My Recent Take on Samaritaine’s Renovation

It was a gloriously blue sky day. As you know, Paris doesn’t offer those on a regular basis.

When I was in Paris in April, I had left too many of my ‘must dos’ to the last minute. Yet I knew I wasn’t going to leave Paris without a trip to La Samaritaine. (The article I’ve linked you to is a great article, explaining its history, some wonderful photos, and an explanation of the well known cafes and restaurants available at this famed department store.) I also planned to continue on to the Pinault Collection. If you are not familiar with the renovation of the Bourse de Commerce, once the location for commodities exchange, has now become a museum. Finally, there was also a recent redo of the Louvre Post Office including a good portion of it to include a hotel, Hotel Madame Reve.

Here is a short description: “The Paris Louvre Post Office, located in the heart of Paris and covering 750 m², is housed in a beautiful late 19th century building. It has the advantage of having longer opening hours than other post offices. Monday-Saturday, 8am-midnight; Sunday, 10am-midnight. It is part of a complex that includes a 5-star hotel, a green terrace, a rooftop, a dozen shops and a central patio open to the public.”

These 3 recent renovations are located closely to one another so I headed out on one of the warmest and sunniest April days in Paris of my two week stay. Of course, my ambitious plan started to immediately head sideways when I realized I was overdue for lunch and, actually, way overdue for some sunshine too. So I secured a table at Cova for lunch, allowing me to observe the Right Bank people in action.

I was able to secure a prime seat right outside the newly renovated department. I noted a number of people had stepped up their dress a notch or two. I would say, this was unlike what I was noticing in the 6th and 7th arrondissement.

In fact, in my usual Left Bank neighborhood, the tourists certainly looked more like they were dressed for touring the countryside and it appeared that even the locals had chosen not to give up their casual, comfy Covid home dress attire either. As you can see from the photos below there were several incidents of the dress code leaning towards more stylishly sophisticated attire.

The neon-vested garbed children out for a school life-enriching activity always leave me in wonderment. At any point in their lives, do they recognize how remarkable their life is since their ‘routine’ daily life in their youth exposed them to such a stunning historical city with all its accoutrements?

Scroll through the photos below:

Cova seating with umbrellas straight ahead with La Samaritaine on the left. ‘Been there forever’ Asian inspired menu, Kong restaurant, is on the domed floor of the building behind the umbrellas with the Cova restaurant below. And, yes, the view will tempt you to sign on for a reservation.

Known for its Italian influenced pastries, Cova has never been on my familiar list. As you can see by the logo on the napkin below, its has had a presence since 1817, just not in Paris.

I was given so many munchies to enjoy with my drink (Virgin Mojito), followed by bread choices, the seafood pasta almost wasn’t necessary!

I did resist their well known pastries, yet this friendly employee, who seemed to authentically be interested in serving me, proved to override the thought that the French do not know how to offer a style of service we, as Americans, expect.

Before entering La Samaritaine, I did a partial walk-around. I knew a luxury hotel was a part of the building and the entrance to it was what I remembered as the main entrance to the department store. The Cheval Blanc hotel staff warmly and professionally greeted me without question. I stood in the lobby, trying to get a reading of the space and its works of art.

I soon exited (facing the Seine), aware of my time constraint, then found the window displays entertaining and clever. The facade is the spiffed up original one.

The windows show fashion in the making with a mound of buttons even capturing my attention.

And then there was the threshold to step across to enter, which, again, looks original.

As I entered, I first met up with artful products including some tempting coffee table books, as well as novelty items–be it pillows, socks, puzzles. If you have ever questioned whether the French have a love of American ‘things’, I assure you they do. Take note in these photos of a ‘Friends’ game and also note, in the line-up of books, there is one devoted to the city of Miami.

Since I have traveled to Paris for decades, La Samaritaine was up there as one of the towering landmarks of Paris. When I would have my young daughter in tow, an outing that delighted her dancing eyes took place when we wandered, with curiosity and interest, around the various departments of the voluminous store.

So, yes, it is now a showpiece…not liked by all due to its elite fanciness of high priced items. But for me, I treat it as a museum, with free entry no less, displaying high-end products not attainable by most but presented with a backdrop of yesteryear and current day staging.

As an example, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, near the Louvre (take note: Cafe Marly, Angelina’s and the newer restaurant Lou Lou are just a few steps away) is one of my ‘go to’ museums when I am in Paris. Is a current visit to La Samaritaine so different than visiting this museum? After all, I spent an hour or two marveling at a well curated button exhibition. Here are just a few photos of that exhibition:

The displayed ‘for sale’ products at La Samaritaine speak to the innovative, creative designs that represent modern living. Having been in the interior design business I can appreciate the various products’ bold high-end presence. And, if you aren’t aware, it is common these products are often ‘knocked off’ by the lesser known, more affordably priced designers who take advantage of the exposure they garner from the higher-end designers, allowing them to reap the cash benefits of their lesser priced products.

I like the juxta-position of the old metalwork and tiles, for instance, and the use of the multi-colored light fixtures playing against each other for the fun of it, allowing the space to not be so serious. But, again, I am one who appreciates contemporary living style while, at the same time, I get to marvel at the craftsmanship of the past as well.

Modern day examples:

And here is a taste of the magnificence of the past!

Now here is where my visit lost traction. I didn’t even make it past the ground floor! I looked up and saw this rack of women’s clothing, but then realizing the time, I had to bargain with myself and make a promise to return for more. Looking up was awe-inspiring, yet I missed having the opportunity of looking down.

I reluctantly made my way out of the store and headed out to the Pinault Collection, capturing more of La Samaritaine’s windows.

Continuing on to Pinault, the city police assuredly ride their horses apparently having been trained to calmly make their way through Paris without a stir. Of course, the photo on the right marks my landing in front of the Pinault Collection.

But not to be missed on the short walk to the Pinault Collection, I found myself in front of E. Dehillerin, the ‘not to miss’ culinary shop that has been around since 1820 and has a reputation of prized copper cookware and just about any other kitchen item you can imagine. Below the photos of E. Dehillerin, is followed by another photo of the facade of the Pinault Collection exterior.

Of course, due to my poor planning I didn’t have the time to purchase a ticket, let alone make my way inside! Even though I was sadly behind, I carried on in determined style to the newly renovated Paris Louvre Post Office since it was so close. The hotel affiliated with it, Hotel Madame Reve…ahem….also commanded my attention, however, yup, no time…

Not all is in place-shops, for instance, but the post office portion seemed to be operational.

Back home, jigsaw puzzles saved us over the colder months of Covid times. Here’s just one example of several to be purchased at Samaritaine….

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