Oh Paris, I love you.

Bonjour de Paris! (Read: Hello from Paris.) The last time I was in the City of Love, my mother and I were celebrating her 50th birthday. It’s been almost five years, and I can happily report this incredible city is still one of the most beautiful in the world (in my opinion, at least).

Marveling at sites like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Sacré-Coeur will never get old. I must admit, however, that spending this last week here has been a little bizarre. My mother and I were actually at Sacré-Coeur when the fire broke out at Notre Dame, and at that point, none of us were exactly sure what was happening. All we saw was a large building in the distance, which had erupted in large and violent flames. About 10 minutes later, news surfaced that the structure on fire was Notre Dame. We were speechless.

Unsurprisingly, Paris’ sparkle was anything but stifled. It almost felt as if the city became even more vibrant in the wake of such an unspeakable and utterly random tragedy.

A couple days after the fire, my mother and I took a long walk down Champs-Elysées. For those who have never traveled to Paris, Champs-Elysées is one of the most iconic streets in the entire city. Just over a mile long, it runs between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arc de Triomphe is located. In the late 1800s, there was a movement to transform it into a shopping destination, and now more than 150 years later, Champs-Elysées (referred to by Parisians as ‘les Champs’) is known as one of the most famous retail districts in the world. Today, you’ll find an eclectic range of French and international stores, from Cartier and Mauboussin, to Ladurée, L’Occitane, Tiffany, and various affordable options, like Zara, Sephora, and Nike.

One of the most noteworthy establishments on the street is the flagship Louis Vuitton. Stretching nearly half a block, it’s a giant, multi-floor building that doubles as a museum of sorts. Though I visited on a weekday afternoon, the store was completely packed. Unfortunately, that compromised service quite a bit. (I didn’t buy anything, but my mother was interested in a bag but could not find an SA to help her… or give her the time of day.)

Then off we went to Hermès. The flagship store in Paris is located off a side street of Champs-Elysées, taking up about a half block as well. It’s everything you’d expect from a Hermès store, covered in the brand’s iconic orange hue and filled with leather, leather, and more leather. Though there were no Birkins or Kellys on display, I did spot a handful of gorgeous leather goods, from a bright blue Evelyne III 29 Bag to wallets, sandals, and more. Don’t get me started on the houseware either. (Who else wishes they had a Hermés tea set? Yes, please.)

There are also quite a few shopping centers and malls on or close by to Champs-Elysées. My favorite is Galeries Lafayette. Think of it as the Parisian equivalent to Bergdorf Goodman or Barney’s. They carry virtually every mainstream designer, from Gucci and Saint Laurent to Prada, Fendi, and Valentino. Even better, it was easy to inspect purses, shoes, and other goods because they were not kept behind lock-and-key. Yep, no need to feel uncomfortable or pressured when checking out an item. (There were actually a handful of Fendi Baguettes casually laying around the store!)

The best part? No Starbucks here. Galeries Lafayette is home to a gorgeous basement-level food hall with fresh (yes, fresh!) baked goods, from every type of bread and sandwich to Nutella-filled croissants, berry tarts, and macarons. Regardless of whether or not you’re in the mood to shop, this spot proved to be a great (and more affordable) place for a midday pick-me-up.

Of course, this was just my experience on Champs-Elysées. I could have spent days exploring this avenue alone, but alas there will never be enough time (unless I retire in Paris!). If you’ve got a trip planned soon, you must make it a point to at least walk down the street for a few hours – shopping or not! For those who’ve been, what’s your favorite part of the area? Any exciting purse stories? I’d love to hear!

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