It's been just over two weeks in Paris, and I'm really starting to feel like local now. I explore the city (via Metro and on foot) just about every day and have been enjoying plenty of fun adventures, meeting new people and acclimating to the French way of life (note: it's MUCH different than the American way of life!)
One thing I've learned in just a short amount of time is to simply appreciate each minute, each hour, each day of life. There's not a huge rush to do things as we are accustomed to in America. In fact, the French really know how to relax (they don't actually work as hard, it seems) and they go on holiday regularly. So I am taking a page from their book and that's precisely why I am here--to ENJOY this moment in life. To savor it, to spoil myself and to bask in the freedom that I have right now and only now.
In terms of dining, I'm fascinated how the French savor their meals (a dinner can easily last four or five hours), they indulge in rich foods, hot coffee and sinful (at least from an LA point of view) pastries almost daily and yet everyone walks so much here that it's completely acceptable. I am so used to eating quickly (while eliminating a number of food groups at that) and racing off to my next obligation without really enjoying too many meals.
I've really had to teach myself to slow down and take time to breathe, to enjoy and take in my surroundings. Luckily for me, my surroundings in Paris are pretty fabulous!
There are gardens and beautiful discoveries at every corner, so each day is filled with appreciation and gratitude and wonder. In short, I am learning a lot about myself and the city and what makes me the happiest.
Yesterday, a new friend here commented how drastic the move for me must have been, coming from LA to Paris. I hadn't put much thought into it until then, but it's absolutely true. Essentially my lifestyle here is completely opposite of what it was in LA, and I'm not complaining, I'm simply adjusting quickly!
If I could have packed my bags all over again for this experience, I could have easily left out several pairs of shoes (heels really not necessary except for MAYBE a nice dinner or event, but that's not a daily situation for me like it was in LA), and focused more on durable (but chic) boots, plenty of cute coats and outerwear, and that's about it! I could have definitely edited down my clothes even more, even though I was pretty proud of what I packed to start with.
For anyone visiting or traveling for some time, here's what I recommend packing to survive Paris (including several basic items I really wish I had known to bring from home so I didn't have to fork over some hefty euros here!) For starters, you can't go wrong with all black everything.
My fall/winter wardrobe for any city is mostly monochrome black, but that's even more true in Paris. It's versatile and chic and always looks polished. Pack lightly (think leggings, skinny jeans, tops for layering, and add in a few accessories like a floppy hat, statement necklace or choker necklace to add a little interest without taking up space in your luggage.
I would recommend a handbag or purse that's not too big and not too small (you'll want to bring a portable battery pack or phone charger with you at all times) with a long shoulder strap. Brand, color and style is entirely up to you, but make sure it's a versatile bag that can carry the essentials with ease. Make sure it has a zipper or some sort of closure, of course, because nobody is trying to get pick pocketed out here!
Also don't forget:
1) A sturdy umbrella. It rains a lot here, usually in the late afternoon when you least expect it, and you just have to be prepared for this! Pick one that is compact and lightweight, but sturdy enough to withstand strong winds and heavy downpour. It should be able to fit in your handbag (see above), and I would recommend just leaving it there daily. You will need it more times than not. I got mine at Monoprix and it's a bronzey-chocolate color and gets the job done.
2) Waterproof Boots, Ankle Boots, Flat Boots, All Kinds of Boots. I honestly don't think you need any other shoes other than boots here, at least in the fall and winter. They keep you warm and protected from the elements and easily go with jeans, leggings, dresses, tights, everything. Forget pumps, forget ballet flats, all you need are boots. Make sure you can walk MILES in them, and bonus points if they are waterproof and cute, too. I am so glad I ordered these over-the-knee Blondo boots from Nordstrom before I moved here. They go with all of my all-black outfits and repel water perfectly. I also live in my trusty Sorel boots. They zip on and off easily, and are indestructible.
3) Coats of All Kinds. Coming from LA, I didn't have a huge outerwear wardrobe to work with, but I'm seeing the necessity for some variety here in Paris. Some days are totally frigid, some are just windy and brisk, and on rare occasions, it's even been actually kind of warm. As mentioned above, it rains almost every day, so there's that, too.
I'd recommend a few basics to get through the seasons: a chic black moto jacket (I have two: one from BLANK NYC, one from Zara), a winter wool coat (I tried on about 200 different styles here, and finally settled on one from MANGO), a sporty/casual coat with a hood and maybe a vest and plenty of scarves to layer on.
4) Shu Uemura Urban Moisture Hydro-Nourishing Double Serum. This brand new product from the brand's newest line has been a lifesaver for me. I almost completely out of the full-size bottle that I started with just two and half weeks ago, but that's because my hair drinks it up. The wind and colder climate makes my hair ultra-tangly by the end of the day, so after a hot shower, I'll spritz this on all over my locks to give it some shine and manageability before I do anything else. I love it! It doesn't make your hair greasy or oily, and it truly is a godsend for city girls like me.
5) HUE Shaping Tights. Everyone has their own bias when it comes to winter tights, but I think I've just found the best brand out there for a reasonable price. HUE introduced opaque shaping tights to their collection this fall, and I got my hands on a pair just in time for Paris. I absolutely love how they look and feel, and they definitely deliver on their promises. I'll be stocking up on these every winter.
6) A Tote Bag. Now here's something I totally didn't think of packing. A simple everyday tote is essential for daily life in Paris. It's necessary to toss your umbrella, scarf, assorted items you purchase throughout the day, groceries, etc. in and makes schlepping your belongings a lot easier than a bunch of small bags. A tote solves so many problems and will easily and efficiently stow your items as you go about your day walking or running to Metro stops, navigating about town, etc. without worry of a paper or plastic bag that won't hold up. I own about 327 tote bags in LA, but didn't pack a single one.
I broke down and picked up two from Galleries Lafayette and they are saving my life on the daily. See below when it started raining and I protected my Zac Posen leather purse from the elements thanks to my handy tote bag.
7) Sneakers. In Paris, I am easily walking 15-20K steps a day, and on more ambitious days, I neared 29K without even noticing. How'd I do it? Well a curious spirit that leads me to explore the city from day to night, Google maps on my phone to navigate me everywhere I could ever want to go and an insanely comfortable pair of slip-on sneakers by Skechers. Their GoWalk 4 shoes absorb absolutely EVERYTHING and make you feel like you're walking on clouds, I swear. I have powered through museums, city streets, endless flights of stairs and more in these babies, and I am so grateful for them. I actually left my trusted Nikes at home, and don't regret it one bit. When you're feeling sporty, slip these on, ladies.
8) Pil-ookie Pillow. If you take your skincare seriously (and you should!) make some room in your luggage for a Pil-ookie pillow by Dr. Cheryl Huang. This innovative pillow helps prevent lines and wrinkles thanks to its innovative design and allows oxygenation and circulation to the skin, while also decreasing swelling and puffiness every time you lay your head down after an exhausting day of sightseeing.
9) Skincare from Beautibi.com. I stashed several facial sheet masks in my luggage on a whim and am so glad I did! These brilliant masks are portable and so easy to use, and really relax me when I need to unwind from a long day of sightseeing. Beautibi.com carries the BEST of Korean skincare with some amazing brands to discover, and I've loved everything I've tried so far. I'm looking at you, Thank You Farmer Miracle Age Repair Serum.
10) Herban Essentials Towelettes. I love these portable wipes that smell so refreshing! They are infused with incredible essential oils (I love peppermint and lavender) and I throw a few into my purse every day to keep my hands refreshed and sanitized while being out in the city all day.