Spirit of France thrives in midtown

[attach]3003[/attach]Voulez vous shoppé avec moi pour le holidays?

Mais oui, there are more French shops worthy of our gift-seeking attention on Yonge St. north of Eglinton, thanks to the arrival of a couple newbies that scream Vive la France.

[url=]Chateau de Sable[/url], for example, has been open since Oct. 1 on the Yonge Street strip, the only North American location of the Paris-based franchise to date.

It’s a darling concept. The stylish duds, for newborns up to 14 years of age, are designed by French designer Stephanie Lemaire.

My experience with French clothing, limited as it may be, is this: the French like to dress their kids like mini adults – which can translate into a refreshing retail concept standing in stark contrast to some of the mass market or licensed kiddie wear out there.

The store is neutral in tone, featuring white fixtures that complement the sandy-like hues of the boys’ and girls’ clothing (Chateau de Sable means “sandcastle” so the look is apt) – soft pinks, greys, and beiges, the colours of faded beach pebbles along the French Riviera, ahhh …..

The prices aren’t what I consider to be French either, namely because, though designed in France with mainly French- and Italian-sourced fabric, the pieces are made offshore, I’m told.

A dear little cotton ruffled jacket for girls with fleece lining is $49, while a boys’ down jacket in navy, $162, has a detachable vest.

When I spy a pink wool-blend, plaid, collared sleeveless A-line dress, $57, I wish I could shrink myself down to at least a size fit for a 14-year-old (the French label their kids’ clothes according to age, not size), but pas de probleme: a recent direction in the company is to make the odd adult-sized piece for mommy.

A sand-hued long, hooded cardigan with a sweet tassel pom-pom on the hood, $79, is made of super soft goat angora and lined with modal for extra warmth and comfort.

Santa could put that baby under the tree for me anytime.

2596 Yonge St., 416-322-6888 [url=][/url]

Nearby, French expat Manuel Molina is unpacking boxes and boxes of goods freshly arrived from France. Molina’s store, [url=]Made in France[/url], has been open since May, having relocated from my hometown of Ottawa to the Big Smoke.

Like the name says, everything here is from France, so we’re not talking cheap knock-offs of Provençal tablecloths. Having lived half his life in France, Molina says he’s developed close relationships with suppliers there, effectively bypassing the trade show circuit.

Translation: the store is full of French items you won’t find elsewhere.

Take the blown bubbled glass by family-owned company, Biot. The pieces are lovely and gift-worthy: how about a blue jam pot, $130, or a set of ice scream bowls, $75 each, for the gourmand in your life?

Molina tells me his Provençal tablecloths, all Teflon-coated, are the best deals around ($96 for a 59 x 98) and are truly made in France – apparently there are lots of cheap imitations out there that won’t stand the test of time.

For holiday feasting, goodies from Alsace, known for its baked bon-bons, are just in, but some are in short supply, like the Gateau Noel by Stollen, $12 for a 750g loaf. There’s also pre-cut gingerbread loaves, $10 each and also from Alsace, along with butter caramels ($1.77 each or 5 for $8) that Molina tells me are award-winning and don’t stick to your teeth.

J’adore the bowls by T Comme Terre made in the Drôme region – they’re made by another family-owned company Molina knows.

Made with red clay the pottery comes in lovely Provençal patterns of blue, yellow and red ($57 for the small and $89 for the large bowl I admire).

He can’t seem to keep these in stock, but more are coming in soon: the handcrafted ceramic guinea fowl by Lussan out of the south of France, $115-135 each, are whimsical beyond belief.

I pick up a triple-milled olive and lavender soap bar the size of my head, practically, for $15 – Molina tells me it’ll last for three months at the very least.

2614 Yonge St., 647-344-9240 [url=][/url]

C’est vrai: [url=]L’Occitane en Provence[/url] has been on the strip for a decade, I’m told – perhaps they started the French trend – but it’s no less worth our shopping attention.

Gents, if you’re at a loss as to what to put under the tree for us chicks, you can opt for a number of body or face care items here – how about one of the Mediterranean eau de parfumes, $88 each, along with a plane ticket to Aix-en-Provence?

Not joking.

Just launched for the holiday season only, the new Fleur Cherie make-up collection is a shimmering delight.

The beige and pink glimmer dual lip palette, which comes in a silver compass-like compact for $32, is on my wish list.

I almost buy some organic shea butter for my already dry legs, $45, but decide on the Eau Delicate Fresh Face Water make-up remover, $25, which is going to be a permanent fixture at my desk – not as a makeup remover but as a dewy face refresher in a dry office environment.

2589 Yonge St., 416-440-3979 [url=][/url]

If you’re slightly peckish after your French shop hop, I hear the new [url=]La Bohème Café Patisserie[/url] at 2481 Yonge (416-489-2233) has wonderful quiche and pain au chocolat.

For the sake of mon hips, I keep walking.

Next time.