As I noted last week, I started working on this post the day after we got back, yet before what turned out to be several days all-but-unconscious with a fever. I’m so glad I had written this through before that happened, because at this point it all seems like a figment of my fevered imagination …
Under the heading of “blessings in disguise”: Our flight to Paris got postponed a day. We arrived at the airport that Monday afternoon just moments before the airline texted me to say that our flight to Atlanta was delayed several hours. Since we had a very brief layover, that meant we wouldn’t make our connecting flight. After an hour standing at the counter getting rebooked onto new flights the following day, we put our suitcases back in the car and went home. Dejected, sure, but that allowed me to do three things I hadn’t had time for: 1. sew pockets on my last-minute travel pants (see below), 2. sit down on my couch with a glass of wine and the guidebooks (most notably this priceless little gem) I had ordered with such good Type-A intentions yet hadn’t cracked open, and 3. run to Target for some Zyrtec D1, as it was becoming clear I was on a collision course with a sinus infection. And so, the next morning we headed back to the airport with me feeling much calmer and better prepared than I had the day before.
It was a dream of a trip and I’ve gotten a lot of requests for three things: Channel pics, Paris tips and a recap on how the ol’ slow-fashion/capsule travel wardrobe packing plans turned out. And of course I want at least a cursory record of the trip for myself. So I’m going to attempt to cover all of that here in the most manageable way I can think of, which is to break it down day by day, outfit by outfit, with most of the related tips and whatnot relegated to footnotes so you can further investigate whichever bits are of interest. Regardless, it’s a REALLY long post! Lots of photos. And I’m happy to answer any and all questions, so please ask away!
THE FINAL PACKING LIST
So in the end, I took 12 garments (3 on my person, 9 in my carry-on suitcase) and 3 pairs of shoes.
– camel Channel cardigan
– black cropped cardigan
– “secondhand” chambray shirt (rescued from Bob’s goodwill pile)
– black silk Elizabeth Suzann Artist Smock (locally made)
– plaid top (me-made, never blogged)
– black sleeveless top
– visually mended linen chambray Madewell popover (c.2013, fast fashion but I’m making it last!)
– black Imogene+Willie tee (made in LA, no longer available)
– best-friend/safety-blanket Part Wolf t-shirt (no slow cred, but I’ve had and will wear it for years)
– natural Willie jeans from Imogene+Willie (made in LA)
– rigid Willie jeans from Imogene+Willie (made in LA)
– black linen Elizabeth Suzann Florence Pant (made locally, personalized by me)
– black Vayarta slip-ons (handmade in Mexico)
– faux snake J.Crew ballet flats (“made in Italy,” hopefully; no longer available)
– silver Solid State flats (handmade in LA for local purveyor Goodwin)
And I ultimately decided on my trench coat (J.Crew c.2009-10) over my hooded rain jacket, based on the forecast.
If you compare to the draft list, I pulled out the striped sweater (it was clearly going to be a warm week and even the two cardigans seemed a tad excessive), scored a pair of black linen, elastic-waist, photoshoot-sample Florence Pants from my friends over at Elizabeth Suzann, and added my favorite old t-shirt for sleeping/lounging. Also in the suitcase were two other things intended for the hotel room: a pair of thin black leggings and some flipflops I bought during a footwear emergency in DC last summer.
Most days (every day?) involved a wardrobe change, as we would come back to the hotel in the late afternoon, tired/hot/dusty, put our feet up for a bit, take a shower, then venture back out for dinner, and I never came close to exhausting all of the combinatory possibilities of these 12 garments. Here’s how it all played out …
. . .
TRAVEL DAY-AND-A-HALF (Tues into Weds)
On the plane, I wore the black linen linen pants (now with pockets!), the beloved t-shirt and the chambray shirt, along with my omnipresent grey scarf for scarf-slash-blanket usage, and the ballet flats. I had a pair of black footie socks in my backpack2 for in flight (and my trench was also wadded up in the backpack). Verdict: perfect 24-hour-travel clothes — thumbs up.
. . .
DAY 1 (Or half-day, Weds eve)
me to La Bien Aimee/L’Oisive Thé; Bob wandering the Rue du Montmartre
We wound up landing in Paris on Wednesday morning instead of Tuesday morning as originally planned, and it took us several hours to get out of the airport and to the Hotel Panache3 via a series of trains. Which means we got to the hotel after lunchtime on Wednesday, and I was scheduled to visit our lovely Fringe Supply Co. stockist La Bien Aimée around 6pm and stay for dinner and knit night at L’Oisive Thé4. We tried and failed to nap (both of us ill at this point, Bob having beaten me there by about two weeks but me quickly catching up), and of course we were totally exhausted by the travel and also hadn’t eaten. By the time I sat up and had a little chat with myself about how I was ever going to stand up off the bed, much less get showered and dressed, into a cab, and enjoy the company of a roomful of knitters for four hours … I honestly didn’t know. And I honestly don’t know for sure if this is what I wore! That’s how messed up I was. But I’m pretty sure I pulled the comfy linen pants back on, and definitely the black sleeveless top and black cardigan, my trench coat and ballet flats. What I absolutely know for certain is I had a lovely time, and even perked up a bit once I got some food in me. I’m so thankful to everyone there for welcoming me, and only sorry I didn’t get to mingle more!
. . .
DAY 2 (Thurs – first full day in France)
walk from hotel down through 2nd and 1st arrondissements to and around Louvre courtyard (where we did what tourists apparently do: stand on the stone blocks for pictures) / crossed the Seine into the 6th and wandered down Rue de Seine to the Luxembourg Gardens / croques-madames for lunch at Angelina / westward, popping into the famed Bon Marché (Bob needed a scarf5 and Aimée had said the store is worth a visit) and the Conran Shop, to the Eiffel Tower
Thursday was the coolest day of the forecast — likely my only chance to wear the Channel Cardigan I had finished knitting in time and imagined wearing throughout — so we knew it had to be sweater picture day. It turned out to be the only chance I got to wear it, but I’m so happy to have gotten to wear it that once (that place) before putting it away till Fall.
For photo purposes, I had planned to wear it with the sleeveless chambray top and the natural jeans, but wound up putting the black shell back on instead, plus my slip-ons that were meant to be my main walking shoes. These things are better than sneakers: soft-soled, SUPER cushy insoles, and no laces and flaps to potentially rough up your feet. I’d been wearing them to work nonstop for a couple weeks (where I stand for 8 hours a day and do a lot of moving around and manual labor and stuff) without any problem. And I had put blister guards on the backs of my feet for good measure. But a tiny catch in the seam at the back of the left one, imperceptible up till then, dug a hole right through the blister guard and into the back of my foot. So this was their only outing.
I don’t remember whether I changed for dinner that night, although I must have. (This was my worst sick day, before I started taking the drugs, so it’s foggy.) Certainly I did change shoes. After dinner, we took up a perch in the lobby with a view out onto the street and ordered champagne from the little hotel restaurant.
. . .
DAY 3 (Fri)
walked to and across the Ile de la Cité to legendary Shakespeare and Co / cabbed over to the Musée D’Orsay to see the Impressionists et al / walked across the Seine and through the Tuileries / did some shopping in the 1st: WHSmith for magazines, Colette (a longtime fixture on my wishlist that graciously scheduled a Christoph Niemann6 show for while we were in town!), Cos and A.P.C. / walked back toward hotel along Rue Richlieu and stumbled into this amazing exhibit at Drawing Lab
Friday was a day for layers — fluctuating temperatures, but with a cool breeze. I wore the black shell and black cardigan again, with the dark Willies and the ballet flats, plus my trench coat — perfect for a day of art and shopping. It warmed up in the afternoon, so by then the sweater was in my backpack and I was happy in my little top and trench.
dinner at Ademi / drinks at Le Brébant / dessert at Floquifil
For dinner that night, in a super casual mood, we ventured into a new little woodfired pizza place near the hotel called Ademi, which I liked both the look and smell of from having passed it a few times. Lovely people and good food, turns out. I think I went in my black tee, dark jeans, flats and trench.
. . .
DAY 4 (Sat)
cabbed to the flea market, or the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen, a lifelong dream of mine / from there to Sacré Couer and did the wander-through / walked down through Montmartre and the upper 9th back to the hotel, stopping at KB for chai (me) and juice (Bob), and at Sebastien Gaudard for pastries / cabbed to Pont Neuf and hopped on one of the bateaux mouches7 tour boats, then walked back
We covered more far-flung ground on Saturday, as we wanted to go up into the 18th to the world-famous flea market8 — which was heaven even I couldn’t fit any of the beautiful things into my suitcase — and to Sacré Couer and Montmartre and to the bateau, so we sort of alternated between cabs and walks that beautiful, warm day. I wore the black shell AGAIN, with the linen pants, chambray shirt and ballet flats, which was my ideal outfit for all of the above and for the weather. The scarf definitely came out of the backpack while we were out on the river.
dinner at Floquifil
Dinner that night was probably the most “dressed up” I got on this trip, for dinner in a rustic neighborhood hole-in-the-wall, and I love this outfit so much: my Elizabeth Suzann silk top I’d been saving for the trip, black cardigan around my neck, dark Willies and silver flats. After dinner, we drank champagne in the lobby again and then went upstairs and ate the pastries9 we’d bought in the afternoon.
. . .
DAY 5 (Sun)
wandered around the 3rd and 4th / cappuccino for Bob at Boot Café and breakfast at Rachel’s / into the Picasso Museum / down through Marais to the Seine again and over to the Tuileries
It was SO HOT so of course we walked for miles and miles and miles again. I had saved my list of hotspots in the 3rd and 4th for Sunday, having heard the Marais is open while the rest of the city is closed10. Every single shop and restaurant on my list though (save the micro and adorable Boot Café coffee shop) was closed! But as we wandered from one locked door to another, we passed a sign for the Picasso Museum11 and took it as, well, a sign that we should have had it on our agenda. (I’ll never forget this tiny little kid who was sketching in one of the galleries.) I had it in my head that I wanted to get back to the Tuileries and actually sit down in the bois and hang out with knitting and magazines. So after the Picasso, and a brief rest in the little park down the block, we rattled a few more locked doors in the 4th and then did something of a death march along the full-sun river walkway in the heat, feet screaming to be liberated, and arrived at the Tuileries to find all of Paris already occupying every last chair and bench. Brutal day, really, and I was overdressed. I’d worn my dark Willies again with the plaid top, ballet flats, and the Channel slung over my shoulders in an act of extreme optimism. It wound up in the backpack all day, and the plaid shirt was unwearable again after the sweating that went on. But I looked cute!
dinner at Mersea
For dinner, we knew our options would be limited to the neighborhood brasseries (always open) and a few other random casual dining spots. We wound up at a fish-and-chips place called Mersea that we walked past multiple times a day on Rue du Montmartre going to and from the hotel, with me commenting every time that the place was adorable and the name amusing and who doesn’t love fish and chips. We had the best time and the *best* fish and chips. It’s a new place owned by two really charming young guys who worked with a 2-Michelin-star chef on their small menu, and I so hope they do well. If you’re near there, please eat there. I went in just my black tee, linen pants and the flip-flops, totally appropriate for the laid-back joint.
. . .
DAY 6 (Mon)
breakfast at Bob’s Kitchen / acquired assorted bread products at Huré / strolled down past the Centre Pompidou (even more of an eyeful than I ever imagined) to Notre Dame for a closer look, then over to and through Ile St Louis / cabbed back to hotel for the afternoon / one last walk up to KB for chai and juice before dinner
We weren’t meant to be in Paris on Monday — we were planning a daytrip to Reims — but we couldn’t sleep Sunday night and decided to turn off the alarm we had set. So instead, we had a super leisurely last day in the city, which was cool and breezy again after the brick oven of the previous day. For our morning wander, I wore my beloved t-shirt and natural Willies with my trench, my black cardigan as a scarf, and the unflappable flats. This is the outfit that’s probably the most purely me, and that pic of me alongside the Seine across from Notre Dame is also my favorite photo I’ve ever had the good luck to appear in, and a perfect memento of the trip. I loved this quiet day.
dinner at the Panache
Bob had dined alone in the hotel restaurant that first night while I was out with the knitters, and kept raving about his meal, so I was determined to eat there before we left. (We’d had breakfast there most mornings, and it was perfection, but we’re talking croissants, cheese, fruit, juice, etc., and I wanted the full dining experience.) I wore my silk Artist Smock again with the black pants — full Elizabeth Suzann — and the silver shoes. Hilariously, this hasty bathroom selfie is the only photo of any of my eveningwear. I felt great in this outfit, and enjoyed my favorite meal in Paris and maybe one of my favorite of all time, actually. If you have a chance to dine there, please have the asparagus and monkfish dish for me.
. . .
TRAVEL DAY (Tues)
one last breakfast at the Panache / cabbed to CDG and flew home
For the long flight home, I put on my most comfortable things: the linen pants, the black t-shirt, the black sweater (which spent most of the day around my neck and shoulders) and — feeling my feet could use a change of pace — the silver shoes. I had to laugh when we got to the AirFrance terminal, which is basically the fanciest mall I’ve ever set foot in (need a little Prada or Burberry before you go?), so I felt like my silver shoes were totally in order. Bedhead notwithstanding.
. . .
All told, only 1 garment went unworn — the chambray sleeveless popover — which is absolutely a record for me and packing. As is taking only 12 garments in the first place. (My usual MO is to throw at least 6-8 random tees/tops/tanks into any given suitcase as backups, on top of whatever I already packed.) The workhorses of the trip were clearly the black cardigan, shell and pants, and the ballet flats. It’s a shame the Vayartas didn’t work out for this particular purpose, but I’ll still get a ton of wear out of them, and I actually felt cuter in the ballerinas every day anyway. My feet would not have objected to more cushion, but Dr. Scholls got me through!
This tiny but extremely versatile wardrobe was a vivid reminder to me of how much happier I really am with a small assortment of hardworking clothes, the resulting reduced need to think about getting dressed, and knowing I’ll look good no matter which way I combine them. It’s motivation to keep my closet from ballooning again, for sure. And one of the most striking things about the trip was how different it would have been before my slow-fashion conversion. We went into a few of my longtime favorite shops (most notably A.P.C.) and I fingered things and admired the design and walked away empty-handed, with no regrets, because all of it was made in China/Tunisia/Romania. So I’ve become a contented window-shopper at this stage of my life.
It’s funny to give such a sketchy and clothing-centric outline of this trip that I’ve longed for since my 8th-grade French 1 class, but it also makes it very visual and memorable for me. I could write another 8000 words about how and why I loved it, but all that really matters is we were there, and we loved it.
. . .
1. A few years ago, I had a sinus infection so bad — like someone had walled off my head, nothing getting in or out! — that one night Bob dragged me to the ER in search of help. A nurse gave me this tip: Zyrtec D. The key detail is the “D” — it’s a semi-controlled substance. You don’t need a prescription, but you do have to ask the pharmacist for it, and sign for it. (It kept me alive through the week in Paris, but apparently was no match for whatever I came home with.)
2. My trusty backpack is one I got from SF company Alite Designs at West Coast Craft in October 2013 — they were sewing them right there in their booth. It’s been everywhere with me the past four years.
3. We stayed at the pretty little Hotel Panache, in the lower 9th, and it was perfect for us — affordable, conveniently located between the arrondissements we wanted to visit, etc. Everyone was lovely and helpful, and the restaurant was terrific. It is a European hotel, not an American one, so if you book a room be prepared for small, and pay attention when booking as not all rooms have their own bathroom.
4. If you’re ever in Paris on a Wednesday night, definitely try to reserve a seat for dinner-and-knitting night at L’Oisive Thé.
5. We found the perfect thing and realized we were in the J.Crew dept, LOL.
6. Christoph Niemann is an illustrator-artist I admire tremendously. If you haven’t seen the first episode of the Netflix series Abstract, it’s a must-watch. And I was rendered speechless when I saw, just before I left, that his Colette show included this.
7. Several people told me the bateaux mouches — the tourist boats that run up and down the Seine — are worth doing, and they were totally right. It’s a good way to get the lay of the museum-and-monument land, especially at the start of your trip.
8. I never imagined quite how vast the flea market could be, and would have been lost were it not for Katariina Lambert’s note in her gorgeous guidebook that the best of the mid-century antique vendors are in the Marché Paul Bert section in the center of it all.
9. I know this is blasphemy, but I’ve now had macarons in Paris, from both Gaudard and Ladurée: both delicious but neither beats Miette in San Francisco.
10. Seriously, if you’re in Paris on Sunday and/or Monday plan to do the museums and monuments on those days, and save your shopping or smaller destinations for the other days of the week.
11. The Picasso museum had a show up that centered around his wife, Olga, and how she factored into his work as their marriage disintegrated over the years. I loved how biographical the show wound up being, which was more interesting to me than any particular period of his work or whatever. But what I really loved was the building! A work of art unto itself.
(Field Bag and Lykke needles from Fringe Supply Co.)