|Au Printemps - Haussmann - Paris
So this really was the Noël du Siècle, as the adverting slogan for Galeries Lafayette stated.
While the Bal du siècle was being played out by a menagerie in the windows overlooking Boulevard Haussmann, the Au Printemps department store next door saw mannequins, sashaying and strutting around in sequined attire.
It should have come as no great surprise to find that the window displays, pavements and streets surrounding these grands magasins had drawn in huge crowds, despite my theory that everyone else would be preoccupied preparing themselves and the Réveillon meal.
This just proved that the grandes vitrines perform their duty just as efficently as their creators had intended in the 19th century; to make dreams accessible to the general public and to give them inspiration... to buy.
With the names of Dior, Chanel and Louis Vuitton emblazoned on the window displays, the inspiration of le luxe français is certainly operating its magic on a global scale, with the greatest sales coming from the Asian clientèle.
Despite their great renown, Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps were not the first grands magasins in Paris, nor were they the first to inaugurate the institution of the grandes vitrines.
|Deyrolle - Rue du Bac - My FAVOURITE 'cabinet de curiosités'!
|Christmas bear chez Deyrolle in all his natural festive finery...
|Christmas polar bear at Galeries Lafayette, complete with Louis Vuitton accessories...
|Louis Vuitton luggage-bearing frogs (well, what else!)
The company Louis Vuitton, founded in 1854, was to build its name on the need for solid, stylish luggage to withstand such travel requirements.
|Snooty LV Afghan hound with pompom girls...
Of Byzantine style, this magnificent stained-glass coupole dominates the store inside and out. At 33 metres in height, the structure is breath-taking today, but must have been even more so when first constructed at the beginning of the last century.
|The Coupole - Galeries Lafayette - 100 years old.
Unfortunately, from ground level in the store, the conditions were more like those on a rugby pitch - everyone was elbowing their way forward to take photos...
|Wow! A Croydon facelift à la française...
The search for calm and a certain sophisticated order were what drove the grand urban planner of 19th century Paris, Baron Haussmann, whose name was given to the grand boulevard that houses Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps near the Opéra Garnier.
Haussmann was responsible for the huge transformation of the capital, largely obliterating 60% of the narrow, sprawling streets and alleys dating from Medieval times in order to create a city centred around a series of great axis. The most famous of these arteries must be the Champs-Elysées which radiates from the Place de l'Etoile.
Criticized for his obsession with straight lines and a strict application of norms for height and style of the typical Haussmannian architecture, he nevertheless created the Paris of vast tree-lined avenues and grands hôtels particuliers that we know today.
Haussmann sought to encourage ever-greater economic growth for the capital. He did so by rendering the circulation of traffic and pedestrians more fluid through a network of clear-cut routes - be that actual roads or pavements that facilitated the bourgeois flâneries.
|Always a magpie lurking somewhere amongst the jewels...
|Two pickpockets who 'cleared me out' over Christmas!
Here's another grand marque - again more sparkle and animal magic...