La Mere de Famille and Passages de Paris
Imagine a wood and brass cash register, uniformed employees neatly stacking rows of roasted apricot jam jars and shelves of home-made twisted marshmallow – or guimauve, the French version – pear, rose or violet-flavored. As we stepped inside, my girls’ eyes literally popped out of their heads.
They were allowed a lollipop and one candy each. As they started scouting the store, devouring the counters with their greedy eyes, I could tell I’d never be able to keep my promise.
I too started shopping for myself and friends: here some fruit-flavored calissons d’Aix, an old marzipan and melon-based confectionary, there some dark chocolate and hazelnut brittle, there too frou-frous, a tiny square version of berlingots, twisted sugar ribbons from Provence.
After our sugar fix, we turned round the corner and entered the magical world of Paris’ passageways or Passages, pedestrians streets covered by stained glass domes in the nineteeth century.
They host a variety of quirky old shops like rare books shops, art galleries, traditional French tea shops or my personal favourite, a wonderful toy store called Pain d’Epices.
You’ll find everything there from high quality puppets to wooden furniture for children or hand-painted doll houses with all the accessories to light them up, cover the walls or decorate them.
In the Passage Verdeau, I stopped at the Atelier 29 and purchased a tiny cherry still life by Nelly Trumel for my mother’s birthday, an exquisite little oil painting.