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There are as many cliché souvenirs in Paris as there are tourists. No matter if it’s scaled down versions of Tour de Eiffel, I <3 Paris t-shirts or berets, there are plenty of ways to throw your money away in the City of Light. Rather than take home something that will end up in the bottom of a drawer, why not purchase something different? Whether taking a bit of France home for yourself or for a loved one, step outside of the trinket shops for something that’s as special as the city itself.
Hand-Made Art in Montmartre
Montmartre was once the stomping grounds for Picasso, van Gogh and Matisse. Today, the village in Paris’s 18th arrondissement is still a haven for the creatively inclined. On the weekends, Place du Tertre is full of artists selling their wares. With easels set up in rows, artists can paint a portrait on the spot or you can choose your favorite Parisian cityscape. Some artists are better than others, and there are a variety of styles. Just look around and find something that speaks to you. I often recommend people wanting a budget piece of art to look at Montmartre on the weekends, because you can be certain that what you’re purchasing was actually created by the artist in front of you. The same can’t be said for other ‘artists’ peddling canvases around the city.
There’s not a brand that embodies Paris to me more than Hermès, and nothing is more Parisian than a scarf. It only makes sense to combine the two. I’ve got a small addiction to these hand-rolled silk beauties; I’m not going to lie. I love hunting for vintage Hermès in the antiques markets of Saint-Ouen, but if you don’t have time, just pop into the brand’s flagship store at 24 rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré (8th arrondissement).
The scarves are more than just gorgeous; they are full of symbolism and history. Ask about the artist and design before choosing. Some are special editions, like the “Promenade à Versailles” scarf. The Versailles gardens, as well as the most iconic sights of the palace, inspired this limited edition scarf. Made in conjunction with the Palace of Versailles, proceeds will help in the restoration of the palace apartments. These stylish works of art are available pre-order, with delivery or pick-up beginning on December 1st, 2015.
Astier de Villatte Candles
I first spotted the candles made by Astier de Villatte in Publicis Drugstore on the Champs-Élysées. With names like rue Saint Honoré, Opéra and Commune de Paris, I thought it was kitsch. However, when I started sniffing the various scents, I realized they smell great, too. Don’t worry. The fragrance isn’t literally like the destination they’re named after, but they certainly embody the spirit. One strike of a match and you’re transported back to the City of Light. The candles burn approximately 60 hours and come in hand-blown glass from Tuscany. For more than candles, visit Astier de Villatte’s store at 173 rue Saint Honoré (1st arrondissement). They also have beautiful ceramics, cutlery and glasses.
Kasia Dietz Handbags
I have a confession: Kasia Dietz is a friend of mine. With that being said, even if I didn’t know her personally, I’d still love her bags. Kasia is a native New Yorker, but has been living in Paris for six years. Her limited edition bags are all designed and made in Paris. Inspired by art and travel, these versatile bags and totes are reversible and perfect everyday use. I’m smitten with her hand-painted designs, particularly the ‘rive droite’ tote, which means ‘right bank’ in French. Kasia Dietz Handbags are available at Ofr (20, rue Dupetit-Thouars, 3rd), Aoshida (117 rue Saint-Dominique, 7th) or online.
Not your average condiment, Maille has been making mustard since 1747. It was when I visited the original Maille boutique in Dijon that I officially became a mustard connoisseur. With the help of a mustard sommelier, I attempted to taste the 84 different kinds. From classic flavors like the original Dijon to gourmet flavors such as mustard with white wine, mangoes, and Thai spices, there is bound to be something you’ll like. Much like French fashion houses, Maille also presents spring/summer and fall/winter collections that perfectly match with the seasons’ flavors. Even more special are the mustards on tap. Sandstone jars are filled directly from porcelain taps and closed using oversized cork top. The black truffle and Chablis mustard is addictive, which is why you must stock up when it’s in season. Visit the Maille shops near Madeleine (6 Place de la Madeleine, 8th) or the Carrousel du Louvre.
Lead photo credit : Art in Montmartre by Leah Walker