The land I know and almost love – the one east of the 30, that is, is a sham. A cardboard cutout, a mirror image, a Romford Rolex or a Chinese Calvin Klein. Here, in the birthplaces of the iconic names in food, wine and fashion, chic has a totally different connotation and is not exportable. Copied, transplanted, yes. The real deal somehow floats effortlessly above all attempts at plagiarism, even with the right labels. Buying Louis Vuitton in an airconditioned bus station somewhere off the Sixth Ring doesn’t quite have the same cachet as buying it at the iconic architectural masterpiece at 101, avenue des Champs-Elysées. As a matter of interest, I ran across a 1920’s Louis Vuitton trunk in a B&B in Burgundy the other week, complete with the name of the original owner on the front and its own unique lock with hand-made brass key. At auction, it would have fetched the price of a modest house.
Shopping (window or otherwise) in and around Place Madeleine – yes, it’s the Magdala again; amazing how she seeps in and out of my consciousness – reminds me how lumpen and oafish I really am. Coffee at the original Fauchon. A tea shop containing possibly five hundred different varieties of tea, a crowd gathering outside the discreet caviar store where 1kg of best grey Caspian sells for 3500 euros, to watch the sturgeon swimming in the aquarium window, a fish I have to admit I have never ever seen in the flesh. A shop selling over a hundred different varieties of mustard.
I had to go into the church and restore balance. It’s a beautiful building – I missed the free concert by an hour – a Romanian choir were doing Byrd, Mozart and Fauré. Never mind, Verdi’s Requiem is being sung there later in the month.
Food at one of Paris’ little secrets. At 7:30, I nodded to the maître d’ and secured what looked like the last available table. Simple French food, no frills at a price that didn’t make the eyes water. When I walked out, a hundred people were waiting in line. I swallowed my pride, pretended to be a tourist and photographed the napkin.