For years, Paris has been the pinnacle of European fashion indulgence - from expensive perfumes to designer clothing, from fine art to haute cuisine. The City of Light continues to draw shopping aficionados from around the world, who come to purchase les grandes marques along the Champs-Élysées and dine in lavish Left Bank restaurants. But that's the well-known Paris experience - which includes the big department stores such as Les Galeries Lafayette, the outdoor booksellers along the Seine River near Notre Dame, and the French chain stores on rue de Rivoli. The true Parisian experience is harder to find. For the most fashionable locals these days, ditch the Left Bank in favour of Canal Saint Martin or Marais.
Rabbit lamp, $67
In France, kitsch is everywhere when it comes to home decoration - whether in the faces of Marilyn Monroe or Betty Boop, or in the form of odd little knick-knack exports. This rabbit lamp might not be for everyone, but it's an example of the eclectic bobo (Bourgeouis-Bohemian) collections offered by the boutiques along Canal Saint Martin - where it's easy to find a little more colour or humour to incorporate into any home-decorating style. Antoine et Lili; 95 quai de Valmy; (33) 01-4037-3486; antoineetlili.com
Vintage accessories, $14 and up
Capture the image of romantic Paris, at the city's vintage shops and markets. Layer unique scarves and vests and throw in a little sparkle with classic jewellery - the best way to find a truly unique look. Chez Mamie, in the 9th arrondissement, carries clothes for men and women circa 1970 to 1990. Mamie Blue and Chez Mamie; 69 and 73 rue deRochechouart; (33) 01-4281-1042; mamie-vintage.com.
Raclette grill, $65
Every French person seems to have a raclette grill on hand whenever there's a party - it's perfect for the holiday and gives you a reason to talk about all the meals you enjoyed on your Parisian vacation. BHV; 14 rue du Temple; www.bhv.fr
If you want to get a feel for the France you've seen in old movies, check out the Hôtel du Nord restaurant. It has famous roots (is the setting for Marcel Carné's 1938 film of the same name), but it still manages a quaint ambience that continues to attract the local bohemians (think red-lipsticked, off-duty models and well-read soccer fans). 102 quai de Jemmapes (Canal Saint Martin); (33) 01-4040-7878; hoteldunord.org.
Don't waste money on lavish accommodations. You'll only sleep in the hotel, so spend your time and money in the city, soaking up the culture and enjoying long French dinners. The cozy Hotel Prince Albert Louvre is on a quiet street a few steps from the Louvre and within walking distance of most of the things you'll want to do - which is important during transit strikes. They'll also look after your bags for free while you roam around the city, even if you're switching to a different hotel the next night. 5 rue Saint Hyacinthe; (33) 01-4261-5836; rooms from $152; hotelprincealbert.com.
Special to The Globe and Mail
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