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Monday, July 23, 2012

packing, clothing, traveling gear

I 'm sure you are all wondering how my light-packing experiment went on my recent Trip to France. I tried to take very few items, mostly things that I had been gifted by M1 or Mamie, and that would combine well together. Did I end up with too much? Not enough?

I took one carry-on small rolling travel suitcase (not sure of the dimensions, but you know the type--small enough to be stowed in the overhead compartment on a larger plane, large enough to be stowed in the cargo hold on a tiny plane) and one carry-one "purse", really more of a messenger bag/satchel, borrowed from my friend K. that had a million useful pockets.

I had hoped to avoid the messenger bag, but was called upon at the last minute to transport two bike helmets in the other carry-on, so that two safety-conscious kids could ride borrowed bikes in France. No mama is going to argue with that. It did take up a chunk of space in the carry-on, leading to leaving the laptop at home (which I have to admit was very relaxing) and putting my notebook and novels into the messenger bag. It was great--I had no room for the large & bulky laptop! I had every excuse not to participate in online study activities while in wireless-access airports, leaving me completely free to walk around, scribble in my journal, watch people, and read novels (Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is amazing).

It was ironic that I had been concerned about not taking enough clothing and ended up not wearing it all. I had one pair of pants, three short sleeved shirts, two skirts, three dresses, two long sleeved shirts, and a hooded long cardigan, plus underwear, a swimsuit, a pareo, two pairs of sandals and light jogging gear. (I also carried a toiletries kit and a first-aid kit). It was more than enough. The only issue that I had was not taking one change of warmer items. It was chilly and rainy everywhere except in the South, so when my mom and I went travelling in Brittany, Normandy and around Paris I wore my pants and cardigan daily. I didn't have time to wash them out, and was worried that they would be offensively stinky by the time I got on the plane in them. Nobody complained, so it was probably OK, though it felt great to throw them in the wash immediately on returning (and so strange to step out into a hot, hazy, 90 degree Oregon evening after leaving a 62 degree Paris).

I had been told that taking the first-aid kit was probably overkill--p'tit minou un stated flatly "We don't use all this stuff at home, why would we there?" However, both anti-constipation and anti-diarrheal meds came in handy, as well as anti-inflammatories for knee pain, arnica for bruises, tweezers for splinters, bandaids for blisters, antibiotic cream for infected earlobes, and acetaminophen for headaches. Ha! Nurse Mama Minou knows best! But in the end, it was p'tit minou un's foresight in bringing an enormous roll of moleskin for blisters that saved me from (an) exercise in agony. I went running without socks one very hot and sweaty day, and developed a blister the size of a silver dollar, just in the right spot to be continually rubbed raw by my other pairs of shoes, on the arch of my right foot. If you are planning a trip with a lot of walking, I urge you, take moleskin--it could make the difference between limping around in miserable, snappish, teeth-grinding pain and enjoying yourself.

I am a little embarrassed that despite my best efforts to resist clothing temptation, and leaving the bike helmets and a couple of novels and magazines behind, my carry-on was harder to close coming back than it was going. This was partly due to bringing back boxes of cookies for gifts, but also because M1 again opened up her closet and gifted me with clothing too beautiful or interesting to refuse. (Merci M1!!) Also, one day when Mamie, my mom and I were wandering around downtown Montpellier with a couple of hours to spare, we went to check out the "Soldes" in Etam (this was in the period where big sales occur in stores all over France). Mamie ended up gifting me with a long-sleeved black t-shirt for the decent price of 5 euros (about $7.00) that ended up being part of my daily cold-weather wear up north. So again, lesson learned--even if you think it won't be cold (or hot), either have enough layers or take a change of clothing just in case.

I obviously have more to learn about packing lightly. Any tips to share?

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