les Soldes


Tomorrow is the official start at les Soldes, the twice-annual period when the French government allows stores to discount merchandise. It usually last four weeks, although for the past couple of months, a few scofflaws have been marking things down discreetly anyways, flaunting the law in these cash-strapped times.

The area I live in is the Bastille, and it was once known as a hub of activity for furniture makers and interior designers. During the past few years, the Gap, Levis, and Nike, have muscled their way into the neighborhood as well. Unlike their American counterparts, they have to wait for the sale period as well.

I’m not much of a sale shopper here. For one thing, I don’t have a lot of space, and for another the prices are pretty high to begin with, so even at 25% off, things to me don’t quite seem to be a bargain. (However once they cross the 50% mark in a few weeks, get out of my way!)


One of the stores that’s resisted change and stayed in the neighborhood is Romeo.

Their sign says that they are the “architecte d’intérieur in the whole world” (sic), which I assume they mix-up in English and French to cover more of their bases. The store is terribly chic and the understated façade is, as usual, tastefully done-up for the holidays. Although I’ve never been inside, you can see through the crystal-clear windows that there isn’t a piece of pricey furniture or Grecian urn that isn’t mirrored, rimmed in brass, gilded, or polished within an inch of its life. When Versace went to heaven, I wouldn’t be surprised if Romeo was hired to decorate his digs.

Unfortunately, the pair of life-sized gold-and-speckled glass hammerhead sharks are no longer in the window, the ones that I’ve been admiring for months. Apparently someone with the same exquisite taste as me has snapped them up. However this fellow is still in the window, and while I’m shocked it hasn’t been bought up already, I think my chance may be coming up. And at a bargain price, too.

So tomorrow, when the sales begin, even though I don’t usually make an effort to hit the stores until the prices drop further, I might have to camp out tonight and snuggle up in the freezing cold so I’m first in the door tomorrow morning. (From the looks of things, it’s obviously not all that chilly in the store, though.)

If I do manage to be the first in the door and score, it’s going to quite a sight to see me lugging him down the rue du Faubourg St-Antoine. I’m sure he’s very heavy.

Luckily, I’ve had plenty of experience hauling unwieldy things around Paris, from chocolate cakes to twenty-six pound turkeys. But I don’t think I’ll have much of a problem carrying this package home, though.

At least this one comes with its own handle.

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  • andrea
    January 6, 2009 11:04am

    Ah, a new pasta drying rack!

  • January 6, 2009 11:19am

    Sounds much more civilized than those sales that require police barricades. Happy shopping!

  • January 6, 2009 11:25am

    Everyone needs a gold torso in their life at some point. Dear sir, I feel that your time has come.

  • January 6, 2009 11:33am

    The law is that they can’t use the word ‘Soldes’, not that they can’t discount…only bookshops are forbidden to discount – well, to discount more than 5% anyway. This is why books on Amazon.fr are so expensive compared to the US and UK.

  • January 6, 2009 11:38am

    Hmmmmm. . . I just came home on the 86 bus (to Nation from St. Germain des Pres) . . . .I guess that WAS you I saw casing the window at Romeo . . .

    tee hee

  • Sarah
    January 6, 2009 11:48am

    What are you gonna name him? And where is he gonna go? He needs a major foyer with a spotlight so everyone meets him right away when entering your home.

    But I also kind of like the idea of toting him around the city. As you stroll the boulevards you will become known as that eccentric American chef. You can sit next to him at cafes and discuss politics with him, maybe order him a drink? Could be fun.

    A man in my neighborhood has a huge pet pig named “Bacon” and he used to take him everywhere, even outdoor cafes. Became a local hero of sorts.

  • Rachel
    January 6, 2009 12:36pm

    I’m glad to know there are other (tongue-in-cheek) Romeo fans out there – whenever I had time to kill before the opera or cinema I’d often pop by and laugh myself sick over the window displays.

    If the torso is a. hollow and b. heat-resistant, think of the interesting cakes you could make…

  • January 6, 2009 12:51pm

    I can’t believe you passed up those sharks…

  • Charissa
    January 6, 2009 12:56pm

    You just simply MUST post a picture of your trip back to the apartment. I once passed someone in the Chicago airport carrying an entire wedding cake on a platter and it made a huge impression. This might make a lasting memory for someone else…

  • Lori
    January 6, 2009 1:05pm

    Luv the “subtle” innuendo…My fav blog delivers the whole package again! Thanks for my morning laugh!

  • valentine
    January 6, 2009 2:23pm

    “From the looks of things, it’s obviously not all that chilly in the store, though.”

    Pffft. Seriously funny and charmingly circumspect.

  • January 6, 2009 2:45pm

    valentine: Yes—he’s definitely circum-something

    Chris: I’d just like to know if there’s a law out there against putting him in a store window? If not, I’m glad there isn’t. It makes walking around Paris much more…um, stimulating.

    Laura: Am still not sure this apartment is big enough for the both of us. After all, he’s quite a handful!

    Kim B: Busted! That was me, lèche-vitrine out there, all right.

  • January 6, 2009 3:13pm

    Be careful with that handle. As I recall (from my scholarly interpretation of the cult film “The Wedding Planner” starring J.Lo and Matthew McConaughey), sometimes they break off. And if you try to glue it back on with superglue, you could find yourself with a sticky situation.


    I think Romeo’s style offers you a great opportunity, though. Imagine how much bigger your apartment will seem once you cover every surface in reflective materials (not just mirror, but highly-polished gilt, too). And the cleaning lady can use Even More Bleach!

  • January 6, 2009 3:20pm

    Fiona: Ha! Although I think if my cleaning lady came in and saw him, at her age, I fear for her health. And no amount of bleach fumes could revive her…

  • Johanna
    January 6, 2009 5:35pm

    I’m just wondering who the model was they used to make the cast.

    I also can’t get that old James Bond song out of my head…Goldfinger.

  • January 6, 2009 7:09pm

    Always good to add another towel hanger to the house…… just sayin’ ;)

  • January 6, 2009 7:19pm

    OMG! I am so coming over on the Eurostar tonight and I’m going to beat you to the store tomorrow . . .

  • jean
    January 6, 2009 8:08pm

    My niece is on her way to Paris tonight. She will be thrilled to hear about the sales. She is NOT thrilled about the weather there. Her flight was canceled yesterday and it was delayed over two hours today. She is going there to study for a semester.

  • Che
    January 6, 2009 8:51pm

    David you are a National Treasure! Apart from your great recipes, you are a natural raconteur and always make me laugh.
    May The Golden Hind ( and front) adorn your apartment for many years to come!
    And thanks for your blog- it is wonderful. I feel I am right there in Paris when I open you up every day.

  • Steve
    January 6, 2009 9:13pm

    If Mr. Model had been a bit more…into it, he’d have made a handy hat rack.

  • Andrea Ulbrick
    January 6, 2009 10:04pm

    Oh David, if only I had enough frequent flyer points, I could have beaten you to Romeo, he would make a great tea-towel hanger here in Sydney. I’ll need him to help with all the tea-towel drying –after washing the twelve bunches of spinach I just bought for your (lurid) Spinach cake!

  • January 7, 2009 12:47am

    I hope I’m wrong, but sometimes, all that glitters is not gold… er… en solde.

  • January 7, 2009 9:23am

    I do not think there’s any law against handles in a store window, especially when that’s a work of art.
    Anyway, It would be a real problem for me to let the kid I do not have yet look at this store window… I’d be afraid for his/her eyes with all the reflections and the golds :D

  • sheila
    January 7, 2009 9:25am

    I think you should call him mlc (mid-life crisis) this kind of stuff happens when you turn fifty:) His handle also could be used as a measuring device for the proper sized cannolli, ladyfingers, biscotti, mannicotti, and so many other baking products. That way he is a business tax write off if they allow that in France????

  • Tags
    January 7, 2009 9:57am

    Is that what they do to folks with a Gold Membership, or is that just left over from the French Revolution?

  • January 7, 2009 11:57am

    I’ll take a Jean-Charles Rochoux chocolate torso anyday…not so heavy to carry out either.

  • Vanessa
    January 7, 2009 12:20pm

    Gives much more meaning to “The Golden Age”.

  • Justin Ward
    January 7, 2009 12:53pm

    I myself have carried around some interesting things in Paris. While shopping at a flea market not far from Bastille (I saw and spoke to you while I was there….) I purchased a vintage mannequin for a friend back in the states who owns an antique shop. The problem was getting it back to my apartment in the banlieu….on my scooter. There was no place for her (the mannequin) to ride except up front, chest to chest with me; shoulder blade hitting the horn and honking every time we made a turn….needless to say we attracted quite a lot of attention driving through Paris. My friend loves her and she is now proudly displayed in a shop in Texas…my friend would give anything for a picture of me driving the mannequin home!

  • ladybird
    January 7, 2009 4:13pm

    Hi David,

    My question is completely unrelated to the current post but could I use honey as a substitute for sugar in your persimmon cake recipe? Would that totally alter the chemistry of the final product?

    In general, honey can be substituted, but use 3/4s of the amount of honey as sugar called for in a recipe. The cake will be moister and heavier, and of course, the flavor of the honey will be dominant, so use one that isn’t too bold. -dl

  • January 7, 2009 5:09pm

    I’m truly speechless, David.

  • Laura
    January 7, 2009 5:50pm

    So are you now the proud owner of the golden torso?

  • Linda H
    January 7, 2009 6:23pm

    I suggest making a fountain of your golden torso, or perhaps a filtered water dispenser.

  • Sunny
    January 8, 2009 9:24am

    justin, that makes me think of that cheesy 80s movie about a store clerk (Andrew McCarthy) who falls for a mannequin (Kim Cattrall) who comes alive when they’re alone together…lots of scenes of him driving around with a mannequin on the back of his bike!

    Linda, that’s just a pi55er of an idea.

  • ladybird
    January 8, 2009 10:27am

    Thank you! I’ll try that.

  • Susan Porter Bruce
    January 8, 2009 1:04pm

    David, I didn’t see an address for Bazin, so I looked it up. And came across a list of all 20 of this year’s best baguette winners in Le Figaro.


    I prefer graines also, but a good baguette can mean that other breads might be interesting as well.

    Hi Susan: Something odd is going on with the side and posts are getting half-deleted for some reason. The address is there in the post now. Thanks..-dl

  • August 23, 2009 4:58am

    Hi David,

    I know this is an old post but I was looking through some of your older entries this morning and HAD to comment on this. I lived in the Bastille for 3 years (first on Rue de la Roquette) and then above the Irish Pub, Kilty’s (which is no longer there, but you might remember it.) My husband and I have since moved back to his native Dublin (I’m American, though) and have been here for 5 years. ANYWAY. I used to pass that store every day and break my heart laughing. As soon as I saw the photo I was like, “YESSSS! MY FAVORITE STORE!!” Truly the epitome of understated elegance. Love it.