Posted by on Nov 28, 2010 in Uncategorized | 4 comments

So I’m glad I enjoyed the first musician that I saw last week when I passed the Eiffel Tower at night because I have to say, after you see at least 3 a day, the magic wears off somewhat! It appears that playing music on the metro is a VERY popular way to make money. From violins to accordions, they are everywhere.

Moving on, this week I went to the Champs-Élysées and I would like to share with you some of the magic that is Christmas time in this area. For those who have never been there, the Champs-Élysées is a prestigious avenue in France lined with cafés and luxury shops. The avenue begins at one end with the Arc de Triomphe which is a monument built to honour those who fought in the Napoleonic wars.

Arc de Triomphe with some tourists posing for another camera

Street performers near the Arc de Triomphe

From that end, as you look down the avenue which is about 2kms long, you get a view something like this:

Avenue des Champs-Élysées

According to Wikipedia, this avenue is the 2nd most expensive strip of real estate in the world (after Bond Street, London). The shops along there reflect it! The Champs-Élysées is home to the largest Louis Vuitton store I have ever seen.

Louis Vuitton

The Louis Vuitton brand is estimated to be worth US$ 19.78 billion. With simple  handbags averaging a cool US$ 1000, when you see the number of people walking out of this store holding giant LV shopping bags, it is almost easy to believe. I myself have never understood the obsession of their loud monogram, but I am one of few in this regard. Another famous store to make it to the Champs-Élysées is of course the omnipresent…

Notice that it is quite a bit more glamorous than usual in keeping with the location!

Having been fortunate to travel to many parts of the world, I have tried a lot of different ice creams. I am of the opinion that Häagen-Dazs is the best.

On that particular day, I had the Caramel Biscuit and Cream which I highly recommend (along with pretty much all their other flavours). It’s hard to see but at the top of the sign, a warning is written in French – for your health, regularly exercise! Interestingly, the other Häagen-Dazs I’ve seen is located next door to a Fitness First. I wish my gym had Häagen-Dazs next door!

An example of a mistranslated sign. Look out for many, many more of these! I suppose I shouldn’t laugh too much, I’m sure this is what my French sounds like when I look up every other word in the dictionary. The next interesting store I took a photo of was Swarovski which had a giant sparkly staircase leading to their second floor. Bearing in mind the cost of their products, these clearly were not real crystals!

Swarovski staircase

The Champs-Élysées is home to many more equally interesting stores but I’ll leave you with just these few. Skipping ahead to the end of the avenue, we noticed what seemed to be a market place. Being new to the area, I’m not sure if they’re permanent but I believe it’s a temporary Christmas thing. Another good stretch of land is full of little stalls selling all kinds of goodies including food, drink and warm clothing.

Market stalls from one side of the street

Out of many, many stalls, there was only one selling cupcakes. I think Maryam’s Kitchen might actually be a hit! Tiny croissant, Eiffel Tower and beret cupcakes, I can see it already…

The single cupcake stall

Every 4th stall seemed to be selling hot waffles and/or crepes. This particular one also had toffee apples and like most others, sold vin chaud (hot wine) which seems to be very popular.

Waffle and crepe stall

When the munchies set it on that particular day, we opted for hot churros with cinnamon sugar instead.

Fresh churros being made

Another popular stall option is chocolate coated anything. And what a choice they had!

Chocolate coated apples & bananas

They also had other fruits such as mandarin segments on sticks as well as non-fruit options including about 5 marshmallows on a stick entirely coated in chocolate, nut clusters in the shape of bananas and many more. This is certainly one way to increase your daily fruit intake, which, if I recall correctly, is 5 pieces!

Chocolate coated marshmallow sticks

For the hot chocolate lovers – blocks of chocolate attached to spoons. Simply stir into hot milk and enjoy!

Finally, on our return to the metro through the Champs-Élysées, we passed the legendary Ladurée.

Macaron tower on display

For those who haven’t heard of it, Ladurée is a famous patisserie renowned for their macarons. They sell a reported 12 000 of them everyday! My first Ladurée experience consisted of 6 flavours (shared with 3 others by the way!) – chocolate, pistachio, raspberry, praline, coffee and salted caramel. These cost a rather steep €8 considering they were only about 4cm in diameter. It sounds cheesy but the experience was truly sublime. I look forward to many, many more encounters!

With this delectable patisserie in mind, I shall conclude this week’s entry. Those who know me well will wonder how I managed to confine my love for macarons to one paragraph and image. Answer? I intend to devote an entire week’s entry to them in the future! For the benefit of my readers, I would of course have to give the most informed reporting of the subject I can, and to do so would require extensive tasting on my part, a task I will apply myself to with the utmost diligence!