I can hear you thinking: "FIVE suitcases, you say? FIVE? What in the heck could you possibly need to bring back to Paris from America that you haven't already hauled or shipped over the past 5 months?"
A valid question, one I found myself asking yesterday as I tried to cram my luggage with the shopping I'd done over the previous 9 days in New Jersey. It was like trying to fit a puzzle together: you pick up a piece, turn it every which way trying to see where it will fit best. Add to that, the fact that there is a weight limit of 50 lbs (for free) and 70 lbs MAXIMUM (which my one 31" duffle is actually capable of exceeding). As I look around the debris in my living room and try to figure out where to put things, I mentally run through the inventory (in no particular order):
- A summer wardrobe. Last fall I lost 25 lbs (well, it was 30 but I admit a few extra pounds have crept up on me since January) and hardly any of my old summer wardrobe fit me. And, not only are clothes very expensive here, but it's next to impossible for me to find things here in my size as most French clothing is designed for these rail-thin, small-boned French women. There ARE more zoftig women here in France (they are beginning to have concerns about the population getting fatter just like in the US, and childhood obesity is on the rise for all the same reasons we struggle with it in America -- junk food, processed foods, too little physical activity, too many video games and TV channels) but for the life of me I can't figure out where these curvier women shop. So, I've got skirts, pants and tops to last me until fall, as well as some new lingerie and socks. Oh, and I found the short black trenchcoat I was hoping to find. And thanks to my family giving me my birthday "gifts" early (birthday's in May) and getting an unexpected but much-appreciated referral bonus from a friend and colleague, I was able to subsidize some of the new wardrobe without completely breaking my budget.
- Shoes. Yes, I really did fill an entire suitcase (albeit a carry-on-sized one) with shoes. Most were summer sandals and flip-flops I already owned, but I did buy some new cute Skechers, two pairs of ballet flats (one white, one silver), some tan strappy wedges which are surprisingly comfy (I just can't wear high-heels if I have to walk more than 5 blocks), and another pair of silver pointy-toed flats that I thought looked great with jeans but which, as it turns out, KILL my left foot. I only found this out after I wore them outside for all of the 5 minutes it took me to realize my mistake. But, they were on clearance at $12.49 so if I have to toss them out or give them away at least I'm not out much money. Note to self: try on BOTH shoes in the store, not just the right shoe because you are trying to save time. Pity because I just love how they look!
- Toiletries and over the counter meds I can't get here. A big bottle of Listermint (I had bought 2 bottles but there wasn't room for both so had to sacrifice one).
- A baby gift, some American binkies and Reese's Peanut Butter Easter Eggs -- the first two are for Max and the eggs are for Max's mommy. Aimee, I hope the eggs aren't smooshed to smithereens as that suitcase took a beating even though it was my carry-on. But they'll still taste good.
- A shower squeegee. The calcium in the water leaves super-spots on the glass shower doors and it looks awful. Hoping the squeegee will help and also keep mildew at bay as the weather gets more humid. My shower room has no windows for fresh air.
- Pillowcases for my American pillow, and a summer quilt for the bed as it won't be long before I can no longer tolerate sleeping under the heat of a down comforter. The apartment only provides the heavy down comforter so I had to find my own alternative.
- A cookie sheet. I went to make a frozen pizza a few weeks ago and suddenly realized there was nothing here in the apartment that I could use to put the pizza in the oven. I found a medium-sized tray that will be perfect for things like that. Oh, and a large slotted cooking spoon, another thing I couldn't seem to find here.
- My Pilates mat. I had the Winsor Pilates DVDs here but hadn't been able to bring the mat until now, and it's one of those things I didn't want to buy here as things are so overpriced. Finally I was able to make room for it so I can work on toning up.
- My favorite lipstick. It's "Yummi" by Bare Minerals, the one I already had which was still fairly new BROKE at the base, and although the Sephora in Paris is now carrying some Bare Minerals makeup, they don't carry the lipsticks yet. So believe it or not, on my way driving to the airport I swung by the nearest mall where there is a Sephora store and ran in JUST to get that lipstick. Hey, this is important stuff, you know.
One thing I didn't go crazy on this time was bringing a huge pile of books back. I did bring 3 but they're very small and thin, and I honestly could not fit one more thing into those suitcases. So my "to read" pile back home will just have to wait for some future date - like maybe next Christmas, which may be the next chance I have to go back home for a visit (family NOT at all happy about that).
I might have had more room to pack things had I not overpacked on clothing to wear during my stay. I didn't realize I'd go shopping the second day and find so many great things to wear, and I ended up just bringing more than I needed for the week. Live and learn. Next time I'll travel with 3 outfits and that's it.
I felt like all the clothes shopping was a bit over the top, even for me (although I did shop in cheaper stores), particularly as I am planning to continue to drop more weight -- until I realized that essentially I was doing ALL my seasonal shopping in one swoop, whereas normally it would be a shirt here, a skirt there. But this has to last me all this spring and summer, and maybe I can still get some wear out of some of these things next year as well (although I plan to be SIGNIFICANTLY slimmer by then).
So now, the only thing left for me to buy are a couple of large plastic storage tubs -- for me to put the winter clothing away in my storage room when the time comes (I'm not rushing to do that as I've been warned by multiple sources that May can be unexpectedly cold at times). I guess that's one more sign of being settled in to a new place: when you are there long enough to "switch seasons" and have to pack things away.