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THE TIMES SHOPPER

A Leisurely Approach to Fashionable Caracas

November 05, 1989|JENNIFER MERIN | Merin is a New York City free-lance writer

CARACAS, Venezuela — Avenida Abraham Lincoln in the Sabana Grande district is the area's main shopping thoroughfare. It is a broad, tree-shaded, pedestrians-only boulevard lined on both sides with stylish fashion boutiques and gift shops.

Avenida Lincoln, however, requires a leisurely approach. The street is long, more than a mile from one end to the other, beginning at Plaza Venezuela and ending at about Chacaito, although some shops are beyond that point.

Begin strolling at either end, where you can be dropped off by taxi (these are metered and affordable) or by the metro (which has large stations conveniently at both Plaza Venezuela and Chacaito).

Midway is another metro stop, called Sabana Grande, that saves strollers from having to walk the whole mile.

Those who need rest can sit on tree-shaded wooden benches that are placed along the length of the boulevard. Refreshments and/or quick-munch lunches can be bought from fast-food outlets and outdoor cafes sandwiched between the retail shops.

Shops are identified by building name rather than by street number. However, almost all natives of Caracas who walk down Avenida Lincoln know where specific buildings are, and are very friendly in pointing tourists in the right direction.

Although Avenida Lincoln's shops offer much merchandise, shoes are by far the boulevard's best buys. There are dozens of shoe shops from which to choose. Some tailors, stationers and dry cleaners also sell shoes.

The shoes are irresistible. High styles and low prices. There are fancy ladies' dress shoes with precariously high heels, splendid tassels for men and sports models for fleet-footed pedestrians on the run. Also, delicate sandals for beach wear and chunky oxfords sturdy enough to endure years of negotiating paved city streets or rough terrain.

Not many sport famous labels, but Venezuela manufactures shoes for top designers worldwide. And the prices are about one-half to two-thirds less than shoes of equal quality would cost in the United States. Here are some of the best shops:

Calzados Annese (Edificio 165, Local 3) is a stylish shop with stylish shoes. It features low heels and flats made of leather that have been stamped with fabulous and sometimes eccentric geometric patterns. Some of the shoes are solid in color, others emphasize the leather stamping with two- or three-tone color schemes.

There are two-tone blacks and browns, as well as brighter combinations of reds, blues, greens and magentas. Heels cost from about $55 U.S., flats are priced from about $51. Annese also provides stamped leather handbags designed to mix and match with many of the shop's shoe styles. A magnificently versatile and roomy pouch bag costs $78. In addition, the shop sells lovely clip-on butterflies and bows (from $10 to $15) with which to dress up undecorated pumps.

Nardi (Edificio Acapulco, in front of the General Electric Telephone Co.) specializes in casual shoes for men, women and children. Featured are oxfords and loafers with soft-as-butter leather uppers and gummy rubber soles. These come in a variety of unusual colors such as apple green, pink, sunshine yellow and sky blue, and many sport the Sisley logo. They cost from $34.

Nardi makes its own label of men's loafers (from $49) and oxfords (from $68) and women's dress pumps (from $36) in sturdier leathers and an equally appealing array of colors. Under the Gini label are white, black, tan and pastel-colored, rubber-soled, super-soft leather oxfords (priced from $37 up) for men or women.

Kids' styles use soft leather, rubber soles and bright colors, and cost from $18 up. There is usually a selection of styles from past seasons that are sold at half-price.

Emelie Rodin (at the corner of Calle El Colegio, one of the boulevard's side streets) has high-fashion, very tailored women's shoes with interestingly shaped heels. Many of the styles feature handsome combinations of smooth and textured leathers. Some use black or brown as basic colors that are accented with silver or gold details. Flats cost from $52; high heels are slightly more expensive. There are handbags to match all shoe styles.

El Zapateria Tartana (Edificio Zenit, next to Banco Nacional de Descuento) has stunning suede oxfords and flats (from $31) in black, blue and red. Sale shoes (usually only several pairs or one size left of a lot) cost from $8, and include items ranging from golden slippers bedecked with bows to gray loafers with leather fringes.

Alexis Canchica R. (in the Sastreria Francesa, Edificio Celeste, Local C) has particularly good buys in men's and women's multi-colored casual shoes. Oxfords made of soft leathers in combinations of green, pink and yellow or blue, green and yellow sell for about $10.

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