Sunday, August 25, 2013

Scenes from a Mall



Cher (Alicia Silverstone,) doing what she does best
Clueless (1995)

I went to the mall today. I don't like malls.

I find them claustrophobic, and predictable. Same store chains. Same food outlets. People everywhere. Even worse at Christmas time. Special sales every two weeks. Then why call them special?


Beam my up, Scotty!
(photographer unknown)

I stay away from malls as much as I can. When I need clothes, I shop online. 

Here in Seattle, most malls are indoor malls. I am sure you can figure out why. When malls are outdoors, umbrellas are available for shoppers to use. Try that in Paris, and Pouf! The umbrellas would be gone in less than a day. Ah, Paris.


Such a treat when those yellow thingies are not needed!

Over the last thirty years, I have lived in several American cities. In the 1980s, as a wide-eyed freshman in Atlanta, Ga., I was fascinated to see my roommates dress up just to go to the mall. The [big] hair. The make up. These Southern girls went all out to visit the Gap and Banana Republic (Remember the safari-themed and travel clothing?) 

Fast forward a few years. Big culture shock when I moved to the Pacific Northwest in the late 1990s. In fleece country, things are more laid-back. One of the most respected local clothing brand is Eddie Bauer. 'Nuff said.

A favorite movie of mine - even if most people did not seem to enjoy it much when it came out in the 1990s - Scenes from a Mall, with Woody Allen and Bette Midler. As an affluent L.A. businessman, Woody sports a ridiculous ponytail and carries around a surf board. The story is set in a crowded shopping mall at Christmas time. The neurotic husband and wife, who are hosting their 16th wedding anniversary that evening, are supposed to run errands. Instead, they bicker; separate; reunite... It is funny, chatty movie, but it also offers a harsh look at the American lifestyle. Malls have never looked quite the same to me since. And I always crack a smile when I spot a sushi restaurant at the local shopping center (watch the show to know why...) 



"Rats. We need to get more sushi!"

Many teen movies take place in malls. Clueless, with the lovely Alicia Silverstone, is one of them. Cher, her character, makes indulging in consumerism look elegant, and cool. When I go to the mall, I see Cher Mini-Me's everywhere I turn. No more padded shoulders. No more high-waisted jeans. Yet, here they are. Cher Wannabes. Shopping with Mom, or with their best friends.


Nice job, Cher.

"Let's go shopping: I have nothing to wear!" 

Today, I had a few hours to kill. The weather was decent (It has been a beautiful summer in Seattle, folks.) I took a long walk with the Yellow Dog, and decided I wanted to spend more time outdoors. So I went to the mall. Logique, non?

It is called University Village. It is an urban mall: You know you have left suburbia and are somewhere in Seattle when you park your car. That makes it ok in my book. The University of Washington and the Husky Stadium are minutes away. But I am not a college student anymore, and I don't care for football (I know, the horror!) This means I can focus on the many boutiques welcoming an eclectic crowd of Seattleites, suburbanites, and out-of-town visitors.

I must say there is something special about University Village. It does not feel claustrophobic. It is pretty. And there are a handful of interesting boutiques, and among the many national chains (yawn!) a few local retailers. 

First, I walked through the lovely Ravenna Gardens.


That chair has my name on it!

The website makes it clear: The store caters to the urban gardener. I aspire to become an urban gardener one day. In fact, I could move into Ravenna Gardens right now. I even spotted a really cool place for my bed, tucked away behind small statues, inspirational signs and a babbling fountain. Ah, quel pied! Heaven, quoi!  


A creative display of Fermob garden furniture (Made in France, bien sûr!) 


Urban gardeners spend less time weeding than suburban gardeners.
As a result, they have more time to meditate...

When I left Ravenna Gardens, I felt refreshed, relaxed... and ready for some shopping. But most stores I passed on the way did not inspire me. J. Crew (or the art of charging a year's worth of [American] college tuition for camo clothing you could find for a few dollars at the local army surplus store.) Lucy, and fancy Lulu Lemon (or the art of making the average woman look and feel fit in fancy yoga wear, even if her daily exercise routine is limited to stepping in and out of the shower.) Ann Taylor. Banana Republic. Tiffany's (but the only women staring at the window displays are not named Audrey and wear LuluLemon lycra pants.) And so on.



Finally, I stepped into a larger store, a place with potential. It is more than a store. It is an experience... There is French music playing in the background (Brigitte Bardot, no less!) There are comfortable spaces where customers (guests?) linger.


They call this a fitting room... It looks better than most people's living rooms!

Stop by for a minute, an hour, or a lifetime...

Mesdames et Messieurs, bienvenue chez Anthropologie!

I just know that chain has an interesting story. If you have heard it, feel free to share it in the comment section! 

It must be the French native in me that responds to the aesthetics appeal of the colorful, surprising store. Creative displays and props. Unique merchandise (or so it seems...) Anyone can find a little something at Anthropologie

Pardon?

Ah, oui, I know. Ridiculous prices. Very true. Well, you can always look (or even touch,) and then go home - as I did - with a fragrant candle. Or a cabinet door knob. Anthropologie has the most interesting cabinet door knobs I have seen in any hardware store. And at $10 a pop, most people save up for a year to equip their entire kitchen.

There's fabulous clothing, bien sûr. I guarantee you will feel unique wearing one of their pieces. 


Chi-chi!



There are books (and the Anthropologie buyer has excellent taste, if I may say so myself...) 


I spotted Jane Austen and Emilie Brontoe classics...
perfectly coordinated with notebooks and soap bars...

Yes,  you have read this book at least 50 times.
It is really the SAME book. They just keep changing the author's name and title!

There is colorful kitchen ware...


Bols français
... and American mugs.

To sum it all up, Anthropologie is so good, so pretty and so clever, that they even make the most mundane chores look irresistible!


Sexy brooms and dish towels, by Anthropologie 
I might start baking if someone gets me one of these...

I am positive even my favorite Ann Taintor characters would approve...

(Ann Taintor) 
(Ann Taintor) 

I will be honest. I spent at least an hour chez Anthropologie. That is how long it took to check out every rack of clothing; every knick-knack; smell every candle; close my mouth again every time my jaw dropped when I looked at a price tag; and finally check out with my little gift. 

Good times.

So maybe I do like the American mall after all. Un petit peu

A bientôt.


All photos by French Girl in Seattle.
Do not copy, re-use or pin without permission.
Thank you to my friends at Ravenna Gardens and Anthropologie 
for providing inspiration for this week's story.
Thank you Anne Taintor. You never fail to make me smile.


Urban Gardener wisdom
chez Ravenna Gardens






47 comments:

  1. That was my favorite Anthropolgie when I lived in Seattle. I think it may have even been the same one?
    It's amazing what they've done with University Village! When I was in college at UW, it was just a Safeway and some boring stores.

    Thanks for the little trip down memory lane!

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    1. Bonjour Jennifer. I can't imagine beautiful University Village as the strip mall it once was! They were still working on it and expanding it yesterday. I bet you used to go to that same Anthropologie store, maybe in a different location?

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    2. When I wrote "same one" I meant "original one." I typed that comment before I had my coffee this morning!

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    3. And as a former Seattle girl, you know just how IMPORTANT that first cup of coffee is! :-) Bisous à la belle Normandie.

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  2. I adore this post. Mall culture in the United States is something very...unique. Rian and I have had numerous discussions about it. Because like you said, there used to be a time when it was THE place to hang out and be seen. Teenagers in the 80s would get all dolled up and go there to hang out and meet people. Have you seen the movie Mallrats? I mean, the fact there was a whole movie based around the phenomenon speaks volumes. I really need to see that Woody Allen film you mentioned! And who can forget the infamous Tiffany music video? When I was very little (three) my parents took me to the mall to meet Debbie Gibson. When I was 14, I went to the mall with friends to meet a new unknown wannabe pop star named Britney Spears. It was the place for emerging pop stars to sign autographs and get their name out to teens.

    Oddly enough, in the Midwest right now indoor malls are dying. In my area, the most popular shopping places are fancy outdoor malls. Which sucks in the winter, when it's freezing and snowing.

    Oh, and I love Anthro. I've been saying for the past five years that if I ever win the lottery, that store is the first one I'm going to spend my dough. Lol. Sometimes they have amazing deals. I once got a fur-trimmed tweed coat there for $30 on sale, only a few months after it was $395. I think that's the most amazing sale item I've ever gotten in my life. I will never be able to top that one...

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    1. Thanks for the long comment and all the input, Jenny.

      I did see Mallrats a long time ago. How could I forget to mention it here? :-) I remember the Tiffany video too!

      You are absolutely right about the emerging pop stars. I remember my college friends tried to drag me to see someone or other to the nearest mall. We did not have cars so we walked (the horror) along busy Peachtree street (because everything in Atlanta is off Peachtree street :-)

      That coat you found at Anthropologie sounds fabulous... like you, Jennifer fabulous! :-)

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  3. VÉRO!!!!! TOI AUSSI? TU AS PASSÉ DU TEMPS CHEZ ANTHROPOLOGIE??? Moi aussi! J'adore les tablier en bleu, les balais, TOUT!

    Je suis si ravie de voir tes commentaires chez moi! Mon billet est court cette semaine; la rentrée s'approche ici, alors, aujourd'hui les réunions commencent! Il faut que je m'en aille!

    BISOUS BISOUS (et je suis tout à fait d'accord avec toi; je deteste les centres commerciaux) Anita

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    1. Merci de ta visite Anita. Moi aussi, je prépare la rentrée des classes. Mes élèves sont des adultes, alors c'est un peu plus facile :-) Il y a aussi la rentrée de mon fils, en 4e (8th grade.) Bon courage, Anita!

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  4. Ahhh I knew it was Anthropologie when I saw the fitting room! I don't buy clothes there but have bought some Paris/French books and lots of "stuff" in there. I think their displays are always fabulous.
    V

    PS Hope you bought the striped tee with bulldog! :)

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    1. I believe you, V. There are a LOT of French gifts at Anthropologie, books especially.

      I did not buy the bulldog sweater. I regret it. It would have looked great in my collection. Maybe Santa will bring it to me this year? :-)

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  5. We've finally gotten an Anthropologie in our little town. Luckily for me, it is on Main St. And not in a mall, because I'm no fan of the guinea pig cages either. You must watch Mallrats...

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    1. I love to find an Anthropologie outside of a mall. The downtown Seattle one is like that. There is also a great one in Portland, OR. I always look them up :-) Guinea pig cages. Love this. So true.

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    2. I should have mentioned that my uncle teaches at U of W and lives with his family on Ravenna Blvd. so it is the rare neighborhood of Seattle I have seen...

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  6. Thank you for posting the sign with the message "Don't confuse your path...". It is the perfect message to share with my friend-in-need.

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    1. Je vous en prie. You're welcome. I can relate to the sign as well. I hope your friend enjoys it.

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  7. A great post! I share your dislike of most malls in this area, but University Village is certainly a poster child for what malls could be. Ravenna Gardens is an inspiring respite! As soon as the new parking garage is complete it will be an oasis of interesting shops

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    1. Exactement Jackie. I did not realize the construction I saw yesterday was a new parking garage. Too bad they had to go for a tall building, but I guess they had run out of space...

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  8. Je ne suis pas du tout fan des centres commerciaux en France. Mais quand je vois celui-ci , et tout ce qu'il a de DIFFERENT,par rapport à ici, j'ai quand même très envie d'y aller! Cette boutique- Anthropologie-, semble mélanger les genres , et du coup est très attirante aussi (comme l'est à mes yeux toute boutique qui vend "du J. Austen" parce qu'ici, il n' y en a pas!)Idem pour Ravenna Garden. Le côté "accueil cosy" arrive en France (voir les boutiques Naf-Naf) et c'est super agréable.
    De toute façon, un tel endroit en dit beaucoup sur .. la clientèle!
    Au fait , ici, quand tu photographies une marchandise , il parait que tu es obligée de l'acheter..tu sais ça?..:o)
    Très bon souvenir de ce Woody Allen, je me le reverrais bien!
    Encore un post très riche et passionnant! Bravo et bisous!

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    1. Ah, les Hypermarchés français. Carrefour. Auchan. Leclerc. Si grands. Si bondés. Leurs étagères en désordre. Leurs caissières stressées :-) Je crois que je déteste les centres commerciaux parce qu'ils représentent la vie en banlieue, que je supporte de moins en moins. Une lectrice a commenté plus haut que les malls ressemblent à des cages à hamsters. C'est tellement vrai. Il y a aussi le problème de l'uniformisation: toujours les mêmes enseignes, des chaînes en général, et la disparition de l'originalité, des boutiques indépendantes. Tu peux traverser toute l'Amérique en visitant les "malls" sans avoir jamais l'impression d'avoir changé d'Etat (on peut dire la même chose de nombreuses banlieues françaises, de Paris à la province...) Allez, je crois que j'ai fait le tour. Je descends de mon estrade maintenant. Merci de ta visite, Marie :-) Bisous à ma chère Nice!

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  9. Dearest Véronique,
    Funny to read and you are right about the Atlanta shopping mall experience. Young women and older ones, do dress up nicely here and put on makeup and do their hair. They get up very early for taking care of themselves. They always stood out in a way and if you travel away from our state it even becomes more obvious! But I love it.
    You are so right about describing those brands of: J. Crew; Lucy; and fancy Lulu Lemon...
    Loved seeing those French bistro chairs; my all time favorite. Wish ours back than would have had this quality and having lasted... MISS them. But, there is another reason maybe; most butts would not fit on them anymore.
    Lost your post a few times as I clicked a link. Did you know you can change that? S'il vous plaît check my tutorial: http://bit.ly/XJRtng
    Happy new week to you!
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. "Most butts would not fit on them anymore..." --- LOL. You crack me up, Mariette. I guess I am lucky mine still does, since I have a beautiful orange set at home where we have dinner every evening in the summer.

      Thank you for the headsup about the blog. I will look into it tonight. Hugs to you and Georgia :-)

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  10. I really enjoyed your mall tour. I don't mind walking from time to time through malls. I have never been to Antropologie but have heard only the superlatives about it! Till next time, regards from Zagreb

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    1. Bonjour Ivana. I would not be surprised if Anthropologie sold some items from Zagreb once in a while. They do have a taste for the exotic :-)

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  11. Ha! Veronique, I just came from U-Village (I will only go early on a Monday morning when the crowds are at a minimum if I have to go). You are right, it's not as horrible as other malls (Bellevue Square has to be one of my least happy places... except Costco on a Sunday) but it's still a mall. Sigh. I'd rather shop downtown. But I'm so glad you had fun exploring on a sunny day! And I love your observations about Anthropology - especially the French Chic book genre -- SO TRUE. Same book, repackaged and we keep buying it. How funny. Hope you have a lovely Monday. I'm trying to to complain too much about the lack of sunshine since truly this has been one amazing summer! XO

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    1. Bonjour Jeanne. Wonderful to hear from you. I bet you are missing Provence right about now :-)

      Bellevue Square. Don't even mention the place. I only go for emergencies.

      So tell me, how many of these so called "French secrets revealed" type of books do you own?? :-)

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  12. OMG, is that my French blood? I am so mallophobic. We have so many delightful little boutiques in my little town of Haddonfield, that I am probably a bit spoiled. My favorites are the vintage stores, but I do go into Philadelphia (only 15 mins away) quite often, and Anthropologie is one store I never miss. Even if I come away empty-handed, I always leave with a smile.

    Wonderful post, comme d'hab.

    Gros bisous, M-T

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    1. "Mallophobic..." -- There's a great word for you :-)

      My dear M-T you made your little town of Haddonfield sound heavenly. Methinks I may have to come and visit you one day :-)

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    2. love Haddonfield-visit frequently and Collingswood is another small charming town-I think m t is in in my neck of the woods!

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    3. Well, that's settled then. If you too, g, love that town! I am going! :-)

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  13. I do agree that malls can be so predictable and often I'm overwhelmed by the sheer number of stores that I tend to just gravitate towards my favourites. The most interesting shops are often the local independent ones. Anthropologie is a true treasure trove of unusual items(in fact I recently bought my neice one of those cute initial mugs) I'm sure I could spend some time (and money) in Ravenna Gardens too - my kind of place! What a colourful display of Fermob furniture. I like to be inspired by the displays in stores. It makes such a difference when they make an effort to make the place attractive and I see they offer words of wisdom there too!

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    1. I agree with all of it, miss b. I know you go to Dubai frequently. I hear there is at least one GIGANTIC mall there. Do they happen to have an Anthropologie? I am behind on my blog reading but will be catching up over the next few weeks I hope. I know you wrote several good stories about your travels. A bientôt.

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    2. I haven't spotted Anthropologie in Dubai yet but just about every other store is there so I wouldn't be surprised if it found its way to the enormous Dubai Mall!! We enjoyed our travels this summer and I especially loved seeing the French influence in Hanoi. I appreciated your comments on my recent posts and I'm sure we would get on famously! I hope you enjoy the chicken skewers recipe - I'm a fan of easy yet tasty food.

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  14. I've never been a mall person. It gives me anxiety but so does Walmart. Lol Actually a lot of things give me anxiety. I ran across this today:http://www.santafetravelers.com/food-thoughts/santa-fe-french-connection/
    and thought of you. I'm dying to go now. I've been through their tiny airport last year but never actually ventured in. Anyway I thought I would share. Btw, fun post. Ciao.xo

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    1. I would not go to malls often either if I lived in the Four Corners, Sandy! The photos you post on your blog say it all... and the few shops I spotted there tend to be my favorites, i.e. quaint boutiques. Thank you for the link. I can't wait to go and explore.

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  15. OH V- truly one of my very favorite stores- the candles are devine -the books are fabulous -some of my café bowls are from there-I adore their clothes too but some are too impractical and others so expensive.... but a TRUE FEAST for the eyes-I could spend hours upon hours in each store I have visited-(most of my French books have been purchases there) -how about the kitchen accessories-- love-and the sales- love--- they also give you a discount card for your birthday month - I dislike malls too for all the reasons you mentioned plus a few you did not- this store is the anti mall-our stores in this area are usually stand alone or in a life style strip mall-what a joyful read on this hot humid grey rainy day here in philly

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    1. Welcome back, g. I am not surprised to see we both love Anthropologie... :-) Glad the colorful post brightened up your day... I will have to think of a few more when the rain finally returns here in Seattle... Even banana slugs are starting to scratch their heads and wondering if they are about to become an extinct species because of the hot, dry, weather we have had this summer. :-)

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  16. Love love love Anthro! The Garden store looks great too! Jeannine

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    1. Glad we agree, Jeannine. Thank you for your visit!

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  17. Fantastic little post. :) I'm not much for shopping but loved looking at all the bright and colourful photos. That Ines de la Fressange book is my all time favourite book these days and I often read it in Vancouver, (it's not in my library in Oxfordshire but some days I think I might need two books...lol)

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    1. Bonjour Veronica. I, too, like that book. I have a French version and an English version (both were gifts!) Inès is a fun lady. Très parisienne, yet approachable...

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  18. Malls seem to be all so much the same that they are very boring. A good bookstore, stationery shop or cookware store is much more inviting. When I cross the border to visit your area, I like to shop in Edmonds and Port Townsend. I am always intrigued '"by Anthropologie. There is a similar store (not so big) in the mall at Montparnasse in Paris but it seems distinctly "unfrench."

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    1. So funny you should mention Edmonds and Port Townsend, two favorite [small] towns of mine in this area. Do you happen to remember the name of that store in Paris?

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  19. I love U Village (the prices-not so much). Always have to visit Ravenna Gardens..the smell of that store is so relaxing and the merchandise well chosen. I recognized that sign from the store. U Village at Christmas time, in the evening..it is positively magical!
    Maybe one reason we don't care for indoor malls is all of the bright lighting. Sometimes if I go to Northgate etc. my eyes hurt afterward from the "high beam" lighting.

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    1. Bonjour Martina. I will remember to visit U Village at Christmas time this year. I like your theory about lighting in indoor malls. I have never cared for malls, here in the US or in France. You don't suppose they all use the same electrician?! :-)

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  20. Wonderful post, French Girl. How appropriate that you found the sign in the last image.
    Yes, I'm a fan of Anthropologie, and I know I would love spending time in Ravenna Gardens. We have two Anthro locations here, and both are a treat to visit. I like to go just for the inspiration of the creatively designed displays. They do remind me of the wonderfully artful displays found in Paris shops. Most of their clothes do not fit me, and really aren't appropriate for my age, but the house wares and gifts.........now that's a totally different story. Glad you had a good time.

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    1. Bienvenue, Sarah. You make a very good point. The creativity of displays at Anthropologie rivals the beautiful Parisian shop windows I miss so much. This may be one of the reasons I like going to those stores so much! Say "Bonjour" to Texas for me!

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  21. The "malls" I prefer are the 19th century galleries, passages, I can still find in Paris! They actually preceeded the department stores and the future malls. I would imagine you share my opinion! :-)

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Bonjour! I love hearing from you, my readers. To quote a fellow blogger, my friend Owen, "Comments are the icing on blogcake... Comments are the UFO in the twilight sky bearing news from other planets... Comments are raspberry vinegar in salad dressing... Comments are the cool balm of after-sun moisturizing lotion... Comments are the moment the band comes back out onstage to play an encore... Comments are the gleam in the eye across the room in a smoky bar... Comments are the rainbow after the rainstorm..." Merci for your comments! French Girl in Seattle