Package Makes Perfect
September 2, 2009
Shopping in France has its obvious pleasures. Creative window displays
are a perpetual source of eye candy. Beautiful goods tempt in small
boutiques and in les grands magasins (department stores).
And when a shopkeeper learns you truly appreciate his wares, he
will bend over backwards to be helpful and informative whether or
not you purchase a thing.
But there is an additional aspect to shopping in la belle France
that is often overlooked-the gift wrap. The French can work a special
magic with paper, ribbons, boxes and bags. I am so enamored of this
part of life in France that I often request un paquet cadeau
(a gift wrap) for my own purchases for the pure bliss of opening
the works of art later.
Les pâtisseries et les chocolateries (pastry and chocolate
shops) in particular devote considerable artistic talent to their
gift wrap offerings. One of my favorites is Ladurée, the
celebrated pastry shop. Their ribbons and boxes are a sort of "pastel
heaven" of pale pinks and greens. After polishing off a small
coffret of their famous macarons (almond macaroons),
I use the delightful boxes to sort things on my desk or in drawers,
making the packaging pleasure last that much longer.
How does the gift wrap process work? In my experience, gift wrapping
in France is always free for both expensive and inexpensive items.
And even if there is a line of ten customers in a shop, the salesperson
will not consider your sale complete until all your gifts are wrapped.
But here's the catch: you do have to ask for it-the salesperson cannot
read your mind.
There are two common ways to ask for a gift wrap. You can say: "C'est
pour offrir" (say poohr oh-freer) meaning 'It's a gift.'
Or you can say: "Pourriez-vous me faire un paquet cadeau,
s'il vous plaît?" (pooh-ree-ay voo meh fair uhn pa-quay
ca-doh, seel voo play?) which translates as 'Could you gift wrap this
for me please?'
If remembering this much French poses a challenge, you could communicate
your desire for a stunning package by just saying "paquet
cadeau" (pa-quay ca-doh).
They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but in France, I
would say you can do pretty well with exteriors of the gift package
kind. So keep the gift vocab handy and try it next time you're there.
~ La France à emporter
Ladurée has a great web
site where you can check out virtually their shops, pastries,
chocolates, books, home and beauty accessories, and more. You can
also send a Ladurée-inspired postcard to your Francophile
here for an array of choices.
So far, Ladurée has shops in France, Switzerland,
Monaco, London, and now in Tokyo, Japan. I wonder if the U.S. is
in their sights? Mmmmmm
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