Christmas: Your Perfect Paris Presents


MK2 Bibliothèque cinema complex

Photo by Cynthia Rose.

Noel warms the spirits with vin chaud, delights the eye with wonderful windows and brings dazzling lights. It’s hard to resist a holiday prowl for perfect Paris presents. However, merchants export much of what you see. So is it impossible to find something unique? Absolutely not! Here are my only-in-Paris picks.
1. A Studio Harcourt portrait

A Harcourt cabine

Photo by Cynthia Rose.

Founded in the thirties, Studio Harcourt invented its own genre of black-and-white glamour. Artists, stars and upper-class French families know their portraits mean you have arrived. However, a sitting at Harcourt HQ costs around 2,000 euros. Until the end of December, you can get a portrait for 10 euros, thanks to its new luxury photo booth. It replicates Harcourt’s soft-focus lighting and each snap comes with the studio’s logo.

A Harcourt portrait

Photo by Cynthia Rose.

There are two of these cabines. My choice is in the MK2 Bibliothèque cinema complex (the other booth is at Franck et Fils). The cabine is easy to use and, frankly, its results are amazing! Just a few pointers:
• Bring a 10 euro bill for every photo you want to take.
• Girls: matte makeup and lipstick work best.
• The Harcourt “look” is not sober, but avoid a toothy smile.
• Before doing anything, be sure the seat height suits you.
• You get three poses, which you will see in color.
• If you don’t decide quickly, the booth “chooses” your final pose.
• All portraits, thermally printed, arrive in 10 seconds.
Buy a souvenir packet of Harcourt picture postcards. It costs 15 euros but then you can present your photo in its vellum case. These packets, with Harcourt books and champagne, are sold in the gift shop—itself a good place for trinkets, books and DVDs. Catch a movie here and try the cinema’s couple-friendly “love seats.”
It’s the perfect gift for the people you love, of any age.
2. Honey from the roof of the Palais Garnier

Honey from the roof of the Palais Garnier

From public hives in the Luxembourg Gardens (which run a beekeeping school) to various Parisian roofs, city beekeepers are celebrities. You may have seen the Opéra Garnier’s Jean Paucton in the ballet documentary La Danse. His exclusive honey is sold in the Opéra’s shop (inside the building’s entry hall), as well as at Fauchon and Exception Store. Literally, it tastes of Paris.
You can find miel de Paris by other beekeepers at Les Abeilles, in Butte aux Cailles.
It’s perfect for anyone, especially organic cooks or keen home gardeners.
3. The new maillot of Les Bleus

The new maillot of Les Bleus

© Nike France/Courtesy Nike France.

When it was unveiled last spring, the jersey worn by the French football team at away games caused a stir. Why? Because it is a version of la marinière—the blue-and-white-striped shirt of sailors and Jean Paul Gaultier. It is available at Nike Paris (one of the team’s sponsors) as well as at sports shops throughout the city. There are both male and female models; both look very sharp.

The new maillot of Les Bleus at Nike Paris

© Colette/Courtesy Colette.

This makes a perfect Paris present paired with Kokorico, Jean Paul Gaultier’s new scent for the boys. For women, add a beret by Agnès B.
It’s perfect for significant others and football (soccer) fans.
4. The Belle Epoque’s antipollution skin balms

The Belle Epoque's antipollution skin balms at Detaille

The comtesse de Presle was one of the first female drivers in Paris. Delighted as she was by the thrill of the road, she feared it could be damaging to her skin. Chemist Marcelin Berthelot helped her out with a special cream: one that retains moisture while repelling pollution. This Baume Automobile (for the face) and Manudouce (for the hands) inspired the comtesse to launch a larger cosmetics line. This is all sold by the shop she opened in 1905: the charming Detaille. It’s a minitrip to a vanished world but her balm and lotion work as well as they did when royals all across Europe were her customers.

Antipollution skin balms at Detaille

Courtesy Société Detaille.

Detaille also stocks Belle Epoque fleur de riz face powder. Dating from 1900, this is genuine rice powder. It catches light, makes skin look softer and is used by makeup artists for French films that deal with the period.
It’s perfect for mothers, aunts, godmothers—also sports car owners!
5. Vintage fashion plates in a special portfolio

Vintage fashion plates at Les Archives de la Presse

Photo by Cynthia Rose.

Fashion plates are a Parisian art form. Old journals such as La Mode, Le Bon Ton, La Vie Elegante and the once-racy La Vie Parisienne used illustrators who made Parisiennes icons. You can find pages from papers like these at bouquinistes. But the best are at Les Archives de la Presse. This is a home for every kind of vintage journal, as well as a wealth of specialist publications.
A single fashion plate looks great in (and will be protected by) another perfect Paris present: the marble-paper portfolio called a carton à dessin. These are available in many stationery shops, but there is a full range at the Gibert Jeune papeterie. There are eight Gibert Jeune stores; you want the one at 5, Place St.-Michel.
It’s perfect for anyone: Les Archives has cookbooks, detective series, auto manuals, cycling magazines, film journals and more.
Related Links
Studio Harcourt
Harcourt HQ
MK2 Bibliothèque
Franck et Fils
La Danse
Exception Store
Les Abeilles
Nike Paris
Les Archives de la Presse
Gibert Jeune
Editor’s note: Please check out our newly launched Girls’ Guide travel club and learn how you can save up to $500 on your next trip to Paris.