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My Favorite Messenger Bag for Paris

My Favorite Messenger Bag for Paris

My favorite messenger bag – or satchel – for Paris is a Timbuk2 Custom Classic Messenger Bag, size medium.  Because I am tall (about 6’4″), I ordered the custom bag so I could get a longer strap.  And, it was fun to pick some colors.   The folks in San Francisco who make these bags are nice like that.

Goes Everywhere

Since I first got the bag about 18 years ago, that satchel goes on every trip I make.  I carry it everywhere with me like Linus’ blanket.  The inner liner is waterproof. The outside is Cordura® canvas with a flap and Velcro® closures and buckles.  D-rings at the ends outside are perfect for attaching my id tag.  And, it holds everything I need for a day exploring Paris.

If I take it off my shoulder, I put it between my feet and also put one arm through the strap.  (It is as safe in Paris as the United States, but because many things can distract my attention over there, I try to be more aware of guarding my bag.) The Timbuk2 Messenger Bags have interior compartments and zipper closures, keeping the contents out of reach from pickpockets.

Although my messenger bag is 18 years old, Timbuk2 is continually refining their bags with padded compartments designed to perfectly fit new model laptops and tablets. And, they are sleek.

One Messenger Bag – Two Uses

There are two uses for my Timbuk2 messenger bag.  One, is going on the plane.  Two, is exploring Paris. 

Some Timbuk2 models include a luggage handle passthrough, making them ideal for travel. 

For going on the plane, put all of the things you need to live for a day, in case luggage is lost.  That means medications, laptop or tablet (if you are taking one), boarding passes, hotel contact information, plus other items needed on the trip over.

This is what I keep in my favorite messenger bag for exploring Paris:

  • Two or three super lightweight ponchos that are about 99¢ at the grocery store in case it begins raining
  • Several paper napkins – spill something on myself, wipe off a wet chair bottom to sit in, wipe the sugar off my face after visiting a patisserie
  • Travel-size disinfecting wipes, who knows when you may need one
  • Eye drops
  • Sunglasses
  • Eyeglasses
  • Lip balm
  • Camera
  • Guidebook
  • Pocket map, if not in the guidebook or easy access on my phone
  • Metro map, if not in the guidebook
  • Museum pass or tickets to the events I am going to that day
  • Water bottle
  • Pen
  • Change
  • Small umbrella
  • Hotel name with the address and telephone number

Most of the time my messenger bag is light.  I keep it slung over my shoulder, and there is still extra room to stuff my jacket in it if I get too hot.  There is easy access to my water bottle, which I always need and can refill, and room to poke in some postcards when I see one I want to send.

Comfort is Key

Many women have comfortable bags that would be great as a satchel.  Timbuk2 offers a variety of styish bags enjoyed by women too. Comfortable and useful are the key factors.  But, you have to have some way to tote your essentials around in or you will be staying within walking distance of your hotel room.

Take note of what you use during a regular day and make a list of your necessities.  Review the list, then review it again and make that the list for your satchel.  Only those things that will make your day comfortable, go in your bag.  Don’t overdo it – just the necessities.  Remember, you are in the most civilized city in the world. A pharmacy or a Monoprix is never too far away and you can easily find the things you need.

Paris Auction Houses

Paris Auction Houses

Paris is home to some of the greatest auction houses and auction traditions in the world.  Of course Christie’s and Sotheby’s have locations here.  But, Paris also has homegrown auction houses.  One thing that makes these Paris auction houses great is that everyone can participate.  Paris auction houses sell everything from cups and saucers to gold cigarette cases to paintings and art worth millions.

All of the auctions start in the afternoon.  A friend told me all the auctioneers and big spenders go eat lunch and drink together.  There, they decide what things should sell for what amount and to whom.  Then, they go back and auction their wares to the bidder who was in on the action at lunch.

That may have been the case at one time.  But now, all of the auctions are online, so who knows if that still could be true.  People from all over the world bid – and win – on items sold nearly every day from Paris auction houses.  Recently a T-Rex skeleton sold for more than 2 Million Euros.  There are many Paris auction houses, but here are a few.

Drouot

Hôtel Drouot is probably one of the most famous Paris auction houses you have never heard of.  The main location is a big building with many auction rooms under one roof.  It has other locations around the city with even more auction rooms.

About 70 auction firms participate in the Drouot organization.  So there is always something being auctioned – except in August.  Nothing happens in August in Paris auction houses.

Drouot began in the 1850s.  Its location is in the 9th arrondissement and is easily accessed by the Métro.  Just look for the station that bears its name, Richelieu-Drouot.  Check out Drouot Digital.

 

Paris auction house

Artcurial at the Hôtel Marcel Dassault in Paris. CC BY-SA 3.0

Artcurial – One of the Big Paris Auction Houses

The spectacular Hôtel Marcel Dassault is home to Artcurial.  This former private home (yes, a home for one family), was built in 1844.  Not only is the house grand, it is a pretty grand location for an auction house – at the Rond Pont Champs-Élysées. Artcurial is supposedly third in sales of the Paris auction houses after Christie’s and Sotheby’s.  Artcurial has fun automobile sales if you are looking for vintage Bentley’s and Rolls-Royces.

Tajan – Another of the Big Paris Auction Houses

Tajan is another of the Paris auction houses specializing in high quality, high dollar art.  Its sales range from 20th century art deco masterpieces to fine medieval works of art to antiquities.  Plus everything else, including books, fashion and vintage suitcases.  Take a look at Tajan’s website.

Even if you do not participate at one of the Paris auction houses, you can have fun watching – live or at home.  While you are in Paris, drop in and watch live.  Or, you can watch live at home on your computer.  Have fun, listen to the language and enjoy the fun, without spending a dime?

You may be surprised by the amount of money some of these things can bring.  But, then again, you may get lucky and find a perfect souvenir.

Souvenirs from Paris

Souvenirs from Paris

A souvenir = a reminder/a memory.  The French word for remember describes exactly what we crave from places we visit – a remembrance of a trip or a special place that conjures the spirit of that place or trip in one symbolic item.  Souvenirs do not have to be much, a little something for your family and friends to let them know you were thinking of them in Paris.

When buying souvenirs, keep them small and lightweight!  Remember, you have to tote them home!  Here are some suggestions for souvenirs.

Chocolate

Perfection for nearly everyone.  Paris has no shortage of delicious chocolate shops.  Be careful on the return journey because chocolate can melt!  You may want to keep all chocolate and candy souvenirs in your carry-on.  The packaging is extraordinary and even the smallest amount of chocolate makes for a grand souvenir.

Paper, paper products, notebooks

Gibert Jeune – not just any paper products.  Think paper products and notebooks done the French way – these are souvenirs with style and interest.  Yes, it is a book store and text book store for all of the students, but it is much more and worthy of taking a turn through the aisles for yourself and for others.  You will see the yellow signs near Place St. Michel. The sign includes, “Librarie,” which translates to bookstore, not a library in the American sense.

Tea towels/kitchen towels

A useful souvenir that can be for the whole family.  Your family and friends can hang them from the oven door and think of you for as long as they last!  Find tea towels at many museum gift shops, along the touristy walkways and even at Monoprix or Franprix.

Candy

La Cure Gourmand, newly installed in Paris, made in the South of France, and only from 1989. However, your head will spin when you walk in the stores and see the selection and the packaging, taste the flavors and decide you must bring some home. Try the chocolate olives!

Fashion

Maybe a chic scarf is the way to go – Paris is the fashion capital of the world. Take a look at the museum shops, les Grands Magasins and even the tourist stalls on the rue de Rivoli.  Also, when you duck into a Franprix or Monoprix, they may have something to suit you.

Children’s clothes – new baby in the family??  Stop by the Monoprix or Franprix and pick up children’s clothes at great prices.

Old books, interesting maps, vintage looking magnets and trays, what about a reproduction menu?

Find them all at the bouquinistes.  These souvenirs can please even the most well-traveled relative or friend.  The bouquinistes have the green flip top storage containers sitting atop the walls along the quais of the Seine.  When the top is opened, the sellers are ready for business.  Do not touch anything without asking first.  Many times, the seller will pull out the item for you and present it to you for inspection.  Shop for souvenirs, plus, enjoy the walk and admire outstanding views of Paris.

Museum Shops

Did you visit a museum show with an incredible exhibition that you loved? See if the museum shop has a small exhibition catalog for a souvenir. Or, if you especially loved it, you can get a souvenir for yourself!

The boutique at Musée de l’Armée has super cool miniature Napoleonic canons for boys on your list.  Anything more appropriate than that for warring Napoleon?

Postcards

A postcard is my favorite souvenir from someone who goes on a trip, and one of my favorite souvenirs to send.  Most people have everything they need and a postcard is always perfect.  They are easily found nearly anywhere in Paris, they are save-able, inexpensive and thoughtful.  They can be beautiful, funny, monumental or whatever you prefer or whatever matches the style of the recipient.   Most hotels have stamps and will mail them for you – and you do not have to bring it home with you in your luggage!

Specialty Souvenirs

For book lovers, you may select a book from Shakespeare and Company – be sure to have it stamped by the store on the way out – or, try the bouquinistes again.

Someone who likes gardens may like a box of note cards from the shop in the Tuileries.

Sometimes, you have a grandchild or niece or nephew who couldn’t be more pleased with plastic snow globe of the Paris landmarks – you can find these and other “unique” items around Notre Dame, the Louvre and Montmartre.  Or, what about an Eiffel Tower key ring – inexpensive enough to buy multiple in case you forgot someone on your list. Mini monuments are kitsch, but…. you are a tourist.

For cooks on your list, try a kitchen supply store like La Vaissellerie (4 locations) or E. Dehillerin. Or, maybe an apron from Café de Flore.

Pharmacy

What great products the French pharmacy has! Look for the green, kind of weird plus sign and that signifies a pharmacy. Besides being able to help you if you have a sore throat, they have all kinds of beauty potions and lotions that will satisfy even the most fickle person on your list.

Recap on Monoprix or Franprix

These are kind of a combination supermarket, variety store and department store.  Incredible resources for necessities that you may have forgotten and for souvenirs. You may be amazed after entering a simple street-side door, marked with a sign overhead, that opens to an expansive multi-level affair.  Interesting and fun places to shop for souvenirs and to learn about French culture (look at all of those yogurts in glass jars! What is that wooden contraption over there?).  You can find your own souvenirs, but consider:

Jaunty make up bags

Rows of Dijon mustard, not Parisian, but hey, it is French and pick a brand that you have never seen before

Milled bar soap

Kitchen towels

Sea salt – Fleur de Sel from the Camargue – not Parisian either, but, still French

Children’s clothes

Socks

Toothbrushes – a friend brought these back for a whole group of us and the toothbrush came with a little brush head cover that I still use today (on newer toothbrushes)

Cooking utensils (go to that section and see if you can figure out what they are all used for)

Food Souvenirs

A caution for food souvenirs: Food other than candy and chocolate – buy at your own risk.  Customs has taken jars of jelly from me before, so I avoid food products other than chocolate and candy.

However, for the honey lover – the Opera Garnier’s gift shop sells honey from the hives on its roof.

Forgot a Gift?

Did you forget to get a souvenir, but have yet to take the flight home? Use your left over euros at the airport in one of the shops to find a last-minute souvenir.

Back at home and forgot a gift? Maybe you saw an exhibition and now you want the catalog? Check out the official French museum shop online.

Questioning Whether You Can Bring It Back?

For a definitive list of what you can and cannot bring back into the U.S. and what the costs may be, check with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection online and watch, “Know Before You Go.”