Parisian Chic on a Budget

Post by guest contributor : Isabel Clift is a travel writer living in London. She tweets at @Isabel_Clift

Think Parisian chic can only be done on an unlimited budget? Mais non. Once you’ve got your cheap hotel in Paris sorted, here are eight places to go for chic on cheap in the City of Love…

Rue Michal (2)

Photo : Jean François Gornet

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Christmas Sparkles in the City of Lights

Christmas Sparkles in the City of Lights

By contributor Jenny Bailey

Given its reputation as the City of Lights, it’s no surprise that Paris really comes alive during the festive season, when Christmas lights illuminate the streets and major sights. For much of the year it’s the Eiffel Tower that offers the greatest helping of sparkle; come winter time, the rest of Paris gets to join in. These are some of the best places to soak up the Parisian Christmas lights this year:

Paris Lights by Dalbera

Champs-Élysées
Offering one of the grandest stretches of festive lighting in Paris, the Champs-Élysées is lit up in pretty colours from November through to early January. The 450 trees which line this famous French avenue are hung with tiny fairy lights, all the way from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe; a spectacle often referred to as les illuminations. Taking a stroll here when the lights are up can make you feel like you’ve stepped right into a Christmas card.
Notre Dame
Every year a huge Christmas tree is erected beneath the intricate gothic façade of the Notre Dame Cathedral, often standing more than 20 metres high. Resplendent in decorations and bright with festive lights, this is a special seasonal scene which should not be missed. You can choose to attend a service, or experience the annual nativity sound and light show projected regularly within the nave. Either way, a visit to Notre Dame will undoubtedly provide a hearty addition to that overall Christmas feeling.

Disney Christmas Lights by Edwart Visser

Disneyland ParisNotre Dame
The festive season is already underway at Paris Disneyland. The entire park has been transformed into a winter wonderland – complete with ice-skating rink, fake snow, and a giant Christmas tree. There are colourful lights adorning every building, including Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, which is especially sparkly at this time of year. In true Eurodisney Paris style, every day of December feels like Christmas, and there are special events happening daily. However, it’s after the sun goes down and the lights come on that the park really becomes enchanting.

Department Store Lights by Patrick Janicek

Boulevard Haussmann
Department stores around the world tend to be at their most magical during the Christmas season, and this is certainly the case in Paris. While most shops will get into the spirit of things, it’s the department stores of Boulevard Haussmann which offer some of the most decorative Christmas window displays. For almost half a century the capital’s grandest stores, including Printemps and the Galeries Lafayette, have been renowned for their incredible window displays and decorations. In fact, every year the exterior façade of Galeries Lafayette is decked out in over 150,000 lights, making it a popular annual spectacle.

So, whether you’re ice-skating with the kids at Paris Disneyland, or Christmas shopping in the heart of the city, you’ll find Paris certainly lives up to its name as the City of Lights.

Costs you a quarter!

A quarter is 25 cents of American change… it used to be that you could purchase things for a quarter or under a quarter. Not anymore really.

Let’s see…

In 1942 you could get a bottle of Coca Cola for 5 cents.

In 1955 you could get fresh roasted penauts at Ebbet’s Field to watch a Dodgers baseball game, for 10 cents!

This guys says that if you have a 25 cent piece minted pre-1965 it’s actually worth 8 bucks! So I guess you can sort of get a couple of gallons of gas for a quarter, as he points out.

In 1978 a 1.2 oz chocolate Hershey’s bar cost 25 cents.

But this is 2011, and I live in Paris, one of the most expensive cities in the world… so imagine my utter astoniqhment when I saw something for under 25 €ents! A bottle of water, folks. For 20 cents. I couldn’t believe it. Especially because they cost 2 whole euros when you purchase a bottle of Evian in a vending machine.

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I found this at the Galaries Lafayette Gourmet boutique OF ALL PLACES TOO!!! Not a place where you will find lower priced groceries by any means! So hip-hip-hooray for the Gal-Laf for putting something on the shelf that is priced at a cost that is reasonable and accessible to everyone. It’s so accessible that as I was leaving the department store to go grab the bus, I saw a clandestine street vendor with a bucket full of ice water and those very same water bottles… his price? 1€.

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I still wasn't convinced it was 20cents until I paid. Photo proof! :)

Oh and just for comparisons sake to put things in perspective… at the Galaries Lafayette store, you can also get what looks like a gallon of Nutella…for 39€. It’s a balancing act, right?!? LOL!!!
NutellaGallon

Oh, and FYI… You don’t have to pay for water in Paris… when you order a meal or a drink at a restaurant or a café, you may ask for a “carafe d’eau” and it’s free. You can also fill up your own water bottle for free at the Wallace fountains that are scattered around the city!

It’s begining to look a lot like…

Noël!

The Galaries Lafayette dresses up real snazzy for the holidays.

The famous “vitrines de noël” this year are themed : “Show Chaud Noël” (meaning Hot Show Christmas) and features scenes from musical shows with show tunes playingover loud speakers and small bears and dolls as the characters.

It’s fun for the whole family!

(Maybe somone complained over last years windows…they were a little provocative).

Well here’s a peak!

Bring the kids to see the “vitrines” it’s fun and free, and there is even a special place made just for the little ones to get a good view right in front of the windows. Boulevard Haussmann, Métro station Chaussée d’Antin-Lafayette.

Fall fashion moment – Minute mode automnal

The Galaries Lafeyette holds Friday fashion shows on their top floor for the visiting fashionistas and shoppers of the world.

It’s a great way to get ideas before you head out shopping (they are hoping you’ll do so in their department store) for what is hot in the current season. You’ll see picks and selections of what was shown on the runways put together with shoes and labeled for you in a program flyer with the specific floor indicated where you will find the items in the store. Set to music with lighting, beautiful models and a catwalk that curls around the entire room so that everyone can get a glance at the frocks, this is a fun activity to do amongst girlfriends or to bring your out-of-town visitors to for a taste of the Paris fashion culture.

(I posted the link below to find out how to attend)

Here’s a few of my picks from this seasons panorama :

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Red Valentino FW1011

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Diane Von Furstenberg

 

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Rue du Mail

 

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John Galliano

 

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Class Cavalli

 

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Vivienne Westwood

 

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Catherine Malandrino

 

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Paul Smith

 

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Cymbeline (on her)

This season focuses as you can see on the contrast of warm darks and bright colors, soaft blacks,  reds, vibrant pinks etc…

Here you will find the instructions in English with an email and phone number to reserve (reservations a must). This collection will be shown until about February 2011 I believe.

(Also I didn’t watch the names fro each designer as I was juggling a camera…if you have any notion of some of the designers for the pics without a caption, leave  it as a comment. Thanks!)