While I love wondering on my own, sometimes a new city is more easily navigated with the help of a professional. Patsy Pyle is an Ameican living in Paris who can orchestrate a variety of outings and excursions. You can contact her at:
tel/fax +33 (0)1 42 22 39 83
Or visit her web page at:
There is also the very talented Vincent Delaveau who leads personal or group tours around Paris with great speciality in art, history and culture. Take a look at his web site:
He is most comfortable in French but does speak English. His contact info is:
TEL 06 11 78 70 66
For general window shopping I suggest two streets in particular — both are in the 6th arrondissement. The first is the rue Jacob, between rue de Seine and rue des St. Pères. Lots of antique stores, art and furnishing stores. As you walk heading west on the rue Jacob with rue de Seine behind you, make a quick detour to the rue and Place Furstenberg on the left. There are a few choice fabric stores and antiques stores there, as well as the Delacroix Museum. Back on rue Jacob, at the corner of rue Bonaparte, you will see the store Simrane on the left and the brand new Ladurée on the right. Simrane is a textile related store that sells beautiful cotton and silk items: pillow cases, pareos (shawls), table cloths, napkins and bedspreads. The pareos are especially attractive, with sewn beaded corners. And, their merchandise is less expensive than you might think. Across the street is a recent addition, the café and salon de thé, Ladurée. Ladurée is a French institution, with two other original locations, one on the Champs Elysées, and one on rue Royale near the Madeleine. This location was added recently and — like the other two — offers amazing pastries (order their tiny multi-flavored macaroons!) and their famous coffee. (If you look just above their storefront, the corner apartment upstairs is owned by the filmmakers Ismael Merchant and James Ivory.)
The second street is rue du Cherche Midi, between Carrefour de la Croix Rouge and the rue de Vaugirard. It is much longer than rue Jacob and would take time to properly browse all the shops, but it's worth a stroll.
An especially interesting stretch of stores can be found if you start at the Place de la Bastille and walk down the Avenue Daumesnil; it is called the Viaduc des Arts. On the left you will see a series of shops built into an old stone (with stone vaulted ceilings) viaduct. This series of stores has been referred to as “the most creative piece of urban renewal” because of the way the City converted this 19th century elevated railway, and put these stores into the interspersed stone arches. The stores each represent the work of artisanal crafts: a painting restorer, a gilder, a leather craftsperson, woodworker, upholsterer, etc . . . It goes on for several blocks. You can stop for lunch at the Viaduc Café at 43, Avenue Daumesnil.