Thirtysomething Mommy just had a post about Ikea and it reminded me of living in Paris in the summer of '98 with the Mom, on the eponymous Rue de la Clef.
We had been to Ikea before-- namely the one off exit 13A of the turnpike in Elizabeth. Nothing says touching down at Newark Liberty Airport quite like seeing the giant "13A/IKEA" sign across the runway.
Then, when we were making the drive one day from Paris out to what was then "Eurodisney" and is now "Disneyland Paris" we passed by an IKEA and of course had to stop. It turns out there are now seven IKEAs on the outskirts of Paris, making Paris the city with the most IKEAs anywhere. This might explain why everytime we watch "House Hunters International" it seems that most people in Paris have Ikea furniture.
Out of this trip I ended up buying (i) a gi-normous duvet cover (white, with giant yellow polka dots) which for some reason ended up being far larger than any king size duvet would ever be in the states, (ii) lamps (yes, lamps... which had Euro plugs, which I was convinced the Dad could swap out for american plugs) and the Mom bought a lazy susan and carried it across the Atlantic (despite the fact that the IKEA stores here carry the same thing). (Much like when I insisted on bringing back Nutella from Germany, only realizing later that it was sold at Publix.)
But, not to be out done, at the end of our stay in Paris we took a mini-vacation to Germany. While driving on the Autobahn near Stuttgart we came up over a hill and there, in the distance, called out to us (in the same voice as in The Simpson's theme) was a giant sign that said "IKEA!" And yes, we had to stop there too. I can't remember now what we bought at that IKEA but I'm sure it was something that wasn't necessarily unique to that store and probably something that we could have gotten for the same price in Elizabeth.
I can't quite explain what the draw to IKEA is other than that it is somewhat foreign, yet oddly familiar at the same time. Each store has the same maze-like quaility, goofy product names and questionable swedish meatballs, but still there's just something that draws you in.
And, as an FYI: Check this out... Wikipedia has a whole section on the secret behind Ikea's product naming convention... yes, there is a rhyme and reason to the whole "Ektorp" phenomenon. Who knew!?!