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Champs Elysées: the Elysian Fields of Paris

Chanel Couture on the Avenue Montaigne
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The Champs Elysées were once open meadows and fields, heavenly fields if the straightforward translation of the name is to be believed. In 1724, the grand promenades of trees that line the  Avenue des Champs Elysées were first planted and the most elegant of Parisian streets was created. With the addition of the Arc de Triomphe and Place d'Etoile in the early 19th century, the famous street became the world famous ceremonial and celebratory heart of Paris.

For shoppers, the Champs Elysées defines a district more than a street. The retail opportunities on Avenue des Champs Elysées itself consist almost entirely of the kinds of global brands one can find in any international capital or in the giant shopping malls of Dubai. The Spanish ladies fashion house  Zara and the American sportswear store Gap are typical. Some exceptions worth visiting include the flagship of cosmetics superstore Sephora, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, watch merchant Louis Pion, and furrier Milady. Arabian Oud, at No. 63, who specialise in incense and oil perfumes, claim to be the world's largest fragrance retailer. Stop at No. 75 for a plateful of pastel colored macaroons (or a boxful to take home) at Ladurée, inventors of this much imitated confection.

A glimpse of old Paris

Turn into the streets that run off the Avenue des Champs Elysées for a quieter, less touristy and much more elegant neighbourhood, reminiscent of old Paris and lined with the exclusive salons of the very best fashion merchants. In particular, the streets that run south to the Seine - rue Marignan, rue Marbeuf, Avenue George V, rue Galilée and rue de Bassano are fun to explore. Avenue Montaigne, running south west of Place Franklin D. Roosevelt, is the best of them.

Here you'll find the discreet and ultrachic boutiques of French designers Chanel, Christian Dior Couture, Chloé, Emmanuel Ungaro, Nina Ricci, as well as the international fashions of Versace, Valentino, Prada, Armani, Ralph Lauren, Salvatore Ferragamo and Dolce & Gabbana. The tiny perfume shop, Parfums Caron at No. 34, is one of the prettiest on the street. And the most well-dressed children in Paris are outfitted from Bonpoint at No. 49.