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I lived in sunny Southern California for so long that I don’t remember what seasons are, other than warm (75-85F) and cool (65-75F). I arrived in Paris in September to rain, so it was a temperate change, and with an umbrella, boots, and a raincoat, I was fine. There was definitely a difference in November as night fell earlier and the crispness in the air began to chill to the point of being cold, requiring layers of clothes and the very Parisian art of wearing scarves. Menus changed to include heartier dishes like soups and braises, and oysters started arriving at all the fishmongers and restaurant terraces.

My friends and I met for an afternoon meal and found five cafés at the Place du Marché Sainte Catherine, all with sheltered patios and heaters. Since all five cafés had variations of the same formule, or lunch special of entree+plat or plat+dessert for 14,50€ (about $20), we chose the one which had the plats we wanted the most that day. Open 7 days a week (a rarity in France), Le Marché is the one with the green patio at 2 Place du Marché Sainte Catherine 75004. We all ordered the lentils with saucisse, a cold weather comfort food staple. My dish could have been hotter, but the flavors were so good that we all scrapped every last bit of lentil with bread to clean our bowls.

One of my friends rarely eats red meat (yes, she is French, and yes, she ate the lentil & saucisse appetizer:), so she ordered the curry shrimp which smelled so good that I want to order it next time! The shrimp were lightly sautéed and it was a very generous portion for the price.

My other friend is as much of a fan of red meat as I am, so we both got the steak frites with green peppercorn sauce cooked bleu (almost raw). She said it should have been warm in the center, but I’ve only ever had a steak cooked bleu cool in the center. We both agreed it was better to have a steak arrive bleu and cool than warm and (to us) overcooked.

The green peppercorn sauce was divine and I used it more as a dip for my frites than as a sauce for my steak. The fries could have been crisper, but they were good enough that my shrimp curry eating friend ate half my portion.

I don’t watch much television here, but one of my friends recognized this guy (in black leather jacket seen in profile) at a neighboring table from a local television series. She waited until we were leaving to go up and talk to him and made his day by recognizing him in front of his friends!

We walked to the nearby Place de la République where numerous demonstrations are held and it seemed one was about to take place as a fleet of Gendarmes (police) were in formation with helmets and shields.

So we left the monument and went window shopping on nearby Rue Meslay, where wholesale stores sell shoes and clothes. A few will sell retail (look for a sign that says “detail”), but most sell only in lots or half lots. As in any business, if it’s a slow day and you have cash, you might be able to get what you want even if it’s not their official policy to sell individual items. You won’t find high end designer names here, but you might find something for a lot less than you would buy it for in a department store.

At the end of Rue Meslay, near the Strasbourg St. Denis Metro is this arch at the intersection of Blvd. Saint Martin and Rue Saint Martin.

A few blocks away at Rue St. Denis, this arch will remind you that this was one of the oldest streets in Paris, originally laid out by the Romans.

Keep in mind that the oldest profession is still practiced around this area, so if a young woman approaches you and acts very friendly, be aware that her company has a price.

My vices run more along the lines of food and wine (as anyone reading this blog already knows), so when author Laura Florand said Jacques Genin is her favorite chocolatier in Paris, I had to taste his wares. She writes romance novels about chocolatiers in Paris, so she has to do extensive research to make sure the details are on point. It’s a tough job, and I’m glad she has taken on the task so enthusiastically and thoroughly for the sake of her readers!

Jacques Genin’s shop is the inspiration for the shop that she wrote about in one of her books, The Chocolate Touch. There is a beautiful tea salon where you can taste the chocolates, caramels, and colorful jewel like pâtes de fruits, as well as one of the richest hot chocolates in Paris. Eat lunch somewhere nearby and come here for dessert.

I came for the chocolate and caramels so I got an assortment of both. The gray metal box which holds the chocolates is a great souvenir of the tastes you savored and can serve as your place to stash anything else you treasure after you’ve finished the treats inside it.

Of course the collection you chose for your box can be customized to your tastes and the presentation is as sophisticated as you would find if you bought fine jewelry.

The smallest box of nine cost 11€ (about $16 USD), but they offer boxes as big as a flat screen television, so you must decide on the appropriate size for your appetite 🙂

The newly reopened Santa Monica Place Mall is now an open air affair with a rooftop dining terrace that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Since I was at Sonoma Wine Garden for lunch (see yesterday’s post), I also wandered around the shops to see what was there besides the big name brands like Nike, Louis Vuitton, Kitson, Bloomingdales, and the soon to be opened Nordstrom’s.

I found Love Culture, a cross between forever 21 and H&M, geared for either teenagers or those who are budget conscious fashionistas. There was nothing in the store over $30, and although they don’t carry designer quality clothes, shoes and accessories, if you are looking for an outfit for one night, one day, or just as fun look, you really can’t go wrong here.

I got this hair clip for $3.90

I got this ring for $5.90

I got this necklace with matching earrings for $6.90

I got this dress for $13.90

Which all adds up to less than $35 (including 9.75% sales tax) for a completely accessorized outfit, and even adding shoes would have put this ensemble at under $60 out the door! Amazing! I didn’t realize how much I Love Culture until I saw the prices at this store; this is one place where price really is no object when it comes to fun fashion.

Ask any of my friends and they will tell you that I hate paying retail. Everyone loves a great deal, and when a brand you buy and love goes on sale for up to 80% off it is enough incentive to go shop. James Perse makes wonderfully soft casual clothes in the $50-$300 price range, so 80% off makes the prices go down to $10-$60! I love their t shirts which last forever and are my most travel friendly pieces since you can wear them alone or under a shirt as a layer, and yes they make clothes for men.

Even better than a sale is one which includes live music and the infamous Lake Street Creamery ice cream truck, you know the one which has donut flavored ice cream, (which can be scooped into a cherry soda to create a jelly donut float). All this starts today through Sunday at 585 Venice Blvd., Venice Beach, CA 90291 from 10am-7pm.

Just make sure you don’t eat so much ice cream that you can’t fit into your new clothes (or you can buy a larger size, just in case).

Galco’s Soda Pop Shop (trying saying that three times fast) makes small batches of 450 flavors of fizzy goodness. Do you love old fashioned cream sodas or root beer? Or are you more adventurous and want to try a spicy ginger or an aromatic rose soda? They carry Kosher, Diet, high energy, non carbonated, sugar (as in cane sugar), and 90 imported sodas, so you can buy the flavor you miss from home or from your latest vacation. If you want something truly exotic, they carry lemongrass, lavender, and a flavor called “Brain Wash Blue” all for very reasonable prices ($2-$3 a bottle). To minimize shipping costs they recommend you buy in multiples of 12 (a case) unless you live in Los Angeles and can stop by their retail store to pick up your order.

This next offer is so much better than the giveaway balloons that auto dealerships used to offer for test driving a new model car; Lucy is giving away THREE pairs of their essential socks for free if you stop by and try on a pair of the Hatha Power Pant (while supplies last) December 18-20, 2009.

Many people will be heading to the stores in malls this Friday for the biggest shopping day of the year, but as much as I love to shop, I also hate crowds. The best thing to do if you want great deals without the crowds is to shop locally in your neighborhood stores. So many of the great small shops have closed or are struggling these days, so if you want local shops, shop locally and enjoy a less crowded and more personal shopping experience.

Twist is having their first “Black Friday” sale, offering 25% off all things black, and $25 off all full size leather handbags if you simply mention the words “Black Friday Sale” before you pay for your purchases.

The Address Boutique is offering 50% off a second item of equal value or less, when you buy one. The sale starts Friday, goes on for three day, and includes everything except gift certificates, so load up on designer clothes, shoes, accessories and handbags.

If you want to shop for travel, go online to the Club Med website where they are having a sale from 6am-4pm EST (9am-1pm PST) on Friday with prices at three resorts for only $99 per adult and $60 per child, for an ALL inclusive vacation! When you keep in mind this includes meals and activities, this is truly a bargain. If you prefer to call, the call center 1-888-WEB CLUB will open at 9am EST (6am PST).

And finally if you want to save your money for something special, Friday is also the day when ING Direct will be having a savings sale, with special rates for one day only.

Spend or save? Maybe a little of both….

Twist is an eclectic shopper’s paradise about a block from Santa Monica Yoga on Ocean Park which offers everything a little or big girl might want in a store. Whether your style is Bohemian or Business Casual, you will find something here that you’ll want to take home. Prices are very reasonable with tops and dresses ranging from about $25-$75 each. I loved browsing the bracelets with inspiring sayings and knick knacks like gift appropriate key chains and pins with beatnik and mod designs. If you want something virginal, they carry adorable baby outfits, and if your taste is a bit racier, they have an adult costume section with naughty nurse outfits and invisible thongs. If you are in a crunch shopping for a gift for an adult or baby, this can be your one stop shopping trip because they also carry cards and gift wrapping right in the store.

They carry the Goal Digger line featuring t shirts that say, “Finding the right shoe can change your life, just ask Cinderella“, and caps that say, “Happiness is an Option” with pink rhinestones embedded into the wording. Buying wonderful items from a company whose motto is SHOES (Sisters Helping Others Embrace Success) is all about empowering and inspiring women. Do double duty by shopping to make yourself and someone else happy in one easy step, so to speak.

If you have $20 and some time today between 2-5pm, go to Moe’s in Brentwood to taste some Cabernet and cupcakes. Tastings are offered from the likes of a Rubicon Estate Cask 2005 or a Rombauer Diamond 2003 (and three other $50 Cabernets). And to test the theory of red wines with dessert, the wines will be served with some Susie’s cupcakes.

If you are in a mood to shop today, tomorrow, or Monday for some clothes that come from Hollywood Studios, head over to the Oscar Room in the Roosevelt Hotel where they are selling wardrobe items from movie sets from as little as $10 to thousands of dollars. You may find the shirt that your favorite actor or actress wore in your favorite film, or you may just find a great piece for your wardrobe at a great price. Part of the proceeds will benefit the child abuse organization Childhelp, so shop to your heart’s content and help a child find some peace.

Thred Up is the site for you if you have ever exchanged clothes with someone else who wears your size and has your sense of style. I’ve exchanged with girlfriends when I’ve gotten tired of a dress I’ve worn only once, for a friend’s pair of shoes that they got a great deal on, but are impossibly high for them to walk in for more than a block. It’s an old fashioned swap system, just like paperback swap or Netflix.

Let’s face the fact that we tend to wear only part of our closet, and this is especially true if you are a fashionista, a teenager, or changing careers. Would you like to get some new clothes to fit the latest version of you, but without having to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe? All you pay for with Thred Up are the envelopes to mail out your items. You can try out the system with three swaps for only $12.50!

You start by listing the items you want to make available in your own closet, then you pick out items you would like from another closet. Right now the system is only for shirts, but they are working on adding other items and even expanding the system for children’s clothes. The Thred Up system finds matches for everyone; when someone finds something in your closet, you send it out to them; when something you want is found in someone else’s closet, it is sent out to you! It goes without saying (I hope) that items should be clean, stain and odor free and in excellent condition. Their motto is the golden rule; send only what you would want to receive. If you love what you receive, you keep it, if you don’t, put it back out into the system so it can find another home. This is one case of karma working almost instantly, if you receive something that belongs in a the trash, they will credit you a shirt and immediately reprimand the sender. They also have a points rating system for overall feedback and stylie points for promotional rewards.

Getting three shirts for only $12.50 in your size and your style is one of the best deals I have found; if you can find a better deal, let me know about it and I’ll post it!

Last week My friend Cindy came into town for her birthday with her husband’s credit card, so to get the most for her money, we headed over to the consignment resale stores, Great Labels and The Address.

We started at The Address where I found a brand new gorgeous black Armani gown for $300 that still had the tags on showing a retail price of $1,680; a timeless designer classic for $300 is a great value. Other items ranged from about $50 for a Trina Turk top to Manolos for $200. They have a sale section in the back that offers even more savings of up to 50% off shoes, purses, and clothes. Cindy bought me a beautiful Christiana purse for $35 that I would not buy for myself. It’s nice surprise to get a present when it’s someone else’s birthday.

One block away, Great Labels has even more fabulous buys, especially in their back section where items are 75% off their already discounted prices. Cindy found all her birthday presents at Great Labels. Her husband’s birthday present to her that day were a pair of Dolce Gabbana heels with a multicolor floral print and ribbon ties that she got for $200, and a pair of Chanel classic black pumps she got for $100. She got both pairs at an even greater discount by asking if they could do any better on the prices. Depending on the length of time they had been in the store, they can sometimes give you an even better price than what is marked on the tag. The store carries some excellent Chanel suits and business type clothes, like cashmere Donna Karan twin sets for $50, but I loved their evening clothes like the embroidered and sequined bustier I found for $500 that still had a retail tag of $1,850 attached to it.

It’s a good thing Cindy asked if there was a spending limit on her birthday credit card only after we left the shop:)

Happy Bastille Day!

Since I did not go out to eat at a French restaurant today, I decided to go shopping for something in the spirit of France and wound up at Forplay in Hollywood. Not only do they carry fun lingerie at prices that won’t break your piggy bank ($30-$60 for complete outfits), but they have great clubwear for a night out, costumes for Halloween (never too early to shop) or just to play a girl scout, nurse or pirate for fun, and shoes from stripper heights of 6 1/2″ to more modest 4″ mules. Forplay is a bit like Fredrick’s down the street, but with more imaginative choices and slightly better quality.

If you are in the mood to splurge on the real deal, head south to Melrose and go to Kiki De Montparnasse. They carry the truly fine French lingerie that also carries the truly high price tags of about $200 for a bra or panty. They also have some playful underwear for $65 that have French “instructions” on them teaching you what to say to your lover, like “Fesse-moi” (spank me). Unless you shop their sale, you won’t find much clothing here under $100. The store is fabulous, with fun gifts ranging from soaps and candles to toys and blindfolds, so you can be as wild or mild (they carry a book by Helmut Newton and DVDs like Roman Holiday) as you wish with your partner and your pleasures. This shop is better than an erotic museum with it’s scope and variety of art, styles, and tastes (literally, they carry chocolate sauces). The added benefit here is that you can buy and take home your favorite things!

Vive la difference! After all Bastille Day was all about freedom of choice:)




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