I’m about to fly to Paris (Paris in the springtime: pinch me) so before I hang up the French equivalent of a Gone Surfing sign (Gone Wine & Cheesing?) I thought I’d share my Can’t-Leave-Chez-Moi-Withouts. Paris is not Bali, you see. You can’t surf, for one. But you also can’t just wing it — turn up and hope for the best. A little careful preparation and packing are crucial, in order to get the most out of the Parisian experience. Here are five of my Paris-bound essentials …
Flitty Flat Shoes
Paris is a city for walkers. If you’ve read Edmund White’s wonderful The Flâneur, you might recall this line: “only the pace of strolling can take in all the rich (if muted) detail.” At first Paris seems like a shimmering beige blur, but when you stop and focus in on the details, there’s always something gorgeous to swoon over — at literally every step. So if Paris is a city for walking, it’s also a city for flat shoes. It’s a city in which you feel grounded, in both senses of that word. Connected, sole to soul. My ultimate Paris-approved flats are Bensimon’s classic tennis-shoe slip-ons but many Parisiennes prefer a more supported style, such as the Adidas Stan Smith. Or any ballet-flat will look the pretty part, too.
A Chic Shopping Bag
Photo: Vanessa Bruno
Paris is also a city of shopping. It’s impossible to go for a walk without being tempted to buy a box of macarons here, a bouquet of flowers there, or to pop into a pharmacie for a skincare stock-up. So make sure to have a sturdy and stylish shopping bag on standby. My favourite, for its rainbow of colour options and signature sequin trim, is the Vanessa Bruno Cabas tote, which comes in several shapes and sizes, to suit all shopping tendencies.
A Water Bottle
As anyone who has ever read French Women Don’t Get Fat knows, Parisiennes stay slim not just from all that walking, but also all that water, which keeps the stomach satiated. Outside of the winter months, it’s easy to get your eau fix, because the city’s famous Wallace Fountains run with beautifully drinkable water.
An In-The-Know Guide
There are countless guidebooks to Paris, but not all of them lead you into the city’s most interesting and unusual nooks and crannies. One of my latest favourites is Paris in Stride: an Insider’s Walking Guide by Jessie Kanelos Weiner & Sarah Moroz. It’s a gorgeously illustrated, fit-in-your-bag-sized book that takes you on a variety of winding, well-thought-out tracks (a mix of what to see and where to eat along the way), dishing up loads of useful tips as you go. Available from Amazon.
A Natty Notebook (or Ten)
When you simply can’t walk or shop any longer, do as the locals do: sit en terrasse at a café for hours, to watch the world go by and reflect on the meaning of la vie. To really look to Parisienne part, have a Moleskine notebook on hand, in which you can record all of those poetic and philosophical thoughts.