I was in Paris this week, at an international conference for Vichy's new April anti-ageing skincare whizzbag launch, LiftActiv Derm Source. More on that next week once I edit my pix and notes, but it's something that's going to find lots of favour, I reckon.
Normally when you head off for a press trip with a brand, you really work for your foie gras: there are mind boggling science-based presentations, one-on-one interviews and workshops as well as lots of being on your best behaviour. It's great, obviously, there's no doubt about it - and Champagne usually makes an appearance at some point or other too. But it's also very nice if you do get a couple of hours downtime, cos then you can leg it off and do some credit card damage.
Paris has grown on me more each time I've been. I used to find it huge and baffling and to some extent I still do, but there is one small area I have stayed in a few times and which I now can confidently march about in, knowing where I'm going and exactly what I want to do. That's the Rue Saint-Honoré and surrounding streets.
Very near the Louvre, this part of Paris is a mouth-watering mix of beauty, fashion, patisserie and confectionery (yes, that *is* a chocolate handbag above) plus jewellery along with cafes and restaurants. It's mostly high end and gorgeous, but there are affordable outlets like Monoprix thrown in just a few streets further on.
Beauty boutiques proliferate on Rue Saint-Honoré: Guerlain, Annick Goutal, Penhaligons and Fragonard all have standalone stores which rub shoulders with Manoush and Miu Miu and this is also where you'll find cult boutique department store, Colette. With a small yet interesting beauty edit, it's always worth a look. Brands like Snowberry, Uslu Airlines, Le Labo and Rodin sit alongside Bumble & bumble, Ren and, er, Topshop's makeup line.
Browsing Colette's site before I left Dublin, I resolved to check out Laqa & Co. A range of nail polish pens that look a lot like those (crap) ones YSL do, these are super-cute and come in cleverly-illustrated packaging. They're as much about that as they are about nail varnish - each is designed by a different illustrator. That helps to justify the fairly cool price of €14 each, and the shade choice is mostly brights and ice cream-inspired.
I'm a sucker for anything different, so I got two. Fancypants is a putty-toned nude and I Want a Pony is a primrose yellow. Both are creme shades with what the brand promises will be a high-gloss finish.
Cute, eh? No idea how these'll apply and wear yet as I'm in the middle of a firm Dior Gris Montaigne moment right now.
Next stop, Monoprix.
Last time I visited I brought back Klorane dry shampoo, some argan oil and a Rouge Baiser lipstick, but this time it was L'Oreal Paris I honed in on because I'd spotted a stand for something we don't have yet. Colour Infallible is an eight-strong suite of super-sparkly shadows that are not quite loose, and yet not quite pressed. Presented in a screw-top jar with a clear base, there's a little inner-plunger fella that sits on top of the product which you can use to tamp it down into place.
These are, obviously, pretty messy but not as messy as Barry M Dazzle Dusts, for example. Interesting, I reckoned, and nearly bought two shades for €11.95 a pop, a very very blinging navy and a gorgeous intensely shimmery taupe. I paused: lord knows, I am not a girl who needs any more navy OR taupe shadows, so I decided to save my cash - especially after shelling out €28 on nail varnishes and er, the small matter of that €80 I dropped on a vintage bag.
If and when these do come to Ireland it'll be interesting to see how many colours launch and what price they are, because this is a nice-looking line.
Last destination for me on my whistle-stop beauty tour was Sephora, which has a branch below the Louvre. Or should I say: had. Yup, it's no more, which I realised much to my horror as I skidded to a halt outside what's now a Fossil-slash-Starbucks. And, er, the horror of everyone else on the trip who I'd dragged there, assuring them it'd be great and they'd love it. Whoops. Time was up, so we couldn't head Champs Elysses-wards where there's a massive branch of the beauty Mecca.
And really, for the sake of my fiscal health, it was probably for the best.