Monthly Archives: June 2011

Les Soldes – Semi Annual Sale Season in France

Les Soldes. BHV.

From June 22 – July 26, France is on sale. Twice a year French retailers are given the green light from the state to have Les Soldes, or sale season. With the Euro and most items at a whopping 30% off, shoppers can look forward to paying what is retail in other parts of the world.

Nonetheless, it’s serious business. It’s madness. Parisiennes flock in droves. Printemps is a zoo.

Commoners peruse a few days prior, screening styles, mapping routes, and nailing down sizing to streamline d-day. VIP’s fly in, are whisked between stores by drivers, get their Louis Vuitton on and collect fat VAT refunds before leaving the country.

Like boxing day or Black Friday, discounts range from 30% – 60% off, with large retailers holding extended shopping hours the first few days (the only time I can shop in Paris after 8pm). Most everything but staples are marked down, although screaming bargains are few and far between. The best deals are on clearance racks; the last pair of shoes in an odd size in an interesting colour that have been slashed 70%.

Unlike boxing day or Black Friday, you won’t see shops with loss leading door-crashers for the first few people in queue. Or people camped out in sleeping bags.

When the dust settles in 2 or 3 weeks, another round of markdowns comes for items left behind. For savvy shoppers, this is when the real bargains can be had.

To restore harmony in the retail world, next year’s Mens summer collection is being shown at Paris Fashion Week, which runs parallel with the start of Les Soldes. A curious bunch of stylites and fashionistas are in town getting the lowdown on S/S 12. The Sartorialist is here. Fashion bloggers unite.

It’s Christmas in June.


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Bike Sharing in Paris – Vélib Life

Vélib Life

You can’t help but feel slightly awesome when hopping on the Vélib. Vélib is Paris’ bike sharing system, and like many other bike sharing programs in cities across Europe, you pick up a bike and drop it off at any of stations scattered throughout the city for free within 30 (or 45) minutes. It’s perfect for leisurely rides, trekking home after the metro closes, exploring new areas and escaping the sauna-esque metro in the summer.

I was a bit hesitant the first time I got on the Vélib, given the erratic nature of the French drivers. Not to mention the jaw dropping 6 lane roundabouts at République or Arc de Triomphe. But this was quickly subsided with the numerous semi-designated bike lanes, paths and lack of cars (there really aren’t that many cars on the road).

The best part is it only costs 29€ for a year’s subscription, making it a no-brainer if you’re in Paris for any extended period of time.

However, the bikes only have 3 speeds, which has stopped me from reaching Lance Armstrong speeds and bombing down the Champs-Élysées. And if you’re smaller, the bikes can be a bit heavy and seating is somewhat awkward.

Vélib recently launched a straightforward online registration process and if you’re between 14 – 26, you get an extra 15 minutes free, increasing the total free time to 45 minutes. Sweet!

For tourists and shorter jaunts, daily or weekly passes can be purchased at any Vélib station. Warning: these stations only accept credit cards with chip + pin.

Don’t think you’re going to see many people with aerodynamic neon coloured spandex and Oakleys though:

Leave the spandex at home

Maybe something like this:

Place Vendôme

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