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Paris

shopping paris flea market silverIn France, a sales tax or VAT is tacked onto most purchases; however, non-E.U. citizens who spend at least 175 euros at a participating store can get the VAT refunded (with some exceptions).

Note: Refunds are almost non-existent, so shop mindfully. In most department stores, you will be handed a "bill" to pay at the cashier (sometimes a long walk away) before getting your items. By French law, sales take place twice yearly (January, July). They're amazing, and long lines form outside the swankiest shops on day one. To avoid fines, some stores (mostly department stores) mark some racks as "specials" or "just in," but it isn't all that common.

Visit Avenue Montaigne in the eighth arrondissement for haute couture from the likes of Chanel, Laurent, Dior and Lanvin.

Marche aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt, the most famous flea market in the city, is enormous -- consisting of some 3,000 stalls. It's held along Avenue de la Porte de Clignancourt Saturday through Monday.

Rue du Faubourg St.-Honore pays homage to glamour, fashion, high style and the world's most expensive shops and galleries -- as well as the President's Palace.

The Champs-Elysees is one long boulevard of high-end shopping opportunities, including names like Prada, Sephora and Louis Vuitton.

Many visitors are surprised to hear that Paris has a Chinatown, but it's actually a fun place to shop. Browse the aisles at giant Asian supermarkets along avenue d'Ivry such as Tang Freres, which is packed with dried mushrooms, Vietnamese lemongrass, canned litchi juice and powder water chestnuts. It's a must-do for finding those ingredients you can never seem to find for a recipe (as long as it's canned or sealed, it's fine for getting through Customs back home).
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