Saturday, January 26, 2008

B is for...

B is for... Babyproofing. Although le Petit is making slow progress on the mobility front and is still largely content to roll and scoot about his new playpen, the wider world awaits him soon. And Mom's gotta get herself moving on making it a safe place to play, so...

B is for... Bricolage. Alas, I've found no suitable translation for this fantastic French word. It's something close to do-it-yourself-ing, but with an element of improvisation. And isn't boutique de bricolage so much more poetic than "hardware store?"

B is for... BHV. You cannot mention bricolage in Paris without speaking of the venerable BHV. Part grand magasin, part cave of wonders with a dash of oriental street market thrown in, it is where you go to find just about anything. The prices are often higher than elsewhere, but it is the one stop you make if you have a home improvement project and do not want to run all over town. I'm not the first or the last American to go nuts about the BHV, and it's just short of a pilgrimage spot for my mother when she comes to visit. There's something we find magic about finding all manner of nails, bolts, and power tools, to say nothing of designer upholstery fabric, right in the heart of Paris. It appeals to the practical Yankee soul.

The famous BHV basement, previously an unnavigable maze of jumbled shelves of hardware, was recently renovated. Many were afraid it would be ruined forever, but I can assure you that although the signage is now clear (was there ever a floor plan before?), it has lost nothing of its charm. There's the same staff, as knowledgeable as they are gruff, and the same mind-boggling selection of tools. And, of course, there's still that special French touch: along with the plumbing and the electrical supplies, there's a section devoted to outfitting one's wine cellar -- with everything for sale but the wine, of course.

I found the window blocking hardware I came in quest of, along with some plastic corners for babyproofing the coffee table and some other useful-looking miscellany. I could have spent the whole afternoon wandering the aisles, for the bricolage basement is just the beginning: the first floor is overflowing with art supplies, the third with kitchen gadgets and cleaning products, and the fourth with curtains and decorative hardware. And those are only the floors I know by heart. As much as I'd love to, I've never had time to check out the floors of clothing, cosmetics, or furniture.

Glamorous Paris shopping it is not, but maybe that's why I love it so much. Proof that even in this city of high heels and cobblestones and of shivering at sidewalk cafés in January, one is allowed to be practical sometimes.

No comments: