Posted by: theresegilardi | May 26, 2011

French Fridays – Packing Paris

Welcome to French Fridays, your duty free stop for all things francais. Whether your trip to Paris is next week, next month, or next decade, I think you’ll find some entertaining, and at times surprising, insights into life in the most visited city in the world.

So you’ve got your passport, plane ticket, and “plan” (map) and now you’re wondering what you should pack for your trip to Paris. During the years I lived in the City of Light, I realized that there was one color that was always in style, no matter what the season: black. Even though Paris can be hot, humid and sunny, especially in the summer, twenty-four hours in the French capitol will show you why les Parisiennes favor black skirts, black pants, black purses, black sandals, and black shoes.

Paris is dirty. Don’t forget, the plague once clung to these streets, riverbanks, and alleyways. While the gardiennes hose the pavements outside their apartment houses and a cadre of street sweepers zipped into large emerald jumpsuits descends on the city most days of the week, there is simply too much soot blowing through the metro tunnels, dust billowing about the Tuilleries Gardens, and grime lodged between the wooden slats of those chamring park benches to even consider bringing only pastels to the city. And there is also the weather.  Because, unless you hit Paris during a heat wave, chances are pretty good you’re going to get wet. So you need a color like black (or navy, if you absolutely loathe “noir”) that will stand up to thick raindrops, as well as a lined raincoat (my mother swears that one of the coldest days of her life was spent in Paris in July – and she lives in a gloomy northern city) and a collapsible umbrella.

And don’t forget your lightweight scarf, which you can knot around your neck French-style. Before you know it, you’ll be passing for Parisian: tourists in light patterned pastel clothing will be asking you for directions, no one will stand overly close to you on the metro in an attempt to separate you from your wallet, and you will get some pretty decent restaurant tables. Go ahead and bring some light colors too – especially if you are going to visit the countryside or southern French cities. Just don’t forget the black. Trust me, you’ll look and feel like a million euro.

My mother brings a lined raincoat with her everywhere she goes, no matter what the season. What is the one item of clothing you pack no matter what your destination?



  1. It’s not exactly an item of clothing. I pack “Fuzzy.” It’s a red plaid fleece blanket that belonged to my mom. After I get in my jammies, I sit under it to watch TV. If I get up in the middle of the night or on a chilly morning, I wrap it around me like a shawl.

  2. “fuzzy” sounds like a great way to be sure you’re at home wherever you are. i love that you use fuzzy as a shawl!

  3. thank you for this tip! I remember the first time I used the tube in UK, got home that night and blew my nose and was shocked to see dirt on the tissue. It scared me to think I’d been breathing that stuff all day.

    I’ll look forward to your weekly updates on this fascinating city!

    • lynne, you are so right – those tube trips do not pass the white handkerchief test. thanks a lot for coming by to share french fridays.

  4. Hi Therese – we will be spending one meager day in Paris in a few weeks…we’re taking the Chunnel train in the morning and returning in the evening, hopefully we’ll see a few landmarks during the intermission. And eat lunch…need I say, I’m soooo looking forward to bread and cheese and wine and….(no, no snails, not this trip anyway).

    Thanks for the tips…I’ll pack black!

  5. bon voyage, ericka – you will love the eurostar. be sure you stand up (not in the tunnel, where the speed is reduced) on the french side so you can appreciate how fast you’re traveling.

  6. Mine is my messenger bag. It’s the most convenient way for me to lug around my camera and zoom lens, inevitable tourist book, and money. Since it’s with me on every trip, it now gets a new patch added to it from each overseas location I go. Always gets lots of comments when people notice it!

  7. the patches – what a terrific idea! you’re so right, becca, a messenger bag is invaluable. thanks for “visiting”.

  8. Hi, Therese! I always bring a sweatshirt or jacket with me because I’m always cold! I want to go to Paris so badly! One day…

    • robin, you’re right, a sweatshirt or jacket is always a terrific idea. thanks for stopping by.

  9. You hit the highlights of my travel wardrobe: black, black, and some more black! The other two “must”haves on any trip: duct tape and W-D 40. They have little pens of the W-D 40 and it removes sticky things from the bottom of a shoe. “Gum? How did this happen right before I went into Musée Rodin?” Okay, actually in Paris gum is unusual, but dog droppings abound. I went in April and it was wet, wet, wet; you had to keep looking at the ground to avoid the French dog presents left behind. Because of the rain, I didn’t really notice the soot though. If you only have one day in Paris, then the Musée Rodin is a FANTASTIC museum. The Louvre is wonderful but too much for a single day of touristy moments. Oh, the duct tape will fix any broken straps on purses, backpacks, fannypacks, sandals, etc….

    • what terrific travel trips maria. you are so right, the rodin is fabulous, isn’t it? so intimate and yet so fabulous. the gum – i’m wondering if it isn’t because so many french are trying to quit smoking. thanks for popping over and offering your tips!

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