Mini and modern - with a vintage spin - the Montebello convertible fanny pack was named
after Square René Viviani-Montebello. Like the bag, this square is enchanting and miniature. Nestled between Our Lady (Notre Dame) Cathedral and Sylvia Beach's legendary bookshop, Shakespeare & Company, it is worth a visit in the winter to see the site of the oldest planted tree in Paris.
One winter afternoon, in Paris, we discovered the Paris Council's cancellation of the whimsical Champs Elysee, Marché de Noël (Christmas market). Organized by Marcel Campion since 2008, it attracted nearly 16 million visitors a year.
Gone were the white wooden cottages and the smell of churros and mulled wine that was embedded in the magic of Christmas in Paris.
Instead - this particular year - we found ourselves in the thick of its superfluous replacement, located in the expansive, Jardin des Tuileries, across from the Musée du Louvre.
As massive as the event was, it was as if, someone decided to replace the heart and soul of Santa's Village with a commercialized carnival. Not quite our cup of tea - there we were, bereft and in need of a Christmas "pick-me-up."
Many days later, while atop one of the Notre Dame bell towers, peering across the Seine towards Shakespeare & Company, an unusual grouping of lights caught our curious eyes. This was enough for us to make the journey down the spiral steps and mosey across the Pont au Double for a "look-see."
To our surprise and delight, a small group of artisans joined in this square for their own mini Marché de Noël. The atmosphere was warm, kitschy, and filled with spirit.
We listened to buskers, browsed wares from the variety of vendors showcasing, and finally made a purchase from a kind woman selling jewelry and scarves. I spoke just enough
Eng-rench and pantomime - and she, enough French-glish and mime - for a funny, yet smooth transaction.
Fortunately and unfortunately, my earring broke and I was gifted the opportunity to go back. When I showed her my item, she cried out, "Uh, MAIR-duuuhhhh!” (merde = sh*t).
In this delicious human moment, I realized she was the craftswoman that labored over what she sold. Her essence was invested in it. And I - a fellow craftswoman, disguised in unassuming, shopper-like attire - finally got to see what I have felt.
Some sales professionals would call this unprofessional. But as a person with 20 years of corporate sales experience, and now the owner of a small business, I beg to differ.
The gift of wisdom of perspective of seeing the other side of the table was present. This first-hand wisdom of experience of human honesty is what makes shopping small, substantial.
Beneath each sales employee, small business owner, or consumer is a human being. From a filled vantage point, these tangible labors of love are more than objects to covet and offer some sense of self-value or efficiency.
They're priceless experiences of humanity, of purpose, of love, of adventure, of being an individual, and a connected part of a whole community with similar feelings, thoughts, and experiences.