Sunday, December 10, 2017

Two Nights, One Day, in Paris. . . .

 The Wifi connection isn't stellar here, and I'm guarding my Paris time, but we're relaxing in our hotel room between meals, so I thought I'd post a few words and photos. Today's weather was splendid -- sunny, mild, and the rain that had been forecast held off until we were almost back from our day's meandering. (The destination was to the magical windows of the Grands Magasins on Boulevard Hausmann; I'll be sharing videos of those on Instagram as soon as I get a strong enough signal.)

The photos in this post are just a few of those I took yesterday evening, strolling in the neighbourhood after a much-needed nap. The flight had gone smoothly -- my seatmate was pleasant enough, not much more inclined to chat than I; we were 90 minutes late leaving, but only 45 arriving; I checked my carry-on case for a change, so I didn't have to worry about finding an empty overhead for it, although there was ample room when I boarded.  The lineup to go through the Border Police at CDG took about 25 minutes, so not too bad, and by the time I got through, my case was on the carousel. Almost no line-up to buy my RER ticket -- 10 Euros takes you to central Paris, and I was lucky to be on an Express with no stops until Gare du Nord, so in almost no time I was stepping out into sunshine right by Fontaine St. Michel, blinking at the bright day and getting my bearings for that sweet, sweet walk along St. Germain.
 I love being in Paris with Pater, and I was very glad he'd be joining me later, but I have to say there's something delicious about getting here on my own that makes all the trepidation worthwhile. Equally delicious is being recognised right away at the hotel, about having a favourite brasserie or two in the neighbourhood, and then strolling in a mantle of comfortable anonymity. Beyond basic civility, I have very few responsibilities in this city, and that strikes me as a welcome luxury for the moment.
 Pater, meanwhile, was taking a longer route, flying a different airline and stopping in Heathrow for several hours (his schedule requires an earlier return, so will be from a different city).  While he was enjoying a full English breakfast in the late English afternoon, I was peering into gorgeous windows and chuckling at toddlers howling wolf-style at cardboard foxes. . . .(this shop--a Chinese subsidiary, I believe, of Hermès, does the most exquisite windows -- I'll try to remember to show you more later).
 A closer view of the fox that invited the wolf howls from a very young passer-by, one of those delightful moments that serendipity delivers in this city.
 Given that I'd arrived mid-morning after a nine-hour flight on which I'd only managed a half-hour's sleep, I was quite content to spend my afternoon here strolling and then napping between meals. Lunch at Le Nemrod, a brasserie about 70 metres away, and dinner at Le Rousseau, a brasserie perhaps 20 metres further. Not particularly adventurous, but I felt modestly sophisticated, sitting on my own, looking out into a room of mainly French-speaking diners, and tucking into my Foie de Veau, with a side plate of haricots verts, and a very nice glass of Brouilly. Simple pleasures.
And then Pater arrived about 11 p.m. and the next thing we knew it was 10 this morning. A happy day of walking and looking at windows and having a very decent, rather traditional, very bon marché lunch at Bouillon Chartier. Again, simple pleasures. But what a splendid way to acclimate, to reset, after the unnatural dislocation of trans-continental air travel. We're off to dinner soon, and then an early night, so that we're ready for another day's travel tomorrow, this time at a considerably more human pace, by train.

Not sure whether I'll post again here before we get to Rome, but do check in on Instagram to see what city we land in tomorrow as well as to share in my admiration for Paris Christmas windows. And know that even if I don't find time to respond, as sometimes happens when I'm travelling, I'm reading and appreciating any comments you are kind enough to leave.  

Friday, December 8, 2017

Time to Zip It! My Travel Case, That Is: One Carry-On, Five Weeks in Europe

 I'll be heading to the airport in a few hours, so it's time to show/tell you what I've packed before I zip the bags closed. I'll be away for five weeks: three weeks and a bit at our daughter's (with laundry facilities!) and then ten days involving train travel and four different hotels. If you're curious about packing for carry-on-only travel, you might also like to check out this post, where I've collated links to earlier trips.

Temperatures will be warmer near Rome, our main destination (currently mid-teens, Celsius, but could dip below 10). When I land in Paris, it looks like rain, perhaps heavy rain, and quite cool-ish, although not quite freezing. Going through the Swiss Alps, though, might be quite chilly, and I'll be glad of the cashmere, merino, down, layers, although we'll mostly be in the train or hotel. Turin is holding out the possibility of greeting us with snow for our overnight visit. . . . So comfort was definitely a consideration, even while wanting to be dressed well enough for Paris and Rome and Zurich.

Above, my Rimowa carry-on, the contents neatly controlled in Eagle Creek packing bags. I love these very thin, light bags for the way they allow me to unpack and repack easily if I'm only staying one to three nights at a place, and especially if I'm doing a sequence of short stays.
 But I realize that this method doesn't let you see what I've packed, so for the first time, I've written lists of what each bag holds (I think this might be useful for me as well): In the red bag above, I've packed: A navy velvet dress; black microfibre pants; black floral print silk blouse; black lightweight cashmere cardigan; black tights; black merino knit pencil skirt. And yes, that's a lot for a bag that size -- they have a slight compression effect, very handy, and in the corners you can see my black runners

The blue Eagle Creek bag above holds my new black cashmere turtleneck, as well as a silk scarf.

In the corners of the compartment you can see my black runners (stuffed with underwear, socks). You can't see the electrical adaptor, nor my sunglasses, nor the three picture books and little dress I'm bringing my g'daughter. I've also slipped a couple of exercise resistance bands for the workouts my trainer planned for me (30-minute circuits that can be done with very little equipment to keep me on track with fitness goals even while I'm traveling). I've also found room to tuck in a mini-paintbox.

Below, you can see that I've packed a small, light cross-body bag for days when my shoulders can't deal with my larger one. Along the outside edges I've packed my black-gold metallic Oxfords, one stuffed with my red scarf, another with a small fascial-release ball.
 And another red bag in this compartment, as you see above,  holds my running/exercise gear -- sports bra, running tights, and long-sleeved technical T. It also contains a pair of jeans, a lightweight paisley-print merino pullover, and a cat-print ivory sweatshirt. This last item is a bit of a wild card for me -- I rarely include sweatshirts as they're just too bulky for my purposes and really, cotton isn't a versatile fibre for winter. But I suspect the lifestyle I'll be stepping into at my daughter's home might require something a bit more relaxed, even, than my jeans and sweaters, and a sweatshirt is much easier to launder than a cashmere or merino pullover.  . . 

The green bag holds toothbrush, dental floss, hair pick comb, etc. and will also hold all the liquid cosmetics currently sequestered in a zip-loc bag for security screening. I decided I have enough room to bring along that little roller you can see in the top right corner -- I just KNOW I'm going to miss my big foam roller so much!

I haven't bothered photographing my backpack with its contents, but it's a very manageable daypack with zippered compartments that organize my MacBook Air, my iPad Mini (both in lightweight cases, the latter in an M0851 pouch that doubles as a clutch).  I have the iPad loaded up with e-books on both the Kobo app and on my OverDrive app (with Vancouver Public Library books), so I don't need to pack print books. I have a Uniqlo down jacket in its very small pouch packed in here -- doubles as a neck pillow, very handy. A small pouch with my knitting: a few rows of a soon-to-be sock on wooden double-point needles. The adaptor for my iPhone. My Moleskine notebook. And a wool beret and mini-umbrella.

There, I'm ready to go, right?
Here's what I'll be wearing, as snapped in a changeroom the other day. A pair of skinny jeans because they work so well with boots -- and yes, I've decided to take these Fluevog boots, despite their definitely-not-neutral acid-green. I've just been enjoying their comfort so much lately (and honestly, always getting positive comments from complete strangers) that I decided to take a chance on them for travel. Wearing them here with the Aritzia sweater that's also been getting so much play because it's simple and comfortable and chic enough. Just barely enough, maybe, for Paris, but it will do, especially when worn underneath this coat (scroll down) which is also coming along.

Oh, and the new sweater I tried on in that changeroom, and bought, and packed?
I know, you can't really tell with all the black, but mmmmmmm, like wearing a hug. . .

And speaking of hugs, here's a big good-bye hug for all of you, and I'll post soon from a city full of Christmas sparkle. xo
p.s. as usual when traveling, I'm likely to post more on Instagram than on the blog. Feel free to Follow me there or just pop in for a look occasionally.

p.p.s Am I forgetting something? Anything? Better not tell me now, right? ;-)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

OOTD (When The Jeans Are All Packed For Travel)

Just one more day now . . . I'm guessing I'm not the only one who experiences anxiety the day before a flight.  Luckily, it's the transition time, the anticipation, that I find a bit tough, and once I'm through the Boarding Gate, I'm usually pretty good.

No anxiety about the packing. That's all done, and I'll post a list of what's in my carry-on case and what's in my (small, day) backpack tomorrow with a photo or two to testify that it all fits.

Meanwhile, these last few days, with my favourite daily go-to garments packed (both pairs of best jeans! my cosiest sweater!), I've remembered how much I love wearing this winter skirt. Sue (at High Heels in the Wilderness) posted the other day about her well-curated wardrobe perhaps needing a wild card now and wondered if a midi skirt might be the answer. In reply, I had to say how much I've enjoyed wearing this one -- some ten years old now, bought at The Gap, surprisingly enough,  and worn regularly every winter since. Shall we call it Bluestocking Chic? Remarkably comfortable to wear, and I like to think that any possible fustiness (the grey flannel pleats, the buttoned-up cashmere cardi) is mitigated by the shoes. . . and then my worn leather moto jacket. . . and perhaps that red scarf. . .

The small, simple crossbody bag, by the way, is the one whose zipper I mended a couple of weeks ago. It's a gem for urban walking, and is definitely coming to Europe with me.

The curls are coming as well, but they will be shorter and perhaps a bit subdued after today's visit to my stylist.  . . . (now if only I could subdue those pre-travel jitters . . . )

So one more quick post (tomorrow) before I'm off the ground and reporting to you from a certain Christmas-bedecked city. . . meanwhile, I'm curious: do you have a "Nothing to Wear" moment once your suitcase is packed? Or do you leave packing 'til the last moment for that very reason?

Monday, December 4, 2017

'Tis the Season . . . To Leave Town?

First Monday in December, and I look back to see that this time last year we were still jet-lagged, preparing for a first Christmas in our new home, a condo we'd only lived in for a few weeks before heading off for ten weeks in Europe. Waves of reality were crashing: we had no dining table or chairs yet, despite our plans to host Christmas dinner, and I grumbled about not being able to find my boots. . . or the scissors. . . . or . . 
These Nandina domestica -- Heavenly Bamboo -- berries are so festive. If only, they weren't so toxic to birds. . . .

In sharp contrast, this first December Monday sees us packing up to head to a small town near Rome.  Other than planning and packing for the trip (lists, lists, and more lists!), this Christmas promises to be the least stressful/easiest ever, although I've yet to know how I'll feel about leaving our three families here to celebrate without us. Our condo will be full while we're away: first, one family will take refuge from their kitchen reno; then the out-of-town crew will use it as a home base for their holiday visit; and on Christmas Day, our kids, their partners, and the grandkids will cook and enjoy their turkey dinner in our kitchen. Who knows,  there may even be decorations here, perhaps a tree for Santa to put a visiting two-year-old's gifts under, but all my Christmas boxes are staying in storage.

Nor am I rushing to buy and wrap gifts to be opened in my absence. Santa is always generous to these little ones, and I've decided that we give enough through the year to give us a Free Pass this Christmas. I am going to try to pick up a few picture books for the Italian Three (there's obviously a dearth of those where she lives and they don't take up much space), and I hope to make a trip into Rome to drool over toys at Al Sogno (finally, thank you Georgia!) where I'll be happy for an excuse to buy something for a girl I rarely get to see open her presents.

I expect to enjoy Christmas decorations in the various cities we'll pass through on our way to our destination, and I'm excited to see how Rome gussies up for the holiday, but meanwhile, this morning my short run in the neighbourhood took me past these baubles on a trees bare limbs. Of course, the photo sent me searching back through previous posts -- to the Christmas before last, our last Christmas on our little island, where our neighbours decorated similarly albeit in a much different setting. So many changes in that relatively short span of two years, some of them wrenching. But overall, I'm happy to report, I feel very lucky to be heading off to visit our family in Europe, and I know that when I get back in January, this urban condo will welcome me home.

For now, though, I've got those lists. And lists. . . .Only four more sleeps. . . .

Friday, December 1, 2017

Time to Pack, Carry-On Only

Okay, this little one isn't coming in the suitcase, but I have no other Visuals for you today, and I couldn't resist posting a photo of the little doll I knit for a certain redheaded granddaughter's birthday this week. Giving in, on Sunday, to the impulse to make her, managing to complete her on time for the Birthday Dinner Monday evening -- yep, that's put me behind schedule all week. Well worth it, I must say (and I still found enough time yesterday evening to watch Home Alone -- again! -- with the Newly Nine. Priorities, right?)

But despite the detours and the distractions, I'm closing in on the packing for next week's travel.  I think I've pulled together all the pieces I need, and now I just need to spend some time testing presumed combinations to see if they really work, then work out the laundry timing so that the garments I'm not ready to pack away yet are ready to go by the time I leave for the airport and that my carry-on actually closes and is a manageable weight (it's a Rimowa, in case you're curious, the Salsa Air, ever so light).

Once I know everything works and the case can be zipped, I'll post on what I'm bringing, but meanwhile, a reader asked me if I could point her towards some of my earlier posts on travelling with only carry-on luggage. This seemed a good opportunity to gather these together, so here they are:

From way back in 2008, this one and this one, when we travelled for three weeks late May, early June, Paris-Portugal, no washing machine.

for a 2010 trip, I took a few photos of my nearly-packed carry-on as well as of some of the outfits I planned, for three weeks in London, Paris, and central Portugal, late spring

in 2011, I showed you how I managed the issue of carry-on restrictions for cosmetics and hair care products, and here's the inventory of what I packed for that 6-week trip, but without any photographic evidence.

this inventory of what I packed, again sans photographic proof, from 2012 trip to Amsterdam, Bordeaux, and Paris in May. . . laundry facilities in Bordeaux.

this one from 2015 a 7-week trip that spanned September in Bordeaux and then three weeks in Italy, and during which we had access to a washing machine much of the time.

and then the real challenge, those Ten Weeks, One Carry-On, last year in Bordeaux (and Paris, and Berlin, and Rome, and Florence -- that was a great trip!)

Of course, many of you already follow Sue at Une Femme and you know that she's much more organized than I am, but for those who might have missed her 12-piece travel wardrobe posts, here's a link to what she packed for her most recent trip to Paris, a week in fall and another for a 12-piece wardrobe she packed for two weeks in Scotland and England in the spring.

And as long as I'm larding this post with links, I will let you know that I've posted again to my reading blog.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

OOTD: Lunch with a Friend, Downtown

To meet a friend for lunch at Nordstrom earlier this week, I pulled this dress out of the closet. On some levels a coup de foudre when I found it in the Bordeaux & Other Stories store last year, I will admit it hasn't got much play in the year since. Partly because of that hemline, which I think might be a bit shorter thanks to a recent handwash. Too youthful? Too "trying-to-look-youthful"? Still, I like this shape on me and were I not a bit self-conscious about the age, I think this length is probably flattering as well. I love the folkloric embroidery against the fine black wool. I love the pockets. So I ignored the doubtful little voices and turned up the volume on the one that reminded me of what I loved when I handed over my charge card last year.

Here's a close-up of the hair these days, all the artificial colour grown out, the grey curls growing more unruly with every raindrop (and oh, we've got raindrops these days!). I've dithered and dithered about whether to get a cut before my trip, finally leaving a desperate message at my stylist's this morning (she called back, just before I clicked "Publish," and I have an appointment for the afternoon before my flight).  Do you ever find that your hair is finally doing what you want it to just as a cut is scheduled? Mine's just about where I want it now, and changing the length--via scissors or time--can be as temporarily disastrous as opening the oven on a soufflé (too long and the curls stretch out, the top flattens; too short, and I just don't feel like me).
I further silenced my doubts about the dress via this coat, a recent purchase that will be taking its first trip to Europe soon.
I love the simple, classic lines, and I've been wearing it with jeans, skirts, and dresses, boots, ankle boots, low-heeled pumps and flat oxfords, testing its versatility. I'd say it passed with flying colours, as long as I'm adding the flying colours via scarves.
This one's my own handknit, an alpaca rendition of Miriam Felton's Icarus, that I completed in 2007 and blogged about at the time.  One of the oldest handknits I still wear regularly.

And since I was at the mirror with the camera anyway, I grabbed another scarf, my go-to taupe cashmere Bompard, worn at least three times a week, and definitely included on the packing list.
Speaking of which, I'd better get back to that. . . 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Monday Miscellany

 Less than two weeks now until our trip, and perhaps not surprisingly, I'm feeling a bit scattered. Or not scattered so much as spread a bit thin. Looking at recent photos I'd thought to Instagram but never got 'round to, I can see why -- Madly Off in All Directions, I see I've been going, but it's all good stuff, and today's post is my reminder of that.

The top photo was taken last week as I ran along the waterfront in the city whose harbour is guarded by the small island on which I used to live, the island you can see on the right. The visit was a short one (two nights), and while I didn't make it over to Protection Island (yes, that is really the lovely name of our former home), I visited with four good friends in about thirty hours, a very good use of my time (the tea-with-macaron photo below was taken just before one of those friends arrived for a visit in a favourite Bakery-Café, Mon Petit Choux.

And the run itself was a Very. Good. Thing! The second run since I stopped my "running rehab" program in May, due to a flare-up of the injury I'd been coming back from, the first run since May that I didn't fall. Not only did I not fall, but after a 10-minute walking warm-up, I did four sets of 5-minute running, 1 or 2 minutes walking, a wee bit of lolly-gagging/photo-taking, and then a 5-minute cool-down walk, for a total of about five kilometres.  The best part was that I felt no discomfort the next morning.

My plan for now is to stick with my gym workouts -- I do these 3 or 4 times a week in the well-equipped gym in our building, following a program designed for me by my trainer.  But I'd also like to include a run once or twice a week, keeping those short and taking regular walking breaks, roughly following the schedule my physiotherapist set out back in March.  We'll see. . . . I may not ever run another marathon, but eventually I'd love to be able to enjoy the 20-kilometre weekend runs of not-so-long-ago.
 Besides visiting and running, I've been knitting madly through my stash. I have two hats on the needles right now. One is a collaborative project with the Newly Nine, for whom I just finished a pair of socks. I worried a bit about whether she'd like them because I had to add stripes to one sock when the leftover ball of purple yarn proved to be insufficient. But she seemed to think the taupe stripes on only one sock were a cool innovation, and modeled the pair happily-- too bad I never thought to take a photo.

Nor do I have a photo of the finished mittens I knit for another birthday girl, only this one snapped while they were still in process. They fit the Finally Five! perfectly (Nana's hand holding hers even when I'm not there, I told her yesterday when she pulled them on. She nodded solemnly, then flashed a big smile and hugged me tightly).
 For those of you who wonder about future down-sizing, fretting perhaps about how you'd  accommodate family events and other social occasions. . . . We rented the Amenities Room of our building for The Five's birthday on the weekend. Nana and Granddad didn't have to do much besides be on site, answer the Enterphone, and run up and down the elevator to retrieve a few items from our suite. . . .
 But we were pleased to see how well the space worked for a small crowd of excited party-goers, crafts set up at one end of the table, snacks at another, ample room for unicorns (the party girl's requested theme) to prance and gallop and punch their way through a piñata.
 Final item in this Monday Miscellany is my repair of the zipper on a very useful small leather cross-body bag I purloined from my husband a few years ago. It's perfect for a day when I don't want much weight on my shoulder -- a light wallet, a lipstick, my phone, and I'm set -- but I'd popped some sock-knitting in it a few weeks ago and messed up the zipper trying to extricate the yarn I'd caught in it (I know, I know!).

So I Googled a bit, and it turns out there are a plethora of sites offering zipper-repair instructions. This was the one that worked for me, but there seems to be consensus around the solution of gently pinching the slider, and, indeed, that worked for my zipper.
So that's what I've been up to: running, visiting, knitting, party-ing with Fives, and mending zippers. 
Oh, and I posted about a book you might like (I loved it!) over here, on the reading blog I've quite neglected this year.

And behind the scenes, some French and Italian practice (The Italian-Speaking Three just laughed the other day when I told her that "Posso parlare un po' d'Italiano," and my daughter asked her if Nana was speaking Italian. Apparently I have some work to do, some R's to roll at the very least. . .

Breakfast time now, though, and then out to take advantage of some rare November sunshine. Comments always welcome. Have you mended a zipper? Knit a mitten? Had tea with a friend? Read a good book? We'd like to know. . . .Or just wave a hello. . .

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