Postscript from Paris

Paris reminds us that the word, "grandeur" is a gift from the French. The grandeur and scale of Paris is intimidating, but the genius of Paris is how the public and breathtakingly ornate can be brought down to a more humane scale through the sensual: intimate brasseries and cafes and ancient alleys, park benches and blankets on the grass with good bread from a boulangerie, a fragrant cheese nosed out of a local shop, and champagne. Always champagne. One can hear them popped throughout the parks as people tend to their food and books and kisses.

The women have a sterner beauty that begins with posture and the knack for never letting anything be simple. She is not merely pretty (and never "cute"), but something more complex, a complexity that defines elegance. She is at once delicate and formidable like one of those iconic Eugene Atget photographs. 

She is an ideal in our imagination, a layering of history and art and thought. How can she be anything else raised in such a city? How do we aspire to this ideal in our own lives, wherever we live? I unpack a new version of myself, or at least a version of my best self, a best self that has been there all the time. My feet are blistered, and it has taken a few days to shake off the jet lag, but every night I have dreamt of Paris. I have brought it home. 

Eugene Atget
I purchased some tiny gold bracelets for myself (I love these two and three at a time on my wrist), as well as for gifts for family and friends. I bought a couple of dresses from one of my favorite Paris boutiques, Make my D... on 7 rue la Vieuville, in the Montmarte neighborhood of Paris and a simple linen summer dress from Tera Bora on the Right Bank. 

Dragging luggage on trains, buses, trams, metros, and airplanes discourages a lot of buying, but a woman cannot leave Paris without something
The Lourve

And, of course, what we really bring back is a version of ourselves, a wealth of ideas inspired by art and food and a renewed commitment to joie de vivre

Postscript: When I want to revisit Paris, one of the ways I do it is Paris Daily Photo. Besides the usual guides to the streets of Paris (I use the current Rick Steves guidebook), I recommend The Invention of Paris by Eric Hazen and John Russell's Paris for a guide to the soul of Paris.  

Oh, and let us not forget Balzac.


Packed for Paris

Please Note: The next blog entry won't be until the end of May or beginning of June. 

Paris is not so much a visit as much as an education. 

I suppose that could be said of most travel, but it is especially true of Paris.

In his book, The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton asks why we travel: "We are inundated with advice on where to travel to but we hear little of why... might in modest ways contribute to an understanding of what the Greek philosophers beautifully termed eudaimonia, or 'human flourishing.'"

 Travel is one of the ways we flourish.  

What to pack? 

Pack light: I have struggled to wheel too many heavy and unwieldy suitcases through crowded city streets and over cobblestone lanes. Conversely, I have traveled out of a backpack which is the best training one can have in economy. I will be traveling to different destinations with cool, rainy weather,  so layering is important. I will be walking a great deal, bicycling, riding public transportation, traveling to different countries on the train, so economy and comfort is important as well.  Pack a few essentials and dress them up with accessories; jewelry and scarves take up a lot less suitcase room than whole outfits.

 I think of packing as a composition. I begin with one great pair of black pants: slim fit, side zipper, great fabric.    Add one black turtleneck for cold days, a pale gray or navy silk sweater, one white silk shirt.  Layer with leather bomber jacket on cold days, jean jacket for warmer days.  Add appropriate jewelry, bright scarf or rebozo to wrap around my neck, and very comfortable flats. I carry a leather tote or a saddle bag. 

For special evenings:  I add a vintage silk shell from Morocco and a vintage Bill Blass early '60s black cocktail jacket, a mass of real and play pearls, and clutch.
I take a versatile  black sheath, adding tights for cold days.  

I'm packed for a three-week trip. Obviously I take a few more things, but the concept remains the same: pack simply and light.

I roll up my clothes and take a travel sized hand steamer to smooth out wrinkles (Don't forget the electrical outlet converter). I take a few toiletries, but no hair appliances.  My suitcase is small enough to carry on the plane. 

Among the books I have loaded on to kindle for my trip: 

With passport, airbnb reservations (the best way to stay anywhere!),  the tripadvisor app on my phone (for offline guides), and museum card in hand, I am off for an adventure and won't be back until June. Plan a trip and map your universe. Don't wait. 

Bon Voyage!   



 Rebozos are traditional Mexican wraps that are useful and beautiful - my favorite qualities. My great-grandmother used hers to cover up, to tote groceries or babies, to wrap in her hair for festive occasions.

Mexican designer Carla Fernandez's show "The Barefoot Designer: A Passion for Radical Design and Community"  at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston is an "extraordinary approach to documenting and preserving the rich textile heritage of Mexico's indigenous communities by transforming it into beautiful contemporary clothing, and proving tradition is anything but static." 

I love that she emphasizes the individual and subtle eroticism of women's bodies instead of a vulgar "sex appeal," that what makes a woman feel sexy may be a delicate wrist, a well-shaped arm, a curve of hip, a long neck. 

 In an interview she states, "I think that indigenous textiles is just as sexy as the erotic attire of the West; it is just that the erogenous zones are different. For the indigenous woman the most important areas are the hair, the feet, and the arms. The challenge for me is to make Western women feel sexy wearing, as you say, clothes that are more like a portrait of your soul, your history, your family, and all the generations you carry with you."

So it is in this spirit of old and new I wear my great-grandmother's gorgeous rebozos framing my long neck and clavicle, one of my very own erogenous zones. I am sexy because I have a sense of my own body and I feel happy in it. And when it comes to men,  in the end it is all men really want: that you love your body so they can too. As a lover once confessed, men are such grateful creatures.

I wind rebozos around my neck several times for modern chic or wrap around my shoulders for elegance and warmth.  I inherited several from my great-grandmother, but I've picked up a few in my travels to Mexico as well.

Everywhere I travel, there seems to be some version of the rebozo in different fabrics: Silk, cotton, wool. The beautiful scarf or  wrap seems to be a universal language.