travelknitter’s guide to Paris

Needless to say, I had the most amazing time in Paris.  I had no idea that I was going to love the city so much.  I mean, I figured it was going to be pretty great – one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world.  I was just so surprised at my reaction though – I was practically in tears when the time came to leave, I wanted so much to stay. I really did have the best five days ever.

So, what to post on the blog?

I pretty much spent the whole time on my feet, hitting the streets and shops.  I had every intention of buying certain amounts of to-be-found-only-in-France yarn to bring back as a souvenir of my trip.  So did I buy yarn in Paris?  Nope!  Not a single, solitary skein.  And why was that?  I blame Alice.  I’ll get to the reason why.

One of the definite shops to hit was Le Bon Marche.  Their 3rd floor mercerie is well-renowned, so I had to check it out.  They’ve got a great range of a number of yarn brands, such as Rowan and Noro, as well as some less familiar in the UK, like Bouton D’Or, Annie Blatt, Phildar, and Plassard.  The yarns are presented beautifully in wooden shelves, with not a skein out of place.  The store was divided up according to brand, so that each yarn brand had a section like this:

The whole store seemed to be very ‘hushed’ so I wasn’t sure if taking pictures would cause a stir, but I got away with it.

They also had a great button section, but I managed to restrain myself:

Anyway I was pottering around, thinking about buying some lovely chocolate coloured alpaca yarn, when I heard a familiar voice.  I’ve got terrible eyesight, so I was squinting a bit, but still couldn’t quite believe that standing in front of me, in Paris, completely at random, was Alice and a friend (also called Alice).  Poor thing, she was wondering why on earth there was some woman in the yarn store staring at her!

After I recovered from the shock of seeing a London knitting friend in Paris, Alice pulled out of her bag her latest project:  a laceweight scarf made from the most divine red Louet Mooi.  Oh, it is so soft!  I draped it around my neck without a single prickle.  From that moment it became my dream yarn, so I decided not to buy anything else until Alice gets the Mooi in her store later this month.

Even though I didn’t buy any yarn, I still managed to fit in quite a bit of yarn-related shopping:

The first yarn store I visited was Boutique du Comptoir (26 rue Cadet, 9th arr).   It is a cute but tiny shop.  Sadly only half the store is dedicated to yarn but what they have is lovely (Rowan, Noro, Habu etc).  Again the yarns were laid out in wooden cube shelving, but mostly too high to touch.  Not so good for encouraging impulse purchases.

Next up on the yarn store tour of Paris was Entree Des Fournisseurs (in the courtyard off 8 rue des Francs Bourgeois, 3rd arr).

This place is lovely.  Their knitting section has quite a focus on baby items, and they had the most gorgeous knits on display – think handknit children’s jackets lined with Liberty print fabric.  Gorgeous stuff.  They also had the best range of buttons that I saw in Paris – so much so that I went there twice!  The buttons aren’t cheap though, so I restrained myself from stocking up ‘just because’.  I was on a specific button finding mission.

Another one of my finds was Pappo Paulin (47 rue du Caire, 2nd arr). I’d seen a reference to this shop somewhere on the internet, but I’ve now lost the link.  I had a great time wandering around the local area, as it’s very much in the rag trade district, surrounded by wholesalers of clothing, jewellery, and all sorts of bits and bobs.

I went in with the aim of finding the perfect buttons for my Coraline cardi.  Whilst the store is a general  haberdashery, with beads, ribbons, etc, they had a pretty good range of buttons too.  My Coraline’s in quite a tricky shade of green, so I was really struggling to find just the thing.  I met the lovely store owner, Pierre, who was kind enough to help me out.  He led me out the back, down a precarious set of stairs, with the warning, “it’s very French…” and showed me to the Basement o’ Buttons:

It was quite something!  I had great fun rummaging through the dusty old drawers.

Fellow Raveller Anne kindly volunteered to meet me for lunch one day on my trip, and she certainly picked a good spot.  We went to Presto Fresco which has the largest salads I’ve ever seen.  I had some sensational vegetarian ravioli, which was as fresh as pasta can be.  We also got free samples of their strawberry wine.  Mmmm.

Not only does Presto Fresco  do brilliant food,  it’s also around the corner from supreme mercerie, La Droguerie (9 rue du Jour, 1st arr), the name of which is spoken in hushed tones in knitting circles.  I was so intrigued about all the stories I’d heard, but once I set foot inside, I was very very glad to have Anne with me to guide the way!   There is absolutely no self-service:  make a list of what you want (hanks of yarn are on display around the walls in a rainbow of colours, sample buttons are pinned up) and then be prepared to queue for what will seem like an eternity.  We were there on a weekday afternoon, but I certainly wouldn’t want to try it out on a Saturday.  I actually bought a few vintage buttons which I hope will work perfectly with Coraline, but again I resisted the yarn.  Photos inside the store are strictly forbidden, but this is a glimpse from outside:

Coraline’s not quite ready for full photos yet, but here’s a glimpse of her at the Palais-Royal.  I wasn’t particularly planning on going there, but was on the hunt for my dream perfume and was quite pleased with where I ended up:

Don’t think that I spent the entire trip just shopping though… I managed to fit in a few touristy things too.  No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower, right?  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Australian Embassy is right next door.  We’re a classy nation!

Whilst the tower is stunning and the view is breathtaking, I was surprised at just how lovely the iron work is itself:

Being in a new city, it’s always hard to know where to eat.  Especially in Paris, where everything is so horrendously expensive (even by London standards).  Here’s my tip:  if you’re in the area, stop by Korcarz (29 Rue des Rosiers, 4th arr).  I had the most amazing apple strudel (apple slice) that I have had in my entire life.  The rest of their pastries looked just as good.  I would catch the train back to Paris just for that strudel alone. But I think there will be many things calling me back….