Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Friday 24 April 2009

It's been glorious weather in Paris today - not museum weather at all (that's for tomorrow and Sunday, when rain is expected), and definitely a day for Vélib, with its opportunities to wander off down interesting side-streets.

After an initial trip around the Marché Aligre and the local Franprix to lay in a few supplies, a formule express lunch at a nearby café (chicken salad and a sort of banana and lemon purée - nicer than it sounds - for €9.80) set up me up for some happy wandering, around Boulevard Beaumarchais and the place des Vosges.

Beside a not particularly inviting shopfront on the Bvd Beaumarchais is this courtyard entrance to Merci, an almost painfully chic "concept store", dealing mostly with interiors and housewares. Here, a warehouse-style interior allows for some inventive display of selected and carefully laid-out items, with two café areas and a large collection of secondhand books for sale. You can, if your spirit so moves you, buy a chandelier, handmade from South African "earth pearls" (looks like moulded mud to me), for €5000 a pop. I couldn't help thinking of AbFab, and Edina's "shop full of beautiful things, darling".

The books, however, were better value. I found a novel by Boualem Sansal (an Algerian author I discovered by chance on my last trip) for €2 - and it looks to me as though it was signed and given to someone by the author. Even a cheap old paperback is delivered in the store's own special paper bag, sealed with a special sellotape printed with Merci. On the bag is this inspiring (?) message:

vos interrupteurs, votre sonnette de vélo,
VOTRE SOUTIEN, vos disques,
vos désirs, vos assiettes en bagasse,
vos aimants, vos livres, vos rubans...

Oh I can't be bothered to type it all out: suffice it to say that the words in capitals and italics are VOTRE SOUTIEN, VOTRE COEUR, VOTRE ATTENTION, VOS IDEES, VOTRE AIDE, VOTRE CONFIANCE, VOS ESPOIRS, VOTRE AMOUR, VOTRE AMITIE.

IKEA it is not.

More photogenic signs and shopfronts presented themselves for the camera, but this particularly caught my eye:

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