Sunday, April 6, 2014

Packing for Paris

Voilà, we are going to Paris on Tuesday for a few days. I feel sad to leave our cats, especially little Lion, who demands much attention, which I am happy to give. We have spoiled each other. But I distract myself from this worry by figuring out what to put in my suitcase.

I love Paris in the winter. I love Paris in the fall. I love Paris when it's cold and I can bring comfortable boots, sweaters, and jeans, and be all set. Paris in the springtime* is another story. Will it be warm, cool, cold, hot, rainy, sunny?

The answer is: Yes. Probably all of that. So I must pack my little 21" spinner suitcase for all possibilities. I've heard that Paris has been unusually warm and springy for weeks, but that seems to be changing, according to the long-term forecast. However, that forecast can be unreliable. Unless it isn't. So my plan is to bring a bit of everything — but not much — and wear layers with lightweight jeans and boots. Zillions of Parisians (also Londoners) dress like this into May if it's not too warm.

I think it's polite to dress like a Parisian in Paris. It's a beautiful city, so why muck it up with things like loud colors, clothing with writing, baseball caps, sweats, cargo shorts, fanny packs, and big fat athletic shoes? It's more fun to blend in and have tourists ask you for directions (the French know you are American because you seem too happy). Looking French will also get you nicer treatment in shops, restaurants, everywhere. Even if your French is abominable.

So, thinking out loud here (sort of): I'll wear my tall boots on the plane and try to enjoy holding up the security line as I take them off. I walk 10 to 12 miles a day in Europe, and find that changing footwear after several hours saves my feet. I'll pack shorter boots and some flats or sandals, too. I don't need loads of room for clothes. Skinny jeans roll up to fit in my hand, as will a pair of black J. Crew "Pixie" pants — sleek, substantial leggings, with a zipper in back.

I just splurged on two skirts at Susanna**, and one will go to Paris. It's reversible — two layers of black-and-cream rayon georgette with an elastic waist. One layer is paisley; the other is a swirly dotted print. It crumples up into a small ball for packing, and never wrinkles.

I'll also bring my usual suspects: a black cashmere cardigan, a second sweater, and tees, mostly black, white or striped. I'll try to stop at five, remembering the time I went to Italy for 10 days and found I'd brought 20 tees because they kept fitting into my suitcase. (The rolling technique works wonders.) I will also keep in mind our trip to Vermont, where I kept spilling things on myself and regretted packing light for once.

For color, I bring (and buy) scarves. Everyone wears scarves over there. For warmth, I have a "packable" trench that makes a good travel pillow. And a black knit 3/4 coat I wore constantly in London during last year's chilly spring trip. And a green field jacket from Madewell that I love. All this should fit in my bag, along with guidebooks, umbrella, and so on, but I have a Plan B. My husband's suitcase is bigger, and he usually leaves it half-empty. Since he is kind — as well as clueless about how to pack suits and sport coats so they don't wrinkle — I can trade packing expertise for a little suitcase space.

I also bring a carry-on — a medium-size Lonchamp tote that holds a smaller version folded up (my everyday bag) plus dinner, snacks, my raincoat/pillow, a pashmina (I don't touch airplane pillows, blankets, food, or drinks), jewelry, scarves, camera, and magazines to leave on the plane. And anything I'd hate to go missing from my checked suitcase... and some basics in case it gets lost.

This project is set for tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my cats and try to figure out a few new things to do on this trip: maybe a barge ride on the Canal St. Martin and some different museums, markets, and neighborhoods. Paris, oh, boy!

* I haven't been to Paris in the summer for 25 years and I have no regrets. It can be hot and it is always full of tourists. There is not a lot of air conditioning and all you can think about is how much nicer it would be to go anywhere in the country... and so you go.

** I love Susanna, on Mass. Ave. between Porter and Harvard Squares. I always find great things I can't find anywhere else, and when I check the prices, it's usually a pleasant surprise. Their clothing is smart and wearable, but interesting, and often made in the USA. The women who work there are friendly and helpful in a low-key way. My other new skirt deserves its own post since it has a lot of personality, but here goes: It is nearly ankle-length, with many gores. The fabric is slightly puckered, with tiny black-and-white checks. Inside, at each seam are two little string ties several inches apart, so the skirt can be gathered up into a series of poufs below the knee. I've already spent a happy half-hour playing with it, trying various degrees of pouffy drama. I first saw this skirt two Christmases ago but was too cheap to get it. When I saw it again, it still delighted me, so I grabbed it. 


  1. Bon voyage! You won't be made if I buy the madewell field jacket? Promise not to wear it when I see you . . .

  2. Merci! The Madewell jacket is a wonderful thing. I requested a catalog online, and mine came with a 20% coupon... so that helped with the jacket. Try their soft, stretchy high-riser skinny jeans while you're at it. I'll never look back, and not only because I needed to go two sizes smaller.


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