Summer, and one of the highlights for me was the chance to visit a couple of good hobby shops in Paris! Yes, the City of Light is well-known for many things, although its model train shops are not one of them, it certainly makes a visit to this city that much more enjoyable.
Based on recommendations from in some earlier posts, I was able to identify and visit several shops all within close distance to one another. All of these shops are within easy walking distance of the Place de Clichy metro station, and the largest cluster is just a block away from the Moulin Rouge.
Transmondia; Trans-Europ Trains; Decotrain
Transmondia (shown in the picture with the brown/maroon awning) is the shop that focuses on N Scale, with the other shops focusing on H0, O Gauge, and scenery items.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my visit to Transmondia was that I had the opportunity to meet the owner, Claude, who not only spoke excellent English, but was also able to share a lot of interesting stories about her parents opening this shop years ago and being one of the first importers of American model trains into France. She also had stories of Con-Cor's relationship with Kato (who apparently produced the Con-Cor ALCO PA's back in the 'old days, among other things), before Kato decided to leave Con-Cor and produce and distribute its own models directly.
The shopping experience for me was like a kid in a candy store. The internet is a fantastic thing and allows me to have access to models from just about anywhere in the world, but I don't think any of us would ever confuse that experience to actually seeing these models in person, in stock, and on display on the shelves. I picked up an older Fleischmann 7360 (an SNCF BB 15000 in dark green), a Kato/Hobbytrain 25106 set (very cool SCC IC 2000 set!), a DM-Toys crane, several French grain cars from Arnold, and several French language hobby and train magazines. A good haul!
Directly across the street is yet another hobby shop, Les Cheminots ("The Railroaders" in French). They don't appear to have a website, but do have a lot of N and HO in well-displayed cabinets. Among the expected imports from Germany, there were also several Tomix and Kato Shinkansen sets as well as American trains. A nice selection of buses and cars from Rietze AutoModelle, miNis and other hard to find brands as well as trains. I picked up some buses, trucks, containers, and an Auhagen 'two wornhauser' aparment building kit.
Located next to Les Cheminots is this small store apparently focused on automobile collectibles. Mostly die cast and others. I didn't find much there for me, but another shop that adds some interest to this neighborhood
A short walk back down Rue de Douai to Boulevard de Clichy and then down Rue de Amsterdam is...
Au Pullman has in store. Plenty of nice displays of stock, clean and air-conditioned (!) this was a nice environment to browse in. Of course, browsing wasn't all that I did, and while my French and their English were at about equal levels (which is to say, not good), Visa and Mastercard and universal languages that are gladly spoken, so I walked away with a Piko/SAI BB 12600 in the modern 'multi-services' livery in addition to several boxes of Viessmann street lights and other accessories.
Unfortunately, time (and budget!) didn't allow me to get to some other neighborhoods to visit other shops that were recommended (Opherline, Central Train, or Citerne) but that leaves more new opportunities the next time I get to visit!
Of course, I went 'shopping' with the expectation that a 'real' hobby shop will always have a necessary premium in price over what can often be found on the internet, so 'value' was not what I was looking for (although, considering that I didn't have to pay the typical 25-35 Euro shipping cost was sort of a 'discount'!); what I was looking for - and found - was more of the experience of being able to see all the inventory in stock in a shop and, of course, being able to get a feel for these hobby shops in a major metropolitan city, and being able to take home a bit of the "SNCF" with me from my fun trip with my family. I also have to say that compared to New York or London, Paris is quite fortunate in its selection of hobby shops, which again, provides additional incentive to visit (its not just Louis Vuitton!).
UPDATE: Check out my post on another visit to Hobby Shops in Paris (Part Duex!)