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Package Makes Perfect

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. Bon shopping!

French Take-Out ~ 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 friends. Click 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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