Chains Along Champs Elysees

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Champs Elysees is a famous boulevard worthy of praise for its beauty, lights, charm and decadence, yet it is lined with commercial chains you can find in any American city. It is also lined with crowds of tourists from around the world, most of whom are either standing in que for a cappuccino at one of the many cafes or snapping photos from the busy narrow landing in the middle of the avenue.


Admittedly I did the same thing and was nearly run over by a bus trying to perch myself on an iron box to capture the distant swaying trees together with glittery dazzle in the foreground.

I used to make it to cities east of New York often as well as small European towns and villages; now it is a rarity. In all foreign cities, I make a habit of at least one shopping experience, largely do the fact that so few American cities give me much of a “creative” selection.

Enter for a moment Les Champs Elysees in the heart of one of the most romantic and fashion-centric cities in the world. My head was spinning after three blocks, but not because I was in awe over charming elegant boutiques and unique Parisian shops, but because of the mediocrity of store choices – on my left and right.

With ‘Arc De Triump behind me, I had in my view McDonalds, Benetton, Virgin’s Mega Store, Swatch, Disney, Hugo Boss and Sephora on my left, Adidas, Debusy, another McDonalds (how did this happen?), The Gap and Lacoste, on my right with Louis Vuitton and Cartier adding a little elegance close to the Metro entrance.

Most of the coffee bars and bistros were native, however there were a few Pomme De Pains (baggettes and chocolate) and Hamburger Restaurants, all of which called themselves the same name on both sides of the street.

Carole Boutique is a small crowded shop in a side promenade that carried western American clothing “finds” with lots of jewels and stones affixed to their denims and cotton shirts. (all ran about 100 Euros a piece ($140).

Two or three people volunteering for The Salvation Army stood in the middle of the boulevard ringing the bell, while another bell attached to the red metal bucket, somehow rang automatically. Despite no wind, the temperatures were brutal and my green cashmere scarf, leather gloves and fluffy hat didn’t seem to help much.

I walked into Cartier and a few leather shops, simply to avoid the chains. Is big business this important to the longevity and success of one of Paris’ most prestigious boulevards? How did the French let this happen?

Tara Jarmon’s window display drew me in amidst the clutter of generic shopping energy. Her half-mannequin tantalized me; the sexy naked window-display dummies were dressed in vividly bright yellow dresses and black cocktail attire; there was a sheer faded near-white back-drop. The display alone brought me back to Paris. And there I stayed.

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