Saturday, February 6, 2010

Window Shopping on Rue du Rhone

Sometimes it's really easy to forget what's good about Geneva, particularly when broke, frustrated, tired, and in the middle of the 8th or 9th grey, wet day in a row.  In a mad attempt to remind myself why people might choose to come here as tourists and what makes those people who love this city love it, I decided to go for a walk despite the heavy-falling wet snow.  After winding through various neighbourhoods lost in thought, my footsteps eventually lead me to the Rue du Rhone.  If there is ever a street that could lift my spirits, it is this street.

Just walking on the Rue du Rhone is an enjoyable experience.  There is so much to look at!  I have never been inside a single one of the stores that line the spotless sidewalks.  The street is packed with designer shops - one can find Dior, Chanel, Hermes, Burberry, Jean-Paul Gaultier, La Perla, Giorgio Armani, Bottega Veneta, and many others, shoulder to shoulder, jostling for window space.  The windows are spotlessly clean, dressed tastefully, displaying the most wondrous jewels, shoes, and pieces of clothing.  Beauty and Quality luxuriate in elegantly-lit interiors, whose polished entrances are closely guarded by security personnel.

I do not go into these stores.  Sometimes I would like to, and I have gone into other of these stores in other cities.  My reasons for staying on the sidewalk of this particular street are three:  
1) I'm broke in an expensive city to live in,
2) When one has no money and a taste for original, interesting, high-quality goods, it is unfair to oneself to pass through such doors into a snake-pit of credit-card-spending temptation,
and 3) I really like window-shopping.  

I think window-shopping is a forgotten pleasure these days.  Few people walking down the streets that I have seen stop simply to admire the goods in the window, peering in with hands at the side of faces to block their own reflection in the glass, standing on tip-toes to peek around the displays.  Many people will glance at the window briefly - usually just enough time to confirm the name of the store - before rushing in to handle and examine the items for sale.  This is too bad in a way, because window-shopping is fun, and it is good for inspiration - especially if one needs to continuously re-work a small wardrobe (such as when one is travelling).  It also gives me, at least, the pleasure of shopping without the pain of spending money, and I think this comes from the harmony of an appreciation of the goods in the window unaccompanied by an overwhelming need to consume.  So today I wandered the Rue du Rhone, and window-shopped my little heart out.  In my imagination I tried on Christian Louboutin pumps - yellow - and selected a grey leather cut-out Hugo Boss dress to wear with them.  

I spent an hour pleasantly engaged in walking this street until reaching the end of the 'high end' boutique section.  At this end of the street, Rue Pierre Fatio - a kind of boulevard - crosses it, and looking south towards the old town (which is only two streets away from Rhone at any point in the walk) at the next corner is a round-about for the cars, buses and trams.  The street parallel to Rhone is called Rive, and is pedestrian-and-trams-only.  At this corner, in the midst of trams and traffic and tourists, is one of the most magical stores I've ever seen:  the Laduree macaron shop.

CoutureMillineryAtelier and Luxurirare have both mentioned Laduree macarons on their blogs, and I am compelled to sing the praises as well, in particular because I love macarons and *adore* looking in the windows of Laduree.

Laduree, Geneva

Laduree is a 'luxury' cakes and pastry company, hailing from Paris, and it is reputedly the original creator of the macaron as we know it - with the slightly crunchy outside and soft chewy centre.  If a person has never had a macaron, it is difficult to describe what it is, let alone how delicious such an object can be.  An interesting mix between a cookie and something completely different, fresh soft macarons are truly the stuff of heaven.  Laduree macarons must be the food of the gods.  


I went in to this particular store a couple of weeks ago, to get macarons for my friend who left for Japan.  Laduree is immaculate inside, with gift boxes and displays set up in little towers and pyramids in windows and on the polished wood shelves beside and behind the counter.  The two staff people were dressed in crisp navy suits with white pinstripes, wore white gloves to handle the macarons, and looked like they should have been handing me pearls on velvet mats rather than edible treats.  I'm rather a traditionalist when it comes to macaron flavours, leaning towards fruit or chocolate flavours and typically avoiding things like licorice or coffee (I have this tendency when it comes to ice cream also), and so I chose 6 flavours and bought two of each of them for my friend.  The macarons looked plump and squishy in their little box, and I was worried about mashing them with an awkward movement for the entire bike-ride home.  

Today I merely gazed in from the sidewalk, admiring the little clouds of deliciousness in their neat rows, each flavour in a square so that the counter looks like an artist's colour palette.  Other days I'll go in and buy some.  Today I decided to wait.  I think that macarons should be shared with friends, and so I contented myself with window-shopping a couple of vanillas, and a strawberry (my favourite!).  I turned my feet back along the Rue du Rhone, having talked to a friend who wanted to meet for coffee in Plainpalais, and left my window-purchases on the sidewalk behind me.

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