The best things in life don’t change

10 September 2012
Ben Pentreath

Sharp eyed readers will be able to play spot the difference in this post. And be grateful that there isn’t any!

I know that somewhere deep in this blog you will find (almost) this photo, the beautiful lettering on the old Didot Type Foundry, on Rue Jacob:

or this one, the perfect storefront of this Tabac around the corner on Rue des Saints-Pères:

Yes. We were in Paris this weekend, buying for the shop, and it was time for a wander around St. Germain.

The sunshine glowed and the streets sparkled. Paris seems completely eternal and the lack of change is something that is deeply comforting. There is a danger in stasis – I sometimes say to people the one thing you can’t keep, in cities, is exactly what you’ve got. Like it or not, our towns and cities are always changing, and are either going up or down. But somehow – I would feel a loss when this tobacconist goes, and I hope it never will.

We had time for a short walk through gleaming early Saturday morning streets.

But before you think life is all a breeze… Robin and I (and our neighbour Maggie Owen) were there for a shopping trip, at Maison & Objet, the massive trade show held twice a year in an enormous exhibition centre in the fairly grim suburbs not far from the airport. Our happy half an hour was over; time to go to Gard du Nord, to meet our other neighbour Will:

and to jump on the decaying 80’s trains that take you out to Parc des Expositions:

where 8 million unbelievably aggressive buyers rush off clutching their wheelie-suitcases and dressed, from time to time, in some rather questionable outfits:

where we all spend the next 8 hours traipsing around a giant overheated greenhouse, going a bit brain-dead.

Bonkers, really. But we did find a lot of very exciting new stock, even if our weekend in Paris isn’t quite as glamorous as you might have been thinking when you started reading this post.

11 comments on this post

Nicola Barriesays:

Ben, I have only been to Paris once, for one week, in August 2011. I stayed on the Rue de Verneuil – sometimes I have the happy knack of finding the right spot – by accident! Now I read it is your favourite street/area! How uncanny!


I love your comment about the decaying trains of the RER B line. I live on the other end of the line and feel powerless, as do millions of users, faced with the general poor condition and sloppy management of the service. Thank you!


Jennifer, Go to the rear of the Marais around the Musée Picasso and northwards towards La République. Lots of new boutiques opening all the time in the area that used to be rather run down.

thank you Ben. I wandered St. Germain last fall…until I was literally lost and no longer in St. Germain ha. Thank you for the recommendation…can’t wait.


Ben, I feel for you. The Maison et objet can be a numbing experience. I also think it’s not been so good in the last couple of years.

heading to Paris this spring to celebrate my 40th birthday…have not done much shopping in past visits. This trip we would love to explore more antiques and the like. Would love to hear your recommendations….even if only for window shopping


Dear Jennifer without a doubt my favourite areas are the Marais and St. Germain, and I think, you know, it’s a case of wandering and getting lost and finding discoveries. The little shops around Rue de Verneuil are probably my favourites of all..!

Judith Percivalsays:

And remember next time you are in Paris that Debauve et Gallais make the most wonderful orange flavoured choclate bars.


Ha! You were kinder than I was. I told her she was daft! She tried to spin me a tale of taxes when I asked why it was so steep. When you’re at a show full of professional buyers, you have to do better than that! I’ll come into the shop for the book as a visit is on my list of to do’s when I’m back in Albion. H


I was at M&O on Saturday too. I stopped by one of the bookstores and was happy to come across your book. The lady said you’d been through shortly before. Had you still been there I might have been happier about paying the 75€ she wanted for the book. I’ll come by and get a copy when I’m next in London as her mark up didn’t include your mark inside the cover! I spent the rest of the visit scanning the crowds for you as I would have loved to meet you. Hèlas, you didn’t stroll my way.


oh no!! And I offered to sign the copies. Yes, 75E seemed a little steep to me and I did tell her so…. If you want a signed copy we can pop one in the post for you!

All best, Ben

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