Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Carrying On Even More

In pursuit of the best suitcase to take to Paris, I went back to Marshall's and brought home the 20" carry-on version of the 26" mauve Heys spinning suitcase I'd picked out on Saturday, which I could only half-fill with everything on my packing list. Last night, during the men's short figure-skating program — sparkles, rhinestones, feathers, embroidery, hot-pink laces and tassels! — I tried filling it with the same list I used to pack the 26" suitcase.

According to my calculations of cubic space, my clothes, boots, books, etc., should have fit just perfectly if I used the suitcase's expandable area, too. And my math was correct. I flung myself on top of the suitcase, triumphantly zipped it and presented it to my husband, who was watching Lindsey Jacobellis blow her chance in women's snowboard cross. He was not impressed with me or with Lindsey. He pointed out that I didn't have enough room in there to bring home anything larger than a postcard.

Shopping. What might I buy in Paris? What have we brought home from trips abroad?

During two of our trips to Prague, I bought large, one-of-a-kind, wooden marionettes. Each was packed in a box almost as tall as I was. I also bought a Mucha poster that is about 7 feet tall and is hanging right in front of me as I write this. While these items wouldn't fit in any kind of suitcase, they prove that I pay no attention to difficulties when shopping overseas. This is an argument for a larger suitcase.

On a trip to Egypt, I brought home six pieces of Fayoum pottery from Nagada, my favorite shop in Cairo. Each piece was packed in bubble-wrap and they all fit easily into my large suitcase, among my clothes, arriving safely. I've also brought home Syrian inlaid boxes and a large backgammon set. Yet another argument for the larger suitcase.

On our first trip to Italy, I brought home four substantial pieces of pottery from Siena, including a planter and a soup tureen, which had to sit in my lap on the flight home. More proof that I shop for things overseas that would deter sensible people with small suitcases. On our last trip to Italy, I brought home some shawls, books, enough porcini bouillon cubes to stink up not only the suitcase but all of our hotel rooms, and olive oil, — a dangerous, unnecessary purchase. But we liked the woman who was selling it so much that we couldn't refuse her. I'd also tried to buy boots, and failed.

We took the train to NYC once and came home with a coffee table. We had to sit in the café car on the way home, with the coffee table at our feet. This worked well; we used it for dinner. And coffee.

On our last trip to Paris, I was feeling too poor, unemployed, and socked by the exchange rate to do any serious shopping. We brought home baking chocolate, tea from Kuzmi and Mariage Freres, folding totes from Longchamp (they are more affordable over there), and walnut bread from Poilâne. When we got home, I had immediate, severe pangs of regret and discovered that the exchange rate had improved immensely while we were over there. So I ordered a book from and a pricey candle from Le Prince Jardinier at Deyrolle, as Christmas presents for my husband and me. I sniff that candle almost every day and remember Paris. The book is still on our coffee table more than a year later; it's a prototype for a book we hope to create together.

So my brilliant husband has a point, and I am going to try to come to terms with traveling with an "enormous," 26" suitcase by trying to imagine all the wonderful Parisian things I might find to fill the empty half (many loaves of walnut bread, which freezes well, for sure). When I pack for real this weekend, I might as well throw in an alternate coat and my mushy down pillow (French bed pillows are weird) — practical luxuries I'll be glad to have.

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