Travel Recap: Le shopping! - une femme d'un certain âge

Travel Recap: Le shopping!

Baby ballerines in a shop window in Rome

I hope this news will not shock or disappoint, but I actually did not do a lot of shopping on this trip. A number of factors contributed: our tightly scheduled itinerary in Italy, the dollar’s weakness against the Euro, the ever increasing availability of goods in the US formerly only available in Europe (hello, Balenciaga!). But mostly, I’ve been feeling an aversion lately to accumulating more Stuff, preferring to hold out for the special, the unique. Le monsieur actually outpaced me this trip, picking up several lightweight shirts and some cotton twill pants in Italy to help him deal with the heat. He’ll get plenty of wear from his purchases at home too, as our warm season extends from July-November. We also did buy wines (which we had shipped from Italy) and little gifts for those back home.

Non, didn’t buy these, unique and special as they are. From same shop as ballerines, above.

I did not return home entirely empty-handed, however.

As mentioned before, the sandals I’d brought with me were not equal to the amount of walking we were doing on a daily basis, and didn’t fit snugly enough so I kept tripping in them.  These are the Mephisto sandals I bought in Venice. They are 11/10 comfortable.

Polish on toes is OPI “Vodka & Caviar”

I especially like the strap color, a taupe grey (slightly darker IRL than it looks under the flash).  It Goes With Everything™.

In Venice we kept passing shops with good looking linen pieces in the window, but when I’d go in to see up close or try on they turned out to be far too voluminous for me. Finally in one little boutique where the linen top in the window had again turned out to be more of a tent than a garment, (I think they pin them deceptively in the window displays), the shopkeeper kept bringing more stuff for me to try before I could get out of the dressing room. Those sales ladies can be relentless! There were a few “maybes” in the growing stack, but then she brought in this asymmetrical tunic and it was love at first sight.

This piece is a bounty of slimming diagonal lines, and the fabric drapes beautifully, as you can see above. Again, it’s a marvelous IGWE™ taupe grey. The volume is Just Right. The simplicity of the neckline and 3/4 length sleeves just call out to be paired with some great jewelry. And there was this one design detail, a petit rien adjustment tie, in the back.

These are the kind of fun, “off” details that always nail it for me. I’ll wear this over leggings or slim pants.

Wandering on our last day in Venice, slightly lost and rather mellow after an alcohol-enhanced lunch, we passed a small shop with some interesting scarves in the window. The store was Barbieri Arabesque, and they stock some very pretty scarves, shawls, ties and pocket squares for men, and umbrellas. According to the sales woman, Barbieri owns the factory that produces the fabrics for their own brand as well as some other well-known Italian brands such as Moschino. I selected these two longer lightweight scarves, the one in left in soft modal knit, and the one in right in a sheer silk.

Neither scarf was particularly pricey, however I think I may have paid too much for the scarf on the left, as the ends are unfinished and have already begun to unravel. (SUI – let this be an object lesson!) But I love it otherwise and will probably just have it hemmed/finished. I also love the slightly subversive polka dots on the silk scarf. Close up:

And then there was Paris.

I’m not over my marinière enchantment yet; look at the cute silver button detail!

May I just add my voice to the chorus singing the unabashed praises of Monoprix?  But to avoid being overwhelmed, you either need to go with someone who knows the merchandise (thank you chère Tish!) or plan to spend a lot of time looking. Above, this adorable cotton dress, great for casual summer days, was less than 15€! I’d also wear as a cover up for beach and pool. OK, maybe not special or unique but a great piece at a great price, and for those of us whose lives require some knock-around casual wear, a cute option.

And below this cotton “Marcel” (tank top) came in somewhere around 4€. It looks great under a little blazer or cardigan.

I had to go to a second Monoprix the next day to find the color and size I wanted, thanks to a mysterious disappearance within a five minute period of an entire pile of these marcels from the display table at the first store, but that’s one of those “you had to be there” stories.

And of course, after finding all these great warm weather pieces (which are always a challenge pour moi), we returned home to mostly cloudy skies and temperatures that have barely made it out of the 60’s in two weeks and show little sign of breaking much beyond the 70F mark in the next two weeks. When I can bear to be out of my sweaters, I’ll post some modeling shots of these.

I also picked up some skincare items at Monoprix and a couple of pharmacies, which I’ll cover in separate posts.

When in Paris we usually visit the Maille boutique on rue Madeleine to pick up some of the on-tap and fancy mustards and vinegars, but never made it to that part of town on this trip. But I did find some of my favorite Vinaigre de Vin Xèrés (great for salad dressings and marinades) at the Bon Marché Grand Épicerie so I grabbed two bottles which, if used with discretion, will hopefully last until our next visit!

And who could pass up this organic cotton shopping bag?? Pas moi!


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  1. June 14, 2011 / 11:59 am

    My dd’s favorite budget saver during her junior year in Paris was Monprix.

  2. June 14, 2011 / 12:03 pm

    I’m not over my marinere enchantment either! And we’re off to Paris on Thursday for a few days – so who knows!

  3. June 14, 2011 / 1:01 pm

    My husband and I don’t bring too much back either. We always say, “We have to go back to France to get XXXX.” And then, when we are there, we say, “We’ll get it next time.” Also, zipping right through customs when every one else is unloading Prada bags (bought for the same price as in U.S) is a wonderful thing.

  4. June 14, 2011 / 1:19 pm

    Although I did end up doing some shopping this last trip to cope with the warm weather, I generally feel the same as you. More and more, the selection at home improves, and while I love to pick up one or two serendipitous finds, it’s harder to stick to my usual guidelines when I’m caught up in the new environment. You don’t seem to have had that problem this trip — these items will all work beautifully in your daily life, adding just the right Parisian chic.

  5. June 14, 2011 / 2:13 pm

    I never shop when I’m abroad, I’m always too horrified at the cost of eating out everyday!

  6. June 14, 2011 / 2:13 pm

    I never shop when I’m abroad, I’m always too horrified at the cost of eating out everyday!

  7. June 14, 2011 / 2:44 pm

    Love those shoes, and the tops! Great finds – and it’s always fun to put something on that was acquired abroad!!

  8. June 14, 2011 / 2:48 pm

    I love the striped tunic, the linen dress, and the scarves. Those are the kinds of things I like to buy on a trip. Unique items that I probably can’t find in the states. And the shoes are great! So important to have the right pair for walking all day.

  9. June 14, 2011 / 3:10 pm

    I don’t shop much when I travel…unless I need new shoes because of blisters…or I find a Monoprix.
    I’m glad that you and the Monsieur had such a wonderful vacation.

  10. Anonymous
    June 14, 2011 / 3:14 pm

    Thanks for the pic of the Mephistos. I was curious what they looked like. I have a pair of Mephisto slip-ons that look a little like Birkenstocks but just a little more refined. They’re super comfortable with great arch support. Since they’re French, I figure they’re a little more elegant than the German Birks : )

  11. Jane and Lance Hattatt
    June 14, 2011 / 12:40 pm

    It is good to be selective with one’s purchases and hold out for the truly unique or best quality pieces.Otherwise, one simply is disappointed if it doesnot match up to what can easily be purchased closer to home.

    Still, you look to have bought some very pretty things which will not only ‘mix and match’ but will also add a quirky twist to other outfits.

  12. June 14, 2011 / 8:26 pm

    I like what you have come home with! The top, sandals and the scarf on the right look like they could all be worn together!

    Marcels are a lot less expensive than I originally thought!

    Nice to have a wearable reminder of your trip.

  13. louise
    June 14, 2011 / 2:51 pm

    Glad you had such a lovely trip! Do you think we could find those Mephisto sandals in US or Canada?
    White Rock BC

  14. metscan
    June 14, 2011 / 4:46 pm

    The asymmetric tunic and the sandals look good. You are on the right track now, little, but something special.
    I really feel happy for you. There might have been a remorse, if you had bought in plurals.

  15. Pam @ over50feeling40
    June 14, 2011 / 5:33 pm

    I love the tunic and the polka dot scarves…please show us how you style them! I understand not accumulating more junk…lately, the junk issue has really bothered me. I am thinking of a huge clearance event of my house this summer….it’s a new time in my life (empty nesting) and I think a good time for clearing!!

  16. June 15, 2011 / 1:02 am

    You got some great pieces — it’s worth it to buy the stuff you really love, and keep loving it at home.

    These days, I find I bring back things that are un-gettable at home, like the kabob spice blend and the sugar-roasted coffee that I miss from Spain.

    On my last visit to Madrid, I bought myself a purse (kinda meh, actually) and a wild and crazy silk scarf (makes me happy every time I wear it). That’s 1 for 2, I guess.

  17. June 15, 2011 / 2:33 am

    I love the Mephisto sandals I bought in Paris several years. I had the same problem – the footwear I brought with me was not quite right for all of the walking we were doing.

  18. June 15, 2011 / 2:46 am

    I find now that I have my wonderful camera, I don’t seem to need to buy things in order to “possess” them – I just take their picture and they’re mine forever! It’s very economical!

    Love your travel writing – our upcoming trip to London will be all the better for your tips and hints.

  19. June 15, 2011 / 3:22 am

    ‘Special and unique’ sounds like the perfect criteria to use when making a choice to purchase an item. Love the Mephisto sandals.

  20. Marguerite
    June 14, 2011 / 9:21 pm

    I am a huge fan of Mephisto sandals. They seem to be the best walking shoes for my high arched foot. Was hoping you would show them to us! The tunic looks wonderfully wearable and tres chic. Totally agree, with internet shopping available to us, finding unique items to bring home are few and far between. Even Santa Maria Novella products are online. I love an interesting cloth shopping bag, too. Keep the trip talk coming, Pseu.

  21. June 15, 2011 / 1:58 pm

    Great picks with the tunic a standout. Mephisto have sharpened up in the last few years, your sandals are chic! Monoprix stuff is not going to last a long time but who cares, you can always go back!

  22. June 15, 2011 / 8:41 pm

    The baby ballerines are adorable! (And the asymmetrical tunic is divine.)

  23. June 16, 2011 / 4:12 am

    Lovely purchases – enough to make you feel that you have some great shopping reminders of your trip but not too many to instil guilt of any kind! Love your Italian taupe top and the stripey French dress is so chic. Great that you had Tish to show the Monoprix ropes too. XX

  24. Vildy
    June 16, 2011 / 3:20 pm

    OMG, your asymmetrical tunic is my dream garment. I’ve been searching for something like this for years. I used to have a selection of a few in cotton knit in summery colors but the color you found is amazing. You have me thinking about sewing from scratch.
    Which I’ve been able to do for
    decades but nothing ever seemed
    worth it before. ‘Course, I would love to serendipitously find one I could afford somewhere. 😀

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