Sunday, October 28, 2012

Love and Life Lessons at 31, Rue Cambon

Last month in Paris I cheated on Louis Vuitton…

I tried very hard to stay faithful to LV, dragging Chris to each store several times over where he waited patiently for me to finger zippers, slip my hands inside linings and twirl in small circles in front of full-length mirrors. I researched bags online in the evenings trying to find a bag to add to my LV family. Rien. You cant buy an LV, despite what the madness in the Champs Elysées will have you believe what with I-pads, currency converters and passports flying every which way, if you don't LOVE it.  And I didn't fall in LOVE. 

This was my first trip to Paris where I travelled with an LV. I took the first one I bought in 2007, from the Champs Elysées store, a now beaten-up, patina-ed Monogram Speedy 30 that looked perfectly at home in Paris, aka “Dirty Louis”. Every morning, I stuffed Dirty Louis with the necessities of a 12 hour day in Paris: an umbrella, an extra pair of ballerina flats, Haribo candies, a half-eaten croissant from breakfast, tissues, my TimeOut 2007 Paris travel guide, and my Christian Lacroix notebook. I felt just as comfortable with the bag in a nice restaurant as I did spilling crèpe sucre crumbs all over it. Dirty Louis was the perfect Paris traveling companion and I finally felt like one of those Parisian women who use their LV just as much as they love their LV.

With Dirty Louis in London's Hyde Park, 2007.
On one of our blissful September Paris days, we and by “we” I mean Chris, me and Dirty Louis - stopped at 31, rue Cambon, Chanel. Yes, that Chanel. The one with Cocos atelier, the one with the famous mirrored spiral staircase and unfortunately the one that often has a long line of tourists out front.  There was no line and and though I know the security guards aren't bouncers, on each visit I am always surprised when the heavy glass doors swoosh open and I am allowed to enter into all things Chanel. Le sigh.

I know better than to head to the back of the store where Parisian women of a certain age and status perch on the plush ottomans, mahogany hair bouffed just-so, red lipstick lacquered perfectly to their lips, never on their teeth, surveying the latest collection, the couture, the suits and everything Chanel that I can only dream about. 

I know better so I went left, the accessories room, into what I can only assume feels similar, in noise level and chaos, to the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange.  I remind you that Chris and I are 64 and 510 respectively.  We are hard to ignore, especially in Paris, even standing quietly amongst frantically waving braceleted arms, blinking I-pads, and chipped manicured nails tapping impatiently on the leaded glass display cases.  It was Jean-Guy who came to our rescue.  Really, his name was Jean-Guy.

I immediately panicked about not knowing exactly what I wanted to buy, much less what I even wanted to look at. On two previous trips to Chanel, I had made modest purchases of a scarf and a pair of sunglasses. This time I was looking for something un petit plus.  And I wanted to savour my Chanel experience.  Something that is difficult to achieve when you are standing knee deep in the population of a tour bus, all with their elbows up.  

Jean-Guy was très sympa and realized that while we may not be his largest sale of the day, we would likely be some of his least demanding customers and he embraced the role of patient and attentive Chanel sales assistant . I was shown a stack of tempting silk scarves, tried on a shiny black cuff, even considered a second pair sunglasses before deciding on what I think of as a classic Chanel piece… a long strand of black and gray pearls interspersed with delicate charcoal gray interlocking “Cs”. I fell in love and once again Chris generously indulged another of my Paris fashion fantasies.

My Chanel fantasy comes true!

It was over all too quickly and I expected Jean-Guy to escort us to the payment room and bid us "au revoir". Instead, he asked,

“Have you had a tour of Chanel before?”

If by “tour”, I thought, do you mean had I crept around the perimeter of the store trying to avoid eye contact? Then, oui!  If by “tour”, I thought, do you mean had I once purchased one of Chanel's most accessible items -sunglasses -while slightly drunk from a Hemingway Bar cocktail just because I desperately wanted the Chanel, 31, rue Cambon shopping bag with the silk (?) camellia flower stuck on it? Then, oui!

Non”, I replied in my quietest and best French.

Well, then we will take a tour.”

Chris and I followed John-Guy in his impeccably cut black suit. I tried to look elegante and unsweaty. Readers of my blog will know by now that French luxury brands make me incredibly nervous, and as a result, sweaty. I thought Jean-Guy would rush us through the various rooms… “Ici, haute couture, ici le rouge Chanel, ici le sac Mademoiselle, ici, etc.” 

But he didnt. He toured us slowly through the store, answering my questions, letting me practice my French, and then took us back to the entrance of the store, near the swooshing, heavy glass doors and massive security guards, where he stopped in front of another set of identical glass doors. These glass doors, though, are to the right of the entrance and provide shoppers and gawkers alike with a clear view into the marble foyer of Chanels apartment and the famous staircase.

Jean-Guy swept his hand in the direction of one of the security guards, the doors swooshed open, and incredibly Jean-Guy invited us beyond the glass doors.  And there Chris and I stood, with Dirty Louis, at the bottom step of Chanels famous staircase.

The part of me that had a three inch, black Eiffel Tower tattooed on my right hip many summers ago wanted to strike a pose and have Chris take a picture of me hugging Jean-Guy at the bottom of the stairs. The part of me that knows better, that exhausts myself in Paris trying to hide my unchic Canadianess, knew that the reason Jean-Guy took us behind the doors was because he trusted that we wouldnt do anything to embarrass ourselves, him or Chanel. And of course we didnt. One or two tears may have trickled down my face as I tried to explain to Jean-Guy, in my now-broken and emotional French, how much the experience meant to me.

Avec plaisir.”

A moment of reverence and we were back on the other side, back into the chaos of 31, Rue Cambon and into the room where you pay for your indulgences.  I sat primly on a chair, Dirty Louis squashed on my lap, while Chris stood beside me waiting to be called. The room is tiny so if you choose to conduct your business by yelling at Chanel sales associates, other customers will hear you.  And we did.  The woman paying before us screeched her disapproval at the sales associate at only being allowed to purchase one quilted bag and a pair of earrings.

Do YOU know how MUCH money I have? I have LOTS of money! I can afford more than one bag!”

This being Chanel, the sales associate remained calm and quiet-voiced.  When the womans 31, Rue Cambon shopping bag was presented to her, all carefully wrapped and ribbonned, and she thrust her hand into bag, ravaging the artfully arranged tissue paper, to make sure Chanel had not forgotten her costume jewellery earrings, the sales associate remained smiling, her cheeks just pinking slightly.  The bill was over 3,000 euros.

Just another meaningless shopping day in Paris. 

I have witnessed far too many interactions like this in Paris over the years. On these same trips, I have experienced sublime customer service at a range of stores from Chanel to Monoprix, from LV to the neighbourhood traiteur or boulangerie.  Therefore, when I read an article about terrible service in Paris or Parisians being rude, I get angry and I have to question the source and perhaps the writer's lack of cultural sensitivity or awareness.

Without a doubt, Chris and I make adjustments in Paris. We speak more softly, we dress better, we walk slower, and we make an effort to interact and engage in French with whoever we meet. It is far more measured and formal than how we behave at home.  Like any other city, Paris has a different rhythm, its own customs and peculiarities.  If you can embrace it, you will experience a side of Paris you never imagined.  We have drunk champagne at Louis Vuitton, been personally instructed on how to cook an Easter dinner of lobster and paella, had our often terrible French complimented and encouraged, and now stood in the foyer of Chanel's apartment.  We have had countless, once-in-a-lifetime experiences in Paris that I believe wouldn't happen anywhere else in the world.

Paris, and what you can experience in Paris, is not about having "lots of money", it's about opening your heart...

All of my favourite things in one picture... Chris, La Tour Eiffel, Dirty Louis and Chanel.  And another once-in-a-lifetime Paris experience from our wonderful friends at CobbleStay and Pictours Paris (photo Pictours Paris)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Paris Pour Mark

Half my life ago, my idea of perfect happiness was to spend an evening sitting cross-legged on Mark's twin bed, dipping McChicken sandwiches in sweet and sour sauce, talking and watching re-runs of Degrassi High.  We often stayed up all night.  It was uncomplicated and blissful. 

Half my life later, Mark is still my idea of perfect happiness.  He has stuck with me through everything.  He has been with me through my worst times bringing excessive flattery and imported bottles of gin, and my happiest times, standing next to me on my wedding day.  Our relationship means everything to me and our friendship has remained uncomplicated and blissful.

In a few short days, Mark will visit Paris for the first time.  This is my Paris pour Mark...

Dear Mark,

You may hate Paris at first.  Perhaps hate is a strong word... Paris may overwhelm you and you may wonder what I have been going on about for the last 10 years.  I remind you that I cried the entire first day I was in Paris as it fell so short of my expectations.  Don't worry, you will fall in love with Paris.  Paris will seduce you. 

Take Paris slowly even though you will want to see and do everything at once.  On your first day, resist the urge to jump on a hop-on-hop-off bus, the métro , or a bateau mouche and walk.  Let your legs and your heart settle into Paris.  Find a brasserie order something simple and delicious (Peut-être une omlette du fromage?), drink a glass of wine and watch Paris unfold before you. 

If you must cross something off your "Paris list" on your first day, I suggest one of the following:

  • Notre Dame - It will quiet your mind, open your heart and make you feel small in the best possible way.

  • Place de la Concorde - Go there and stand in the middle, near the obelisk, turn in a circle and you will see the view I love, the view I miss more than anything, the view that is my perfect Paris.  All you have do is turn in a slow circle.    Buy a crèpe from the stand just outside jardin des Tuileries.  Don't buy a coffee - it tastes like merde. 

  • Jardin du Luxembourg.  My favourite jardin in Paris.  Lots of free chairs for lounging and kiosks for snacking.  Coffee is drinkable but they also sell beer and Haribo candies.  Completely calm and it has spectacular views of Paris. 

I know that you will likely visit more museums than I ever ave and I can't wait to hear all about them.  Except for my first trip in 2003, I have taken little advantage of Paris' cultural offerings.  With that in mind, here are some Paris experiences I think you MUST have...

After several hours of appreciating art at le Louvre, buy yourself a cocktail at le  Café Marly tucked away under the arcades of Richelieu wing. Sit outside. 

Go to Publicis Drugstore at the top of the Champs Elysees, sit at the bar and order a café crème.  It will be served with a biting sliver of dark chocolate and likely by a French waitress with short, dirty blond hair and black roots.  She will be the most un-French looking waitress in the restaurant and she will take excellent care of you.  After you are done, go buy yourself at least six

Pierre Hermé macarons- say au revoir to Ladurée!- from the counter at the back of the store.  My favourite flavours are rose and chocolat caramel.  PS - Publicis has a free (!!) public washrooms on the second floor.

Place des Vosges  

When you are out walking the streets of Paris and you come across a market or food stall, buy something.  Even if you aren't hungry.  You will not be disappointed.  Try Rue Mouffetard (5th), Rue Cler (7th), and Rue Montorgueil (2nd, near Les Halles).  On Rue Montorgueil look for the now closed but still creepy horse butcher with the giant, darkened refrigerators.

Ride a carousel.  There is the one in Montmatre made famous by Audrey Tautou and a few beautiful ones near the Eiffel Tower. 

Musée Rodin

Given our shared love of McChicken sandwiches, I would be lying if I described myself as a foodie but I fell in love with Amy Thomas' Paris, My Sweet this past summer and wrote down some of her suggestions.  One of them was a chocolate eclair from Stohrer at 51 rue Montorgueil. Honestly it was one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life. Incomparable. 

Église Saint-Sulpice

At least half a day for exploring Saint Germain and the Latin Quarter.  Don't forget to stop at Maison Georges Larnicol for a kouignette. 

Rue du Bac (7th)

Rue des Sèvres where you will find Hermès, Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche and La Grande Epicerie de Paris.  This is the Hermès of the infamous orange orangutans window display.  It is also a design geek's paradise.  Buy yourself a picnic lunch at La Grande Epicerie for eating at the nearby Champ de Mars.  While you are there, check out the "North American" food aisle.  It may embarrass you more than fanny packs and Canadian Girls Kick Ass t-shirts.  A package of marshmallows sells for about 9 euros.    

View from top of Arc de Triomphe

People watching on Rue Saint Honoré.  Fighting for space amongst the chic Parisians, you will see a shocking display of wealth and bad taste.  Watch for plastic surgery victims and very old men carrying their very young wives Birkin bags.  We had delicious croissants and coffee at Café la Coupe d'Or which is kitty-corner to Colette.

Marché aux Oiseaux (birds!!) on Ile de la Cité.  Sunday only! 

You are going to wish you had more time.

There are a few things to know about Paris that will make your trip easier...

Public washrooms.  I want you to know that last month in Paris I went out of my way to "sample" more public washrooms than I usually do, even descending the stairs underneath both Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower.  Both free and I think perhaps less scary if you are a man and don't have to spend too much time underground.  There are also free, self-cleaning public toilets throughout Paris.  However, typically you must pay and it ranges from .20 euros to 2 euros depending on location and luxury.  Luxembourg and Tuileries both have inexpensive toilets but their hours are somewhat limited.  All of the major department stores have public washrooms and they are usually located on a higher floor, tucked into the back, i.e. you have to look for them.  The fanciest public washrooms are at the bottom of the Champs Elysées, Pont Vac.  Unlike the rest of the Champs, it's not open on Sundays.  Washrooms in brasseries or cafes, are almost always in the basement and down a steep set of stairs.  

Try to start every conversation in French.  A little French goes a long way in Paris.

Remember it's considered impolite to enter a store and not acknowledge the person working.  You must also say good-bye (au revoir!) and thank you (merci!) when leaving.  Shopping is a lot less self-serve in Paris so don't be surprised to have several shop assistants descend upon you as you reach for a pair of jeans or a sweater.

Do not fall victim to anyone that tells you that you dropped a "ring" or that you need to donate money to the "Red Cross".  Keep walking and say "non merci".  The same goes for anyone that tries to braid a "friendship bracelet" on your wrist.  Watch out for this when visiting Montmatre, especially as you start the walk up the stairs.  Keep your hands in your pockets.    

You never get up in a brasserie to ask for or pay for your bill - "L'addition, s'il vous plait."  It is always brought to your table, often it will come with whatever you have ordered and you can pay immediately.  If you want to have a quick, and often less expensive drink, stand at the bar. 

Most importantly remember to slow down and relax.  All of the travel guides, the "Paris Top 10's", my ramblings and other advice are worth nothing if you don't find your own Paris.  I hope you fall madly in love. 

I wish more than anything I was going with you.  Next time.  Bisous and bon voyage.  xoxo




Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nothing but Everything

Last Friday I met an old friend from high school in my neighbourhood’s new organic market.  She was with her eight year old daughter and buying a tub of kale salad for lunch.  Her husband hovered nearby and when introduced, we both pretended that we remembered meeting before.  My friend looked exactly the same.  Same sweet, smiling face and comfortable as ever in her jeans and tank top.  I teetered over her in my nude high heels, sweating in my summer scarf, and digging around in my Longchamp tote for a business card.  I apologized for buying roast beef sandwiches.  Nope, still not a vegetarian.    

Standing next to her and her beautiful daughter, meat in hand, I felt nothing short of vapid and insignificant. 

What I had been doing for the last ten years?  What I had been doing while she got married, had a daughter at the recommended age, and bought a house near her parents? 

My six trips to Paris flashed through my mind but I ignored them and talked about my husband, my job, and living downtown.  I "borrowed" my best friend’s daughters, talked about how well they were doing, trying to add another dimension to what I can see being perceived as my 35 year old nothingness. 

These conversations are becoming all too common.  Yesterday, from a distance I saw another old friend, waddle-walking from pregnancy, and I ducked into a Starbucks to avoid another nothing conversation.  I am running out of my enthusiasm for pregnancies.  I am running out of different ways to say that we, Chris and I, are not having children.  I am running out of ways to make our dream of living in Paris sound legitimate and not just something we are doing to be different.  Paris is not reactionary, it’s not a statement against the norm, and it’s not because we are bored.  It’s simply because we can’t figure out a way to live without Paris.

We can’t figure out a way to live without Paris.  Even writing that, I understand how ridiculous it must sound when compared to almost anything else.  It sounds stupidly romantic and quite hopeless.  We should get over ourselves, get over Paris, and just live our lovely lives here.  If only it were that easy… 

What do I say then when I come face-to-face with new babies, complaints of no sleep and 25-year mortgages? 

Nothing.  I say nothing because I don’t want to be the bitch who is going to Paris for the seventh time in three short weeks.  So instead I say….  I am married, I have a good job, I am a terrible cook and a lapsed runner.  You know, nothing.

But really my life, my life with Chris, in between trips to Paris and our stolen weeks in Paris is everything.  It's that we speak the same language, Paris, and that no matter how frustrating or impossible it seems, we keep believing in our ridiculous dream.

Everything is our small, shared sacrifices at home that lead to Paris.  It’s the butterflies in my stomach when the plane descends into Orly and I get my first glimpse of the Paris skyline.  It’s walking 12 hours a day in Paris and never failing to see something new or heart wrenchingly beautiful.  It’s eating chicken breasts for 10 months a year so we can feast only on bread, cheese and chocolate in Paris.  It's the fall boot collection at Galeries Lafayettes. It’s throwing away my yoga pants in favour of black dresses, scarfs and ballet flats.  It’s reading every book I can on Paris to make it seem less faraway.  It's being full from saucisson sandwiches.  It's silent walks through churches.  It’s shopping the GAP clearance rack so I can pay full price in Paris.  It’s driving an extra 3 miles to the only grocery store in Victoria that sells Badoit.  It’s spending too much time and money trying to find a Pierre Hermé macaron substitute (nothing even comes close).  It’s being angry that terrible baguette costs $3.50 here yet in Paris, an Eric Kayser baguette, still warm from the oven, costs about $1.50.  It’s looking forward to buying groceries at Monoprix.  It’s plotting my French disguises so I am hopefully mistaken for a Parisian.  It’s sunsets over Trocadero, café crèmes in Luxembourg gardens, and roast chickens and flowers from rue Cler.  It's our first kiss, again and again, at Place de la Concorde.

Paris, it's our everything. 


Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Question of Paris

The more time I spend in Paris and the more we, Chris and I, make it known that we want to have a life in Paris, the more often I hear something along the lines of: "You know living in Paris won't be perfect."

I know. 

And if there was an easy way, a less disruptive way, to answer the question of Paris I would happily take it.  If I could answer the question of Paris, quiet the incessant voices in my head that chant "Paris" during my waking and sleeping hours, then I would.  If Paris, my craving, my puzzle, my love, could be solved or satisfied with twice yearly visits of strolling the boulevards, and eating
Pierre Hermé macarons, then I would take this option and let Paris be just another beautiful part of my very lovely life.

But it's Paris and there is no easy answer.

When I try to solve the puzzle of Paris, it always comes back to love.  Love as an all-consuming entity that makes even the littlest things seem blissful or excruciating.  This is Paris in many ways.

With love, once you are past the everything-is-wonderful period, it is hard to remember the exact moment you fell in love and what brought you to that place.  I thought with Paris if I could just remember the moment, the moment when I gave in and lost myself, then perhaps I could understand both how to live with and to quiet this great love.

I have written before that I fell in love with Paris at the top of the stairs of the George V Metro station, looking out on the Champs Elysées .  There is truth in this.  Seeing my romanticized version of Paris for the first time took my breath away but it's not that simple.  To be so distracted and so consumed by Paris makes me believe that I have loved Paris long before I understood what Paris and what love meant.

I think back to when I met Chris for the first time and how falling in love was the farthest thing from my mind.  All I wanted was an aromatic head massage and a good haircut.  Not love.  However love persisted and before I knew it, I couldn't imagine my life without Chris.

Similarly, I can't imagine a life without Paris.  There is no other option and no other alternative.  Chris and Paris are the loves of my life.

Again to answer those who are quick to point out that my Paris fantasy will not translate into real life.

Merci.  I know.

Merci.  I know it will be difficult.  Yes, I accept there will be bad, ugly days.  Yes.  I know it rains in Paris.  And yes, I know I will sad in Paris, too. 

An ugly, rainy day in Paris. Still happy!
But is it not just like any other relationship with someone you love? You invest your heart and soul, taking incredible leaps of faith, because you can't live your life any other way.  There is no other way but love.  And while it doesn't always make sense or turn out exactly as you wished, at the end you have love and that makes every sacrifice, tear, argument or bad day worthwhile. 

All you really see when you love something, or someone, so hugely and without fear is possibility.  You see an opportunity to live your dream life.  Years ago when I first met Chris, and each and every day since, I was attracted to and excited by our endless possibilities.  I guess in many ways it's the same thing with Paris - I just see the possibilities.  Paris is a chance to live life without fear and without regret.

I appreciate my passion for Paris is hard to understand.  I know there are people out there that must think Chris and I are crazy for living a bit of a limited life in Victoria when we could arguably have so much more: a mortgage, weekends at summer cottages, dinners out, dishwasher, nicer car, etc.  But we couldn't have Paris.  Individually, and as a couple, we have made choices that comfortably give us Paris.

When I started writing this blog, when I was first getting to know Paris, I admit that my love could be perceived as quite superficial.  And while I can't deny that shopping is still one of my favourite Paris activities, for every visit to Hermés or Louis Vuitton there are just as many times where I am happy to stand at a brasserie bar nursing a cafe creme or walking the streets for hours and hours.  For every moment spent "licking the windows" of some chic boutique, there are dozens more when I am literally overcome by the sensory and emotional experience of Paris and have to stop to collect myself.  Paris can so easily bring me to tears of pure joy and gratitude.  

To my family, my parents especially, I want to write that I am sorry you raised a daughter who spends much of her time chasing a dream live 7,915km away.  I know it's difficult but it is because you raised me to believe I could be anything and accomplish whatever I wanted.  Your faith in me has made me braver and more confident than I ever imagined. 

I have written before that with each trip to Paris, I hold my breath the first day waiting for what I believe will be inevitable disappointment.  Maybe it will finally be the trip where the ordinary doesn't seem extraordinary, where I smell more sewage and less freshly, baked bread, where the taste of butter turns stale in my mouth.   It didn't happen on this recent trip.

Rather Paris felt like home.  And I guess when you are home, you don't need to question it...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Moments of Perfect Happiness - Paris 5 et 6

What I Ate in Paris

Day 5: 1 confiture d'abricot crepe, 3 cafe cremes, 1 croissant, 1 Madeleine, 1 mini chouquette, 1 mini cannelle (both from La Grande Epicerie), croque monsieur, champagne & jus de fruit cocktail, tomato & basil tart, piece of salami, chunk of blue cheese, 1/2 a baguette, 1 biere blanche, 1 Kronenberg

Day 6: 2 cafe creme, 1 brioche, 1 saucisson sandwich, 3 Pierre Herme macarons (addicted!), 1 biere blanche, glass of champagne (at LV!), chunk of blue cheese, chunk of gruyere, top half of baguette.

What I Wore in Paris

Day 5: black wool dress backless dress layered over black tank, layered under 2 cardigans, leather jacket, Chris' black scarf and 1 inch black & white heels.

Day 6: a-line black & blush striped skirt, black cashmere sweater, blush blazer (had a VERY important meeting today!), black & white flowered scarf and 1 inch black & white heels.

What Chris Wore in Paris

Day 5 & 6: My second best pair of black opaque tights under his jeans. Yes, it's been that cold in Paris.

What I Bought in Paris

Day 5: Patent leather, Tiffany blue 2 inch heels. They are amazing, no further description or justification required.

Day 6: See "Perfect Moments of Happiness Below".

Hours Walked: At least 15 over two days and all while wearing 1 inch heels. Oui!

Strange Things Seen on rue de Lille: Last night there was a horse trailer behind Musee d'Orsay with a palomino pony sticking its head out the side window. The pony was wearing a purple fuzzy halter and was having its face pushed back into the trailer by an unhappy looking woman.

Photo Shoots in Grocery Stores: 1. Yesterday, Chris and I watched a stunning girl being photographed with fruit and vegetables at La Grande Epicerie. As if shopping there wasn't glamorous enough...

Another Reason I Wish I was French: The Canadian/American aisle in La Grande Epicerie. Amongst delicacies like coconut M&M's, a 9 euros box of chocolate Duncan Hines instant cake mix.

Moments of Perfect Happiness: At least 100 since arriving here last Friday but 3 worth writing about from today.

Chris and I spent the first part of the day apart after sharing early morning cafe cremes at Place de la Concorde. We do this on every trip but today was different as I had an early afternoon meeting and I needed time to prepare. After several hours of wandering Parisian rues and boulevards, I settled myself at one of my favourite cafes near Pont d'Alma. I don't love the cafe because of service or the 5 euros cafe cremes, I love it because it has heart-stopping, in-your-face view of the Eiffel Tower. And sitting there, with the Eiffel Tower on my lap, I wrote and wrote. I pulled out my tiny pink Moleskin notebook, clicked the lid of my black Sharpie pen and lost myself for over an hour with no self-conciousness and no worries. It was bliss. Whenever I glanced up, I saw the Eiffel Tower solid and seductive, inspiring me from across la Seine. I almost cried tears of happiness but that would have blown my sophisticated French cover. And then I had to dash off...

About 18 months ago, before I got a second chance at my career, I Google-ed "1 year Masters programs in Paris" and was rewarded by finding the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP). ULIP offers a 1-year Masters program in Paris History & Culture. Chris and I toured the campus last September and today I had the incredible opportunity to meet with the Dean of ULIP, Andrew Hussey. I was so nervous all morning and incredibly worried about kicking my macaron swollen brain out of vacation mode. I then made the mistake of reading about Dean Hussey's accomplishments and publications which only made things worse. However, it turned out that I had nothing to nervous about and the meeting that took place was between two people who love Paris.

Chris and I share our language of Paris. It's not overly complicated or intellectual and is full of implied meanings, scents, sounds, rituals and emotion. I often feel guilty or worried that my love of Paris is based on feelings and not intellect. With the exception of Chris, I rarely meet anyone who shares my passion, my excitement, and my connection with Paris. Today was an exception. I am now more determined than ever to earn my Masters from ULIP...

Chris and I met after my meeting and started a long stroll around Paris, winding our way down rue Cler, across la Seine, stopping for beer on avenue George V and finally ending up at LV on avenue Montaigne. I had never been in this store prior to today and it is so different from LV on the Champs. We didn't have to wait in line to get in and once inside the atmosphere was relaxed, with no pushing. A couple of days ago on the Champs, outside the LV store, I watched in part horror, part fascination as a woman loaded up her massive empty suitcase with freshly bought bags.

I had no idea we were buying not browsing until Chris nudged me towards the counter and suggested we look at some bags. My incredibly generous lovely husband.

This was LV shopping refined. Unlike shopping on the Champs, I felt as though I had all the time in the world to look at and try on bags. There was no one behind me, nipping at my heels, yelling into their cell phone or bringing up a shopping list on their i-Pad. When I asked about a bag that I didn't see on the floor, the lovely and patient saleswoman disappeared into the back and brought it out. I twirled in front of the full-length mirror, Chris and I chatted in French and English, and eventually I chose a classic, black leather handbag and a brightly coloured bag scarf.

We were invited to look around the fabulous store and while waiting for our purchases to be wrapped, we were offered champagne. Normally, this is something we would refuse as to not cause too much trouble but it was all too perfect and I have decided that life is too short to turn down champagne at LV on avenue Montaigne in Paris.

So Chris and I were shown to a lounge area placed at the back of the store, nestled in the middle of the women's clothing. A brown and gold tray was brought out with 2 flutes of champagne and we were invited to relax. Moments later our purchases arrived and we were invited to stay longer. I reclined on the chair, shaking in disbelief and happiness, holding Chris' hand, and taking every last moment in. On my lap lay an open copy of the Marc Jacobs LV book. We toasted each other and drank our champagne. Surreal bliss.

I am still shaking. And I still have a lifetime to discover more moments of perfect happiness in Paris.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Paris 2, 3, et 4

Paris Food Diary

Day 2:
4 cafe cremes, 2 croissants, 3 Pierre Herme macarons, Paul saucisson sandwich, 1 biere blanche, jus d'orange, leftover paella, chunk of gruyere, baguette hot dog.

Day 3: 3 cafe cremes, 1 croissant and tartine, 1 biere blanche, 2 Pierre Herme macarons, 1 Maison Larnicol macaron, organic cheese and mushroom crepe from Champs stand (lesson learned, crepes shouldn't be organic), horrid panini sandwich (threw majority in garbage) dried salami bites, wedge of brie, chocolate Easter eggs (more like Easter egg truffles, divine).

Day 4: 3 cafe cremes, package of alligator Haribo candies (Chris bought them for me from the vending machine at Versailles RER station), onion soup, warm goat cheese salad, carmelized French toast with vanilla ice cream (dessert), biere blanche, vin rose, chunk of gruyere, 2 Pierre Herme macarons.

What I Wore in Paris

Day 2: pink tulle ballerina skirt, black cashmere sweater (again - it's cold!), leather jacket, black scarf (borrowed from Chris).
Day 3: started day in cute, striped a-line skirt and black cashmere sweater (seriously, it's really cold here for April) with a light grey cardigan layered over it and had to change into jeans halfway through morning, leather jacket and Chris' black scarf.

Day 4: black v-neck jersey dress with long sleeve shirt layered underneath, black and white striped cardigan, leather jacket and Chris' black scarf.

What I Bought in Paris

Day 2:
Red platform high heels from Eden (on sale!) with a faux snakeskin finish. Seriously they are much better and much classier than I am describing them. Pictures to follow.

Day 3: Chris bought me 2 long sleeved shirts from H & M because I was cold and stupidly packed a bunch of cute sleevless shirts and spring blazers, black fleece Thinsulate gloves (may be the most depressingly unfashionable item that I have ever bought in Paris but at least they will have a second life at the barn when I get back to Victoria).

Day 4: Nothing!

Americans Who Thought I Was French: 1

French Girls Who Made Me Feel Ugly: 1. There was a girl, she couldn't have been more than 15 years old, in the WC at Publicis on the Champs. She was more confident, more self-possessed, more put together than I will ever be. A 15 year old girl wearing large diamond studs, skinny black jeans, red patent Repetto flats with matching Chanel red lips and nails, carrying a classic black Chanel quilted bag. No big deal, just your normal French 15 year old girl. I wanted the floor to swallow me up.

New Best Use for Rick Steeves Guide to Paris: For some reason our apartment fridge is quite noisy and Chris discovered a good way of deafening the noise - stick a left behind copy of Rick Steeve's Paris under the bottom. Ha!

Total Hours Walked in 3 Days: About 25, no blisters.
I have to wonder if Chris and I really do anything in Paris that is interesting to read about. Walk, eat, shop and repeat. Sometimes I observe the packs of frantic tourists and I wonder if we are missing out on what we are supposed to be doing in Paris. Other times I look at these same packs and I feel sorry for them. I want to stop them, tell them to relax and enjoy Paris at a slower pace.

I can't lie though, it's still very hard for me to relax. Especially the first few days. My personality wants to plan, wants to walk fast, and sometimes it kind of wants to stand in a musuem line to look at paintings I know I am supposed to appreciate but really don't.

Anyway, it's nearly the end of day 4 and I can finally start to feel myself properly relax. Le sigh.

Chris and I have had a wonderful 3 days, enjoying our first Easter in Paris despite the less than spring weather. One of the things we wanted to do most on Easter Sunday was visit Notre Dame. Apparently so did everyone else in Paris and despite getting there by 9:30 am, the line was already spilling out over the square. Notre Dame suddenly didn't feel that special or sacred and we quickly headed in a different direction.

What I didn't know about Notre Dame on Sundays was that there is a marche d'oiseaux (bird market!). My friends know that I have a strange affection and fascination with birds and I enjoyed seeing all the different varieties and their very proud, very French owners. I have already told Chris that we are going back next Sunday for further observation. You can buy a yellow canary for 20 euros.

So what to do on Easter Sunday night in Paris? Obviously the Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs exhibit at Les Arts Decoratifs. FINALLY, an exhibit I can truly get excited about! As a devoted LV lover, it was so interesting to learn about the history and progression of the brand. I now want a vintage trunk more than ever. The Marc Jacobs part of the exhibit was pure eye candy and spectacle. A wall of over 50 bags displays some of his most iconic designs. The best part was the two young British girls standing before the wall saying, "I want #3. And #9." I already can't wait to see it again in September.

Not sure what possessed me but I suggested to Chris that we try to find Easter dinner in Les Halles. I had some sort of exotic or fun takeaway in mind but the actual result was a nasty panini sandwich that we both threw in the garbage. Oh well at least it was an inexpensive mistake. We came back to our apartment and ate a lot of macarons. Much better.

However Les Halles on Easter Sunday night had an unexpected suprise. Saint Eustache. Chris and I always make a trip to this beautiful church on every trip and Easter Sunday was an exceptional experience.
Typically Saint Eustache is empty when we walk through it but on Easter Sunday night it was of tourists and Parisians. We walked in to the end of an organ concert that was so powerful, so loud and so thrilling that I felt all the airs on my body stand up. Chilling. The organist was given a standing ovation. Farther down in the church a priest was giving an Easter mass. At one point, he moved to a smaller organ and started playing and singing. Again, more chills. There was so much warmth and feeling in the church. Chris and I were also able to light candles for our missed loved ones, a tradition we really wanted to honour on Easter.

Easter Monday is another stat in Paris so we decided to try and do something completely out of our comfort zone - Versailles! We have stubbornly avoided Versailles for 4 previous trips and the only reason we went today is because le chateau is closed on Mondays, meaning only the garden is open so far less tourists make the journey.
We were wrong about Versailles. Well the garden anyway. It was overwhelming in size and beauty and is one of the those things that has to be seen in order to fully appreciate it. I knew it would be large but had no idea how large it would be. There is a statue, an orangerie, an orchard, a maze, a pond, a lake, etc. everwhere you look and it just goes on forever and forever. After exploring the grounds on foot, we decided to rent an electric golf cart and drive around the grounds. For 30 euros, you can explore the grounds in the comfort of a golf court, pulling over wherever you like and seriously having a very good time. If you get lost, go off the wrong track, the golf cart disables itself, tells you off in a very polite British accent and demands that you reverse to the proper track. Amazing. The same polite voice provides commentary complete with classical music.

So yes we will go back to Versailles. At least to the gardens.

The other highlight of today was going back to Korner Cafe, a restaurant on the corner of Avenue Kleber and rue Cimarosa, near where our first Cobblestay apartment was. It looks like nothing but it is full of French people eating real food so you know it is good. And it was. We both had onion soup, goat cheese salads (the goat cheese was breaded - a new way to love cheese), and split a piece of French toast coated with caramel sauce for dessert. Mon dieu. Food-gasm.

It's time for my nightly macaron consumption. A demain.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Nothing Better Than Being in Paris - We're Home

*Apologies for spelling/grammatical errors. Edits, including links, to be made when back in Canada.
There is nothing better than being in Paris.
Paris Food Diary - Day 1: 2 cafe cremes (full cream and with sugar), 1 croissant, rose Laduree macaron, saucisson et beurre baguette sandwich, 1 bottle of badoit, biere blanche, paella, and half an Easter homard (another thing to love about France... lobster is traditional Easter food!).
Paris Walking Diary - Day 1: 8 hours, no blisters.
What I Wore in Paris - Day 1: Rich & Skinny jeggings, black flats, black cashmere v-neck, light grey pin-striped blazer, black and white floral printed Printemp scarf from 2009, black Longchamp tote, bright pink Swatch.
What I Bought in Paris - Day 1: 2 Hermès scarves, 1 was a gift from Chris!

Every day in Paris must start with cafe cremes and croissants at a neighbourhood Tabac or Brasserie. This morning, a few short steps from our apartment we shared the counter with a Monsieur who opted for biere instead cafe. It was 8 am. Our oh-so-French morning scene was briefly interupted by some Tilley hat wearing tourists who were told, not kindly, that the Tabac was sold out of pain aux chocolats. Hmmm. I suspect this may not have been the case but that is the price one pays for wearing a Tilley hat to a Parisian Tabac.
There is no place in Paris where it is appropriate to wear a Tilley hat.
Full of cream and butter, Chris and I crossed la Seine, rive gauche a rive droit, to Place de la Concorde, the view of "my Paris". The view of my dreams, standing in the centre, spinning slowly in a circle and taking Paris in. It is the view I imagine in my mind when I am missing Paris the most.
We continued along rue Royale to research Paris Easter sweets at Laduree and Fauchon and bought our first box of macarons.
Predictably, we arrived at Les Grands Magasins in time for opening. Actually early so we had time to browse the food hall at Galeries Lafayette. One of my favourite smells in Paris, after butter and bread, is cheese. French cheese is just as intoxicating and seductive as French perfume.
Neither of us bought anything at GL. I hate to admit it but with the exception of the "shoe basement" at GL, I don't love shopping there the way I used to. It's great to get an overview of designers, colours and trends but the experience of shopping there feels a bit souless, not very French. Also love the accessories floor and shoes at Printemps.
For lunch we returned to one our favourite Paris spots, Aux Delices de Manon, 400 rue St. Honore. It's not fancy but with the rare exception, Chris and I are not big restaurant people. We prefer boulangeries, picnic style if we can, and always seem to find the perfect spot to eat. There are so many outstanding views, parks, bridges and squares in Paris that the simplest, most inexpensive meal is taken to another level when eaten outside with your chosen view spread out before you. As I have written before, if we decide to splurge on food or drink, it's usually a cocktail at 5 star hotel or a decadent dessert from LeNotre.
Our day ended back on the Left Bank at the stunning Hermès store on rue Sevres. French service at its absolute best with nothing but time, courtesy and care. I managed to purchase the scarves entirely in French and even convey my enthusiasm for les chevaux. The only time I lost my cool was when the saleswoman offered to let me try them on before buying them. Me. Fresh off the plane from Canada and post lunch of saucisson baguette. Not fair to the scarves so instead I turned bright-red and insisted that I was happy with the colours classiques.
On our way home, post Monoprix stock-up, we stopped at a boulangerie where Chris splurged on traditional Easter homards in white wine sauce and a bucket of paella. One of the best meals I have ever eaten in France, complete with an education about French food, Easter dinner, and the origin of our dinner ingredients. I can hardly wait to go back there.
Later, a bit restless and not tired, I walked "around the block", crossing la Seine into Jardins Tulieres, walking up to Place de la Concorde and crossing back over at Pont des Arts. The sun was setting and the buildings were a beautiful shade of pink. The Eiffel Tower was hazy in the distance and the doves were cooing in the trees in the park. And for not what will be the first time on this trip, I was overcome by Paris' beauty and my love for the city.
Sometimes, I wish I didn't love Paris so much. Honestly. Sometimes I wish Paris was nothing more than a once-in-a-lifetime holiday, like a honeymoon or a 40th birthday. Sometimes I wish I jcould be satisfied with crossing off the top ten in a badly written guidebook. But it's not that way and I am so far gone, so inexplicably attached and captivated, that I know until Chris and I realize our dream of living here in some way or another, that we will spend the rest of our lives chasing this dream. It doesn't make sense and I understand it is hard to appreciate but for us there is nothing better than being in Paris.
Every trip to Paris I worry that we will be disappointed and I wait for a particular moment to know that everything is ok. It's the moment when Chris looks at me, his eyes shining, squeezes my hand and without words says, "We're home." Sometimes I wait days for this moment but this trip, it came early, in the back of our airport van stuck in traffic, heading for rue de Lille. This is the moment the means everything.
We're home.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Good Morning, Paris

Good Morning Paris!

It's our first morning, 5:30 to be exact, and we are both awake and drinking coffee. I should probably be more concerned about facing my first day in Paris sans proper sleep but I am so excited to see the sun come up and to see Paris properly for the first time in months. If you arrive in the evening, as we always do, you just get tantalizing glimpses of the city as you drive in: the top of the Eiffel Tower or a sliver of the Seine.

It's also the first time I have blogged live from Paris, something I have resisted in the past for the simple reason that I didn't want to be tied to my computer, or connected to my real life, while on holidays. On previous trips, it always drove me crazy that Chris wanted to find an Internet cafe and I would skulk around outside chomping on a baguette and looking pissed. But Paris is part of our real life now, it's part of who we are, and I want to share our Paris.

The long trip to get here was uneventful and not stressful. Armed with travel pillows and Ativan, we boarded our overnight British Airways flight to London and both slept for over 6 hours of the 8 hour flight. No problems connecting at Heathrow with enough time for sandwiches, Cadbury Easter chocolates and this month's issue of Tatler. Magazine shopping at Heathrow's W.H. Smith is really one of life's little pleasures! We arrived in Paris a short time later, grabbed our luggage and were met by a car we hired to take us to our Cobblestay apartment.

Paris tip: hire a car to pick you up from the airport. It is the same price as a taxi and your jet-lagged self will love you for it. Plus, Parisian taxi drivers don't love North Americans with their oversized luggage and trying to get one to take you and your luggage to your destination can be a frustrating experience. When I am back in Victoria, I will post the link for the car service company.

As we have come to expect from Cobblestay, everything was perfect with our apartment when we arrived. This is the third property we have rented from Cobblestay since 2010 and for this trip, what is the first, and shorter, of two trips to Paris this year, location was the key factor in our selection. The property is centrally located, right next to Musee d'Orsay, but not so much as to drive you crazy with tourists and all the ugly things about Paris. In 2009, I made the mistake of reserving us a highly-rated hotel on rue Rivoli and while the location was convenient, there was no authenticity, no charm and as soon as you left the hotel apartment, you got hit by a stampede of fanny packs.

Here's another thing I love about Paris. By the time we were in our apartment, it was nearing 9pm and dark outside yet I had no concerns, even more telling Chris had no concerns, about me heading out on my own and walking a few short blocks to the neighbourhood Monoprix to get some essentials: bread, cheese, Badoit, coffee, milk, butter, saucisson. On the way, I passed several brasseries, a florist, a book store, two art gallery parties and was greeted several times with "Bon Soir, Madame". Less than one hour into the city and I was already charmed and feeling like my best self. Despite the fact I went grocery shopping in Paris wearing my plane pajamas slightly French-ed with an old Printemps scarf and Longchamp shopper.

The sun should almost be coming up and it is nearly time to get dressed for Paris...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Packing for Paris

With my trip to Paris less than two weeks, away, I can finally indulge in one of my favourite activities - Packing for Paris. I am subconsciously always packing for Paris from the Holt Renfrew Boxing Day sale to my monthly scouring of the Gap's clearance rack.

Can I wear this in Paris? How will I wear this in Paris?

Comfort isn't important when planning my Paris wardrobe. Those of you who read by blog regularly know that one of the things I love best about Paris is that every day, every outing from vegetable shopping to LV shopping is an occasion. Dressing for Paris is an event and I pack accordingly. Paris demands elegance, thoughtfulness and sacrificing comfort is necessary. After all, I am dressing for the city I love.

The only concession I make for comfort is the red-eye flight to Paris: black leggings, baggy t-shirt, oversize cardigan, flattest flats, fleece sleep mask, and orange foam industrial strength earplugs for jewelry. Unflattering but necessary.

My upcoming trip to Paris coincides with the first few weeks of spring and what I consider to be the most difficult season to dress for. While springtime in Paris is indeed the Paris of blooming, romantic fantasies, a spring wardrobe for Paris is a complicated problem. The weather is non-committal. It never feels warm enough to wear your above-knee, flirty black dress yet it's still too cold to cover the same dress with your perfectly worn-in belted trench. And I am never sure what to do with my legs in the spring. It's not as though they ever get St. Tropez tan, not even in the height of summer, but in April they will be glowing white. I know the Duchess of Cambridge (aka Kate Middleton) brought nude stockings back into fashion for her Sloaney sisters and their North American wannabes, but I doubt that chic Parisian women are running their errands in basically light brown coloured hosiery.

Spring clothing doesn't have the same structure I love in my fall and winter clothing. It's all flimsy material in alarmingly vibrant colours that stay in fashion for less than ten minutes. Surely I can't be the only woman over 30 who has recently wasted hours in clothing stores that share names with strip clubs trying to find a flattering pair of hot pink jeans. Spring means spending too much money on a wardrobe that I can realistically wear for about two weeks.

So what do I pack for Paris in the spring?

Even though I wish I didn't have to, I do shop in Victoria throughout the year. Typically, it's for basics, Gap and Banana Republic clearance rack items, clothing for work and not the special pieces that I save for and splurge on in Paris. Sometimes I get lucky though and find something in Victoria that falls into the "only-to-be-worn-in-Paris" category of my wardrobe. Often these items are impractical and I can only justify them because I know they will have a life in Paris: my black merino wool backless dress and a blush pink, tulle mini skirt are just two of my favourite only-to-be-worn-in-Paris items.

In Paris, I am more confident and feel less ridiculous, less self-conscious about my fashion choices. Paris is alluring and sexy. There is an ease about Paris that I think makes it easier to embrace your look and your body. There is a freedom to dress in a way that is daring and more interesting. Understand that daring doesn't mean overtly sexual or age inappropriate. It's not about wearing your daughter's cut-off jeans shorts and Hollister tank top. Paris is a grown-up sexiness. Less is more. Paris is Chanel red. Paris is wearing beautiful lingerie under your oldest Petit Bateau t-shirt. Paris is tying a scarf around your wrist and carrying a chomped off baguette in your LV.
With these things in mind, these are my Paris essentials...

Ballet flats - I stock up all year on ballet flats and save them for my marathon walking days in Paris. I don't want to pay too much because I can easily wear through two pairs a trip. What I do splurge on is cushy insoles and I always have an extra pair of flats and insoles in my bag. Ballet flats look good with almost everything. Way better than giant white Nikes or Rockports and they are great for a speedy trip through airport security. On my Paris shopping wish list is a pair of Repetto ballet flats but I always blow my budget on boots. Even in the spring. Paris has spring boots (You can read about my experience of returning a pair of "spring boots" in 2009).

Heels - Seriously you need to have one pair. On my past five trips to Paris, I have packed the same pair of well-worn in, classic black, 2-inch heels. I have them resoled before every trip. Typically, I carry them around Paris in my bag in case I need to change into them for a spontaneous cocktail at Hôtel de Crillon.

Trouser Socks-So not glamourous but absolutely critical for shoe shopping. Nothing is more embarrassing than trying on beautiful French shoes if you have stinky, red swollen bare feet. I tuck a few extra pairs in my bag and then slip into the cleanest pair when the inevitably chicer than me salesperson has disappeared to retrieve my latest pair of Paris boots.

Scarves -Mais oui! I pack at least three and end up coming home with at least double that amount. And they don't have to be Hermès . I love the accessories departments in both Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. If you don't know how to wear your scarf, just sit at any café for an hour and watch the Parisians. You will get enough inspiration for 100 scarves. If you want a pre-Paris scarf tying lesson check out this fabulous blog, My Little Scarf Blog. There are even "how-to" videos and step-by-step instructions for scarf tying.

Bags-Not a fanny pack or some hideous, over one shoulder waterproof canvas thing with hidden Velcroed pockets to hide all your things that no Parisian wants to steal but a proper, close-to-chic as-you-can-come bag. For everyday Paris, I carry my many years old Longchamp Le Pliage sac shopping. It's large enough to carry my extra shoes, insoles, a day's worth of baked goods, packets of Haribo candies, a bottle of wine, ibuprofen, a map, lip gloss and a notebook. It's also authentically French and doesn't look out of place in restaurants or boutiques. I also pack a classic black clutch for going out at night.

What about Louis?

I don't take LV to Paris. I worry that LV would want to stay in Paris after I have exposed him to months, sometimes years, of yoga pants and fleece separates and after I have forced him to eat at a mall (a mall!) food court, me eating one-handed so my other hand can protect his monogrammed beauty. More importantly for the fashion-obsessed, none of my LV's, perhaps with the exception of "Dirty Louis" (my first bag, a Speedy who is ageing ever so gracefully), look worn-in enough in the way that truly classic, gorgeous Paris LV's do. You know the LV's that have been passed down by Chanel clad grandmères. My LV's are too clean and look like I just bought them on the Champs after standing in line with a busload of Japanese tourists.

DVF Wrap Dress- I pack a lot of dresses for Paris and they are all black. Even in the spring, black is the colour I associate most with Paris. However, I make an exception to my all-black dress rule for my favourite, go-to-go-anywhere dress: a silk black and white print DVF wrap dress that I bought for $110 at Nordstrom Rack in 2006. It doesn't wrinkle, I can shimmy in and out it quickly when I am trying on clothes and I always, always feel amazing in it.

Blazers- If only they were Chanel! I pack one black and one cream and wear them with everything. I may add a pin striped one for spring.

Skirts-More black, on the knee and not super tight so I can enjoy my three favourite Paris things: walking, eating and shopping. I also love anything pleated and for some reason, maybe not the right one, I think pleated skirts are very French.

Jeans-By now you may have guessed that denim isn't my favourite fabric. I think jeans look best on men and supermodels. If I wear jeans in Paris, they have to be skinny and dark. And always, always with a blazer and scarf.

And a few of my other essentials...

My Lucky Travel Monkey, sterling silver horseshoe necklace, Kashi granola bars, The Little Black Book of Paris, pink Moleskin notebooks, camera, travel umbrella, and TUMS.

And what you will NEVER find in my Paris suitcase...

Yoga pants, flip flops, shorts, any pieces from my beloved Eiffel Tower jewelry collection, hoodies, and a Canadian Girls Kick Ass t-shirt.

I have some packing to do!