I want to love the Champs-Elysees, but it isn’t easy. So much has been written about the grand Parisian avenue that the reality of it is bound to disappoint. In the years that I have been visiting Paris, the Champs-Elysees has never been the luxurious boulevard that its reputation suggests – true luxury can be found on avenue Montaigne, while the Champs-Elysees is a crowded tourist trap, ensaring uninitiated travelers with its shiny multiplexes, car dealerships and H&M stores. Apart from the Arc de Triomphe at the west end, there is very little to see. But, when I was younger and we had our Montmartre apartment, everything in Paris still closed on Sundays – there was a certain charm in that, in a culture that recognises the importance of a day of rest, but as a North American it was hard to get used to and so, on some Sundays we would venture to the Champs-Elysees, because the on boulevard, the rules are different, and stores are almost always open. Inevitably, on these Sunday trips, we would be disappointed by the street all over again, except for one place – the Guerlain boutique. The boutique opened at 68, avenue des Champs-Elysees in 1914 and I fell in love with it the first time that I saw its green awning. But I never dared to go inside. Sometimes, I would stand near the door and peek in longingly, but I couldn’t bring myself to cross the threshold, convinced that I didn’t belong in such a luxurious place. I am a relatively average girl from a middle class family in a small city on the Canadian prairies. I grew up with access to exactly no luxury brands and, while I am now a loyal customer of many of them, I still feel a little intimidated by all of the elegance with which they are imbued. Its because of that that I find it hard to express in words the feeling that came over me when Guerlain invited me for a private tour of their flagship store earlier this year. I was somehow over the moon and incredibly nervous at the same time. But the Guerlain team could not have been lovelier – Jackie took us into every room, sharing every detail of the story of the boutique, the Guerlain family that started the brand (and once called the upper floors of the building their home), and served us tea from the exclusive Guerlain selection served in Le 68 par Guy Martin, the restaurant downstairs. Tea in a room filled with wall-to-wall vintage perfume bottles – it was so wonderful it almost didn’t feel real. But then again, everything about the day was a bit like that – at one point, we found ourselves smelling the last remnants of a perfume that was the favourite scent of a former director of the Russian ballet, one he loved so much that he would spritz the curtains of the performance hall with it; at another, we were admiring the last remaining example of a Berard textile in the world. We visited on a Sunday, which meant that L’Institut Guerlain, one of the first spas in the world, which opened for the first time in 1939, was closed. But somehow, the doors of L’Institut were open for us, so we were able to admire the hanging garden in the foyer and experience each of the different treatment rooms. I have talked so often about the secret Paris that hides behind closed doors – there is so much history in every building, so many stories just waiting to be told and nowhere was that more apparent than at Guerlain, where we visited rooms that family once called home and experienced scents that may never again be worn by anyone in the world. I have always admired Guerlain, but spending time in their Champs-Elysees boutique gave me a new appreciation, not only for their products but for their approach to life and luxury. The team, especially Jackie, made us not only feel welcome but like we belonged in their beautiful store – and it was a truly magical experience.
68, avenue des Champs-Elysees
01 45 62 52 57
Je suis désolée pour le manque de traduction aujourd’hui, mes belles, mais avec l’ouverture de la nouvelle boutique Chanel à Vancouver hier, j’ai eu une journée hyper pressée. Je vous reviens en français dès vendredi.