Earlier this week I spent half an hour browsing in a traditional French candy store. The candies are sold in bulk from big glass vats and have names like “Les Negus de Nevers” and “Les Briques du Capitole” which evoke place and regional identity. Each variety of candy – the name, packaging and craftmanship – is designed to summon up a small town or region in France. For a small sum of money, you can choose an assortment of high quality candies, have them gift wrapped in cellophane and ribbon, and watch your fellow shoppers morph into children as they gaze at the jars. So I’ll kick off my list of holiday gift suggestions with a visit to my favourite candy store in Paris:
1. Anything from A La Mere de Famille – founded in 1761, oldest confectioner in Paris, the ultimate old world treat. Main store is 35 rue du Faubourg-Montmartre in the 9th arrondissement. I’m also very fond of their house chocolates. Four other locations around Paris.
2. A massage or facial at the Espace Weleda – all the organic products from the fine old German house of Weleda, plus a fairly recent, relaxing, zen spa space in the avenue Franklin Roosevelt, 75008.
3. Cosmetics, perfumes, haircare products (some organic) at cut-price rates from Cherchminippes, an upscale thrift store which recycles all the latest products (brand new) which the beauty editors and press attachés drop off here.
5. Whimsical greeting cards from my friend Andi, available at illustratrice.
6. Anything from the Ethical Fashion Show.
7. Socially responsible investment: The Zebu Overseas Board in Madagascar allows you to acquire a zebu which will then be rented out to a local farmer who will pay back your initial investment over three years. You get to travel to Madagascar (at your own expense) to get repayment for your loan in local currency, or you can decide to have it reinvested in other socially responsible ventures.
The website advises: “A Zebu is also an ideal gift, even for your most jaded friends. Even the most degenerate members of the consumer society, those who are least interested in beauty, goodness and nature, their faces will light up at the prospect of owning this noble animal which will carry their name.”