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A Few Parisian Hot Spots

By Phil Chavanne

Good news! I have more great Parisian hot spots yet for the readers of Read on, I believe you won't be disappointed.

Monastica – craftsmanship steeped in tradition

This is a fantastic place where you can get your hands on authentic French handmade products, crafts and souvenirs steeped in tradition –- and do a good deed at the same time. If you wander at the tip of the St Louis Island, you'll discover on Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe a boutique called Monastica, owned and run by the nuns of "Les Fraternités de Jérusalem" (The Brotherhoods of Jerusalem), a religious order originally founded in 1975 at the Church Saint Gervais in Paris, which has now spread out internationally.

Most products sold by the shop are made by the Order, the rest by lay craftsmen, but all profits go to the Order. Their products are typically French: stoneware crockery, jams, biscuits, chocolate, marzipan, Provence honey, perfumes, hygiene and beauty products, fine Catalan house linen, statues, decorations, etc. Their Catalan linen is particularly valued, and they have an incredibly wide array of soaps.

You can lay your hands on country jams for around € 5, essential oils from € 4 to € 8, post cards for € 0.80, soaps for € 2.75. Prices are very moderate.

Should you want to buy gifts, your purchases can be beautifully gift-wrapped. The nuns speak English too.

Once again, the address is 11, rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, 75004 Paris. You can reach them at: 33 (0)1 4887 8513 and 33 (0)8 7455 6685.

Loose yourself at Le Grand Comptoir

If you find yourself in the 7th district, take some time to stop by 116 Rue du Bac and check out the Grand Comptoir (the Big Counter), a luminous and refined shopping place filled with a motley of weird and wonderful Parisian items.

The entrance courtyard is lined with a variety of cow pictures in tribute to "Vach'art", the French version of CowParade, a movement that started in Zurich in 1998 and now spans the entire globe (and for cow fans, you'll find some miniatures for sale inside).

The top level of the Grand Comptoir offers a full array of ready-to-wear clothes for men and women. Beauty products and foodstuffs are on the ground floor, along with many shops selling indoor and outdoor house accessories and a host of other things: old style photos albums with pictures of Paris, pillows with your own black and white photo printed on them, dinner sets, wine bottle boxes, lights, linens, art, etc. You can also shop for gorgeous rustic pieces of heavy wooden furniture and wrought-iron (and typically Parisian) benches. These items are of course unlikely to fit into your suitcase, but they are rather nice to look at anyways.

Prices are all over the place, but there's plenty of affordable stuff for bargain hunters.

Le Grand Comptoir is located at 116 rue du Bac, 75007 Paris, and can be accessed from the 'Sevres-Babylone' metro station. Their phone number is: 33 (0)1 4049 0095.

Free concerts in an awesome setting!

Free music anyone? While in Paris you can attend free concerts twice a week at Saint-Merri Church in downtown rue Saint-Martin. This church dates back to 1550. Its architecture has been inspired by Notre-Dame's, and in fact it is known as 'Notre-Dame la petite' (the little Notre-Dame). It is chock-a-block with impressive stained-glass windows, frescos, bas-reliefs, sculptures, tapestries and paintings, not to mention its beautiful musical center-piece, an awesome organ with a long and distinguished history.

Concerts last around an hour and start on Saturdays at 9:00 pm and on Sundays at 4:00 pm. Although the musical genre is predominately classical, they do play jazz from time to time, and even rarer kinds of music: classical Indian, Chinese, Armenian, and medieval music. Donations are appreciated but entirely at your discretion.

On the first and third Sundays of every month the Church offers a guided visit of the building after the concert.

The Saint-Merri Church is situated at 78 rue Saint-Martin, 75004 Paris. The phone number is: 33 (0)1 4271 9393. The two closest metro stations are: Hotel de Ville (take exit Rue du Renard); and Chatelet (take exit Place Sainte Opportune).

Don't miss my next issue of Paris-Eiffel-Tower-News newsletter, with yet more discoveries of hot spots, shopping gems and the best in authentic Parisian eateries.

About the Author: Phil Chavanne shares with you a 30-year knowledge of Paris, France. Get scores of precious tips for your next trip to Paris at Paris-Eiffel-Tower-News, a free Paris guide offering useful insider information.

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