart, having packed an extra foldable nylon duffel bag, “just in case”? Looks like you’re gonna need it. Just one more thing. Printemps de l’ Homme. Buy your Dad a tie.



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