It Happened in Paris: Coming Home Blond

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It Happened in Paris: Coming Home Blond
In Paris, my first stop is La Pharmacie d’Île Saint-Louis. There, I buy fragrant powders, soaps, shampoo, hair-mask and conditioner, lotions for the body, lotions for hands, and separate lotions infused with essences that add a comfortable mile or two more to a day’s walk. La Pharmacie d’Île Saint-Louis has floor-to-ceiling shelves and self-standing displays of exquisite packages: subtle, feminine colors showing through cellophane, some embellished with ribbons in grosgrain or silk. Packages robust with golds of Versailles and Napoleon greens, printed, then embossed, on trim boxes that coax the imagination. The Pharmacie’s worn parquet floors, its distressed wooden shelves, its charm, are reminiscent of another era. This time, as I entered the back room, bright and clinically white, I thought I knew exactly what I was looking for. I met the proprietress with the proper midday greeting. “Bonjour, Madame,” I said. Madame, a few years my senior, dignified in her starched white medical coat, greeted me in kind with that classic singsong manner so beautifully spoken by a Parisienne. This will be good, I decided. I felt comfortable by her age, dignity and image of authority (the white coat?). I pointed to the packages on the lower shelf and, in my best French, asked to see a particular hair color. (Quite often, the sales clerk removes the package from its shelf on your behalf. Not you.) “Ce n’est pas pour vous, Madame,” I heard her say, (No, Madame. This is not for you!) “Madame, s’il vous plait, je souhaiterais avoir les cheveux châtains clairs,” (Madame, permit me if you please, I would like to have light brown hair,) I said. Our conversation immediately became a dynamic Creole, she speaking her best English and I my best French. “Madame,” she said, observing me closely. Her fingertips swept the air in undulating motions from my hair to my toes. “Madame, your hair, your eyes, your skin, your age,” she paused, “Madame, it is not for you!” I purchased the color she recommended, but for my roots only. I had not practiced a French phrase for touching up my roots, but using my fingertips I gestured with enthusiasm what it was I wanted. (When language and gesture fail me, I resort to sketchpad and pen.) Now we were on very good terms, exchanging pleasantries about our respective children, and Paris. Why not? It’s Paris! I read the package the best I could in French. No English. To ensure my hair wouldn’t fall out or turn an orangey-yellow-gold, I asked Madame to translate the directions for me. I listened carefully, hoping to remember later.  Madame guided me to the front of her store to select the lotions, creams and soaps she would add to the basket she carried for me. On the way home, my reflection in a shop window confirmed the need for my first touch up. Wine in glass at-the-ready on the bathroom sink, more towels than I could possibly require, shampoo at the edge of the bathtub with its cap removed ― everything I would need if it became necessary to make a course correction. I remembered the miming and negotiation with Madame at the pharmacie and got to work. Voilà! It blended beautifully. She was right. The texture. The shine. The look. I loved it. I went back to Madame for nine more packages of my new color. I loved visiting Paris and coming home different ― blond. The pharmacies of Paris, with their timelessness, totality of service, and honesty (“Madame, your age!”) are refreshing. One more excuse to visit Paris, as often as touch-ups are needed.   Barbara Redmond writes A Woman’s Paris™ for and about women who love Paris and France. Barbara, specializing in creating unique brand experiences, has been recognized for excellence in art by international and national organizations. She has brought A Woman’s Paris™ to the Alliance Française and hosts groups for discussions and private tours and workshops. Visit A Woman’s Paris™ to purchase fine art prints of Paris and for the complete version of Paris makeover: coming home blond. Please spread the word about Bonjour Paris and send an invitation to your friends to receive the newsletter.  In advance, thank you. If you’re coming to France (or for that matter anywhere) you can reserve your hotel here. To rent a car, Bonjour Paris recommends Auto Europe.
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