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Saturday, December 01, 2012

Christmas Shopping - Yes, It's that time already!

Christmas at the Galeries LaFayette, Paris
Sh. In case you hadn't realised, it's that time of year again. The time when people warn you helpfully how close it is to Christmas and you start to panic about what to get everyone. I have an easy answer to that - books! But still, the pressure is on to come up with the perfect gift, whether home made or bought.

So, knowing what a stressful time it is I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite Christmas shopping places - only recently discovered because, frankly, they aren't located too close to where I live. I don't usually shop here but they made me smile, despite the crowds, and I hope they make you smile too.

Outside the Galeries LaFayette in Paris
I'm sharing two department store experiences. First up is the Galeries LaFayette in Paris. Multiple, multiple floors of outlets selling everything to diamonds and designer handbags to gourmet snacks and clothes. It had the most enormous Christmas tree I'd ever seen indoors and probably more people than I'd ever seen indoors in one place. As for the pavement out the front - it was packed with people and we just got swept along with the crowd.

It's not the place for a little bargain, but for window shopping or drooling (discreetly of course). It's fabulous. Above it all is a beautifully coloured glass dome ceiling which is elegant and amazing. The huge space even seemed to absorb the constant hum of desperate Christmas shoppers. So if you want elegance, this one does it in style. It's on any tourist list of places to see in Paris and easy to get to.

My other department store treat was KaDeWe - a similarly enormous store in Berlin. In fact I'm told it's the biggest store in Europe, though I haven't checked that fact. I wouldn't be surprised. I went for a browse and what a treat. Again, it had the most wonderful luxury items - the sort of things that don't even feature in the town where I live. The jewellery and fashion sections were amazing but if you just stopped there you'd miss a lot.

Christmas for the discerning dog? KaDeWe, Berlin
I was lucky enough to visit when I wasn't in a panic to find last minute gifts, so I had time to notice some of the quirkier bits and pieces. How about these lederhosen (leather shorts held up by a bib and braces), embroidered with edelweiss? I'm sure that would make some pooch happy. And the beautiful porcelain dog bowls were amazing too. I knew the Germans loved their dogs but this put things in a whole new light!

And of course there were gifts for people as well. These designer art pieces were eye-catching and fun and unlike anything I'd ever seen before. The whole display of crazy animals just made me smile. I love the crocodile at the front of the photo, with his mouth open wide.

For someone who has everything
Strangely, despite all the temptations, it was the top floor we lingered in. The top floor is the food court. It had every delicacy you could imagine, through meats and cheeses and wines to...well, you name it. We got lost several times on that floor alone, and I wished I'd had a lot more room in my luggage so I could indulge.

Perhaps the best thing about upmarket department store shopping (even if it's window shopping), is relaxing in the on-premises coffee shop to rest the feet. KaDeWe was no exception. We passed up the chance for oysters and seafood. Instead we chose from the coffee and cake selection. Even that took us fifteen minutes of careful browsing!

Finishing with afternoon tea
Here's an example of what was on offer - raspberry crumble pie and fantastic coffee. I'm not sure if you can see it, but the fresh raspberry on top of the pie had edible gold leaf on top - just to make the eating experience more of an experience! Not your average coffee shop, that's for sure.

Back home again and I doubt I'll be buying things like these on my Christmas shopping excursions. My aim will be to think carefully, write a list or two and try to do my shopping quickly and methodically, avoiding the crowds. I wonder if I'll manage it? I know that if anyone were to offer me coffee and cake as good as these along the way, I'd be only too happy to indulge.

How about you? Are you looking forward to Christmas shopping? Do you get a buzz out of finding the right gift? Or is it all too hard? Will you shop at a department store or somewhere smaller or maybe even make your own gifts this year? Do you have a favourite place you like to shop?


In the spirit of Christmas cheer, I will give away a signed copy of my latest book DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY to someone who leaves a comment. If you leave a post, drop by again tomorrow to see if you've won.


And if you're still wondering what to buy people for Christmas - how about a romance? 'Defying Her Desert Duty' is available now from The Book Depository (with free postage), or for new year reading there's 'Captive in the Spotlight' (this link is to the North American version, out in February, as it includes an extra full length story 'Blackmailed Bride, Innocent Wife' for free). To find out more about either book, drop by Annie's website for more detail and some tantalising excerpts.

39 comments:

  1. Wow , Annie, I want to be in Paris and Berlin shopping--and New York and London as well, if we're talking shopping fantasies!

    Even though Christmas is looming, despite all best intentions and some forward online shopping already hidden around the house, I will be doing my usual last-minute rush to get everything for everyone.

    Please don't put me in the draw for the copy of DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY. I'm fortunate enough to already have a copy of this wonderful story--whoever wins it is in for a treat!

    I hope you have a wonderful festive season and get everything done you need to do so you can enjoy it and relax!

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    1. Hi Kandy, there are some fabulous places for Christmas shopping, aren't there? I've never shopped in New York but I imagine the Christmas crowds must be phenomenal.

      I'm a bit like you - no matter how organised I think I am there are still bits and pieces I haven't done, so I'll have to finish the Christmas shopping this month, sadly not at either of these locations. Thanks for the good wishes. I hope you manage a wonderful Christmas too, with time to relax.

      I'm so glad you enjoyed DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY!

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  2. Hi Annie, I love love love your pics :) I'm lucky this year, not much christmas shopping to do because me, my girls, their step sister and all their cousins will be over in the Gold Coast on Xmas Day so we're just doing secret santa so we dont have to to lug presents all around. Technically staying in Oz is our Christmas Prestent. We've all been contributing to our "trip fund" over the year and it's almost time to go, I.cant.wait! We have super passes to the theme parks YAY. Merry Christmas Annie, I've throughly enjoyed following you over the year and I look forward to doing it all again in 2013! Tash xx

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    1. Tash, what a lovely way to spend Christmas - with all the girls together! How marvellous. I hope you enjoy the Gold Coast enormously. I'm already thinking of SeaWorld, which I love. And you can pop into the Palazzo Versace for coffee then go next door to the fish market for the most marvellous fish and chips and aioli. And there's Currumbin (lots of childhood memories) and all the other theme parks. If you get time, take a day trip up into the mountains for something different. So many things to do.

      Terrific that you've enjoyed the pics and the blogs. It's been great chatting with you this year! Hope Christmas is terrific.

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    2. Thank you for the recommendations Annie, it's always great to know where to go for good coffee when you're from out of town. I'm especially looking forward to Sea World, the last time I was there I was 3! I can only barely remember dolphins I think jumping out of the water. Mmm Fish & Chips. Thank you muchly :)))

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  3. I buy Christmas, birthday, and wedding presents throughout the year and set them aside (keeping track of whom they are for and how much I paid). I include gifts for me too, as my husband wraps them for me (plus ones he chooses); this came about years ago when he complained that he didn't know what to buy me (especially with clothing sizes and preferences). That being said, I still end up buying last-minute things by about Dec 23 and do all the wrapping for our immediate family at once, often on Christmas Eve after Church. The presents for others in our extended family are usually done the night before we need to distribute them.

    I made my own Christmas boxes this year, based on a tutorial that author Myrna Mackenzie provided on her blog. It was super easy (otherwise I wouldn't be able to do it, LOL) and used 12"x12" scrapbooking papers (to make 6"x6" boxes). You can make them smaller, of course, but I don't think wrapping paper is strong enough for bigger boxes; maybe I'll try poster board next time, but that might be too thick to fold cleanly.

    I also write my own year-in-review poems (just finished last night). They are usually quite upbeat, but this year were mixed, as we had two deaths in our family recently. In the past, I'd print my poems on special Christmas paper, but finding envelopes big enough (and cheap enough) presented problems. This year, I glued the poems (printed on photocopy paper) into the inside of premade Christmas cards instead. Much easier AND cheaper. I tried giving up on the poems after the first year, but I had so many requests for it to be an annual event that I caved in and have been writing these poems for the past half dozen years or so.

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    1. Laney, I'm in awe of you writing newsy Christmas poems, not once but every year! Poetry is not something I aspire to though my husband is talented in that way - I wonder what he'd think if I suggested it to him! Sorry to hear it's been such a mixed year for your family. I'm hoping 2013 brings good things.

      I love the sound of your Christmas boxes for gifts, and your organised shopping for everyone through the year. I pick up gifts through the year if I see them but never remember to write them down which means I sometimes end up with several gifts for the same person. I'll aim to take a leaf from your book next year and plan it all a little better.

      Merry Christmas!

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  4. Yes, it's that time of year again! And it also means one thing, I'm turning a year older! (This Monday) Don't want to but can't do nothing about it :P. Anyway, I usually make a list around September or October and them slowly to avoid being caught in the Christmas rush. Sales and bazaars are good, it's one way to save money but we shouldn't compromise the quality. And I usually buy gifts that are necessary to those people that will receive it. This year is also cool and new to me, since it's my first time to buy and give Christmas gifts to my godchildren. :D

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    1. Hi Lory Lee. Happy birthday for Monday! I hope you get to celebrate the occasion separately. I've known a few people over the years who's birthday is within a month of Christmas and it always seemed difficult for them to keep their birthday separate to Christmas.

      I love picking up gift bargains at sales through the year too. Occasionally you find just the perfect gift for someone, and when it's at a reduced price because they're clearing stock, it seems doubly good. How exciting to be buying for your godchildren too.

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  5. Annie, lovely to see you here. And what an intriguing post. I remember the big London department stores in the lead-up to Christmas and how crowded they got. I also remember how crazy they used to get after Christmas when the sales were on. I've got a bit of a crowd phobia so I went once and never again, I didn't care how much money I'd be saving! That pie looks delicious. What a treat to have such a lovely outing in Berlin. Love the sound of the food hall - I used to love Harrods food hall when I lived in London. They used to sell the most delicious Belgian chocolates made with fresh cream. Yum, yum, yum!!!

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    1. Anna, the crowds can be awful, can't they? I remember the surging mob on the pavement outside the Galeries LaFayette - we were just lucky it pushed us inside the doors! You'd have loved the food floor at KaDeWe. I've never seen anything like it. You could happily do all your gift shopping on that floor alone. I'm trying to remember the one at Harrods but time has blurred it a bit. An excuse to go back and investigate again?

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    2. Ooh, wouldn't it be fun to go together? I remember all the Christmas hams hanging up and the game birds and the most amazing cheese counter I'd ever seen. This was back in the mid-80s. Not sure if it's the same now.

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    3. Anna, I gather the Harrods' food section is still amazing. My family braved the Christmas crowds to go there while I had a meeting. But truly, you'll have to see KadeWe some time. That floor of food is something else.

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  6. What fantastic places to shop for Christmas gifts... WOW.. I used to love all the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, but thank god for Gift Cards.. They make shopping so much easier... But there are some shopping I like to do. We have a quainte small town about a half hour from where I live. It offers so many unique stores and I always find those extra speical gift I need...
    And it always puts me in the mood for Christmas, seeing it all decorated and if there is snow on the ground, which 9 timies out of 10 there is, it is a bonus..

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  7. Hi Kathleen, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. It sounds like you have a marvellous place to shop without the enormous crowds and the bustle of public transport - though I wonder if snow ever interferes with you getting to your destination. Some of those little boutique shops have amazing, unique items, don't they? I remember being in Richmond in the UK to visit my editor and spending a little extra time browsing a couple of small specialist stores since I got there early. By the time I visited my editor I had a stack of gifts i'd bought for friends and family!

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  8. Shopping stresses me out. I do most of mine online and give gift cards. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

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  9. Hi Runner10. Aren't gift cards a wonderful invention? I keep hoping the Book Depository will start them up but in the meantime there are plenty of others to choose from.

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  10. I love sending gift cards..especially for those we don't see during the holidays. We used to ship gifts and I resented having to spending another 1/3 of the gift price for shipping.

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    1. Ah, girlygirl, the postage is awful, isn't it? I send a lot of things (especially books) overseas and the postage mounts up incredibly.

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  11. Annie, it IS that time already! We're going to get the Xmas tree out today which will be fun!

    Our families are a bit scattered these days so we agreed to stop doing the present thing - as girlygirlhoosier mentioned there's all that postage to go on top of the cost of the gift. Half of me is pleased because the pressure of thinking of something to buy but the other half did used to enjoy the fun of finding that perfect present for someone.

    Laughed at the crocodile when I had a closer look at him - he's got gold boots on! Just the thing the best dressed croc would want!

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    1. Sharon, so glad you liked the croc. I suppose I should have made that picture bigger, since there's so much to see in it.

      I hear you on the pressure of finding the right presents, but like you I must admit I do get such pleasure out of deciding on what I hope will be the right gifts for various family and friends.

      Enjoy your Christmas tree!

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  12. LOL... I'm w/ Runner... most of the time once I get to the stores I blank out at what to buy! I'm a giftcarder all the way! :)

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  13. Hi Erin, another vote for the gift cards? I must admit that most of the time when I try Christmas shopping I have a list i hand. Otherwise I get far too confused.

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  14. I don't know whether I must feel lucky or have not enjoy the time to buy Christmas things even with the crowd of people to buy them, I think few peoples do enjoy it because I'm not celebrate Christmas event. Chinese New Year will make stress too so I can imagine how people feel that's why I always prepare things 1-2 month bf event like as buy new clothes, cut my hair, buy new shoes etc.

    Love the Christmas tree and the desert you posted, Annie :)

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    1. Hi Eli,

      Yes, it doesn't matter if it's Christmas or some other big celebration - there is stress associated with it. Good on you for getting so organised in advance! I try, and I've done some organising but there's a lot to do. Some of the preparations I really enjoy, especially if I don't feel rushed. I think it's the sensation of time running out that I don't like.

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    2. Eli, I forgot to say - I'm glad you liked the photos. I was pleased when I took them.

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  15. I love shopping for people and finding things that they like. It's just as fun getting great discounts :)
    Online is a fun way to find things and compare, but I still go into stores when they have sales.

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    1. Hi Leni,

      It is a nice feeling, isn't it, finding the right gifts for the right people? I find it so satisfying and I always look forward to their pleasure when they receive something special. I hope you find lots of perfect bargains this year.

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  16. This might be a little weird to say, but I look forward to Christmas shopping every year:) I start most of Christmas shopping on Black Friday... I know it's probably crazy, but I love the adrenaline rush and of course the awesome deals. I would LOVE to visit the places you have visited if only to browse since I probably couldn't afford the luxuries in those places.

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  17. Yadkny,

    To tell the truth, I window shopped in Paris and Berlin. Oh, I bought a few bits and pieces, but not major gifts in those big stores. I was there to soak up the atmosphere! It's always nice to see something a little different. I'm thinking of you now enjoying the buzz of the pre Christmas rush. Enjoy!

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  18. I'm enjoying sharing these shopping pics with you all. Maybe I'll have to go again, to different stores this time, and take some more photos. What a great excuse to travel and window shop!

    As it's getting late in the day I thought I'd better draw the winner for a signed copy of DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY. The winner is Lori Lee. Congratulations, Lori! If you email me at annie(at)annie-west(dot)com and give me your postal address I'll get the book in the mail to you.

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    1. OMG! Thanks for the wonderful birthday gift! I want to shout but everyone's already in bed. So I'm smiling and giggling all by myself. :D

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    2. Lory Lee, that sounds like perfect timing. I'm glad you're so pleased. Enjoy!

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  19. Hi, Annie! I was here earlier, I swear, but my comment must've been gobbled up my hungry internet gremlins!

    Wow, I could spend days in a place like Galeries LaFayette in Paris. Have fun shopping this year! x

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  20. Vanessa, it's the most amazing place, isn't it? i'm not sure Christmas is the best time to be there though, with the wall to wall people. Hope your own Christmas shopping goes well. Thanks for dropping by.

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  21. honestly ive been doing my shoppinga lil all year this year i have decided to do christmas gift baskets for my 3 aunts who live around here my mommas best friend and neighbor and my sister in law after i lost my sister in july i was abit lost because of the holidays and i was the one who hated the hustle and bustle of stores this time of year but this year and this season i have found it theraputic to find that special one thing that stands out for each basket so alittle of my sisters love of shopping lives on

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  22. Hi SiNn, it must be tough dealing with the Christmas preparations without your sister. I'm glad this year you're finding the Christmas bustle and shopping therapeutic. Those baskets of yours sound so special. I'm sure your aunts will love them.

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  23. Cindy, thanks for stopping buy and commenting!

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