Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hang on, I'll just check my diary

You can buy a lot of great things in France, including suitcases, which I had cause to do while I was there. However, suitcases don't enchant me so much so I left Mr Baxter in BHV to choose the right one and anyway, his French is better than mine.

I oozed my way over to the stationary shelves nearby where I found this:

There was only one - all its brothers and sisters had been sold. Diary? Notebook? I opened it up and quite a number of my wishes came true at that moment.

A Filofax! But slim and light and eminently portable! With a comprehensive diary! In leather! Pink leather!

With all the saints' days included! In French! And a notebook too! And a jotting pad!

And room for business cards and things you tear out of magazines in the doctor's waiting room! (I don't do that.)

This is one of the most important purchases I have ever made. I haul kilograms of stuff around with me and for the sake of my shoulders have had to pare down the weight of my work bag. It was with great regret that I tucked my faithful red Filofax into my desk drawer and started relying on my phone to store phone numbers and grocery lists. This grieved me because I am a note taker, a pen user, someone who likes to keep written records of things. Such archives are easier to maintain in a notebook than on a phone. For me, anyway.

And this sliver of an agenda is perfect - light and comprehensive. To give you an idea, here it is in context with other purse inhabitants,  including my terrifying intelligent phone that sighs with boredom every time it sees me.

I love my Filofax Flex. They're not available in Australia but you can buy them, and the refils,  on the Filofax website (if I don't clear them out before you get there).

The French appreciate fine stationary. At ever pen counter in every store - even the most jam packed, modern, prosaic supermarket - you will fountain pens alongside the biros. I know this because I am obsessed with pens and own hundreds, many of which I've bought in France. I have been known to befriend people simply to get closer to their pens. I bought quite a few on my recent trip - some cheapies in lovely colours..

 ...and four rather posh ones:

There are no prizes for guessing my favourite. The second and fourth pen in the above photo are Waterman, my favourite pen company in the world. The third from the top is branded Balmain, although I am guessing it is a licensed product rather than a piece of pret-a-porter from the great fashion house. And the Ines pen ... sigh. That little gold leaf you can see is the clip you attach to your jacket. It doesn't look particularly effective but it clamps your pocket with the tenacity of a cobra.

And I bet you didn't know that all the best hair clips are made in France. This is why, when you are next in a French department store or supermarket buying fabulous pens, you should then make your way to the beauty aisle and fill your basket with handfuls of hair delight, like I did.

There is no keener pleasure than needing a dusty pink bobby pin and being able to find the perfect shade, right there on your bathroom counter.

Incidentally, the suitcase is orange, very light, and has four wheels.

Keeping the colours new

Ah, the French grocer! Whoever organised this fruit display gets my vote as packer-of-the-year. Everything in it's place, everything inviting and useful .

There is no competition for the worst packer in the world - I win hands-down, at least as far as luggage is concerned.  I obsess about it for weeks, make lists, sort through scores of garments, pack far too much and end up wearing about a third of the things I've brought with me.

This trip was no exception, although I'm invoking the Ignorant Southern Hemisphere Resident clause because the weather in Paris was remarkably mild. I'd anticipated temperatures of zero, frozen fountains and maybe even a little snow. Instead I got sun I could actually feel and an average of about 7 or 8 degrees most days.

So packing my thermal underwear was a waste of human endeavour.  The things that weren't bad ideas include two pairs of genius Banana Republic legging-jegging things, Old Navy Sweetheart jeans, two black Mimco dresses, a black and red silk tunic that follows me around the world and the arm warmers I buy from a talented knitting lady in Tasmania.

The other great thing I packed was a copy of Annabel Sims books An Hour from Paris. If you're going to Paris for a longer stay or a return visit, I recommend you grab a copy and take a few of her suggested trips. You'll be surprised and delighted like I was when I visited Conflans-Ste Honorine, a sleepy little suburb dozing by the Seine, and about twenty five minutes on the metro from the centre of Paris.

We were welcome with open arms by the locals.

It's a lovely walk from the station along the Seine into the centre of the town. Who knew so many Parisians lived on boats? Here they are, lined up carefully along the river's edge. 

Each was beautifully decorated. Some had gardens, others had pets. I'm wondering if I shouldn't re-think my new home options. 

Unless of course I find a place with a well. 

*The pea coat as per my last post
*The scarf as per my last post
*Excellent Banana Republic leggings-jeggings things in black
*A black woollen tunic from Witchery (it's there, I promise you)
*Warm soft socks I bought in San Francisco last year (again, trust me on this)
*Palladium boots which you also see more of. 

And the town was delightful. You walk up the hill and before you know it you're touching the ragged remains of a tenth century fort. 

On this day, like most of our days in Paris, we packed a cheese-ham baguette lunch and bought some fruit off the market stall in town. My theory is that if you economise on the smaller things you can go entirely mental in the flea markets and boutiques. 

Another thing I did in Paris was read a lot of French magazines. Here's a shocking fact: French Elle is $27 in Australia. I paw over the airmail copies in a local newsagent every fortnight but won't pay that money to basically look at the pictures. This grieves me, for the fashion layouts are fabulous. Needless to say, I snapped up as many copies as I could while I was there. 

Tonight though, I sat down with a pile of American magazines and a pack of Twizzlers I found hidden in the cupboard and devoured both greedily. Although I love robes and chemises and French magazines, it was nice in some ways to be back in the land of dresses and shirts.