In the US, when we think Pharmacy, we think Rite Aid or CVS, with aisles and aisles of everything from drugs, to cards, to soda, to garbage bags to Sponge Bob key chains. In Europe, the Pharmacie is much smaller and consists of prescriptions and different selections of top of the line skin care, shampoos, health and beauty treatments and remedies. It is also the first line of defense when Europeans are sick. Most go to their Pharmacist, before their Doctor, unless you need a liver transplant or are having a heart attack, and so relationships are developed. These are privately owned shops, as opposed to big monster chains and each one will have its own product line and personality. Pharmacies are like McDonald’s in the US…ubiquitous. In some instances you can stand on the street corner and in a 360 degree radius, as far as the eye can see…you can spot up to 4 or 5 flashing green crosses, which signal a Pharmacie. Most new pharmacists have a difficult time setting up shop, because there are so many…you have to apply and be approved to open one. So, if there are already several in a small area…you will most likely be denied. In my opinion, the health and beauty products in Europe are far superior to anything affordable in the US. A lot of our brands have (pardon my French) crap in them…preservatives, chemicals and the like, while in Europe most reputable brands use more natural ingredients, plant and herb extracts, and are therefore better for you…and produce better results.
After our lunch yesterday, we head to Pharmacie 217. We walk in and are immediately greeted with double kisses and warm Bonjours. Ladies, on a side note here, if you are following along, in our post yesterday we discussed the code that Anne and I have for handsome waiters(read, ugly). Keeping this in mind, I can only say that Alain is truly an Ugly man. Tall, lean, wavy dark brown hair, hazelnut eyes, nice smile…and a wonderful personality to boot. Oh yeah, really ugly. He has the best sense of humor, he is quiet the storyteller… and we have dubbed him a *hoot*, which really took some creative translating on all parts, but I think he is proud of his American nickname!
We are quickly ushered to the back…where only the employees are allowed. Oh, and of course the Pharmacist’s wife. There he finds us chairs, we all sit down and he asks, "Would you like an espresso?" At this point, Chris and I look at each other and just about bounce up and down in delight as we both nod our heads yes and blurt out, "Gotta love France!" Still trying to fathom the fact that we are tucked away at a local Paris Pharmacie having espresso, we look over to see him brewing it into these little china cups that are displayed proudly for just such an occasion. Not cardboard or styrofoam…real china! While entertaining drug reps, I am sure they get much use. Meanwhile, Anne is busy rummaging through boxes and boxes of samples for herself and for us. "One of these, 2 of those, oh this is good for lines around the eyes" and voila..she hands us some goodie bags, filled to the brim! Oh, how I love France!! At this point I take anything she gives me without question, because though we are roughly the same age, she looks
five, seven, ok fine, ten years younger..so I figure it can only help!
We chit-chat a bit longer, and Anne bids a fond farewell to attend to some errands and prep work for tonight’s dinner that she has invited us to, back at their house. At this point, we get down to business. Skin care business! Other than the good company…today we have come for one thing. Caudalie. I know and love these products, but back here in NY, I pay double of what I pay in France, so I am here to load up! Knowing this, Alain whips out his goodie box and proceeds to give us a lesson in Caudalie, which lasted about an hour. I was hooked on every word…waiting to hear about the next thing he pulled out of his *magic box*. He told us about the company, the grape technology, the use of ingredients, how they stumbled upon it and researched it before it was available to the public. The company recently reformulated their product line by taking Parabens out. When I asked why…apparently studies in France show that Parabens have been linked to cancer. What? Did I miss something? Never heard a word about this in the States..and yet all my skin care back home has Parabens in it. I must have missed that on the news. Between all the stabbings, school shootings, rising gas prices and war coverage…I guess they left this little tidbit out.
He took each product one by one and had us feel it, touch it, smell it, try it! Then he diagnosed our skin, recommended certain things, told us not to bother with others. I was mesmerized. Not only by his charm or the adorable way he pronounces *skin* in English (skeeen) but by the obvious passion he has for the work he does. You can tell he was born to be a Pharmacist. By the time we were done, I had the overwhelming desire to send my resume to Caudalie and move to France to do facials and product sales! Yes, A Caudalie girl! I could do that.
After our skin care lesson, we went back out to the sales floor and we shopped like crazy lottery winners. One of his lovely employees who knows a thing or two about the products assisted us as well. We loaded up the counter and as he was ringing us in, he winked and with his little impish grin, told us on top of the already inexpensive prices that he was giving us a little discount as well. Just for good measure he gave samples of all the other products to try as well.
Capable of exfoliating my skin back to toddlerhood and loaded up with enough cream to un-wrinkle an elephant, we bid our goodbyes until later at dinner. He motioned for us to come in the back again. He says he has a gift for each of us. A gift? What more could I possibly even dare to ask for? My eyes open wide as he pulls out two full size bottles of Caudalie Fleur de vigne shower gel, which smells like freshly stomped green grapes. One for each of us. I have died and gone to girle girl heaven. It is at this very moment that the whole experience just overwhelms me. The time he has taken, the generosity, I couldn’t help myself. I become choked up as my nose starts to tingle and my eyes get teary. Every ignorant person’s voice that has ever made such comments like, ‘the French are rude’, ‘the French are mean’, ‘the French hate Americans’, ‘French people don’t smile’…all raced through my brain at once. And it made me sick. These ill informed people have either never been to France or are just not meeting the right French people! I have never met more happy go lucky, sweet, down to earth, warm, funny and friendly people…and they are French! Born and raised! So quit your crying about the French and open your mind and your heart, rather than opening your mouth with your stereotypes! Open a book, study a few French words and use them! Ahem. I digress.
So next time you find yourself in Paris with a cough or a cold, a blister or a craving for some top of the line beauty products or heaven forbid…something much worse, head over to the 10th arrondissement and see the most handsome Pharmacist in all of Paris. He’ll take good care of you. Have no fear about a language barrier. He is fluent in English as well as Spanish! Tell him I sent you….but remember ladies, he is very happily married!
Pharmacie au 217
217 rue Lafayette
01 46 07 86 44
Metro : Louis Blanc