All the World’s a Store
Sure, you can shop around the globe from your sofa. But, as Lynn Yaeger knows better than most, that’s a far cry from hitting the ground running.
Lynn Yaeger’s ode to shopping abroad
Some people dream of hiking to the top of Machu Picchu, riding a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, or exploring every crevice of the Hermitage, but I have a rather different sort of bucket list. Before I shuffle off this mortal coil, I want to make sure there is not one corner of the globe—not one Alpine village, not one desert island—where I haven’t shopped.
I travel to shop. The prospect of the world emerging from this year of hell, with borders and restaurants and theaters—but, most of all, stores—reopening with happy, fully vaccinated people crowding the aisles, is frankly what I am living for.
There are those who believe that a long period of selfreflection may quell the desire to get and spend. Not me. I am fairly certain that a year of travel deprivation has only made me more determined to hit the ground running to those shops and markets that I have so sadly missed—and that, I believe, missed me.
Of course, when I visit a new place I do other stuff too— if you drag me. I will deign to darken the door of the
occasional museum—especially if it has a gift shop. I will join you for a fancy lunch (but not too leisurely, please, especially if I am in a city for only one day and this fine dining cuts into my shopping time).
Lest you hastily dismiss me as a brain-dead vulgarian waving my credit cards, blind to the delights of distant destinations, be assured that I am hardly immune to the charms of the great capitals of the world. But, I ask you, isn’t the Vendôme Column all the more stately because it casts its shadow on Charvet, where Proust had his waistcoats made? And yes, Notre-Dame is a nice church, but Galeries Lafayette also has a phenomenal dome— and, unlike the cathedral, houses a restaurant where you can eat a chicken sandwich while gazing up at the stained glass.
All this far-flung shopping has made me develop my own kind of Lynnie-specific itineraries. In Milan, I never fail to be impressed by the majesty of the Duomo, but I am also awestruck by the architectural wonder of the spectacular Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II arcade, which happens to house the original Prada store. Despite the fact that I am pitifully clumsy and the world’s worst dancer, as soon as I arrive in England I make a pilgrimage to replenish my supply of chic ballet slippers from Freed of London on the edge of the theater district, at the corner of tiny Cecil Court, a Dickensian passageway lined with antiquarian book shops. (I do, by the way, love a West End show— especially since, by the time the curtain goes up, most stores have closed.)
My lust for shopping while traveling has deep roots. A mere college girl, I arrived in France decades ago with a carefully culled wardrobe that seemed perfectly serviceable for a young woman who lived with her parents in Massapequa and attended school in Manhattan. One glance at the soigné Parisiennes on the street, however— light-years away from my hippie dishabille—sent me running to Printemps for a beige linen Cacharel dress and a Daniel Hechter blazer, which I wore every day of the trip.
I ask you, isn’t the Vendôme Column all the more stately because it casts its shadow on Charvet, where Proust had his waistcoats made?
Of course, the internet makes it theoretically possible to shop the world from the comfort of your living-room sofa— but really, haven’t we all had enough of remote everything by now? Clicking Add to Cart, though tempting, will never compete with the joys of finding an extraordinary Venetian silk dressing gown (featuring the signature pleating Mariano Fortuny invented more than a century ago) at the glimmering Fortuny flagship off the Grand Canal.
Shopping to submerge myself in another culture has always made perfect sense to me. When friends brag about bungee jumping in Bora Bora, you can tell them about the time you arrived on foot at Maxfield on Melrose Avenue in L.A.—the security guard ran out to ask if your car had broken down, but “No!” you replied: “I am a New Yorker, and I walk!”—or talk about when you were in Miami (ocean? What ocean?) and discovered that Sevan Biçakçi, a brilliant jeweler you first encountered in Istanbul, has his own shop in the Design District. (As for Istanbul: Who doesn’t love a place where a major tourist attraction is the Grand Bazaar— 61 covered streets and more than 4,000 shops!)
How do I get all my purchases home? I confess that more than once, I have hightailed it to the Longchamp store for yet another lifesaving nylon tote. ( I recommend the kind that unzips in the middle to accommodate, say, a trousseau of embroidered antique linens.) It isn’t as if I have packed so lightly in the first place— all those guides on how to survive for six months on the road with a single pair of black trousers, two interchangeable and deeply undistinguished blazers, and maybe a single sparkle top for evening, frankly, make me sick. What’s the point of traveling if you can’t honor these beautiful places by looking as beautiful as possible?
Let others wait with bated breath for the reopening of sports arenas and concert venues. For me, only strolling down some as- yet- unexplored street in Dubrovnik or Delhi, Barcelona or Buenos Aires, all dressed up with no place to go but shopping, my heart full to bursting as I uncover one wonderful new shop after another, will mean that the dark days are finally over and the world has emerged into blazing light. @