We spent quite a lot of time pre-trip meandering through possible places to go and looking for pretty things to do, see, and be around. One of the things that we had found was the Boulevard Haussman and the Galeries Lafayette, which was, well, basically kind of like a mini-mall, but was it’s own store. The Galerie is known for its pretty extravagant decorating.
We, being silly girls, decided it would be a good idea to walk from our hostel to the Galeries Lafayette, which is a three kilometre walk. And it was, actually, quite enjoyable, except for the fact that it was still cold and we still hadn’t bought new socks. We stopped to look at several different arches and wander through shops on several different side streets, and then accidentally stopped for strawberry and nutella crepes, which were pretty good (I can get those at home, though, and not have to eat them out of a cone with a plastic spoon). Then we continued on, finally arriving at Galeries Lafayette.
The Boulevard actually has quite a lot of history itself. It dates back to the Napoleons, and was one of the main routes developed in the “spokes of the wheel” plan. If you’re not familiar with this particular bit of history, the first Napoleon basically decided that the reason the French Revolution had been successful was because the people in Paris knew Paris better than the soldiers who had been called in to suppress the rebellion (and here’s a little music if you want to get into the mood while reading). If you look back at a map from Paris before it was overcrowded and overbuilt, you can see how the streets aren’t exactly straight and logical, and between 1550 and the Revolution it sort of built in on itself, filling it with tons of back alleys and small side streets. This came in very handy for people against the government, and become a huge thorn in the side of the government itself (this is also why governments nowadays are supporters of square city blocks). Napoleon, knowing all of that, decided that Paris needed new streets and a face lift, so he devised the spokes of the wheel plan: essentially, the center of Paris was the hub of the wheel, and the main streets, or spokes, were designed so that the military could quickly march from the edges of Paris to the center (aka, where the government sat, and thus where people would most likely focus their attention in the case of another revolution). Since the roads connecting those main spokes were also circular, the military in theory should be able to easily cordon off the troublemakers. It was, in effect, a brilliant plan to prevent the French Revolution from ever happening again.
Then, you know, Napoleon got sent off to his own private island after conquering half of Europe. Napoleon III eventually picked up on his plan, and continued working on it, giving us Boulevard Haussman. Also, not to get too into the anthropology of spaces, but Napoleon also hated the fact that you could see Poor People And Where They Lived, so he effectively had facades put up along these main streets that looked absolutely pretty, but actually boxed in large areas of really poor people. Because we all know that making lots and lots of oppressed people hang out together in the capitol of France is a good idea.
Anyway, the Galeries were gorgeous. Not only was everything decked out for Christmas, but there were plenty of seating areas for us to sit and drink Starbucks while looking down at the busy first floor. We wandered through all the different floors, taking in the displays, and were almost done, when we realized.
There. Was. Another. Floor. And it had books on it.
We had originally missed this one because the entire area centers around a huge tundra with an upside down Christmas tree in it, so you could always find your way back to the center of everything. But apparently, above the tree’s roots, was another floor that had a bookstore in it, and it’s been a rare day that I’ve been quite that happy. It was a bit reminiscent of the first time I went to a four story fabric store in San Francisco, my first real venture into a fabric store of higher standing than Joann’s or Hobby Lobby. Basically, here, I was surrounded by more books in French than I had ever been before, so I did the responsible thing, and bought a DC hardcover comic book and a couple Tintin books.
It is moments like these that I regret only having a backpack to cram things into.