Well, it’s really the 6th night tonight, but in the virtual world we can stop time like that. For the 3rd Perfectly Parisian Present, I’ve recently fallen under the spell of the shop selling figurines are the Palais Royale. Mr French and I have strolled by there a 100 times, on our way to the Comédie Française or for a stroll in the gardens of for little lèche vitrine activity at Didier Ludot’s Little Black Dress shop. When we’d pass by Les Drapeaux de France boutique and Mr French would slow down to look at all the figurines as I’d rush him along muttering “dust collectors” and “tourist trap” with him replying, “You’re a woman, you wouldn’t understand.”
The last time we walked past it was bitterly cold outside and I could tell there would be no hurrying Mr French, so I popped inside for some warmth. As I opened the glass door a man rushed out of a side door, nearly knocking me over. He immediately struck me as the Absent Minded Professor type. A man so passionate about what he does, he sometimes forgets about the rest of the world. The warm wooden floor was worn from decades of people lingering to admire the cluttered glass cases filled with familiar comic book characters, Christmas scenes, African safari animals and tin soldiers representing the armys of Europe. The boutique went from Tourist Trap to Sanctuary in my imagination and I started thinking in hushed tones.
And then I saw her. Alice, dueling it out with the Jabberwocky. And yelling at the Queen. There was the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and a whole host of other characters from Wonderland, each one so beautifully painted I wanted to reach out and touch them. Mme Absent Minded was standing just behind me in the narrow space. I turned and started to ask about these flat tin (plat d’etain) objects in my best art gallery voice.
Mme turned to me brusquely, replying in a loud, exuberant voice that brought me back to reality reminding me that these are toys, meant to bring joy to children of all ages. I learned that most of what they have is made in Europe and almost all of it painted in France by a handful of artists, each with their own specialty. There is a Christmas lady, and several who only work on the soldiers. The shop also carries some more mass market products, but they are slowly phasing out their commercial “made in China” stock. Mme is just as passionate as Monsieur, who had met Mr French and the two of them were in a corner going into ecstasies over a series of trees.
I left with a small package in my hand, a new appreciation for tin soldiers and a bit of childish delight in my heart. I can’t imagine a better holiday gift than a bit of the youthful joy that surges up when looking at one of their unique miniatures.