A Delightful Day with Friends at La Samaritaine
Jim and Peggy Bilbro have been friends for many, many years. First to Bernie when Peggy was his son’s Spanish teacher at Randolph. Now to both of us as people who love all things Paris. They, like us, usually spend a portion of their summer here, and we have memories galore with them… strolling, dining, exploring, tending to hurt knees, weathering illnesses and challenges back home. We have been there with open arms for each other to forge a tender friendship. They have just arrived from southern Italy where they purchased their own flat. How exciting. Their time in Paris is only two and a half weeks so very precious.
Yesterday, our adventure together was to check out the reopening of a classic department store in Paris which sits on the river Seine called La Samaritaine. It has been closed for years and under renovation since 2005 and now owned by Louis Vuitton. The classic interior has been updated but with vestiges of its original style. As you might guess, it is trés, trés cher or very expensive. But the browsing was fun. A word I’ve heard used for the new interior was “underwhelming” and I have to agree. But, we were very glad to experience it. Here’s a bit more about the history and current store.
It was created in 1870 by Ernest Cognacq and reached its peak in the 1960’s. It is 20,000 square meters and has over 600 fashion brands. It includes a spa, a beauty-studio, one entire floor devoted to nothing but food including Dalloyou, a luxury 72-room hotel called Chevalier Blanc, and 96 “social housings” for low—income families including a day care. It uses exclusively renewable energy and will eventually add with office space some 2400 jobs. The name is a Biblical reference to the story of Jesus giving water to the Samaritanian woman at the well.
Now here’s a look inside at both the physical structure and some of the fashion. Many of these photos are Peggy’s, some Bernie’s and some mine. Hope you enjoy.
For lunch, we headed to La Place de la Madeleine to eat at a favorite spot called La Village.
and then to Café Pouchkin for dessert. It is owned by Russians and lovely on the interior, especially the iconic toilette.
Our stroll around the Madeleine church was sad as so many of the former thriving businesses are boarded up. The pandemic has definitely taken an economic toll.
It looks like a sunny Saturday here so Bernie and I are headed for the huge flea market, Marché aux Puces.
L & B
July 31, 2021 @ 8:34 am
We had a lovely day with you and Bernie! Samaritaine was highly anticipated, enjoyable, but we still prefer Galeries Lafayette for pure architectural beauty. Thanks for introducing us to the delightful little restaurant for lunch and the glass of rosé to help my recovery from a lot of walking!
July 31, 2021 @ 11:43 am
Paris is always better while sharing with friends! How nice you’re all together again. Loved the concept of Samaritaine! Thanks for sharing the photos.
Monica & Marlyn
July 31, 2021 @ 12:28 pm
So glad you have good friends to spend time with. Have fun at the flea market! (Please, please, please may those shiny purple shoes not become the fashion!)
July 31, 2021 @ 1:49 pm
So glad you connected with the traveling Bilbros! Beautiful photos today. Thanks !
July 31, 2021 @ 1:54 pm
Linda – this summer your photos and commentary have been extraordinary – so full of rich history and gems of new information about Paris! The fascination never ends. I especially love the story of the Samaritaine – a mélange of excessive luxury and consumerism combined with an impressive and creative social benefit. Who knew Louis Vuitton would be connected to such a worthy project?
Enjoy your time with Peggy and Jim – and thank you for giving me something to look forward to almost every morning!
July 31, 2021 @ 2:29 pm
Merci, Dorcas. The “social benefit” to La Samaritaine is controversial among the locals we know, just as La Plages is.
July 31, 2021 @ 3:14 pm
I remember the old Samaritane had a wonderful rooftop viewing area and a cafe. Is the rooftop still open?
Thanks again for my morning stroll in Paris!
July 31, 2021 @ 3:56 pm
I don’t think the roof opens up.
July 31, 2021 @ 10:34 pm
I will miss the old Samaritaine. After visiting on my first trip in 1991, it was always a stop I made on each visit until it closed. On my first trip when I was 25, my friend and I strolled through the store, admiring the staircases and managed to find the lift to the top floor and outdoor patio restaurant. Up one more tiny flight, we climbed a tight spiral staircase, and we laughed at the English translated sign painted on the wall, warning us not to hit our heads on the above steps…”Let Down Your Head!” LOL. When we emerged, we were presented with a wonderful view of Paris. Our first areal view. And this areal view INCLUDED the Eiffel Tower!
Each time I would visit with a new person, I took them to this store and up the spiral stairs (they removed the head warning sign sometime in the early 2000’s). They were always impressed with the beautiful and FREE view. Ah, memories.
August 1, 2021 @ 5:02 am
What a great story! Thanks for sharing. Does the new look remind you of the old store? If there’s a way to the top, we missed it, but we’ll go back and make sure! Being right on the river would provide an awesome view!
August 1, 2021 @ 4:10 pm
Architecturally it looks similar. All the stairs and railings that is. The blue paint is new. Very pretty but I remember it more brown, brass and gold. The layout and clothing (and probably price point) that you show in your pics remind me now more of Le Bon Marché. Nice to look at but c’est trop cher. LOL. Back when I used to shop there, things were very reasonable. More BHV pricing or even less.
August 1, 2021 @ 8:21 pm
BHV is no more…just as expensive now as Galeries Lafayette! I miss the store we used to know years ago. Something for everyone and great sales.