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Shortcut to Fabulous Places to Stay, Eat, Shop and Relax in Istanbul

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After my visit to Istanbul, it became one of my favorite cities in the world and I am just dying to go back. Fabulous food, friendly people, a little bit of chaos and interesting shopping with unique items. The sights, smells, sounds, views and tastes of Istanbul will keep me coming back. Whenever, I go on a trip I spend my time finding you the best spots so you can maximize the fabulous moments of your vacation.

 

Stay

Seven Hills Hotel- The location and view from the rooftop deck are what make this hotel special. It is a little pricey compared to my usual no frills hotel choices in Europe, but when you think that it is located across from the Four Seasons Hotel (also a fab option if you want to splurge). Rooms  at the Seven Hills Hotel start at around 185 Euros for a double.

Hotel Uyan- The location of this charming historic hotel built in 1928 can’t be beat. It is located in the heart of Sultanahmet, just 50 metres from world-famous St. Sophia, Basilica Cistern & Blue Mosque  and 100 meters from Topkapi Palace & Marmara Sea. Double Rooms start at 75 Euros. A total steal in this the prime location.

Hotel Perula- This hotel is also located within walking distance of all of the major sites in the Sultanahmet neighborhood. It is tucked off on a side street and has the added bonus of a Turkish bath located right inside the hotel. Rates start at 70 Euros per night. Another great hotel deal in a fab location.

Eat

Darüzziyafe. The courtyard dining in this restaurant is the perfect spot for some tranquil and relaxing al fresco dining. The restaurant is located almost directly across the main entrance of the Mosque of Süleyman the Magnificent. You may want to stop in before a trip to the mosque and make a reservation. The meatballs are delish. Sifahane Sokak 6.

 

Rumelihisari Iskele Restaurant. The fish is the highlight at the gorgeous eatery with a spectacular and romantic view. This is the perfect spot for a romantic candlelit dinner for two.Rumeli Hisarı Mh., 34470.

Sultanahmet Köftecisi. This cheap eats location is an Istanbul institution, serving locals and tourists famous for its kofte (meatballs). Divan Yolu 12.

Joke Circus. The young and hip of Istanbul frequent this supper club….or so I was told be the concierge at the W Hotel in Istanbul. Demokrasi Park.

 

 

 

Shop

Constantine Art and Jewelry. I made friends with the shop owner Emrit and after a long conversation I learned exactly why I loved this shop above all others. He strives to have unique items that are good quality that you can’t find anywhere else in Istanbul. His jewelry pieces are exquisite. I got a fab hand painted bracelet made of coconut shell that is one of my most complimented jewelry pieces. This store is down the street from the Four Seasons and Seven Hills Hotel. There are a ton of really nice shops in this area and some have stuff that you can get in the Grand Bazaar for less, but many of the  shops have well curated pieces. Tevkithane SK No: 16/1, 34122 Sultanhmet.

Rings at Constantine

Homespaluxe. I stocked up on gifts for friends,family and of course moi at this fabulous boutique carrying hand-made soaps and hammam supplies. The American shop owner curated the goods in this shop well and everything is locally made. This is the place to go to gear up for your Turkish bath experience. They sell Pestamals (Turkish towels), the kese (silk exfoliating glove that will leave your skin as soft as a baby’s bum) and other really cutely packaged items. Galipdede Cad. No 61 Tûnel- Beyoglu. This shop is tucked away toward the end of the pedestrian and trolley lined Istiklal street. This street if full of modern shops and is a really beautiful stroll. Rick Steves has a self-guided walking tour through this neighborhood in his Istanbul Guidebook.

Haci Bekir. My favorite Turkish Delight Spot…and believe me…I tried them all. It is the oldest company in Turkey, esablished in 1777. I love the packaging and the Apple and Pistachio Turkish delight had me seriously considering an all Turkish Delight diet. There are spots all over the city, but I would visit the one at 129 Istikal Cad in the Beyoglu neighborhood when you are checking out HomeSpaLuxe above.

Tulu- The beautiful antiques, textiles and pillows in this store had me swooning and wishing I had packed a few spacebags! binbirdirek mah. ülςler sk. no. 7/A Sultanahmet 34440

Midnight Express. Küçük Bebek Cd.Fun jackets, dresses and accessories fill this Turkish designer boutique that has now become a chain of boutiques.

Suzanne Simon. This shop features made-to-order caftans, which will translate to the perfect beach coverup or Tory Burch inspired tunic back home. Faik Paşa Yokuşu no.1
Çukurcuma.

 

 

 Grand Bazaar. Words cannot prepare you for the dizzying experience you will have shopping in the Grand Bazaar. If you are a true shopaholic, leave at least half a day for this labrynth of shopping merriment. There are lots of guidebooks attempting to help you navigate through the maze that is the grand bazaar, but I recommend just spending the day wandering through with your money securely tucked away in your money belt or bra for those of you who are boobalicious. If you are too Type A to go without a plan, then enter at the Nuuosmaniye Gate and print this map. Here are my Grand Bazaar Highlights: 85 Nurosmanyie Cad has Antiques and Jewelry. 71 Verzirhan Cad has pretty handicrafts. Cashmere House (no bargaining here) Takkeciler Sok. La Moda Bags (past the cistrn and diagonal to the Cashmere House). Halicer Fad. Dervis (soaps). Afghan Shop 12 Kapahςarςι. (Run by an Afghani Expat with gorgeous affordable costume jewelry starting at around 40 Lira) Koς Gems & Sterlin Silver 6 Kapalι Çarsi (Fun and Unique Jewelry). Ottantic 46 Kapaliςarsi Perdahςilar (Gorgeous hand embroidered bags).

Relax

I tried three Hammams in Istanbul and there is one that stands out in my mind as the premier experience. That is the Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamι. I wrote about the Hamam experience here. Why I loved this Hamamm over all others? It was completely luxurious and by far the most beautiful. It is the most expensive, but you get what you pay for. It is located near the Hotels recommended above, the Blue Mosque and most other major tourist sites at Cankurtaran Mahallesi, Bab 1 Humayun Cad: No 1 34122 Sultanahmet

 

 

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Shortcut to Fabulous “I want to Go with Oh to Rome”

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Rome is one of the loveliest utterly chaotic cities in the world. Obviously, there are ancient Roman ruins to see, the center of the Catholic universe and lots of gelato, but the Rome I love is the Rome you miss if you spend all your time on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. When I go with Oh to Rome I will uncover even more off-the-beaten path things to do, see, eat and shop! You can Go with Oh too and with some extra dolce vita by entering to win one of their fab prizes: luggage, an ipad, a camera or 500 Euro of Go with Oh accomodation. Click here to get the skinny on this fab contest and enter to win.

 

The Five things I will do in Rome when I go with Oh are:

5. Watch my 70 Euro Italian leather handbag be crafted right in front of my eyes at Il Gancio. It is located on Via del Seminario 82-83. Their smaller bags are suprising affordable and they actually make bags in the shop. They have some really cute cross body bags that are fabulous quality, great for travel and totally on-trend.

4. Find a great spot to have drinks with a view. There is nothing better than a glass of bubbly and a great view…well except for perhaps designer shoes or handbags 70% off. I digress. I want to find the best place to have a glass of prosecco. Click here to find a list of Rome rooftop cafes and bars.

3. Create my own Pizza Crawl. Who needs a pub crawl when you could create a pizza crawl. If I Go with Oh I will scour the city and create a self-guided pizza crawl for all of you lovely readers.

2. Stroll the Streets and Soak in the real Rome. Many say the best museum in Rome is Rome itself and I couldn’t agree more. Getting lost in the streets is where you make the best discoveries…find the best shops, discover sumptuous gelato and uncover a quiet piazza.

1. Practice saying “Mama Mia in my Pizzeria” in one of Rome’s cooking classes. Italian food is undoubtedly the most universally appealing foods in the US. Even if you can’t cook a five course meal or know how to saute something, you  know how to make some pasta. Well, what could be cooler than saying you learned to cook Italian food in Rome. Who knows where that could lead…perhaps a cooking show on the food network…I mean Giada De Laurentiis is pretty and all….and she cooks great…and she is actually a chef…but after I take my Roman cooking class she is going to have to really step it up a notch if she wants to compete with me! Or maybe, I can just pretend I am as gorgeous, thin and smooth as Giada and film some funny bits in the cooking class to share with you ;) Click here for a Roman cooking class.

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Shortcuts to Fabulous “I want to ‘Go with Oh’ to London”

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Cheerio. I actually studied in London in college. I lived in some dingy little flat in South Kensington and ate at an Indian take-away place every night that was on the way home from my tube stop. I know that doesn’t sound glamorous or fabulous, but it was. I love London…love it and I can’t get enough….

To hit your own travel jackpot, Click on the Go with Oh Badge or here for your own chance to win Samsonite Luggage, a Panosonic Lumix Camera, Holiday Accommodation worth 500 Euros or an 16 GB Ipad 2. All you have to do is like the Facebook page and tell Go with Oh where you would like to go!

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The five things I want to do in London if I go with Oh are:

5. Spend all day in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The last time I went to London, the Fashion exhibit was closed for renovation and my heart was completely broken into tiny little pieces. The museum is free, but I donated 5 pounds when I entered to make up for all of the hours I spent in the museum as a poor college student. Luckily the Fashion collection is back and better than ever and I can’t wait to soak up the couture air of the collection!

4. Practice my Cockney Accent on Portobello Road. Shopping the Portobello Road market is one of the best experiences Europe has to offer. There is only a slight language barrier (wow some of those stall owner’s accents are thick), some fabulous finds, tons of photo opportunities and positively British flavor.

3. Curl my Pinky for Afternoon Tea. There are so many places for tea in London and you could spend a lifetime searching for the best. In fact there are awards given every year by the Tea Guild to the best places for tea. On my list to try: The Goring Hotel (it won a Tea Guild Award for Excellence in 2011, but I really just want to go there to pretend I am Kate Middleton’s American cousin) and the Orangery at Kensington Palace.

2. Pretend I am Becky Bloomwood from “Confessions of a Shopaholic” at Harvey Nichols. Harvey Nichols has a restaurant and some of the best shopping in London. I think an afternoon perusing designer labels, having mild heart attacks and sticker shock at the prices and dining in the restaurant is an absolute must for any fashionista.

1. Check out some West End theater courtesy of the tkts half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square. A trip to London would not be complete without taking in a show and the experience would not be as rich without purchasing half price tickets from Leicester Square. Part of the fun is showing up and spontaneously choosing a show from the available ticket options.

I hear London Calling and hopefully Go with Oh will be footing the bill…xo

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Shortcut to Fabulous Food Near the Sights in Paris!

DSC_5875I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste a meal while traveling on mediocre food, especially when it is in a place like Paris. When you are sightseeing and doing the tourist thing, it is hard to find a great meal and stay away from the tourist traps, but I have some great sightseeing tips and dining suggestions for the city of light.

  • Check out the sights near the Palais Royale during the day and enjoy a lovely picnic in the Jardin de Tuileries. Walk to the Monoprix on Rue de L’Opera and check out the prepared food section on the ground floor. They have lovely sandwiches and paninis and their giant macarons are some of my favorites in the city! The basement level of the store has grocery items and snack sized chips. Try the Monoprix brand gout chili chips…yum!
  • The Latin Quarter is a nice 15 minute stroll from Notre Dame Cathedral. Skip the touristy dining near Notre Dame and head to the cobblestone streets of the Latin Quarter for some delicious dining options. Here are my Latin Quarter picks: La Jacobine. 59-61 Rue Saint Andre des Arts, 75006 Paris. This Tea House is tucked away down a cobble stone street just off of Rue Saint Andre des Arts. I love the ambiance  and the food is delicious! It is open seven days a week from 11:30 to 23:30. My favorite dishes are the Beef Bourguignon and the La Jacobin Salad that comes with a slice of  perfectly light and fluffy quiche on top! The desserts are on display in the window and change daily. They are too die for!!!! Creperie St. Germain 33 Rue Saint André des Arts, 75006 Paris. Around 7- 10 euros per plate including both sweet and savory crepes, salads and more. Lots of locals and a cool vibe with cave like ambiance.
  • One of the hottest and most delicious and affordable restaurants in Paris is a short ten minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. Les Cocettes Christian Constant. 135 Rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris. Wines starting at 4 euros a glass. You will love the ambiance of this place and that all of the dishes come out in little cast iron pots even the Cesar salad, although the crab salad comes out in a jar sans lid! Chocolate tart (10 Euros) is the most expensive dessert on the menu. Dessert is good but if you are going to scrimp somewhere this is where to do it because it was not over the top “make me gush like a school girl fawning over a boy band member” fabulous like the other dishes here.IMG_0019
  • While Strolling the Marais in Paris’s 4th  Arrondissement hitting up one of the falafel shops is really the must do in Paris! The most famous and the one with the longest line is L’au du Falafel 34, rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris. If you don’t feel like waiting in the long line, may I suggest Chez Marianne. 2 Rue des Hospitalières Saint-Gervais 75004  Paris. Much calmer and gives your choice of yummy cornichon pickels on top.
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Shortcut to Fabulous Shopping in Paris…vintage, consignment and more

IMG_0017For years I have been traveling to Paris with great shopping expectations, only to be disappointed by the homogenization of the European shopping experience. Not only are many of the stores the same as those you can find stateside, but even the small boutiques have overpriced versions of things I could find back home. This last trip to Paris, I was determined to unlock the hidden joys of shopping in Paris. I scoured the city and found exactly the experience I had been searching for!

Vintage: I spend an entire day traipsing through the entire city to find the best vintage shops. I ended up empty handed with a huge blister and stinky feet. Here is my hypothesis with regard to vintage/thrift store shopping. The French buy quality and keep it forever, so what you have left in vintage and thrift shops are items that are old and grungy. Of course, there are probably some diamonds in the rough, but I honestly don’t have the patience. However, if you love to hunt for a treasure and you are not a label snob like me, I recommend the Marais for vintage shopping.

The Marais is in the 4th Arrondissement and is full of boutiques and several vintage shops. Note: The Marais is Paris’s Jewish Quarter and many say that this is the reason that most shops in the Marais are open on Sunday. So when the rest of Paris is shut tight on Sunday, you can get a little shopping done and enjoy a delicious Falafel (L’As du Fallafe) in the Marais.

  • Sarl Alternatives: 18, Rue Roi de Sicile, 75004 Paris. This vintage shop has actual designer merchandise. Items can be pricey, but you may be able to find something good. I saw a huge Fendi Tote bag for 300 Euros.
  • Miss June Boutique: 30, Rue de Sevigne 75004 Paris. This shop has cute vintage inspired clothes.
  • Airnoos Mode & Decoration: 52 Rue du Roi Sicile, 75004 Paris. Another shop with cute vintage inspired tops and sweaters. A little pricey, but they have a sale rack in the middle of the store.
  • La Piscine: 13, Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 75004 Paris. They have several locations around the city, but this one is conveniently located close to other shops in the Marais.
  • Free P*Star: 8 rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie, 75004 Paris. A Vintage store with racks full of clothes and a basement level full of jackets and coats. I would say this was one of the more promising of vintage shops.
  • Coiffeur Vintage: 32, Rue de Rosiers, 75004 Paris. I wanted to love this store, but I found it a bit claustrophobic for my taste. It was full of young fashionable French teens and college age kids when I went, so be ready for a crowd in this tiny shop.
  • Fripes Star: 1, Rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris. A little larger than Free P*Star and Coiffeur Vintage. I still struck out here and thought the clothes were too icky for me, but it is worth a peek.
  • Honorable Mention in the 11 Arrondissement: Come on Eileen, 16 Rue des Taillandiers, 75011 Paris. If you found treasures at the vintage shops in the Marais and want to go for more, Come on Eileen has racks full of vintage and designer clothes. Out of all of the vintage shops, I found the merchandise in this one to be the most interesting. There were a lot of fun dresses and designer wares. I found a few items, but upon closer inspection they had stains or tears, so be careful. Down the street from Come on Eileen is another Vintage shop, Tosca Paris, 1 Rue de Taillandiers, 75011 Paris. They had a few high-end vintage pieces in this small shop.

Consignment: Okay, so I don’t exactly have the most stellar endorsement for vintage shops in Paris. However, I found my fashion mecca in one of the ritziest neighborhoods in Paris, the 16 Arrondissement. After my rather disappointing day of vintage shopping, I moved on to the next used clothing category on my list…consignment. JACKPOT!!!! I am not sure why consignment seems to be so much better than vintage shops in Paris, but I think it is because consignment seems to cater to wealthy Parisian women who would not be caught dead in last seasons’s Prada. So, you can find high end designer merchandise in excellent condition, including things with the tags still on them at nicely discounted prices. If you want to find a special deisgner piece to remember your trip to Paris, I recommend the consignment route or Depot Vente.

If you love designer merchandise, then I highly recommend that you budget at least half a day at this next 16 arrondissement shop.

  • Reciproque- Rue de La Pompe, 75016 Paris. This is the self proclaimed largest consignment shop in Paris. The store literally consists of multiple boutiques covering an entire city block. My heart stopped when I found this place and I almost peed my pants about three times. First, when I found two silk Chanel blouses for under 150 Euros (one was 110). Second, when I realized they had an entire shop full of designer handbags. Third, when I actually entered the handbag shop…we are talking racks and racks and racks of buttery leather, Dior, Prada and of course Chanel….sigh! There was a camel colored medium sized Prada satchel in pristine condition for 300 Euros. On a side note, the basement of the handbag shop has coats and scarves.
  • Here is a rundown of the different shops. The best thing about the shop in my opinion is the way it is organized….by designer. We all have designers that we love or that fit better and it is nice to just be able to make a beeline for your favorites. The handbags are also organized this way. Chanel handbags are in a glass case in the handbag shop and YSL was in a nook in the front of the handbag shop when I went. In the main clothing store, the main floor had blouses, light jackets, slacks, skirts and dresses and the basement had shoes, coats and I believe some evening-wear.
  • 97 Rue de La Pompe: Menswear.
  • 93,95 and 101 all have Women’s clothing and accessories.

Flea Market Finds: This trip to Paris, I braved the flea markets for the first time. I armed myself with my most comfortable shoes, a diet coke and dragged my poor mom to the flea market at St. Ouen on Saturday morning. I forced my mom out the door sans lipstick at 8:30 fearing we would miss all of the good stuff because it was so late. All of the guide books said to get there by 9 am. Well, the guidebooks are wrong! Most of the stalls don’t start opening until 10 am, so catch a few more zzz’s and eat breakfast in the city before heading out to St. Ouen. St. Ouen is in a bit of a sketchy neighborhood in Paris, so wear a money belt if you have one and withdraw cash from an ATM in Paris proper before you leave so you don’t have to try and find one there. Once you arrive and exit the metro station, follow the touristy looking crowd under the highway overpass. You will see traditional American flea market stalls selling junk…pass that stuff and head straight for Rue de Rossiers (you will end up there if you keep going straight past the junky merchandise on your left).


Also, make sure you have a return metro ticket before you leave because the metro station can be a bit scary with young French thugs presumably running some type of metro ticket scam. They will accost you when you enter and offer to sell you a metro ticket which will not work. The metro ticket machine was not working when I went so we had to queue up to buy our tickets and fend off the thuggies and their ticket hawking, gawking and what I could tell even with my rudimentary French were some rather dirty and inappropriate comments related to what they would “do” to me if they had the chance. If you have your return metro ticket ready, you can bypass the thugs, insert ticket and be on your merry way back to the city.


What surprised me the most about the Flea Market, besides the fact that I did not have to wake up at the crack of dawn (which made me HEART Paris even more) is the set up. It is not the typical “flea market” set up we have in the States or even on Portobello Road in London. There is not an outdoor market with makeshift stalls. Instead, the flea market consists of multiple indoor markets where vendors rent permanent space. They only open Saturday and Sunday, which I find so strange since they have permanent space. Think of it like a bunch of storage units with electricity where the shop keeper merchandises their goods like a boutique. This is the place to go if you are looking for vintage accessories like purses or jewelry. Most of the vendors are selling antique furniture, but I searched the whole market and found all of the good shops carrying vintage fashion pieces!

Think of the purveyors of the vintage clotting stalls at St. Ouen as French Rachel Zoes. They have exquisite taste and went bananas for the selection of items in the store. Keep this in mind when discussing an item, asking for a price and negotiating. I have found it is far better to bargain saying that you love the piece but can only pay x amount rather than saying it is not worth the price they are charging. In short ask yourself how you would behave if Rachel Zoe were selling the contents of her closet…you would have respect for her, her taste and the value she places on the items. I saw “Ugly American Syndrome” (UAS) in all its glory at St. Ouen. An American women in her forties saw a designer purse, picked it up (without asking) and asked the Rachel Zoesque shop keeper for the price. When the shopkeeper gave the price, the American rolled her eyes, clucked her teeth and threw the item back on the display case. I was horrified, but not more so than the French shopkeeper who rushed over to the item like a it was a bird with a broken wing. Here are some etiquette tips for St. Ouen so that you can avoid UAS:

  • Most shopkeepers speak English. However, when you enter greet them with bonjour (smile not necessary). Before you ask questions in English, ask parlez vous anglais?
  • Ask before you touch.
  • Bargaining is okay, but never do so by disparaging the item.
  • If you love an item, but don’t love the price. Ask for a card and then ask them if you may call them later if you want to purchase. Call them on Monday with your best offer as they are more likely to give a discount if they had a slow weekend in terms of sales.

Here is a rundown of the best of the best of St. Ouen vintage shops by Market.

Marche Vernaison 99 Rue de Rosiers

  • David Roy. Allee 1 (Aisle 1), Stand 3. 99 Rue de Rosiers, 93400 St. Ouen. This is the largest and in my opinion, best of all of the St. Ouen Vintage fashion stalls. They have lots of Chanel handbags and accessories along with Chanel suits. They also have some beautiful if not pricey one-of-a-kind jewelry items. I fell in love with a beautiful Chanel bag. The asking price was 1200 Euros. Sadly I did not adopt her.
  • Le Grenier d/Amatxi. Alee 4 (Aisle 4), Stand 74. This shop had a few more recent designer pieces…more recent spells more affordable. I spotted a cute Chanel bracelet for 250 Euros.
  • Christine L. Alle 5 (Aisle 5), Stand 84. 99 Rue de Rosiers, 93400 St. Ouen. This shop had a great selection of Chanel bags and jewelry. Everything was very pricey.

Marche Serpette 110 Rue de Rosiers

  • Clara Larde. Alle 1 (Aisle 1), Stand 28. 110 Rue de Rosiers, 93400 St. Ouen. Beautiful pieces here. Lots of true vintage finds at this shop.
  • Patricia Attwood. Alle 2 (Aisle 3), Stand 7. 110 Rue de Rosiers, 93400 St. Ouen. Loads of scarves and some Chanel jewelry.
  • Le Monde du Voyage. Alle 3 (Aisle 3), Stand 15. 110 Rue de Rosiers, 93400 St. Ouen. This shop seems to specialize in high-end luggage pieces. They have a large selection of Louis Vuitton and Hermes. When I was there, they had a huge selection of scarves and a glass case full of fun designer jewelry, including a beautiful thick silver Chanel cuff for 450 Euros. That cuff was probably the best designer buy I saw at the market.

Marche Dauphine 132/140 Rue de Rosiers

  • Lucetter Pistre and Nadine Gasso. Stand 78.79.65. More vintage, but this time more space!
  • Catherine Pearce. Stand 120. This shop has affordable costume jewelry…necklaces at 30 Euros. I went home with a few of these necklaces and have been wearing them like crazy!
  • Librairie AMK. Stand 187. First Floor (really the second for North Americans). So this shop has no vintage fashion…at least not that you can wear. However, it does have fun vintage fashion posters and old ad posters which are easy to roll up and pack in your luggage and then have framed with you get home for the perfect piece of artwork and a reminder of your trip to Paris! The shopkeeper is the absolute loveliest women who speaks English and will translate any posters that you buy. I highly recommend this shop for an affordable souvenir. The vintage reproduction posters start at 8 Euros.

For fabulous tips on vintage and thrift shopping visit my friend, Ginger’s blog, Electric Blogarella. She dissects the vintage shopping experience like no one else! Click here to check it out.


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