Saturday, November 12, 2016

Ten Weeks, One Carry-On: A Report at Seven Weeks. . .



Listen, I have to tell you the truth. The present political context has left me a little less interested, a bit defensive perhaps, in posting on my travel wardrobe. I'm going to keep my promise, but there's no question that in the current climate this focus feels even more superficial than it normally does.

Yet we still have to get dressed every morning, and I am still travelling, and there's really no denying the privilege I have in both my wardrobe choices and in my ability to travel quite freely. As I wrote earlier, I'm trying to think about how I can better use that privilege to effect social and/or political change, if only in quotidian, incremental ways.


Meanwhile, perhaps I can use this current context to switch up the perspective on my decision to restrict my luggage to carry-on-only for a ten-week travel period. And let's be honest: my hand-wringing over political events isn't going to help anyone. Sometimes, self-care is the place to start, and a little distraction seems very welcome right now. . . . So, let's see what I packed and how I used it:

First, have a peek through the various photographic collages I've put together, many of them shots you've already seen if you follow me on IG, many of them the poor-quality selfies I took in the mirror in my first two solo weeks (in Rome, then Bordeaux). I felt pretty decent in all these outfits, and looking back over them, I think I looked alright. I was comfortable enough for the range of weather -- as high as 28 degrees Celsius in Rome and as low, so far, as 9 degrees here in Bordeaux, probably a few degrees colder than that when we walked home from the ballet the other night (yes, I shivered a bit in my trenchcoat!).


Now I'll do my best to list what I packed, although I'm afraid I have no photos of everything squeezed into my Rimowa Salsa Air Cabin Carry-on. If I remember, I'll do this for you when I pack to go back, but believe me that it did all fit. Also, believe me: that case required some serious pressure when it came to zipping up. As well,  I relied heavily and happily on Eagle Creek ultralight packing cases in a few sizes to contain and organise -- and, let's be serious, to compress. I used those tricks you've read elsewhere, such as stuffing shoes with underwear, etc. and in the end, this is what I carried on the plane:

3 pairs of pants: 2 were jeans (one pair boyfriend; one pair wide-legged, cropped -- not particularly sensible, but I love them and just wanted to flaunt them while travelling -- and I did!). 1 pair were black, microfibre, very cool slim cut with elastic waist (I know!) and pockets -- Aritzia, highly recommend for travel, dress up, dress down -- fabulous!

2 skirts: 1 black merino knit, fitted, knee-length; 1 brown pencil faux-leather, knee-length

2 dresses: 1 printed ivory silk, dreamily breezy and cool as tunic over pants in Rome, but haven't worn it enough otherwise. Still, it packs down to nothing, and maybe I'll try to layer it again just to lighten up the cooler-weather stuff; 1 short/cap-sleeve Vince dress, loose, knee-length, heavy-ish microfibre jersey
and a 3rd, for which I CHEATED: Pater, who joined me two weeks in, if you'll remember, had promised that if he had room, he'd bring along a dress I thought would be useful, but then left out to conserve space -- a very simple bracelet-sleeved, knee-length shift in blue velour jersey. Had it for years (paid $15 at a closing-out sale, and it's by Sandwich), but the "velvet" look and simple style let me feel a bit more dressed-up for the ballet

Tops:
:Navy T-shirt with graphic print
:Marinière-style (so, navy and white stripes, long sleeves) sweatshirt, Gap, cotton (Hmmm, collage shows I haven't worn this much, but it was useful in the evenings for loungewear -- and perhaps I should start wearing it more now)
:Printed navy silk loose shirt (Equipment-style, but J Crew)
:Leopard-print cap-sleeve blouse (haven't worn this a lot, but it's been a fun pop occasionally)
:leopard-print bracelet-sleeve cashmere v-neck pullover
:black tissue-weight merino long pullover -- this Vince pull has been a favourite, a wardrobe staple for two or three years, but it's wearing out, and the plan was to wear it here but not bring it back home
:black turtleneck pullover, viscose, by Sarah Pacini, this piece is at least eight years old and also ready to be replaced but I've never found a turtleneck I like as much (hardly ever wear them otherwise!). Plan was to abandon this here as well, but I'm wavering. It's just so useful. Still, eight years for viscose. . . That's a stretch!

AND, as planned for ahead of time, I bought two new lightweight (extrafine) cashmere sweaters at Bompard on arrival in Bordeaux while they were on sale at 30% off:
:a navy v-neck pullover, because the one I bought a few years ago is really showing wear (it's a bit felted, honestly, so I must have made an error in washing at some point),
:a black cardigan

Shoes:
:black Vince sneakers
:black ankle boots, low-heeled, bought in Paris 5 years ago, earning their keep, these babies!
:black runners -- work for my running and are currently fashionable enough for walking the city

Outerwear
: Ultralight down jacket, bought last year at Uniqlo expressly for this kind of travel -- I carried this on the plane in my little backpack and I used it as a pillow during the flight
: Trenchcoat
: Faux fur vest -- this one I really debated over because of the weight and the space it takes up (although the Eagle Creek packing sack compressed it significantly).  In the end, I brought it, knowing how much I enjoy wearing it during the shoulder seasons at home, and it's been so perfect. Another piece I told myself I could leave behind -- it's my fourth year with it, and surely that trend won't last too much longer and if it does I could buy another eventually -- but now I'll probably squeeze it back in. . .
: J Crew camel blazer
Scarves: Camel cashmere scarf, quite voluminous, very comforting! Cherry-red handknit, laceweight alpaca scarf, crunches very small but all kinds of warmth -- and colour! Silk print scarf (navy-rust on cream ground)
Umbrella: Tiny, lightweight, black -- and luckily, I've used it about 1% as much as I would have in the same period if we'd stayed home!
BOUGHT here, again according to plan -- new black leather gloves
Besides my new Prune M0851 bag, I brought along a very simple, light, small, olive M0851 cross-body (their Small Original Flat bag, I believe), for days when I know my shoulders can't stand much weight. I also brought an M0851 cobalt/indigo clutch that protects my iPadMini perfectly and doubles as an "evening"-ish bag.

Underwear and pjs: 2 bras, 7 pairs of Hanky-Pankies, an ancient pair of cotton flannelette pj bottoms to be left behind, old cotton T-shirt, ditto.

Running gear: Capri-length tights due for replacement, will be left behind; ditto for long-sleeved technical running top and for tech-merino sports bra. Also brought 2 pairs running socks, a waistpack, and my bright yellow Vancouver marathon T, lightweight, technical, definitely not to be left behind.






I'm sure I've forgotten something. Let me know if you spot a garment in the photos that I haven't listed above, and feel free to ask questions about what I did or didn't bring. I should add that I also brought a tiny watercolour kit, a Moleskine sketching journal, a set of colouring pencils, and a pencil case with pencils, eraser, sharpener, and pens, and I've got my sock-knitting supplies. As well, I brought my iPad Mini, my MacBook Air, and the iPhone. (and Paul arrived with our tiny portable, bluetooth speaker).

As for the eternal question of carry-on liquids (cosmetics) -- I pumped out 70 days of my indispensable (ha! I was dispensing it. But you know what I mean) Curls Rock into smaller containers. Ditto for a week's supply of my night, day, and eye creams, which I replaced, once here, with the purchase of Caudalie products.  Travel-size Aveda shampoo and conditioner -- need all the help I can against the hard water here, but I could have bought good hair products here easily. Small contact lens solution and again, easily bought here if I need more. I was lucky to have been gifted five small (sample) vials of Le Labo perfumes at my last purchase, and I'm stretching those out nicely. Otherwise, I wear only blush (stick, Nars Orgasm, and I didn't include that in liquids) and mascara (Maybelline, ditto) and lipstick.

No point in denying that I look covetously at the windows we pass daily, nor that I think wistfully of garments currently hanging in my closet at home. And as the temperatures drop, my earlier post made clear, I wish for more outerwear variety. More than that, actually, I wish for outerwear that was more representative of me -- I would rarely wear a puffer jacket at home, nor do I often wear the trench; the camel blazer look I really like, but it's a slight departure for me also. All chosen for travel and I think this outerwear worked well for that, but it's not as much "me" as the gear I have back home.

But to get back to the point I began with. . . besides the undeniable advantage of traveling light (easy access on public transit; more manageable in small budget hotel rooms and for hefting up those stairs). . .

In these times of ever more visible forced migration, of homeless refugees, of the disenfranchised being shifted from one place to another (a huge under-the-bridge encampment of Romany people that we cycled past regularly last year has been completely erased, vegetation regrown over its memory, chain-link fencing and huge concrete barriers the only hint at the hundreds who lived here in tents just beside a prosperous "city of wine"), in these times, I went out the other morning, having posted about wishing for more coat variety. I went out thinking that perhaps, if I found just the right sweater. . . .

And I'm not saying that I may not eventually succumb to that urge, nor that I couldn't justify it without too much discomfort.

But that morning, doing my window shopping, walking briskly to counter the not-quite-9-degree temperature, I walked past this man. (Yes, I have reservations about having taken his photo, but he's not identifiable, and I left something in that basket).  I'm not going to indulge in more sentimental liberal guilt here than I can help, but he is very thin and he seemed not to have the will even to move to the sunny side of the street.
All kinds of possible stories I can't know, it's true, and I don't want to be sidetracked from the pragmatic purpose of my post, nor do I try to tackle politics or social justice or activism on this blog. But I need to say that I was fiercely reminded of my privilege. And I did continue looking, and I admired a few sweaters, but my temptation to retail therapy was lowered significantly. I decided I could probably manage another few weeks with my carry-on of carefully chosen garments.

Although I did buy this wool Made in France beret at the market a few days later (from a man who cheerfully chatted with us in French, teasing and cajoling and singing his way through a charming sales pitch before telling us, as he rolled up my purchase, that he was having surgery the next day on a tumour in his jaw, and that maybe he would be back in a few weeks or maybe, hop-la, and he laughed....so Another reminder of perspective).

So glad I got this post written and I can publish it before we pack up for a week away. Yes, we're heading off soon, and speeding up the pace of our travel a bit. Stay tuned to see where we land. . .  Meanwhile,  take time for some self-care this weekend, if you can.

And if you have comments or questions about my packing or my travel wardrobe, I'll be very happy to read them.


41 comments:

  1. A fascinating post Frances. I did wonder what your suitcase contained. No doubt you spent some time planning the contents, which have worked well. I have been following your insightful comments all week and just hope that the new president elect's rhetoric does not come to fruition. I feel some of his comments were purely for the election trail.

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    1. I did spend time planning, and I was fairly tough on myself -- seems to have paid off. And yes, I share your hope although I think vigilance and resistance will be required...

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    2. I agree absolutely with your last sentence, Frances. One need only to look at whom he (DT) has put on his transition committees to get a glimpse of how true it is.

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  2. Interesting to see how your capsule wardrobe worked. Enjoy the next leg of your journey. Mary

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  3. Please don't feel you need to apologise for distracting us with your packing post . We need cheering up & that beret is very cheering . I would look a 'right clip' in it , as we say here , but you look great . Can't wait to see where we are going next !
    Wendy in York

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    1. Glad to cheer, Wendy, orange beret to the rescue! ;-)

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  4. I do like your beret! I've never used packing cubes but I think that I will get some before I take another trip.

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    1. These aren't the packing cubes, but the sacks, I think they're called, made of a very light fabric.

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  5. Hi Mater, as ever, I'm in awe of your ability to pack a carry-on with such a clever array of items. I especially love the fur vest, and I love the red beret with your blue glasses. I have never packed a carry-on for more than a weekend away, but in theory I should be able to as I'm very much a 'uniform dresser' with a very simple style. My only concern would be having laundry facilities available. Even then, when we travel we very often go to visit friends, so we take gifts (in September I packed Christmas gifts as well).

    I haven't been able to watch much news lately. However, I did make a donation to US Planned Parenthood - it felt good to help out a cause that may suffer greatly in the next few years.

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    1. It's funny, Patricia, but I could easily fill my carry-on almost as full for a weekend away. . . It's just that I'm so motivated to have the travel flexibility -- and we do have a washing machine here -- It takes lots of saying "No" to make this work, and it doesn't allow for some of the potential pleasures of travel: shopping, bringing gifts. It's not for everyone nor for every travel occasion.
      Good for you! Planned Parenthood US is an excellent cause to support in these circumstances. Impressed how quickly you put your money where your politics are!

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  6. Thank you so much for all your writing this past week. I am also struggling with how to balance despair and deep sadness with positive steps moving forward to being the change we want to see in the world. Living in the blue state Northwest bubble, I am trying to seei and understand the anger and resentment that drove this election result. Thanks for your perspective. Enjoy your travels.

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    1. It's tough, isn't it, because we also want to be kind and thoughtful and positive. Take care.

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  7. Hello Frances, tu as l'air charmante dans ton béret! This post is a lovely reprieve from the constant political news. We've stopped watching even Canadian news shows.
    Have a good time on your travels!

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  8. Such an excellent, thoughtful, aesthetically coherent post on both style and the current state of the world. Thank you. I love how you dress, and how you think, probably equally.

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    1. Thank you! And the same right back to you!

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  9. Thank you for the excellent post. I appreciate your insight and your style. Mary Lou

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    1. You're very welcome, Mary Lou, and thank you!

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  10. Frances,your carry-on wardrobe is excellently selected and presented- I admire it even more considering temperature changes from summer-autumn-winter ,as well as many activities you undertook.
    Your beret is charming,accentuating the look!
    Your opinions and attitude were expressed clearly ,politely and civilized and I like that,feeling the same
    Dottoressa

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    1. To tell the truth, Dottoressa, I'm pleasantly surprised that the carry-on wardrobe has worked this well.

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  11. Such a difficult temperature range you had to cover. I didn't even manage carry-on for 2 weeks in Bordeaux when the temperature was consistently in the 30s. Perhaps that's why - we never have these temperatures here, so I basically chucked my entire summer wardrobe into the suitcase. And of course it was too much. But I did buy: a citrus/gold linen sleeveless shift dress (1-2-3 sale), a cream airy viscose sleeveless top and a navy patterned sleeveless shift dress (Mango). "Il y a toujours quelque chose à Mango", said my host family mother approvingly, and a long sleeved cream silk shift top and a burgundy with touches of aquamarine paisley pattern fine wool cardigan cardigan (Bensimon). Clearly I lack your discipline. So envious of your beret, which suits you tremendously. The world divides into those who can wear hats and those who can't, and I'm in the latter camp.
    Caudal products are great, aren't they?
    A question on your wardrobe - are you feeling that you blend in, Frenchly, or do you feel styled-by-Canada? Are you wearing/combining any of the items differently, inspired by what you see in the streets? You say that you haven't worn the sweatshirt much - is that because Bordeaux isn't a sweatshirt sort of place in autumn?

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    1. Thanks Linda.
      Your question re the wardrobe is interesting for me to think about. Yes, I'd say that I blend in quite well, but I'd also say that much of that is simply that I don't find too much difference anymore between the way people dress in Bordeaux and the way they do at home in Vancouver. Or at least, I can see as much difference between age groups and/or classes in either city as I can between overall dress in one compared to the other, if that makes sense. The question probably deserves a longer, more thoughtful answer, and I might sort my way towards one, bit by bit. As for the sweatshirt, I'd say it's as much about myself not wearing it a lot at home either, but recognising its usefulness.

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    2. I guess once it gets to the coat stage the differences are a bit less obvious. And down jackets are ubiquitous now. I found a huge difference between Scotland and Bordeaux in summer. Shorter skirts on all ages of women, skinnier (cotton) jeans, sleeveless tops, airier fabrics, more dresses, men wearing smart shorts in chic colours, with smart polo shirts rather than covering-the-belly baggy T-shirts. Climate driving fashion to an extent, but hot weather in Scotland is not a pretty sight.

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  12. I am delighted at this post. Far from being indulgent, I think it displays something we could all do with: resourcefulness. It would be very easy to spend extra on unnecessary baggage and extra choices when having to think and be imaginative is simpler, cheaper and more reasonable. We live in a world that bulges with emphemera and I always, always feel better when travelling light, mentally, physically and metaphorically. Plus: window shopping is my preferred activity. It is always fun to imagine what you could have...and then walk away. We all need to get up, get dressed and get on. No guilt required.

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    1. Thanks so much, Annie. You're encouraging the part of myself who tries to rise above the constant appeal to be more material, and there's not really too much of that encouragement. Lots of pressure and much validation for buying more. . .

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  13. Thanks for this and your previous post, Frances. I too am struggling with how to respond to the events of the last year and more specifically of the last week. It is tempting to turn only to tending one's garden as Candide prescribes, but I agree that we must also look outward and be vigilant. But on to your clothes. You have done amazingly well to pack all of that in one small case. The clothes have served you well, and you look charming in that new beret! I think I have the same Wilfred trousers I bought at Aritzia for this term, with black fabric from Japan, an elastic waist, and pockets, very slimming and oh so comfortable. Enjoy your last weeks in Bordeaux and looking forward to seeing you in the new year. Brenda.

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    1. Yes, it's so easy to forget how ironically that injunction was intended, and it's so tempting to turn one's back on the world and look after only our own. . . and thanks re the wardrobe -- those sound like exactly the same pants. I love them! Can't believe anything so flattering can be so comfortable. You'll have begun your countdown to Week 13 by now. . . . not too long, right?

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  14. Packing ace! I spent the 2.5 weeks in Paris with one carryon. I took 3 pr of black pants (one worn on plane) one black padded jacket, red Blundstones (perfect for walking) and a pair of black brogues, assorted tops and the usual underwear. Plenty of scarves. No one notices what you have on the bottom half. Having access to washer and dryer is the key, really you can go anywhere with a carryon if you have that.

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    1. If I'd had your red Blundstones (or a brown or black pair, I think I could have managed with two pairs of shoes. Gave my old black ones away because they were the steel-toed model and never softened to accommodate the hunched knuckle of a certain toe. . . Yes, access to laundry is key, even just as washer and a line to dry on, as we had.

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  15. Your "self-care" is making me feel a bit better somehow (and heaven knows there is room for improvement!......thank you for sharing.

    ceci

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    1. Hope your finding some self-care of your own. Take care.

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  16. Great job! I am inspired and appreciate the diversion from the news. I keep looking for the red handknit scarf. When you return can you share the knitting pattern?

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  17. Thank you for this post- I need all the distraction I can get! Your travel wardrobe is looking great for every occasion so far!

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  18. I admire you for your packing skills. I’d never be able to fit all those garments into one carry-on suitcase. Maybe it’s the packing cases that make the difference. I have never used any, perhaps I should try next time. My biggest packing challenge has been preparing for a 7-days hike. Then weight was the issue: no more than 7 kg, backpack and lunch included.
    I liked the way you linked your experience with your wardrobe limitations to your observations of the world around you. Putting things into perspective doesn’t make them less important.

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  19. Love the beret and the red scarf , beautifully cheering on not so sunny days .
    You've definitely nailed the whole capsule wardrobe thing !

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    1. Thanks S&S! It's surprisingly satisfying (and yes, occasionally boring).

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  20. I certainly admire your capsule wardrobe and your packing prowess. I opted to NOT use the packing cubes for my 10day jaunt to London - I just couldn't seem to get the hand of them. I particularly appreciate the incredible photography you have shared on this trip, and your insight, and frankly the distraction from the election. Oh, and that beret is just perfect for you!

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    1. The ones we're using aren't the cubes, which seemed too heavy (although Susan at Une Femme really likes them). Ours are very light, Pack-It zippered sacks. I really like the way they make it easier to pack and unpack, when you're doing a few days here, a week there, etc.
      I'm so pleased you've been enjoying the posts -- it really makes a difference to know that, thank you!

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  21. I am impressed that you could pack ten weeks into one carry-on. Really impressed. The tip about replacing your skin care creams etc with Caudalie products once there is a great idea. Especially since pharmacies in France have such a great range of skin care items.
    I will be shopping for packing ideas before we fly to South America. Especially those cube thingies. Elizabeth had those when we were in New York, and hers were plastic. Great for isolating hot weather clothes from cold weather ones and not have to unpack everything all the time...I thought. We'll be taking several internal flights in Argentina, and the baggage regulations are quite different from the international flights. So...I will be doing lots of research, planning and organizing before we pack for the actual trip.
    P.S. I DO love that beret!

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    1. South America would be a completely different packing challenge -- see above, re our Pack-It sacks, not cubes. And yes, I really like having some that can be isolated for certain parts of the trip (I keep my running gear in one, for example, because there are some weeks/places when/where that's not on my agenda.
      I'll be following your plans with much interest. Happy planning!

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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