Astier de Villatte's tips for Christmas shopping in Paris
Benoit Astier de Villatte and Ivan Pericoli, the duo behind the Parisian ceramics house, on where to find unique gifts in the City of Light
When the traditional typographers who publish the beloved city guide Ma Vie a Paris nearly went out of business, the founders of Parisian design house Astier de Villatte – specialists in ceramics, homewares and the like – stepped in to preserve this printed treasure. To celebrate the release of the first English edition of the book, the design duo highlights some of the best off-the-beaten-track Parisian boutiques for Christmas shopping.
Au Chat Bleu
Christmas in France equals chocolate, and, for us, chocolate equals Au Chat Bleu. The shop is located in an area full of offices, so people who work there might be familiar with it, but otherwise few Parisians are. It is absolutely what we like: the shop is quite old in style – not fashionable – and the chocolates are delicious and quite big. Often they feature the cat symbol of the house. Everything is really sweet – delicious chocolate and beautiful packaging. We like everything, so this is a very advisable address for Christmas. It's like heaven.
Open Monday to Friday; 85 Boulevard Haussmann, 75008 Paris, +33 1 42 65 33 18
Sous Le Parasol
For perfume you should go to Sous le Parasol, which means "under the umbrella". It's very central, close to Place du Chatelet, so a lot of people pass in front of it, but few stop because the shop looks a bit weird from the outside. It has existed since the 1930s and has been passed down for three generations. They make cologne, usually sold in very big splash bottles, and the prices are unbelievably reasonable. Everything is handmade by these people and the recipes are very traditional. Everything is really nice – the labels, the fragrances – and you can find them only in this shop so it's unique. There's something really fragile and touching about the shop. It's a good spot. If you want a secret address, this is one.
Open Monday to Saturday; 75 Boulevard de Sebastopol, 75002 Paris, sousleparasol.fr
This cheese shop is famous among Parisians. It's the kind of address you might have heard of because they sell to the president, the prime minister, to everyone. They have a fantastic, incredible selection of cheese, in a very small space, and you want to buy everything because it's super-delicious. In France, often you have small cheeses, like goats' cheese, that you buy an entire round of. But if you want to buy Brie or Gruyere, which are very big cheeses, you can just buy a slice here, and they can vacuum-pack it so you can travel with it.
Open Tuesday to Saturday; 51 rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris, +33 1 42 22 82 24
Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
We don't know why, but in France, people don't often give antiques as presents. It's strange because antiques are unique – usually you have just one piece – so it's a very personal gift. There are many reasons to give antiques, and some of the best can be found at Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen. It's the biggest in the world, it's beautiful, it's big fun and often you can find very beautiful things for a price much lower than you'd pay for something new. There are a lot of restaurants, so you can spend a lovely afternoon there. On Sundays there is a band and everything comes alive. We've actually made a little book about the flea market to accompany the next French edition (of Ma Vie a Paris) – it is called Ma Vie aux Puces.
Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday; starting from rue des Rosiers, 93400 Saint-Ouen, marcheauxpuces-saintouen.com
Grande Herboristerie de la Place Clichy
This is a beautiful shop that has existed for well over 100 years. They are very, very good with plants and sell herbs in little paper bags, which are really nice. You can buy the dried herbs loose to use in teas or your own concoctions, but they also sell tinctures, light lotions and high-quality creams. It's a nice present, and the prices are very good. The packaging is simple, but the shop is a little bit elegant, somehow – it's not excessively rustic, it's more distinguished.
Open Monday to Saturday; 87 rue d'Amsterdam, 75008 Paris, +33 1 48 74 83 32
A nice designer, making super-modern leather products, is Isaac Reina. The quality is very high because he's been working for Hermes – for years he was one of the main designers and then he wanted to create his own brand, making leather goods for men and women. He produces everything in Paris, and the shapes are very simple but he pays a lot of attention to the quality of the leather, which he colours with vegetable dyes.
Open Monday to Saturday; 12 rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris, isaacreina.com
Benoit Astier de Villatte and Ivan Pericoli are the duo behind Parisian ceramics brand Astier de Villatte. Ma Vie a Paris is available for purchase from the following London Aesop stores until 25November 2016: Lambs Conduit Street, Marylebone, Shoreditch and Soho. It is also available from astierdevillatte.com