Samaritaine

We had breakfast in the hotel and (fortunately), they are serious about ensuring you show proof of vaccination status when dining in. Show your Pass Sanitare! The weather looked promising today with no rain in the forecast. If we’d watched the weatherman, there’s one thing you always know. They’re wrong. Though the day started out partly cloudy, after about 90 minutes, it started to drizzle. Not hard rain, but enough to eventually get you damp.

We’d taken the Metro out to see the recently reopened Samaritaine, a large department store with a long history in Paris. It became a bit of an anachronism in retailing though, not modernizing. When we last shopped there many years ago, you would take a cahier (notebook) from department to department for the things you bought until you were ready to visit the “la caissière” (cashier). It was a bit quaint, but the service was good and it was an enjoyable experience. But sadly, Samaritaine fell on hard times and closed in 2005 after losing money for decades. In the intervening years, when we’d go by, the signage said something about meeting safety codes, but the store never seemed like it was on the road to reopening and sat there shuttered and forlorn .

But remarkably, the luxury powerhouse brand LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) bought the building and spent 7 years (!) renovating the building, reopening in June 2021. The building faces the river Seine near Pont Neuf (pont = bridge , neuf = new). And for your convenience, there’s a hotel on the top floor (top left in the photo below) so you never need to leave the building to shop and sleep. 😉

Samaritaine
The Seine, from Pont Neuf

It’s been at least 16 years since we’ve been inside, so my memory of what it was like then is pretty fuzzy. But WOW, the interior of the store has undergone an amazing renovation/ transformation.

Staircases
The ceiling taken from the ground level

Exactly like Selfridge’s in London, each floor, though it might be menswear on one and cosmetics on another, is a series of stores within stores where fashion brands rent space from Samaritaine to display their products. So instead of a brand that sells menswear, womenswear and cosmetics having all their product in one area, it’s split up across the floors into separate departments. All of the brands represented here are luxury brands that you aren’t going to find at Walmart or Target. Some products are very specialized (like making fragranced candles or champagne), while others are the same as if you shopped at those brands stand-alone stores, but they’re all (mostly) under one roof (some are conspicuously absent, like that competing brand Hermès).

Taking the escalators up to the top floor brings you to the cafe there, as well as quite a view looking down to the ground and the mosaic (video) that rings the ceiling above you.

As we made our way down the floors, we stopped at an exhibit that showed some technology and commercials that Samaritaine actually aired on TV in the 60’s, 70’s on TVs from those eras.

Brand your own champagne

We left Samaritaine to go in search of lunch or a snack at the new shop opened by Cedric Grolet , who is “une pastissier” (pastry chef) , the executive pastry chef at Le Meurice in Paris. His specialty is creating (and they are creations) that resemble fruit. Unfortunately, his new shop near the Operá isn’t open every day 😒, so we’ll have to wait until later in the week or go to his shop near the Le Meurice hotel. The light drizzle continued and before we took a Metro back out the Champs Elysee (now fully animated with automobiles), we bought a sandwich at Brioche Doreé. If you are “emporter” (taking away), no need to show your Pass Sanitaire, but we were dining in, so scan that Pass!

The shops and sidewalks along the Champs Elysee are busy as ever, even in the weather, with waiting lines outside some (crowd controls). Even Mickey was out and about. Who let the mouse out?

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