French Girl in Seattle’s travel essentials (Travel Tips Series)

French Girl in Seattle’s travel essentials (Travel Tips Series)

To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”

Freya Stark, Explorer and Travel Writer.

Agreed, Freya. I love exploring new towns, big or small. I love traveling alone too. Wait. Alone? If I am fine traveling by myself, I still like to be in good company. I would not leave home without my travel essentials. Spring is here, and before we know it, the summer travel season will be upon us. Every time I check social media, I see articles titled “10 versatile travel essentials you can’t do without,” “How to pack for an international trip,” or “Travel light and pack smart.” I don’t know about you, but I remember to bring a color copy of my passport, wall adapters, ear plugs, or a phrase book. I know my clothing will take less space if I roll it instead of folding it. I know packing cubes and zip lock bags will help me organize my suitcase and save time. I remember to pack travel essentials, jewelry, and medication in my carry-on. This story is a not your typical list. I am not claiming I know packing better than you do. Like choosing a hotel and a restaurant, packing is a personal decision. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa. Still, as I was reading my 3rd travel-related article this week, I paused to reflect on what my ideal travel checklist would be. It did not take long. Voilà French Girl in Seattle’s travel essentials, my favorite travel companions, my sidekicks, my compadres. We are a team. Where I go, they go.

Vero Dordogne
a French Girl in the Dordogne, updating travel notes for the FGIS blog (Summer 2011)

1. Travel Essentials: Panasonic Lumix Lx 7 and MacBook Air 11 in.

Sidekicks

I don’t recall a trip over the last 7 years these two have not been on. There would be no blog and no travel stories without them. I am not a photographer, but I enjoy telling stories, with words and photos. The Lumix LX 7 (and its predecessor the worthy Lumix LX 5) have enabled me to do just that. Portable and sturdy, infallible when set on automatic, but flexible enough to let you play with manual settings; the Lumix LX 7 is a smart camera that also delivers top quality video footage, even in low light conditions. It is unobtrusive and quiet. This makes it perfect for street photography (my favorite activity because I love people watching.)

Lumix LX 7 2
Shooting away at the Menton market, summer 2012. (Photo by Jilly Bennett Photography)

The Lumix’s partner, the MacBook Air, is the essential piece of equipment I rely on to write stories. I can check my emails on a smartphone, but I need a real keyboard for blogging. The MacBook Air is lightweight, lightning fast, and so beautiful it pleases my French sense of aesthetics. Yes, blogging has turned me into a WiFi addict. I won’t deny it. Fortunately, my favorite travel destinations are cities. It’s never a big problem nowadays to get connected at least once a day.

2. Travel Essentials: Le carnet (the notebook.)

WiFi addict or not, I am old-fashioned. I like beautiful pens, real books, quality paper and would not dream of embarking on a trip without a favorite notebook. I use it to list places I want to discover, a hotel or rental apartment address, stores I plan to visit, or exhibits I must see. I use it to store souvenirs, the ticket that got me into a great museum, a business card I picked up along the way. The notebook needs to be small and to fit into whatever bag I carry on my daily explorations. It helps me plan my trip, but also gets me in the mood for travel. After I return home, flipping through the pages brings back memories of special adventures. If I had it my way, I would take notes, or write postcards (yes, I still send them when I can find them,) with this:

Porte plume
Porte-plume: What I used to learn cursives in elementary school

Instead, I pack a couple of cheap pens (pens tend to get lost on long trips,) a highlighter, and the notebook, of course.

Sidekick notebook

3. Travel essentials: Guidebooks

I believe in {heavily highlighted} guidebooks, with special pages folded over in the corners. Trip planning may involve hours of web browsing, but when it comes to the actual trip, I like to have a guidebook. Michelin is my most reliable supplier.  It delivers reliable, concise, no-nonsense information. I would not dream of staying in Paris (or in any big city) without researching a few itineraries first. My copy of the invaluable “Paris Pratique par Arrondissement” (already my sidekick when I was a Paris resident,) may not be the prettiest. It is covered with inscriptions, with highlighted sections of arrondissements (districts) and landmarks. It’s the best travel companion I have had in the French capital’s streets for many, many years.

Sidekick Guidebooks
Guidebooks, special books, maps: Travel essentials (even if they don’t all make the flight)
Paris Pratique
Somewhere in Belleville (2015)

4. Travel essentials: Good shoes. A good coat. A good scarf (or two.)

Travelers spend way too much time obsessing over what to wear on a trip. It seems that when Paris (and France) are concerned, {female} travelers’ stress levels sky-rocket. Their goal? To blend in. Hint: They won’t. Parisians can spot tourists a mile away, even if visitors wear black clothes and scarves (tied more or less successfully.) How? Tourists walk more slowly than locals. They take photos constantly. They look – and sound – different. Sometimes, they try too hard. You see, unlike what some popular lifestyle books would have you believe, Parisians – Parisian women in particular – come in many different colors, shapes, and sizes. This applies to the rest of the country as well. This makes “blending in” challenging, don’t you think? You are a tourist: Own it. Dress comfortably, using common sense, and {good} taste. Be respectful. No one can ask for more than that.

When I travel, in the U.S. or across Europe, I rely on three travel essentials: First, comfortable shoes. My feet and the local public transportation system help me get around, Clarks and Ecco being my brands of choice for leather shoes and sandals. Now that sneakers (especially cute leather sneakers) are trendy in Paris, things are a lot easier. I would trade Repetto ballet flats for a pair of Converse in a heartbeat before I walk around Paris, New York or Toulouse for a day! My favorite – and most comfortable – sneakers (I own them in black and brown,) is the Ecco Chase II tie.

Converse
One of my many pairs of Converse, purchased in NYC after days of walking in traditional shoes made me beg for mercy.

Second: A good coat. My traveling is mostly done in urban areas. I vote for the classic, low maintenance, stylish trench coat in mid-season (in beige or light colors) as well as in the winter (when black works best,) and the denim jacket in the summer. My latest trench coat came from a favorite supplier, le Comptoir des Cotonniers, in the traditional Sahara color.

Charlotte Gainsbourg Trench
Few women look as Parisian as Charlotte Gainsbourg in her Comptoir des Cotonniers trench coat!

Third: A good scarf. When working or traveling, I wear them daily; and have learned to tie them in many different ways. Scarves are easy to pack and accessorize any outfit in a heartbeat. They keep you warm when it gets chilly, especially during long international flights. You can use them to sit on when having a picnic outside. Scarves are très French; that, at least, is not a myth (but you will see them all over Europe.)

buy ball dresses NZ
So many scarves, so little time: a small part of my ever-growing collection.
Rick Steves
Rick (Steves) and I believe in wearing scarves when traveling!
padova-film-spritz
(http://ricksteves.com)

5. Travel essential: A great bag to carry it all.

Diamonds – or shoes – aren’t a girl’s best friends. As far as I am concerned, bags are. Travel bags, handbags, carry-ons. I won’t lie: I have owned many bags, though I have recently downsized and started investing in quality pieces by Lancel, Longchamp, or Kate Spade. While traveling, I prefer cross-body bags or small, stylish backpacks as day packs. Why? I like to keep my hands free to take photos and notes. I have been traveling between Europe and the United States at least once a year for over 20 years. My search for the perfect carry-on bag continues. It goes from the airplane to business meetings, while my day-pack of choice typically travels flat in the suitcase, only to be “freed” once I reach my destination.  This past year, I have loved my adventures with Lo and Son’s O.M.G. bag. This is one of the best carry-on bags out there in my opinion! It is so pretty, versatile, and fits all of my other sidekicks, listed above, and more (watch the video on the website.) The O.M.G. has a big brother, the O.G. The company has come up with a really cool visual to help you decide between the two. Check it out here. Note: These bags aren’t cheap. Lo and Sons is running a sale for Mother’s Day until May 8! (I am not getting a commission for mentioning this bag. I just love my purple O.M.G.)

OMG
The O.M.G. bag and the other (usual) sidekicks were in Paris with me over the Holidays.

 

So here you are. These are French Girl in Seattle’s 5 travel essentials. Writing this post was almost as much fun as actually traveling. Hope you have enjoyed it too!

A bientôt.

Vero Sandals Camera
Making friends in Menton with le Lumix LX 7, 2012. (Photo by Jilly Bennett Photography)

16 Responses to French Girl in Seattle’s travel essentials (Travel Tips Series)

  1. I’m so jealous of you because you have a photo with Rick Steves! I love him because he makes travel so unintimidating!
    Anyway, I think your travel essentials are spot on. I always carry a ton of notebooks and when I have that “down time” just after a day of action and before the aperitif, I love to write about the day’s events.
    One thing I might add. Inexpensive jewelry. Honestly–I bring cheapo hoop earrings from walmart when I travel because I don’t want to worry about the good stuff. If I lose a hoop so what!
    Ahhhh. I’m getting ready to plan my travel bag now. Next month we will be back in France!

    • Bonjour Cathe. I agree about the jewelry. I wear a few basics on me at all times. The rest is meant to help accessorize, and usually costume jewelry – as jewelry, like pens, tends to get lost on long trips 😉 Excited for you about your upcoming trip to la Belle France!

  2. In response to Clauvel, as a man I carry all of these items mentioned although with some slight alterations. Since I don’t blog I carry an iPad with an adapter to download pictures from my Lumix camera. My bag is usually a small backpack. And I have carried a Moleskin for years. Great article.

  3. Thanks for the post – I just ordered my OMG bag. Sadly, they no longer have it in purple, but I will love the black one.

    • There are a lot of articles out there on this very topic Candy. I recommend you visit the blog “Une Femme d’Un Certain Age.” She has recently written a great story about packing for Europe. Merci de votre visite!

  4. Merci for all the good suggestions. Good to know that sneakers are now trendy in Paris. I just bought a black pair for my trip to France with Marita in September. Having comfortable shoes is number one for travel. I agree with the jewelry, bring inexpensive or just wear the same thing everyday.

  5. I completely agree with your endorsement of the Paris Pratique (I have the 3 Plans par Arrondissement version). I’ve been a devoted user since my student days in Paris in the mid-70s. Map apps on a phone are nice but I still prefer this booklet: vraiment indispensable!

  6. I love the idea of the notebook for travel, I love collecting tickets, business cards and pamphlets while travelling. Love the scarves idea as well. Thank you for the tips.

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