Shopping in (French) style
For luxurious sale browsing, why not a weekend in Paris?
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Saturday 04 January 1997
Feasting on the carrion of cut-price purchases in the rue Saint Honore, the Place Vendome or the Avenue Montaigne can leave an illusion of wealth, and this year may be the time to carry the illusion to historic extremes. If the impoverished Oscar Wilde (once staying at l'Hotel in the rue des Beaux Arts) did not in fact make her say it, Lady Bracknell should have said: "If one is not actually wealthy, that is no reason not to stay in a palace."
To "do" the Paris sales in unquestionable style there really is only one suitably palatial destination: the Hotel de Crillon.
The guide books jump for the thesaurus when they try to describe the Crillon, which overlooks the Place de la Concorde: "luxury, elegance, magnificence, imposing, outstanding". These descriptions, rather than encouraging, tend to scare; but not enough to frighten Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, the Shah of Iran, Charlie Chaplin, Sophia Loren, Jackie Kennedy, David Niven, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, Bette Davis, and, although not Eva Peron, Madonna - all of whom are former guests.
The thought of Madonna struggling through the 18th-century Louis XV lobby at the Crillon, drowning in sale bag bargains from Chanel and Dior (Avenue Montaigne), Christian Lacroix and Versace (rue du Faubourg St Honore) Armani, Hermes, Lagerfeld and Louis Feraud (Place Vendome), and Thierry Mugler and Ungaro on the Ave Montaigne, either means that Evita is concentrating on the couture houses of the Right Bank, or that she is trying to save on cab fares from the Crillon.
From her early New York days Madonna may have visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where one of the Crillon's original wood-panelled rooms is on permanent display. It may take some time before one of Granada's Welcome Break motorway suites reaches such heights, but this is the point of the illusion of wealth: the economics of the sales should not be confused with Calvinistic sensibility; the dosh saved on the goods can be philosophically transferred, without guilt, to the prime purpose of living among the High Society grace of a Kelly.
The Crillon's location, overlooking the obelisk of Luxor in the middle of the Place de La Concorde, was initially supposed to be the masterpiece of the architect Jacques-Ange Gabriel, set in Louis XV Square. The French revolution changed the name of the square and much else. Now France's history is a morning's stroll from the Crillon: past the Tuileries, the nearby Louvre museum, and the Arc de Triomphe. In January, such a journey will only complicate the business of looking for red-and-white Solde signs in famous shop windows.
Once you have worn yourself out shopping, you will find that the Crillon, still privately owned by the French Concorde Hotel Group, has all the haven-like comfort of a diplomatic residency. Unlike the architecture of the current wave of super-hotels which seem to take their style from theme-park extravagance, the Crillon's public rooms, such as the Winter Garden tea room and the Piano bar, are quiet, understated. While the prices of the formidable Restaurant les Ambassadeurs might scare even Marco Pierre White, you can always order the full Crillon breakfast in your room. This can only be described as one of the world's great breakfasts: more a catwalk of cuisine than simple coffee and toast. The waiters, in full morning dress tails, who lift the silver lids off your poached eggs, know they are engaged in royal theatre. In 1815 Hazlitt remarked : "The art of life is to know how to enjoy a little and endure much."
Keep that in mind when the credit card overheats.
For details of the Crillon's special winter rates, call 33 1 44 71 15 00.
For travel to Paris on the Eurostar, call train reservations (0345-303030).
Details of Paris sales may be obtained from the Office du Tourisme, 127 Avenue des Champs-Elysees, Paris (33-1-47 20 88 98). Assistance is provided in English).
- 1 Austerity has hardened the nation's heart
- 2 Tottenham to smash pay scale with £150,000-a-week contract in attempt to tie Gareth Bale to club
- 3 Strewth mate. Aussies wave goodbye to Britain as it becomes too pricey to stay
- 4 Be more professional! GCHQ staff rapped as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange reveals messages that he says point to 'fit up'
- 5 Join Ryanair! See the world! But we'll only pay you for nine months a year
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
iJobs Money & Business
£500 per day: Orgtel: A top tier banking client urgently requires Finance Busi...
£425 - £550 per day: Orgtel: Senior Finance Project Manager - £550 - Bristol -...
£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: KYC Analyst - London - Banking - £150-250/day C...
£500 per day: Orgtel: A top tier banking client urgently requires Finance Gove...
Day In a Page
A modern home of almost 1,000sq ft is close to Stoke Newington's high street. £499,950
A five-bedroom bungalow in Hoveton with riverside garden and mooring dock, £550,000
A refurbished one-bedroom flat with south-facing reception and high ceilings. £579,950
A four-bedroom Grade II-listed house in Nazeing with large gardens. £550,000
A modern four-bedroom house in a converted stable within walking distance to Peckham Rye. £695,000
Three-bedroom house in a quiet residential area within close distance to Battersea Park. £450,000
A three-bedroom cottage within commuting distance of London, Norwich and Cambridge. £250,000
A two-bedroom cottage with a sun room and gardens in South Chard. £350,000.
A three-bedroom semi-detached house with original features including fireplaces and wooden flooring. £399,950
A modern two-bedroom flat split across two floors and close to several public transport links. £595,000
A one-bedroom flat with an open-plan reception/kitchen and private balcony. £315,000.
A bright two-bedroom garden flat between South Acton and Chiswick Park. £499,950.
A listed four-bedroom farmhouse with stables, set in four acres. £500,000.
A three-storey family home with four bedrooms and an extended kitchen/diner. £995,000.
A three-bedroom Hamstone cottage in the rolling Somerset countryside. £430,000.
A luxury one-bedroom apartment on the first floor of a converted Victorian house. £425,000.