"Faire du lèche-vitrines," or window licking, is one of my favorite French expressions. It implies so much more than the English expression "window shopping," which hints that the person doing it is looking now in order to buy later. The French expression is funnier, and more honest. It expresses that surge of desire we all get when we see something we want in a shop window and it does not at all mean that we will ever go inside to buy.
Window licking is also perfectly permissible in France — no one will think badly of you for doing it. It is, in fact, a sort of national sport, something to do in your free time. Look. Stare. Dream. Why not? Women do it, men do it, even dogs do it (I once saw a large boxer on its hind legs, front paws on the window of a shop specializing in foie gras).
So the next time you are in Paris, don't be shy. Stroll and faire du lèche-vitrines. This city, with its unique boutiques and artful displays, is one of the best places in the world to do it. Over the next couple of days I'll list of some of my favorite quartiers for window licking. Stay tuned . . .