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Champs Elysées & Galeries Lafayette: A Beautiful History

December 19, 2013
by CEA CAPA Content Creator

There's no doubt that the infamous Galeries Lafayette is a gorgeous, spectacle that is aesthetically pleasing to both tourist as well as Parisian locals.
However, this large space on the corner of rue La Fayette is much more than just a shopping haven.
To experience the grandeur of this historic landmark, all you have to do is walk through those doors and find yourself standing in the center of a surreal spectrum of luxuries and colors found under the gigantic, glass dome.
Now, like many aspects of Paris, the beauty of the majority of these hot spots
is in their history.
The Galeries Lafayette actually got its name not only from its rather obvious location on rue "La Fayette" but also from the way owners Théophile Bader and Alphonse Kahn had formatted the interior of this once small shop back in the early 1890s.
You see, the predecessors of department stores actually resembled MUSEUMS!
In museums, artwork is curated/organized in such a way to lead its audience through a story.
In the same manner, Bader and Kahn were among the earliest participants who displayed clothing, perfumes, and accessories in straight aisles, which shoppers would waltz up and down.
Thus, the experience of shopping in Galeries Lafayette, although you may not know it, is extremely similar to that of museum perusing.
The layout of the store is organized into sections of luxury, perfumery, etc., just as museums organize their works by time period, impressionism, surrealism, etc.
As a final touch on the rich history of this seemingly typical department store, the breathtaking glass dome was made to resemble that of the Opéra located just a hop and a skip away. The circular dimensions show a bit about the history of the Opéra as well because the seats in the Opéra were not necessarily meant to face the stage,
but rather the spectators. 
The show was essentially to look at the way those in the audience were dressed, what they were doing, who had been escorted by who, and so on and so forth.
It may be that the structure of Galeries Lafayette calls you to look not only at the clothing, but to further observe those around you as well! 
In my opinion, it was a subconscious method of reminding us that we can easily find inspiration in one another if we simply open ourselves up and observe 
as we do in museums and 
as they did in the Opéra House decades past.

Around the corner from Galeries Lafayette (Printemps)

Place Vendome

Just walking to the building itself is a treat!
The holiday season is upon us and the sidewalks in the area of Galeries Lafayette could not be lovelier.

Mini Lemon Loaf from Claus

After all the shopping and people-watching, you can head over to the 1er arrondissement and discover a new bakery. I happened across one that sells the most delectable mini lemon loafs and to this day, I pop in weekly!

If you're looking for a breezier, outdoors experience, Champs Elysées is the place for you!
I won't lie, it's a heavily tourist area but you'll find no shortage of strange, levitating men, street performers, and well-known shops; from Monsieur Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and Bvlgari to Zara, H&M and Massimo Dutti, it definitely provides a wide variety of fun!

Plus, with the month of December comes
THE CHRISTMAS SHOPS on Champs Elysées!
Small wooden huts of food, jewelry, hot wine, clothing, and endless choices of bits and baubles,
the lower portion of Champs Elysées is a fun farmers market-like atmosphere filled with the bustle of families, friends, little speckles of Christmas lights. and lots of laughter.
Does Paris know how to wish it's inhabitants a happy holiday or what!?

Monica Park is the Fall 2013 MOJO in Paris, France. She is currently a senior at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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